With Superman about to be revived (again) for the big screen, the Geeks of Doom site looks back at the entry that put an end to the Christopher Reeve Supey franchise. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was to be the most ambitious entry in the series. However, despite the presence of Reeve and Gene Hackman (reviving Lex Luthor), the 1987 film was a disaster on all levels. The article includes extensive comments from actor Jon Cryer, who was initially thrilled to be in the film but later learned from Reeve that the final cut would be a major disappointment, thanks to penny-pinching producers who reduced the budget by about 2/3. Click here to relive the unhappy memories.
Mel Brooks is profiled
in a superb American Masters documentary entitled Mel Brooks: Make a Noise,
which premieres nationally on PBS stations on May 20th. One of 14 EGOT
(Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) winners, he has earned more major awards than
any other living entertainer, and shows few signs of slowing down. With new interviews with Brooks, his friends
and colleagues, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Joan
Rivers, Tracey Ullman, Rob Reiner, and his close friend, with whom he created The 2000 Year Old Man, Carl Reiner. A
DVD with bonus material will be available Tuesday, May 21 from Shout Factory.
"When they called me to say I had been
chosen as the next 'American Master,' I thought they said I was chosen to be
the next Dutch Master. So I figured what the hell, at least I'll get a
box of cigars. When I realized my mistake I was both elated and a little
disappointed at losing the cigars," Brooks said.
The comprehensive film takes viewers from
Brooks’ early years as Melvin Kaminsky in the Catskills (“I became a drummer
because I wanted to make a noise,” Brooks said. “I could have been a floutist, but there was not enough noise”), to his
work with Sid Caesar (“that SOB held me back because of his Promethean talent”),
to finding his own voice. He knew he had
something, he didn’t know how to peddle it, ultimately realizing that his “job
was to spot the insane and the bizarre in the commonplace.”
has a unique and a decidedly different feel. “You get a view of the participants being seen on monitors,” said
filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg.
a photographer by trade so I usually shoot my documentaries in studios to
achieve a consistent look (and be able to get more people interviewed per day).
Because Mel is a filmmaker, I thought it was appropriate to show the milieu -
the edges of the set, the monitors, etc. I didn't want the interviews to exist
in a vacuum, and I flat out refuse to have a vase of flowers or a lamp behind
“Mel was different from anyone else I've worked with because
.... he's Mel! It's a pleasure to talk with someone who is so bright and has
such command of the language - you don't want it to end. The most fun was being able to throw out
questions that he hadn't heard before - or approach topics from an angle that
was new to him. As Rob Reiner says, he's at his very best when he's put in a
asked him deep, probing questions for four months, and he got to keep the shirt
we bought for him. So I think we both made out pretty well."
for my conversation with Mr. Brooks earlier this week, I spent two weeks
calling close friends with whom I shared an eternal love and reverence for
Brooks and his works and sought their input as to what made him better and more
enduring than anyone else who does what he does. It was the joyful conversations themselves
that provided the obvious conclusion: No
one else could have gotten me to make those calls to other busy people who took
the time to think and laugh. Each call reflexively
elicited dialogue from his films (including my favorite, “What’s a dazzling
urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”), which over the years
has become the shorthand of our affection. Brooks’ comedy is the currency of our friendships.
While it is well-settled that he is a genius
at comedy, he is also a genius at collaboration and friendship. Infused in his work is his love for comedy
teams and the journey: The Marx Brothers
and the Road Pictures with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. At the core of every one of Brooks’ films
there is a partnership and a friendship between at least two characters that
are on an adventure. It is the well-defined characters that launches and
sustains the comedy and makes the stories enduring. “Unconsciously I was a pup in a cardboard box
with three other pups, my brothers, and we tumbled about with each other,” Mel
Brooks insightfully said, recalling his modest Brooklyn roots. “That’s why my films are almost always two
guys on a journey,” he said.
“When you parody
something, you move the truth sideways,” Brooks said. However in developing the on-screen
friendships, Brooks built foundations of truth and drilled down deep into the
I invoked Sid
Caesar, Brooks’ friend and former boss, who said: “Great comedy is stories with
beginnings, middles and ends. And its
best version is combining comedy with pathos. In City Lights, Chaplin’s little tramp character falls in love
with a blind girl. He takes out his last dime and gives it to the blind girl to
buy the violets she is selling. When she goes over to the water fountain to
rinse out her cup, Chaplin follows her with love in his eyes. She rinses the
cup and then throws the water in his face. There was a hush in the audience
because they didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. That to me was a great
piece of comedy because Chaplin captured that bittersweet moment, and was truly
working both sides of the street.”
While most of
the interviews analyzed the comedy penthouses of his skyscraper classics, I
challenged him to analyze the foundation of Brooks’ work: The Da Vinci “science of the art,” the sub-textual
pathos of his work- comedy as the currency
and engine of friendship, defining the essence of the characters that define
and drive the comedy, and a comparison of his fictional friendships with his
real-life counterparts. Brooks’ understanding and creation of screen
friendships mirror his real-life friendships which go back decades.
Early days: Mel and Sid Caesar (Photo courtesy Mel Brooks/PBS)
Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece is a satire of Western films and a brilliant social
commentary on race and government. The two
heroes- Black Bart (Cleavon Little), the Sherriff of Rock Ridge and The Waco
Kid (Gene Wilder), are overtly friendlier than Newman and Redford’s Butch and
Sundance, on which they are based. When
it comes to character development, the Brooks films take the attendant
characters and make them more passionate, compassionate, and affable. The
comedy is buttressed by friendship, heroism, and honor.
interchange in the film occurs after Bart has killed Harvey Korman’s villainous
Kid: “Where are you going?
Kid: “Nowhere special… I’ve always wanted to go
As the two ride
off into the sunset, and then into a town car, the scene is as poignant and
heartfelt as it is anachronistically funny, with the best friends not knowing
where they are going next, and not concerned because they are going there
friendship mirrors the relationship Brooks has with Carl Reiner, his comedic
and creative partner in crime for over 60 years. “When I first joined The Admiral Broadway
Review, the predecessor to Your Show of Shows, I was so unsure of myself I was
throwing up between parked cars. I came
from South Third Street in Williamsburg [Brooklyn]. I thought I was destined to work in the
Garment Center and work my way up from shipping clerk, to salesman, to maybe a
partner. I thought that any minute I
would be fired. Sid fought for me, but
[Show of Shows producer] Max Liebman didn’t want me.” According to legend the stern and staid
Liebman would throw lit cigars at the young and animated Brooks.
With Carl Reiner, 2001 (Photo courtesy Robert Trachtenberg/PBS)
“Carl came to
the show and thought I was really talented- he supported me at every turn. Carl was a little older and had been on
Broadway, he starred in Call me Mister. I
was leaning on him for the first two years until I felt I could be there and
had my own sense of confidence. If I
said I was the best, he said “’you are.’” He created the 2000 Year Old Man with
his tape recorder having faith that I could become any character he threw
out: From a submarine commander to an
Israeli psychiatrist or a Cockney English director.”
portion of my life Carl was my rock. Christ said on this rock I will found my church. On this Jew from the Bronx I founded my
In public from
across a room he looks at Carl not only affectionately and for artistic fuel,
but often protectively, to make sure his friend is okay. To anyone with close friendships of their
own, their rare and enviable bond is apparent and palpable. There is purity to it. They are the Butch and Sundance Kid of
comedy, both comedic alchemists, creating funny lines, images and situations
literally from the air spinning their golden wit and entertaining and
energizing everyone around them, endeavoring to make everyone in the room not
only entertained by but engaged in the comedy. “We have a talent for that-
turning a room into a community and we enjoy doing that,” Brooks said.
“He’s not a kid anymore
and I still love him,” Brooks said of the now 91-year old Reiner. Things turned
around. 60 years later Carl leans on
me. We’re both very lucky we’ve survived
the storms of age and loss. It’s the
son’s duty to take care of the father. He
just called to ask whether I want the marinated lamb chops or the baby lamb
chops- I said get the baby lamb chops thick.”
In 1967’s The Producers,
Brooks took the name of Gene Wilder’s character Leopold Bloom from James Joyce
Ulysses, and undertook the challenge of making the audience root for two
characters that are crooks. It is because
of the affection and friendship between Bloom and Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel)
that the story works.
“You can’t help
yourself, you want them to succeed,” Brooks said. “I try to explain it all in the lovely speech
that Bloom makes in the courtroom trying to protect his friend, Max.”
After the jury
foreman (Bill Macy) announces that the jury finds the pair “incredibly guilty,”
Leo: “Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, Max
Bialystock is the most selfish man I ever met in my life.”
Max: “Don’t help me.”
Leo: “Not only is he a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel
and a crook who has taken money from little old ladies, he has talked people
including me into doing things that they would never have done in a thousand
year… this is a wonderful man who made me what I am today. And what about all the women: Max made them feel young, attractive and
“It’s the father
taking care of the son,” Brooks said. “And
then the young guy is taking care of the old guy. I also had that in The Twelve Chairs. The young streetwise guy is dealing with the
“’out of it’” privileged aristocrat, who never had to worry about life until
the revolution set him back on his heels.”
Frankenstein, which director Brooks co-wrote with Wilder has Wilder’s Victor
Frankenstein nurturing Peter Boyle’s monster. In none of the other 200-plus versions of the genre did the creator ever
risk his life to save his creation. Boris Karloff never sang and danced when he portrayed the monster, nor
did he sit on his creators lap. “In no
other version did anyone say: “This is an angel- this is a good boy,”” Brooks
Producers and Young Frankenstein are metaphors for Brook’s friendship with Gene
Wilder. In accepting his Oscar for Best
Screenplay from Frank Sinatra for The Producers he thanked Wilder three times, with
both men fighting back tears. “Gene
Wilder came from nowhere, unknown. Just
like Carl spotted the talent in me ten years before that, I spotted the talent
in him. I knew there was no more
talented actor in comedy or drama than Gene Wilder.”
“He was so grateful
to me for supporting him emotionally and bringing the best out of him. I have a great wine collection because of
him. I was drinking Manischewitz until I
met Gene. He really understood
wine. Anne [Bancroft] and I went over to
his apartment in the [Greenwich] Village one night. A real dump. But he had a rotisserie, a barbequed chicken. I didn’t know how he did
it. He servedChâteauneuf-du-Pape, a Rhone wine, and
I said “What the hell is this liquid?”
So I began buying that wine and then he served NuitsSaintGeorges, a burgundy. I
had not yet hit gold, a claret or Bordeaux. At the next meal he ordered LynchBages, a French Bordeaux, which I began to collect Bordeauxs,
including Sassicaia. I now send Gene something I don’t think he
can afford and he’s always happy to get it.”
Cinematic legends meet: Mel, Alfred Hitchcock (who he used to call "Al"!) and Anne Bancroft during the production of High Anxiety. (Photo courtesy of Mel Brooks/PBS)
Favorite Year was Brooks’ love letter to Sid Caesar and early television, and
was based on his own experience as the youngest writer on Your Show of Shows. Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) is assigned to
chaperone the less than reliable movie-star Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole) who is
scheduled to appear on King Kyser’s (Joseph Bologna) Cavalcade of Comedy. The film made me fall in love with Sid as
well. I told Brooks that it was 20 years
to the week after I saw My Favorite Year that I was writing with Sid. The affection between the two is still
strong. “If Sid Caesar was in a coma and
you walked into the room, Sid would get up, say “’hello Mel,’” and drop back
into the coma,” I said.
acknowledges the connection he still has with the 90 year old Caesar, whom he
visits regularly. “I’m one of the few
people who can get his synapses to fire in that special way. And I’m proud that I can do that. Because if there was no Sid Caesar there
would be no Mel Brooks.”
Brooks of an evening at New York’s Pierre Hotel in 2000, where Caesar was
honored and Brooks presented him with an award. He moved the capacity crowd of the great ballroom to near tears. “And it’s not the chicken,” the choked up
Brooks said at the time, praising his friend. “Life takes you on different paths. I got on the right road when I went with Sid- and it never went wrong.”
He recalled the
now fabled “Writers’ Room,” still one of the most romantic metaphors in history
for creativity and comedy and arguably the greatest collection of comedic
talent ever assembled.
“It was very
stressful to be that creative. We had an Olympic level of comedy height and had
to get over that crossbar. We knew when we
were settling for cheap standup material and when we were exalted in terms of
the human condition and being genuinely funny. We always aimed for that. Max
Liebman was a master- he put on live Broadway review every week for 39 weeks a
year. Sid wanted me- I could come up
with bizarre things- all kinds of crazy things that distinguished Sid from
other comedians. I came up with material
for the German Professor character and foreign movies.”
“There were only
a few of us in the beginning. Max
supervised the writing with Sid and Carl sitting in. There was Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen and then
myself. Tony Webster was brought
in. The later incarnation of the
Writers’ Room included Doc and Danny Simon, Mike Stewart, Aaron Ruben, Woody
Allen, and Larry Gelbart. We’d work
separately and all meet and complete each other’s tasks. Unless there was a big movie parody where we
all sat in a room together. It is still
the only show where the writers became as famous as the stars.”
He recalled meeting
another young writer whom he is still close to, Rudy DeLuca, who along with
Steve Haberman is part of Brooks’ inner circle. “Rudy is a real pal- he was working on the Carol Burnett show with his
partner, Barry Levinson. Rudy has such
a funny personality- he was crazy board member in Silent Movie. In High Anxiety, Rudy played the hit man with
the aluminum teeth. Who came up with the
idea of putting a little Japanese umbrella in his drink when he was stalking me
in the bar.”
wrote with me on High Anxiety. He would
tell me stories about growing up with his friends in Baltimore. I took him to Il Vitelloni, Felini’s first
film- which is about a group of friends who grow up together in Italy. I said, this sounds like what you’re talking
about. Take your stories put them
together and take out the ones that don’t work. He wrote the script to Diner in three weeks.”
I explained to
Brooks that two people shaped my creative life and influenced what I wanted to
do more than anyone else: Larry Gelbart
and Mel Brooks. “Including me, he could
have been the best writer in the Writers’ Room,” Brooks said.
I told him that
1974 was my “favorite year,” Gelbart’s MASH was on TV and Blazing Saddles and
Young Frankenstein were in the movies. The intellectual driven comedy made the smart kids feel hip and
ambitious. “You have to know a little
bit about the world and the history. All
the references are critical- if you don’t get them you don’t get the essential comedy
and what we’re trying to do.”
In 1982- I
bought 10 copies of The High Anxiety Soundtrack, the flipside of which included
the songs from all of the other prior Brooks’ films, to give as holiday gifts
to friends. When I presented it to one
of my college friends, he clutched the LP to his chest and ran off eager to
play it. Flash forward to 1995, I get a
box in the mail- it was The 2000 Year Old Man Boxed Set that had just been
released on CD with a note from that friend thanking me for the LP 12 years
a similar experience: “I screened High Anxiety for Alfred Hitchcock. He didn’t say a lot, turning to me a few
times, when the newspaper ran down the drain, he said “’brilliant,’” which was
very nice. He said he had less showering
[in Psycho] than I had. At the end he
got up and left without saying a word. I was so worried. I thought this is no good. I guess he didn’t
like the picture.”
