We all think we know what goes into staging a major
theatrical production. There is a writer and a script. There are actors, a
director, scenery and props. We realize that there are people behind the scenery
and props and probably a few other people whose responsibilities we can’t be
certain of. "Theatreland", from the people at the educational DVD
company, Athena,fills us in on all the things between the lines, between the
words and between productions at the same theatre, thus affording us an inside
look at the staging a major theatrical event..
Filmed over the course of six months at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre in
London's West End "Theatreland" follows Sean Mathias as he begins his
term as Artistic Director of the esteemed venue. He has two high profile
productions he is preparing: Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and
a new play based on Truman Capote's "Breakfast at Tiffany's". There isn't anywhere the camera doesn't take us. From rehearsal space to stage,
from designing a set to dismantling it, from the dressing rooms to the lobby
bar, we get a look at everything and everyone that makes a theatre production
run. We follow the actors through rehearsals. We follow the carpenters and
painters who build the sets. We follow the theatre manager and staff, from
backstage to front of house and learn just how much goes into putting a
production together. We are treated to all this in one of London's theatre
jewels, first built in 1720, moved to the south side of the street 100 years
later and said to be haunted by the
ghost of one of its former managers. Renovated over 100 years ago, the Theatre Royal Haymarket is in constant
need of maintenance. We watch repairmen work. We watch ushers work. We watch,
well, you get the idea. The delight of it all is we also get to observe such
talented actors as Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in "Waiting for
Godot" and Anna Friel and Joseph Cross in "Breakfast in
Tiffany's" as they prepare and perform.
We learn how a set goes from an artist's model
through its off-site construction and rebuilding at the theatre. It's a
wondrous process to see. Especially when the Theatre Royal Haymarket stage
switches out from the sparse, barren set of "Godot" to the
three-story, colorful and rotating set of "Tiffany's." If this
documentary had been written by Dr. David Reuben in the 1960s it may have been
titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Theatre: But Were
Afraid to Ask." Don't be afraid of this DVD, though; it is both highly
educational and entertaining. Hopefully you won't need the subtitles; some of
the Cockney accents can be difficult!
about domineering fathers and neglected offspring are at least as old as the
Bible and Shakespeare. Gilles Legrand’s
“You Will Be My Son” (2012) is a worthy addition to the genre.
de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) is distressed to learn that his friend Francois
Amelot (Patrick Chesnais) has been diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer. Paul is the wealthy owner of a
French vineyard, and Francois has served for more than 30 years as his estate
manager: “a fancy name for winemaker,” Francois comments. When Francois announces that he’s too weak
from his illness to begin the new production season, Paul’s son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) steps up,
eager to take on the responsibility. He
handles sales for the company, and he knows Francois’ routine through years of
observation. But Paul has no faith in
Martin’s abilities as a vintner, and the two men moreover have a strained
personal relationship. Paul instead
gravitates to Francois’ son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), who has returned from
America after hearing of his father’s illness. To Paul, Philippe is everything that his own son isn’t -- charming,
self-confident, and by instinct and experience, a promising winemaker. As Paul begins to displace Martin with
Philippe, symbolically at first and then with the idea of making Philippe his
son through legal action, resentments seethe and eventually explode.
In an American version 50 or 60 years ago, Paul would have been
played by a powerhouse like Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, or Spencer
Tracy. Niels Arestrup (who may be
familiar to U.S. audiences from roles in “War Horse” and “The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly”) invests the role with comparable ferocity. Deutsch and Bridet (who would have been
Anthony Perkins and Ben Gazzara opposite Steiger or Cobb back in the day) offer
solid support. The scenes between
Arestrup and Deutsch are so raw and real that the confrontations are almost as
painful for the viewer as for the emotionally starved Martin. Equally fine performances are provided by
Chesnais as the ailing Francois and Valérie Mairesse as his outspoken spouse
Madeleine, who watch the situation with growing dismay, and Anne Marivin as
Martin’s supportive wife Alice.
As Paul confronts Martin, Martin confronts Philippe, and Alice
confronts Paul, you’re initially inclined to regard Paul and Philippe as the
villains and Martin as the victim with whom you should sympathize. However, as the story progresses, Legrand
begins to paint the characters in more ambiguous shades. A development late in the movie seems like a
macabre twist out of a Guy de Maupassant tale, setting up what would appear to
be a happy ending for some of the characters. But is it a happy ending?
Cohen Media Group’s classy Blu-ray includes a sharp transfer in
French with English subtitles, deleted scenes, interviews with Deutsch and
Legrand, the theatrical trailer, and a handsome inset booklet with credits and
stills from the movie.
Dr. Mark Davidson (John Neville) comes back to the Space research lab with a
new wife, his government superiors want to know more about her. And why are
scientists all over the world who are also working on the same equation as his
collegues - the ability to use mental projection to travel to the other side of
the galaxy - dying in the exact same way? Could the fact that his wife appears
impervious to pain and unable to blink be a clue as to her potential
extra-terrestrial origins? These are the questions Unearthly Stranger
raises and then sets out to answer in a fairly breathless fashion. Although a
considerable amount of time is spent on men in suits talking to each other in
offices, the film represents the power of a good idea. As Dr. Davidson
gradually comes to learn the truth about his wife it is truly heartbreaking.
Great performances and excellent black and white cinematography give the film a
power it may have lacked in the hands of a more pedestrian filmmaker.
John Krish was best known for his work on 1960s British television including The
Saint and The Avengers, and he packs a lot of plot into the film's
brief running time. Unearthly Stranger most closely resembles an episode
of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, if it was scripted by
John Wyndham (author of 'The Midwich Cuckoos' and 'Day of the Triffids'). In
actual fact the film was written by Rex Carlton, whose best known credit is the
infamous The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962). Where that film fails on
virtually every level, Unearthly Stranger was produced by Albert Fennel
who was also responsible for The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle
(1962), and later on Legend of Hell House (1973), all now considered
classics of British horror cinema. His experience, also honed in television,
helped Unearthly Stranger share a similar level of quality.
many other black and white British science fiction films of the period, this
film depicts a 'cosy apocalypse'. The world could potentially come to an end,
but we can be damned civilized about it. As such it would make a good companion
film to The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) or Invasion (1965), the
latter also shortly receiving a DVD release from Network.
British Film' collection was launched by Network Distributing last year and
they plan to release over 450 vintage films on blu ray or DVD over a five-year
period. From classics such as Victim (1961) and Countess Dracula
(1971) to long-unavailable shockers like Baby Love (1968) and The
Nightcomers (1971), and with plenty of other rarities in-between, it is a
project for retro movie fans to keep a close eye on.
Unearthly Stranger can be ordered from Network Distributing here.
first time a comedy swept the Academy Awards was in 1934, when Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night took home the
prizes for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress
(Claudette Colbert), and Best Screenplay. (The next time all five major awards
were snagged by one picture was in 1975 for One
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)
was the beginning of the screwball comedy movement. It Happened One Night may not have been the first screwball comedy,
and it may not even really be a
screwball comedy (according to critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate, in a
video conversation supplement in which they discuss screwball comedies, Happened is lacking in the chaotic
elements that one would find in, say, Twentieth
Century, which came out the same year, or even Bringing Up Baby, perhaps the quintessential screwball comedy). But
while Capra’s beloved film is often lumped into the category of screwballs, one
thing is certain—it’s the archetype for the modern American romantic comedy. And Hollywood keeps
remaking it, so to speak, over and over.
picture came out in early 1934 when the movie business was still in the
“pre-Code” era (the Hays Code didn’t kick in full-force until July 1 of that
year), so Capra and company were able to get away with some rather risqué
elements, such as two unmarried people bunking up in a motel together with only
the “wall of Jericho” between them. Or Clark Gable demonstrating the fine art
of how men remove their clothes. Or Claudette Colbert revealing her shapely
gams in order to catch a ride on the road. Yes, that’s one thing we learn from It Happened One Night—how to hitchhike.
Capra was hired by the poverty-row studio, Columbia, as the talkies began, and
in a few short years the director elevated the company to the majors. He then
began a hugely successful run, winning three Best Director Oscars in five
years. His pictures later became known as “Capra-corn,” for their idealistic
and sometimes sentimental look at Americana. But, as pointed out in the
excellent supplemental documentary included on the disc, Capra’s films
definitely had a dark side to them. Perhaps not so much in Happened, but the evil that men do is certainly present in, say, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or It’s a Wonderful Life.
It Happened One
an excellent lesson in screenwriting, structure, dialogue, and pacing. It’s a
near-perfect picture, and it’s still funny today. Gable is at his most winning.
Colbert is terrific, although it’s stated several times throughout the
supplements how much of a snooty b*tch she was during filming—she didn’t want
to make the picture, complained the entire time, insisted on twice her normal
salary to do it, and told friends after its completion that she’d just made the
worst movie in her career. She changed her tune after winning the Oscar, and
then she had nothing but praise for Capra and the film. Those fickle movie
does their usual bang-up job. The new 4K digital restoration is gorgeous.
Extras include the previously mentioned Haskell/Lopate video; the
feature-length documentary on Capra, Frank
Capra’s American Dream; an interview with Frank Capra Jr. from 1999; a new
digital transfer of Capra’s very first film, the silent 1921 Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House, with a
new score by Donald Sosin; and—the most interesting—the hour-long televised AFI
tribute to Capra from 1982 (it’s great fun playing spot the celebs!). An essay
by critic Farran Smith Nehme fills the glossy booklet.
of Menace: The Business of Horror Cinema
by Richard Nowell
229 x 152 mm
REVIEW BY ADRIAN SMITH
Many books have been written about
the horror genre, from almost every conceivable perspective. Here however, is a
somewhat different approach: the horror industry as an economy. Films, after
all, require finance, and whilst artistic decisions are usually at the
forefront of analysis, without the money men in the background cinema as we
know it would not exist today.
Menace, with a
tribute to William Castle on its cover, attempts to give the reader a history
of the horror genre from the 1930s Universal cycle through to the American
remakes of today. A collection of essays on the horror genre, one will also
find an in-depth look at the re-launch of Hammer as a brand and business
entity, the zombies of Poverty Row and many more. It is a fascinating approach
to the subject and causes the reader to ponder issues in a way they were
probably not thought of before, such as the economic power of atmosphere; what
exactly is atmosphere and how is it defined and turned into a commodity by
filmmakers? Using the unsettling British horror City of the Dead (1960,
U.S. title Horror Hotel) as an example, Robert Spadoni discusses how the
film foregrounds atmosphere over narrative and how the two are often in
conflict with each other.
This collection helps redress the
balance between an understanding of the horror film as an entertainment medium
and as a business. This will be of great interest to fans of the genre, but
also points out wider issues that go beyond horror into the film industry as a
whole. It is often said that you will always make money in the film business
from horror and sex. Perhaps this suggests an obvious direction for Nowell's
It's always fun to look back on how retro films were regarded by critics at the time of their initial release. Here is the evaluation of Frank Sinatra's 1967 hit "Tony Rome" as written by a new, upcoming film critic named Roger Ebert!
Intrada has released a new, definitive CD of Henry Mancini's classic score for Howard Hawks' "Hatari!". See below for description from Screen Archives:
World premiere release
of actual Henry Mancini soundtrack to terrific Howard Hawks adventure film set
in Africa, starring John Wayne, Elsa Martinelli, Red Buttons. Wayne and company
capture rare animals for various world zoos. Some species are easier to catch
than others. Elephants inspire Mancini to create legendary tune "Baby
Elephant Walk", available for first time ever in its original soundtrack
guise. Famous swaggering tune for high register Eb clarinet also figures during
climactic "Search For Dallas". Leopard, buffalo, monkey, giraffe,
ostrich all get their say but incredibly dangerous rhino sequences are what
bring out Mancini's equally legendary main theme, often heard on choir of
French horns in unison. In 1962, Mancini re-recorded just 30 minutes of
highlights for admittedly sensational RCA album. Now enjoy Mancini's complete
original recordings, presented mostly in stereo from Paramount Pictures scoring
session elements. A few sections required use of mono stems to allow restoration
of complete soundtrack. This new hour long release carries landmark
significance: every Mancini album during this most famous period of his career
(Breakfast At Tiffany's, Hatari, Charade, Experiment In Terror, The Pink
Panther) was heavily truncated and completely re-arranged with emphasis on
dance mood. Along with new release of Charade, this marks exciting debut of an
actual Mancini soundtrack from the era! Danger, romance, thrills, comedy, all
getting rich Mancini melody! Unforgettable original campaign artwork is icing
on the cake. Henry Mancini conducts. Available while quantities and interest
remain. - Douglass Fake Intrada Producer
01. The Sounds Of Hatari 4:17
02. Main Title 2:35
03. Safari Bar Piano Blues 1:24
04. Giraffe Country 1:34
05. Just For Tonight (Instrumental) 2:10
06. Paraphrase I 1:40
07. Night Side 2:35
08. Dallas Has A Plan 1:31
09. Trip To Masai Wells 1:06
10. Indian Comes Home 0:58
11. Just For Tonight (Solo Piano) 2:24
12. Swift Animal Chase 0:49
13. Dead Elephant 0:37
14. Night Side (Record Player) 2:19
15. Leopard And Buffalo 1:51
16. The Crocodile 1:08
17. Your Father’s Feathers 1:50
18. Baby Elephant Walk (Short) 1:57
19. Crocodile, Go Home! 1:10
20. Big Band Bwana 1:46
21. Paraphrase II 1:26
22. Wildebeest Hunt 2:36
23. Brandy Sniffer 2:09
24. Ice Bucket Blues 1:42
25. Monkey Suits 2:04
26. Baby Elephant Walk (Long) 3:14
27. Elephant Scare 0:49
28. More Rhino 0:53
29. Burnt Fingers 2:59
30. Search For Dallas 4:23
31. Just For Tonight (Chorus) 2:10
32. Finale 0:19
Timeless Media has reissued it's massive set "M Squad: The Complete TV Series Special Edition" containing all 117 episodes of the gritty show that ran for three seasons on American TV commencing in 1957. The series was known for its hard-hitting and realistic look at crime in and around Chicago. Lee Marvin starred as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense cop assigned to crack down on organized crime in the vicinity. Like "The Naked City", "East Side, West Side" and "The Untouchables", the show was credited for having intelligent, believable scripts and fine performances from the cast and guest stars. The program's success helped to pave the way for Lee Marvin to be a major presence on the big screen.
The initial Timeless Media release of this set was released in 2008 and contained a special bonus soundtrack CD (Count Basie and young John Williams were among the legends who performed on the score and title theme.) That disc has been dropped in favor of a bonus DVD that presents Lee Marvin in early TV appearances on "Wagon Train", "Checkmate", The Virginian" and "Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker", an obscure 1963 telecast. They are manna from Heaven for Lee Marvin fans (and who isn't?)
