to the Criterion Collection for releasing Whit Stillman’s charming trio of young
adult angst: Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), and The Last Days of Disco (1998). The bookend films have both been previously released
by Criterion on DVD and Blu-ray, but now the company bows Barcelona to complete the trilogy. Available as both a stand-alone disc as well as part of a set of the
three films, Barcelona features the
luminous Mira Sorvino in an early role.
trilogy of films that Mr. Stillman made as the beginning of his career and for
which he is most well-known are interesting in that they depict groups of
people who fall out of the scope of most of the general population and probably
appeal to even less. That is actually a
welcome relief. Metropolitan was shot in January and February in 1989 and released
in August 1990 (a curious choice for a film set at Christmas time) and the upscale
characters live in a Manhattan that is far less hectic than today’s, light years
before their lives were infiltrated and forever altered by personal computers,
cell phones, electronic tablets and violent video games. The absence of these devices is noticeable in
every frame of this film wherein the characters talk to each other rather than text. Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols are two of
the actors who appear in all three of these films, playing different characters
by name but are instantly recognizable by their attitudes and method of speak. In Metropolitan,
they play Upper Eastsiders. In Barcelona, they are cousins who bicker
about sex and politics in a Europe far less violent than today’s. In The
Last Days of Disco, they are an employee of a disco and a disco dancer,
Barcelona, referred to as “…the
funniest film ever made about the violent hatred of Americans…” by Michael
Weiss, begins with a terrorist explosion at
the American Library, an unlikely start for a film purporting to be a
comedy. This imagery has become all-too
familiar and far more brutal in present-day 2016 with the insurgence of groups
like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but when this film was shot,
presumably sometime after the first World Trade Center bombing in February
1993, the world appeared to be a less frightening place. In Barcelona,
the time period that the film is set in is difficult to pin down just from
watching the film. There is talk in the
film that Spain is getting ready to join NATO, and that historical event took
place in 1982. The film does not look
like it is attempting to take place during that time, however.
are introduced to Ted Boyton (Nichols), a salesman originally from Chicago who
has just come out of a relationship and bemoans his inclination to fall for
overly attractive women in relationships that are ephemeral. He resigns himself to pursuing (in his words)
or even rather homely girls.” We can
assume that the failure of his latest LTR is a result of falling for the former
and so he tries to be philosophical about his future pursuits. He confides this to his cousin Fred (Eigeman),
a naval officer who shows up out of the blue and wants to stay with Ted for a
while, although his sudden appearance irks Ted. Fred’s attitude mirrors that of Nick Smith, the character that Mr.
Eigeman portrayed in Metropolitan, which
is to say that he is a tad angry about things. Fred occasionally dons his naval accoutrements
while out and about with Ted and the female counterparts they have met
accidentally (Tushka Bergen and Mira Sorvino as Montserrat and Marta,
respectively) which causes a rise in inflammatory anti-American sentiment
towards the group. While it is directed
at Fred it is never anything truly awful…until near the end of the film when
Fred is shot point blank by an assailant just outside the car he is riding
in. Ted is shocked and holds vigil by
Fred’s bedside, reading to him and wondering if he is even being heard. The women they have met also chip in and take
turns and Ted wonders if his cousin will ever be the same. Fortunately, Fred comes out of it, although
his attitude about life seems to be no different despite losing an eye.
Mr. Stillman’s dialogue most obviously
mirrors that of Woody Allen who gave himself and his co-stars wildly funny and
philosophical ruminations on male/female relationships, sex, politics, and the
world at large. There are some truly
funny moments, such as Ted’s dance to “Pennsylvania
6-5000” while he’s alone in the apartment, only to be interrupted by Fred and
Marta who return unexpectedly. The film
is a perfect slice of light entertainment in an atmosphere of films and
television shows that is almost exclusively comprised of super heroes, scheming
politicians, dysfunctional writers, and espionage.
The Blu-ray is a nice upgrade from the
2002 DVD. This edition features:
A new and restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by
director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with 2.0 surround
DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
The 2002 audio commentary featuring Stillman and actors
Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
New video essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about
the trilogy made up of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
The Making of “Barcelona,” a short documentary from 1994
featuring behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with Stillman and
Deleted scenes and alternate ending, with commentary by
Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
A segment from a 1994 episode of the Today show featuring
An episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with
An essay by film scholar Haden Guest
to order Barcelona on Blu-ray from
to order A Whit Stillman Trilogy on
Blu-ray from Amazon.com
Bruce Willis will top-line a remake of the urban crime thriller "Death Wish", to be directed by Eli Roth. The original film was a sensation in 1974 and helped elevate Charles Bronson to major stardom in his native America, after having found success in European productions. In that film, Bronson played Paul Kersey, a liberal New York businessman whose wife and daughter are brutally raped. His wife dies in the incident and his daughter ends up brain-dead. Enraged by the inability of the police to catch the culprits, Kersey gradually takes the law into his own hands,making himself an easy target and then killing those who intend to do him harm. Within weeks, his anonymous vigilante becomes a populist hero in a city in which the citizenry is fed up with the break down in law and order. The film, directed by Michael Winner, spawned some sequels, all of which were repellent and cartoonish at the same time, but the original movie still retains its power. Director William Friedkin once told this writer that the audience reaction to Bronson's on-screen killings was visceral and frightening as people cheered with every pull of the trigger.
The new version of "Death Wish" may find an audience, but we're willing to bet it doesn't. Chances are it will fall into the realm of other remakes designed simply to make a fast buck. For one thing, history is against the concept. America's urban areas are in far better condition than they were in 1974. Although high profile mass killings are on the rise, everyday crime is generally far lower than it was back in the Seventies. New York City has routinely posted crime rates that are as low as they were in the early 1960s. It's doubtful that the film will resonate with audiences in the same way that Winner's original version did. It was made during a period when emerging from certain New York subway lines with your wallet intact was considered reason to celebrate. That no longer is the case. Winner was trying as much to make a social statement as he was making a profit. He succeeded with both goals. However, the new "Death Wish" has the odds stacked against it. Charles Bronson was a leading man on the rise at the time of the first version, whereas Bruce Willis works is arguably over-exposed. He will apparently appear in your home movies if the pay check was large enough. He also hasn't had a major hit as the leading man in quite some time and it seems doubtful that this would be the vehicle to reverse that trend. He and Eli Roth deserve the benefit of a doubt, but I'm betting the studio will mostly be counting on profits from the video and Netflix rights.
The only commonality among the films of director Nicolas Roeg is that there is no commonality. Roeg graduated from being one of the industry's most respected and innovative cinematographers to becoming an esteemed filmmaker in his own right. Among his disparate productions: the London crime film "Performance", the bizarre David Bowie starrer "The Man Who Fell to Earth", the cult favorite "Bad Timing" and his most accomplished film, the adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's supernatural novel "Don't Look Now", which ranks as one of the most atmospheric and terrifying movies ever made. By the early 1990s, however, Roeg's penchant for making avant garde films with limited boxoffice appeal- combined with his insistence on not compromising his artistic visions in the name of commerce- put him at odds with studio executives. His movies were largely appreciated by the art house cinema crowd but that didn't endear him to the studio bosses in the corner offices. One of Roeg's most bizarre, ambitious and expensive films was the little-seen and even less-remembered "Eureka", a 1983 production that was bedeviled by bad luck. First the basics: Roeg initially approached screenwriter Paul Mayersberg to adapt a book titled "Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes?" by Marshall Houts. Sir Harry Oakes may have faded into historical obscurity but in 1943 he was certainly one of the most famous men in the world- and had been for two decades. It all began when Oakes, an American by birth, went north into the wilds of Canada in his quest to prospect for gold. He doggedly pursued this ambition for fifteen years before stumbling upon what became the greatest discovery and claim for gold in North American history. Overnight Oakes became one of the richest men on earth. He later moved to the Bahamas where he lived comfortably on a large estate with his wife and daughter. Enamored by the British gentry he interacted with, Oakes changed his citizenship and became a subject of England. Big money buys impressive friends and Oakes was quite chummy with the Duke of Windsor, who had made a wee bit of a splash himself a few years earlier when he was known as King Edward VIII- yes, that King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry the love of his life. Edward was by then relegated to being the Governor-General of the Bahamas, some theorized to get him off the front pages. Between his scandalous marriage and the fact that he was deemed an appeaser to Hitler in the lead up to the war with Germany, which was now raging, the Duke was not "Flavor of the Month" in his native England. Still, he and Harry Oakes hit it off rather well and before long Harry was knighted, ostensibly because of his sizable contributions to charity, but some theorized the Duke had pulled some strings on his behalf. Sir Harry's bliss was short-lived. In 1943, he was brutally murdered in his own bed. How brutal was the crime? Well, he was bludgeoned, tarred and feathered, burned alive and beheaded. Clearly, at least one person in his orbit was not very enamored of him and it was decided that the person who liked him least was his son-in-law, who Harry had virtually disowned. A sensational trial took place that resulted in breathless international coverage but the suspect was found to be not guilty on the basis of flimsy evidence. The sensational case remains technically unsolved to this day, though amateur sleuths still debate who the real culprit was and what his motive might have been.
