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HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #24 (SEPTEMBER, 2012):
Major celebration of The Poseidon Adventure's 40th
anniversary with articles by David Savage, Tom Lisanti, James Radford and Chris
Poggiali. Includes many rare photos, international movie posters and interviews
with Carol Lynley and Mort Kunstler, the legendary artist who created the movie
poster. Kunstler also provides his original sketches for the ad campaign, reproduced
in this issue for the first time.
40th anniversary tribute to Deliverance. John
Exshaw visits director John Boorman at his home in Ireland for exclusive
interview about working with author James Dickey on the landmark film.
Gary Giblin takes an in-depth look at another classic film
celebrating its 40th anniversary: Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, complete
with rare stills from sequences that the Master cut from the final version of
Matthew R. Bradley looks at one of the screen's legendary baddies, James
Bond nemesis Blofeld in both literature and cinema. The title of the
article: The Importance of Being Ernst.
Remembering Ernest Borgnine: a tribute to the legendary
Raymond Benson's ten best films of 1983.
Lee Pfeiffer pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to the 1976 B
movie cult "classic" Grizzly starring Christopher George,
Richard Jaeckel and Andrew Prine.
Gareth Owen revisits the early days of director Michael
Winner's career at Pinewood Studios.
Mark Mawston's new column Desert Island Flicks covers
underrated gems like John Frankenheimer's Seconds, Frank
Perry's The Swimmer and Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff.
Adrian Smith titillates readers with part two of his
extensive look at the history of British sexploitation films in More Sex,
Please. We're British.
Dean Brierly's Crime Wave International covers British
classic crime movies of the 60s and 70s including Get Carter, Payroll, The
Long Good Friday, Robbery, Villain and Sitting Target.
Plus the usual reviews of the latest film books, DVDs and
HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #25 INCLUDE:
James Bond at 50: Cinema Retro interviews Daniel
Craig, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and Skyfall director Sam
Mendesabout the screen legacy of Agent 007.
Dr. No cast and crew reunion at Pinewood Studios,
England: Gareth Owen reports
Matthew R. Bradley covers the Blofelds of screen and
literature in The Importance of Being Ernst: Part 2
Major coverage of Hammer Films events:
convention report, Hammer horror film locations then and now and coverage of the
latest Blu-ray releases.
In-depth 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.
Michael Davey interviews British sex symbol Liz
Sands of the Kalahari starring Stuart Whitman and Susannah
York: Lee Pfeiffer revisits an underrated classic adventure
Nicholas Anez pays tribute to Burt Lancaster's
controversial The Swimmer
The"B" British war film Attack on the
Iron Coast starring Lloyd Bridges- part one of Howard Hughes'
history of Oakmont Studios
Raymond Benson's top ten films of 1984
Plus the latest DVD, soundtrack and film book
HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #26 INCLUDE:
Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs: Mike Siegel provides in-depth
coverage of the legendary director's controversial 1971 classic starring
Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. Includes extensive rarely seen behind the
scenes production photos and rare international ad campaigns.
Lee Pfeiffer interviews
comedy genius Mel Brooks, who reflects on his long career
in TV and feature films.
Howard Hughes examines the
1969 spaghetti Western classic The Five Man Army starring
Peter Graves, Bud Spencer and Tetsuro Tamba
Dean Brierly pays tribute to
the great French crime films of the 1960s and 1970s
David McCallum recalls the making of
Oakmont Studio's 1969 WWII film Mosquito Squadron
Cinema Retro attends the
40th anniversary cast and crew reunion of Bob Fosse's Cabaret and
gets interviews with Joel Grey, Michael York, Marisa Berenson and
Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies. Plus we cover the
"re-premiere" at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre, attended by Liza
Don R. Stradley looks at Sextette, the
bizarre cinematic swan song of Mae West
Raymond Benson's ten best
films of 1985
Gareth Owen examines the
making of the 1969 spy flick The Chairman (aka The
Most Dangerous Man in the World) starring Gregory
Dave Worrall covers the new
restoration of the Hammer horror classic Dracula (aka Horror
Remembering the brilliant,
cynical comedy of Paddy Chayefsky in The Hospital starring George
C. Scott and Diana Rigg
Plus the latest DVD,
soundtrack and film book reviews
HIGHLIGHTS OF ISSUE #27 INCLUDE:
Don L. Stradley examines the dramatic life and career of Lolita star Sue Lyon
John Exshaw's unpublished interview with screen legend Peter Cushing
Adrian Smith interviews Hugh Hudson, director of Revolution and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
Dean Brierly looks at classic Japanese crime movies
Stephen C. Jilks celebrates the Hammer horror flick Curse of the Werewolf
David Savage examines Liz Taylor's little-seen, late career bizarro cult movie The Driver's Seat
Howard Hughes continues his history of Oakmont Productions with Submarine X-1 starring James Caan
Paul Thomson provides in-depth coverage of the Amicus Edgar Rice Burroughs film adaptations The Land That Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core and The People That Time Forgot and reviews the long-forgotten electric rock Western Zachariah
Remember Ray Harryhausen
Raymond Benson's top ten films of 1986
Lee Pfeiffer's Take Two column looks back on The Valachi Papersstarring Charles Bronson
Burt Reynolds underrated dark comedy The End is re-evaluated by Tim Greaves
Gareth Owen's Pinewood Past column features Reach for the Sky starring Kenneth More
Plus the latest film book, soundtrack and DVD reviews.
The Cohen Media Group is a relatively new company that, over the last four years, has produced and distributed primarily highly acclaimed international art house films. The company's latest release on DVD and Blu-ray is Farewell, My Queen, director Benoit Jacquot's French-language 2012 period costume drama that centers on the outbreak of the French Revolution, as experienced by Sidonie (Lea Seydoux), a young woman who has the seemingly enviable position of being "The Queen's Reader". Her primary responsibility is to literally read books to Marie Antoinette (that's right, the nobility didn't even have to strain their eyes). Sidonie, a twenty-something country girl, is in awe of the Queen and is slavishly devoted to her needs. As played by Diane Kruger, Marie Antoinette is presented as the undeniably spoiled wife of Louis XVI, but the portrayal humanizes her. Marie Antoinette, like so many famous (or infamous) historical figures, has often been reduced to a caricature on the silver screen. In Jacquot's film, however, she is allowed to show an intelligent and softer side, as evidenced through the respect she shows Sidonie. The film, based on Chantal Thomas' 2003 novel, constrains the action to four pivotal days in French history. When we are first introduced to Sidnonie and her Queen, the palace staff is living comfortably in the lavish palace of Versailles. The story makes it quite clear that Sidonie's interest and devotion to the Queen extends beyond her duties as a household servant- she is clearly sexually attracted to her. The screenplay capitalizes on long-standing rumors that Marie Antoinette was a not-so-closeted lesbian. (Pamphlets were distributed in Paris during the day satirizing Marie's alleged participation in lesbian orgies.) Historically, this was never proven, but the rumors seem to have been inspired by her marriage to a disinterested monarch who slept in a separate bedroom and all but ignored her. Marie also undoubtedly had very close relationships with other women that helped keep the rumor-mill going. In Farwell, My Queen, Marie Antoinette comes out of the closet to Sidonie, but the girl's romantic fantasies are crushed when it is revealed that the Queen's true love is Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), a married duchess with an independent streak who has engaged in a lesbian relationship with Marie. The lives of the aristocracy and those who serve them are abruptly sent into turmoil when news arrives from Paris that the peasants have stormed the Bastille. Panic sweeps through the palace, and chaos reigns as the King's guards desert, leaving the pampered royals to fend for themselves for the first time in their lives. In the midst of the madness, King Louis (a peripheral figure in the story, but well-played by Xavier Beauvois), opts not to flee along with his "loyal" staff and agrees to go to Paris to meet the dissidents in hopes of retaining the throne. Left to her own devices, Marie Antoinette believes she is doomed and enlists Sidonie in a high-risk plan to secure the safety of Gabrielle, whose excesses have made her particularly reviled by the populace.
This is a lavish, big-budget production that brings to mind the visual splendor of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Romain Winding's cinematography is an inspiration, turning the opulent backdrops into cinematic "paintings". Director Jacquot defies the odds by successfully telling a female-driven story from a female point-of-view. The character of Sidonie is our protagonist, but she remains an enigma and we never do understand how a peasant girl became employed by the royal court. Her sexual obsession with the Queen is also complicated by the fact that she is clearly bi-sexual, as evidenced by an aborted sex act with a hunky palace servant. It's as though these ambiguities are intentional, designed to lead the audience to ponder what other mysteries lie behind the lead characters. Where the film excels is in the scenes that show just how abrupt life and politics changed with the storming of the Bastille. In days when communications were not instantaneous, the rumors prevailed and one can sympathize with the characters who hang on for any sliver of information that might indicate if they will share the same fate as the warden of Bastille, who was decapitated with a pen knife. The movie is about unrequited love in several relationships. The marriage between Louis XVI and Marie is one of convenience, a complete sham designed to produce heirs to the throne. The love affair between Marie and Gabrielle is distinctly tilted in the latter's favor, as evidenced by Gabrielle's immediate acceptance of Marie's offer to allow her to flee France with her husband, thus leaving the Queen to face her fate alone. The romantic desire by Sidonie to be Marie's lover is not fulfilled, as the Queen sees her only as a useful tool to help protect the woman she really loves. If there is a drawback to the movie, it's in the fact that that the ending, which finds Sidonie gamely being used as bait to smuggle Gabrielle and her husband to Switzerland, comes a bit abruptly and doesn't follow through on the fate of our heroine. Similarly, some viewers might be frustrated by the fact that the fates of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI are never explored after Sidonie leaves the palace. This is understandable, not only because the film is about a young woman, not the monarchy, and also due to the fact that, as a French production, it is assumed its intended audiences knows full well about the unspeakable fate that befell the royals. Still, it shouldn't have to be said that viewers would benefit from having at
least a modicum of knowledge about the historical references made in the
film, as this is clearly not a production designed to appeal to the Transformers crowd.