One minor gripe: the photo on the box cover is not Marvin in "M Squad": it's actually a well known publicity still from John Boorman's 1967 big screen crime classic "Point Blank". Also, the quality of the "M Squad" episodes varies quite a bit, as they were taken from the best elements available. Purists may be critical of the transfers but the bottom line is that this is a highly impressive boxed set that presents an American acting legend at his very best. Now all you'll need is 117 hours of free time to enjoy the entire experience.
Here is the official press release:
of the most memorable of the early television police dramas,M Squaddebuted in 1957 and ran for
three seasons on NBC. Lee Marvin, a decorated WWII Marine veteran of the South
Pacific, where he received the Purple Heart in the Battle of Saipan, stars as
Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M
Squad Division. On November 4th, 2014, Timeless Media Group, a
division of Shout! Factory LCC, will releaseM
Squad: The Complete TV Series-Special Editionon DVD. All 117 episodes of the
television series as originally aired, as well as a brand new bonus disc
featuring Lee Marvin guest star appearances inWagon Train, Checkmate, The
Virginianand as the host ofLawbreaker)
Squad's (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized crime and corruption in
America's Second City. Marvin's portrayal of a tough undercover officer, whose
perseverance and potential for violence, but with utter cool, permeates each
gritty episode, gave Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to
make him a star.
Director Mike Nichols, one of the most influential artists of his generation, has passed away at age 83. Nichols is one of the few people who could claim to be the winner of the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards. Nichols rose to fame with his comedy act in which he teamed with Elaine May. He made a successful transition into feature film with his 1966 screen adaptation of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", a triumphant film debut that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The following year he won the Oscar for his 1967 classic "The Graduate". Other films over the decades included "The Birdcage", "Working Girl", "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Silkwood". His plays include "Barefoot in the Park", "Death of a Salesman" and "The Odd Couple".
Burton and Taylor on the set of Nichols' 1966 triumph "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
If you're pondering what to get your significant other for a holiday gift, look no further than "Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series", which has been released in a boxed set by MPI Home Entertainment. For many, series star Jeremy Brett was- and remains- the definitive interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. There have been countless actors who have provided wide-ranging performances as Holmes and most of them are commendable in their own way. However, Brett's debut as Holmes in this classic British TV series met with instant international acclaim even among the notoriously fussy Holmes scholars who never seem to be pleased with screen presentation of their literary hero.
The MPI set contains:
Every episode of the series (41 episodes on 12 DVDs)
Includes the five feature film-length adventures
Profusely illustrated collector's guide booklet with extensive essays by film historian Richard Valley
Interview with director John Madden and screenwriter Jeremy Paul
Interview with series co-star Edward Hardwicke
"Daytime Live" show with guest stars Brett and Hardwicke
Sherlock Holmes Museum short
Vintage Sherlock Holmes series promo
In all, a superb and irresistible release that will allow you many hours of matching wits with the world's greatest sleuth. What do you get for that special person for the holidays? The answer should be elementary.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER DVD SET FROM AMAZON AND TO VIEW PROMOTIONAL CLIPS FOR MANY EPISODES.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE SET FROM AMAZON ON BLU-RAY
have been entire books dedicated to the cinema of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven
and with good reason. Known for pushing the envelope of what is acceptable
onscreen in both sexuality and violence, his movies have been celebrated and
condemned - often by the same critic at different times! To one degree or another
I have enjoyed every Verhoeven film I've seen all the way back to the brilliant
Soldier of Orange (1977) but it was RoboCop (1987) that stomped across the
world and made it possible for the madman to make nearly anything he wanted. I
wonder what would have happened if this film - his first English language
effort- had not been a huge financial success. Would we have had a series of
progressively worse sequels with Rutger Hauer ravishing maidens and slaying
nobles for gold? Maybe in a better world.....
+ Blood (1985) takes place in Western Europe in 1501 and begins during an
attack on a small Italian city by a group of mercenaries employed by the city's
rightful ruler Arnolfini (Fernardo Hilbeck). These soldiers have been promised a
full day of consequence free looting if they succeed in retaking the city
but once the job is done Arnolfini soon reneges on this offer when he sees them
destroying the place. The commander of the troops, Hawkwood (Jack
Thompson), is heartsick over a nun that he mistakenly harmed during the attack
and Arnolfini promises to get medical attention for her if the commander will
use the cavalry to eject the mercenaries from the city without their loot. This
betrayal is not taken well, especially by Hawkwood's former lieutenant Martin
(Rutger Hauer). Soon after the group is run off, Martin is burying his
stillborn child when he unearths a wooden statue of Saint Martin of Tours. This
saint with a sword is seen by the mercenaries' cleric as a sign from God
to follow Martin as their new leader.
in the retaken city Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson) has been betrothed
to Lady Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They meet for the first time when Steven greets
her caravan on the way to their wedding and love seems to blossom between the
two. But then the entourage is attacked and robbed by Martin's group. Arnolfini
is seriously injured during the raid while Agnes is carried away concealed
among her valuable dowry. That night Martin discovers Agnes and, although the other
men desire to gang rape her, Martin claims her for himself. He first rapes her
but then Agnes starts flirting with him, hoping to gain his protection. She
becomes his concubine after a fashion and is dragged along on the mercenaries'
travels. She easily convinces Martin that he is in love with her and works carefully
on the other members of the band to get them to accept her. She appears to have
completely given up on her former life and forgotten her betrothal.
enough the mercenaries come upon a castle where, unknown to them, the
inhabitants are infected with the Black Death. The group captures the
castle with the help of Agnes, who proves herself very resourceful in many ways.
But Steven is determined to reclaim his bride to be and turns to Hawkwood for
help. Hawkwood only wants to live a quiet life caring for the former nun he had
injured but Steven uses force and threats against the nun to coerce the old
soldier to help in his pursuit of Martin. Once they locate the mercenaries they
realize that they don't have sufficient force to take the castle and lay siege to
it. Inside the castle Martin asks Agnes where her true loyalties lie but she is
ambiguous hinting that she will be happy with whoever wins. Outside the castle,
the dreaded Plague spreads among Steven's forces and even infects Hawkwood. After
an impressive battle with an incredible siege engine built by the well-educated
Steven, the mercenaries capture Steven and shackle him in the castle's courtyard.
Here Agnes feigns hatred of her ex-groom and even has sex with Martin in front
lancing his boils, Hawkwood is able to cure himself of the plague but he cannot
continue the siege alone. Instead, he catapults pieces of an infected dog over
the castle walls and when one chunk lands near the chained Steven, he flings it
into the place's water well. Agnes sees this happen and Steven tells her that
she can decide whether or not to tell the mercenaries.
fears of the Black Death creeping into the castle, the band of mercenaries want
to leave the place but Martin persuades them to stay. Agnes does not warn them
about the well and watches as they drink infected water. However, when Martin begins to drink, she slaps the cup
from his hand. As several of the group start to show signs of the sickness,
they hurl Martin into the tainted well and, as she did after Steven's capture,
Agnes joins in the abuse of Martin. At this point Hawkwood and Arnolfini return
to the castle with an army and attack. Inside the castle, Steven and Martin cooperate
to save each other, but with a fresh siege underway there is no way to know who
will live and who will die.
looking for a sweet natured adventure film with noble knights and derring-do would
do well to back slowly away from this movie. Vicious, nasty, violent and cruel
are just a few of the words I would use to describe both the story and the
characters in this brutal medieval epic. All of the people in this story act in
selfish, ruthless ways at almost every turn and only seem driven by the most primitive
of emotions. Even the very few acts of kindness can be seen as self-serving in
a world where everyone is fighting just to survive. That's not to say the film
is not entertaining. Indeed, I would say Flesh + Blood is supreme fun for fans
of the harsher kinds of cinema. The film is one part exploitation, two parts
graphic violence, one part costume drama and one part historical romance - as
long as you don't need the romance to be the chaste kind!
enthusiasts (Godzilla fans in particular) can join Cinema Retro’s Rod Barnett
along with Troy Guinn as they start a new series of podcasts entitled “Controversial
Kaiju”. The first episode focuses on “All Monsters Attack” (1969) (aka “Godzilla’s Revenge”). The broadcast can
be downloaded through this link.
George A. Romero didn’t invent the concept of zombies.
They’ve had a spot in Haitian folklore for years (as explored in older films
like White Zombie and more
contemporary films like Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the
Rainbow ). There was also the French World War I reactionary J’Accuse(1919) by Abel Gance,
which featured actual footage from the battleground. Some horror enthusiasts
might even argue that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.P Lovecraft’s
story Herbert West: Re-Animator were also
significant early entries in the zombie canon.
What Romero can be credited with, however, as the recent
documentary Birth of the Living Dead examines, is the
mainstream popularity of zombies. It all began when he made the film Night of the Living
Dead (1968). It features a group of wayward strangers who’ve found
themselves stuck in an old farmhouse in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The
film is remembered for its poignant critique of the 60s, when the Vietnam war
was raging, home televisions were still new, and race relations were tenuous at
best (the film was notable for featuring African-American actor Duane Jones as
the male lead). The movie was filmed on a shoestring budget but didn’t stop it from
becoming a cult success that’s still beloved by countless legions of dedicated
A decade later, he came back and made Dawn of the Dead in 1978. It had a
similarly modest budget as his first movie. This film takes place during a
zombie outbreak and centers on a group of survivors who’ve taken up shelter in
the town’s shopping mall. Like the first, it’s full of a ton of symbolism and
was a timely commentary on the day’s rampant consumerism. Despite its highly
graphic content, it became a humongous success both financially and critically,
as it’s almost universally praised by all major movie critics, and it saw its
own re-make in 2004.
Day of the Dead came seven years
later in 1985 and featured a battle between the United States military and a
horde of zombies. Viewers weren’t sure exactly which side to take, as this
installment was pretty ambiguous and caused some watchers to root for the
zombies rather than their very military. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as big of a
commercial success as Dawn was, but it’s a much beloved cult film that
has become a staple of “Grindhouse
Fridays” on El Rey Network, is streamable through some websites, and not only was it remade a few
decades later on, but there is yet another remake in the works.
The trilogy garnered a humongous fan base and inspired many
subsequent movies, but George Romero himself kept quiet on the zombie front for
the rest of the 80s and all throughout the 90s. It was a bit of shock when he
released another zombie flick in the 2000s.
Land of the Dead was released in 2005
in the midst of the Bush administration and featured an opportunistic
politician who tries to use the zombie crisis outlined in the movie as a means
to achieve his own agenda. It was a modern day commentary on war and
xenophobia. Land of the Dead became a great success and grossed over
$46,000,000. It wasn’t considered as good as the movies Night or Dawn, but
critics thought it was an overall decent addition to the Romero library.
Diary of the Dead was the next step
for Romero in 2007. It’s a fictional documentary similar to other cult-hits
like Cannibal Holocaust or The Blair Witch
Project. The film was made to look like amateur footage and makes liberal
use of the shaky-cam technique. This movie strayed rather far from the original
trilogy through its heavy use of CGI but still enjoyed some positive reviews,
although it wasn’t quite as well received as Land.
The final Romero zombie-film was Survival of the
Dead, released in 2010. It took place on a zombie-infested island just
off the coast of North America. This film was both a box-office bust and a
critical failure. It was panned by critics and hardcore Romero fans alike as
being stale and an overall disappointment. This movie alone has likely caused Romero
to lose any future financial investments for a new zombie film down the road,
but luckily it wasn’t bad enough to tarnish the reputation that Romero gained
for his work in the original trilogy.
Apart from his own directorial work, Romero has had a positive and
lasting impact on today’s culture and has inspired a new generation of
directors and filmmakers who grow up enchanted by his work. Zombies have
infected every level of pop-culture from books, to television shows, to movies,
to art, and even to real world events like zombie walks and horror conventions.
He’s inspired many directors to create their own vision of the zombie
apocalypse in new and interesting ways. Danny Boyle, the creator of 28 Days Later, is one of the most
critically acclaimed new director of zombie flicks, and there have been a ton
of other successful zombie stories made that have spanned multiple genres and
George Romero is very much like a modern day Bram Stoker, who took
the old myth of vampires and turned it into a modern day cultural success, and,
like Stoker, his legacy will live on as his movies continues to inspire legions
of fans and newer work based on his original films.
Shout! Factory will re-issue the entire series of "Secret Agent" (aka "Danger Man") starring Patrick McGoohan as a 17 DVD set. This edition will feature new extra features. See press release below:
“Every government has its secret service branch. America,CIA; France,Deuxième Bureau; England,MI5.NATOalso
has its own. A messy job? Well that's when they usually call on me or someone
like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.” So begins the dramatic 1960s
British spy seriesSecret
Agent. On December 9th, 2014 bring home the adventures of John
Drake with the complete series set of this classic spy show. The 17-DVD box set
also contains a number of bonus features, including audio commentaries and a
brand new interview with Catherine McGoohan.
McGoohan (The Prisoner) stars as John Drake inSecret Agent, the popular
television series from the Golden Age of Spy Thrillers, the 1960s. Travelling
the world to capture international criminals, John Drake rarely solved problems
with a gun, preferring to use charm and wit over violence to bring in the bad
Wednesday night, Hollywood took a step back in time and it was a beautiful
thing.Italy’s most glamorous export,
the lovely Sophia Loren, made a rare visit to screen two of her films to an
adoring crowd at the Dolby Theater.The
movie legend was greeted with a standing ovation when she walked out in a
shimmering gown, escorted by director Rob Marshall who was clearly in awe of
the star he cast in Nine, her last Hollywood
film.Settling into two plush seats
separated by a mountain of roses, Marshall introduced her as “A woman with a
heart as big as all of Italy.”Loren
opened up about her life, career and leading men in a 45 minute Q&A,
punctuated by frequent laughter and some poignant moments when she remembered how
movies offered an escape from the misery of post-WWII Italy.
came across as the most humble of stars – illustrated the moment she stepped
onstage when a fan approached from the audience and began speaking directly to
her! Loren told the audience she felt
she “owed” her fans so much and that she never forgot where she came from, “…
Naples and the war and terrible things.” Marshall deftly got the program back on track and Loren was off, talking
about starting off as an extra in Quo
Vadis, connecting with director Vittorio De Sica who cast her in a number
of films which made her a huge star in Italy – attracting the attention of
Hollywood (and a 1962 Best Actress Oscar for her role in Two Women, making her the first actress to win for a foreign
age 80, Loren showed the style, charm and humor that captivated audiences for
over five decades. When Marshall queried
her about her leading men, she remembered Cary Grant (her Houseboat co-star) as being “a special person” and Daniel Day
Lewis, who worked with her on Nine,
as “one of the best alive”. Marlon
Brando’s name elicited a dramatic pause – which had the audience laughing. She related how Brando pulled a diva move on
the first day of production of A Countess
From Hong Kong, showing up hours late to the set. The film’s writer/director, the legendary
Charlie Chaplin had some strong words with Brando and from that point on he
behaved. She also enjoyed making It Started In Naples with Clark Gable,
but remembered he had a watch that would ring at exactly 5 PM every day and
then he’d leave. Done. No late hours for him!