“The next day on
my desk in my office at 20th Century Fox there was a beautiful wooden
case of 1961 Château Haut-Brion. Six
magnums. Priceless. Unbelievable to this day. There was also a little note: "Dear Mel: I have no anxiety about High Anxiety,
it’s a wonderful film. Love Hitch.”
“The only two
people who ever said I was a good director were Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. I
never heard from anyone else in the business. Until the AFI called me. Last October, the AFI named Brooks the recipient of the 41st American Film
Institute's Life Achievement Award,
which will be presented in June, joining Shirley MacLaine, Tom Hanks, John Ford,
James Cagney, Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier
and both Kirk and Michael Douglas.
been saluted as a comedy force but never as a film director. I always explained the movie clearly so that
the story worked. My dream was to get
over the Williamsburg Bridge and get to Manhattan ever since I was three years
old. Me and my childhood [and lifelong]
friend Gene Cogan, formerly Eugene Cohen, would walk over the bridge to
Delancey Street and get a knish and a root beer. I knew there was something great over that
Kaminsky got his knish and root beer. And Mel Brooks crossed the East River Rubicon and journeyed to entertain
millions as a masterful storyteller and continues to entertain new generations
of grateful fans with big noises that get even bigger laughs.
Retro Contributor Eddy Friedfeld teaches comedy and film history at NYU and
Yale and is the co-author of Caesar’s Hours with Sid Caesar
Can't get enough Mel? Check out Lee Pfeiffer's extensive interview with him in the latest issue (#16) of Cinema Retro.
Artist Pete Emslie of the Cartoon Cave web site provides yet another impressive tribute to a pop culture favorite- Batgirl herself, Yvonne Craig, who celebrates her birthday today. Keep 'em coming, Pete! Click here for more of Pete's tribute to Yvonne.
You don't have to be gay to admire John Schlesinger's 1971 film Sunday Bloody Sunday, but it probably helps in terms of appreciating just how ground-breaking the movie was in its day. As a straight guy of high school age when the film was released, I do remember it causing a sensation, although it would literally take me decades before I finally caught up with it. Gay friends always spoke reverently of the movie and expressed how the most refreshing aspect of the story was how "normally" a loving relationship between two adult men was portrayed. In viewing the film as a recent Criterion Blu-ray release, I feel I can finally appreciate that point of view. Gay men have long been portrayed in movies, of course, but for the most part they have been depicted as objects of ridicule or as sexual deviants. There were the odd attempts to present gay characters as sympathetic in films such as The Trials of Oscar Wilde and the brilliant Victim. Yet, even these fine efforts present homosexuality as a burden those "afflicted" must bear. Stanley Donen's 169 film Staircase offered fascinating and bold performances by Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as two aging queens. However, the studio marketing campaign over-emphasized the oddity of two of the film industry's great lady's men playing a gay couple. In fact, the ad campaign showed Burton and "Sexy Rexy" giddily dancing, thus falsely conveying that the film was a comedic romp instead of a poignant and intelligent look at loving homosexual relationship. Schlesinger, one of the first unapologetic directors to come out of the closet (if, indeed, he was ever in one) decided that the most daring aspect of this highly personal film would be in its very ordinariness. The story covers a complicated love triangle between three disparate people. Dr. Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch) is a middle-aged, Jewish London doctor who is involved romantically with a much younger man, Bob Elkin (Murray Head). Hirsh doesn't flaunt his homosexuality, nor does he attempt to painstakingly deny it. He just lives his life as a respected member of his community, although it is clear his family thinks he's straight. (In one amusing, though uncomfortable sequence, Hirsh attends a Bar Mitzvah and has to endure attempts by nosy female relatives to set him up with his "dream girl"). The relationship between Hirsh and Bob is fairly intense, but is compromised by one uncomfortable fact: Bob is bi-sexual and is carrying on an equally intense love affair with an older woman, Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson). Both Hirsh and Alex know about each other and (barely) tolerate the triangle as the price of having Bob in their lives. For his part, Bob is a rather self-absorbed young man who seems to have genuine affection for both of his lovers, but is also either oblivious or uncaring about how the uncertainties of the relationship are affecting their psychological well-being.
Sunday Bloody Sunday was released a time when the gay rights movement was moving into high gear in the post-Stonewall period. It illustrates why the 1970s is regarded by many as the most liberating decade in film history, with old line directors like Hawks, Welles and Hitchcock working at the same time young turks like Schlesinger were shaking things up in a way the old masters never had the opportunity to do, thanks to the restrictive motion picture code. Sunday is primarily remembered for an eyebrow-raising scene in which Hirsh and Bob engage in a romantic kiss. There's nothing sensational about the tasteful way in which this rather routine gesture between lovers is presented on screen. In fact, it was the sheer lack of sensationalism that drove home Schlesinger's primary message: that loving gestures between gay men can be every bit as routine as they are between husband and wife. The fact that the kiss was enacted by two straight actors did add considerable gravitas to the moment and must have caused more than one straight viewer to think "Well, if they don't care about enacting such a scene, why should I feel uncomfortable watching it?" Schlesinger also dared to film tasteful but passionate bedroom scenes between Bob and Hirsh. Nevertheless, nothing much actually happens in Sunday Bloody Sunday. The story was based in part on real-life experiences and people from Schlesinger's own life. The story merely traces the ups and downs in the love triangle as Bob causes panic in both Hirsh and Alex by announcing he is thinking of moving to America. Hirsh and Alex do have an unexpected face to face meeting during this crisis and their sheer civility and inability to engage in more than light banter only adds to the dramatic tension.
The primary attribute of the film, aside from Schlesinger's spot-on direction, is the brilliance of the performances. Glenda Jackson was then emerging as a national treasure for the British film industry and the little-known Murray Head acquits himself very well indeed. However, it is Peter Finch's performance that dominates the movie as we watch his character go from loving acceptance of Bob's youthful self-absorbing actions to downright fury as his realization that Bob will never have the same passion for him. It's a superb performance on every level. Some viewers find the film's bizarre final sequence in which Hirsh addresses the viewer directly about his philosophy of life, but I found it to be a distraction and somewhat confusing. Nevertheless, this is a fine film, worthy of the praise it has generated over the years, and one that remains remarkably timely today.
The Criterion Blu-ray is right up to the company's top-notch standards. The transfer is beautiful and there are the usual informative extras including:
New interviews with Murray Head (who says that, as a young actor, he found his character to be rather despicable), cinematographer Billy Williams (who supervised the Blu-ray transfer), production designer Luciana Arrighi, Schlesinger biographer William J. Mann and the director's long-time partner, photographer Michael Childers who shot many of the great production stills for the film.
A 1975 audio interview with Schlesinger
Screenwriter Penelope Gillatt's original introduction to the published screenplay (there is plenty of coverage throughout the Blu-ray concerning the tense working relationship between Gillatt and Schlesinger, who accused the writer of taking the lion's share of credit for a screenplay he had extensively rewritten.)
The original theatrical trailer
Extensive liner notes by writer Ian Buruma, Schlesinger's nephew who appeared as an extra in the film.
In all, an outstanding tribute to an outstanding work by one of the era's great filmmakers.
When I came of age in the eighties and nineties, cinema
art houses were filled with American independent films, most of them gems. It
seemed that then movie lovers could see nearly every film released. In the
years since the number of independent films have grown exponentially, and I
often worry that I’m bypassing, or even worse completely ignorant, of some
worthwhile films that get lost in cinematic obscurity.
Exhibitionists (2012), the second feature from director Michael
Melamedoff is such a film, a compelling chamber piece about seven characters
revealing their true desires over the course of two nights. At the heart of the
film is fragile Regina (Pepper Binkley), who we meet nervously awaiting the
arrival of her husband Walter (Richard Short), an agent provocateur filmmaker
just returned from a cross-country film shoot. In tow he brings fellow
crewmember Gordo (Daniel London), whose dutiful wife Gretchen (Lauren Hodges)
has been keeping a tight watch on Regina, and Lynn (Ella Rae Peck) their lovely
and vivacious intern who has been earning extra credit with George off the
clock. Tensions between the five occupants at Walter and Regina’s apartment are
already strained when the arrival of Regina’s brother George (Mike Doyle), on
leave from a seminary, and musical diva Blithe Stargazer (Laverne Cox) set a series
of betrayals and revelations in motion.
First conceived as a stage play, screenwriter Michael
Edison Hayden has adapted his own work into a film that bears a strong
resemblance to higher profile plays-turned-films closer (2004) and carnage
(2011). All three examine the private truths behind seemingly healthy
relationships through expertly written characters. The Exhibtionists never quite reaches the probing dexterity of the
other two pieces, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for with a
titillating and refreshingly ambiguous sexuality. Both Hayden and Melamedoff are
aided by a group of skilled and attractive actors. Viewers expect a few thin
performances in micro-budgeted films, but this cast is uniformly committed and
capable. Particular standouts are Ella Rae Peck of NBC’s deception, whose
natural beauty and delivery make an instant impression and Laverne Cox
(Netflix’s orange is the new black), a force of indeterminate sex whose palpable magnetism affects everyone else in
the film. Their two scenes together sizzle and mark a tipping point in the
Shot in just over ten days, Melamedoff deftly places
the viewer in the middle of the action often utilizing reverse shots to canvas
multiple characters’ perspectives. It’s
a shame he didn’t have more funds to work with because although the film has
definite style, it also cannot hide it minimal budget. The score by Teddy Blanks,
who also created the opening sequence, is unapologetically electronic and
retro. It’s a little too similar to music heard in soft core cable offerings,
but manages to establish and sustain a sense of unease throughout the film.
Perhaps it is the association with the music cues, but The exhibitionists ultimately fails to fully deliver on its title
and promise of sexual provocation. I thought I might be watching a modern take
on the sexploitation films of the sixties and seventies such as Score (1973) by Radley Metzger, but this
film never evolves into erotica. Despite that The Exhibitionists is an intriguing work and engages the viewer
from the first shot to the last.
The Exhibitionists was unfortunately
relegated to a few festival appearances in lieu of a theatrical run. Now it’s
available on VOD and DVD, presented along with a few extras. Best amongst the
special features is Michael Melamedoff’s very informative commentary which
illustrates how purposefully he went about constructing the film. Also included
are some behind the scenes stills, Walter’s edited pitch for Blithe that
features some hardcore footage and a festival interview with director
Melamedoff and actor Richard Short, all short but nifty. Viewers can also
download the score if they want to stage their own party at home. Hopefully with this release The Exhibitionists will finally find the
audience it deserves.
The Trevi Fountain figured famously in Fellini's classic La Dolce Vita with Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg.
Rome has been
the backdrop to some iconic films over the years, but its real heyday was
between the 1950s and 1960s, when classics such as Roman Holiday were shot in and around the city centre. Even today,
the locations used are considered to be points of pilgrimage for any
self-respecting retro film fan, from the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum,
especially as 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of Roman Holiday hitting our screens.
The easiest way
to track down the real life places behind the celluloid is to create your own
walking tour, so that you can spend as long as you like at each spot; just use
the Rome film map from lowcostholidays.com and dive straight into the sights to plan your own
route. Here’s your guide to each of the retro pictures that made the map.
Roman Holiday (1953)
It’s the film
that launched Audrey Hepburn; her first leading role, which saw her playing a
princess from an unnamed European country who was determined to explore Rome
whilst on a royal visit. With Gregory Peck as her guide, she went to the Mouth
of Truth, the Spanish Steps and Ponte Sant’Angelo. You can still see the key
locations today, but one of the highlights is the Roman Forum, where our main
characters meet. There’s no longer a road through the middle of it, but you can
still explore the crumbling Arch of Septimus Severus, where Audrey (as Princess
Ann) is found asleep.
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Aside from the
continuity gripe of only two – not three – coins being thrown into the fountain
from the title, this 50s film is perfect viewing for anyone who wants to see
vintage Rome in all its glory, through the eyes of three American ex-pats.
Right from the start, with establishing shots of St. Peter’s and the Tivoli
Gardens, we’re treated to picture-perfect views. The Colosseum is a stopping
point on a whistle-stop tour of one character’s city recommendations, along
with a branch of the National Museum.
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Fountain’s most memorable cinema appearance was when Anita Ekberg and Marcello
Mastroianni climbed in together during a night-time stroll. Sadly you can’t
recreate the moment these days, as bathing isn’t actually allowed, but you can
relive the magic by visiting after dark, to avoid the huge crowds. Further
afield, take a trip to the Baths of Caracalla and see where film star Sylvia
(played by Ekberg) danced in front of the press and her fiancé.
As well as the
locations used as a backdrop to certain scenes, you can also track down one of
director Federico Fellini’s biggest local inspirations – Harry’s Bar, on the
Via Veneto, which was a hotspot for celebrities back in the 60s. In the film
itself, the popular street was entirely recreated in the studio, but today it
would be a lot easier to shoot footage here, as the Via Veneto isn’t considered
to be part of Rome’s social scene anymore and is relatively quiet.
Aside from those
greats, there were hundreds of films made at the nearby Cinecittà Studios,
which is on the outskirts of the city and was built by Mussolini. This is the
perfect place to continue your cinematic tour, where you can find out how epics
such as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra were made on the sprawling set. Head to Cinecittà
by using the Metro system and then enjoy a set and on-site museum tour, which
will set you back €15.
Pay tribute to
Italy’s most cinematic city and discover the locations behind the iconic
scenes; you’ll soon see why directors couldn’t keep away from Rome.
La-La Land has released Jerry Goldsmith's original soundtrack score for the 1968 Western Bandolero as a limited edition CD. The release includes the original album originally released on vinyl as well as never-before-released tracks. Curiously, the cover art depicts James Stewart and Dean Martin - though Raquel Welch is not depicted. On the original album, Martin could not be depicted because his image could only be used on Reprise Records during that period. The same thing occurred with the soundtrack for Lady in Cement- which could not depict the film's star Frank Sinatra. To order the album click here
Contributing writer Nick Anez supplies us with the following facts:
Regarding the notice of the new Bandolero CD soundtrack on the Cinema Retro website, I have the original LP album. It is true, as the article states, that Dean Martin is not depicted on the album's cover. But what is even stranger is that his name is not even mentioned. On both the front and back of he album, the cast is listed as "James Stewart, Raquel Welch, George Kennedy in Bandolero." The album has a gatefold cover and opens out. Inside are six photos from the film, none of Martin There is also a complete summary of the story. As each character's name is mentioned, the name of the actor portraying him or her is mentioned afterward in parentheses - except for Martin's character. No actor is listed for his character. It's ridiculous. Dean probably couldn't have have cared less.
Retro Responds: Thanks for the interesting facts, Nick....Sinatra's name wasn't used on the Lady in Cement soundtrack, either, if we recall correctly. Talk about stringent adherence to contractual terms!