The Blu-ray release is gorgeous on every level. Extras include a post-premiere interview with Benoit Jacquot, conducted by Kent Jones of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and on-set interviews with the director and cast members. There is also a theatrical trailer that slightly exaggerates the lesbian angle, which seems to be used to market everything other than potato chips in recent years. In all, however, it's an outstanding presentation of a very worthy film that many would not otherwise have been exposed to.
Much has been stated about the glory days of European film-making having been relegated to the post-WWII period through the 1970s. However, intelligent movies such as Farewell, My Queen, which boasts excellent performances by all as well as impressive direction, prove that there are substantial talents working in the European cinema. Perhaps these films don't benefit from the kind of sensational, world-wide publicity that was accorded to the works of Fellini and Bunuel, but there is a vast array of productions that are well-worth viewing, as evidenced by this release.
This is a trying time for all labor unions. Once the backbone of the American workforce, unions could point to so many quality of life issues they negotiated for that now benefit most working Americans, from the 40 hour work week, overtime, health benefits, family leave and many other progressive policies. However, the recent trend against employing union members has now extended to the entertainment industry. Variety's music critic Jon Burlingame reports that studios are balking at using union musicians for film scores, preferring to have the music recorded overseas where musicians make more money up front but don't get residual payments. The work in L.A. for musicians is drying up fast, but ironically, the American Federation of Musicians points out that it has brought in the highest total of residuals ever last year. The problem is that the work and money is going to a smaller and smaller pool of musicians. There is a movement afoot to try to convince the AFM to offer studios an alternative to the residual programs, which would make Hollywood more competitive with overseas orchestras. There is also criticism of the studios, which take major tax incentives from the U.S. government to shoot films on American soil but use a loophole to outsource the music. For more click here
Jon Finch, star of stage and screen, has been found dead in his home in England. He was 70 years old. He had been suffering from from a variety of health issues and friends became concerned when they had not heard from him for a time. Finch never became a bonafide star but was respected for being an outstanding supporting actor in films such as Lady Caroline Lamb, The Vampire Lovers, Sunday, Bloody Sunday and The Horror of Frankenstein. He did land leading roles in two high profile film productions in the 1970s: Roman Polanski's controversial screen version of Macbeth (in which Finch played the title role) and Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy in which Finch was cast as an innocent man suspected of being a serial killer. Over the decades, he continued to act both on television and in feature films. Finch preferred to stay out of the spotlight and kept a low profile. He had been living in Hastings since 2003. For more click here
(For more about Finch and the making of Frenzy, see Cinema Retro issue #24)
The Warner Archive continues its string of burn-to-order releases of "Poverty Row" B movies that were originally produced by other studios. The latest release, I Escaped From the Gestapo, is a real hoot that was originally produced by Monogram Pictures, which afforded budgets to directors and producers that were only slightly more extravagant than those spent on home movies. The film is primarily remembered as a would-be vehicle for actress Frances Farmer, who was not able to continue filming due to her legendary mental breakdown that resulted in her being institutionalized. Beyond that tragic association, however, the movie is a relentlessly upbeat, over-the-top propaganda film that afforded a rare leading role to Dean Jagger. The opening plot device is actually rather clever. It finds Jagger as Torgen Lane, a master forger and counterfeiter who is doing time in a federal prison. He finds himself the center of an audacious and dangerous plot to break him out of "stir" (to use the jargon of the era.) The plan succeeds and Lane is brought to meet his mysterious benefactors. It turns out they are a ring of counterfeiters themselves and they make their headquarters in an administrative office of a bustling amusement arcade. The head of the ring is Martin (John Carradine), a seemingly friendly but business-like man who explains to Lane that he's now working for them. Lane suspects he has just been sprung from prison in order to become a prisoner of sorts once again. Martin tells him that the ring needs his talents to spread counterfeit money and that he'll be handsomely rewarded, but it means being confined for much of the day in a small room and under constant supervision. Lane soon discovers that the ring has a more nefarious purpose: it's actually a front for Gestapo agents who are using the phony money to flood the national economies of the Allied nations in the hopes of wrecking their economies. They also use the novelty booth in which servicemen can record greetings to their families and sweethearts in order to gain information about troop and ship movements that they use to devastating effect. Upon hearing this, Lane does what all truly stupid movie heroes do: instead of playing it cool, he let's them know he is on to them. Not surprisingly, the Nazis are unswayed by his threats and immediately promise to kill his elderly mother if he doesn't continue to cooperate. It will spoil nothing to tell readers that, in the end, Lane emerges triumphant. He may be a no good, counterfeiting scoundrel but dammit, he's a patriotic American no good, counterfeiting scoundrel who isn't about to let these goose-stepping goons lay a finger on Uncle Sam.
The film, directed by one Harold Young, moves at a brisk clip through its abbreviated 76 minute running time. The wise-cracking Jagger makes for an amusing leading man and Mary Brian is thrown in as attractive window dressing, playing a girl who works in the arcade who establishes a flirty relationship with Lane. In the film's most unintentionally funny sequence, Lane uses psychological tactics to persuade a young German agent that Brian represents everything that is pure in America, from its women to its music. He even plays records of classical German symphonies that were banned under Hitler. After a few short hours of this persuasion, the young Nazi is practically vying to be the next John Wayne. Half the fun is watching the inimitable John Carradine in full stock company villain mode. There were few actors who could do so much with such lame material and dialogue, but he's a delight to watch. It's also a good deal of fun to relish the scant production values. Most of the "action" is confined to two rooms and the amusement arcade doesn't seem to extend beyond 25 square feet.
The film was re-issued under the title of No Escape, and notes on the DVD sleeve explain that it why this print bares that title. We have no idea why the title was changed except, possibly, because it was somewhat misleading. Gestapo agents were generally seen as menaces within Germany and occupied territories, not as foreign spies. The title clearly implies a thriller set within the German sphere of influence and this is reinforced by a misleading poster that shows a character clad in a Gestapo uniform that never appears on screen.
The fact that such B movies are now being made available in pristine DVD editions is something to celebrate. Although these modest productions afforded modest pleasures, they represent a bygone era of film-making that is, fortunately, now being preserved for posterity.
The Warner Archive has released the 1961 low-budget Allied Artists production of Operation Eichmann on burn-to-order DVD. The film was clearly rushed into production in order to capitalize on the recent capture of the infamous Nazi war criminal who enthusiastically took up the assignment of how to orchestra the logistics of carrying out the Holocaust as part of Hitler's evil scheme to rid occupied Europe of Jews and others deemed undesirable by the Third Reich. The film opens with a chilling (but fictitious) statement by Eichmann, who threatens to oversee a revival of world Naziism. The movie's cheap production design undermines the emotional impact of the story. (The scenes in Auschwitz are no more expansive than those seen in contemporary TV dramas at the time.) The B&W cinematography, however, is suitably stark and provides an appropriate downbeat atmosphere. The film strays so far from the facts regarding Eichmann's life on the run that you wonder how producers felt it could be sold to contemporary audiences who were mesmerized by Eichmann's capture by the Israeli Mossad in Argentina. The movie skips over such controversies as Eichmann having been placed in custody of American forces in the aftermath of the war, only to be released due to a blunder about his identity. There is no mention of the cover-ups American intelligence engaged in so that Eichmann would never be found or arrested. (The fear was that Eichmann's arrest might reveal the fact that the American government had willingly hired prominent Nazis for intelligence purposes during the Cold War era.) Nor is there a nod to the fact that Eicmann successfully lived undisturbed in Argentina thanks to an assist from a Catholic bishop who sympathized with the plight of Nazis on the run. Although Eichmann lived in Argentina with his wife and children, the movie presents him as a bachelor who is accompanied by a ditzy and greedy girlfriend, a fictional character named Anna (Ruta Lee). The cinematic Eichmann has a tempestuous relationship with his paramour, but can't seem to leave her. He routinely offers her bribes to stay with him during his life on the run. Finally, the film embellishes Eichmann's daring capture on an Argentinian street by adding a sub-plot about other ex-Nazis who are planning to kill him for making his plans to revive the Third Reich too blatant.
Where the film, directed by R. G. Springsteen, deserves some admiration is in its determination not to sugar coat the atrocities that Eichmann and his cohorts engaged in. Nazis were not the wild-eyed monsters often depicted in propaganda films. Rather, most were distinguished by their sheer banality. Eichmann considered himself simply a bureaucrat who cited the usual defense that he was "just following orders." Likely, he believed that to be the case. Countless bankers, lawyers and accountants eagerly put their talents to use for Hitler with nary a distinction about the larger consequences of their actions. It was Eichmann, however, who rose to the challenge of orchestrating the logistics of transporting millions of poor souls to their deaths. He had not a shred of compassion and treated human beings as he might cattle. The film features Werner Klemperer in a rare starring role as the titular fiend. He delivers an outstanding performance that never sinks into parody or over-acting. Curiously, one of his co-stars is John Banner, who would play Sgt. Schultz opposite Klemperer's Emmy-winning portrayal of Col. Klink on Hogan's Heroes several years later. It is morbidly fascinating to see these two future icons of TV comedy on screen in such a somber tale. Banner plays the commandant of Auschwitz and wines and dines Eichmann at his family dinners even as the ovens are being constructed and the gas chambers are running at full capacity. It serves as a reminder that both Klemperer and Banner were well-regarded as dramatic actors prior to their comedic achievements on television.