Nicolas Roeg was understandably intrigued by this story and was delighted when screenwriter Paul Mayersberg had also read the book that Roeg wanted him adapt for the screen. He, too, had longed to make a film of it. With the two men in synch, they set out to make a linear retelling of the remarkable characters and events pertaining to Sir Harry's life. However, they realized that since several of the major players in his life were still alive, the production could be plagued by lawsuits. Thus, they decided to give fictitious names to the characters. This also liberated them in terms of using artistic license when desirable, as they were no longer attempting to present a purely factual study of Sir Harry's life and death. It also liberated Roeg by allowing him to bring more esoteric elements into the production. The central character was now named Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) and our first view of him is indeed striking: he in embroiled in a violent struggle with another man in the midst of a raging blizzard in the Canadian wilderness. An unidentified woman, presumably the other man's wife, pleads for the men to stop fighting and we learn that Jack, who has been enraged by something that is never explained, is splitting up his prospecting partnership with the other man. He eventually storms off into the intimidating landscape to continue to pursue his goal of finding a major strike. Ultimately he does just that by literally falling into a fortune when he slips through a crevice and finds himself in an underground cave that is literally raining gold dust. He rejoices in his triumph but his happiness is short-lived. He returns to the bordello where the love of his life, a local hooker and oracle (Helena Kallianiotes) is literally on her death bed and she dies in his arms. It's the first in a string of unfortunate incidents that will plague Jack's life. The scene then abruptly switches to twenty years later when we find Jack comfortably residing in his Bahamian estate named, appropriately enough, Eureka. He's a hot-tempered man prone to violent outbursts. The only calming influence in his life is his twenty year-old beautiful daughter Tracy (Theresa Russell), who he clearly adores but who also brings him consternation because of her strong, independent ways. Tracy has married Claude Malliot Van Horn (Rutger Hauer), a handsome, charismatic European gigolo. Jack can immediately see through Claude's motives and calls him out for being an opportunist who is using Tracy to get access to the McCann fortune. The rift results in Tracy becoming estranged from Jack and her mother, Helen (Jane Lapotaire), a weak-willed woman who Jack treats as he would the hired help. A parallel subplot finds Jack being pressured by his friend and business associate Charles Perkins (Ed Lauter) to sell his beloved estate to a group of American gangsters headed by a man named Mayaofsky (Joe Pesci) and his second-in-command Aurello D'Amato (Mickey Rourke). Seems they want to expand their operations to the island Jack resides on and consider his land crucial to their plans. Typically, Jack not only rejects their offer but insults them in the process, leading to the gangsters deciding to take strong-arm tactics against him. In the film's most disturbing scene (and there are several), Jack is murdered in his bed by being bludgeoned, tortured with a blowtorch and (we learn later) beheaded. It's an incredibly gruesome sight to behold, as Roeg holds nothing back from the viewer except the decapitation. (We should be thankful for small favors). The balance of the film concerns the resulting murder trial, which mirrors the real life case in that Jack's son-in-law was arrested and charged with the crime. He had motive and opportunity- but so did many of his enemies including the gangsters.
"Eureka" may have been an ambitious undertaking but it's also a highly unsatisfying one. The script provides us with a dearth of sympathetic characters. With the exception of Tracy (who is superbly played by Roeg's then-wife Theresa Russell, who made numerous other films with him), there isn't a single other character with any admirable traits. Hackman delivers a powerful performance as McCann but the character is sketchy. We all know money doesn't always buy happiness but we never get to the root cause of his dissatisfaction with life and everyone around him. The supporting cast is equally excellent with Rutger Hauer giving one of the best performances of his career as the vain, almost effeminate pretty boy whose charm makes Tracy blind to his vulgarities. These are demonstrated in a very haunting sequence in which Claude and two female companions secretly attend a voodoo ritual that becomes a pagan-like orgy which leaves everyone involved disgraced and emotionally scarred. Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke are impressive as the gangsters, with Pesci uncharacteristically underplaying his role, while Ed Lauter does the same as Jack's wimpy friend Charlie. The main problem with "Eureka" is that Roeg values style over substance. The entire first section of the film involving Jack's quest for gold is compromised by Roeg dropping in metaphysical and supernatural aspects, implying that his seer girlfriend is somehow sending him psychic signals to find the gold even though this will inexplicably cost her her own life. Even when the story gets on more traditional footing in Jack's later years, Roeg still toys with the viewer by inserting artistic touches that are visually striking but which distract the audience and make things quite confusing to follow. At times it's hard to figure out who is who and what everyone's relationships and motivations are.Roeg also can't resist making numerous analogies between the characters of Jack McCann and Charles Foster Kane, though the comparisons seem a bit obvious and heavy handed. Having said that, the movie looks beautiful and Alex Thomson's cinematography is top-notch, as is the lush musical score by Stanley Myers.
If Jack McCann's fate seemed cursed, so did "Eureka" as a major film production. The movie was financed and was to be distributed by United Artists. However, during production the management team of the long-troubled studio changed and "Eureka" was treated as an orphan project that had been green lit by the previous regime. Not helping matters was the fact that a test screening proved to be very discouraging, with the audience overwhelmingly giving the quirky film a "thumbs down" verdict. UA sat on the movie for two years before giving it a very minor and abbreviated release, after which it fell into obscurity. Twilight Time has released the film as a special edition Blu-ray, limited to only 3,000 units- and kudos for them for doing so. Although the film is a misguided and unsatisfying enterprise, it still has enough impressive aspects to merit a look by any serious movie scholar. Bonus features include extensive on-camera interviews with screenwriter Paul Meyersburg, producer Jeremy Thomas and editor Tony Lawson. In listening to their reflections on the film (Mayersburg in particular), one gains far more insights into what Roeg was hoping to achieve and how we should view the characters. It's a tremendous help in terms of providing fresh perspectives but a casual viewer who sees a film in a theater should not have to seek out interviews with the movie makers in order to gain such information. The special edition also has a rare audio commentary track consisting of Roeg answering questions at the movie's world premiere. A theatrical trailer is also included, as is an informative booklet by film historian Julie Kirgo.
"Eureka" is an artistic failure in this writer's opinion but at least it's a fascinating one and certainly worth a look in order to draw your own conclusions.
The Warner Archive has released the previously-issued Paramount special DVD edition of The Family Jewels as a burn-to-order title, carrying over the extras from the previous release. The 1965 film is a tour de force for Jerry Lewis, who not only starred, but co-scripted, co-produced and directed the film. There lies the rub. Lewis was certainly a pioneer in his field, one of the first actors to create a second successful career as director. Prior to his achievements, most other actors who tried to helm major films gave up after one or two efforts. (Charles Laughton, Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, etc.) However, the more overstretched the workaholic Lewis became, the more his work suffered. He is onscreen for almost every scene in this film, playing a variety of crazy characters. Eleven year old actress Donna Butterworth (charmingly billed as "Miss Donna Butterworth") is Donn Peyton, an orphaned rich kid whose guardians have instructed her that she must choose a new father from among her eccentric uncles, who she barely knows. Her best friend is Willard Woodward, her ever loyal chauffeur and caretaker. He's a bit of a klutz but his childlike manner ensures he's the perfect companion for the sophisticated young girl. It's Willard's job to escort Donna to various parts of the country to meet her uncles and see which one she will choose as her new dad. (Apparently, the uncles have no say in accepting this rather sobering responsibility). One is an ancient sea captain (Lewis in absurd makeup that makes him look like a cross between a mop and Captain Kangaroo), another is an unspeakably vile and self-centered circus clown, another is an inept airline pilot, while another is a bumbling boob with a British accent, while the remaining two are a gangster and a successful photographer of glamour models (Lewis reprises his Nutty Professor character of Julius for this role.) The plot, such as it is, exists only to afford Lewis any number of showcase moments as he wreaks mayhem on the screen as each of the idiotic uncles. Eventually, little Donna is kidnapped and held for ransom by the gangster uncle, thus allowing Willard the chauffeur to spring into action to save her. The climactic sequence in which Donna chooses the man she wants to be her new dad is as absurd as it is predictable. The film contains a couple of cringe-inducing examples of nepotism run wild. The first occurs in a sequence that exists for no other reason than to show Willard enjoying a new rock 'n roll album "coincidentally" released by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The second occurrence finds the group awkwardly making a cameo in the film. Now I like dear old Gary and his Playboys (I just saw him recently in an oldies concert and he was damned good) but this kind of blatant promotion proves to be more a distraction than a delight.
I've always been an admirer of Jerry Lewis and even second rate Lewis (which this is) still has some charming elements to recommend. Lewis, whose best efforts were under the restraint of director Frank Tashlin, has no one to keep him in check here. His characterizations of the uncles range from genuinely amusing (the photographer, the pilot) to over-the-top even by Lewis standards (the sea captain, the gangster, the Brit). He makes one of the most startling impressions as the nasty clown in the only role not designed to be humorous. "Miss Butterworth" is a very capable and likable actress and is able to hold her own on screen with Lewis (no easy task). There are some nice bits by well loved character actors like Neil Hamilton, Sebastian Cabot, Gene Baylos and Robert Strauss. As with even the least of Lewis' movies, it never commits the cardinal sin of being dull.