The man himself may be long gone, but Al Jolson's immortal contributions to music and cinema are still being celebrated by the thriving International Al Jolson Society. Their official web site allows fans from around the world to share in all aspects of Jolson's career and you can listen to some of his most enduring musical accomplishments. An annual membership in the Society brings even more benefits. This year's convention of Jolson fans will take place in Palm Springs May 16-19 (the location varies every year). There will also be a Jolson festival on Long Island in August (date to be announced). The web site has over 1.5 million hits to date, indicating there's still plenty of life left in Jolson mania.
WORLDWIDE APPEAL TO RETRIEVE ORIGINAL MISSING FILM MATERIALS FOR HORROR CLASSIC
THE WICKER MAN:
CELEBRATION TO RESURRECT AND RESTORE FOR UK CINEMA AUDIENCES
LONDON, UK, 30th April 2013 – STUDIOCANAL, with the
endorsement of director Robin Hardy, today launched a world-wide public appeal
to locate original film materials relating to legendary horror classic THE
WICKER MAN, originally released in 1973, in celebration of the cult film's 40th
2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the THE WICKER MAN'S original release. In
celebration of this and continuing its project to conserve, restore and release
for future generations the best of Classic British cinema, STUDIOCANAL today
announces its intention to release the most complete version of the film
possible. The now widely lauded film was released with minimal promotion in
1973 as second feature of a double bill with Don’t Look Now. The version
exhibited to audiences was significantly shorter than director Robin Hardy's
original vision. In what has now become an apocryphal episode in British film
history, the negatives disappeared from storage at Shepperton Studios, were then
allegedly used as landfill in the construction of the nearby M4 motorway, and are
considered lost forever.
STUDIOCANAL are now appealing worldwide to film
collectors, historians, programmers and all-round fans to support the campaign
and come forward with any information relating to the potential whereabouts of
Director Robin Hardy comments: "I never thought that, after forty years, they would still be
finding lost fragments of my film, We thought all of The Wicker Man had
gone up in flames, but fragments keep turning up and the hunt goes on!"
STUDIOCANAL General Manager UK Home Entertainment John
Rodden adds: "The Wicker Man is not only a great horror film, it is a true
classic that grows in stature as the years pass. We’re now appealing to the
public to help us create the most definitive version possible.”
More details about
the history of the various cuts of the film are below.
WICKER MAN: A SHORT HISTORY:
In 1973, Robin
Hardy’s debut film THE WICKER MAN fell
victim to a boardroom takeover at distribution company British Lion, and had
its release temporarily shelved. A finished version of the film that director
Hardy was happy with had been delivered with a running time of 102 minutes.
When it did finally
reach UK cinemas that year, with little fanfare or promotion, and as part of a
Double Bill with DON’T LOOK NOW, 15 minutes had been cut, leaving the film’s running
time a trim 88 minutes. Director Robin Hardy and the other filmmakers had not
been involved and did not approve of this new version.
A few years later when
Hardy tried to track down his original version, he was told that all the
negative trims from it that had been stored at Shepperton Studios had been
thrown away, and the only “original negative” was now the 88-minute version. He
finally managed to ascertain that Cult US Director Roger Corman still had a
print of the full-length version, and this was used for the US theatrical
release. Corman’s print has been missing since the 1980’s and only poor quality
1” video material is known to exist of this version.
It's pretty amazing how many ways studios have devised to market and re-market The Three Stooges. The latest attempt is Sony's made-to-order 3 DVD set titled Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault. It's a bit misleading in that the bulk of the material pertains to individual short films starring Stooge cast members, but for this reviewer, that's also what makes the set so special. There are eleven hours of material in the set including two feature films and 28 shorts. The features are Rockin' in the Rockies, a 1945 musical comedy that features the Stooges as inept prospectors in the modern west. The film seems to have been made to promote promising musical talent of the day. The story has the boys kidnapping a Broadway talent agent and holding him hostage until he hears their friends perform their revue, which includes numbers by Spade Cooley, the "King of Western Swing". The Stooges comedy bits are strewn too infrequently throughout, so I confess to keeping my finger on the "fast forward" button during some of the dated song sequences. The second feature is Have Rocket Will Travel, a late career feature for the Stooges during their renaissance period with Curly Joe taking over from the original Curly and Shemp. It's a pretty limp affair, but there is a certain charm about the total innocence of the comedy skits. It depicts an era in which three grown men could be depicted snuggling together in one bed without the slightest hint of a sexual connotation. The script finds the Stooges accidentally ending up on a space ship to Venus. Even within the way out realm they often operated in, this premise is over-the-top. Fortunately, the film ends with a more traditional setting with the boys upstaging snooty guests at a black tie dinner party. Keep an eye out for future Time Tunnel star Robert Colbert as the romantic lead.
The set also contains some brilliant Columbia cartoons from the 1930s that feature first rate animation. The cartoons depict famous movie stars of the day including the Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Kate Hepburn, the Marx Brothers, Charles Laughton, etc. They are truly wonderful pieces of entertainment. Most refreshing is the inclusion of numerous shorts featuring solo gigs by Stooge actors who never quite got the acclaim they deserve. Shemp Howard headlines some of the funnier efforts, but there are also terrific turns by Joe DeRita and Joe Besser. Although Besser was married in real life, he always played overtly fey (dare we say "closeted"?) characters long before Paul Lynde had come along. His starring roles in these shorts finally afforded him the spotlight he deserved. Similarly, the porcine DeRita was a terrific comedic presence who never quite got the acclaim he deserved. Both men were of considerable girth which makes their obsession with performing high risk pratfalls even more impressive. Both Besser and DeRita's films find them in almost identical plot situations. They are generally married to conniving women or outright battle axes who henpeck them mercilessly. Kitchens often provide ample opportunity for widespread destruction as the simplest of cooking tasks inevitably meet with disaster. These post-War era shorts also accentuate the military and one of the funniest finds Besser drafted into the Army, where he drives his top sergeant crazy with his goofy behavior. (It's pretty easy to see where the inspiration for the Gomer Pyle character derived from.) It should be noted that these short films feature a stock company of brilliant comedic second bananas who appear numerous times. If the films resemble Three Stooges humor, it's not by coincidence: many were directed by the Stooges' own Jules White. Curiously, a couple of the Joe Besser shorts appear twice in re-titled versions that exclude the original prologues.
In all, this 3 DVD set is manna from heaven not only for Stooges fans but for anyone who appreciates great comedy of this era.
The set contains the following :
Rockin' In The Rockies (1945) (feature film with Curly)
Have Rocket--Will Travel (1958) (feature film with Curly-Joe)
Shemp Howard solo shorts: Home On The Rage (1938) The Glove Slingers (1939) Pleased To Mitt You (1940) Money Squawks (1940) Boobs In The Woods (1940) Pick A Peck Of Plumbers (1944) Open Season For Saps (1944) A Hit With A Miss (1945) Off Again, On Again (1945) Where The Pest Begins (1945) Jiggers, My Wife (1946) Mr. Noisy (1946) Society Mugs (1946) Bride And Gloom (1947)
Joe Besser solo shorts: Waiting In The Lurch (1949) Dizzy Yardbird (1950) Fraidy Cat (1950) Caught On The Bounce (1952) Aim, Fire, Scoot (1952) Spies And Guys (1953) The Fire Chaser (1954) G.I. Dood It (1955) Hook A Crook (1955) Army Daze (1956)
Joe DeRita solo shorts: Slappily Married (1946) The Good Bad Egg (1947) Wedlock Deadlock (1947) Jitter Bughouse (1948)
Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoons The Bon Bon Parade (1935) The Merry Mutineers (1936) A Hollywood Detour (1942)
A year after their Oscar-winning triumph, The Bridge on the River Kwai, William Holden and writer/producer Carl Foreman teamed again for another drama set in WWII, The Key. The 1958 drama is primarily a love story but there is plenty of action on the high seas, all superbly photographed in B&W by the great Oswald Morris. The offbeat story is set in England in the early days of the war before America entered the conflict. Britain stands alone against the seemingly unstoppable German forces and fights to maintain shipping on the high seas in the face of ever present U-Boat threats. William Holden is Capt. David Ross, a Canadian serviceman who is reluctantly assigned to skipper a rescue tug boat that is sent to retrieve men from sinking ships that have been torpedoed. There is good reason for his less-than-enthusiastic acceptance of his assignment: the tugs are lightly armed sitting ducks for the U-Boats. The specter of death hangs over every mission. Ross is pleasantly surprised to be reunited with fellow tug captain Chris Ford (Trevor Howard). The two old friends bond again by getting drunk then returning to Chris's apartment. He has a rare commodity. While most servicemen are crammed into barracks-like hotel rooms shared by numerous other men, Chris has been fortunate enough to secure his own apartment. He explains that the place has an eerie tradition. The present occupant is to make an extra key and give it to his best friend, who will inherit it in case he dies. Ross is startled to find that the apartment comes with another fringe benefit that is passed down from doomed owner to doomed owner: Stella (Sophia Loren), a beautiful but somber Swiss refugee who acts as housekeeper and lover for the latest tenant. Still, Ross sees that there is genuine affection between Stella and Chris and the two even announce plans to marry. A premonition convinces Stella that Chris will never return from his next mission: a prophecy that sets in motion an engrossing series of events of which nothing else can be revealed here without providing "spoilers".
It's glorious to see three great stars of the cinema playing off each other. (While Holden and Loren reached superstar status, Howard was always regarded as a character actor- albeit, one of the best in the business.) Under the sensitive direction of Carol Reed, the leisurely-paced story contains elements of the supernatural with the premonitions and apparitions accompanied by Malcolm Arnold's eerie score. The supporting cast is also impressive with the great Bernard Lee in fine form as a naval officer with the unpleasant duty of sending rescue boats on virtual suicide missions. In all, a fine film all around- and one that neatly avoids the cliched final sequence you believe the script is building to.
Sony has released The Key as a burn-to-order DVD. The transfer is excellent, though no extras are included.
Bryan Forbes, who personified the golden age of British cinema in the post-WWII era, has died at age 86. Forbes started out as an actor before morphing into a screenwriter and esteemed director. He teamed with Richard Attenborough to form a film production company. Among their films was The Angry Silence, an acclaimed 1960 movie in which both men starred. It dealt squarely with England's omnipresent tensions between business leaders and union members. Forbes co-wrote the screenplay and produced the movie. His high profile films as director include such British classics as Whistle Down the Wind, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The Wrong Box, The Whisperers, King Rat, Deadfall, The Slipper and the Rose, The L-Shaped Room, International Velvet as well as the hit 1975 Hollywood horror flick The Stepford Wives. Forbes also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for some of these films as well as the comedy classic The League of Gentlemen and director Attenborough's Chaplin. Forbes had been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Angry Silence and had won a BAFTA for the same script. He had been nominated for numerous other BAFTA awards and was given a lifetime achievement honor by the organization in 2007. For more click here
The Warner Archive continues to delve into little-remembered crime movies with the release of F.B.I.: Code 98, yet another in the seemingly endless attempts of J. Edgar Hoover to use popular entertainment as a vehicle to promote himself and his bureau as incorruptible pillars of American society. (As usual, Hoover ensures he is personally thanked in the credits, mentioned in the script, depicted in photos on office walls and appears in footage at the end of the movie.) Still, this is a tense little thriller that engages the viewer from minute one with its timely depiction of a task force trying to prevent acts of home-grown American terrorism. The plot centers on a group of business executives who are flying to a government conference. Their company provides crucial materials and engineering for the U.S space program. A nondescript employee of their company concocts a clever scheme whereby he manages to switch out a piece of luggage being loaded onto the executive's corporate jet. Inside is a time bomb. Only a quirk of fate allows it to be discovered and dismantled in time. The F.B.I. is brought in under the direction of field director Robert Cannon (stiff-jawed Jack Kelly). He works with the intended victims to sort out who might have had a grudge against them and this inevitably leads to delving into some sensitive areas of their personal lives- including illicit affairs between married people. The film is tense and engrossing throughout, thanks to expert direction by Leslie Martinson. The capable supporting cast includes Ray Danton (whose baritone voice always seems overly dramatic for any role he played), the always-watchable Andrew Duggan, Philip Carey, William Reynolds, Jack Cassidy (in pure heterosexual mode) and Vaughn Taylor as the mousey, unlikely would-be terrorist. To compensate for the low budget, there are some unintentionally amusing gimmicks to provide some sweep to the locations. An F.B.I. office in Vegas looks directly out onto the casinos on the strip; a Washington D.C. office is in direct line with the Capitol Building; a Florida office has a view of a space launching pad. Still, Martinson's use of real locations throughout most of the film adds to the dramatic intensity. The film takes pains to present every F.B.I. man as scrupulously honest and dedicated. The worst they are guilty of is flirting with secretaries.
F.B.I.: Code 98 is well worth a look. It's tightly scripted, well-directed and doesn't have a single wasted frame.
There are no bonus extras on the DVD.
Click here to view preview clip and order from Warner Archive
Harryhausen with one of his immortal stop-animation creations for the classic Jason and the Argonauts.
Cinema Retro is saddened to convey the news that the legendary Ray Harryhausen has passed away at the age of 92. The man who broke new barriers in cinematic special effects died in London. Although American by birth, Harryhausen made England his adopted home and from there enjoyed a long career that saw him receive countless honors as well as the idolization of a new generation of filmmakers. He was also a good friend to Cinema Retro, contributing to several issues and allowing our writers access to his private archives. We will not see his kind again.- Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall
For more on Ray Harryhausen's life and career click here
Loophole is a 1954 low-budget crime movie that is one of a number of a "B" movie titles now available from the Warner Archive. These minor gems remind us of the glory days of cinema when movies were made expressly to be shown as second features. Loophole, directed by Harold D. Schuster, was originally released theatrically by Allied Artists. The film presents Barry Sullivan as Mike Donovan, a respected bank teller who is living a comfortable middle class existence with his wife Ruthie (Dorothy Malone) in L.A. In the midst of a high profile annual bank audit, a nondescript man named Tate (Don Beddoe) manages to pass himself off as one of the auditors. His sexy girlfriend Vera (Mary Beth Hughes) poses as a customer to distract Donovan while Tate cleans out his cash drawer without his knowledge. At the end of the day, Donovan is astounded to learn he is $50,000 short. He makes the first of several mistakes by not reporting the loss immediately to his boss. It's Friday afternoon and he wants the weekend to ponder what could have happened to the money. By the time he reports the theft on Monday morning, he's the prime suspect. The insurance company assigns a bulldog of an investigator, Gus Slavin (Charles McGraw), to tail him everywhere. In those days before suspects had Miranda rights, Donovan feels the full fury of being interrogated by police and Slavin without the benefit of a lawyer present. His boss believes he is innocent but he is forced to fire Donovan anyway. Every new job he finds ends abruptly when the Javert-like Slavin inevitably shows up and spreads the word that he is a suspected thief. A chance encounter brings Donovan face to face with Tate and triggers his memory of the phony auditor who had access to the cash. Donovan makes another mistake by taking after the man himself, a tactic that results in Tate being mistaken for his accomplice. The entire affair ends with a tense confrontation between Donovan, Tate and Vera in a Malibu beach house.