Operation Eichmann is a flawed, but compelling look at a Nazi technocrat who personally caused the demise of millions of innocent people. The film could have been so much more impressive, had the story not been relegated to a factually-flawed script and a routine director. Nevertheless, the fascinating performance by Werner Klemperer is reason enough to recommend this release.
Click here to view clip and to order from Warner Archive.
Oscar favorite: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.
The Oscar nominations have been announced- and the biggest surprises came with the directors who were not nominated despite having been considered to be shoo-ins for the honor. Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper were all denied nominations for Best Director and long-shots Ang Lee, Benh Zeitlin and Michael Haneke did receive nominations. The "James Bond Curse" was also lifted, with Skyfall nabbing five nominations, none in the major categories. However, it did get nominations for Best Song, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Cinematography- the most nominations ever accorded a 007 film. For more click here
Twilight Time has released the 1959 Fox film adaptation of William Faulkner's classic novel The Sound and the Fury as a limited edition (3,000 unit) Blu-ray release. The film was a follow-up venture between producer Jerry Wald and director Martin Ritt to their screen version of Faulkner's The Hamlet, which was released the previous year under the title of The Long, Hot Summer. That movie was a boxoffice smash that helped elevate Paul Newman's status as one of the industry's most promising leading men. Good fortune did not smile on The Sound and the Fury, however. Ritt's screen version made dramatic changes to the acclaimed source novel, eliminating much of the plot and eschewing much of the drama that extended over a period of many years into a segment centering on a few days. Ritt and the screenwriters also chose to tell the story through the eyes of a teenage girl who is only a secondary character in the novel. The result was scathing reviews from disappointing critics, though the film has been more favorably re-evaluated in recent years.
Faulkner, like his contemporary Tennessee Williams, excelled at dramatizing the plight of dysfunctional people in the modern South. The story focuses on the Compson family, a once prominent staple of a backwater Mississippi town. They've fallen on hard times. The deceased father ran up debts prior to drinking himself to death and left it to his son Jason (Yul Brynner, sporting a full pate of hair) to salvage the family mansion. He's done so by selling the family store to someone else and he has to suffer the daily indignity of working for the new owner. On the surface, he's a hard-nosed, humorless man whose only vice seems to be chain smoking cigars and cigarettes. In truth, he has little to be joyful about. The mansion is in decay and he is stuck caring for an alcoholic brother (John Beal) who doesn't work at all, as well an aging, constantly griping mother (Francoise Rosay) and a younger brother, Ben (Jack Warden) who suffers from a mental disability and cannot speak. His biggest challenge is raising his step-niece Quentin (Joanne Woodward), a wayward teen grappling with issues of self-esteem and raging hormones. She's heading to the wrong side of the tracks and is in a constant state of rebellion. She hates Jason because of his disciplinary measures and takes up with a no-good but hunky carnival worker (Stuart Whitman) who is gearing up to relieve her of her virginity and any family savings she can pilfer so they can run away together. Tensions rise even further when Quentin's mother Caddy (Margaret Leighton) returns home, ostensibly to finally get to know the daughter she abandoned at birth. She gets a cold reception from Jason, who reminds her that while she was sleeping her way through the state, he was raising her illegitimate daughter and trying to overcome the social stigma so Quentin will have some self-esteem. Nevertheless, seeing she is desperate and homeless, he invites her back home. Quentin initially welcomes her estranged mom but quickly sees her as the selfish and vain woman she really is. Tensions in the household are brought to the boiling point and are sometimes only diffused by the family's long-time cook, Dilsey (the great Ethel Waters in her final screen role.)
The episodic screenplay meanders quite a bit, never reaching any kind of dramatic conclusion other than Quentin's ultimate acceptance that Jason has been acting in her best interests. This gradual realization leads to a couple of rather daring sequences in which it is made clear there is a sexual attraction between them. (The script emphasizes they are not technically related by blood, but there is an uncomfortable feeling to these scenes that reminds one of the similar relationship between Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn in John Huston's The Unforgiven. The studio shamelessly capitalized on the incest angle, creating a misleading poster of Brynner standing above Woodward, who is laying prone on her bed. The tag line even proudly proclaimed that the story broke "the unwritten commandment!") The movie is more satisfying in parts than as a whole, but is consistently engrossing thanks to the uniformly fine performances. Brynner is especially good, playing against type as an everyday man trying to cope with leading a middle class existence. Woodward is excellent in terms of performance but she is ultimately miscast for one reason: she was 29 years old at the time and simply isn't entirely convincing as a teenage girl for obvious reasons. Margaret Leighton is in full Blanche Dubois mode as the faded and sullied Southern belle and Whitman provides fine support as the transient heel with seduction on his mind.
Ritt, like Faulkner, also always excelled at making films about deeply troubled people having to interact with each other and The Sound and the Fury is no exception. Aside from his fine direction, the movie boasts a terrific jazz score by Alex North that alternately evokes romance and suspense. The fine Blu-ray presentation doesn't have any extras but there is that mainstay of Twilight Time releases: the collector's booklet with excellent liner notes by Julie Kirgo. (Read it after you view the film, as it unavoidably contains spoilers.)
Skyfall, the blockbuster James Bond film, has already earned more than $1 billion worldwide. Now it's also reaping critical accolades, having received 8 BAFTA nominations including Outstanding British Film and acting nominations for Judi Dench and Javier Bardem. Beginning with the 2006 version of Casino Royale, the 007 franchise has managed to shake the long-time practice of ignoring the franchise when it comes to nominations for major film awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow. Bond fans wait anxiously to see if Skyfall will break the "Bond Curse" on nominations, as the last 007 movie to receive an Oscar nomination was For Your Eyes Only way back in 1982. For a complete list of BAFTA nominations, click here.
One of Our Spies Is (Usually) Missing: Will Sean Connery end his boycott of 007 tributes and make it possible for all six Bond actors to appear together?
The Oscar snub of all things 007 has ended. We don't know yet if the critically-acclaimed Skyfall will have the distinction of being the first Bond film to score a nomination in any category since For Your Eyes Only was nominated for Best Song in 1982, but the Academy is planning a major tribute to Bond's 50th cinematic anniversary. (The 1982 show combined a performance of the song within a major Bond tribute, followed by the Thalberg Award presentation to Cubby Broccoli by Roger Moore.) The telecast will be shown worldwide on February 24. No further details were given, but the announcement immediately fueled speculation on the web that this would seem to be the last, best hope to get all six Bond actors together on one stage. Five of them would probably participate, but Sean Connery sat out all of the 50th anniversary celebrations and it may be a long shot to get him to participate. For more click here
Sony has released the 1969 film adaptation of John Le Carre's 1965 Cold War novel The Looking Glass War as a burn-to-order DVD. The movie has been largely forgotten and relatively unseen since its release, which is odd given the consistent interest in all things Le Carre. Christopher Jones plays Leiser, a twenty-something Polish illegal immigrant in London who has the goal of being able to live there with his pregnant girlfriend, Susan (Susan George.) Although prone to bad habits and unpredictable behavior, Leiser is intent on taking his future role as a father seriously. He is arrested for immigration violations, however, and an MI6 boss LeClerc (Ralph Richardson) concocts an audacious plan to manipulate Leiser into spying for the West. Using a legal immigration status as a carrot, LeClerc gets Leiser to reluctantly agree to the scheme. The young man is given a crash course in spying by another MI6 agent, Avery (Anthony Hopkins). He proves an adept enough student when it comes to handling the physical requirements of the job. (The film's best sequence finds the two men engaged in a knock-down, extended brawl when a training exercise gets out of hand their personal animosities take over.) However, Leiser sneaks away for a brief romantic interlude with Susan but he is emotionally distraught when she tells him she has aborted their baby. Although having lost the main goal of his life- fatherhood- Leiser agrees to go on a secret mission into East Germany to search for evidence of deadly missiles that MI6 feels could tilt the Cold War in the direction of the Soviets.
Director/screenwriter Frank Pierson took considerable liberties with the source novel, but it still retains LeCarre's trademarks: a highly complex plot peppered with all sorts of extraneous characters who epitomize the author's cynical view that, when it came to espionage, there was little moral difference between East and West. Still, the film is far less confusing than the over-rated 2011 big screen version of LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which won international acclaim although seemingly no one I have discussed the film with can begin to explain what it's all about. One of the main problems is that Leiser is an unsympathetic protagonist. As played by Jones, fully in his James Dean/Marlon Brando mumbling mode, he is a fairly unlikable character, routinely lying, breaking his word and abusing those around him, including Susan, who he physically assaults. It's pretty hard to consider him one of the good guys. Nevertheless, Jones, who was always underrated as a screen presence, uses his good looks and charisma to full advantage so you can't help but hope he survives his seemingly suicidal mission. The film does pick up steam once Leiser makes it under a barbed wire fence and is forced to reluctantly kill an East German border guard. The scene is quite suspenseful, as is another fine sequence in which the desperate and wounded Leiser accepts a ride from a predatory farmer who unexpectedly tries to goad him into performing a homosexual sex act- with tragic results. Leiser also picks up a hitchhiker himself, but- this being a 1960s spy movie- she's a drop-dead gorgeous blonde (played by flash-in-the-pan starlet Pia Degermark), who later reemerges in the story in a not-too-convincing plot twist.
The DVD quality is top notch and the film boasts a hip jazz score by Wally Stott, that nevertheless seems out of place in this dark espionage tale. The performances among the supporting actors are all first rate, with Hopkins particularly impressive in an early screen role. The Looking Glass War is by no means the best of the LeCarre film adaptations (nothing has really equaled The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. ) However, it is an intelligent thriller with exotic locations and an impressive cast. Retro spy movie lovers will certainly enjoy it.