The special edition features include a commentary track by Lewis and singer Steve Lawrence (!), who had nothing to do with the making of the film. However, Lewis realizes what this writer learned a long time ago: when you are recording commentary tracks for comedies, it always flows better when there is byplay between two people. Solo commentaries are best left for the likes of Citizen Kane and Schindler's List. There are such long gaps between some of Lewis' comments that I had to check to see if I had somehow switched out of the commentary mode. Lawrence is there to serve as Lewis's Ed McMahon, serving up softball questions and laughing in all the appropriate spots. Still, Lewis does provide some nice insights into the film. He says he was reunited some years ago with Donna Butterworth and was delighted to see her again (she had seven children). Lewis also tells us during a sequence in which he makes a seemingly impossible shot on a pool table that he was coached for two days by Minnesota Fats himself, which is a rather fascinating tidbit. The DVD also includes some casual screen tests of Lewis chatting with Butterworth and an original trailer. In all, an impressive package for a mid-range movie that nonetheless is worth viewing if for no other reason than to experience a bygone era in which family comedies could be made without bathroom humor and sex jokes.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from The British Film Institute:
London: Friday 17 June 2016 – The first new trailer in four decades for Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar® and BAFTA-winning historical masterpiece BARRY LYNDON is released online today, ahead of the film’s re-release in cinemas across the UK on 29 July 2016.
Commissioned by the BFI in association with Warner Bros. Pictures and created by Ignition Creative London, the new trailer – the first since the film’s original release in 1975 – has a strong contemporary feel to appeal to new audiences. It focuses on the different and conflicting roles and characteristics of 18th century Irish wanderer Redmond Barry (later Barry Lyndon), played by Ryan O’Neal, whose adventures see him climb from innocent rural lad to a lying, cheating English nobleman.
A modern version of the film’s famous main title music – George Frideric Handel's ‘Sarabande’ (from Suite in D minor HWV 437) – adds pace and heightens the dramatic impact of the action on screen, which is as fresh and exciting today as it was forty years ago.
The trailer has been enthusiastically approved by Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick’s Executive Producer, who said:
“The trailer does the film justice. Brilliant. I am looking forward to watching the film again.”
It can be seen and embedded from YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjPSGuJskxM
Cinemas that will be showing BARRY LYNDON from 29 July are listed here, with more to follow in the coming weeks: www.bfi.org.uk/releases
BARRY LYNDON is the fifth film to be re-released by the BFI in an on-going partnership with Warner Bros., which has resulted in thousands of people being able to see Doctor Zhivago, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining back on the big screen.
get it out of the way - 11:55 is derivative. It's a showdown
film. Showdown films have a simple plot device and story line: the protagonist
is threatened and driven by angst, "Should I stay or should I go?"
The antagonist is driven by rage and revenge and has clear intentions. The
characters' reasons vary from film to film but the premise is the same. You've
seen films like that hundreds of times. Welcome to 11:55.
no shame in dragging out an old chestnut. William Shakespeare never came up
with an original story
line either. Co-director Ben Snyder admitted to the fact that the film's title
was inspired by High Noon. But this film, which had its world
premiere recently at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is the first directorial
effort of Ari Issler and Snyder.
Sanchez (co-screenwriter Victor Almanzar) is a returning Afghan War veteran. We
first meet him as we silently ride the bus home to Newburgh, New York. His earlier- than -expected arrival threatens to throw big sister Angie's party
plans awry. Chased out of the house, he surprises his long time girlfriend
Livvy for some quality time before acting dutifully surprised at the party.
There we meet many of Nelson's friends, some of whom are guys he ran drugs with
before entering the service. Nelson is a troubled man with a troubled past. He
escaped the mean streets where he grew up by joining the military - after he
accidentally killed a dealer from rival gang. His former protégé on the
streets, Teyo, breaks the news to him at the party: Nicky Quinn is coming.
Quinn is the older brother of the gangbanger killed by Nelson and he is out for
revenge. He arrives in town on the, you know it, 11:55 bus.
happy homecoming day suddenly turns sour. His plans did not include dealing
with actions from his distant past. Whatever he experienced in the war has
changed him. His sister and girlfriend convince him to run, make a new life in
Boston. But when Nelson and Livvy run into a couple of Quinn's goons at the bus
station, Nelson takes a stand - he's not going to run away this time; he's
going to stay and face what's in store.
The city of Newburgh,
for Nelson Sanchez, turns out to be a lot like Gary Cooper's Hadleyville.
Although he has an abundance of friends, like Cooper’s beleaguered sheriff of High Noon, none will commit to stand
with him in his hour of need. His efforts exhausted, he does what any
knowledgeable sacrificial lamb would do: he gets a haircut. This
is a gritty, moving film filled with a terrific supporting cast. Newburgh
should get credit as well. It once ranked in the 20 most dangerous communities
in the US and has been plagued by gang violence and drugs for years. It
provides a solid backdrop for the film's authenticity.
Almanzar shines as Nelson Sanchez. There's not a doubt in the viewer's mind as
to what Sanchez is thinking at any given time and Almanzar makes the viewer empathize with his plight. He is soulful and deep and you care about what he's been
through and where he's going. Hopefully, Almanzar has a promising future in
film. Elizabeth Rodriguez is scary and soft, sexy and tough as Angie, especially when she
threatens the "Greek chorus" of Nelson's cowardly friends in the barbershop
with a razor. Livvy,
as portrayed by Shirley Rumierk, is the dutiful girlfriend. She's torn between
supporting her man's choice and saving his life.
veteran actors lend some great turns in character roles. David Zayas is
Maurice, Nelson's former "Godfather" from his drug dealing days who'd
rather feed his pigeons than lend a hand. John Leguizamo, as Nelson's
wheelchair-bound, former marine buddy, is the only one willing to stand with
him. Yes, pun intended. He and Julia Stiles, as Nicky Quinn's pregnant wife
bring some terrific comic relief into the film. Her brief rant at Quinn as he
ignores her wishes and resumes his gang persona in order to avenge his brother
is hysterical. It also teaches us the differences caused by the effects of
serotonin and dopamine on the human brain. Mike
Carlsen in his brief screen time as Nicky Quinn is a threatening presence, a
subtle villain whose motivation may not be what it seems. And I can't leave out
Smarlin Hernandez. As Daiza, Nelson's niece and Angie's daughter, she portrays,
with honesty, the warring emotions teenagers feel about the person they both
love and hate the most in their life.
"11:55" is a modern-day, East-coast
Western. I expect to see more great things from those involved in this
production. Film history tells us that America won the West a long time ago but
it is in our smaller cities, those impoverished, under-employed, landscapes and
vistas where today's stories lie. There, real battles continue to be fought on
a daily basis by residents who wish little more than to live safely, securely
and in peace. This film tells just one of those stories.
Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door has been released as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection. The 1949 film starred
Humphrey Bogart and a very young John Derek as a defense attorney and his
street punk of a client.It's not high
on the list of Bogart classics, and it's not even one of Ray's best (It was his
second film, made after the far superior They
Live By Night). Ray never particularly praised it, saying only that he
wished it could've been grimmer. Ray once pointed to Luis Bunuel’s LosOlvidados,
a film about Mexican slum kids that came out in 1950, as an example of the sort
of film KnockOn Any Door could've been.If Bunuel's film had come out first, Ray said, the inspiration would've
been there to make a more penetrating, realistic work. "I would have made
a hell of a lot better movie," Ray said.
On Any Door is usually labeled as
film noir, but nothing in the story has the subversive taint found in the best
noir films, and there’s none of the sleek, European ex-pat styling, unless one
counts the expressionistic lighting that cuts across the prison floor in a
scene where a convicted killer makes his long walk to the death house. KnockOn Any Door is more in line with the crime dramas turned out by
Warner Bros during the 1930s, which makes sense when one considers Bogart got
his start in those Warner Bros crime flicks, and it was Bogart’s film company,
Santana Productions, that produced Knock
On Any Door for Columbia Pictures.
While it wasn’t a
blockbuster, it performed well enough at the box office to establish Bogart’s
group as a serious production unit. It also gave us the quote, “Live fast, die
young, and have a good looking corpse,” a quote so nice it’s given to us twice
by the angry Nick Romano, played by Derek with all the seething anger he could
muster beneath his impossibly long eyelashes. According to Bogart biographer
Stefan Kanfer, Bogie tried to boost Derek's performance by pointing out that
most of the day's top actors, from James Cagney, to Edward G. Robinson, to
Bogart himself, had started out in crime movies, and that a good performance as
a heel is always eye catching. Not surprisingly, Derek goes for broke in the
film, to the point where he appears to be auditioning for a role in ReeferMadness. Lookat me! he seems to say in every scene, Look at my perfect profile, my quivering
lips; look at how twitchy I am when I play angry! I'm a real actor, damn it!
Derek was just a young,
inexperienced actor fresh out of the paratroopers when he was cast as
"Pretty Boy" Nick Romano, "the Skid Row Romeo.”Romano, like so many Hollywood hoodlums, is a
good boy shoved down the wrong path in life after losing his father at a young
age, and then growing up in poverty. Attorney Andrew Morgan (Bogart) has known
Romano for years and has watched him struggle. When Romano is accused of
killing a cop, Morgan hesitates to help. For one thing, the partners at his law
firm don't want the negative attention such a trial could bring. Morgan also
isn't sure if he believes Romano is innocent.
On Any Door is actually two films woven together. We
see Romano's tale in flashback, as he goes from being a mama’s boy, to a
typical slum rat and petty thief, to a beleaguered family man who drinks too
much and can't hold down a job. We also see Morgan's crisis of conscious as he
works up the enthusiasm to help him. Morgan, a former slum kid himself,
believes people should help themselves. Gradually, though, he sees Romano as a
kid worth saving. By the film's end, Morgan vows to spend the rest of his life
helping kids like Nick Romano.