(Photos copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
Marshall also brought up the world-famous photo of Loren ogling Jayne
Mansfield’s generous cleavage. Loren’s
rationale? “I thought everything was
gonna fall out.”
of Loren’s two sons, Edoardo Ponti, came out to introduce The Human Voice, a 26-minute short he directed and co-wrote, based
on the 1930 Jean Cocteau play. Ponti’s version features his mother in virtually
every scene, delivering a rambling, heartfelt monologue to an unseen lover
about to marry another woman. This tour
de force would be daunting for a young star, but for a woman on the cusp of
80? Loren crushed it, as they say,
exhibiting a wide range of emotion from desperation to giddy delight, proving
her acting chops are still gloriously intact. Ponti noted that, “In an age when we idolize the wrong person, tonight
it’s the right person.” The crowd
short was followed by a restored print of Loren’s 1964 film, Marriage Italian Style, directed by
fellow Napolitano, Vittorio De Sica. Loren’s performance earned her a 1965 Oscar nomination for Best
Actress. The film was also nominated for
an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film in 1966.
more than three hours of film and conversation, Ms. Loren wisely skipped the
after-party, no doubt preferring to get her beauty sleep. Who can blame her? Molte Grazie!
few weeks ago, I posted a review of The Criterion Collection’s excellent
Blu-ray release of George Sluizer’s 1988 Franco-Danish film, The Vanishing. This excellent thriller
was well-received by critics and the public alike, prompting Hollywood to step
forward and produce an American remake in 1993. The screenplay, based on Tim
Krabbé’s novel Het Gouden Ei (as was the original), was written by
actor/screenwriter Todd Graff. Sluizer returned to direct the remake, which in
many cases is practically a shot-by-shot repetition. However, there are differences.
not sure who at the conference table decided that the American remake of The Vanishing should have a happy
ending, as opposed to the more-terrifying, bleak finale of the original, but it
happened. Perhaps the studio figured that U.S. audiences would not accept the
earlier culmination, in which the villain triumphs and we realize that the
movie was about him all along. This
time around, the bad guy gets his comeuppance and our heroes win the
cat-and-mouse game that was set in motion at the picture’s beginning.
if you’ve seen the original 1988 version, then you’ll most likely be
disappointed with the 1993 edition. However, if you haven’t, then you may very well enjoy the remake for what it is,
and especially for the extremely bizarre performance by Jeff Bridges as the
creep. And creepy he is. Speaking with a strange accent (or is it merely an odd
elocution?—hard to say), Bridges steals the movie (as did Bernard-Pierre
Donnadieu in the original role). A young Kiefer Sutherland is our hero this
time, and his vanishing girlfriend is played by Sandra Bullock (pre-Speed) when she was relatively unknown.
That said, the real heroine of the remake is Nancy Travis, as Sutherland’s new girlfriend, and this is where the
new movie differs the most from its predecessor.
takes charge of the story in the last act and, without providing too much of a
spoiler, brings a more feminist take to the tale. Is the new ending satisfying?
Sure, from a Hollywood by-the-book standpoint. The problem is that the picture
loses what may have been the point of the original story—that evil can lurk
where you least expect it, and it can, more often than not, win.
Time’s limited edition (to 3,000 copies) high definition Blu-ray looks fine and
dandy; the only extra is the theatrical trailer. Fans of the film may want to
pick this up; but in my book, the 1988 original is still the more effective
Intrada has released both of Jerry Goldsmith's superb soundtracks for "Our Man Flint" and "In Like Flint" in a CD set. The albums were available on vinyl when the films were originally released in 1966/1967. The new remastered recordings are enhanced when compared to any previous CD releases. Below is the official blurb from the Screen Archives site.
Finally! Two great
sixties albums by Jerry Goldsmith make their debut on CD, mastered from the
recently discovered original 20th Century-Fox stereo album session masters!
Preserved in pristine condition in the vast UMG vaults, Our Man Flint and In
Like Flint were short but exciting LPs that came out in 1966 & 1967
respectively. Both movies featured James Coburn as secret agent Derek Flint.
Daniel Mann directs the former, Gordon Douglas directs the latter. Not to be
confused with the Varese Sarabande release of soundtrack highlights, this
Intrada CD offers both classic original albums exactly as Goldsmith recorded
them, in crisp stereo with vivid orchestral color. Cool action, tuneful
adventure and one of the composer's most famous themes all have their say. Included
are authentic reproductions of both Bob Peak album jackets, classics in their
own right, presented in our flipper-style CD cover. Choose your own favorite!
These two albums have been amongst the most requested for CD release in our
label's history. Wait no more, they're yours to spin! Jerry Goldsmith conducts
both scores. Intrada Special Collection release available while quantities and
interest remain! -INTRADA
OUR MAN FLINT
01. Our Man Flint (1:46) 02. Never Mind, You'd Love It (2:09) 03. It's Gotta Be
A World's Record (2:20) 04. Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone (2:16) 05. Take
Some Risks, Mr. Flint? (1:40) 06. Tell Me More About That Volcano (2:44) 07.
You're A Foolish Man, Mr. Flint (1:46) 08. In Like Flint (1:57) 09. Doing As
The Romans Did (2:11) 10. Galaxy A Go-Go! -Or- Live It To Flint (2:15) 11. All
I Have To Do Is Take A Bite Of Your Apple? (2:13) 12. Stall! Stall! Flint's
Total Time: 25:57
IN LIKE FLINT
13. Where The Bad Guys Are Gals ("In Like Flint" Theme) (2:38) 14.
Ladies Will Kindly Remove Their Hats (2:45) 15. Lost In Space (2:36) 16. Odin,
Dva, Tri, Kick! (3:07) 17. No Rest For The Weary (2:27) 18. Your Zowie Face
(Vocal) (2:34) 19. Mince And Cook Until Tender (2:33) 20. Ahh, Yer Father's
Bob-Lip (2:20) 21. Who Was That Lady… ? (2:11) 22. Westward Ho-o-o! (5:37) Lyrics By Leslie Bricusse
Total Time: 29:14
many people in the general public of the USA today know who Jacques Tati is?
Film buffs, certainly, but not many others. It’s a shame, for in the 1950s and
60s, Tati was world famous and well known for his on-screen persona, the
bumbling but well-meaning Monsieur Hulot. After all, one of the Hulot pictures,
Mon Oncle, won the Oscar for Best
Foreign Film of 1958. Jacques Tati was once a big deal. The Criterion
Collection’s new release on Blu-ray of a boxed set containing Tati’s entire
catalog should provide sufficient firepower to make Jacques Tati a big deal all
short, The Complete Jacques Tati is a
magnificent package. The Frenchman’s genius is well documented, not only in the
six feature films and seven shorts included in the set, but in the multitude of
excellent extras—documentaries, vintage footage, and visual essays that
Criterion has assembled. The collection could easily be one of the best Blu-ray
releases the company—or any home video label—has ever done. It’s that good.
are seven discs—one for each of the six features and one for the shorts. A 62-page
booklet containing essays by critics James Quandt, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Kristin
Ross, and David Cairns completes the package.
those unfamiliar with the artist, Jacques Tati (1907-1982) was a comedian and
mime who drew his influences from the old school—Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd—and
thus created a comic style highly dependent on visual sight gags. But what Tati
did beyond the three silent film stars was incorporate the use of sound effects
for humor. The features are full of odd and funny aural jokes—the thoink of a swinging door as it opens
and closes, the ridiculous beeps and blurts of a machine, or the
mumbling-style dialogue of eccentric characters (it doesn’t matter what they’re
saying, it’s more about the sound of their speech). Tati made some shorts in
the 1930s; after the war, he formed his own company with a fellow producer and
began his journey into making movies. Tati, in his later works, liked to
explore the theme of how “modern” technology is taking over a purer essence of life.
Most of all, Tati himself, as an actor, is a wonderfully physical comedian.
Just the way he appears as Mr. Hulot—with trademark hat, pipe, raincoat, and
entire book could be written about Tati’s work, herewith is a brief description
of each of the films.
Jour de Fête (aka The Big Day),
1949. Tati’s first feature film is a disarming comedy in which the super-tall
actor portrays a postman. Very different from the Mr. Hulot character, Tati’s
postman is fussy, ornery, and prone to “lose it” when a traveling fair comes to
town and messes up his route. It’s an affectionate look at French rural life.
The 2K digital restoration is in black and white, as was the original
theatrical release—however, Tati always meant for the picture to be in color.
He therefore revisited the film later in order to make it so. Extras include two alternate versions of the film on
the same disc—Tati’s own 1964 re-edit featuring hand-colored objects and newly
incorporated footage, and a full-color 1995 re-release completed from Tati’s
original color negatives. Stéphane Goudet, a
Tati expert, presents a 2013 visual essay that tracks the evolution of Tati’s
comedy. A 1988 documentary traces the restoration of the film to Tati’s color
1953. Mr. Hulot is introduced in this charming look at how the French often
took holidays at a seaside resort. Well-choreographed sight gags dominate the
free-flowing, plotless narrative that features many odd characters, dogs,
boats, and drooping taffy. The main version on the disk is a 2K digital
restoration of Tati’s 1978 re-release. Extras include the original 1953 version;
an introduction by Terry Jones; another visual essay by Stéphane
Goudet about the debut of Hulot; an interview with Tati from 1978; a new
interview with composer/critic Michel Chion on Tati’s use of sound design; and
an optional English-language soundtrack for the re-release version.
Mon Oncle, 1958. Tati’s
Oscar-winner could very well be his best work. This one, in color, is the story
of how Mr. Hulot becomes the relative-of-choice for his young nephew, whose
parents are too caught up in being “modern” (their house, car, automatic garage
door, and that awful fish fountain) to properly pay attention to their son. The
garden party sequence and the plastic hose factory scene are timeless. The new
2K digital restoration looks fabulous. Extras include another introduction by
Terry Jones; My Uncle—the English
language edit of the film; a documentary from 2008 on the making of the film; a
2005 program on the film’s fashion, architecture, and furniture; a Stéphane
Goudet visual essay comparing the film to other Hulot pictures; and a 1977
French TV episode featuring Tati.
Playtime (also written as Play Time or PlayTime), 1967. What an amazing, highly original film! Francois
Truffaut once said that Playtime is a
movie that might have been made “on another planet where they don’t make films
like we do here.” Hulot is one of many characters in this collage about the
clash of modernity and humanity. At the time, it was France’s most expensive
production—and all the money is there on the screen in the form of an entire downtown with streets, buildings, and
traffic that Tati had built outside of Paris. “Tativille,” as it was known, is
a remarkable accomplishment in set design. It forecasted the use of office
cubicles at least ten years before they became a reality. Very funny stuff, but
at the time audiences were confused by the lack of a story and the differences
between it and previous Hulot features. Tati insisted on the film being
released in 70mm; thus there is something going on in every corner and space on
the frame. It’s a picture that demands to be viewed more than once. The new 4K
digital restoration has a 3-0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Extras include
another introduction by Terry Jones; three selected-scene commentaries; another
Goudet visual essay; a 1967 TV program on Tativille; a 2002 documentary
featuring behind-the-scenes footage; an interview with script supervisor
Sylvette Baudrot; an audio interview with Tati from 1972; and an optional
Trafic, 1971. The final
Hulot film features the character working for an auto manufacturer whose
employees must get its latest creation—designed by Hulot—to an auto trade show
in Amsterdam on time. As the title suggests, they run into some traffic.
Terrific sight gags abound, as well as Tati’s ever present discourse on how
technology is ruining our world. Along with the 2K digital restoration, the
extras include a 1976 Omnibus episode
from British TV featuring an interview with Tati.
Parade, 1974. Tati’s
final film does not feature Hulot. It’s actually a performance piece in front
of an audience, in which Tati teamed up with a circus of clowns, jugglers,
acrobats, and contortionists—but the great thing about it is that we can see
Tati perform mime acts. The picture was originally made for Swedish television
(!) and is a delightful cap to Tati’s career. The disk sports a 2K digital
restoration, along with extras such as a two-part 1989 documentary on Tati’s
life and career, made by the director’s daughter, Sophie Tatischeff; another Goudet
visual essay about Tati’s appreciation of the circus and clowns; and a 1982
French TV episode featuring a tribute to Tati by his friend and set designer
Tati Shorts. 2K digital
restorations of the following shorts are presented: On demande
une brute (1934); Gai dimanche (1935);
Soigne ton gauche (1936); L’école
des facteurs (1946)—which
features the postman character Tati played in Jour de Fête; Cours de soir (1967); Dégustation
and Forza Bastia (1978). Tati wrote
and starred in the first three. He wrote, directed and starred in the next two.
The sixth short is a César-winning piece by Tati’s daughter; and
the seventh is a soccer documentary started by Tati and completed by his
daughter after his death. Extras include a 2002 short film about Tati’s career;
and a lecture program by Goudet on Tati’s cinema.
will take many hours to get through this marvelous set. The Criterion
Collection has outdone itself with The
Complete Jacques Tati, and any of you out there who is interested in the
history of cinema must purchase it immediately. It will be an education.
There is a frightening scene in “Prince of The Night” when
Klaus Kinski chases a woman through the streets of Venice. She runs into
an empty building, but like a jungle cat bringing down an impala, Kinski catches
her and smashes her to the stone floor. Actresses Barbara De Rossi and Elvire Audray
complained that Kinski was too rough on them during the making of this 1988
Italian production, but when Kinski is hired to play Nosferatu, a creature
“belched forth by the Devil,” one can’t expect the off-screen neck nibbles of
Bela Lugosi. As he did throughout his hellacious career, Kinski played the role
with an utter lack of restraint. De Rossi and Audray were lucky he
didn’t actually tear open their jugulars.
It turns out that Kinski’s untamed acting had a payoff.
As we can see in the recently released DVD from One 7 Movies, Kinski outshines
the rest of the cast, including such gallant journeymen as Christopher Plummer
and Donald Pleasence. If a few
actresses got scuffed up along the way, so be it.
The cast should have known what to expect when, on his
first day of shooting, Kinski and director Mario Caiano got into a violent
argument. Part of the beef was that Kinski was reprising his character
from Werner Herzog’s 1979 picture “Nosferatu the Vampyre” and was supposed to
wear the same bald head, and corpse-white makeup. However, the petulant
Kinski arrived on the set wearing long hair and asserting that he had no intention
of enduring another painful make-up sessions. This is why Nosferatu of
the 1988 film looks like Aguirre and nothing like the original character
from the Herzog movie (or for that matter, the F.W. Murnau silent
film). Kinski’s only nod to tradition was that he wore the same rodent teeth
he’d worn for Herzog.
Waylaid by Kinski’s bellicose attitude, Caiano left the
production after being paid his full salary. Caiano’s departure wasn’t a
surprise, since the film had already been through several personnel changes.