Loophole is consistently engrossing throughout its scant 80 minute running time. Filmed mostly on actual locations, the movie gives retro cinema lovers a great view of L.A. as it appeared in the mid-1950s. The cast is peppered with excellent character actors and the black and white cinematography is crisp and impressive. It's a real treat that such forgotten treasures are now readily available on made-to-order DVD. There are no extras on the DVD.
Click here to view clip and to order from Warner Archive
Rarely has distributor exploitation been as blatant as in the
case of Simon Wincer’s The Day After
Halloween (1980), a ludicrously-named Australian outing originally optioned
under the name of Centerfold, then
changed to Snapshot after the
producers were unable to secure that title, and was eventually released as One More Minute. It appeared on video shelves here in the U.S.
on VHS both in 1983 from Catalina Home Video under the title of The Day After Halloween and in 1985 as The Night After Halloween on Magnum Home
Entertainment. The film came on the
heels of the John Carpenter-scripted Eyes
of Laura Mars (1978) which was set against the milieu of the fashion
industry. Filmed in 1978 and released in
Australia the following year, The Day
After Halloween has absolutely nothing to do with John Carpenter’s seminal holiday
suspense yarn, and isn’t even a slasher film. It isn’t even a thriller. At
best, it can be considered a mystery that concerns a young woman named Angela (Sigrid
Thornton) who lives with her wretched, belittling mother and is trying to fend
off the unwanted affections of her obsessed and emotionally unstable ex-boyfriend
Daryl (Vincent Gil) who drives an ice cream truck (think Phantasm!). She’s late for
work which earns her the condemnation of her hairstylist boss but garners the
affections of Madeline (Chantal Contouri), a sophisticate who dresses like Joan
Collins who encourages Angela to parlay her natural good looks into a modeling
career which lands her topless in Cleo, the Australian equivalent of
Cosmopolitan Magazine, in an ad for Bermuda Cool cologne. The ad proves lucrative but also draws the unsolicited
attention of lots of tongue-wagging men twice her age in an effort to score
with her. A photographer sets up a
meeting with her and uses an innocent photo session as a ruse to get her drunk
and undressed, but she bails, which leads to a frightening confrontation later
Given the cookie-cutter nature of films
from this era, it isn’t difficult to realize who really idolizes Angela and
wants her the most. The Bermuda Cool
photographing sequence goes on much longer than it should (remember that long,
wordless sequence in Play Misty for Me
set to a Roberta Flack song? That was
shorter!). Lacking a cinematic style,
the film for the most part is shot in masters and throws lots of red herrings
at the audience, but it makes for an entertaining film. The acting is impressive for this sort of story. The score is by the late Australian composer Brian
May whose music to George Miller’s The
Road Warrior (1981) is one of the best action film scores ever. Prior to this, Mr. May scored Patrick (1978) which was produced by Anthony
Ginnane who also acts as producer on this film as well (if you have seen the
Italian cut of Patrick, Mr. May’s
score was replaced by Goblin’s). Director
Wincer has gone on to director more notable and successful films: Phar Lap (1983), D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), Quigley
Down Under (1990), Free Willy
(1993), and The Phantom (1996).
The film has been released on Scorpion
Releasing’s Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, hosted by Katarina Leigh Waters.
Ms. Waters proves to be a charming and
knowledgeable emcee and provides an amusing introduction to the film. She
points out that this is the first time the film is being presented on home
video in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision aspect ratio. The film is transferred from a theatrical
print, but it is free of dirt and scratches. The sound is in mono and is passable.
The DVD contains the entire, uncut
version of the film with Snapshot on
the title card, however there is an extra that contains a portion of the
opening credits with The Day After
Halloween as the title (the fuzziness of the image and overall lack of quality
appears to be sourced from VHS). There
is also an extremely informative running commentary with producer Anthony Ginnane
moderated by Ms. Waters. A veteran of
over fifty films, Mr. Ginnane is a fountain of knowledge and remembers quite a
bit about the making of this film which had a very tight production schedule on
the order of three weeks shooting time. The
DVD cover replicates the original American one-sheet which is a nicely-designed
image but is completely misleading – it is simply the wrong cover for this
On his web blog Sixties Cinema, Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti pays tribute to schlock producer Bert Gordon's 1965 teenbopper exploitation flick Village of the Giants, featuring such cult stars as Tisha Sterling, Joy Harmon, Vicki London and Tony Basil. Click here for the story behind the film as well as original TV ads.
Impulse Pictures has released Sexcula, a 1974 Canadian hardcore horror spoof, on DVD. The film is more notable for the story behind its production than the finished product, which is generally fairly anemic. It was made in Vancouver with the aid of a loophole in the Canadian government's tax shelter funding even though hardcore porn was illegal in the country until 1978. Consequently, the movie was never shown beyond an alleged initial screening for cast and crew. Many doubted the very existence of the film, which is presumed to be the first ever Canadian feature length porn flick, since it hasn't been seen at all over the decades. . The bizarre scenario finds a young couple who discover a diary from 1896. In it, an incredible tale is told about a female mad doctor named Fallatingstein (get it?) who used her skills to create an artificial life form: a hunky would-be sex slave named Frank (get it?) The only problem is that while Frank is desirable to the doctor, the "monster" is uninterested in the doctor. In frustration, she reaches out to her relative, Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins, Canada's answer to Marilyn Chambers). The two women attempt to "raise the dead" in terms of Frank's flaccid sexual state. Although the title hints at overt horror themes and most of the action takes place in a dungeon, Sexcula herself just seems to be an exotic, perpetually horny young woman with no particular ties to the supernatural. (The tag line for the movie promises "She'll suck more than your blood!") The rest of the film consists of humorous vignettes in which the two females try every imaginable scenario to get Frank aroused. Even the inevitable lesbian scene fails to do the trick. The joke is carried on throughout the cheaply made production, which intersperses soft core sex with a few hardcore sequences. The comedy is overt, obviously having been inspired by the goofy appeal Deep Throat held for mass audiences. However, the movie is completely lacking in wit and Ms. Collins' performance makes Marilyn Chambers look like Kate Hepburn. The actresses seem stiff and uncomfortable. There is also footage from what appears to be an unrelated production showing a young couple in a wedding chapel who turn their exchange of vows into an orgy. (Being polite Canadians, they ensure that the preacher joins in as well.) Perhaps the most offbeat sequence features a comely female robot sexually assaulted by a gorilla! The film lurches towards a Blazing Saddles-like conclusion with cast members clearly walking around the sets, indicating the whole production has been a joke.
Sexcula strives to be a cut above average porn but the talent simply isn't there to carry off the gimmick. Even the hardcore sequences are dimly lit and not very erotic. However, the Impulse release deserves praise because it represents the first public distribution of this film, which was rumored to exist but had been lost in Canadian archives. Liner notes by Dimitrios Otis, who is referred to as a "Porn Archaeologist" (how does one get a degree in that field?) present the interesting tale of how the movie reels were located and salvaged. An original trailer is included as well as a pop art comic synopsis of the movie by Rick Tremble. In all, an impressive package for a relatively unimpressive film. However, there is that terrific poster art concept used on the sleeve.
Brian Hannan, author of the new book The Making of Lawrence of Arabia, has unveiled a startling fact: an early production of David Lean's masterpiece was announced in January 1953- a decade before Lean's version was released. It was to be filmed in Cinerama and star John Wayne! Now, there are no bigger fans of the Duke than us, but what were they thinking? Fortunately, plans fell apart for this particular film. Hannan relates how Marlon Brando was Lean's first choice for the role, so even in saner hands the emphasis was in casting an American actor as the iconic Brit. By the way, Duke Wayne may have dodged a bullet with Lawrence, but a few years later he went one worse by playing Genghis Khan in The Conqueror! For more click here
The Warner Archive has released the 1972 MGM thriller The Carey Treatment as part of its DVD-on-demand program. James Coburn has one of his best roles as Dr. Peter Carey, a rebellious but esteemed surgeon who moves to Boston to take a prominent position at one of the city's most esteemed hospitals. The charismatic Carey loses no time in gaining friends, alienating top brass and bedding the comely chief dietician (Jennifer O'Neill). However, he soon finds himself embroiled in a politically volatile investigation when a fellow surgeon is arrested for performing an illegal abortion on the 15 year old daughter of the hospital's crusty administrator (Dan O'Herlihy). (The movie was released a year before the landmark Roe V. Wade decision that legalized abortion in America.) Coburn believes his friend's protestations of innocence and decides to launch his own investigation into the matter. The case soon unveils a lot of skeletons that some prominent people would prefer to be kept in their closets and Carey finds himself subjected to blackmail and physically assaulted as he comes closer to discovering the shocking truth behind the young girl's death.
Over four days the
2013 Bradford Widescreen Festival located at ThePicturevilleCinema played host to a mixture of classics
in 70mm,CinemaScopeand Cinerama formats. There was a
special tribute to the 60th anniversary of CinemaScope,
the famous widescreen process developed for Twentieth Century Fox back in the
kicked off with a rare 70mm screening ofThe
Longest Daypreceded by an
informative introduction by Sir Christopher Frayling. This was followed by the
much- lovedThe Great Escapepresented for the first time in 4K
Digital and the picture and sound were simply stunning. Cinema Retro
contributor Dr. Sheldon Hall provided an illuminating introduction to this war
classic. Following the delegates’ reception in the Kodak Gallery,The Sound of Music was presented in 70mm. The print was
generally good although three quarters of the way through, a reel snapped
resulting in a 10 minute wait for reparations to take place. When the show
resumed, the audience cheered and applauded.
provided a different selection of features commencing with a wonderful short
directed by Grant Wakefield in 2k calledRemnants.Filmed using motion controlled
time-lapse photography, Remnants
captures on film the thousands of complex stone monumentsconstructed by the Neolithic peoples
of Northern Europe from 3800 to 1000 BC. Stunning 2K resolution and
extraordinary music provided by Tangerine Dream member Thorsten Quaeschning.
Strohmaier and RandyGitschwho
do so much for the preservation and restoration of the Cinerama documentary
features updated the audience on Seven
Wonders of the World, another 3 strip Cinerama classic that required
extensive work to bring this forthcoming restoration to a new generation of
audiences. Following this came the European premiere of Cinerama Holidayshown in 2k Digital on the curved
screen. Randy Gitsch provided the introduction and background to the extensive
work needed to bring this second of the three Cinerama travelogues up to date.
A highly rewarding experience for all. (Cinerama
Holiday will be released later this year along with another Cinerama
feature South Seas Adventure on the
Flicker Alley label).
afternoon concluded with the European premiere of David Strohmaier'sIn the Pictureshort, which was filmed in 3 panel
Cinerama for the first time in 50 years! This was followed byThe Last Days of Cinerama,an affectionate look at the making of
the aforementioned feature. A 70mm print ofHelloDollyrounded off the Saturday evening, again
an excellent presentation.
opened with the regular and popularCineramacanaa montage of shorts and news items that
included DTS demonstration reels and a 70mm reel of Tomorrow Never Dies which never saw a 70mm release in the UK. The
traditional onstage photograph followed. Sunday afternoon ran the 3 strip
feature ofThe Wonderful World
of The Brothers Grimm, the only known print in existence. It looked
magnificent on thePictureville'scurved
to Marry a Millionaire was screened on Sunday
afternoon, with a beautiful CinemaScope print that was well received by all
present. Tony Sloman provided a fascinating and amusing intro to this Fox
Classic. The day concluded with a screening ofThe Guns of Navarone,shown for the first time in a 4k
print. Again patrons were experiencing a much improved presentation of this war
movie classic. This was introduced by Author Brian Hannan who has just written
two books: The Making of the Guns ofNavaroneand
The Making of Lawrence of Arabia.
final day Monday showed the marathon featureGettysburgover two parts which was introduced by
Dr. Sheldon Hall.
Bradford 2013 Widescreen festival will go down as one of the best ever, with
improved organisation allowing delegates longer breaks between features and
also arguably for the first time ever, ran pretty much to schedule!
organised by Bill Lawrence and Duncan McGregor patrons seemed very happy with
both the presentation and quality of the features on offer.
to all concerned and roll on 2014.......
With Leslie Charteris' once popular books showcasing The Saint now back in print, writer Allan Massie of The Telegraph examines why the stories still entertain today. With all due respect to Roger Moore's visual representation of the hero in the 1960s, Massie argues that the character rightly belongs in his original time period, the 1920s. He also examines how Simon Templar differs from that other iconic British hero (coincidentally also portrayed by Moore), James Bond 007. Click here to read
The Beatles with Brian Epstein at the 1964 London premiere of A Hard Day's Night.
The next time you hear American politicians debating the "onerous" tax burden on the wealthiest citizens, consider England in the 1960s when the tax rate on their highest earners skyrocketed to 98%. This forced many of the UK's most creative artists into tax exile. By the time sanity had returned to the British tax code, some of these people had left their native country permanently. The Beatles were among the most notable victims of the tax system but they also suffered from an abundance of bad business deals. Their hip, young manager Brian Epstein is fondly recalled for shepherding the Fab Four throughout their early career but Epstein (who died in 1967) was not the best business manager they could have had. An article in Bloomberg News features an interview with Peter Brown, the 74 year old man who took over managing the Beatles after Epstein's death. Brown reflects on Epstein's shortcomings and the turmoil that followed his death. Turns out Epstein had negotiated ludicrously low royalty deals for the lads from Liverpool that literally saw them making a fraction of a penny on every record sold. It was only due to the sheer number of records sold during the Beatlemania era that they ended up being wealthy in spite of these bad deals. Epstein also foolishly negotiated away the rights to Beatles merchandising for peanuts. Although the Beatles became fabulous wealthy, they always remained haunted by the fact they were cheated out of proper royalties and never even controlled the rights to the records they made. For more click here
The little-seen 1983 thriller Double Exposure has been released on DVD by Scorpion Releasing as a special edition. The film has an interesting background. It was originally filmed in 1971 under the title of The Photographer by director William Byron Hillman with Michael Callan cast as a photographer of beautiful women who also turns out to be a serial murderer. Hillman and Callan were frustrated that the movie received only a limited release. Twelve years later, they collaborated on a remake of the movie using the title Double Exposure. This time around, Callen served as an uncredited screenwriter on Hillman's new script and he also produced the movie, as well. Major script changes included having the main character, Adrian Wilde (Callan), not certain if he actually is a murderer. He's a generally kind and decent man who eeks out a modest living photographing models. He resides in a mobile home in L.A. which serves as his business office and bachelor pad. He is haunted by recurring nightmares of him committing horrendous murders of some of the women he photographs. When they actually start turning up dead, he is convinced he must be the culprit. He seeks guidance from his shrink (Seymour Cassel) and warns his new girlfriend, sexy Mindy (Joanna Pettet) that he has doubts about his sanity. He also seeks comfort from his brother B.J. (James Stacy) , a rather belligerent, bitter man who nevertheless has not allowed the loss of an arm and a leg prevent him from making a career of stunt driving. He also proves to be quite a lady's man and in one memorable sequence mud wrestles a bikini-clad girl in a bar. As the body count builds, Adrian slides further into madness.