PETER GUNN: THE COMPLETE SERIES is now available for
the first time ever as a 12-DVD box set from Timeless Media Group… all 114
episodes, with a running time of over 58 hours.
PETER GUNN – created and produced by Blake Edwards – ran
for three seasons – from 1958 to 1961. This classic detective show was a
delightful blend of film noir and fifties
cool, featuring a modern jazz score by Henry Mancini (a bonus CD of the soundtrack is included in the set), outbreaks of the
old ultra-violence, a gallery of
eccentric and sleazy characters (usually informants, gangsters and Beat
Generation bohemians), and great acting by series leads Craig Stevens (as
Gunn), Lola Albright (as his squeeze, sultry nightclub singer Edie Hart) and Herschel
Bernardi (as Gunn’s friend and competitor Lieutenant Jacoby, who seems to work
all by himself 24 hours a day in the 13th Precinct headquarters).
Gunn can morph from suave private eye to tough guy handy with his fists in a
nanosecond, but it’s refreshing to see how often he is taken by surprise or
beaten up and knocked unconscious.Gunn
operates out of a nightclub, Mother’s, where Edie Hart is the featured singer. No
lonely neon-lit office in the Bradbury Building for him. (And he doesn’t pay
Mother, the big tough old broad who runs the joint, any commission for helping
him find clients!)
Gunn is that rarity… a wealthy shamus, and his services
don’t come cheap, unless he’s in a charitable mood. His standard fee is $1,000,
and his sterling reputation precedes him, keeping the clients streaming in through
Mother’s door. Gunn is a hepcat with expensive tastes. He wears $200 Brooks
Brothers suits and resembles an American Cary Grant (which is the pivotal
reason why Edwards cast Stevens in the role). Gunn drives around in a cool
two-tone Plymouth Fury convertible, equipped
with a mobile phone! (This is 55 years ago, folks!) He seems to know just
about every high-society type and low-life specimen in town. Stunningly
attractive women find Gunn irresistible, but his heart belongs to Edie and he
never succumbs to temptation.
PETER GUNN is set in a waterfront city on the Universal
and MGM back lots – a city where it is almost always night. Interior scenes are
lit in such a way that one can sense the darkness outside. For sheer smoky noir
cinematography, this series can’t be beat.
Episodes were directed by Edwards, Robert Altman and Jack
(The Incredible Shrinking Man) Arnold,
as well as top TV directors of the era. Guest stars include such familiar faces
as Stanley Adams, Joe Besser , Whit Bissell, Walter Burke, Jean Carson, James
Coburn, Russ Conway, Jackie Coogan, Elisha Cook, Henry Corden, Norma Crane, Patricia
Donahue, Norman Fell, Myron Healey, Alan Hewitt (who bears an uncanny
resemblance to James Gregory), Sterling Holloway, John Hoyt, Roy Jenson, George
Kennedy, Ted Knight, Anna Lee, Ken Lynch, Theodore Marcuse, Ross Martin, Murray
Matheson, Frank Maxwell, Gavin MacLeod, John McIntire, Howard McNear (Floyd the
Barber on The Andy Griffith Show), Jeanette
Nolan, J. Pat O’Malley,Edward C. Platt,
William Schallert, Vito Scotti, Harold J. Stone, Nita Talbot, Joan Taylor, Lawrence
Tierney, Mel Welles and Jack Weston.
Notable musical guests include trumpet virtuoso Pete
Candoli, drummer Shelly Manne and singer Diahann Carroll (in her first major
role). Jazz pianist Bill Chadney is also a series semi-regular, ideally cast as
Emmett, Mother’s resident piano stylist. (Chadney
and Lola Albright were married in 1961.)
Berman should receive a special retroactive Emmy Award for his towering
dramatic performance in THE COMIC (1959), maybe the best – and certainly the most chilling – PETER GUNN
episode, with the series regulars playing secondary roles to Berman, who is
absolutely incredible as paranoid nightclub comic Danny Holland.
Image quality on the
12-pack DVD set is for the most part excellent, although several episodes from
Season Two are substandard (with harsh, grainy black-and-white tones), but
still acceptable. Audio quality is good to very good.
Finally!After years of sub-par and downright bootleg
quality transfers of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 British classic, The Man Who Knew Too Much, we now have a
presentation.Thanks to The Criterion
Collection, the film has undergone a new digital restoration, and it looks
great.We can finally see a clear
photographic image!Peter Lorre is no
longer blurry and in soft-focus.And the
sound!Thanks to an uncompressed
monaural soundtrack, we can now actually hear the dialogue and understand it,
whereas on previous releases everyone sounded like they were speaking from
inside a barrel.
The Man Who Knew
Too Much was
Hitchcock’s first hugely successful talkie.In fact, Man was the number
one picture in the UK in 1934, and it more or less introduced America to the
Master of Suspense when it was imported across the pond.So, in many ways, The Man Who Knew Too Much was Hitch’s breakthrough to a worldwide
audience.And it’s such a good story
that he decided to remake it in Hollywood twenty-two years later.Film historians like to argue about which
version is better.As the director
himself said, the first one was the work of a “talented beginner” and the
second version was that of a “professional.”Regardless, the 1934 edition is hugely entertaining and a worthwhile
addition to any cinema buff’s collection.
picture also marks the first English-language appearance by Peter Lorre, who
had recently escaped from Nazi Germany.While making Man, he was
learning English and legend has it that he recited his lines phonetically
without truly understanding their meaning.If that’s truly the case, then his performance is remarkable; he’s one
of Hitchcock’s best villains.Leslie
Banks and Edna Best are the protagonists, and while they are no Jimmy Stewart
and Doris Day, they carry the film along marvelously.
include a terrific hour-long 1972 British TV interview with Hitchcock conducted
by Ingrid Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom and film historian William K.
Everson.The disk is worth the price for
that alone.There’s a new
interview/appreciation from Guillermo del Toro, audio excerpts from Francois
Truffaut’s classic interview with the master, a new audio commentary by film
historian Philip Kemp, and the usual thick booklet full of photos and an essay
by Farran Smith Nehme.
Christian Slater's name above the title couldn't pull 'em in.
The film Playback has the dubious distinction of being the lowest-grossing movie released in 2012. Never heard of it? Apparently, only a handful of people did. The film, starring Christian Slater, took in an opening night gross of $252 with $12 earned during the week. In fairness, however, the movie only played in one theater for one week. In some cases, movies get limited theatrical releases in order to fulfill contractual obligations or to aid in the marketing of a DVD release, whereby the studio can technically say the movie played theatrically. No matter how you cut it, however, Playback offered no payback for investors: its budgeted was $7.5 million. For more click here
It seems to be open season on revered director Alfred Hitchcock. The feature film Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins was taken to task by some critics for artistic license in its depiction of the director's behavior during the making of Psycho, with some saying it exaggerates his eccentricities and the negative aspects of his personality. Now the BBC drama The Girl starring Toby Jones and Sienna Miller is also being criticized for presenting a one-sided depiction of the making of Hitchcock's The Birds and Marnie. The unflattering portrayal of Hitchcock as a virtual sexual predator is based solely on the accusations of both films' female lead, 'Tippi' Hedren, a Hitchcock discovery who has long maintained that her rejection of his advances led to retaliatory actions that saw her career derailed almost as soon as it began. The BBC broadcast of the movie has led to legendary leading ladies Eva Marie Saint, Doris Day and Kim Novak speaking out in defense of Hitchcock and claiming he treated them with respect. Click here for more
The Warner Archive has released the 1962 feature film Hitler as a burn-to-order DVD. The film was perhaps the first cinematic attempt to present Adolf Hitler's story in a dramatic biographical format. However, the project was sabotaged by the fact that it was produced by Allied Artists, then a "B" movie factory. The resulting budget appears to be somewhat less than that afforded by home movies of the day. The B&W film also suffers from a ridiculously curtailed screenplay that attempts to do justice to all aspects of one of the most dramatic lives in history. The production's running time of 107 minutes undermines any serious attempt to do justice to Hitler's remarkable, history-changing life. The film does boast a reasonably effective performance by Richard Basehart in the titular role- no small achievement, as most cinematic impersonations of Der Fuhrer tend to inspire giggles. (It is not without irony that Hitler's trademark mustache was shared by the most iconic comedic figure of his era, Charles Chaplin.) The story opens with Hitler dictating Mein Kampf from his jail cell in 1923, having failed to seize power in Germany via a violent coup. In a blink of an eye, we see him perched to take power as Chancellor when the aging Von Hinderburg dies. The screenplay dispenses with the historical context of all this in order to concentrate on the real reason for the movie's existence, which is Hollywood's long-time fascination with mingling sex and Naziism. Thus, a good deal of the movie is spent watching Adolf fawn over his niece Geli (Cordula Trantow). If you believe the story, their relationship remained chaste, which indeed it may have. Historians have long pondered over Hitler's sex life, or lack thereof, without finding any evidence that he did not die a virgin. He loved the company of attractive women and did indeed have a rather scandalous relationship with Geli, even sharing an apartment with her during his early rise to power. The film introduces the first of some outlandish historical "facts" when Geli is murdered in a staged suicide, under orders from Hitler. In fact, there has never been any concrete evidence that Hitler was responsible for her death.