Producer Augusto Caminito had already hired and fired directors Maurizio Lucidi
and Pasquale Squitieri before hiring Caiano. When Kinski forced Caiano off the
set, Caminito decided to direct the film himself. Since Caminito had little directing
experience, he enlisted the help of Luigi Cozzi, a veteran of many Italian
horror films (as well as the Lou Ferrigno “Hercules” of 1983). Not
surprisingly, even Kinski is alleged to have directed a few scenes.
Somehow, this debacle of a production yielded a highly
watchable movie (originally titled “Vampire In Venice”). I imagine some
of the credit must go to cinematographer Tonino Nardi, who lovingly feeds us
one eye-popping scene after another. It’s as if Nardi knew, while
chaos swirled all around him, that all one needed to make this vampire movie
was Kinski, a few beautiful women, and the gorgeous scenery of Venice.
One can almost turn the sound off, ignore the rickety plot, and simply
enjoy the movie for its visual delights.
The movie is supposed to take place in 1780s
Venice, a time of plagues and death. The
streets are a weird mix of the morbid and the frivolous. You’re as likely to
step over a corpse as to be pestered by a dancing harlequin. Yet, one of my
favorite moments is when an extra steering a gondola is not in period costume,
but is instead wearing a denim jacket and tight fitting jeans, as if a member
of The Doobie Brothers had been somehow teleported into the 18th century.
Caminito was probably so sick of reshoots that he hoped no one would notice the
(Photos copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
By Mark Cerulli
Last Wednesday, the
red carpet was rolled out on Hollywood Boulevard, the paparazzi were out in
force and the Spiderman and Wonder Woman impersonators had been pushed aside,
at least momentarily, for American Film Institute’s annual film festival.
Retro was in da house for writer/director J.C. Chandor’s new crime drama, A Most Violent Year, this year’s opening
night selection. The director introduced
his third film onstage at the Dolby Theater, joined by his distinguished cast
and crew, including Jessica Chastain and DP Bradford Young. Chandor also pointed out where he was sitting
when his screenplay for “Margin Call” (which he also directed) lost out to
Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” in the 2012 Oscar race.
the film’s setting – the cutthroat world of home heating oil doesn’t sound
exciting, it provides the backdrop for Abel Morales, a principled young businessman
(the excellent Oscar Issac) to reach for the American dream – if his
competitors don’t ruin him first! Chandor,
a NJ native, perfectly captured the bone-chilling winter of 1981 as well as the
underbelly of this unglamorous but essential trade. Jessica Chastain was a scene-stealer as Abel’s
beautiful but hard-edged wife, willing to reach into her mob past to protect
their business. Screen veteran Albert
Brooks gives a steady, understated performance as their business partner, totally
unfazed by the industry’s corruption even as the violence starts to spiral out
A bit drawn out at times,
the film’s strong performances and meticulously crafted early 80s look more
than make up for the slow pace. One
stunning shot occurs early on when the main character looks out over a grimy
industrial property he’s desperately trying to acquire and across the East
River is the 1981 New York skyline complete with the Twin Towers; a sight many a
New Yorker took for granted until they were gone.
the credits it was on to the famous Roosevelt Hotel – where Charlie Chaplin and
Mary Pickford used to down cocktails - for an after-party complete with open
bar and unlimited schmoozing but curiously no food. It was a headache-inducing combination that
sent this CR scribe heading off to see another acclaimed Hollywood star, In
& Out Burger!
At the time of its release in 1962 critics treated director J. Lee Thompson's "Taras Bulba" as just another action epic. Well, back in those days, every week seemed to see the release of a worthwhile action epic. However, retro movie fans have long held this film in a place of honor. It has an intelligent script, fine performances and sequences that are truly magnificent in their scope- all set to the legendary Franz Waxman's superb, Oscar-nominated score. The film is unusual on many levels beginning with the period of history it covers: the battles between the Cossacks and Poles for control of the Ukraine Steppes in the early 16th century. When the film opens, the Cossacks are fighting with the Poles to thwart an invading Turkish army. However, the Poles double-cross their allies after victory has been achieved, slaughtering many of the Cossacks, whom they fear will be a future threat. The mantle of Cossack leadership falls to the courageous warrior Taras Bulba, who vows revenge against Poland no matter how long it takes. The Cossacks spend many years rebuilding their strength. During this time, Bulba fathers two sons: Andrei (Tony Curtis) and Ostap (Perry Lopez), both of whom do instill him with pride for adapting the rough-and-tumble ways of the Cossack warriors. When tensions ease with the Polish government, Taras instructs his sons to attend university in Kiev, ostensibly to get an education. In reality, he wants them to study Polish customs and habits, all the better to serve in the forthcoming war against them that he is planning. While in Kiev, the boys suffer the indignities of ridicule, beatings and hazings. (There is an amusing, if unintended,homo erotic aspect to some of these scenes, with sweaty, shirtless men whipping each other.) Andrei finds it's all worthwhile when he catches a glimpse of Natalia Dubrov (Christine Kaufmann), a beautiful young Polish girl who is from an influential family. Against all odds, he manages to catch her eye and ingratiate himself to her. The would-be lovers find ways to secretly meet to carry out their forbidden romance. (The notion of a Polish noblewoman carrying on a love affair with a crude Cossack warrior may seem far-fetched, but if the Cossack is Tony Curtis, I guess anything is possible.) When Andrei's interest in Natalia is discovered by her brother, a sword fight ensues in which Ostap mortally wounds the Polish army officer. The brothers escape back to the Steppes and the arms of their mother and father but Andrei still pines away for his lost love. Taras rallies the various Cossack tribes to join him in an assault on a city held by Poles. After a vicious battle, he bottles up his enemies inside the walls of the town and begins to starve them out. However, Andrei learns that Natalia is within the city and when plague breaks out, he makes an ill-fated decision to attempt to rescue her. This leads to the film's dramatic and very emotional climactic seen between Taras and Andrei.
"Taras Bulba" has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The transfer is outstanding and is so clear that some of the film's technical weaknesses appear more prominent than they probably did on the big screen. The scenes within Kiev are clearly achieved through the use of studio sets and matte paintings. Some scenes have a noticeable graininess to them and in certain cavalry charges, you might observe horsemen moving at sped up motion in the manner of the Keystone Cops. Nevertheless, this is an epic film indeed when it comes to the action sequences. One scene in particular is literally thrilling: the joining of the Cossack warriors on the open plain, all galloping at high speed to Franz Waxman's addictive musical score. The performances are also first-rate with Brynner giving a larger-than-life interpretation of Bulba in manner that no other actor of this era could achieve. Tony Curtis once again overcomes a New York accent (as he did in "The Vikings") and somehow appears completely credible. (An interesting footnote: Bulba's right hand man Shilo is played by Brynner's "Magnificent Seven" co-star Brad Dexter.) Christine Kaufmann was only 16 years old at the time of filming and the on-screen love affair with Tony Curtis replicated itself in real life: they began dating on the set and ended up getting married, though they divorced in 1968.
The Blu-ray disc includes an original trailer that absurdly proclaims, in the typical hyperbole of the day, that the film should be added to the list of "Wonders of the World"! Not quite. But say this for "Taras Bulba": it represents the kind of first rate action adventure epic of which it is often said "They sure as hell don't make 'em like that anymore."
THIS SET SHIPS ON NOVEMBER 11! REMEMBER, THE BLU-RAY SET IS A LIMITED EDITION. ORDER NOW!
"Batman", the classic 1960s TV series, is finally coming to home video after years of legal complications. Warner Home Video will release on Blu-ray and DVD on November 11.
The set will contain all 120 remastered episodes of the the three seasons the show ran and will contain a Batcave full of extras. Among them: a Hotwheels replica of the Batmobile, a letter from Adam West and photos derived from his personal scrapbook and replicas of vintage trading cards.
For more, including a promotional preview, click here.
“If a movie makes you happy, for whatever
reason, then it’s a good movie.”
REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*******
BY ERNIE MAGNOTTA
If there’s one thing I love, it’s 1970s
made-for-TV horror films. I remember sitting in front of the television as a
kid and watching a plethora of films
such as Gargoyles, Bad Ronald, Satan’s School for Girls, Horror
at 37,000 Feet, Devil Dog: Hound of
Hell, Scream Pretty Peggy, Don’t Be
Afraid of the Dark, Moon of the Wolf
and The Initiation of Sarah just to
name a few. Some of those are better than others, but all were fun.
When I think back, there have been some
legendary names associated with small screen horrors. Genre masters John
Carpenter (Halloween), Steven
Spielberg (Jaws), Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street), Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Joseph
Stefano (Psycho) all took shots at
television horror and created the amazing films Someone’s Watching Me!, Duel,
Summer of Fear, Salem’s Lot and Home for the
However, there was one man whose name
became synonymous with 1970s made-for-TV horrors. When it came to scaring the
living daylights out of people in the privacy of their own homes, producer/director
Dan Curtis was king.
Curtis’ first foray into television
horror was as a producer of the 1960s classic, gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, which ran successfully
from 1966-1971. Then, in 1968, he produced his first TV horror movie The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
which starred the late, great Jack Palance (Shane,
Torture Garden, Alone in the Dark, City
Slickers) in the title role.
In 1972, Curtis would team with
legendary author Richard Matheson (I Am
Legend, Twilight Zone, Incredible Shrinking Man, Duel) and, over the next five years,
they would create a series of unforgettable made-for-TV horror films. Their
first collaboration is, arguably, their best. The two genre masters would bring
author Jeff Rice’s original novel The
Kolchak Papers to the small screen. Curtis would produce while Matheson
adapted Rice’s story. The film, now retitled The Night Stalker, was directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel) and starred the great
Darren McGavin (Mike Hammer, Airport ’77, A Christmas Story) as intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak hot on the
trail of a nightmarish modern day vampire who’s stalking the back alleys of Las
Released to ABC-TV on January 11th,
1972, The Night Stalker became the
highest rated television film at that time and it would hold that title for
many years. The film’s enormous success led to an immediate sequel titled The Night Strangler. This time, Curtis
would not only produce, but also direct from an original script by Matheson. The
film was another huge hit, so, naturally, ABC wanted a third Kolchak adventure.
Matheson wrote a script entitled The
Night Killers, but unfortunately the movie was never made. The Night Stalker instead became a
weekly television series.
Unconvinced that Kolchak could be done
properly on a weekly basis, Dan Curtis decided to bow out of the series.
Instead, in 1973, he produced and directed another great made-for-TV horror
film titled The Norliss Tapes. This
ABC Movie of the Week was very similar to The
Night Stalker in that it involved a writer investing the occult. The movie,
which was set in California, also served as the pilot to a series that,
unfortunately, was never produced. Written by William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run, Burnt Offerings), the film starred Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) and Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo, Police Woman, Dressed to Kill).
1973 would see three more TV horrors
from busy producer/director Curtis. The
Invasion of Carol Enders which starred Meredith Baxter (All the President’s Men, Family Ties, Ben), The Picture of Dorian
Gray starring Shane Briant (Frankenstein
and the Monster from Hell, Captain Kronos
– Vampire Hunter, Demons of the Mind)
and Frankenstein starring Robert
Foxworth (Death Moon, Damien: Omen 2, Prophecy, Falcon Crest, Transformers), Bo Svenson (Walking Tall, Snowbeast, Inglorious
Bastards, Night Warning, Heartbreak Ridge, Kill Bill Vol. 2) and Susan Strasberg (Picnic, Scream of Fear, Rollercoaster, The Manitou, Bloody Birthday,
Sweet Sixteen, Delta Force).
In 1974, Curtis and Matheson would
reunite for two more made-for-TV films which Curtis would once again produce
and direct. Scream of the Wolf,
starring Peter Graves (It Conquered the
World, Mission: Impossible, Airplane), Clint Walker (The Dirty Dozen, Killdozer, Snowbeast) and
Jo Ann Pflug (M.A.S.H.,The Night Strangler, The Fall Guy), and the excellent Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Jack
Palance, Simon Ward (Frankenstein Must Be
Destroyed, The Monster Club),
Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire, A Man for all Seasons) and Fiona Lewis (Fearless Vampire Killers, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dead Kids, The Fury). Curtis’ last television horror film of 1974 would be Turn of the Screw. William F. Nolan
adapted the classic Henry James novel which Curtis produced and directed.
In 1975, Curtis scored big once again
by producing and directing an amazing made-for-TV anthology film titled Trilogy of Terror. The movie, again
written by William Nolan from a collection of short stories by Richard
Matheson, starred the always wonderful Karen Black (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces,
Airport 1975, Family Plot, Burnt Offerings,
House of 1000 Corpses) who headlined
all three tales. The final segment, entitled Amelia, is the most remembered due to Black’s horrifying battle
with the now iconic Zuni fetish doll. Curtis would produce and direct another
made-for-TV horror anthology called Dead
of Night. Released in 1977, the film was once again scripted by Richard
Although 1977 would see the last of Dan
Curtis’ 70s horror creations, there was still one more film to go. Curtis’ 1970s
horror swan song would be the ABC made-for-TV chiller Curse of the Black Widow.
I was recently fortunate enough to make an
acquaintance with Jason Lee Lazell of Moochin’ About Records which is earning kudos for releasing some high
profile film-related recordings. The latest box set in their Jazz on Film
series – ‘Crime Jazz’- willbe featured
in our upcoming print edition of Cinema Retro. Another of their impressive
releases, Film Noir, is a superb 5 CD
box set featuring seven fantastic scores including Alex North’s A Streetcar Named
Desire (1951), Leith Stevens’s Private Hell 36 (1954), Elmer Bernstein’s The
Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Elmer Bernstein and Chico Hamilton’s Sweet
Smell of Success (1957), Henry Mancini’s Touch of Evil (1958), Duke Ellington’s
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and John Lewis’s Odds Against tomorrow (1959). I
must admit, I initially thought these releases were just going to be another in
a long line of reissues, but how wrong I was…
I can’t emphasise enough just how classy these releases are. In terms of audio
quality alone, they are undoubtedly the best I have ever had the pleasure of
hearing. Sonically, they are simply outstanding, revealing a sharpness which no
other label has seemed to achieve. The recordings are so clean; they almost offer
a vibrant new listening experience.
of this release is also first class; its sturdy hard box contains a 52 page
book with extensive liner notes, full personnel details, recording history and
full colour reproductions of film posters from around the world. Each of the 5
discs are housed in beautiful card sleeves, each with a generic b/w brick wall
design from which the relevant soundtrack’s film poster is pasted. It’s a very
nice touch, providing a charming film noir feel to eye as well as the ear.
Noir offers a fabulous set of quality sounding soundtracks at an extremely good
price. Don’t hesitate to check out this beautiful set. It might be hiding in
the shadows, but it’s well worth pursuing.
The Huffington Post unveils 5 plot holes they claim you never noticed in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. However, we're not naive enough to believe there aren't many scholars of the film who haven't already discovered these. Nonetheless, for those who aren't as well versed in the "Star Wars" universe, this article may be illuminating and amusing. Click here to read.