The film is definitely of "B" movie caliber, but it's generally engrossing and well-made. Callan delivers a very fine performance in the lead role and he is more than matched by Stacy. Pettet does well as the female lead, and exposes a lot of flesh in a fairly graphic bedroom scene. There are other familiar faces who pop in and out of the film including Pamela Hensley as a detective assigned to track down the killer, Cleavon Little (largely wasted) as her perpetually grouchy superior officer and Robert Tessier as a skid row bar manager. Sally Kirkland and future Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson also have early career roles. Hillman directs efficiently, though there the ending veers into cliched "woman in jeopardy" territory and the final few frames of the movie, in which the killer is unveiled, boasts some fine acting but disintegrates into a confusing and frustrating scenario in the last few, hectic seconds. Nevertheless, Double Exposure is a good thriller, well-made on a modest budget.
The DVD has several impressive bonus features including commentary track by Callan, cinematographer Michael Stringer and script supervisor Sally Stringer, an interview with Callen conducted by Katarina Leigh Waters, the original trailer and a selection of bonus trailers from other DVD releases. Recommended.
I confess to never having heard of this film prior to receiving a review DVD from Warner Archive. In fact, it's fairly obscure even in its native Britain. However, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, released in 1970, is one of the most amusing and perceptive political satires I have ever seen. The dark comedy opens with the titular character (Peter Cook in top, deadpan form) inexplicably arriving at a mismanaged London publicity and advertising agency. With nary an explanation about his identity or background, Rimmer simply makes himself at home, though uninvited. The inept brass assumes some big wig has implanted Rimmer among them to be an efficiency expert so they defer to him on virtually everything. In short order, he turns the failing company into a fabulously successful force in terms of marketing potential political candidates. Finding a way to manipulate the dumbest segment of the Tory voter base, Rimmer quickly becomes a major force in choosing which candidates are the most charismatic, yet intellectually vacuous. Before long, this man of mystery, who says little but achieves a lot through shrewd schemes, is on the A list of London socialites. He's courted by all and beautiful women are at his disposal. Rimmer chooses a comely lovely (Vanessa Howard) as his bride, but she soon learns even she is a tool for political expediency as Rimmer himself becomes a top candidate for public office. He's a British precursor to Robert Redford's Bill McKay in The Candidate (1972). Both end up being ironic political forces, though Rimmer is a clever manipulator while McKay is an empty shell who rises to the top by serving as the charismatic tool of his puppet masters.
The script was co-written by Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman- heavyweight comedy talents who specialize in theater of the absurd. However, the writers keep their comedic instincts restrained, opting wisely for subtle laughs rather than slapstick. The inspired supporting cast includes such comedy stalwarts as Cleese, Chapman, Arthur Lowe, Denholm Elliott, Norman Rossington, Dennis Price with Ronald Culver and Harold Pinter thrown in for good measure. The cynicism of the piece is that a brainless segment of the public will be satisfied by the superficial aspects of candidates even if they know nothing about those candidate's backgrounds or motives. Rimmer becomes the toast of the town without ever taking a firm position on any issue. He smiles a lot, charms everyone and remains firmly in the middle of the road on any topic. Thus, the story is as timeless today as ever. Witness the parade of ignorant, empty-headed people who have emerged as leading political figures in the last year alone and you'll understand why The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer plays more like a horror film today than the comedy it was originally intended to be.
Heath was an English killer
responsible for the murders of two young women. He was executed by hanging in
London in 1946 (aged 29). Heath was a handsome and well-spoken sociopath who
could easily lure women to their doom.
In 1967, Alfred Hitchcock was trying to rebound
from the failure of the Cold War espionage thriller Torn Curtain with an
original screenplay entitled Frenzy (and later Kaleidoscope). The
unproduced project was to have been based on the crimes of serial rapist-killer
Heath, although the story would be set in the present day in and around New
York City. The original story would be told completely from the point of view
of a murderer who is both attractive and vulnerable.
Screenwriter Benn Levy wrote in a letter to
Hitchcock in January 1967: “It's got to be (based on) Heath, not (John George) Haigh
(the acid bath murderer). Told forwards, the Heath story is a gift from heaven.
You'd start with a ‘straight’ romantic meeting, handsome young man, pretty
girl. Maybe he rescues her from the wild molestations of a drunken escort. ‘I
can't stand men who paw every girl they meet.’ Get us rooting for them both. He
perhaps unhappily married and therefore a model of screen-hero restraint. She begins
to find him irresistibly ‘just a little boy who can't cope with life’ -- least
of all with domestic problems such as he has described. She's sexually maternal
with him, she'd give him anything -- and we're delighted. Presently a few of us
get tiny stirrings of disquiet at the physical love-scenes but don't quite know
why. By the time we see the climax of his love in action and her murder, then
even the slowest of us get it! But we shouldn't know till then.”
Rare trade ad for a film that was never made.
Frenzy would also be a stylistic
departure for Hitchcock. After watching Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up,
Hitchcock felt he had fallen behind the Italians in technique. Hitchcock
biographer Patrick McGilligan writes: “Watching one Antonioni, he sat up
straight at the sight of a man all in white in a white room. ‘White on white!’
he exclaimed to (his personal assistant and script supervisor) Peggy Robertson.
‘There, you see! It can be done!’”
Hitchcock was also impressed
by the camerawork improvisation of maverick American director John Cassavetes (Shadows). He asked the novelist Howard
Fast (Spartacus, Cheyenne Autumn) to sketch a treatment about a gay, deformed serial
killer. Pleased with the results, Hitchcock composed a shot list with over 450
camera positions and shot an hour’s worth of experimental color tests, using
unknown actors in various states of undress. This footage was filmed in New
York City, and gives a tantalizing glimpse of what Hitchcock had in mind, of how
revolutionary Frenzy/Kaleidoscope would have been in his body
of work – a Psycho for the more
liberated counterculture era. Unfortunately, MCA/Universal were disgusted by
the script and test footage and immediately canceled the project, reducing
Hitchcock to tears. Hitchcock was coerced into directing Topaz, Leon Uris’ behind-the-scenes account of the breakup of a
Soviet spy ring at the highest levels of the French government during the 1962 Cuban
missile crisis. Topaz was another in
a string of artistic and commercial failures for Hitchcock as he approached age
Japanese poster for the 1972 film Frenzy which was entirely different from the previous project Hitchcock had intended to use the title for.
What would have been
Hitchcock's most daring and controversial work was thwarted: an avant-garde
film using hand-held camerawork, a first-person viewpoint and natural lighting
(à la Blair Witch Project, filmed
32 years later), detailing the exploits of a gay bodybuilder who dabbles
in murder, rape and possibly necrophilia. It was conceived in 1964 as a prequel
to Hitchcock’s 1942 film Shadow of a Doubt and was initially titled Frenzy,
not to be confused with his eventual 1972 movie of the same name, from which
certain plot elements of the original Frenzy
Hitchcock’s interest in
Neville Heath first manifested itself in 1959 in his unproduced project No Bail for the Judge, which would have
starred Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Harvey and John Williams. A respected judge is
blamed for the murder of a prostitute, and his barrister daughter searches for
the real killer in London’s criminal demi-monde. Hepburn, who desperately
wanted to work with Hitchcock, suddenly withdrew from the project because of a
scene in which her character is brutally raped in Hyde Park by a good-looking London
pimp named Edward “Neddy-Boy” Devlin, who dominates Hepburn by
slowly strangling her with a necktie.
Audrey Hepburn never did work
with Hitchcock, but Laurence Harvey got along with the Master of Suspense and
starred in Arthur (1959), a grisly episode
of the long-running TV anthology series Alfred
Hitchcock Presents in which a beautiful woman (Hazel Court) meets with a
The rape scene in No Bail for the Judge obviously was one that Hitchcock wanted to
realize, in one form or another. It is quite similar to the scene of Mark’s
rape of the frigid Marnie on
their honeymoon cruise. The unproduced script of No Bail for the
Judge also looks forward to the unproduced Frenzy/Kaleidoscope
and to Hitchcock’s serial killer masterpiece Frenzy (1972), with its sexually impotent necktie strangler Bob
Rusk (Barry Foster) loose in London, eager to pin the murders of several
attractive women on his best friend. The unproduced Frenzy contains a
sequence in New York’s Central Park where the killer, Willie Cooper, takes a
young woman into the bushes and murders her. And while Bob Rusk may have more victims
to his credit than Neville Heath and Willie Cooper, it is clear that Edward
“Neddy-Boy” Devlin was Hitchcock’s first “necktie strangler”.
So, as Hitchcock matured as an
artist, his impulse to film violent misogynistic scenes intensified – scenes
which would finally be free from censorship in the freewheeling “anything goes”
atmosphere of Hollywood in the sixties and seventies.
(Click here to order Cinema Retro issue #18 featuring extensive coverage of Hitchcock's Psycho. Click here to order Cinema Retro issue #24 featuring in-depth article on the making of the 1972 version of Frenzy)
If not for a last minute change, legendary opera star Maria Callas would have been the female lead in The Guns of Navarone.
Opera superstar Maria
Callas was set to make her movie debut in Carl Foreman’s iconic war film The
Guns Of Navarone, according to a new book, The Making Of The Guns
Of Navarone launched this weekend at the Bradford Widescreen Film
Festival (April 26-29) by Scottish film historian Brian Hannan.
The singer had scandalised
the world by her affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who
would later marry Jackie Kennedy, widow of assassinated president John F
Kennedy. Callas was first choice for the role of the older female Greek
partisan. Producer Carl Foreman promised ‘mucho love scenes’ with star Gregory
Commented Hannan, ‘At the
time, Maria Callas was the most famous woman in the world, a fiery mixture of
Princess Diana and Madonna, the role model for every diva to come. This was an
astonishing publicity coup. Names did not come any bigger. Although few opera
stars can act, she was considered more than capable. Smouldering European
actresses like Sophia Loren were much in demand in Hollywood at the time and
she fitted the bill.’
Born in America in 1923 to
Greek parents, she mad her singing debut in 1941 but her early career was
tumultuous and it was not until she married wealthy industrialist Giovanni
Meneghini that she achieved major success. Even so she battled with employers
and was known as much for her tantrums, walkouts and love life as her singing. Her
presence was a considerable departure from the best-selling book by Scottish
writer Alistair Maclean for in the original there were no female characters.
The news received worldwide
coverage – Callas was that big a star. Hollywood was agog. Offers of movie
roles had been made to Callas before and she had turned them down. There was a
history of opera stars making the jump to Hollywood. Popular 1930s due Nelson
Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald had both been opera stars. More recently Mario
Lanza had been a box office sensation - his film The Great Caruso had ranked
third in the US box office charts in 1951 ahead of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar
Named Desire and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In The Sun. There had also been a
trend for operas to be filmed and show in cinemas.
But Callas’s career had
been riddled with bust-ups and insiders predicted the relationship with Foreman
would not last. Callas abruptly quit the production before shooting began and
was replaced by classical actress Irene Papas.
Nor was she the only
casualty of the filming. Producer Foreman lost first choice
actors Cary Grant and William Holden, director Alexander Mackendrick
(The Ladykillers), scriptwriter Eric Ambler (Mask Of Dimitrios),
and a second female star Annette Stroyberg, wife of director Roger Vadim who
had turned Brigitte Bardot into a star. British actor David Niven nearly died
during filming. The set, the biggest ever built in Britain, for the
titular guns collapsed and had to be rebuilt and the budget soared by
Despite these setbacks, the
film burned up the box office and was the number one film of the year and
nominated for seven Oscars.
Hannan has also published
two books on Hitchcock – Darkness Visible:Hitchcock’s Greatest Film and Hitchcock’s
The author will introduce a
new restored 4K version of The Guns Of Navarone film on Sunday
April 28 preceded by a book signing of his book and its companion The
Making Of Lawrence Of Arabia.
The Making Of The Guns Of
Navarone by Brian Hannan is published by Baroliant Press, priced £8.99 and
is available on Kindle and in bookshops.
(U.S. readers can click here to order the Amazon Kindle edition)
Scorpion has released a fun horror double-feature DVD consisting of The Hearse (1980) and Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969).
The Hearse is a comparatively upscale production (anything is upscale compared to the Dracula flick) that top-lines two good actors: Trish Van Devere and Joseph Cotten. Van Devere plays Jane Hardy, a recently divorced thirty-something woman who is suffering from psychological problems relating to the end of her marriage. When her mother dies, she inherits a charming country home that used to belong to her maiden aunt. Jane decides to spend the summer in the house in the hope that a rural lifestyle might ease her personal problems. From minute one, she has second thoughts, however. The townspeople are rude to her and there are rumblings about some nasty legends relating to the house. The lawyer who is overseeing the property (Joseph Cotten) is a nasty, cynical old coot who does everything in his power to dissuade Jane from staying in the home she has inherited. The reasons why become immediately apparent. No sooner has Jane moved in than strange things start occurring. Doors slam on their own, noises emanate from the attic and cellar and she believes she catches glimpses of her aunt watching her. In the glorious tradition of "women in haunted houses" films, Jane doesn't do the sensible thing and move out. Rather, she convinces herself there is a logical explanation. However, the nightmarish scenario moves outside of the house and Jane (who inevitably finds herself driving at night on back country roads) is terrified by a mysterious hearse that tries to run her off the road. She later learns that the secret may relate to her aunt's past. In reading her diaries, Jane is shocked to find that her aunt was once a shy, conservative woman who was planning on marrying a preacher. However, she fell under the spell of a sexually perverted man and ended up becoming practicing the black mass with him. The two devil worshipers were killed in an accident but the hearse carrying their bodies was also destroyed in a bizarre twist of fate and their bodies were never found. Despite the increasing threats on her life, Jane remains determined to stay in the house and seeks solace from a new man in her life, the handsome Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux), who is so creepy he practically sprouts horns and fangs, but Jane never catches on. The film presents every cliche of the genre including a heroine who uses candles and flashlights to investigate things that go bump in the night. (There may have been a reference to an old Indian burial ground, too, but I could have missed it.) There are some genuinely creepy scenes but long-time editor George Bowers (who made his directorial debut with this film) can't figure out how to milk any suspense from the overall weather-beaten scenario. The film is best in the early scenes when Jane is haunted by relatively mundane occurrences. By the time the movie reaches its climax, Bowers resorts to an "everything but the kitchen sink" formula that throws in exorcisms and car chases. The premise of a demonic automobile should have been sent to the cinematic junk yard after the unintentionally hilarious The Car (1977). The Hearse isn't as bad as all that, thanks to fine performances by Van Devere and Cotten, but it falls short of its overall potential. It makes for passable entertainment, but in the aggregate, it's pretty much stuck in neutral. The DVD contains an introduction by scream queen Katarina Leigh Waters and there is an audio interview with screenwriter Bill Bleich. The original trailer is also included.