The Nick Romano character
was a bit ahead of the times. He looks and carries himself like a character
from a mid-50s juvenile delinquent movie, perhaps The Wild One, or Blackboard
Jungle, or even Ray's own RebelWithout A Cause. There were even rumors,
possibly apocryphal, that Marlon Brando was interested in the Romano role. Hot
off his stage success in A Streetcar
Named Desire, Brando would've been an interesting Romano, and with his
realistic acting, might have booted this movie into something close to a
classic. According to different sources, Bogart was originally planning to make
the film under the direction of Mark Hellinger, with Brando as Romano. When
Hellinger died in Dec. 1947, the project was temporarily put aside until Bogart
started Santana Productions. Brando, who had wanted to work with Hellinger,
allegedly turned down Bogie’s offers, paving the way for Derek. (I find it a
little hard to believe that Bogart was, as some biographers claim, pursuing
Brando to any great degree, considering Bogart was notoriously disdainful of
the self-indulgent method actor types emerging out of New York. The thought of
Brando and Bogart together is fascinating, but just the fact that Bogart
eventually chose Derek, who was light years away from the brooding Brando,
makes me think the whole Brando rumor was nothing but a PR flack's pipe dream.)
Derek, with his greasy mop
of thick black hair, looks the part of a dashing street hood, but his acting is
too melodramatic and hasn't aged well. At the time, though, Derek made quite a
splash, inspiring Hollywood gossip columnist Luella Parsons to write, "I
predict John Derek will be one of the big screen stars of 1949."Stardom didn't quite find Derek, although he
acted regularly for many years, appearing in everything from westerns to bible
epics.He's probably best known to baby
boomers as the husband/mentor and sometime director of Bo Derek.Even when Derek died in 1998, most of the obits
focused on the couple's May/December romance, which was fodder for gossip rags
during Bo's brief run at movie stardom.
Bogart is Bogart, and not
much more needs to be said. There's an excellent scene where, suspecting Romano
has stolen 100-dollars from him, Bogart as Morgan lures Romano into an alley
and wrestles him to the ground, pinning him in the dirt with some sort of
commando hold and then rifling through Romano's pocket to get back his money.
"You're a two-bit punk, and that's all you'll ever be,” Bogart snarls,
spraying saliva everywhere.Always a
sprayer and a drooler, Bogart’s lips and chin practically shine with spittle in
this movie, especially during the courtroom scenes where he has long speeches
and no one around to wipe his mouth. Bogart’s forehead also perspires like crazy in
the court scenes, until he looks like he's performing on the bow of a ship
during a storm. He's great, though, and his closing speech to the jury is among
the better scenes of his late '40s period.Heavy-handed? Sure, but Bogart could always make these scenes
compelling, whereas if another actor tried it, the bit would come off as
"Knock OnAny Door is a
picture I'm kind of proud of, and I'll tell you why," Bogart the producer
said in a press release trumpeting the film. "It's a very challenging
story; different; off the beaten path. The novel (by Willard Motley) was
brutally honest. We've tried to be just as direct, just as forceful, in the
picture. I think you'll like it better that way. "
proclaimed Knock On Any Door "a
hard-hitting, tight melodrama," the film's Feb. 1949 release was greeted
by mixed reviews. The notion that criminals were not always responsible for
their actions was a relatively new and unpopular concept. The film was
occasionally praised for its direct look at life in the slums, but Bosley Crowther
of ‘The New York Times’ wasn't impressed. "Not only,” wrote Crowther, “are
the justifications for the boy's delinquencies inept and superficial...but the
nature and aspect of the hoodlum are outrageously heroized." Crowther, who
may have invented the word ‘heroized,’ added that the film was riddled with
"inconsistencies and flip-flops," and that "The whole thing
appears to be fashioned for sheer romantic effect, which its gets from its
'pretty-boy' killer, victim of society and blazing guns."
Actually, the film
could've used some more blazing guns. The opening sequence is a stunner, with a
cop being gunned down on a dark street, and a sudden swarming of the
neighborhood by cops rousting every local man with a criminal record. The scene
is a mere tease, though, for the film settles down into a talky courtroom drama
and doesn't quite live up to its opening blast. But give Bogie and his Santana
crew credit for choosing this project as their debut voyage. They jumped on the
juvenile delinquent bandwagon before it had really taken off, predating the
screwed-up teenager craze by five or six years. In a way, Derek’s Nick Romano was
a forerunner of James Dean, Elvis, Sal Mineo, and every other greasy hoodlum
with puppy dog eyes that would populate the movie screens of the 1950s.
The Choice Collection DVD offers no extra
features, but the transfer is crisp and clear, all the better to see Bogart
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
was happy to finally catch up with Clouds
of Sils Maria since I missed its theatrical run; the picture received many
accolades, especially for Kristen Stewart, who apparently was the first
American to win the César award for Supporting Actress, as well as
several critics’ awards for the same category.
film is a commentary on the state of Hollywood filmmaking, an examination of
the psychological dynamics between women, and a philosophical—sometimes
playful—dramatization of parallel lives/characters. It’s as if an Ingmar
Bergman movie was crossed with one by Krzysztof Kieślowski.
Binoche stars as Maria, a popular, internationally-known actress who appears in
European and Hollywood films, and on the stage. Stewart indeed gives a
remarkable performance—the best I’ve ever seen her do—as Valentine, Maria’s
personal assistant. Twenty-something years earlier, Maria had starred in a
stage play and subsequent film adaptation about a lesbian relationship between
an older business woman and a younger subordinate. Maria had played the latter
role and this launched her career. Now, a respected Dutch director wants to
remount the play with Maria playing the older role and casting the younger one
with a hot, tabloid-fodder Hollywood actress named Jo-Ann, magnificently
portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz. Maria has her doubts about
playing the older role but accepts the part anyway.
of the picture involves the interplay between Maria and Valentine, who run
lines from the play together, with Valentine doing Jo-Ann’s part. At times,
though, we begin to wonder if the dialogue is really from the play or if it’s
the real-life dramatic action between Maria the actress and Valentine the
assistant. This is where director Assayas starts to have fun with the
actors—and the audience. The characters fight, they make up, they joke around,
and they dissect Hollywood and its stars. Real actors are mentioned, and
current trends (aka superhero movies) are lampooned. Things get heated when
Valentine is more receptive to current Hollywood fare than Maria. Assayas’ ageism
message here is not subtle.
is understated and enigmatic is when a key character of the story inexplicably
vanishes—and the film goes on as if that person never existed. Did she? Is that an observation about the
movie business, or is it an interpretation of the friendship/conflict relationships
that women sometimes have?
title refers to a natural phenomenon that really exists near the village of
Sils Maria in Switzerland, in which a “snake” of clouds rolls through the
Maloja Pass valley when the weather conditions are just right. Most of the film
is shot there, and Yorick Le Saux’s gorgeous cinematography captures the event
at the moment when the aforementioned
Criterion Collection’s 2K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtrack, is superb. Supplements include a new interview with director
Assayas; new interviews with both Binoche and Stewart; a short 1924 silent
documentary, Cloud Phenomena of Maloja,
parts of which also feature in the movie; and the trailer. The enclosed booklet
contains an essay by critic Molly Haskell.
Clouds of Sils Maria might require a
couple of viewings to fully appreciate, but its rewards are full, fluffy, and
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Olive Films regarding the incredible 1981 film "Roar":
Thursday, June 16 at 7 pm
Central Time (8 pm ET), Olive Films is treating fans to another installment of
Actor/filmmaker John Marshall
joins us to discuss his most infamous project, Noel Marshall's ROAR (1981),
"the most dangerous film ever made."
Moderator Steve Prokopy of
Ain't It Cool News will ask your questions live on air. If you have a question
you would like to hear answered, send it to email@example.com.
You won't want to miss what
is sure to be an unforgettable interview! You can tune in through our Youtube
page or our Google Plus page.
WHAT: Spoiler Alert with John
WHEN: Thursday, June 16 @ 8PM
WHERE: Click here to access Olive Film's You Tube event page
Produced over the course of
ten years, Roar is an audacious cinematic experiment: a thriller showcasing the
majesty and ferocity of African lions, filmed on location amidst dozens of
actual untrained cats. Photographed by Jan De Bont (d.p. of Die Hard and
director of Speed), the result is a spectacular achievement—though often
terrifying to watch—as actors (not stunt men) flee, wrestle, and come
face-to-face with the massive hunters.
Writer/director Noel Marshall
stars as Hank, a doctor and outspoken naturalist in Africa who allows lions,
tigers, cheetahs, and other big cats to roam freely around his remote estate.
While away protecting animals from poachers, Hank’s family—including Marshall’s
real-life wife and daughter, Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and Melanie Griffith (Working
Girl)—arrive at his home and are stalked by the massive lions that have overrun
Not surprisingly, many
members of the cast and crew suffered injuries during the making of the film
though care was taken to ensure that no animals were harmed. Since filming Roar,
Hedren has become an advocate for the protection of big cats, founding the Roar
Foundation and the Shambala Preserve.
upon a time before cell phones, social media and the internet, there was
citizens band radio. CB radio is closely associated with truckers and was used like
a cell phone to keep in contact and inform one another on things like speed
traps, accidents and road construction in the days before cell phone mobile apps.