The next fraulein in the Fuhrer's sphere of influence is Eva Braun (Maria Emo), a young girl with a bombshell body who willingly devotes her life to being Hitler's arm candy. Here again, the script deviates from what we know about Braun, presenting her as a strong-willed woman of impressive intelligence. In fact, Braun was an apolitical airhead, as evidenced by Hitler's real life musing that men of great power should only be involved with stupid women so their careers are not interfered with. The movie blazes through historical events with blinding speed (documentary footage is unconvincingly interwoven in an attempt to give the claustrophobic production some scope.) The movie accurately presents Hitler's deadly betrayal of his old friend, SA chief Ernst Rohm and even overtly acknowledges the fact that Rohm and his men were engaging in widespread homosexual activity during a weekend retreat, something that repelled Hitler,who ordered mass executions. The film is obsessed with the sexual aspects of Hitler's life but, as stated previously, this area remains a mystery to historians and biographers. Even after Hitler and Eva Braun were living under the same roof at the Fuhrer's Bavarian retreat, they kept separate bedrooms. The house staff was so titillated by the prospect of investigating Hitler's love life that they routinely inspected the bedding for evidence of any sexual interaction. None was ever found. Nevertheless, the screenplay takes bold liberties in presenting speculation as fact. It assumes Hitler was impotent and that this was attributed to latent homosexuality. This is another myth that historians have dismissed. Hitler once shared an apartment, and possibly the same bed, with another impoverished young man in his early days, but this was probably due to economic necessity and was not at all unusual at the time. Indeed, Hitler's disdain for homosexuals put them on his hate list along with Jews and political dissidents. In Nazi Germany, being gay meant the concentration camp. Whether the screen writer actually believed this theory is not known but there is certainly the possibility that this plot point was included simply to be provocative. Another historical incident is depicted, albeit inaccurately, with the July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler by his generals. The ring leader of the plot, Col. von Stauffenberg is shown being hanged along with his confederates. In reality, he was shot by a firing squad.
One has to have some admiration for Richard Basehart, whose performance rises above the mediocrities that surround him. He makes for a mesmerizing Hitler and never overplays the more hysterical aspects of the Fuhrer's personality that so often inspire actors to go "over the top." The pedestrian direction by Stuart Heisler doesn't provide much inspiration for him. Nevertheless, Hitler is a odd little film that bares viewing if only for the wrong reasons.
Click here to view clip and to order from Warner Archive
Despite being a hit in the ratings with a test pilot aired on Halloween, NBC has officially backed out of producing future episodes of Mockingbird Lane, the reboot of the beloved 1960s sitcom The Munsters. For more click here
Director Robert Zemeckis has dropped plans to remake the Beatles' animated 1968 feature film Yellow Submarine. The Oscar-winner has been developing the project for several years but confirmed recently that he has changed his mind. "That would have been a great one, to bring the Beatles back to life," he said. "But it's probably
better not to be remade — you're always behind the eight-ball when you
do a remake." Thus, the original Blue Meanies will still reign supreme.
Here is an excellent, informative interview with the legendary Sir Christopher Lee, conducted back in May 2012 when he turned 90 years-old. In it, Sir Christopher discusses his film career at length and thanks his millions of fans for their support over the course of his remarkable career.
The Skyfall juggernaut continues with worldwide grosses topping $1 billion, making this by far the highest grossing 007 flick of all time. Additionally, as the following press release from Sony points out, Skyfall has become the highest grossing movie of all time in the UK, passing the $100 million mark.
31st December, 2012 – Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and
Sony Pictures Entertainment are delighted to announce that Skyfall, the UK’s
most successful film of all time, continues to smash box office records and
has now taken a staggering £100,460,679, the first film in
box office history to cross the £100m mark.
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 2012, and is still on general release. Additionally,
the film has generated more than $1 billion in ticket sales
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 Logan.
About Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon
Productions EON 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
For more coverage of the Skyfall grosses click here
On December 21, 1961 the Merced Theatre in Merced, California hosted a Christmas party for 2,000 local children who got to see John Wayne's latest flick, The Comancheros, along with Misty starring David Ladd. (Photo: Merced County Sun-Star)
Harry Carey Jr., the son of legendary Western movie actor Harry Carey, has died from natural causes at age 91. Although the younger Carey never became a star, he worked steadily over the decades as a reliable character actor. He was the last surviving member of the so-called John Ford "Stock Company", a reference to the mercurial director's penchant for working with the same actors on many films. He also appeared in numerous films starring his good friend John Wayne, who idolized Carey's father, who he also made several films with. It was Ford and Wayne who gave Carey Jr. his most memorable screen roles in films such as Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Wagon Master and The Searchers. After Ford's death, he appeared with Wayne in the popular Westerns The Undefeated, Big Jake and Cahill: U.S. Marshall. A younger generation of directors were respectful of Carey's stature in film history and he made a memorable appearance in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984). For more on his life and career, click here
When asked why most of Sid Caesar’s writers were young and Jewish,
the late’ great Larry Gelbart replied, “Because most of our parents were old
The answer to why there were so many Jews in Broadway musicals may
not be as glibly succinct, but in Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,
which debuts on PBS on January 1 at 9:30 p.m., the answers are insightful and
Written, produced and directed by Emmy-Award Winner Michael Kantor
(Broadway- The American Musical and Make ‘Em Laugh- The Funny Business of
America), the 90 minute documentary tries to answer the question of why
the Broadway musical proven to be such fertile territory for Jewish artists of
all kind, featuring icons from Broadway’s golden age, including Irving Berlin,
Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein
and Stephen Sondheim to “Broadway babies” such as Stephen Schwartz, Marc
Shaiman and Andrew Lippa represent a sampling of the Jewish talents who
continue to leave their mark on musical theater.
The show begins with David Hyde Pearce in a hysterical and
joyful scene-chewing rendition of his Spamalot song, You Won’t Succeed on
Broadway: “You may have the finest sets, Fill the stage with penthouse
pets, you may have the loveliest costumes and best shoes, you may dance and you
may sing, but I'm sorry Arthur King you'll hear no cheers, just lots and lots
of boos “boo,” you may have butch men by the score, whom the audience adore…
But I tell you, you are dead if you don't have any Jews.” “It
wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t true,” Spamalot creator, the great Eric
Kantor focuses on this central question left largely
unaddressed in his Emmy-winning Broadway: The American Musical, combining
interviews with performance footage, including many of the rousing anthems and
timeless ballads America has loved for a century.
“The primary force behind the musicals are the guys who write the
songs” Kantor said. “Broadway, The American Musical was principally a
historical and cultural treatment, dealing with The Great Depression and the
advent of Rock and Roll. The new documentary complements the earlier
one. “It’s really an American story and our narrative tells how Jewish
stories were part of an acculturation/assimilation process. My daughter was bat
mitzvahed this year and I can hear the melodies of the prayers differently.”
In the 1920s, nearly one in four New York residents was
Jewish. The film charts how Jewish immigrants and children of immigrants
in the melting pot of old New York helped shape the vision of America through
musical theater. While shows like Porgy and Bess, Show Boat and Oklahoma
are fictions, they represent the artist’s vision of how do we take what we know
from Jewish culture and tradition and make it into America?
The film succeeds in its attention to detail and how it
captures the warmth and emotion of the great artists: Leonard Bernstein
and Adolph Green met as kids at summer camp, worked together on the camp
musicals and became lifelong friends. In 1893, a five year old
Irving Berlin, arrived at Ellis Island. His earliest memory as a child
growing up in Russia was of a pogrom, a vigilante attack on his Jewish
village. And he remembers hiding in a ditch with his brothers and sisters
and parents, watching Russian Cossacks burn down their village. Then he
comes to America, gets off the boat, looks around him, sees all these Americans
and he says, we stood there in our Jew clothes. He realized how different
he was from everybody else. That feeling of being different,
combined with a deep gratitude of being an American, resulted in the
composition of classic tunes, including the definitive American Christmas song.
There was also apprehension about the appeal of Fiddler on the
Roof beyond Jewish audiences. To the producers’ surprise and
pleasure, the show was a worldwide hit that transcended culture and race.
“The opening number “Tradition” was common to every culture so the show was as
common to Japanese family life as it was to Jewish family life,” Hal Prince
recalled. “And it went all over the world and every single place it went
it became their family story despite the idiosyncrasies of what was Jewish
about it. Playwright Joseph Stein said: "There are universal themes:
It’s a story about parents and children, a story about struggling in a strange
world, conflict of cultures, immigrants."
The film also points out that the music of Porgy and Bess was
rooted in Hebrew prayers and then charts the journey of the music into the
brilliants hands of Miles Davis as he re-crafts the liturgical themes roots
into his own classic jazz riffs.
“I’ve always worshiped talent and the magic talented
people can make in people’s lives and make a difference,” said Cabaret star
Joel Grey, who narrated the documentary, and who is one of only eight actors to
have won both a Tony and an Oscar for having portrayed the same role on stage
“I remember the day I went to [composer] John Kander’s house and
he told me about the role. When I first heard the song Vilkomen, I
remember thinking to myself- “Oh my God- this is going to be my song. The
MC in Cabaret is one of the most villainous characters of all time in that he
seemed like he was going to be fun. You laughed with him and liked him
and he ended up sticking the knife in.”
“James Cagney (who spoke fluent Yiddish) was both an actor and
song and dance man,” Grey said when asked about his own favorite performers and
composers. “Marvin Hamlisch was my friend and one of the funniest human
beings in history. He was the modern day Irving Berlin, with a brilliant
sense of timing but also with a sense of the outrageous.”
Beginning his theater career at age nine, Grey is part of an
entertainment dynasty. Grey’s father was Spike Jones band member Mickey Katz, whose solo
hits included “Duvid Crockett” and “She’ll be Coming Around the Catskills,” and
is father of Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey.