(Photo copyright Dollie Banner/Cinema Retro. All rights reserved.)
By Lee Pfeiffer
If you've been a serious collector of movie memorabilia over the last 40 years or so, you will know the name Jerry Ohlinger. He has long been the king of selling vintage and current film posters, photos and other rarities. Ohlinger has operated out of several New York City stores since the 1970s. However, earlier this year, Ohlinger closed down his mid-town store because of increasing rent costs. He relocated to a smaller store where he sees customers by appointment only. However, in 2003 Ohlinger partnered with a New Jersey-based married couple who run their own movie memorabilia business. They jointly market and sell Ohlinger's materials via on eBay, with Ohlinger receiving 75% of the sales revenue. The bulk of Ohlinger's inventory is stored in a warehouse in Paterson, New Jersey. Now the business partners are embroiled in a law suit filed by Ohlinger, who states that the couple has illegally appropriated his inventory, which is estimated to be worth as much as $8 million. Ohlinger has apparently fallen behind on his obligation to pay for most of the rental costs on the Paterson warehouse, but says he had an agreement with the couple that, should such a circumstance arise, such costs would be deducted from his share of on-line sales revenues. Ohlinger also claims that his former business partners are maintaining that they actually purchased the entire inventory years ago for a mere $70,000. In a lawsuit filed in Newark on October 22, Ohlinger is seeking possession of his warehouse inventory and $5 million in damages. Neither party would comment to Northjersey.com reporter Hugh R. Morley, stating that they were acting on advice from their attorneys. Click here to read.
(For previous coverage about Jerry Ohlinger, click here)
Twilight Time has released a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray of John Wayne's late-career detective flick "Brannigan". The 1975 film takes Wayne out of the saddle and deposits him squarely in central London ("The Duke's in London. God Save the Queen!" read the tag line on the film poster.). The "fish-out--of-water" crime thriller concept began with Don Siegel's outstanding "Coogan's Bluff" (1968), which inspired Dennis Weaver's hit rip-off TV series "McCloud". Still, the premise works well with Wayne's tough Chicago Irish cop Jim Brannigan sent to London to extradite a top crime figure, much as Clint Eastwood's Coogan was shipped to New York to bring a criminal back to Arizona. Wayne had gone the detective route the year before in "McQ". He had originally been offered the role of Dirty Harry but correctly assumed his fans would not stand for him playing such an anti-Establishment character. Still, the phenomenal success of that movie made him realize that the Western genre was in decline and that he'd better switch gears occasionally to keep his loyal fans on board. Wayne was said to loathe "McQ". It was a downbeat, cynical look at corruption in the police force. Ironically, for many of his fans, it is regarded as one of the best films from the latter part of his career. Teaming Wayne with an ace director, John Sturges, the film provided the Duke with an intelligent script, surprising plot turns and a less-than-larger-than-life character to portray. The movie did fairly well despite Wayne's reservations so perhaps that is why he immediately returned to the crime film genre with "Brannigan". In reality, Wayne had planned to do a detective film with this title for at least a decade. A 1964 trade industry story announced he would begin filming it in "the near East". The project never happened. When it was dusted off a decade later, it was temporarily titled "Joe Battle" before mercifully assuming its original title.
Like "McQ", "Brannigan" is a crime thriller but the two films are far apart in terms of style. "Brannigan" is directed by the underrated Douglas Hickox ("Theatre of Blood", "Zulu Dawn") with emphasis on humor, as we see Wayne immediately learn that the crime kingpin he is to escort home (John Vernon) has been allowed to escape. His counterpart is Scotland Yard Inspector Swan, played by Richard Attenborough. This "Odd Couple"-like teaming of two radically different acting styles is one of the true delights of the film. Both Wayne and Attenborough are clearly enjoying each other's company and their good natured "one-upmanship" provides plenty of genuine laughs. As the two detectives relentlessly track down their man, there are plenty of memorable action highlights including a well-staged car chase that includes a jump over the rising Tower Bridge. There's also a major, well-staged pub brawl that's right out of the John Ford playbook. Director Hickox makes the most of London's fabulous sites, which adds immeasurably to the film's pleasures. (This is only one of two movies to be shot in London's ultra-exclusive private Garrick Club and Hickox makes the most of it, showing off the elegant facility for a sequence in which Brannigan and Swan debate police tactics over lunch.) There is also a spirited, lively performance by Judy Geeson as a young Scotland Yard detective who enjoys a playful but platonic relationship with Brannigan. The supporting cast is a strong one with John Vernon and Mel Ferrer providing the villainy. Ralph Meeker gets relatively prominent billing but his on-screen appearance lasts little more than a minute, indicating some of his footage may have been left on the cutting room floor. The film climaxes with an assassin trying to gun down Brannigan from a speeding car at the old Beckton Gasworks, a ghastly-looking industrial facility that was memorably used for the pre-credits sequence of the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only". All of this is set to a zippy jazz score by Dominic Frontiere that is off-beat for a film in this genre. "Brannigan" is not a late-career Wayne classic in the way that "The Cowboys" and "The Shootist" can be regarded. But it is a hell of a lot of fun and provides Wayne with a role that fit him like a glove. Nearing seventy years old, he could still at this point carry off the action sequences credibly.
Original Italian poster
Thankfully, Twilight Time has put some of its considerable artistic resources into this Blu-ray edition, which typically features a superb transfer. The bonus extras include an audio commentary between Judy Geeson and Twilight Time's Nick Redman that is breezy, fun and informative. (Geeson clearly adored Wayne, even though she overheard him refer to her as "an old bag of bones" after she auditioned for her role!) Geeson also provides some silent on set footage taken during the filming of the climax at Beckton Gasworks, which will delight Wayne purists who are anxious to see any previously unreleased footage of the Hollywood icon. There is also an original trailer that amusingly plays up Wayne being out of place in London. Julie Kirgo provides excellent analysis in the accompanying collector's booklet. Highly recommended (even for liberals!).
Even major stars are subject to the Rubik's Cube system of finding financing for major films. The studio has pulled the plug on "Idol's Eye" starring Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson and Rachel Weisz after producers failed to find adequate funding to begin production. The aborted project is an indication that, despite the presence of major names, film budgets have skyrocketed to such an extreme that funding often evaporates before a movie can even begin shooting. For Variety report click here.
Probably no genre illustrates the rapid advance of cinematic screen freedoms than the biker movie. The genre debuted in 1953 with Marlon Brando in "The Wild One". The film, which chronicled the virtual takeover of a small California town by a wild motorcycle gang, was considered extremely controversial at the time. The biker film remained largely dormant until the release of Roger Corman's "The Wild Angels" in 1966, which became a surprising boxoffice and media sensation. Only a year or two before, teenage audiences were being fed a steady diet of white bread rock 'n roll films that bore little resemblance to real life. Suddenly, the biker film blatantly presented raging hormones, gang wars, drug use and group sex without apology. Young people patronized these films in droves. With social constraints falling by the minute, the biker films- cheaply made as they were- spoke to the emerging generation that would be defined by hippies, drop-outs and protesters. Suddenly, Elvis movies seemed like entertainment for their parents and grandparents. With the success of "The Wild Angels", imitators galore sprang onto drive-in movie screens across America. The biker films were like any other genre in that some of the entries were poorly done efforts designed to reap a few fast bucks at the box-office, while others had a certain crude efficiency about them. Such a film was "The Glory Stompers", one of the better entries in the biker movie genre. Made in 1967, the film was released by (surprise!) American International, which reaped king's ransoms by producing low-budget exploitation movies. Make no mistake, "The Glory Stompers" is indeed an exploitation movie with little redeeming value beyond it's interesting cast. Dennis Hopper, in full psycho mode, top-lines as Chino, the leader of a brutal biker gang known as The Black Souls. After being dissed by members of the rival Glory Stompers gang, Chino and his posse track down a Glory Stomper, Darryl (Jody McCrea) who is with his gorgeous blonde girlfriend Chris (Chris Noel). Chris is badgering Darryl to leave the biker lifestyle and do something meaningful with his life. They are interrupted by the arrival of the Black Souls, who beat Darryl mercilessly. Believing him to be dead, Chino orders the gang to kidnap Chris to prevent her from filing murder charges against them. Chino advises the group that they will transport her by bike several hundred miles into Mexico, where he has arranged to sell her into white slavery. Unbeknownst to them, however, Darryl recovers from his wounds and immediately sets out to rescue Chris. Along the way he meets a former fellow Glory Stomper, Smiley (former Tarzan star Jock Mahoney), who agrees to join the rescue effort. The eventually pick up one other ally and his girlfriend and head into Mexico in hot pursuit of the Black Souls.
The film features a good deal of padding with extended shots of the bikers cruising down highways or navigating over sandy desert roads. There's also a good deal of footage devoted to sexploitaiton, with topless biker women riding rampant through drug-fueled orgies and the requisite cat right between jealous biker "mamas". This was pretty shocking stuff back in the day and gives the movie a relatively contemporary feel (even though today's Hell's Angels are primarily known for organizing charity fund raisers.) The cast is rather interesting and it's apparent that Hopper's presence in films like this clearly gave him street cred when he decided to make "Easy Rider". Chris Noel is quite stunning as the kidnap victim who must use psychology to avoid frequent attempts by her captors to rape her. She's also a good actress who brings a degree of dignity to the otherwise sordid on-goings. Jock Mahoney is the grizzled biker veteran who puts loyalty above his personal safety and it's refreshing to see him wearing attire that goes beyond a loin cloth. Jody McRae, son of Joel McRae, is a bland but efficient hero. The supporting cast includes ubiquitous screen villain Robert Tessier and future music industry phenomenon Casey Kassem (!), who co-produced the movie. The direction by Anthony M. Lanza is uninspired but efficient and the cinematography by Mario Tosi (billed here as Mario Tossi) is surprisingly impressive, which explains why he became a top name in "A"-grade studio productions. The rock music tracks, produced by Mike Curb, are awful. Curb was a Boy Wonder at the time, producing memorable music scores for American International films such as "The Wild Angels" and "Wild in the Streets". Here, he's clearly slacking. Curb composed the score with Davie Allan but the duo insert jaunty, upbeat tunes during moments that call for suspense-laden tracks. Nevertheless, the film remains consistently entertaining and stands as one of the better entries in this genre.
MGM has released "The Glory Stompers" as a burn-to-order DVD. Despite some initial artifacts present in the opening sequence, the print is crisp and clean. There are no bonus extras.
("Casting By", the acclaimed documentary by director Tom Donahue, has been released on DVD by First Run Features. Below is our original review from November 2013 of the film's theatrical release.)
By Lee Pfeiffer
"Casting By" is an extraordinary new documentary by filmmaker Tom Donahue who spent years accumulating interviews and archival materials for this look at the contributions of casting directors to the motion picture business. Most people are well aware of the important roles that composers, costume designers, editors and production designers play in the creation of movies-- but if you say "casting directors", the average person's eyes glaze over. Sounds boring, doesn't it? Donahue's film sets the record straight, pointing out that casting directors are often responsible for bringing to life some of the film industry's most memorable characters. So important is their contributions that Donohue found enthusiasm among esteemed filmmakers and actors to participate in his documentary even among those individuals who are not prone to generally giving interviews. In the film Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, John Travolta, David V. Picker, Robert Redford, Al Pacino, Norman Jewison, Norman Lear, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Duvall and Robert Redford, to name just a few, all extol the virtues of casting directors. Woody Allen readily admits that he hates the process of casting because he can't bring himself to choose one actor over another...and that his instincts are often wrong. He credits his long-time casting director, Juliet Taylor, with force-feeding certain actors like Meryl Streep into Allen's films when he didn't see the wisdom of casting them. The film's genesis was as a tribute to Marion Dougherty, a woman whose name won't ring bells with most movie fans, but who was a legend in the industry. It was Dougherty who elevated the status of casting directors when she first went into the profession in 1949. Her keen eye and insightful instincts quickly made her the "go to" person for top directors and studio executives. Dougherty soon became indispensable and set up an office in New York City where she often nurtured talent such as "up and comers" Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. Soon, she had a virtual monopoly on high profile casting assignments for films. She acted as mentor for young women who would go on to become successful casting directors and inspired another legendary person in the profession, Lynn Stalmaster. It was Dougherty who fought to get Jon Voight the role of Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy after it had been decided that the role should go to Michael Sarrazin. She gave many other future superstars their first major break when she was casting director for the hit TV show The Naked City in the early 1960s. These actors have never forgotten what they owed her. Dougherty is seen throughout the documentary through interviews Tom Donahue conducted with her in 2007. She passed away in 2011, not having seen the completed film- but her sassy nature and independent outlook on the role of women in the film industry come through loud and clear despite her advanced age.
The film is peppered with relevant film clips throughout and countless other prominent talking heads. The movie has set off a bit of a firestorm in the film industry because of its outright advocacy for the position that casting directors should receive recognition from the Academy at Oscar time. (It is the only single-card credit in the film industry to not have an Oscar category.) Clearly, the filmmakers seen here support such a move but there are some exceptions. Oscar winning director Taylor Hackford, who is President of the Directors Guild of America, vehemently argues against Academy recognition for casting directors because they are not really "directing" anything and that the final casting decisions always rest with the director themselves. Others argue that this in an invalid justification for his position because, in the end, every aspect of a movie needs the director's approval...so why give Oscars for editing, cinematography, costumes, etc? The film points out that casting directors are recognized by the Emmys so there is precedence for this idea. Yet, as far back as 1991, esteemed actors and directors pleaded with the Academy to at least grant a special Oscar to Marion Dougherty, but their efforts failed. As for Ms. Dougherty, she was elevated to VP levels at major studios only to be fired for the crime of having aged in a business in which seniority is frowned up. Other veteran casting directors lament the present state of the industry, saying that too many roles are awarded to flash-in-the-pan celebrities who are ill-suited to play the parts. There are exceptions, of course, and most of them can be found in acclaimed TV series where casting directors are proving to make all the difference when it comes to finding the right actor for the right role.
Casting By is a very unique look at the aspects of the film industry that are not widely discussed and it blows the lid off the dirty little battles that have been going on in terms of trying suppress a key branch of the business from receiving appropriate recognition. No matter where you stand on the subject, you'll be fascinated by this look at film history. The movie is superbly edited by Tom Donahue's wife Jill Schweitzer, who had the unenviable task of culling through 250 interviews with prominent people (only about 50 ended up in the final cut.) The movie is justifiably being touted for a nomination for Best Documentary. It deserves the honor- but one hopes that the criticisms of the very Academy that would make that decision won't render yet another shameless snub, this time because director Donahue has dared to go after some sacred cows.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" web site features another esteemed director, John Landis, providing commentary and observations about Roger Vadim's wacko 1971 sexploitation/comedy/murder mystery "Pretty Maids All in a Row". Landis points out that MGM was at death's door from a financial standpoint and to stay alive, the studio started grinding out exploitation films that were given a glossier look by the casting of reputable big names in the lead roles. "Pretty Maids" finds Rock Hudson, giving a terrific performance, as a lecherous high school coach who systematically beds seemingly every good looking, under-age female student he comes in contact with. There is no shortage of them, either. Vadim's cinematic wet dream finds every girl to be a sex-crazed, jaw-dropping beauty. That can also describe Angie Dickinson, a cougar teacher with a habit of seducing under-aged male students. Things start to go awry when some of the girls start turning up dead. Telly Savalas is the L.A. police detective assigned to crack the case. The inspired supporting cast includes Roddy McDowell and Keenan Wynn. As Landis observes, the film is outrageously sleazy and politically incorrect and it would be inconceivable for any major studio to even consider releasing it today. (Needless to say, we love it.) However, back in the crazy '70s, both studios and filmmakers were far more daring and far less apologetic about their undertakings on screen. Bizarrely, the film was written and produced by Gene Roddenberry. Go figure.