Trucker lingo like, “10-4 Good Buddy” and “Breaker-Breaker” briefly became a
part of the common vernacular due to the popularity of “Trucker” songs that
played on Country & Western radio stations throughout the 1970s. Hollywood picked
up on the trucker craze incorporating the “Good Old Boy” element and Southern
charm with TV series like “Movin’ On” (1974-76) and “B.J. and the Bear” (1978-81)
and movies such as “Smoky and the Bandit” (1977) and its sequels.
of the big radio hits of that era was “Convoy”, released in 1975 by Bill Fries
(better known to fans as C.W. McCall). The song reached number one on both the
country and pop charts in the U.S. and on the pop charts in the U.K. Hollywood
purchased the rights to the song and hired one of the biggest directors of the era
to make a movie inspired by the hit novelty song. Co-financed by United Artists
and EMI, director Sam Peckinph was given total control over its production,
which in hindsight, was a mistake as the movie went millions of dollars over
budget and two months behind schedule. The film was released in 1978 just as
the trucker craze was fading in popularity, but the movie became the biggest
money maker of Peckinpah’s career. Getting the finished production to the
screen was no easy feat, as Peckinpah was dealing with his personal addictions
and apathy toward the movie, but he filled out the cast and crew with many
friends who worked with him on his previous film projects. This prevented
studio heads from firing him, as major cast members like Kristofferson
threatened to walk from the movie with him.
Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine and Burt Young all worked with
Peckinpah in some of his most memorable movies. “The Wild Bunch” alone is one
of the greatest westerns ever made and while one can debate the merits of
Peckinpah’s other films, they’re all stamped with the indelible Peckinpah brand.
Peckinpah was a flawed man living in the shadow of his greatest achievement,
“The Wild Bunch.” “Convoy” is no “Wild Bunch,” but few movies will surpass that
classic. “Convoy” was a troubled production from the moment Peckinpah was
hired. It started life as a lighthearted action comedy inspired by a hit
novelty song that doesn’t have much of a plot. Peckinpah saw the movie as a
modern day western with truckers as cowboys standing up to corrupt police,
unfair interstate trucking laws and incorporating political satire.
“Rubber Duck” Penwald (Kristofferson) is a non-affiliated trucker opposed to
unionization who has a long standing feud with New Mexico sheriff Lyle
“Cottonmouth” Wallace (Borgnine). The sheriff sets up speed traps in order to
extort cash from truckers as they pass through “his” county. Photo journalist
Melissa (MacGraw) is passing through and meets up with Rubber Duck at a local
truck stop. What Melissa and Rubber Duck see in each other, not to mention why she’s
in New Mexico, isn’t really clear. Melissa sells her car along with most of her
belongings, and ends up catching a ride with Rubber Duck after he and about a
dozen fellow truckers flee the scene of an old fashioned western bar fight with
the sheriff and his deputies.
follows is over 90 minutes of large trucks driving at high speeds being chased
by police through New Mexico desert highways and at times off road through the
desert in an apparent protest against unions and big government. The governor
and local media get in on the chase and the result is trucks crashing and
driving through lots of dust clouds. This eventually builds to the climax
involving a National Guard tank blasting Rubber Duck’s truck off a bridge. The
desert scenes are interesting with trucks driving through miles of desert in a
Peckinpah slow motion ballet. What else is there? Not a whole lot. The movie
has a paper thin plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
is a serviceable leading man and, as depicted in the poster art, has his shirt
off a lot of the time. Burt Young is Bobby “Pig Pen” and Cassie Yates is truck
stop waitress Violet. Peckinpah cast a diverse group of actors including
Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike and Madge Sinclaire as Widow Woman. There’s a
racial element introduced as Mike is jailed and beat up by the sheriff’s
deputies. Widow Woman ends up sitting in the middle seat between Billy and
Whitey Hughes throughout most of the movie after her truck tips over during a
sharp turn. This on location accident was incorporated into the story and the
result is Widow Woman hitching a ride with the other truck. I think that’s one
of the big problems with a movie about truckers – too many shots of characters
sitting in a truck. There are a couple of scenes where everyone gets to stretch
their legs at a truck stop, but that’s where the trucker movie stops being a
is not for everyone, but it does have its moments. It’s a Sam Peckinpah movie and
that has to be worth something. It’s well known that Peckinpah was dealing with
alternating bouts of alcohol and cocaine addiction throughout his career which
certainly had a definite impact on his movies. The real reason for buying this new
Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber are for the generous supplements including an
audio commentary by film historians and Peckinpah experts Paul Seydor, Garner
Simmons and Nick Redman. The commentary is filled with anecdotes and personal
reminisces on Peckinpah, on the cast and crew as well as details on the
production. Their outstanding commentary opens up the movie and brings to life the
world of Sam Peckinpah. Kino Lorber didn’t stop there and also include a 73
minute documentary on the making of “Convoy,” deleted scenes, a montage of in-jokes
and cameos, radio spots, trailers, a promotional featurette, a stills gallery
and an interesting feature by a fan expert from Norway. The movie apparently
has a substantial cult following outside of America.
re-recorded “Convoy”, incorporating the plot and characters from the movie and
it briefly made its way to the top of the pop charts again. This new version
can be heard during the end credits. The Kino Blu-ray looks and sounds very
good and is a breezy, easy going experience which trucks in at 110 minutes.
Peckinpah fans will enjoy this release for the outstanding and generous
supplements. Fans of the “good old boy” trucker genre will also be entertained.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
BURBANK, CA (April 11, 2016) – Just in time for Father's Day and
the theatrical release, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the long
awaited animated series that aired when Saturday Morning Cartoons reigned
supreme. Available on DVD on June 14, 2016, Tarzan, Lord Of The
Jungle: Complete Season One was created by the Filmation Studio
for CBS and follows the animated adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape man
from the 1970's. The two-disc collectors setincludes all 16
episodes from the series’ first season, and is priced to own at $19.98 SRP. The
DVD has an order due date of May 3, 2016.
As the opening narration explains: "The jungle: Here I was
born; and here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon
perished, too, had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted
me as her own and taught me the ways of the wild. I learned quickly, and grew
stronger each day, and now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle
animals. The jungle is filled with beauty, and danger; and lost cities filled
with good, and evil. This is my domain, and I protect those who come here; for
I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!"
“Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle was animated the
old fashion way, with many hours of hand drawn stills," said Mary Ellen
Thomas, Vice President Family & Animation Marketing and Partner Brands.
"They don't make animation like this anymore, and we are really proud to
be releasing this timeless classic just in time for the July release of Tarzan in
The Colonial Theater in Phoenixeville, PA, best known as The
‘Blob Theater’ is hosting a dynamite Triple Bond bill on Fathers Day, June 19. The films to be shown are From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s
Secret Service and Casino Royale.Arguably some of the best entries in the series, this a rare chance to
see them again in a restored single screen movie theater.Tickets to the triple bill are $21.Times are as follows:
must have done something right. Here
Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) has proven to be a timeless and universal movie
that keeps on giving, and the welcome new release from the Criterion Collection
attests to it.
premise of the film has been around for a while. Most of our generation know
the remake better—Heaven Can Wait (1978,
starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie)—which is a superb Oscar-nominated romantic
comedy in its own right. Another remake in 2001, Down to Earth, starred Chris Rock.
that’s not all. It wasn’t until I’d viewed the supplements
on the new disk that I appreciated the fact that Mr. Jordan was indeed the first of several Hollywood pictures dealing
with “heavenly” concepts—angels, the afterlife, and second chances. In a video
discussion, critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger
reveal how the picture’s popularity actually began a trend of similar movies
throughout the 1940s—A Guy Named Joe,
Angel on My Shoulder, A Matter of Life and Death, It’s a Wonderful Life, and even Mr. Jordan’s direct sequel, Down to Earth (1947, not to be confused
with the Chris Rock remake), which features both James Gleason and Edward
Everett Horton again playing their roles from the first movie.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
a major release and surprise hit from Columbia Pictures, a studio that always
struggled to be one of the majors despite having director Frank Capra on their
team in the ‘30s. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the picture successfully
blends fantasy, romance, comedy, and intrigue, creating a delightful, and sometimes
thought-provoking, piece of entertainment. It was nominated for Best Picture of
1941, Best Director (Alexander Hall), Best Actor (Robert Montgomery), Best
Supporting Actor (James Gleason, and he steals the movie!), and Best B&W
Cinematography. The film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original
Story, for Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller.
story concerns Joe Pendleton (enthusiastically played by Montgomery in a
stretch from his usual sophisticated tuxedo-clad characters) as a prizefighter with
a heavy New Jersey accent who crashes in his private plane. His soul is saved
by the Messenger (Horton), an angel whose job is to escort to Heaven the departing
souls from his “territory.” In the mist-filled outskirts of Heaven, Mr. Jordan
(benevolently portrayed by Claude Rains), a sort of St. Peter in a three-piece
suit, checks in the new souls as they board another plane to take them to their
afterlife homes. But Joe’s soul was accidentally taken before his body actually
died—and therefore Mr. Jordan grants Joe a second chance. However, his
consciousness must be placed into a recently deceased person—so Joe winds up
inside a rich, corrupt banker’s body. Joe, in his new persona, sets about turning
the banker’s life around for good, and he also attempts to continue his
prizefighting. For the latter, he calls in his former manager, Corkle (Gleason)
to train him. First, though, he’s got to convince Corkle that he’s really Joe
inside the new man’s form. To complicate things, Joe falls in love with the
daughter (Evelyn Keyes) of a man the banker destroyed financially and sent to
prison. Joe also doesn’t know it yet, but he will have to jump bodies one more
time before the story plays out.
comedy and romance work like a charm, and the fantasy elements of Mr. Jordan are surprisingly effective.