Blood of Dracula's Castle is an infamous gem from director Al Adamson, who was so inept he made Ed Wood look like Sir David Lean. The film was shot in 1966 but not released until 1969. Falling squarely into the "so bad it's good" category, the story centers on Glen and Liz (Gene O'Shane and Barbara Bishop) a young couple who are engaged to be married. Glen learns he has inherited a castle in the California desert (!) that belonged to an eccentric uncle. Upon arriving at the castle, they are greeted by George (John Carradine), an erudite but eerie long time butler to the residents of the mansion. They turn out to be the Townsends (Alex D'Arcy and Paula Raymond), a bizarre couple who claim they hold royal titles of Count and Countess. They are distressed to learn that Glen and Liz intend to move into the residence, which means they will have to find a new abode. This makes for a major problem because they are vampires and are quite happy with their present situation, which finds them keeping young women chained to the wall in their dungeon and using them as a source of blood supply. (They feel that biting victims in the neck is a rather quaint way of sustaining immortality when one can indulge in refreshing blood cocktails.) The Townsends extend every courtesy to the young couple who intend to evict them and introduce them to their friend Johnny (Robert Dix), who is actually an escaped convict who gets murderous urges whenever there is a full moon. Before long, Glen and Liz are victimized and facing life in the dungeon. Townsend also reveals he is the original Count Dracula, a plot device thrown in merely for marquee value as there is absolutely nothing about him that evokes any of the popular perceptions of the Count. In fact the Townsends are about as threatening as Gomez and Morticia Addams, as they trade witticisms and charm their intended victims with their perpetually jolly outlook on (eternal) life. There is one other resident of the mansion: Mango (Ray Stevens), an Igor-like mute who captures young women for the Townsends and who is periodically rewarded by being allowed to sexually abuse them. The film is a complete disaster on all levels, which makes it fun to watch. The irresistible presence of John Carradine only adds to the fun. The shoddy sets are somewhat offset by the fact that director/producer Adamson found an actual castle-like mansion that was located in the California desert. The film is padded out with chase scenes that are designed to make the clock run out in order to get to an appropriate running time. Adamson's ineptness is part of the film's charm, as is the presence of members of his own stock company who gamely appeared in his numerous low-budget productions. The DVD features Katrarina Leigh Waters interviewing production manager John "Bud" Cordos, who went on to direct his own films, most notably Kingdom of the Spiders. Cordos is an affable guy who relates marvelous stories about his friendships with Adamson and Robert Dix (son of silent screen legend Richard Dix). He states that Dix never played the Wolfman in the film, which may seem erroneous because there is footage of Dix's character turning into the Wolfman. Research shows that this footage was inserted into the film to spice up TV syndication sales and that the actor in the furry rubber mask was not Robert Dix. Thus, Cordos is correct in his statement.
The entire DVD double feature package is very well produced by Scorpion founder Walter Olsen, who goes to extraordinary lengths to give first class treatment to second-class films. Half the fun of watching a Scorpion DVD is indulging in the informative extras, as is demonstrated with this package. This double feature DVD evokes memories of the glorious old days of theatrical double features. Highly recommended for pure kitsch value.
Harrison Ford and Chad Boseman in "42", a surprise boxoffice hit.
Hollywood studios, long criticized for catering almost exclusively to young audiences, is discovering that if they release intelligent fare aimed at older audiences, they will be rewarded with boxoffice gold. In recent years, films that feature the usual big action sequences, boring special effects and low-brow comedy have been rivaled by some highly praised films aimed squarely at baby boomers and senior citizens. Case in point: last week's strong opening for 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic that top-lines 70 year old Harrison Ford, who now refers to himself as a "character actor". For more click here
If you think Terrence Mallick makes films infrequently, consider the career of Robin Hardy, who gained acclaim for his direction of the 1973 British horror classic The Wicker Man. In the ensuing decades, Hardy has been associated with precisely three other feature films, all little-seen: as writer of Forbidden Sun (1989), The Wicker Tree (2011, as writer and director) and the 1986 film The Fantasist, which he also wrote and directed. The latter film suffered from a botched release and poor reviews, with the verdict being that Hardy's much-anticipated return to filmmaking was a letdown. Scorpion Releasing has issued The Fantasist on DVD and the movie deserves to be re-evaluated with the passage of time.
The film is set in Ireland and Hardy makes excellent use of both urban and rural locations. Moira Harris (sometimes billed as Moira Sinise nowadays due to her marriage to actor Gary Sinise), an actress who is American by birth, gives an astonishingly convincing performance as a Patricia Teeling, young Irish woman who moves from her family's farm to Dublin in order to break the monotony and pursue a career as a teacher. Urban life agrees with her and she takes out a room in a boarding house. However, Dublin is being terrorized by a serial killer who phones young women and chats with them in a seductive, yet sexually explicit way. Some of these women end up being so intrigued by the mystery man that they invite him to their apartments only to be sexually abused and murdered. Patricia is oblivious to the murders. She befriends a charming American, Danny Sullivan (Timothy Bottoms) who is also a boarder in the house. He's quirky but funny and seems harmless enough- until she overhears him making obscene phone calls. The tension rises when a female boarder in the house falls victim to the serial killer. In panic, Patricia's roommate moves out, leaving her alone with the increasingly creepy Danny. She finds an ally in Dublin Detective McMyler (Christopher Cazenove), who becomes especially welcome when Patricia begins receiving the ominous phone calls herself. In one terrifying incident, she finds herself in the house with the unseen murderer but manages to make a daring escape by crawling atop the roof and climbing down to the ground. The police peg Danny as the prime suspect but they can't find anything but circumstantial evidence so he isn't indicted. A fellow teacher, Robert Foxley (John Cavanagh) also emerges as a suspect. He's also eccentric and carries a torch for Patricia. The film comes to a suspense-filled climax with Patricia finding herself captured by the killer. In a cringe-inducing, sexually explicit sequence, she decides to attempt to save herself by using erotic techniques to disarm her would-be murderer. The film is only compromised by an epilogue set on a ferry that reduces this otherwise superior, intelligent thriller to the level of a typical slasher movie with some over-the-top action straining credibility.
The Fantasist has much to recommend about it. All of the performances are first rate and the identity of the killer will keep viewers guessing right up until he is revealed. Harris is simply superb and the supporting performances are equally first rate. As director and writer, Robin Hardy impresses with this double-duty assignment, eschewing studio shots for making use of actual locations. The film has a cliched scenario but is a far more mature and sophisticated work than most other "women in jeopardy" thrillers.
Scorpion's DVD edition features a first rate transfer and is presented as part of the label's signature Katrina's Nightmare Theatre which means you get an optional, campy introductory segment hosted by former wrestler (!) and B movie sexpot Katarina Leigh Waters. She not only provides plenty of eye candy but also relates some interesting facts about the making of the movie and its undeserved neglect by audiences and critics. The package also contains the original trailer as well as an ample sampling of trailers for other Scorpion releases. The box art seems to be a new creation and doesn't even mention Harris on the credits, which seems patently unfair.
I may be one of the few critics who looks favorably on The Fantasist. It's got plenty of flaws, but its Dublin setting and fine performance by Moira Harris earn it a hearty recommendation.
The Warner Archive has released the 1965 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's oft-filmed Ten Little Indians. It's hard to imagine that the scenario of a disparate group of exotic strangers being summoned to a chateau by a mysterious host once seemed like a fresh concept. Certainly, the concept already had moss on it when this film was made. However, there is something timeless and intriguing about such a story line, primarily because it generally affords a star-studded cast to interact. There are no superstars in this European version of the story, but the movie is packed with wonderful actors. This time around, the individuals are invited to an opulent chalet atop a snow-covered mountain top, accessible only by cable car. (The location is never specified, but the exteriors were filmed in Austria and the interiors were shot in Ireland.) The victims-to-be include square-jawed American hero Hugh O'Brian, sexy Brit Shirley Eaton, fresh frommaking a sensation in Goldfinger, exotic Israeli actress Daliah Lavi, one-time teen idol Fabian, Swiss actor Mario Adorf, German actress Marianne Hoppe and a wonderful array of great British character actors: Wilfred Hyde-White, Leo Genn, Dennis Price and Stanley Holloway. Each of these people has a secret they are hiding and all are accused of being responsible for the death of an innocent person by their unseen "host" Mr. Owen (the voice of an uncredited Christopher Lee). The crisply-photographed B&W production evolves predictably under the competent, if unexciting direction of George Pollock, who had helmed the hit Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. The film is more serious in tone than those popular mysteries, but there is still a good deal of witty byplay as the diverse people try to find out what secrets their companions are shamefully hiding. The gimmick of murdering them off one by one revolves around the old Ten Little Indians children's rhyme. There are also some decorative figurines of Indian braves that adorn the dining hall and one of them vanishes each time a person is killed. In the time-worn tradition of such thrillers, as the group is reduced in size, they vow to all stay together in the same room. This logical solution to thwarting the murderer among them is dispensed with regularly, as the women saunter off into dark basements and up ominous staircases to investigate strange noises.
The film is curiously lacking in any genuine suspense, but it's glorious to revel in the sight of some legendary British actors trying to upstage and outwit each other in this deadly cat-and- mouse game. The film is consistently entertaining and the star power is more impressive today than it was back in the day. The climax of the film is surprising, if a bit of a stretch. It's all accompanied by a hip jazz score by Malcolm Lockyer that sometimes seems a too jaunty and upbeat for a tale revolving around serial murders. For sex appeal, O'Brian gets to walk around shirtless while Eaton has two (count 'em, two) opportunities to strip down to her bra and panties, reminding us why her early retirement from the film industry deprived young men of countless unrealized fantasies.
The Warner Archive burn-to-order DVD is a crisp, clean transfer with only a few minor artifacts evident. There are some nice bonus features including a "Who-dunnit" gimmick that was obviously inserted into some prints of the film before the real murderer is revealed. The angle is worthy of an old William Castle horror flick as bombastic graphics and film clips are used to remind viewers of who was murdered and how they met their demise. The clip challenges them to take this 60 second slot to discuss with other audience members who they feel the culprit is. It's a hokey, but wonderful touch. There are also trailers for this movie and the Miss Marple films, as well. In all, an irresistible treat.
Click here to view original trailer and to order from the Warner Archive.
Harrison Ford isn't generally known to be a ball of laughs in interviews. He plays the good soldier and makes the circuit to promote his latest film (in this case, the new Jackie Robinson biopic). However, he generally appears to enjoy the process as much as enduring a root canal. However, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he engaged in a spirited and very funny routine in which he confronts some eccentric Star Wars fans- and is uncomfortably reunited with a certain alien. Click here to view
Intrada Records has announced the premiere of Jerry Goldsmith original soundtrack scores for two great Frank Sinatra films: Von Ryan's Express and The Detective. Both scores appear on the same special edition CD. For details click here to order from Screen Archives.
The web site SpyVibe informs us that some ultra groovy 60's spy soundtracks from classic TV series are being made available...some in glorious mono! Among them is a repressing of the original soundtrack from The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Click here for more info
Disney isn't wasting any time capitalizing on their costly purchase of the Star Wars franchise. The studio has announced that, beginning in 2015, a new Star Wars film will arrive annually. Some will be new series based on various characters from the franchise. For more click here
Eddy Friedfeld, Carl Reiner and Fran Zigman. (That's Mel Brooks on the phone). (Photo: Karen Caesar.)
By Eddy Friedfeld
The late great Larry Gelbart once said
about his friend and colleague, the still great Carl Reiner: “Carl Reiner and my maid have a lot in
common- they both abhor a vacuum.” Having spent time with Mr. Reiner, I can attest that Mr. Gelbart was
newly released autobiography, I Remember Me, is a very entertaining and wonderful
and inspiring collection of anecdotes. His
third biography, following My Anecdotal Life and How Paul Robeson Saved My Life and Other Mostly
Happy Stories, is a collection of funny and poignant, and extremely well-crafted
stories range from friends and family, including his late wife of 65 years,
Estelle (whose When Harry Met Sally iconic line “I’ll have what she’s having,”
rated ahead of Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca close “This is the beginning of a
beautiful friendship,” on the AFI list of all-time great movie lines,), to
famous friends and acquaintances, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, George
Burns, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Ernie Kovacs, Gregory Peck, Julie Andrews, and
regular at bi-monthly dinner parties at Sid Caesar’s home in Beverly Hills organized
by producers Fran and Lou Zigman, Reiner read from his new book, extolling
Caesar’s gifts as the best sketch comedy performer that ever lived, and talked
about being creative with Brooks. When
prompted by Estelle Harris (Seinfeld’s Mrs. Costanza), who is as warm and
friendly as her Seinfeld counterpart was tough and overbearing, he said that he
saw himself as the ultimate master of ceremonies: “As child I loved movies so much that when I
saw one I really liked I gave a friend
money to go see it.”
all due respect to the master, he undersold himself. He is an Agent Provocateur of creativity and comedy. He makes everything and everyone he interacts
with smarter, funnier, and better.
understands the fundamental
art of storytelling and how to share a stage. An actor, writer, director and producer, he is the consummate partner; a
chronic comedy enabler: From Caesar’s comedic
foil, to Brooks Two Thousand Year Old Man partner, to The Dick Van Dyke Show’s
creative force, to Steve Martin’s early film collaborator, and to anyone whom
he happens to be in a room with at the time, his kinetic energy is
enters Caesar’s home with Mel Brooks, his oldest friend, his partner in
creative crime, with whom he has a palpably enviable and inspiring bond. They are the Butch and Sundance Kid of
comedy, both comedic alchemists, creating funny lines, images and situations
literally from the air spinning their golden wit and entertaining and
energizing everyone around them.
Indefatigable, his energy level would
make Seal Team Six tired. There is a
deceptive effortlessness with which he creates. It belies years of training and even more years of passionate pursuit of
craft. He will turn a conversation into a riff or a small
sketch. And for the self-proclaimed
tone-deaf man who once needed an entire orchestra to back him up for a one line
of musical song- and missed it, he is a virtuoso at the music of comedy, and
its innate rhythms and vibrations. He
is a pleasure to watch in action. When
actress Diane Ladd came over to his table during dinner and said, “please don’t
get up,” he responded with dignity and velocity: “I am up. I am just not standing.”
At 91, he still stands over six feet
tall. Distinguished looking, and a
stylish and dapper dresser, he could easily pass for a retired lawyer or
banker. There is a decided dignity that is
coupled with a mischievous spark in his eyes. He is studying the room, stealthily casing it like a creative cat
burglar, mining it for ideas, talent and potential laughter: He is going figure out how to make you laugh,
you just don’t know it yet. And you are
not just going to laugh- you are going to be an active participant in the
party. HisRaison d'être is to bring out the
best in you.
At another dinner party, he produced a
ceramic mug he received from the Off-Broadway show Old Jews telling Jokes. Seeing an opportunity, he turned the mug into
a prop and a tradition; a faux microphone- whomever it was passed to was
required to tell an old joke. From
contemporaries Dick Van Dyke and Monty Hall, to later generations of comedians
and actors, including Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, Richard Lewis and Roastmaster
General Jeffrey Ross, and guests who never told a joke on stage or for money, each
of whom took the cup, got up and executed a joke with equal fervor and gusto,
encouraged by his spirit.