Click here to view the trailer with or without the Landis commentary.
The 8mm stag movie "loops" that defined the pornography industry until the advent of home video were generally considered to be the Rodney Dangerfields of the cinematic medium in that they didn't get no respect. Of late, however, a number of niche DVD labels have turned to exploiting this sexploitation. The latest is Cult Epics which has released "Vintage Erotica anno 1970", a somewhat unusual collection of 8mm porn shorts that that were defined by the fact that they had longer running times than the loops shown in "private viewing booths" in porn palaces located in red light districts in major cities around the world. The films included on this DVD have some degree of production values and make at least a feeble attempt to present a narrative. These short films have running times between 15 and 30 minutes. All were titles and scripted and some had recorded sound while others were shot as silent movies with a musical soundtrack added later. The shorts presented here are all from Europe and were filmed in the early 1970s. The initial offering features a couple of dozen hippies converging on an isolated wilderness area. They are carrying signs indicating that they are engaging in a "Love-in". They don't waste any time, either, getting down to having an orgy in between strumming folk music on guitars. This was a silent film and a perky, upbeat light rock score has been added. Other segments presented vary from serious attempts to present erotic situations to the age-old tradition of including slapstick comedy in the various scenarios.
Cult Epics has presented these films via a new transfer but there is still varying color quality, blotches and other imperfections. Somehow such deficiencies only add to the enjoyment of watching such fare. As lighthearted as some of the films are, keep in mind these are hardcore productions that leave nothing to the imagination. The clothing may be from the garish 1970s but there are certain consistencies with today's erotic movies, given the fact that no matter how imaginative the participants are, there is still only a finite number of acts that can be performed by men and women (and, given the genre, women and women.) There is a certain innocence to this type of erotica, however. Unlike much of today's porn, which is often defined by acts of violence or outright perversions, these films recall a more -shall we say "wholesome"?- era for the genre. The participants are all happy-go-lucky, the sex is innocent and guilt-free and the scenarios recall an era in which Jerry Lewis-like comedy could actually be combined into hardcore films. Quite obviously, such films are not everyone's cup of tea. However, if you have fond memories of sneaking a peak at such "forbidden fare" when you were young, the Cult Epics release merits "must see" viewing status.
Don't you hate it when you're at an elegant cocktail party on Park Avenue or in Mayfair, and that inevitable snob arrives who starts informing everyone that he or she knows absolutely everything about "The Brady Bunch"? Like you, it's happened to us dozens of times....But the good news is, we can now provide some facts about the cheesy classic that will allow you to take the air out of that know-it-all's balloon. For example, the actresses who played Cindy and Marcia apparently still can't stand each other in real life (who knew they were "Method" actors?); the exterior of the Brady house was a real home; you never saw a toilet despite all the scenes set in the bathroom and although the show has gained status as a legendary "guilty pleasure", it wasn't a demonstrable hit when if first aired. Click here to read.
As regular readers know, I have a soft spot in my heart for "B" spy movies of the 1960s. But you'd have to have a soft spot in your head to find much value in "Salt & Pepper", a 1968 Bond spoof with former Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford slumming for a quick paycheck and a good time in London. The film was improbably directed by Richard Donner, who displays none of the skills that would make him a world-class action movie director in the next decade. However, Donner is given some pretty skimpy material to work with. The hobbled-together screenplay finds Salt and Pepper as local legends in London's Soho district, then the epicenter of the mod movement. It's a measure of the script's level of wit that Salt is played by Davis and Pepper is played by Lawford (get it?). The duo operate Soho's hippest and most exclusive nightclub. Pepper represents old world elegance, strolling his domain in a tuxedo while Salt appeals to the "mods" by dressing in some eye-popping outfits that even Liberace would have considered to be over-the-top. The two men are happily ensconed in their world of go-go girls, chain smoking and sex with willing younger women when they become embroiled in an espionage plot that involves the hijacking of a Royal Navy nuclear submarine as part of a plan to bring about a coup in the British government. Salt & Pepper try to alert the authorities but are disbelieved. They are also framed for a series of murders and are being constantly harassed by a local police inspector (Michael Bates), a relentless grouch who, in another sign of the screenwriter's level of wit, is named Inspector Crabbe. The film consists of a series of endless chases including a bizarre central action sequence in which Salt & Pepper somehow employ their own gadget-laden spy car, albeit one that doesn't function very effectively. Even in the midst of an absurd comedy such as this, there has to be some degree of logic. It's never explained why two nightclub owners would be in possession of a super spy car. There are endless scenes of Salt & Pepper being locked in various rooms and using improbable means to escape. Davis is a ball of energy and even gets to sign a bad song in a disco sequence that at least features the redeeming quality of go-go girls in mini-skirts.
Davis and Lawford are fun to watch together and there is an occasional modestly amusing joke or set piece. However, the humor largely consists of Davis vamping his idol Jerry Lewis and the sequences with Michael Bates as the police inspector feature silent-era Keystone Cops gags that are not only cringe-inducing but were about as relevant in the late 1960s as Fatty Arbuckle. The only distinction that sets the film apart from the Eurotrash spy movies of the day is the use of some exotic locations in the British countryside. Beyond that, however, the movie suffers from awful rear-screen projection and sets that look like a high school production of a Bond epic. Nevertheless, "Salt & Pepper" did find an audience and was sufficiently successful to merit a sequel, "One More Time" which was directed by -wait for it!- Jerry Lewis.
Some years ago I hosted a black tie dinner in honor of Sir Roger Moore at New York's famed club The Players. While interviewing him on stage, I asked him what he thought his best film performances were. Moore thought pensively for a moment or two and said, "None of them!" With tongue finally out of cheek, Moore explained that, with the exception of the little-seen 1970 cult movie The Man Who Haunted Himself- he had found success by essentially playing the same character. The names would change, so would the era, but the mannerisms that his fans warmed to were always firmly in place. Moore clearly feels its best to stick to a winning formula rather than have a bold departure from his usual traits backfire, a la John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror". It's hard to be overly critical of an actor with such an admirable tendency toward self-deprecating humor. Moore has become Britain's version of Jimmy Stewart- an avuncular, national treasure who seemingly has no enemies in high places. Nevertheless, Moore would be the first to admit to appearing in any number of cinematic misfires. Although wildly successful on television, Moore's big screen career has a checkered history. His Bond films were predictable blockbusters and "The Wild Geese" and "The Sea Wolves" did very well internationally, even though they tanked in the USA. His "Cannonball Run" may have been awful but the all star cast propelled it to the top of the boxoffice charts. Beyond that, however, even some of the better films he appeared in such as "Gold", "Shout at the Devil" and "ffolkes" (aka "North Sea Hijack") never found the audience they deserved.
One of Moore's more ambitious and curious ventures, "Sherlock Holmes in New York", has been released by Fox as a burn-to-order DVD. The 1976 made for television project was telecast with great fanfare on NBC. (Moore made the movie between his second and third Bond flicks, "The Man With the Golden Gun" and "The Spy Who Loved Me".) He breaks no new ground in his interpretation of the legendary detective, but then again he slips comfortably into the role, bringing the same traits that characterized his performance as Bond and The Saint. To his credit, he never camps it up or goes for an over-the-top laugh (if only he had shown such restraint in the more embarrassing moments of his Bond films.) The movie, directed by the respected Boris Sagal, presents Holmes and Watson (Patrick Macnee) being summoned to New York when they receive word that Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling) may be in some mortal danger. Adler, as any Holmes buff knows, is the only one who ever got under Holmes's skin. By actually outwitting him in a case, she earned his respect and caused the legendary detective to deal with some inconvenient romantic notions. It's best not to reveal too much about a Holmes story so that the viewer can experience a few surprises along the way. The film does set up the main story line in the opening sequence in which Holmes (wearing an embarrassingly obvious disguise) confronts his arch nemesis, Prof. Moriarty (John Huston) in his London lair. The two men exchange witticisms and insults and Moriarty vows vengeance for Holmes spoiling his latest criminal scheme. Moriarty promises that he will put Holmes in a situation in which he will be forced to abstain from helping authorities thwart one of his most ambitious crimes, thereby tarnishing the great detective's reputation forever.
If the plot is a bit tame and flabby, the cast is a great deal of fun to watch. Patrick Macnee plays Watson somewhat in the vein of Nigel Bruce but doesn't make him overtly useless- and, in fact, he actually saves Holmes life at one point. (Macnee and Moore would reunite in 1981 for the feature film "The Sea Wolves" and in 1985 for Moore's final 007 flick "A View to a Kill".) Huston excels as Moriarty but his scenes are far too limited and only book end the main story. The film was done rather on the cheap and all but one sequence was filmed in a studio, rather surprising considering the luster of the cast members involved. The script does have one rather surprising development about Holmes' personal life revealed as the shock ending...but to say more would be to say too much.
"Sherlock Holmes in New York" isn't one of the top entries in the Holmes canon, but any time you can see Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee and John Huston sharing scenes, it's a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.
"The Addams Family" TV series is now fifty years old. Life magazine covered the casting sessions of the series back in the day and have just published rare photos from those sessions, many of which have never been printed before. The sheer perfection of the final cast indicates the value of those unsung heroes, casting directors. It would be inconceivable to associate other actors with the roles, but it is fascinating to look at images of those who were in contention. By the way, did you know that Ted Cassidy, who played Lurch, also doubled as the disembodied hand known as "Thing"??? Click here to read.
In a major article for The Digital Bits web site, writer Michael Coate has assembled personal insights from a number of James Bond authors and scholars to reflect on the legacy of "Goldfinger", which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Those interviewed are: Jon Burlingame, Robert A. Caplen, James Chapman, John Cork, Bill Desowitz, Charles Helfenstein, Mark O'Connell, Cinema Retro editor Lee Pfeiffer, Retro contributing writer Steven Jay Rubin and Bruce Scivally. Click here to read.
Those were the days, my friend. Consider what was playing in theaters during this one week in 1965: "The Sound of Music" (42 weeks in the same theater!), "The Americanization of Emily", "Thunderball", "Lord Jim", "The Hallelujah Trail", "That Darn Cat", "My Fair Lady" and "Where the Spies Are".
Impulse Pictures has improbably resurrected the bottom of the barrel porn vignettes from the 1960s and 1970s- commonly known as "peep show" films- into DVD releases that actually have some social significance. First, some background. In the uptight era of the 1950s through early 1960s, even a hint of sex on screen usually resulted in censorship or arrest and prosecution. The main stream, big studios- in an attempt to prevent the establishment of an office of government censorship- took draconian measures to ensure they censored themselves by adhering to codes of ethics that watered down adult films every bit as much as any government entity was likely to do. Where would sexually frustrated men seek cinematic satisfaction? About the only venue available were 8mm stag films, which were primarily shown in private homes behind closed doors. Generally these were forbidden fruit shown at bachelor parties or perhaps added some spice to the marital bed if a man had a truly progressive wife. Men who lived in or near big cities could purchase reels of these films in "red light districts". If you lived in small town America, you were generally out of luck. When New York's 42nd Street made a sharp turn towards vice in the 1960s, porn parlor flourished along the notorious stretch. You could not only purchase reels of silent stag films for home viewing, but the era of the "peep show" also came about. A horny guy could enter a telephone booth-sized private cubicle and insert some coins into a machine and- Presto!- a dirty movie would start playing right before his very eyes. Frustratingly, the movie would end after a few minutes, thus ensuring the viewer would continue to insert more coins to see the climax (pardon the pun.) The films ran anywhere from five to ten minutes. Accordingly, story lines and production values were virtually non-existent because the action had to start almost immediately. From such modest cinematic achievements, some faces became well-known to patrons. John Holmes (aka "Long Johnny Wadd"), whose substantial physical asset became his trademark, was a ubiquitous presence in these films and some of the more prolific "actresses" also got their starts in these modest productions. As censorship laws slackened in the wake of the sexual revolution, production values increased within the porn industry and relatively high budget feature films played sometimes for months at a time in actual theaters. Among the more notorious: "Deep Throat", "The Devil in Miss Jones" and "Behind the Green Door", each of which became a pop culture sensation. Still, there was-and still is- a place for peep show fare among the remaining grindhouses in red light districts around the world.
Impulse Pictures has released a number of volumes consisting of numerous silent peep show flicks. Amusingly, they have added the sound of a whirring projector to the soundtrack. They have also shown the archival footage in its raw, primitive state, complete with original spice marks and blotches in order to recreate the experience of how these films were initially seen. What adds some "social significance" to these releases is the accompanying booklet with incisive essays by Robin Bougie, a self-professed scholar of sleeze movies. He runs a web site at www.cinemasewer.com and has an extensive knowledge of the genre. In Vol. #1 of the "Peep Show Collection", Bougie astutely points out that it took until the release of Sidney Lumet's "The Pawnbroker" in 1965 before American adult audiences could even be shown a glimpse of naked breasts in a mainstream studio release. Bougie points out that, although these 8mm loops are as bare-bones as one can imagine, there was a sense of fun that is lacking from today's coarser porn flicks. He also provides valuable insights into identifying future porn stars in these loops, including Marc Stevens, Annie Sprinkle and Lisa DeLeeuw. (John Holmes doesn't require any identification beyond his trademark appendage.) Most of the actresses in the films, however, were simply free-spirited young women who involved in the counter-culture. Many thought that by appearing in such films, they were thumbing their nose at the Establishment. Others were probably less politically inclined and did the films simply to make a few quick dollars. Still others just liked the notion of free, liberated sex after coming out of a period of social repression. In any event, it may not be pleasing to these ladies, many of whom are now grandmothers today, that these obscure, long-forgotten stag films are now being dressed up and issued on DVD.
Bougie also delves back into the origins of the peep show films, tracing them to one Lasse Braun, who used an inheritance to finance the first of these films for European audiences. They were then imported to America by a man named Reuben Sturman, who distributed them to 60,000 porn shops. Thus, the era of the peep show was born.