The movie is intelligently written and treats its subject matter with respect;
and yet it has fun with the mechanics of death and the philosophical discourse
of what we think the afterlife really is. The audience is tricked, in a way,
into pleasantly enjoying a movie about death. What happens to Joe Pendleton at
the end isn’t the norm for a romantic comedy. Technically it’s not a happy
ending—and yet, it is. It’s a feel-good movie with a bittersweet center. This
is a testament to the quality of writing in Here
Comes Mr. Jordan.
new 2K digital restoration looks fabulous. It has an uncompressed, monaural
soundtrack. Along with the aforementioned video conversation about the film,
the supplements include a long audio interview with Elizabeth Montgomery
(daughter of Robert Montgomery, and, yes, the star of Bewitched) about her father and the movie; the Lux Radio Theatre radio adaptation starring Cary Grant (who was
originally approached to star in the film—one can only imagine what it would
have been like with Grant), Rains, Keyes, and Gleason; and a trailer. An essay
by critic Farran Smith Nehme adorns the booklet.
little gem from Hollywood released just prior to America’s entrance into World
War II, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a
genuine classic, arguably superior to its many remakes and imitations. You will
of Fritz Lang’s film noir of 1945, Scarlet Street, may do well to take a
look at this little French gem from 1931. Lang’s film was a Hollywood remake of
La Chienne, which was based on a
novel by Georges de La Fouchardière (it was also
adapted into a stage play by André Mouëzy-Éon).
More significantly, La Chienne was
the second—and first feature length—sound film by the great Jean Renoir.
had done well in the silent era, but the invention of talkies presented the
filmmaker with a larger palette of tools with which to craft some of his
greatest works. Beginning with La
Chienne, Renoir became France’s premiere director, a position he held for a
La Chienne translates as “The
Bitch,” and viewers may question which woman in the picture the title is referring
to—the lead, Lulu, a beautiful blonde “street woman” (a con artist and often a
prostitute), who serves as the femme
fatale of the story (and wonderfully played by Janie Marèze)... or the wife of our protagonist, such a shrew of a
woman that there’s no wonder why we sympathize with the poor schmuck, Maurice
(portrayed by the brilliant Michel Simon), a banker and part-time painter who
does everything he can to get away from his marriage and set up Lulu as his
mistress. Of course, Lulu is really being played by her lover and pimp, the nasty Andre (played by real-life Parisian
gangster Georges Flamant, who was also an amateur actor). Maurice is merely the
mark, the sucker who is seduced by lust and led to his ruin.
Unlike Scarlet Street, La Chienne is
more melodrama than film noir. Renoir
handles the material well without making it overwrought, and he succeeds in
developing fine character studies of the three leads. Those familiar with the
director’s later masterpieces such as Grand
Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the
Game (1939) will find this early work fascinating. Renoir’s signature mise-en-scène is easily identifiable,
even in its baby steps. Also impressive are the street scenes shot on
location—this was the real Paris of 1931, displayed in glorious black and
Michel Simon, like Renoir, was one of
France’s biggest film artists. Originally Swiss, Simon made French silent films
and later had a long run as an actor in talkies. He has a distinctive Bassett
Hound face, perfect for betraying first the joy and then the pain Lulu puts him
through. According to Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner, who talks about the
movie in one of the disk’s supplements, apparently Simon fell in love with the
actress playing Lulu off-screen. But, like in the film, Janie Marèze was seeing Flamant, and this relationship was encouraged
by Renoir. Not long after production was completed, Marèze was killed in an automobile accident with Flamant at the
wheel. At the funeral, Simon allegedly threatened Renoir with a gun, but he
must have calmed down, for Simon starred in a subsequent Renoir feature, the
excellent Boudu Saved from Drowning
(1932; incidentally, this was remade in Hollywood in 1986 as Down and Out in Beverly Hills).
The Criterion Collection’s release
features a new, restored 4K digital transfer that looks so pristine and sharp
you might think the film was made last week. There’s an uncompressed monaural
soundtrack and a new English subtitles translation. Supplements include an
introduction to the film by Renoir himself, shot in 1961; the aforementioned
interview with Faulkner on the movie; a sparkling new restoration of Renoir’s
first sound film, the short On purge bébé
(also 1931), a comic bauble based on a one-act play by Georges Feydeau and also
starring Michel Simon; and a ninety-five minute 1967 French TV program
featuring a conversation between Renoir and Simon. An essay by film scholar
Ginette Vincendeau adorns the booklet.
A fine, notable release, and a must for
lovers of European cinema.
The 1961 MGM Western A Thunder of Drums has been released by the Warner Archives. The film was regarded as a standard oater in its day but has since built a loyal following who have been eager to have the movie available on the home video market. What sets A Thunder of Drums apart from many of the indistinguishable Westerns of the period is its downbeat storyline and intelligent script, which was clearly geared for adults as opposed to moppets. There's also the impressive cast: Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Charles Bronson, Arthur O'Connell, Richard Chamberlain and Slim Pickens among them.The film opens with a sequence that was very unsettling and shocking for its day: an Indian attack on a tranquil homestead. A little girl is forced to witness the gang rape and murders of her mother and teenage sister. The plot then shifts to the local fort where commandant Boone is overseeing an understaffed cavalry contingent that has to find and defeat the marauding tribe, which has already slaughtered numerous settlers and soldiers. The Indians are window dressing in the story: nameless, faceless adversaries who are not given any particular motivation for their savagery. (These was, remember, far less enlightened times and such conflicts were generally presented without nuance.)
George Hamilton is the by-the-book West Point graduate assigned to the fort as Boone's second-in-command. He gets a frosty reception from minute one. Boone tells him he doesn't meet the requirements of a seasoned officer who can survive in the hostile environment. The two men spend a good deal of their time in a psychological war of wills. Adding to Hamilton's discomfort is the discovery that his former lover, Luana Patten, is not only living at the remote outpost, but is engaged to one of his fellow officers. The two rekindle their own romance and this leads to scandalous and tragic results.
The film is based on a novel by popular Western writer James Warner Bellah and probably represents the career high water mark of director Joseph Newman, who was destined to toil for decades helming B movies. He gets vibrant performances from his cast. The ever-watchable Boone is in his predictably crusty mode, cynically second-guessing his officers and men, tossing out insults and sucking on an omnipresent stogie. Boone was so dominant in every role he played, one wonders why he never reached a higher status as a reliable box-office figure. Hamilton is in his standard pretty boy mode, but holds his own against macho men Boone and Charles Bronson, who is cast against type as a somewhat dim-witted character of low scruples. Singer Duane Eddy, who was a teenage pop star at the time, made his film debut here with a degree of fanfare, but it was obviously last minute stunt casting as Eddy is given virtually nothing to do except strum a few chords on his guitar. The film boasts some magnificent scenery and some rousing action sequences that are more realistic than those found in most Westerns of the time. A Thunder of Drums isn't art or even a great or important Western - but it is fine entertainment and the Warner Archive edition looks terrific. An original theatrical trailer is included.
We've long extolled the virtues of Sidney Lumet's 1964 screen adaptation of the Cold War Doomsday novel "Fail-Safe", which centers on an accidental order to launch a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. The film was cursed on any number of levels, however. Lumet had a very small budget to work with and the film was delayed from release by Stanley Kubrick, who feared that it would tarnish his own Doomsday classic "Dr. Strangelove" if it were released first. Ultimately, Kubrick pressured Columbia, the studio behind "Strangelove", to buy the distribution rights to "Fail-Safe" and keep it on a shelf until "Strangelove" was out of theaters. The result was disappointing box-office returns for Lumet's masterful achievement, but the film has grown in popularity over the years. Director Joe Dante is also a fan of the film and provides some interesting facts about its production as a commentary over the movie's original trailer. It all appears on Dante's "Trailers From Hell" web site, along with hundreds of other trailers with commentaries. Click here to view.
always knew that porridge oats ranked among the world’s sexiest foodstuffs,
didn't you? You didn't? Neither did
advertising executive Teddy Brown, tasked with devising a promotional campaign
to 'sex up' under-performing breakfast product ‘McLaughlin's Frozen Porridge’
in risqué romp Every Home Should Have One
(1970, U.S.: Think Dirty). This
neglected gem has just been given a new breath of life in the UK via a
sparkling Blu-ray and DVD release, a constituent of Network Distributing's
ongoing British Film Collection.
by Marty Feldman (who also stars), Barry Took and Denis Norden, Every Home Should Have One delights in
taking a swipe at not only the absurd and superficial nature of the advertising
profession but also the hypocrisy of our self-imposed moral guardians (both
still valid targets 45 years on, I'd proffer), and the pitfalls of adopting a
permissive lifestyle. But most rewarding of all it gives bug-eyed, chaotic-haired
comic Feldman a free canvas to do his thing – and he delivers the funnies in
kernel of the tale concerns the life of ad man Teddy Brown (Marty Feldman).
Professionally he's struggling to come up with a sales idea that will please
both his boss (Shelley Berman) – whose own dismal ideas include giving away
free plastic sporrans – and their client (Jack Watson), a no-nonsense Scot.
Privately he's having to deal with his wife Liz (Judy Cornwell) joining a
‘Clean Up TV’ crusade presided over by the local Vicar (Dinsdale Landen). The
Vicar happens to have lascivious designs
on Liz, and their kleptomaniac son (Garry Miller) who, spurred by a TV play
entitled ‘The Fetish’, has developed hobbies that include purloining the
panties of the family’s string of au pairs (among them Julie Ege), which he squirrels
away between the pages of his stamp album.