“It’s thrilling the way we as Jews made ourselves useful and found
a place for ourselves after running for so long. Part of my Yiddishkeit
[Jewish identity] comes directly from my Dad who turned popular music into
Jewish experiences, as a way of adapting and owning the Jewish experience of
BearManor Media is a niche market publishing company that backs unusual subject matters, largely related to the celebration of cult movies. The company has just released a reprint of writer John Burke's novelization of the 1965 horror film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. The movie was produced by Amicus Films, which sought (with success) to emerge as a rival to Hammer Films. Amicus head honchos Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky even "stole" Hammer's two signature stars on occasion: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, both of whom starred in Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and provided an impressive supporting cast that included Donald Sutherland, Roy Castle, Neil McCallum, Michael Gough, Bernard Lee and Jeremy Kemp. The less-than-subtle title doesn't do justice to an entertaining and film about a group of strangers who encounter an ominous and mysterious man (Cushing) on a long rail journey. In the course of their travels, the man terrifies his travel companions by predicting a very morbid future for each of them. The idea of an anthology built around a horror movie presence was not new at the time, having been successfully employed twenty years earlier with the British film Dead of Night. However, Amicus successfully dusted off the premise and the response to this film was so positive that the studio would utilize the same format time and again with films like Tales From the Crypt and The House That Dripped Blood.
BearManor's reprint of the tie-in paperback novelization features a stunning poster reproduction on the cover as well as B&W film stills peppered throughout. The novel was originally only available in England through Pan Books, so this marks the book's first appearance in the American market. As the movie is not officially available on DVD in the States, this book will whet the appetites of those might be inspired to order the British Region 2 edition. Writer and film historian Richard A. Ekstedt provides an informative and entertaining foreword that gives a history of the film and novelization (although he curiously spells the title Doctor Terror's House of Horrors throughout his article instead of the movie's actual title, which is spelled Dr. Terror's House of Horrors.) The book is part of "Philip J. Riley's Nightmare Series". Despite its modest production values, this volume is most welcome for all of us who have fond memories of seeing the movie many years ago. Now if an American release DVD will only follow....
In John Frankenheimer's superb 1965 film The Train, one of the last major studio movies shot in black and white, Burt Lancaster plays a railroad worker coerced into joining the French Resistance to stop a train that contains the nation's great art treasures. A German general (Paul Scofield) is attempting to loot these masterpieces and bring them to Berlin in the closing days of WWII. Watch the original trailer here.
The messy, long-running mutual lawsuits between Paramount Pictures and the estate of author Mario Puzo have now been settled by mutual agreement, though the terms have not been made public. Paramount had sued the estate trying to prevent publication of The Family Corleone, the latest literary sequel to Puzo's legendary best-seller The Godfather. The studio contracted with Puzo in 1969 to bring his book to the big screen. The 1972 blockbuster movie was the biggest money maker in screen history until being displaced by Jaws three years later. The Paramount suit claimed the studio had rights to any literary sequels based on the original book. The estate claims that Paramount has forfeited those rights. Both parties have agreed to pay their own legal expenses as part of the settlement. For more click here
He was the basis of Sidney Lumet's acclaimed 1973 film and says that Al Pacino played him better than he could play himself. Frank Serpico, who along with his friend, the recently deceased David Durk of the famed Knapp Commission, exposed massive corruption in the New York City Police Department, is living quietly in upstate New York, enjoying life with a younger woman, the occasional cigar and working on his memoirs. The former detective with the mindset of a counter culture protestor started on the NYPD as an idealistic young cop determined to bring in Gotham's crooks. What he was appalled to realize was that many of the crooks were working as cops themselves. Serpico violated the "Blue Wall of Silence" and exposed his fellow officers, leading to the formation of the famed Knapp Commission that helped clean up the NYPD but also gave the force a black eye for many years. Serpico was alienated and despised by his fellow officers, a bunch of boneheads who adhered to an "all-for-one and one-for-all" policy that saw them side with the worst elements of the force. Serpico was shot in the face while making an arrest and he still gets a bit riled by the fact that his fellow cops were less than helpful in getting him prompt medical assistant. Today, he takes satisfaction in knowing that, although his name is still cursed by some current bone-heads on the NYPD, he is revered by law enforcement agencies around the world. He also takes amused pride in the fact that the cinematic Serpico ranks #42 on the list of all-time screen heroes (right behind Lassie). For a recent New York Daily News interview, click here.
One of the film industry's last great composers has passed away at age 76. Sir Richard Rodney Bennett died this week in New York. The prolific composer was part of a now bygone age when spectacular and memorable film scores were a routine part of the motion picture industry. Bennett was nominated for three Oscars for his work on Far From the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and Murder On The Orient Express. He was also nominated for numerous BAFTA awards for his work in film and on television. Bennett was also acclaimed for his non-film work that included writing symphonies and operas. His other feature film scores include Billy Liar, Equus, Billion Dollar Brain, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Devil's Disciple. For more click here
The Music of James Bond by Jon Burlingame (Published by
Oxford University Press, $35, 296 pages, illustrated (B&W), ISBN:
Jon Burlingame provides the intriguing and often fascinating
story behind the one heretofore neglected aspect of the James Bond phenomenon:
the soundtracks and the incredibly talented people behind them. This book
manages to be exhaustively researched, yet highly entertaining. Those of us who
pride ourselves on being 007 scholars will be humbled by the wealth of new
insights the author reveals. The book provides a film-by-film look at the
scoring of each movie and refreshingly gives equal time to the 1967 version of Casino Royale, which boasted a fabulous
score, and Never Say Never Again which
decidedly did not.There are also ample
photographs of the composers and singers in the studio as well as rare trade
ads extolling Oscar voters to nominate scores, a generally quixotic task, given
the tone deaf membership of the Academy that ignored the Bond films except for
a rare occasion.With this indispensable
book, Burlingame reaffirms his status as one of the world’s foremost experts on
motion picture soundtracks.
Official press description of the book:
The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian
Fleming's intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond,
author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to
reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond,
spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously
Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond
film, providing the backstory for the music (including a reader-friendly
analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous
"James Bond Theme" in Dr. No to John Barry's trend-setting early scores for such films as Goldfinger and Thunderball.
We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques
played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold
reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond.
brims with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Burlingame examines the
decades-long controversy over authorship of the Bond theme; how Frank
Sinatra almost sang the title song for Moonraker; and how top
artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon,
Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Madonna turned Bond songs
into chart-topping hits. The author shares the untold stories of how
Eric Clapton played guitar for Licence to Kill but saw his work shelved, and how Amy Winehouse very nearly co-wrote and sang the theme for Quantum of Solace.
Legendary animation master Gerry Anderson has died at age 83. The creator of such classic TV series as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett and Stingray, died in his native England, having battled Alzheimers Disease in recent years. His landmark style of animation, involving puppets as super heroes, never went out of style and crossed over several generations in terms of popularity. He also produced the hit live action TV series Space 1999 and served as executive producer on the cult series UFO in the 1970s. Uncharacteristically, he also produced the 1970s TV spy series The Protectors starring Robert Vaughn. For more on his remarkable life and career click here
TV icon Jack Klugman died Monday at age 90. He had been in poor health in recent months but his death was not related to the cancer that had once robbed him of his speaking voice. In the 1980s, Klugman literally had to learn to speak again, a painstaking process that allowed him to resume his acting career. Klugman had been acting since the Golden Age of TV before he struck pay dirt as America's favorite slob, Oscar Madison opposite Tony Randall's neat freak Felix Unger in the hit TV version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. The show ran between 1970-1975 and remains extremely popular today. He was awarded two Emmys for his work in the series. Klugman followed this with another hit series, the crime show Quincy, M.E that ran from 1977-1983. Klugman became such an icon of television that many fans forget he had a successful career as a supporting actor in feature films such as Goodbye Columbus, Twelve Angry Men, The Detective, and The Days of Wine and Roses. For more click here
Acclaimed character actor Charles Durning has died from natural causes at age 89. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the remake of To Be Or Not To Be. Other major film credits include Dog Day Afternoon, The Sting, The Final Countdown and Sisters. For more click here
Okay, the following clip from The Jingle Bells Affair, which aired in December 1966, had plenty of cringe-inducing moments since it aired during The Man From U.N.C.L.E's notoriously campy third season. (The series would regain its mojo the next year, but by then it was too late: the show was cancelled in mid-season). Still, this episode has a goofy, charming quality about it. Akim Tamiroff plays the Communist party chairman who visits New York on a contentious diplomatic mission. Thanks to the intrusion of THRUSH, he ends up relying on Solo and Illya to protect him. Throw in a virginal Salvation Army girl, a cornball sub-plot about a sick kid, a naked commercial pitch for Macy's and the least believable final sequence in the show's history (with the Chairman expressing a wish to be the store's new Santa Claus!) and you have all the elements that outraged the show's fans at the time. Yet, in the spirit of Christmas, it's hard to be a Scrooge after so many years have passed...and there is something reassuring about having Robert Vaughn and David McCallum wishing us all a Merry Christmas.
At the risk of being drawn and quartered, I have to say that, with all due respect to the magnificent Alastair Sim, my favorite version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the wonderful 1984 TV production starring George C. Scott in a magnificent, Emmy-nominated performance as Scrooge. The film features many other excellent actors and performances including Frank Finlay, Edward Woodward, Susannah York, David Warner, Angela Pleasence, Nigel Davenport and Michael Gough- all under the inspired direction of Clive Donner. Scott's performance is every bit as impressive as that of Sim, who has basically owned the role since appearing in the 1951 big screen version, which is alternately titled Scrooge. For a great double feature, watch these two films back-to-back. In the meantime, however, sit back and enjoy this full length presentation of George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol.