At one of the dinners, I showed the group a segment of an episode
of NBC’s Producers’ Showcase from 1954 which had a satire of "Meet the Press"
called "Beat the Press." Caesar was in his Professor character the
purported expert on everything, with Reiner playing the earnest reporter
interviewing him about subjects ranging from mountain climbing to the pyramids,
and was being quizzed by real-life journalists Lawrence Spivak, H.V.
Kaltenborn, and Emanuel Freedman.
clip prompted a recollection from Reiner that he was on the Jack Paar Show with
Radio Foreign Correspondent H.V. Kaltenborn who talked about meeting Adolph
Hitler during World War II. “Hitler had
such a warm relationship with his dogs, he was so kind to them,” he recalled
which Reiner interjected: “Do you recall
his relationship with the Jews?” The story got resounding applause from the dinner
party. Reiner said that Paar’s audience
had a similar reaction and that the reporter couldn’t recover from the
resounding applause to make another point.
has given me both advice and friendship over the years, graciously sharing
stories and wisdom. Excited that I
introduced my NYU film class to Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, he said: “It’s the most fun I ever had making a
picture. We spent six months editing
clips from old Film Noir movies finding clips we could use. The name Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin’s
character) came from lines from other movies uttered by Charles Laughton and
Humphrey Bogart.” Showing him original
programs from Your Show of Shows prompted a story about how Bob Hope produced
his first national television special using the Show of Shows cast and crew,
“I’ve been thinking about it,” he once said to
You don’t need both.”
Retro Contributor Eddy Fried(feld) teaches comedy and film history at Yale and
Click here to order Carl Reiner's I Remember Me from Amazon
On Saturday, April 23, 1988, I attended
the Official Starlog Festival at the then-Penta Hotel in midtown Manhattan on
Seventh Avenue. It was my first time meeting makeup artist Tom Savini and several
cast members of Star Trek were also
on hand. Film producer Frank Marshall,
whom cineastes will know from The Warriors
(1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981), Poltergeist (1982), Back to the
Future (1985), and most recently The
Borne Legacy (2012), also showed up for a few hours to debut footage that director
Robert Zemeckis shot for a new upcoming film entitled Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which was based upon the 1981 novel by
Gary K. Wolf, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?The footage that we saw consisted of Bob
Hoskins interacting with Roger and other animated characters and it looked pretty
seemless.When the film opened two
months later, I was delighted to see my favorite cartoon characters appear in
The premise is fairly straight forward
and owes a huge debt to the film noirs
of the Thirties and Forties and there is more than a passing wink at Roman
Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) as Eddie
Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired by R.K. Maroon (the head of Maroon Cartoons) to
investigate allegations that Jessica Rabbit, the wife of cartoon star Roger
Rabbit (both of whom live in Toontown with other cartoon characters who act in
movies for real people producers and directors), is having an affair. Eddie hates toons because his brother, Teddy,
was killed by one some years earlier. Eddie
shows Roger pictures that he took of Roger’s wife, Jessica, playing patty-cake
with Marvin Acme. Roger interprets this
as his wife cheating on him, and when Acme is killed the next day by a fallen
piano, Roger moves to the head of the suspect list. Since toons are pretty much indestructible
(they have to be in order for them to be “killed” in their cartoons!), an evil
man named Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who presides over Toontown, knows
that the only way to kill a toon should one of them step out of line is to
submerge them into a vat of acid he calls “The Dip”. His minions are sent out to find Roger and
bring him back for the murder of Marvin Acme. This leads to a series of action-packed misadventures that are executed
in the tradition of most of the beloved Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoons.
This is the film’s first foray on to
Blu-ray, and its third go-round on DVD. It
comes in a 2-disc set with one Blu-ray and one DVD. The Blu-ray contains the following extras:
running commentary (runs in tandem with the film)
Roger Rabbit Shorts: Tummy Trouble, Roller
Coaster Rabbit & Trail Mix-Up
Who Made Roger Rabbit (10:55)
Scene: The Pig Head Sequence (5:30)
and After (3:07)
Behind the Ears documentary (36:37)
On Set! behind-the-scenes (4:50)
The DVD contains these additional extras:
Toontown Confidential, a feature that
can be enabled while watching the film which has facts and trivia
What is missing, and this is something
I have never seen on any home video release of the film be it VHS, laserdisc
(does anyone remember the controversy surrounding this release?), or
previous editions DVDs, is the CBS-TV special Roger Rabbit & the Secrets of Toon Town which aired on Tuesday,
September 13, 1988. Its exclusion might
be attributed to a rights issue. Fortunately, it can be seen here
on Youtube. The quality is not stellar,
however it is better than not having access to it at all.
All in all, this Blu-ray is a worthy
upgrade to a fun film that has earned its place in movie history.
With 1980s screen icons back in style, we're actually kind of excited over the prospects for Escape Plan, which pairs Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Formerly titled The Tomb, Entertainment Weekly describes the movie this way: "Stallone stars in the film as a brilliant prison architect who has to break out of the world’s greatest prison with Schwarzenegger, and presumably they do indeed conceive some kind of “plan” for their putative “escape.” The film also stars Jim Caviezel, 50 Cent, Sam Neill, and Vinnie Jones." In the photo above, the former Governator looks particularly cool. The flick will be released in North America in September. For more click here
A prop phaser rifle designed for one of two original pilot episodes for the original 'Star Trek' TV series has been sold at auction for an astronomical $231,000. The rifle was designed by Rueben Clamer for producer Gene Roddenberry and was wielded by William Shatner in a pilot episode for NBC. A previous pilot episode had been filmed with Jeffrey Hunter in the lead role, but the episode was rejected by NBC brass. Still, the network saw promise in Gene Roddenberry's creation and authorized a second pilot episode. The rests, as they say, is history. Click here for more about the gun, as well as film clips.
Cinema Retro was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of screenwriter Michael France at the age of 51. He died from complications from diabetes. France's big break was writing the screenplay for Sylvester Stallone's 1993 blockbuster Cliffhanger, which he did "on spec", meaning he pitched his idea to the studio and was not commissioned to write it. France also wrote story lines for the 1995 James Bond smash GoldenEye, though he was not credited with the actual screenplay, which was a source of a strained relationship with the Bond producers. Some of his ideas that were developed for GoldenEye were utilized in the 1999 Bond hit The World is Not Enough. In the 1970s, he published the short-lived 007 fan magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. France was a major comic book fan and wrote the screenplays for Ang Lee's 2003 version of The Hulk as well as the super hero flick The Punisher. On a personal note, I had lost contact with him in recent years, but have fond memories of both of us having many laughs at Eon Productions' spectacular London premiere of GoldenEye. The following year, I was a consultant on an official Bond celebration in Jamaica and managed to get an invite for France and his wife as guests. We had plenty of fun in the sun and these memories are quite special to me. My heart goes out to his family on the loss of this personable and very talented screenwriter. - Lee Pfeiffer
Here for your online viewing pleasure we have included the following nifty recreations of those great one-reel Super 8 sound horror and sci-fi digests of the past in a special salute to Castle Films and Ken Films! All but "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Return of Frankenstein" were edited by one Henry Senerchia, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org to direct your comments. Each film isguaranteed to produce 9 minutes of "warm fuzzies" for any "monster kid" who was lucky enough to grow up in the heyday of those great boxed film digests that winked seductively from spinning racks and shelves in elite camera departments of the finest department stores of the 1960's and 70's!
Showgirls! The Musical! is a satiric stage production based on the notorious NC-17 1995 film Showgirls that has had a vibrant after-life as a guilty pleasure for lovers of campy movies. The stage show debuts April 17 in New York City and runs through May 4. According to the web site DNAinfo.org:
"The new musical promises not only the “erotic dancing” of the original but also “questionable dancing,” according to a statement.
There will also be musical numbers like “Don't Lick that Pole, Girl” and “I’d Look Great in Versace” – as well as plenty of thrusting."
“Showgirls! The Musical!” will run at the Kraine Theatre at 85 E. Fourth St. from April 17 to May 4. All shows are at 8 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $18 from ShowgirlsTheMusical.com and can also be bought at the door for $20.
For more info, tickets and film clips visit the web site by clicking here
Winters in the classic gas station sequence from Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Jonathan Winters died on Thursday at age 87. Although superstardom eluded him, Winters is acknowledged as one of the most innovative comics of his era, having inspired others such as Robin Williams to emulate his talent for improvisation. Winters' off-beat, often crazy antics relied on off-the-cuff remarks rather than rehearsed comedy routines, though he did prove to be a popular television presence and released hit comedy albums. He was too unstructured to capitalize on his successful roles in classic comedy films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! A WWII veteran, Winters found early success with live comedy routines in nightclubs, but the pressure caused him to suffer two nervous breakdowns and he gave up the format in favor of making feature films and TV appearances. For more click here
If you're a Cinema Retro reader, chances are you've probably seen director Don Siegel's 1971 crime classic Dirty Harry more times than you can count. However, what you may not know is that the film was not originally developed for Clint Eastwood. Other actors from John Wayne to Burt Lancaster turned it down first and Frank Sinatra had actually been signed for the role before an injury to his hand made him drop out. The web site www.todayifoundout.com provides some fun facts about the making of the movie. Click here to read
Actor Robert Vaughn discusses his long career and his new film, The Magnificent Eleven, a UK-sports based movie loosely based on the classic Western The Magnificent Seven in which Vaughn co-starred with other stars-to-be. He humorously relates his greatest career satisfactions and disappointment (he won't get to play Hitler) and talks about his most embarrassing scene as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Click here to read
“There is no one like Jack Black… No, I read
that wrong- no one likes Jack Black,”s aid Roastmaster Bob Saget as the School
of Rock star and Tenacious D musician was honored at star-studded Friars Club
event held at the New York Hilton on Friday April 5.
Saget masterfully set the tone for the roast:
“To say that Jack Black is a one-trick pony is an insult to ponies… Jerry
Lewis, you’re an icon,” he told the Friar’s Club Abbott, who announced that he
is celebrating his 84thyear in the entertainment business, “but I’m
glad you don’t take a bow- you’d yank your balls out of your socks.”
“It’s unusual for Sarah Silverman to be at table
with comedians,” Saget said introducing her, “she’s usually under a table
jerking them off.” “Anyone who’s seen Bob do comedy knows it’s nothing like
Full House,” Silverman replied. “He played a sweet Dad in Full House, and now
plays a lousy comedian for a half-full house.” Turning to the corpulent actor
Oliver Platt, she said: “you’re distantly related to Princess Diana, which
means that bulimia is not an inherited trait… Jeff Ross made a sex tape and the
next day his girlfriend was arrested for bestiality.”
The star-studded guest list ranged from Al
Roker, Oliver Platt, to KISS founder Gene Simmons, Debbie Harry, Chad Smith,
Richard Marx, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, The Spin Doctors, Boyd Tinsley, Dee
Snider, Dreamworks’ co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg to Black’s Tenacious D
partner Kyle Gass.
“There are so many fossils here, I thought that
Ben Stiller was shooting another Night at the Museum sequel,” Silverman said.
Turning to Lewis, she said: “The last person who thought you were funny in
France just died. Jerry Lewis doesn’t think that women are funny and now no one
thinks Jerry Lewis is funny.”
“Jack Black is very shy- he prefers to be left
alone- that’s why he made Nacho Libre…School of Rock changed my life- because
you can’t get rid of anal warts… Jack is so fat, his last movie was shot by
Google Earth. He’s not starved for attention, just onion rings.”
Introducing Roastmaster General and creator and
star of Comedy Central’s “The Burn” Jeffrey Ross, Saget said: “Before the roast
he was standing next to Jerry Lewis in the lobby and somebody made a donation.
And Jerry took it. And then he humped the guy.”
“Bob is currently on a stand-up tour of
colleges, and it’s just nice to see someone not killing at a school these
days,” Ross said. “What a turnout: Dee Snider, Debbie Harry, Joan Osborne. Last
time I saw these three musicians together was in a Dollar CD bin… Is this a
roast or a charity concert for shingles? Turning to Mike Love, he said: “Don’t
you think it’s about time you change the name of the band to something more age
appropriate, like The Grateful Dead?”
Turning to the guest
of honor, he added: “Jack is widely considered a show business triple threat:
Diabetes, blood pressure, and gout… Anybody see Jack in the remake of King
Kong? Your version sucked so bad, King Kong jumped off The Empire State
Building! Jack sounds like Meat Loaf and his partner Kyle smells like meatloaf…
This is fun- I never roasted a marshmallow before!”
In its best incarnation, the roast is a
celebration of a career or life through testimonials barely veiled as insults
(and more often just insults themselves). Saget introduced Ross as one of his
closest friends (“he came to my father’s Shiva, and he was so funny he made my
mom choke on his kishka, which is what he calls his balls.”)
Ross’ interplay with Saget harkened back to the
legendary era of Friar’s roasts where most of the roasters were lifelong
friends, where Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Red Button, and Jan
Murray would jab each other like expert swordsmen. Comrades in insulting arms, they were
skilled at honoring someone they loved and respected through devout,
passionate, and creative dishonor. As
much as they were coming to see the guest of honor, audiences wanted and still
want to be part of the beloved family of friends that made fun of each other
with regularity and deep affection. With
close friends Saget and Silverman, Ross continued the private party tradition
where the roasters were happy to have you become a part of, where the
friendship made even the harshest barbs affectionate.
to Gene Simmons, he said: “You look like a Rabbi fucked an Indian Chief. What
happened, Gene? You used to rock and roll all night and party every day- now
you get up six times a night to go to the bathroom.” Getting Simmons to show
his infamously large tongue, he added “you’re two pieces of pumpernickel away
from being the Number 3 at the Carnegie Deli!”
Ross’ observation about Lewis: “We make fun
of Jerry Lewis, but what about the good things Jerry Lewis does? What about the
fact that just a few years ago, a six year old boy got up out of his wheelchair
and walked for the first time- to turn off the Jerry Lewis Telethon,” brought
down the house with the greatest laughs coming from Lewis himself.
Ross poignantly closed his set by telling the
capacity crowd how much the roasts mean to him. “I love, love coming to these
Friar’s roasts every year. Some of my best friends are on this dais and in this
room. I started out at these roasts. I will finish my life at these roasts. And
the fact that Jack Black knows enough about the traditions of comedy that he
would agree to do this is an inspiration to people with Downs Syndrome
Roast-contest winner and newcomer Amadeo Fusca
did an impressive job, starting by telling Saget “Thank you, Uncle Jesse.” To
Katzenberg he said, “I’ve seen your movies. Your dreams don’t work… Jeff Ross
is a veteran of these roasts- he shows up once a year and will probably be
“Jack Black will do anything for a movie role,
except sit-ups and pushups,” said Vh1’s Carrie Keagan; “This is my first
Friar’s roast and obviously Jerry Lewis’ last,” said Amy Shumer, “it’s hard to
film School of Rock when you’re not allowed 500 feet in front of one… how are
you holding a pen,” she said to Saget, “don’t your hands hurt from hanging on
by a thread for so long?” “In your version of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver
travelled right the video store,” Artie Lange said. “It’s very expensive to
bring Jerry Lewis to the roast- it costs $10,000 to bring him here and $10,000
to tell him where he is.”