Panty raided: Julie Ege.
Every Home Should
was produced by Ned Sherrin (also producer on such big screen rib-ticklers as The Virgin Soldiers and Frankie Howerd's
ribald Up trilogy) and directed by
Jim Clark (who two years on helmed Rentadick
– also produced by Sherrin and featuring Ege – but was better known for his
skills in the editing room; he scooped the Oscar for his work on The Killing Fields and brought his
expertise to The Mission, Charade, Agatha, Marathon Man and
Brosnan Bond thriller The World is Not
Enough, to name but a few).
garish couture might have dated the film a shade, but there’s still a lot of
fun to be found here, the plenteous smiles – it seldom evokes belly laughs –
proportionate, I’d suggest, to how much you like Feldman. He certainly had a Marmite
effect on audiences. For this writer's money, regardless of the fine assembly
of players backing him up (beyond those already namechecked there are terrific
turns from Francis de la Tour, Penelope Keith, Patrick Cargill, and an
uncredited Alan Bennett), Feldman is the crazy-glue who holds the movie
together. He effortlessly steals the show, at his most amusing in a clutch of Billy Liar-esque fantasy sequences which
pitch him into a horror film (as a voracious vampire), a black-and-white silent
movie, a sepia-tinted peepshow loop, a Swedish arthouse film and a zany
animation (graphics courtesy of Richard Williams, later-to-be titles animator
on several Pink Panther movies and
animation director on Who Framed Roger
Blu-Ray release comes highly recommended, delivering a colourful 1.66:1
presentation of the film with nary a trace of grain, its picture so clean that your eye is frequently
distracted by faddish 70s set dressing (such as the toy Captain Scarlet vehicle on the sideboard in the Brown household)
and minutiae like the nicotine stains on Feldman's fingers. The bonus materials
comprise an image gallery (which collects together a selection of lobby cards
and poster art), a trailer, a sans-subtitles replay of the Feldman/Ege arthouse
movie sketch and some original release promotional material in PDF format. Also
available on standard definition DVD.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Paramount Home Media:
NEW YORK – Called “the best looking fantasy
series on TV” (IGN) and “damn fine television” (Collider), MTV’s hit show“The
Shannara Chronicles” Season One
arrives on DVD June 7, 2016. Executive produced and written for television
by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (“Smallville”) and executive produced by Jon
Favreau (Iron Man), the lavish
fantasy series is based on the 26-volume book series by Terry Brooks. “The Shannara Chronicles” premiere on MTV was viewed 14.6 million times across linear
and digital platforms and delivered the best single-week performance on iTunes
ever for an MTV series.
Set thousands of years in the future, “The Shannara Chronicles” follows three
heroes, Elf-Human hybrid Wil (Austin Butler, “Arrow”), Elvin Princess Amberle
(Poppy Drayton, “Downton Abbey”), and Human Rover Eretria (Ivana Baquero, Pan’s Labryinth), as they embark on a
quest to stop an evil Demon army from destroying the world. The show also features Manu Bennett (The Hobbit), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), and James Remar
Arriving just in time for Father’s Day and
graduation gift-giving, the four-disc DVD set includes all 10 episodes from the
inaugural season along with more than 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes
footage. “The Shannara Chronicles”Season One DVD set has a suggested
retail price of $29.99 U.S./$32.99 Canada.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
of the Dagda Mor
DVD Release Date: 6/7/16
U.S. Rating: NR
Running Time: 411 min
Chronicles” is written for television by and executive produced by Al Gough and
Miles Millar. Jon Favreau, Jonathan Liebesman, Terry Brooks and Dan Farah
also serve as executive producers. The first two episodes were directed by
Jonathan Liebesman (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”).
Henry Mancini – a composer who will be forever linked
with sumptuous film and television music- returns to Vocalion in another CD
containing two classic RCA albums. Both from the early 1970s, Mancini Concert
and Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story (CDLK 4582) highlight different
facets of his music making. Recorded to tie-in with Mancini’s 1971 American
concert tour, Mancini Concert (originally released 1971) is just that – a
studio recording of the sort of varied programme his audiences had come to
expect. The highlight is undoubtedly Portrait of Simon and Garfunkel, a
heartfelt orchestral rendering of several of the legendary duo’s best-known
melodies. In addition to inventive orchestrations of other contemporary
material including selections from The Who’s rock opera Tommy and the Andrew
Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice opus Jesus Christ Superstar, Mancini looks back to his
swing era roots in Big Band Montage. A Mancini album wouldn’t be complete
without some of his own music, and Mancini Concert addresses that through the inclusion
of March with Mancini, a medley of themes from Peter Gunn and The Great Race.
Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story album (originally released 1970) capitalised
on his smash-hit arrangement of Francis Lai’s film theme. Indeed, film music is
the album’s cornerstone, and it includes several rare Mancini themes such as
The Night Visitor, The Hawaiians and Theme for Three, the last of these from
the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait until Dark. Remastered by Michael J. Dutton and
using the original analogue tapes, the audio quality, as with all of Vocalion’s
releases, is superb. Vocalion have reverted to just a 2 Panel (4 page) booklet
to accompany their latest Mancini release, but the inclusion of two full albums
manages to tilt the balance rather nicely.
albums Classical Concussion / Predictions (CDLK 4582), both originally released
in 1979, represent Vocalion’s latest voyage into the archives of the KPM 1000
Series, one of the world’s leading recorded music libraries and the home of some
superb film and TV music. Featuring the work
of brilliantly gifted composer and keyboardist Francis Monkman (a founder
member of progressive bands Curved Air and Sky), Classical Concussion (originally
KPM 1224) and Predictions (originally KPM 1233) are from the same era as his hugely
popular score for gangland thriller The Long Good Friday (1980). In fact,
Classical Concussion, recorded at Lansdowne Studios in November 1978, seems to
anticipate in places The Long Good Friday’s score. Nowhere is this more
apparent than in the opening track, ‘Release of Energy’, a thrilling title
theme that embedded itself in the consciousness of UK cinemagoers thanks to its
use (in abridged form) as the Rank Cinema chain’s ‘Preview Time’ jingle. The
dramatic ‘Power Games’ also became familiar to British cinemagoers through its
use as the Rank Cinema intermission theme. With its emphasis on electronic
music, Predictions is in the same mould as that of Sky’s debut album from the
same year. The imposing Passajig (a) is an unusual concoction of rhythm
section, synthesizer, church organ and, remarkably, the State Trumpeters of the
Band of The Household Cavalry. The magnificent sound of the State Trumpeters
introduces Prelude (a), a pulsating underscore with synthesizer ostinato that
conjures up visions of a futuristic metropolis. But the album’s best-known
track is Hypercharge, thanks to its inclusion in Arthur Gibson’s award-winning
1981 documentary about the Red Arrows, the aerobatics display team of the Royal
Air Force.Featuring super audio
quality, Vocalion continue to show their commitment regarding the KPM Library series.
Packaging consists of an excellent 6 page booklet with detailed liner notes
provided by Library expert Oliver Lomax. It doesn’t get much better.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
On May 3, fans of director Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” will have the
opportunity to revisit the acclaimed drama and learn even more fascinating
details about the real American war hero Chris Kyle and the Navy SEALS he
fought with. “American Sniper: The Chris
Kyle Commemorative Edition” arrives as a two-disc Blu-ray from Warner Bros.
Home Entertainment featuring a special commemorative disc with 60 minutes of
brand-new bonus content, including revealing in-depth documentaries narrated by
Bradley Cooper*. “American Sniper” stars
Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a lethal sniper and qualities as a human
being made him a hero both on and off the battlefield.
A two-time Oscar® nominee for his work in
“Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Cooper stars alongside Sienna
Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban
and Keir O’Donnell.
Oscar®-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood
(“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on
the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography
was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller
list, 13 of those at number one.
The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert
Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan. Tim Moore, Jason Hall,
Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will donate
$1.00 of the purchases to Chris Kyle Frog Foundation up to $150,000 from April
19, 2016 through December 31, 2016, void in Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Mississippi and South Carolina.
The aim of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation is
to provide meaningful, interactive experiences to service members, first
responders and their families, aimed at enriching their family relationships.
Prior to his untimely passing in February 2013, Chris had begun casting his
vision for the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to provide experiences for service
and first responder families to work through many of the difficulties he and
Taya had experienced post-deployment. As Executive Director of the foundation,
Taya and a dedicated team are ensuring Chris’ vision, desire and legacy to the
country he served carries on now and into the future. For more information on
the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, please visit www.chriskylefrogfoundation.org.
“American Sniper: The Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” will be
offered on two Blu-ray discs in double elite case packaging for $24.98 SRP.
From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley
Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the
battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with
only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves
countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits
spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing
behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target
of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front:
striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.