If you haven't picked up Warner Home Video's release of Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner Unforgiven on Blu-ray, don't delay another day. The film made its debut in Blu-ray earlier this year to commemorate the movie's 20th anniversary. For those of us who were long-time champions of Eastwood's abilities as an actor and director, the accolades the movie received made us seem a bit self-satisfied. In the early 1980s I co-authored a book about Eastwood's films and was told by my editor that while his movies were enjoyable, I was guilty of mistaking him for a world-class talent. No one was saying such things after Unforgiven, a classic Western that ranks among the best of the genre. Originally shot under the title The William Munny Killings, the film is a dramatic look at both the best and worst elements of human nature. (The film's final title did seem rather uninspired at the time, given the fact that John Huston had made a high profile western titled The Unforgiven in 1960) No one is completely good or bad in this film, including the Sheriff Little Bill (an Oscar winning performance by Gene Hackman), who runs his small town with an iron fist. He considers himself to be a good man and he certainly is courageous and incorruptible. However, when he doles out mild punishment for a man who used a knife to commit an atrocity on a local prostitute, her fellow hookers pool their hard-earned savings and offer a bounty to the man or men who kill or bring to justice the culprit and his companions. Answering the call is William Munny, an aging widower with two small children who is desperate to renounce his past as a hard-bitten saddle bum with a penchant for spilling blood. The bounty money will afford him the chance to start a new life. He is aided by his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) and a green horn who goes by the name of the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett, who should have gone on to stardom). The Kid claims to be a hardened killer but his older mentors realize immediately he is all bluster. This disparate trio begins to track down the man who abused the prostitute and end up on a hellish journey that has unforeseen, tragic consequences.
Eastwood, who kept the screenplay by David Webb Peoples on a shelf until the time was right to dust it off, provides assured, top-notch direction as well as giving one of the best performances of his career. (He also wrote the film's haunting theme song for good measure). The supporting performances are all outstanding with Richard Harris making an odd, but unforgettable mid-film appearance as an egotistical British gunslinger who gets his just desserts at the hands of Little Bill. Every nuance of the movie rings true right down to the final gun battle in saloon that is brilliantly directed by Eastwood.
The deluxe version of the Blu-ray release comes in the format of a small, hardback photo book with an introduction by Eastwood. The photo content is worth the price of the set alone, with script pages, rare pre-production ads and behind the scenes photos displayed. Best of all is the bonus content which has been available on the previous DVD release:
Commentary track by Eastwood and biographer Richard Schickel
All on Accounta Pullin' a Trigger, which features recent interviews with cast and crew about the making of the film
Eastwood... A Star, a retrospective look at the screen legend's career
Eastwood and Company: Making 'Unforgiven': Schickel's outstanding one hour documentary that originally aired on broadcast TV
Eastwood on Eastwood, in which the actor/director reflects on his long career
A vintage episode of Maverick in which Eastwood plays a hardcase cowboy who goes up against star James Garner
In summary, it would be unforgivable not to add this deluxe Blu-ray of Unforgiven to your library. (The film is available as a bare-bones Blu-ray, but spring for the deluxe edition.)
If the year 2012 was one of the most volatile in terms of American politics, some of that tension has seeped into the race for the Best Picture Oscar. The nominees have not been announced yet but front runners include Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, each of which is drenched in historical political overtones that critics and pundits say have relevance to contentious issues going on today. The New York Times analyzes how those political undercurrents may effect what films get nominated and which one may win. Click here to read
Despite a title that implies an epic mini-series, World War III (originally broadcast in 1982) is far less grand than other major network specials of the day. This was the golden age of TV mini-series, when seemingly every week produced a classic such as Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots, Shogun and The Thorn Birds. All of those projects had opulent budgets as well as big name casts. World War III does boast three big names of the day, Rock Hudson, Brian Keith and David Soul but the similarities stop there. It seems all of the money went into these actor's salaries, leaving the rest of the production to cope with a budget that seems to be akin to that of a high school play. The show was aired during tense times of the Cold War period and the paranoia about Soviet expansionism helped ensure Ronald Reagan's triumphant rise to the Presidency. The problems begin with the screenplay, the premise of which is fairly absurd. Seems U.S. President McKenna (Hudson) is heating up the Cold War by imposing a grain embargo on the Soviets that threatens the very fabric of their society. McKenna's aim is the reign in their military adventures but the Soviets respond by sending a commando team into a remote part of Alaska with the intention of overtaking a small military outpost that defends a pivotal oil pipeline. The Reds plan to threaten this crucial source of oil if McKenna doesn't back down on the grain embargo. The Soviet patrol is discovered by the small contingent of Americans guarding the facility and a fierce firefight erupts. The stakes quickly rise to nuclear threat levels and a summit meeting is quickly convened between McKenna and Soviet Secretary General Gorny (Brian Keith). Both men want peace, but Gorny's attempts to defuse the situation are sabotaged by Kremlin war mongers. The film intercuts the political intrigue with the ordeal of both Russian and American fighting men facing death in a snowy wasteland.The notion that America could be brought to its knees but a few soldiers capturing an oil facility may seem crazy but at the time you couldn't go broke trying to scare people into thinking the United States could actually be invaded by a conventional army. (Think Red Dawn, the other kooky invasion thriller of the era that only the paranoid could love.)
The American leading role is played by (then) red-hot David Soul as a colonel who finds himself commanding an outgunned and out-manned group of soldiers who fight valiantly against seemingly insurmountable odds to stave off Soviet occupation of the oil pipeline. This being TV in the early 1980s, there is some sexual byplay squeezed in between Soul and Cathy Lee Crosby, who plays a sexy intelligence officer equally at home in a snowsuit or evening gown. Naturally, she ends up toting a gun and helping Soul repel the Soviet onslaught. The notion of generals seeing more action in the bedroom than in the battlefield might have seemed like a stretch at the time, but in the age of General Petraeus, the screenwriter now seems like an oracle. The acting is all perfectly fine, with Hudson giving a commanding performance as a dovish president forced to be a hawk. Watching him square off with the great Brian Keith is one of the show's few true pleasures, along with an opening sequence that is well acted and directed and features a startling act of treason. However, World War III plays like a bargain basement version of Fail Safe, right down to the film's final sequence which is literally stolen verbatim from that classic movie. Most of the film is shot in claustrophobic interiors that never convince you that the action is taking place anywhere but on a studio sound stage. The worst aspects of the program, however, are the scenes set in the Alaskan frontier. There seems to have been no more than twenty square feet of studio space allocated to these sequences and to get around it, the actors are often filmed in close-up. The production design is also rather laughable with plastic and foam snowbanks that you would expect to see decorating your local ice cream parlor. If you think the arctic scenes in Ice Station Zebra looked bad, wait until you see these amateurish creations.
In fairness, comments readers on IMDB indicate people have very fond memories ofthis production, which was directed by the usually competent David Greene after the original director, Boris Sagal, died during production in an accident involving a helicopter. I hate to be a wet blanket about nuclear war, folks, but World War III is a pretentious, cheapo production that uses a few big names to justify its existence. The diplomatic sequences are corny and predictable and feature the kind of preachy, Kumbaya moments that would send the likes of Rush Limbaugh into a frenzy. Skip this one, unless you have three hours of your life you don't value, and stick to an intentionally funny Cold War film, Dr. Strangelove.
Click here to watch clip and order from the Warner Archive
Jimmy Fallon had some high-powered assistance in his recreation of the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine "Who's on First": Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal joined in the fun. The black and white sketch pays homage to the timeless routine, but despite the talent involved, it only proves no one can do it better than A&C themselves. Click here to view
The following news items were found in The Hollywood Reporter on January 24, 1968:
Director Peter Yates, assistant director Tim Zinneman, cameraman Bill Fraker and several key crew operators to San Francisco for final pre-production on Warner-Seven Arts' Bullitt
Lee Marvin will star in Monte Walsh, based on the Jack Schafer novel. Marvin will reportedly receive $1 million against 10% of the gross.
Sammy Davis Jr. set to portray a key figure in the Rhythm of Life musical number in Universal's roadshow production of Sweet Charity. Assignment marks the first screen song and dance role Davis has played since he appeared in Porgy and Bess. (Note: this was not true. Davis performed song and dance numbers in the Rat Pack films Oceans Eleven and Robin and the Seven Hoods-Ed.)
David Karp yesterday turned in the first draft screenplay of Viva Che!, 20th -Fox's forthcoming drama based on the life of revolutionist Ernesto (Che) Guevara. (The film was released under the title Che!- Ed.)
MGM has set an April starting date for the King Brothers production of Heaven With a Gun, a big scale western starring Glenn Ford to be shot at the Culver City studio and on location.
MGM's The Dirty Dozen rolls into its seventh consecutive month of performances in Los Angeles this week when it moves to the Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Boulevard.
Director James Goldstone has set May 1 for start of filming on his next Universal feature, Winning starrig Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Picture was originally slated to begin production in March, but start date has been pushed back to accomodate Newman, currently editing A Jest of God which he directed for Warner Seven-Arts. (A Jest of God was released under the title Rachel, Rachel- Ed.)
James Caan getting his choice of roles after appearing in Games
John Wayne used to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day before his operation; now he chews tobacco.
Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn rumored to appear in Song of Norway in 1969. (They didn't- Ed.)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the producers of the outstanding indie Western The Scarlet Worm (click here for review):
December 17, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ORIGINAL 'DJANGO' ACTOR FRANCO NERO
ATTACHED TO NEW WESTERN
Contact: Mike Malloy,
Eric Zaldivar and Mike Malloy, two
producers of the offbeat 2012 Western The Scarlet Worm, have received a
Letter of Interest from original Django star Franco Nero to topline a
gritty new Western project, tentatively titled Django Lives!Should the
sequel rights be secured, the feature would be the third “official” entry in
the saga that made Mr. Nero an international star.
Since the release of the original Django in 1966, over thirty films have
included the character’s iconic name in their titles, most recently Quentin
Tarantino’s Django Unchained, in
which Mr. Nero makes a cameo appearance.Until now, however, only the 1987 Western Django Strikes Again is considered to be an official sequel.