This collection obviously isn't for everyone. The films are definitely hardcore and leave nothing to the imagination. But if it's possible for someone to get sentimental about such fare, this collection will fit the bill. Perhaps the value of the adult entertainment industry of this era is best summed up by a quote from Norman Mailer that Bougie cites in his essay: "There was something exciting about pornography. It lived in some mid-world between crime and art. And it was adventurous."
years ago, the Great Society was launched, the Ford Mustang went on sale, the
Beatles invaded America, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” quite arguably the most
intriguing and original adventure series ever produced for television, debuted
on NBC. In September, 100 U.N.C.L.E. fans gathered in Culver City, Calif., home of the
once-glorious Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio where the show was filmed, to
celebrate five decades of fascination with U.N.C.L.E. The event was strictly limited to 100 attendees and sold out quickly, an indication of the show's lasting legacy.
two-day event, dubbed “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” started organizing only
last May. Two lifelong U.N.C.L.E. fans — Robert Short, an Oscar-winning special
effects artist who was introduced to the show even before it went on the air
when his sister got a job as a photo and stunt double on the series; and Jon
Heitland, author of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book,” the indispensable guide to
the series (still available at Amazon.com) — were moved to action when it became
clear that no one in or out of the TV industry planned to celebrate the
just felt right to give something back to the show that had inspired so many of
us,” said Short.
landmark series still has many devotees who have kept the flame alive for a
half century,” Heitland added, “and we wanted to commemorate that remarkable
legacy with a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
startup funds donated by Los Angeles U.N.C.L.E. fan Lisa Lazarus, Short and
Heitland moved quickly to organize an unforgettable experience that included
tours of the former MGM lot, presentations from many of the people who worked
on the show, displays of U.N.C.L.E. props gathered from numerous private
collections, and an unprecedented live concert of music composed for the show
by such film and TV legends as Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried.
(Photo copyright Alan Stephenson. All rights reserved.)
weekend opened on Friday afternoon, Sept. 26, with attendees dividing into four
groups to tour the Sony Pictures lot, the facility that once was the legendary
MGM studio. The back lots that evoked countless international locations and
allowed U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin to appear anywhere
in the world are long gone, now covered with condos and offices. But the main
lot, housing the soundstages and such landmarks as the Irving Thalberg Building
and the studio water tower, remains much as it was 50 years ago.
guides led the groups all over the lot, accompanied by hosts Heitland and
Short, and by two of the event’s guests, “U.N.C.L.E.’s” associate producer
George Lehr and director of photography Fred Koenekamp. Both men delighted the
fans and the tour guides by pointing out various “U.N.C.L.E.” shooting
locations and reminiscing about their work on the show.
(Photo copyright Alan Stephenson. All rights reserved.)
tour wound all through the lot, past many streets, buildings and doorways seen
briefly as office buildings, airports, college campuses and other locations in “U.N.C.L.E.”
episodes. The famous water tower “blown up” by Napoleon Solo in “The Deadly
Toys Affair” and seen in other episodes still stands at the center of the lot.
The tour went through the scoring stage where composers recorded the music for “The
Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and for so many famous pictures released by MGM and other
studios. The trip also included a visit to Stage 10, where the permanent sets
for U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters and the interior of Del Floria’s Tailor Shop once
stood. The stage is now a TV studio where Sony’s game show “Jeopardy” is taped.
as everyone left the tour, we discovered that the photos taken in front of a
green screen when we arrived were developed to show each attendee standing
inside U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters. With that surprise memento in hand, Friday
ended back at the event’s base at the Doubletree Hotel Westside for an informal
evening of dining and mixing.
Bob Short moderates panel of guests: Sharon Farrell, Fred Koenekamp, George Lehr, Randy Kirby and Joseph Sargent.
(Photo copyright Alan Stephenson. All rights reserved.)
schedule was wall-to-wall fun, beginning at 9 a.m. with registration and
distribution of a fabulous swag bag provided by Lisa Lazarus, and everyone’s ID
badges, replicas of the triangular security badges worn in U.N.C.L.E.
Headquarters, of course. Panels filled the morning and afternoon: George Lehr
and Jon Heitland discussed the show’s production challenges; Fred Koenekamp
joined Stephen Sylvester, author of the must-have book “MGM: Hollywood’s
Greatest Backlot,” to talk about the tremendous advantages of shooting the
series at MGM; writer-producer Mike Thomas brought actress Sharon Farrell to
the stage for a rollicking talk about her career, which included three
appearances on “U.N.C.L.E.”; Danny Biederman, author of “The Incredible World
of Spy-Fi” and the owner of many original props from “U.N.C.L.E.” and other spy
shows and films, discussed the show’s famous gadgets with Lehr, Gene Winfield,
the custom carmaker who built the U.N.C.L.E. Car, and Richard Conroy of Ideal
Toys, the designer of the show’s iconic gun, the U.N.C.L.E. Special.
You have to be a bit courageous to name a documentary
“Boredom,” knowing it will eventually land in the hands of a snarky reviewer
looking for an easy joke. Albert Nerenberg, the director behind other
documentaries looking at everyday phenomena (“Laughology,” “Stupidity”) wanted
to explore this common life experience: what boredom is, how it happens, and
what effects it has on people.
In doing so, Nerenberg uses a variety of filmmaking
styles, from research presented by experts, to B-roll and stock footage, to
dramatizations and “Daily Show” style interviews meant as much to amuse as
Nerenberg warns us early on that there isn’t much
research on the actual topic of boredom. It’s apparently a subject that sparks
more curiosity and questions than it does answers.The documentary does pull
together a variety of experts, however, from psychologists and neurologists to
scholars on topics like education and technology. The film is for the most part
entertaining, though it does miss the mark a little by giving equal weight to
these experts and more anecdotal evidence on the effects of boredom, provided
by interview subjects. These include adrenaline junkies, drug addicts and a
professional public relations man who runs The Boredom Institute, an institute
in name only of which he is the only member, created mostly to generate buzz.
The DVD, released by Entertainment One, moves along nicely
at a brisk 61 minutes. (A clever bonus feature includes a version of the film sped up
10%, clocking it in at a more manageable 48 minutes.) The DVD also has a
three-minute featurette on the stages of boredom and a four-minute feature on a
proposed artificial mountain in Holland to add interest to the country’s
otherwise flat landscape.
While there is some interesting information to be found
in the film, it works more as infotainment than profound research. Think of it
as more of today’s version of a Discovery Channel documentary than the
scholarly programs of the 1990s.
In short, there are plenty of less interesting ways you
could spend an hour than watching this film- and at least “Bordom” is never
Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina in "Hercules Unchained", as featured in the latest issue of Cinema Retro (#30).
The latest issue of "Cinema Retro" is out and what do I see,
but an article about films that are dear to my heart. As a child of the Sixties,
the sword and sandal movies (aka peplum) meant a lot to me. Specifically the
films of Hercules, himself; none other than Steve Reeves. Interestingly enough,
while these movies were made to get people out of their houses and into the
theatres, here in the US in the early Sixties they made a bigger splash when
they were released to television. I was a little too young to see Steve Reeves’
"Hercules" when it was released in theatres, but when it was released
to TV; that's when the avalanche began. For those of us watching the boob tube
in the early Sixties, Hercules and his brethren were our heroes. (I always joke
that I'm a little messed up because all my heroes were fictional. They were:
Hercules (in the form of Steve Reeves), Tarzan (in the form of Gordon Scott),
James Bond (Sean Connery) and Elvis (the Elvis of the movies who could sing and
dance, won every fight and got all the girls.) The biggest
splash came from a show called "The Mighty Sons of Hercules" which we
now know as a package of peplum films, but back than they were our weekly
dose of heroic adventure. I did get to see some of these movies at the local
neighborhood theatre, like "Duel of the Titans", which was a
major disappointment due to the fact that it was more or less advertised as
a "duel" between "Hercules" and
"Tarzan" and not the story of Romulus and Remus. (At least here in
The article was also interesting not just for the information provided
about the stars of these movies, but for a glimpse of how these movies
fared in the UK. (Interesting that the film that I first saw on TV as
"The Trojan Horse" was known in England as "The Wooden Horse of
Troy"!) Also of interest is that the song from "Hercules
Unchained" was a popular success in the UK, but not so much in the US
where the song was not released on vinyl. [Here's some trivia: In Italy, the
singing voice of Sylva Koscina was dubbed by Marisa del Frate, one of Italy's
most popular performers. The song's title in Italian is "Con te per
L'eternita" ("With you for all eternity") and was a popular hit
for Ms. del Frate. The English version, "Evening Star", was sung by
June Valli, who had a few hits in the early fifties and was a member of the
cast of the American TV show, "Your Hit Parade" until she was let go
from the show, reportedly because the star of the show, Snooky Lanson was very
fond of her, much to the annoyance of his wife.] Well, thank you for this
little trip down memory lane. Now to get back to the rest of the issue. --Mr.
Retro responds: Angel, thanks so much for your kind words about the "Blood, Sweat and Togas" article. It's really hit a chord with readers who have been clamoring for us to cover this genre since the inception of Cinema Retro. We are grateful to writer Denis Meikle for his superbly researched article which shed a good deal of light on the importance of these long-neglected films, as well as Steve Reeves' brief shining moment as a major international star. Thanks also for the trivia. This has to be the only place in the world where Hercules, Elvis, 007 and Snooky Lanson can be logically tied into the same observations.
Bierce defined “misfortune” as “the kind of fortune that never misses.” By that measure, Damiano Damiani’s A-budget
Spaghetti Western “A Genius, Two Companions, and an Idiot” (“Un Genio, Due
Compari, Un Pollo”) (1975), starring Terence Hill, was one of the all-time
grand slams of jinxed cinema. Damiani’s
negative was stolen during post-production and the film had to be reassembled
from alternate takes. The movie was
ultimately disowned by its producer, Sergio Leone, who regretted selecting
Damiani as the director. In Germany and
Sweden, the title was changed to “Nobody Is the Greatest” in an attempt to
market the film as a sequel to Tonino Valerii’s popular “My Name Is Nobody” (1973), also produced by
Leone and starring Hill. Lacking an
American star for marquee value and released in the twilight of the Spaghetti
era, the picture never played in U.S. theaters.
the relative obscurity of the movie itself, Ennio Morricone’s musical score is
the least known of his eight scores for films directed or produced by
Leone. There was a soundtrack release on
vinyl by CBS-Sugar in Italy in 1975 (with a charming old-timey-style cover
photo of stars Terence Hill, Miou-Miou, and Robert Charlebois as their scruffy
characters Joe Thanks, Lucy, and Steam Engine Bill), but no American
edition. For newer Morricone collectors who
have had to pay high prices for the CBS-Sugar vinyl and other now-out-of-print
foreign editions -- and for those of us who are fond of Damiani’s sadly
underrated and neglected movie -- Quartet Records has done the enormous service of releasing the 1975
soundtrack on a new limited-edition CD. Remastered from the first-generation master tapes, the disc sounds
Genio, Due Compari, Un Pollo” may be Morricone’s most eclectic Spaghetti
Western score, a mixture of old and new styles. Some of the 13 tracks employ familiar motifs from his scores for earlier
Spaghettis by Leone and others. For
example, “Cavalcata . . . per Elisa” is an energetic chase theme carried by
Edda Dell’Orso’s familiar, soaring vocals. As part of the tune, Morricone samples Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” as he did
in his showdown theme in Sergio Sollima’s “La Resa dei Conti”/”The Big Gundown”
(1966). “Ansie dell’Oro” revisits the
American-style orchestral sound that Morricone favored in early Spaghettis like
Duccio Tessari’s “Una Pistola per Ringo”/”A Pistol for Ringo” (1965), when
Italian-made cowboy films tried to sneak into the U.S. market as American
B-pictures. In that sense, intentionally
or not, the track bookends Morricone’s amazing decade-long run of iconic
tracks, which actually anchor the score as the film’s signature themes,
continued Morricone’s move in the ABBA era toward a lighter, Europop-inflected
style first introduced in his title track for “My Name Is Nobody.” “Un Genio, Due Compari, Un Pollo,” the title
tune that might also be called “Joe Thanks’ Theme,” sounds a bit like the
“Nobody” theme, but more bubblegum in flavor. “Pepper Chewing-Gum,” the theme for Robert Charlebois’ hard-luck con man
Steam Engine Bill, incorporates a farting bassoon that brings to mind the jokey
frog croaks in “March of the Beggars” from Leone’s “Giu La Testa”/”Duck You
Sucker” (1971), but it’s lighter and bouncier than the earlier tune. The romantic theme “Quando Arriva L’Amore,”
which is reprised later in the film as “Dolore e Gioia,” is one of Morricone’s
loveliest compositions. And it’s the one
that you’re the most apt to replay in your mind after you listen to the CD,
fittingly so since it underscores the movie’s most striking aspect, the
sometimes wistful, sometimes slapstick romantic triangle of Joe, Lucy, and
included in the Quartet Records‘ two-fer, and also remastered from
first-generation tapes, is Morricone’s score for Sergio Corbucci’s “Sonny &
Jed”/”La Banda J. & S. -- Cronaca Criminale del Far West” (1972), a lesser
work by the maestro. But for fans,
lesser Morricone is still golden, and this is another hard-to-find
soundtrack. The standout among the seven
tracks is the title theme “Sonny,” which sounds a little like “Cheyenne’s
Theme” from “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1969). The Quartet Records CD includes an
informative, generously illustrated souvenir booklet by Randall D. Larson, and
is limited to 500 copies.