There were also videos from Seth Rogen, James
Franco and Danny McBride, Matthew McConnaughey (“Jack Black is a very nice man,
unless you’ve met any other men”),Will Ferrell in his Ron Bergundy persona,
accusing Black of not returning “the AMC Hornet he borrowed,” and Shirley
MacLaine, talking about how much she loved Jack in “Save the Tiger,” confusing
him with former co-star, Jack Lemmon.
Cinema Retro contributor Eddy Friedfeld
teaches film and comedy history at NYU and Yale and will be hosting the Dick
Van Dyke Lifetime Achievement Award program at New York’s 92nd
Street Y on April 26th.
The Warner Archive has released That Hagen Girl as a burn-to-order DVD title. The 1947 soap opera stars Shirley Temple as Mary Hagen, a high school girl who is socially ostracized when it is suspected she was born illegitimately. The presumed father is Tom Bates (Ronald Reagan), who twenty years earlier had been romancing the high school prom queen. She suddenly vanished without explanation only to return with her parents and kept in isolation. The rumor mill indicated that she had given birth to a daughter, who was then given to a local childless couple to raise. Tom makes attempts to see his girlfriend but is rebuffed by her strict parents. Eventually Tom moves to another town but returns many years later when he inherits a house in his hometown. Now a successful lawyer, the handsome Tom turns heads even as the rumors resume over his presumed status as Mary's real father. Tom is unaware of the "scandal" and ironically ends up befriending young Mary and acting as her mentor. He later realizes that his presence in town has reignited the unsavory rumors that have haunted Mary since her birth. Her only real friend is Julia Kane, a young teacher who tries to stop the bullying of Mary by fellow students and school officials, who single her out as too undesirable to play the lead in the school play. Ultimately, Tom takes a bold stand to defend his presumed daughter- and in the process informs her of some very surprising facts about her heritage.
That Hagen Girl is predictably corny by today's standards, with even the wildest teenagers dressed in suits and ties and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-style dresses. A product of the era, I suppose. Nevertheless, it's hard not to find much of the goings-on unintentionally funny. Yet, the film does manage to pack a punch in terms of being among the first such movies to denounce bullying and illustrating its devastating impact on the sense of self-worth of those who are victimized by it. The seemingly bold subject matter of out-of-wedlock birth becomes somewhat watered down in the conclusion, but the movie remains an enjoyable and engrossing experience thanks to the considerable star power of Reagan and Temple, who segued rather nicely from child star to respected adult actress. Reagan is his usual stalwart self. If there wasn't an Oscar-worthy performance lodged within him, it can be said he was a far better actor than most of his future political opponents would ever concede. Lois Maxwell is particularly impressive and won a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer for her performance. (She would become beloved by movie fans worldwide as James Bond's original Miss Moneypenny.)
The DVD features a fine transfer and includes an original trailer.
Click here to order from the Warner Archive and to watch a preview clip
Nana stands in front of the camera. With her head in close-up, she poses: left,
full profile and then right. Throughout Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie,
the philosophising prostitute is both alluring and clinical, free-spirited and
forced, but despite her famous speech in the cafe (and being seen and perhaps
censured by capricious cinephiles) can she be held responsible for her actions
within the film
Godard’s piece (naturally enough for the New Wave) is a mixture of
different styles, as suggested by its teasing, nimble title, Vivre Sa Vie, which translates roughly
as “live life” and has been moulded variously into It’s My Life, My Life to Live and To Live Her Life across the territories. It suggests an approach mixing
direct cinema with cinema verite-style camera work to indicate a defiant,
almost decadent posturing that is nonetheless a delicate portrayal of its theme
and holds its truth in the quickest flecks of light caught on camera behind the
beguiling Nana. Indeed, Nana’s relationship with the camera changes from scene
to scene; she flirts with it almost as a client, forces herself on it when
dancing and is followed by it when fleeing terrified from the scene of a
shooting. The film’s subtitle is A Film
in Twelve Scenes. Simply speaking, it charts segments in the life of Nana,
a wife and mother who has left her family to tread the boards.
She aspires to life as an actress and it could be argued that she
subsequently spends most of the time fulfilling a series of roles, such as the
moll she becomes for most of the feature’s duration. From the opening frame, Godard goads us, makes us strain for the
meaning in her scenes, for the meaning of her mythos as a whole.
Following the frames in which we are given information about the film’s
festival-circuit run, the opening section is where Godard’s starlet seduces the
camera. Nana stands still, sometimes almost in silhouette. Her eyelashes are fluttering
and there are slight movements of her tender mouth and smooth throat as she
breathes. While an understated gesture, it is sexual, sordid even and oddly
uncomfortable for the viewer, so personal is the image that it reminds them of
their own breath and rhythmic deglutition. The music appears, then disappears
and we are denied Nana’s eyes as they are blotted out by obviously obtrusive
text in the titles. The referent paradox is clear: she is Miss X of the same
generation, one of the modern masses, yet a subject worthy of study and a
creature so captivating she must be periodically censored for her audience’s
The film is an exercise in illustrating the paradoxes of interpretation,
so much to consider, yet every element included is a potential deconstruction. Nana
is an appealing mix of style and naturalism, function and frivolity. Her short
hair makes her comparatively boyish (as she semi-acknowledges in her letter to
a potential Madam, stating that it could quickly be grown out), yet it also
shows off that sensual neck. From the opening scene where we only truly see the
back of her head and hair, bulky jacket and cigarette smoke, she may drink like
a man, play like a man and talk like a man, but she can also be moulded by a
man. She talks about her torturous life to her ex-husband, Paul, in the café.
We see their backs and note their similar shapes and the ferocity of fear for
her fate versus her desire to be seen as “special” by him. She acts in place of
his inaction. We are desperate for them to touch as shutting us out of their
conversation (as the framing does) makes us feel vulnerable too, all the while
praising Nana for her forward-thinking vehemence. Above all, however, her
hair’s sleek cut makes her look extremely functional, as underlined by her
clothes and chamber while working as a call girl. Nana has an innate glamour
that both enhances her sex appeal and sterilizes her environment.
Here is a girl who borrows her gestures from the gentlemen she galvanises.
Her head bobs with theirs on her bored, business-like but Byzantine journey;
while leading them often around the room, she also follows their lead when
allowing herself to be purloined for their pleasure. The easy, lazy angle of
her hand holding a cocked cigarette is her calling card and is the art of the
tart considering the inevitable conclusion of her next conquest.
Art or apparatus, Godard wants us to feel the grit under Nana’s shoes in
order to understand the poetry of the situation; she cannot appreciate the
responsibility she claims during the canteen scene as for her (an actress in
both senses) it must remain unsaid lest it becomes a piece of performed fiction.
As Susan Sontag states in Against
Interpretation, she’s there to be seen, not to explain, so we must fill in
the gaps for her. Against this interpretation, however, is our own
interpretation of that. As Godard changes his camera angles and plays with diegesis
we cannot help but imply an interpretation. According to Sontag, these are simply
snippets of a kaleidoscope, a section of discourse that relates to the
narrative frame but not to our assertive femme for whom (she feels) no
explanation is given. Yet despite Sontag’s clear investment in stating the
alternative, it becomes impossible not to see the implied implications of the
oddly innocent girl’s situation.
Indeed, Nana’s more masculine behaviour only serves to silhouette her
slightness and frailty. As Sontag comments, each one of the film’s twelve segments
recalls a text and, as the ‘text’ in the café sequence suggests, Nana’s story is
that of ‘The Chicken’, that which’s soul can only be found when she has given
of herself. However, this is not through negation of herself as Sontag suggests
– it is not exactly a process during which Nana has no control over the layers
that are stripped away, but it is controlled submission. We see Nana unburdened
in the scenes in which she drifts, when her smile shines brightly enough for it
to light up her eyes. This is when the body and soul of this little ‘chick’ are
peeled away and we notice Nana unconstructed, a Nana of pure feeling inside the
skin cage, a ghost inside the machine.
We listen to Nana and her lover discuss passages
of Poe and may think her mask is beginning to slip; despite the simple, clinical
setting alongside the business-like montages of our Mademoiselle and her men,
we begin to feel warmth. Nevertheless, this is hope for the future that feels
hallucinogenic, so far is it from the narrative’s precision-focused frame. Nana
has become a body, a sculpted doll not only in her looks but in her assertive,
masculine behaviour, so it is natural that this, too, must be discarded. This
occurs in our final sequence, wherein our miss is sold to another pimp. She is manhandled
across a bleak parking slot from man to man until she is shot. Her delicate
figure contrasts against the shaft of the gun, yet like it she has become
little more than a mechanism of male control, a cog in a wheel of a criminal
machine maintained by money and murder. Nana’s impregnation by the phallic
symbol represents a loss, a commercial union turned sour. Nana the machinic
mode of production has been decommissioned. To put it crudely, the bullet has
given her more holes than necessary for her occupation and has marked her. Particularly
in the cold, hard light of the modern-day chicks, she is simply an appendage
sullied, and therefore sullying by association, another man.
After her evisceration and an indelicate death
dance, therefore, she falls to the floor by the car.
It is here the viewer finally feels Nana in
a way that Sontag would probably support; we feel her precisely because we
don’t. As she lies lifeless in the street, her personality begs a playback the
fast-paced action will not permit. We watch in horror as first one car leaves
her, then the other half speeds towards her as though to crush the evidence of
her calamitous conclusion by driving straight across her and leaving a pool of
unbelievably black blood oozing and oscillating on the tarmac. Such is the
departure from the film’s abstracted gentility that the idea alone of this sort
of image – regardless of the film’s final fade before it becomes possible – remains
with the viewer. While Sontag complains bitterly that the bombastic director
destroys the thematic complexity of his piece by allowing Nana’s death to
mirror the parable of the ‘poule’, it actually seems to do the exact opposite.
It forces Nana to live in our mind’s eye. We recoil from the image despite the
fact it never worries our retinas. We instead see Nana in all humanity,
philosophy and beauty precisely because God(ard) deprives her – his muse and off-screen
wife Anna Karina – of it in those final few frames. By placing herself in that
scenario, she is given chance to bear her soul.
She is responsible.
Dr Karen Oughton is an academic and film journalist. Click here for her web site
(Viva Sa Vie is available as a special edition Blu-ray from Criterion. Click here to order from Amazon)
Annette Funicello, who was discovered by Walt Disney himself and who went on to become the most legendary of his original Mouseketeers, has died from multiple sclerosis at age 70. Ms. Funicello was one of the biggest child stars of the 1950s, receiving thousands of fan letters every week. She was also placed under contract to make feature films for Disney. As she matured, Funicello became the subject of a lot of jokes as she tried to maintain her wholesome image even while nature took effect and she blossomed into a voluptuous young woman. She had a short-lived romance with fellow teen idol Paul Anka and she also built a second career in the popular "beach movies" of the mid-to-late 1960s, often starring with Frankie Avalon. As she matured, Funicello married and delighted in her role as a stay-home mom, though she would occasionally be lured back into the spotlight. She did a beach reunion film with Avalon in 1987. Upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she set up a research foundation for neurological disorders in 1999. For more on her life and career click here
Some of the most inspired special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases are coming from independent, niche-market labels that afford certain film titles the kind of grandeur that would never be afforded them by major studios. Case in point: Synapse Films, which routinely releases first rate special editions of "B" movies, cult films and obscure foreign imports (often with an erotic edge). The most impressive Synapse release I've seen to date is their Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the 1971 Hammer horror film Twins of Evil. The movie is rather notorious for representing a kinky penchant for shocking violence and a marketing campaign that implied an on-screen lesbian relationship between Playboy models (and real-life twin sisters) Madelaine and Mary Collinson. (In reality, there are no such scenes in the film.) The story is centered in a rural European village during the 17th century. The townspeople are in awe of a local nobleman named Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a handsome but evil young man who uses his absolute power to indulge in a penchant for practicing witchcraft and seducing local girls to visit his castle where he seduces them into a life of sexual deviancy. Karnstein also has a penchant for killing off certain virgins for pleasure and selecting specific women to fall victim to his secret powers as a vampire. Karnstein's crimes results in the formation of The Brotherhood, a local group of puritan vigilantes headed by Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a religious zealot who is also a self-appointed witch hunter. The local women have as much to fear from him as they do from Karnstein, as The Brotherhood routinely accuses young girls of being in league with the vampire. This results in them being burned at the stake in order to have their souls redeemed. In short, this ain't a great place to live if you're a single woman. Into this hellish situation come Gustav's nieces, Freida and Maria (Madelaine and Mary Collinson), two recently orphaned teenagers who must now reside with their uncle. Upon being warned about Karnstein's nefarious activities, Maria chooses to be vigilant but the more daring Freida is intrigued by stories of sexual perversion and orgies. She secretly visits Karnstein, who seduces her and turns her into his vampire lover. He convinces her to assume the identity of her sister so that Mary is convicted of murder and is sentenced to be burned at the stake.
Twins of Evil came at a time when Hammer Films were struggling to maintain the audiences they had built in the previous decade. By 1971, seemingly every studio had made an attempt to emulate Hammer's success. The result was that there was a sea of imitators and the Hammer brand became in danger of imitating the imitators. The studio decided to rely more and more on nudity and overt violence, often at the expense of storylines and character development. Although this film is part of that exploitation campaign, it ranks with the better Hammer efforts of the period thanks to a good script, intelligent direction by John Hough and an impressive performance by Peter Cushing, as one of the least sympathetic heroes he ever portrayed. Damien Thomas was being groomed as the next Christopher Lee, with the intention of being a reliable leading man for Hammer. Although he makes a compelling villain, stardom was not on the horizon for him. The Collinson twins (both dubbed for their roles) provide plenty of eye candy, but the nudity that is overtly exploited in the publicity photos is somewhat fleeting. Twins of Evil is one of the gorier Hammer films, but it also remains one of the most compelling. It ranks alongside the other two great witch hunting-themed films of the era, The Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan's Claw.
Synapse Films has presented Twins of Evil as a truly outstanding Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The extras are to die for, if you'll pardon the pun. These include a superb documentary about the making of the film that is almost feature length. Directed and produced by Daniel Griffith, this is a fairly expensive extravagance for a niche market DVD company. The fascinating documentary is titled The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil and features a very informative overview of the Hammer vampire trilogy that derived from the classic 19th century vampire novel Carmilla that introduced lesbianism into the genre. (The first two films were The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire.) The documentary includes interesting insights from a wealth of Hammer and cult movie experts including director Joe Dante, director John Hough, Sir Christopher Frayling, film critic Kim Newman and publisher Tim Lucas. It's even more entertaining if you are not well-versed in Hammer lore. Other extras include a featurette that covers a private collection of Hammer film props, a stills gallery, TV spots and trailers, an isolated music and effects track and a deleted scene that absurdly presents teenage girls singing a 1970's-style love song.
In all, a great release from Synapse Films, a company that continues to impress us with their zeal for paying tribute to often overlooked and underrated films.