The story would have former gunslinger Django, in his twilight
years, ending up as a silent-movie consultant in 1915 Hollywood and meeting an
aspiring filmmaker with whom he reluctantly goes into business. When the
filmmaker gets killed by racketeers, the young man's gambling debts are
considered transferred to Django, who must now flee for safety to a small rural
community. But that town's sharply divided inhabitants have their own problems,
and Django becomes embroiled in a bloody conflict immediately upon arrival.
Looper star Noah Segan, an aficionado of
Spaghetti Westerns and friend of the production, has expressed interest in
co-starring as a younger character with mysterious intentions who befriends the
Zaldivar and Malloy most recently
worked with Nero on the award-winning cinema documentary Eurocrime! The
Italian Cop and Gangster Films that Ruled the '70s, which kicked off its
festival run of eight countries at the Atlanta Film Festival in March of this
“Everyone we met on the festival
circuit wanted to know first and foremost about what it was like to interview
Franco Nero,” said Malloy. “He still holds a mythical tough-guy intrigue for a
large audience. Nero is to European action cinema what Eastwood is to the
United States. And he's taken excellent care of himself.”
Zaldivar adds: “I gave Franco a Blu-ray
of The Scarlet Worm and showed him what we were able to achieve on a
microbudget. And he loved the new story we’ve developed for his return to the
screen as the legendary Django. Plus, he knows that Malloy and I are two of the
biggest students of Italian action cinema working today.”
The project aims for arthouse, VOD and
Blu-Ray releases, and the producers are hoping to lens the picture in Utah. Scarlet Worm cinematographer Michael A.
Martinez will return to that post for this film.
Mr. Nero, who rose to stardom in the
1960s with such films as Warner's Camelot, has remained a popular figure
in cinema and television, with recent roles in Letters to Juliet, Cars 2
and Law & Order SVU.
The Scarlet Worm was released in North America through Unearthed Films/MVD
and has pending releases in the U.K. via Trash House Cinema and in Germany via
Click here to watch the action-packed original trailer for the John Wayne cop film Brannigan from 1975. We still prefer the more serious McQ, but this one has some delightful moments and great chemistry between the Duke and Richard Attenborough. We also love the poster art...check out the artist's inside joke of including James Coburn in an Our Man Flint pose among the pub brawlers!
Sony has released the 1963 remake of the 1932 James Whale horror film The Old Dark House as a burn-to-order DVD. The difference between the versions is supposedly night and day (I haven't seen the original). The remake is a broad, comedic take on the horror genre that keeps only the basic premise of the story, which was based on a novel by J.B. Priestly. Tom Poston, in a rare leading role, plays Tom Pendrel, an American living in London where he works as a car dealer. His flatmate Caspar Femm (Peter Bull) is a strange man who he hardly ever sees. Nevertheless, Caspar induces Tom to deliver his new car to the family's estate in the British countryside. When Tom arrives, he finds Caspar dead, supposedly from an accidental fall. He's already laid out in his coffin in a parlor. Tom then finds himself among a strange group of other Femms, all of whom reside in the crumbling, once grand mansion. Roderick (Robert Morley), the elder statesman of the family, is a pompous eccentric who explains that the family members must reside in the mansion and be indoors by midnight every night if they want to continue living from the family patriarch's estate. The other strange characters introduced to Tom are Caspar's cousin Cecily (Janette Scott), a sexy relatively "normal" family member whose flirtations with Tom induce him to stay overnight; Potiphar (Mervyn Johns), a silly and perpetually amused man; Agatha Femm (Joyce Grenfell), the matriarch of the family who knits endlessly even though she doesn't have a clue as to what she is creating; Morgana (Fenella Fielding), a sex-starved vamp; her seemingly mute, violent father Morgan (Danny Green) and Caspar's identical twin brother Jasper (also played by Peter Bull). It doesn't take Tom long to realize he's made a mistake by spending the night with this group of eccentrics, but in true horror film fashion, he finds himself unable to leave due to mechanical problems with his car and a raging rainstorm. Before long, there are attempts on his life and other members of the household turn up dead under bizarre circumstances.
I was prepared to dismiss this film as a hokey kid's movie, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Poston plays it relatively low-key as the "normal" person among a group of weirdos. The supporting cast is wonderful, one and all, with the imitable Morley and Peter Bull delivering truly amusing performances and Fenella Fielding is particularly alluring as an outwardly attractive young woman who (almost) manages to cover up some very unsettling eccentricities of her own. The film has a curious history. It was produced and director by legendary shlockmeister William Castle in collaboration with Hammer Films. It was shot in color but released in the United States in black-and-white, which is inexplicable given the fact it is a rich-looking movie with excellent production design by John Draper. Adding to its bizarre fate, the movie did not premiere in the UK until 1966. The movie clearly inspired the classic Addams Family TV series, as evidenced by the fact that the main titles were designed and drawn by Charles Addams himself. There's also an appropriately entertaining musical score by Benjamin Frankel. The Old Dark House is consistently amusing throughout and a bit daring for its day in terms of sexual suggestiveness. It remains an oddity in the Hammer canon, which did not often emphasize overt comedy in the studio's films. Give this one a try: if you like retro horror (even played for laughs), you'll find it to be a rewarding experience.
The DVD features a gorgeous transfer and includes the original trailer.
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude. Unlike Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott) to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago. Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin by force.
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today. The thin storyline isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the movie.
Sony has released the film as a burn-to-order DVD. Transfer quality is excellent. The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The piano played by Dooley Wilson in Casablanca while he crooned the iconic love song As Time Goes By has sold for more than $600,000 to a Japanese collector on the film's 70th anniversary. The price was actually lower than the anticipated price over $1 million, but represented a tidy profit for the owner, who purchased it years ago for $154,000. For more click here
(The following review pertains to the Region 2/British DVD release)
the end of the 1970s Pete Walker was one of the UK's most successful horror
film directors, with titles like House of Whipcord (1974), Frightmare
(1974) and The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) securing his reputation for
originality and controversy. It was perhaps surprising to many when, in 1983,
what turned out to be his last film was a throw-back to the old dark
house-style gothic horrors of the 1930s. His producers, Menahem Golen and Yorum
Globus, wanted a horror film with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, not the
“aborted foetus on the rampage” film he was trying to raise funding for.
Undeterred, and working with long-time script-writing collaborator Michael
Armstrong, he devised a film that could cast the old guard and be both an
homage to the genre as well as a spoof of its creaky conventions. Thankfully
Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and John Carradine signed up
providing the kind of dream team not seen since the heyday of Amicus or AIP in
the 1960s. Sheila Keith, in her fifth film for Pete Walker, was a replacement
forElsa Lanchester, the original bride
of Frankenstein, who at that point was too ill to make the journey to the UK.
Despite her late casting, Keith's association with Walker's horror films
ensured she fitted in perfectly with the rest of the cast.
story revolves around rich young American author Ken (Desi Arnaz Jr., son of
Desi and Lucille Ball) on a book-signing tour of the UK. A bet is made with his
publisher (played with relish by Richard Todd, himself no stranger to the
horror film) that Ken cannot write a gothic romance novel in twenty-four hours.
Taking the bet, he is given the key to a deserted manor house in Wales to
provide inspiration, only it soon transpires that the house is anything but.
Before he can settle down with his typewriter he has to deal with mysterious
caretakers, long-lost relatives, a sexy secretary, cobweb-strewn corridors, a
locked room and several grisly murders. The old cast play their parts with
obvious glee, these pantheons of terror clearly relishing the chance to play on
their horror images. Even Christopher Lee seems to be having a good time! Desi
Arnaz Jr. has come in for some criticism in the past for his performance in
this film, and whilst he is a little bland, he does provide a useful anchor for
the increasing insanity around him.
released theatrically House of the Long Shadows disappointed at the box
office, in part due to the fact that Cannon Films could not decide whether to
market the movie as a comedy or a horror, and it has become something of a lost
film since. There was a brief VHS release in the mid-1980s and a poor quality
burn on demand DVD from the MGM archive, but this release from Final Cut
Entertainment represents the first official DVD release, and it is long
overdue. Featuring a good quality widescreen print, we finally have an
opportunity to appreciate the superb lighting and cinematography by Norman G.
Langley, who was working under the difficulties of shooting in a real manor
house, not a studio set. The DVD cover is unfortunately cheap and bland,
essentially reproducing the original VHS artwork, but do not be fooled. A lot
of work has been put into this release, mainly by author, theatre director and
super-fan Derek Pykett. He accompanies director Pete Walker on a full
commentary track discussing all aspects of the production in great detail. What
is more unexpected is the feature length documentary House of the Long
Shadows... Revisited, produced and presented by Pykett. It is clearly an
amateur production, and somebody needs to teach him how to conduct interviews
without constantly giggling in the background, but we should be grateful for
his enthusiasm. It is doubtful anyone else would have gone to so much trouble.
He reunites Walker and Langley with Julie Peasgood, one of the film's younger
stars, at the original location, actually Rotherfield park in Hampshire. He has
also secured interviews with several other of the movie's participants from
both in front of and behind the camera, the most surprising of all being a
fascinating chat with Desi Arnaz. Jr himself. He has fond memories of the film,
particularly working with such a terrific cast.
this release will allow people the chance to reassess this gleefully playful
movie, which is deeply undeserving of the negative reputation it has. Far from
the disappointment it was perceived to be at the time, House of the Long
Shadows is both a tribute and a swansong to the gothic horror movie,
riffing on the clichés and sending up the over the top performances. It is a
joy to spend an hour and a half in the company of Vincent Price, Peter Cushing,
Christopher Lee, John Carradine and Sheila Keith doing what they did best, in a
lineup the likes of which we will most likely never see again.