Birkin, Anita Pallenberg, a character named “Penny Lane,” sitar music by George
Harrison, Mod set design, Carnaby Street fashions, trippy psychedelic colors --
if you need a late-‘60s cultural fix and you’re short a time machine, Joe
Massot’s “Wonderwall” (1968) may be your next best remedy.
scientist Oscar Collins (Jack MacGowran) lives a drab existence. At work, he peers through a microscope at
wriggling microbes. At home in his
solitary apartment, he reads Scientific American amid piles of bundled back
issues. One evening, he accidentally
knocks a hole in the wall that allows him to peer into the adjoining apartment,
occupied by a pretty aspiring model named Penny Lane (Birkin). Oscar’s flat looks like a disheveled Hobbit
hole. Penny’s is a swirl of vivid Pop
Art colors. Becoming infatuated and then
obsessed, Oscar devises additional ways to spy on his neighbor. When Penny holds a party, Oscar dresses up in
a tuxedo but remains in his apartment, watching through the peep hole. He imagines a series of chaste romantic
encounters with Penny, and a series of comic duels with Penny’s boyfriend (Iain
Quarrier) involving increasingly absurd phallic objects.
at Cannes but never released theatrically in the U.S., “Wonderwall” on the
surface seems like a whimsical variation on Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” (1966)
and “What?” (1972) -- no coincidence,
since it was based on a story by Gérard Brach, Polanski’s friend and longtime
collaborator. MacGowran’s cartoonish
demeanor, art director Assheton Gorton’s eye-popping color palette, the silly
visuals in Oscar’s daydreams, and George Harrison’s eclectic score reinforce the
first impression that this is a comedy, not a downer like Polanski’s
psychodramas. But the movie is more
elusive than that. It definitely avoids
the predictable formula of today’s romantic comedies, in which Oscar would be
played by Matthew McConaughey or Ben Stiller, the voyeurism would be toned down,
and Oscar and Penny would eventually get together -- sort of the same way Kaley
Cuoco’s Penny and her nerdy scientist neighbor Leonard got together on TV’s
“The Big Bang Theory.” Massot, Brach,
and screenwriter Guillermo Cabrera Infante (“Vanishing Point”) devise an ending
that may be happy, sad, or cosmically transcendent, depending on how you
Very much reminiscent of other Mod-era films like “Blow-Up,”
“2001,” “If . . .,” and “Candy,” “Wonderwall” is given a welcome rescue from
obscurity by Fabulous Films and Shout Factory. The Blu-ray Collector’s Edition includes the original theatrical version
restored in hi-def by Pinewood Studios, a director’s cut assembled by Massot in
the late 1990s, and numerous extras. A
glossy, colorful souvenir booklet highlights Massot’s reflections about the
making of the film, written in 2000, two years before his death, with fond and
sometimes poignant memories of hanging with the Beatles, Polanski, Sharon Tate,
Eric Clapton, and others in the Swinging ‘60s. The Fabulous Films/Shout Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray can be ordered from Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
title of Federico Fellini’s landmark, influential 1960 film La dolce vita (“The Sweet Life”) is
ironic. Marcello (exquisitely played by Marcello Mastroianni) is a Rome
journalist working in the tabloid trade, specializing in stories of the rich
and famous. While Marcello’s day-to-day existence might indeed at first seem
like the sweet life, he is, in fact, a lonely, unhappy soul. And that’s the
point of Fellini’s comedy-drama that still manages to enlighten audiences
today, fifty-four years later. Fellini seems to be saying that no matter how
hard you pursue “the sweet life,” you will still be left with yourself—and if
you don’t like yourself, then you’re in trouble.
La dolce vita was released just
as the French New Wave was making a splash, when America’s Production Code was
being chipped away at, and when Italy was making the painful transition from
the post-war doldrums to the hipster avant-garde 60s. Fellini’s movie signaled
his own creative evolution from his early Italian Neo-Realist beginnings to a
more surreal, playful, and stylized sensibility that would grow more outrageous
as the decade went on. La dolce vita is
mostly in the neo-realist vein of Nights
of Cabiria and La Strada, but
Fellini always adds an extra touch of whimsy and peculiarity to his pictures
that the hardcore neo-realists like De Sica or Rossellini didn’t do. And that’s
what made him Fellini.
nearly three-hour movie is a Homeric odyssey of sorts as Marcello spends seven
days and nights on assignment for his tabloid, chasing down famous actress
(Anita Ekberg in an iconic role as “herself”), the purported sighting of the
Madonna, and other sensational stories—but mostly he’s chasing the nightlife,
love, attention, and intellectual intercourse with Rome’s elite. And women, of
course. Marcello is the ultimate playboy, a persona that would follow the actor
Mastroianni his entire life. Through the episodic film, Marcello encounters
sex, debauchery, pathos, and tragedy. But never happiness.
film was controversial at the time for revealing the underbelly of Rome’s
“sweet life,” and mostly for offending the Catholic Church with the opening
scene of a helicopter flying a suspended statue of Christ over ancient ruins in
the city—perceived as parodying the “second coming.” But offending the Catholic
Church with film in the early 60s was a badge of honor—nearly every important
and innovative picture was guilty of it. The bravura opening sequence aside,
the picture was still deemed scandalous for exposing Rome’s hypocrisies and
decadence in a “docu-drama” that tackles sex, religion, and politics.
within its realism, Fellini’s touches of extravagance are everywhere. Characters
become caricatures to be gawked at. The ever-present Fellini prostitutes are
simultaneously human and grotesque. The costumes (Oscar winner) themselves are
glorious and so utterly “modern.” The widescreen black and white cinematography
by Otello Martelli is gorgeous with striking contrasts, especially on
Criterion’s new 4K digital restoration by The Film Foundation. It looks even
better than the Fox/Lorber restored special edition that came out on DVD a few
might want to hold on to that Fox/Lorber edition, though, for The Criterion
Collection’s version does not have the same extras—in fact, the earlier DVD
edition has the better crop of goodies. That said, Criterion brings us a number
of new extras that are well worth the purchase price of the Blu-ray. Among
these are a new interview with director Lina Wertmuller, who was assistant
director on the picture (whatever happened to her?); a new interview with
scholar David Forgacs about the period in Italian history when the film was
made; a vintage interview with Fellini from 1965; an audio interview with
Mastroianni from the early 60s; Felliniana,
a presentation of La dolce vita ephemera;
an exceptional visual essay by filmmaker :: kogonada which reveals the clues
that Fellini is moving away from neo-realism and into more fanciful territory;
and more. Gary Giddens provides the essay in the booklet.
La dolce vita is one of the
greats. If you don’t already own it, now’s the time to get it.
general consensus among fans of “Adult Films” (a.k.a. pornography movies) is
that the genre floundered and died because of the advance of technology. The
first blow was the mass adoption of VCRs in the 1980s. This was initially seen
as a major boon to the smut industry because
video cassettes allowed porn into the home where it could be watched in
secrecy. But the ravenous appetite of the back room video shops for product made
cheap, fast productions more enticing for producers, thus bringing the quality
down further and further with each passing year. The second and most deadly hit
was the creation of the internet, which made porn available at the click of a
button and made the consumer contemptuous of paying for the product at all. Now
that it is possible to see almost any combination of human bodies in almost any
form of sexual activity that you can imagine instantaneously what is to become
of the long form film version of pornography? Who will preserve old school
narrative adult movies from the old days of porno? Vinegar Syndrome will! The
DVD label seems intent on bringing us every possible opportunity to wallow in
sleaze from decades past and taste is no barrier.
Blue (1978) is one of those films that hails from that magic time before the
death of narrative porn –from before the time when the very idea of having to
follow a story to see people copulate onscreen caused puzzlement in a viewer.
Yes, this film is from the ‘Golden Age’ of pornography when smut peddlers saw
porn as just another form of profitable storytelling. As crazy as it may seem
from the 21st century perspective, there was a time when porn was seen as just
another form of motion picture art and the genre was the cutting edge of
boundary pushing. "Let's make the old folks uncomfortable - let's make a
sex film!" But, of course, that
wasn't the only impetus behind making porn. In those days there were people
that wanted to make solid, credible movies that just happened to have several
scenes of sex scattered about the running time. During this short lived time
there were some well produced pornographic movies that had high budgets and
pretty good scripts but, as you might expect, the vast majority were lower down
on the quality scale. Indeed, once the Fast Forward button became a reality,
any pretensions about crafting ‘artful films’ for the porn market became a
silly notion. People were watching these movies for one reason only- titillation
- and if the movie skimped on that front it was reviled, or worse,
do you review a film that opens on a shot of a woman orally pleasuring a man in
an ape suit? Like this- Jungle Blue tells us the tale of Jane (Kathie Kori) who
is in search of her missing father in the jungles of Peru. She arrives in that
country with a group of friends including Silvia (Nina Fause) who has convinced
Jane (by lesbian seduction we learn in one of many flashbacks) to let her and
Hank (Hank Lardner) join her on the trip. These two are posing as botanists
searching for healing herbs in the jungle plant life but are actually in search
of a hidden treasure of precious jewels that they believe are guarded by tribe
Jane's father was studying. Once in the jungle they meet loin-clothed white man
Evor (Bigg John) who is called by native the lord of the jungle. Looking very
Tarzan-like, Evor is a gentleman in every way and is the center of much
spirited attention from both Jane and Sylvia. Inevitably, both get to “know”
him- if you know what I mean.
a truly bizarre turn, Evor explains that he was created in the jungle like Adam,
with no Earthly parents and a natural innocence that not even sex with multiple
women in a single day can ruin. This needless fantasy element adds a touch of
extra silliness to the proceedings that pays off later in the film when we see
that even a gut full of bullets can't seem to kill the studly Jungle King. Of
course we learn that Jane's father has died and there is some grief-stricken
sexual activity to help keep our interests from flagging. All goes well until
the group locates that (not so) hidden tribe when Silvia and Hank put their
secret plan to poison everyone with candy into effect. The evil twosome hope to
cash in and make off to Brazil with the jewels to live a life of hedonistic
fun. As you might expect, things don't go as planned.
this film is a good example of the majority of narrative porn movies of the
1970s then I can see why the genre died. This movie is a damned mess from
beginning to end with the only draw being the actual sex scenes. Everything is
poorly done. The actors are mostly clueless, the script is a third-grader's
idea of a dirty Tarzan story and the stupid 'steal the jewels' plot is dropped
in so randomly halfway through the movie that it seems like a later addition to
the whole thing. Adding to this general slapdash feel is the fact that one sex
scene is repeated a couple of times and sloppy inserts are used to imply that Kathie
Kori actually performed sexually for the cameras. And did I mention the
sequences of an orgy with unrelated characters that are dropped into the film
at random intervals to spice things up? Ugh! Also, this is the first movie I've
seen that uses shots of the movie's poster to display the opening credits - now
that is an effective way to save money.
is not a film to my tastes but I am still glad that Vinegar Syndrome has
released it and continues to release sleazy titles of this type. These
artifacts from cinema's underbelly are fascinating and worthy of preservation
even if their appeal is quite limited. I suspect that fans of 'classic' porn will
eat this up.
(The following pertains to the UK, Region 2 releases)
Walt Disney before him, Gerry Anderson's name became a brand identifier in
itself, a mark of quality. It is impossible to hear his name without automatically
thinking of puppets on strings, whizzing spaceships and secret island hideouts.
In tribute to Anderson, who sadly passed away two years ago before the
completion of this documentary, Filmed in Supermarionation presents a
brilliantly detailed history of his working life. The film is full of archival
material detailing just how difficult it was bringing life to those puppets,
along with interviews with many of those who worked alongside Anderson, most
notably his wife and long-standing collaborator Sylvia who also provided the
voice of Lady Penelope.
documentary revisits some of the original studios that Anderson and his crew
used and new footage is shot in Supermarionation (Gerry Anderson's term to
describe his use of marionettes) to demonstrate the filmmaking process. Some of
it is surprisingly low-tech but always ingenious. Alongside Gerry Anderson's
son Jamie, Lady Penelope and her chauffeur Parker themselves act as presenters
for the film, and whole sets are rebuilt and then blown up in slow motion. The
documentary also reveals some of the tensions between Gerry Anderson and Lew
Grade, the ITC producer who first bought their shows and then the whole company
itself. It was under Grade that they made the move into colour and produced
their most popular and well-loved show, Thunderbirds. Following the
relative failure of the Thunderbirds Are GO movie in 1966 Anderson went
slightly darker with his follow-up TV show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Even another Thunderbirds movie two years later did not do well, perhaps
because potential audiences felt they had seen it already on television.
continued to improve the process and develop technology that made his shows of
such a high quality, including early use of video assist, which meant that his
puppeteers could view the action live on monitors instead of just looking down
at the puppets heads. Thankfully, unlike a lot of television production at the
time which was shot on primitive video tape, Anderson's shows were shot on
film, meaning they have been preserved and all look great today.
often claiming to hate the puppets (he reveals that early on he hoped to become
a director like Steven Spielberg) Gerry Anderson nevertheless worked with them
throughout the 1960s before finally having the opportunity to work with real
actors; first producing the theatrical film Journey to the Far Side of the
Sun, and then the successful TV series' UFO and Space: 1999.
Staying within science fiction, all of these shows still made extensive use of
miniatures and the effects that he had developed in his earlier puppet shows.
Distributing have produced this documentary and are releasing it in both DVD
and Blu-ray formats. For
real fans and collectors there is a limited edition box set featuring books,
comics and bonus original Gerry Anderson episodes of early shows like Four
Feathers Fall, Fireball XL5 and Supercar, all restored and in
HD. (This can be ordered by clicking here.)
filmmaker George Sluizer suddenly passed away quite recently—September 20—so it
is a quite fitting, albeit unplanned, tribute that The Criterion Collection has
re-issued a new 4K restoration on Blu-ray. The
Vanishing (original Dutch title: Spoorloos)
is Sluizer’s best known work. Not only was the 1988 original picture, presented
here, an international success and now something of a cult film, Hollywood
remade the movie in 1993 with American actors—but with Sluizer directing again.
It was not a success; its chief sin was changing the ending to a happy
one. It completely destroyed the message
and power that the original picture had and still exhibits.
The Vanishing straddles a line
between a crime thriller and a horror film. The shocking finale easily belongs
in the latter category—it is horrific indeed. Sluizer plays a clever trick on the audience by giving us two POVs to
follow—and the character we’re really meant
to follow is not the one you’d expect. Is this the victim’s story or the
perpetrator’s story? The movie starts
with the former, but by the end it’s the latter’s. Does it matter? Perhaps.
is a story of how we take our everyday lives for granted until it’s changed in
an instant by chance. We’re all playing the lottery of life... and death. Saskia
(Johanna der Steege in a small but significant role) didn’t count on running
into Raymond Lemorne (frighteningly played by the late Bernard-Pierre
Donnadieu) at a highway rest stop crowded with travelers. She didn’t count on
meeting a man who discovered he was a sociopath at a young age and relished that
fact by spending his days rehearsing for the moment when he would kidnap a
random woman. Lemorne displays true evil but hides it well, for he is a
respectable middle-class employed man, married to a devoted wife (although she
suspects her husband of having affairs) and two teenage daughters. After
several trial runs and botched attempts, the sociopath succeeds at drugging and
abducting a woman—who by accident happens to be Saskia. What he plans to do
with his victim after the kidnapping is a secret kept from the audience until
the picture’s final moments.
boyfriend, Rex (Gene Bervoets), is a bit of a jerk at first. Early in the film
he leaves her alone in the car while it’s dangerously stuck inside a dark
tunnel, the point being that this is a man who takes his life for granted and
needs a firm kick in the arse. But when Saskia simply vanishes under the noses
of dozens of people, Rex changes his tune and realizes what it truly is that’s important.
The Vanishing is also about unexpected,
random violence. It can happen anywhere—even at a conspicuously “safe” convenience store and
petrol station crowded with families in the middle of the day. This is scary
stuff, folks, and Sluizer’s direction is of high caliber from the early tension
of the tunnel sequence, through Rex’s cat-and-mouse game with Lemorne, to the
final terrifying roll of the dice—for Rex must surely make a serious gamble to
find out what really happened to Saskia.
Dutch/French film is subtitled; the images look fabulous on Blu-ray. The disc
is short on extras—only two recent interviews with the late director and
actress der Steege. Critic Scott Foundas writes the booklet’s fine essay on the
of the best thrillers of the 80s, The
Vanishing would make good Halloween night viewing. Grab it now!