Despite the danger,
as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing
tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no
one behind.” But upon returning to his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and kids,
Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
Sniper: The Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” Blu-ray contains the following
special features: ·*Chris Kyle: The Man Behind the Legend -- NEW! In
never-before-seen home movies, family, friends and fellow soldiers reveal
another side of ChrisKyle. ·*Navy SEALS: In War and Peace – NEW! Join Taya Kyle
and legendary SEAL Marcus Luttrell as they illuminate the secret world of
America’s elite fightingforce. ·Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism – Previously only
limited availability! Discover the challenges faced by many U.S. veterans whose
return home can often be as daunting as their time atwar. ·One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper Join director Clint
Eastwood, cast and crew as they overcome enormous creative and logistic
obstacles to bring the truth of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s story to thescreen. ·The Making of AmericanSniper
Earnshaw, one of our contributing writers, has trawled his extensive archive of
interviews with prolific directors – accrued over some 20 years of attending
press junkets – and cherry picked a selection of the most worthy material for
his new book "Fantastique: Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Filmmakers" (a title which, on the copyright page, is tantalisingly
suffixed with a parenthesised Volume I).
bulk of the content comprises 30 interviews with genre directors (a few of them
in the company of their stars or writers), each speaking primarily about one of
their films. Adopting an A-Z format by director, each interview is preceded by
cast, credits and a brief synopsis for the film under discussion. There’s a
diverse collective of talent represented too, from the big boys (Quentin
Tarantino discusses 2007's Death Proof,
Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale talk about 2005's Batman Begins, George Lucas promotes 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) to the possibly less
familiar, but no less significant (Frank Khalfoun on his imaginative 2013 restaging
of Maniac, André Øvredaldiscussing
2011's Troll Hunter).
around a third of these interviews were conducted in the more intimate environs
of one-on-one sessions, the remainder derive from press junkets mounted at the
time of each film's release. Whether the responses gleaned to questions posed
under such circumstances can be considered entirely honest or not is debatable,
the very purpose of those (usually contractual) gatherings being for directors
and all manner of other associated creative parties to sell their movie as the
best thing to ever hit the screen; it can often take a bit of distance and the
benefit of hindsight to extrude more candid comments. However, given that most
of the films under discussion here were bona fide critical and financial
successes adds considerably to the veracity of the directors’ words.
anecdotes harbour a ring of familiarity (again, being the product of press events,
they were repeated often), but this reader found enough fresh meat and potatoes
to compensate. Everyone will have their favourite chapters (as likely to be dictated
by one’s liking for a particular film as they are a partiality to the director
at hand); among the highlights for this reader were Tim Burton (on 2000's Sleepy Hollow) revealing Christopher
Walken's apparent fear of horses (he must have had a tough time on the likes of
1978’s Shoot the Sun Down and 1985
Bond caper A View to a Kill too then!),
William Friedkin (on 1973's The Exorcist)
dismissing the stories of the much-publicised curse surrounding the production
and his disinclination to ever integrate the legendarily shelved "spider
walk" sequence into the film (which, in a new cut some years later, was), James Mangold talking about his
multi-layered mystery masterpiece Identity
(2003), and literally everything a tirelessly enthusiastic Frank Henenlotter
had to say in a 2012 retrospective discussing his movie-saturated youth and in
particular his barmy 1982 comic horror film Basket
with a foreword from noted genre writer Bruce G Hallenbeck and rounded off with
a listing of director filmographies, “Fantastique” is an irresistibly worthy
addition to the library of anyone with even a passing interest in fantastic
cinema. Roll on Volume II.
Howdy, pardners. It’s western movie roundup time at
Cinema Retro today. Here are a handful of oldie westerns recently released on
DVD by the Warner Archive- and which are now available in the Cinema Retro
Movie Store. And a rootin’, tootin’, downright interesting bunch of movies they
First up, “Station West” with Dick Powell and Jane Greer.
Ever wonder what would happen if private dick Philip Marlowe traveled back in
time to the old west and tried to solve a murder case? That’s essentially what
you have with Station West, an offbeat western filmed in black and white that
plays like film noir, except all the men wear wide-brimmed Stetsons instead of
Fedoras, and shoot Colt Peacemakers and Winchesters instead of snubbed nosed
.38s. To further mix up the western and detective genres Jane Greer, the most fatale of all femme fatales, is on hand, playing Charlie, a hard-boiled gal who
runs a gambling house and just possibly a few things more.
Powell plays Army Intelligence investigator John Haven
who arrives in town to find out who killed a couple of cavalrymen who were
transporting gold. Powell is his usual,
laconic self, cracking wise and engaging in some sharp dialog written by Frank
Fenton and Winston Miller. To wit:
Haven sits down at Charlie’s table uninvited.
You like to take chances, don't you?
I feel lucky.
Charlie: I advise you to try the dice table.
Haven: I'd rather get lucky here.
Every man has the right to his own funeral.
Released by RKO in 1952 the movie is loaded with a
supporting cast made up of veterans of that studio’s numerous noir crime
thrillers. Raymond Burr, Regis Toomey, Steve Brodie, Guinn Big Boy Williams,
Agnes Moorehead and Burl Ives are all on hand and just right as the shadowy characters
that populate this crooked little town. Based on a Luke Short novel, “Station
West” provides a diverting 87 minutes of curious, off-beat, entertainment.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Next up is “Rough Shod” (1949), another RKO black and
white western, this one starring Robert Sterling, Gloria Graham, and John
Ireland. It starts out with Lednov (Ireland) and his two fellow escaped
convicts creeping up on a camp of drovers from a nearby ranch. They kill them
in cold blood and steal their horses and clothes. Not far away Clay Phillips (Sterling)
and his kid brother, Steve (Claude Jarman of The Yearling) are driving eight
head of horses to Sonora to set up a stage line. In town, the sheriff asks if
Clay will join the posse to round up the convicts. Clay says no thanks, adding
he’s pretty sure Lednov will come looking for him. They’ve got a history.
Also on the road is dancehall gal Mary Wells (Graham) and
her three “co-workers” who got kicked out of town by the decent folk. Clay and
Steve run into them on the trail when their buggy breaks down and Clay
reluctantly agrees to help them by taking them in his wagon to the nearest
ranch. The nearest ranch belongs to Ed Wyatt and good old Ed and his wife,
never knew it to fail, well, they get paid a visit by Lednov and his friends.
Meanwhile Clay and Mary are on the trail and she’s starting to get under his
skin. But Clay’s ready to kiss her off soon as they get to the Wyatt place,
because all he cares about is dropping her and the other ladies off at the
Wyatt place, getting the horses to Sonora and setting up his stage line.
I know you’re thinking, oh boy, Clay, Steve and the dance
hall girls are going to ride into a real mess at the Wyatt place. Probably get
captured. Clay and Steve probably get
beat up, with the leering convicts having their way with the dance hall gals.
Well, that’s what would have happened if Anthony Mann had directed “Roughshod.”
But this movie was directed by Mark Robson, who made movies like “Bright
Victory”, “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” and “Champion.” He wasn’t into that kinky
stuff. Instead, once the convicts get enough to eat, they say
goodbye to the Wyatts and ride off! After that build up to nothing, the movie
become more or less a soap opera. Mary sees an opportunity to lead a decent
normal life with a guy like Clay and sets out to hog tie him matrimonially
speaking. There are a couple of subplots involving one of the girls who just
happens to be the Wyatt’s daughter, and conflict between Clay and Steve over
the roughshod (get it, Roughshod?) way
Clay treats Mary. It’s all tied up at the end when finally, after all that
romantic folderol, Lednov and his men show up and there’s a pretty well-staged
shootout in the woods.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Winner's ribald 1983 reimagining of 1945’s venerated The Wicked Lady gets a long overdue UK DVD release from Second
Sight in July. Bristling with star names delivering some of the most cringe-worthy
performances of their careers, needless to say it's an essential acquisition.
beautiful Caroline (Glynis Barber) invites her dearest friend Barbara (Faye
Dunaway) to meet her husband-to-be, Sir Ralph Skelton (Denholm Elliott). The
manipulative Barbara seduces Skelton and the demure Caroline graciously steps
aside allowing them to wed. Quickly tiring of her affluent and influential
position as Lady Skelton, Barbara is soon looking for something to spice up her
life. One night, desperate to retrieve jewellery that she has carelessly forfeited
in a game of cards, she dons attire akin to that of infamous local highwayman
Captain Jackson. The adrenaline rush she gets from the experience gives her a
taste to continue her nocturnal thievery, but inevitably it isn’t long before
she crosses paths with the real Jackson (Alan Bates), an encounter that gives
rise to an unexpected turn of events.
German release poster
on the novel "The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton" by
Magdalen King-Hall, Winner’s The Wicked
Lady was produced by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whose
production company The Cannon Group spat out literally dozens of films in its
heyday, many of them big star vehicles and most of them pretty bad – though, it
has to be said, few of them less than entertainingly so. Winner would work with
the gregarious producers several times throughout the 80s, taking the helm for Death Wish II and 3, Bullseye (with Golan
alone) and Hercule Poirot mystery Appointment
The director took co-writing credit on The Wicked Ladywith the original version's scripter Leslie Arliss. The resulting film has taken a lot of flack throughout the years for its vapidity – and, rest assured, high art it most certainly ain't. But as guilty pleasures go they don't come much more rewarding. I mean, what's not to like about a movie in which Faye Dunaway andStar Trek: The Next Generation's Marina Sirtis get into a gratuitously protracted, BBFC-baiting catfight which evolves into a skirmish with whips during which Dunaway lashes her opponents clothing to shreds? It's something of a star-studded affair too; along with Dunaway, Elliott, Bates and Barber there's substantial input from the likes of John Gielgud, Oliver Tobias, Prunella Scales and Joan Hickson. Performances are uniformly ripe and one or two are camper than a field full of tents…which, perversely, only serves to enhance the film’s entertainment value. Dunaway was actually nominated for a 1984 Razzie as worst actress forThe Wicked Lady– and witnessing her overwrought performance in the final scene one could argue a strong case for her having romped it – though she was ultimately trounced by Pia Zadora forThe Lonely Lady.
It was always going to be something rather good that
would eventually topple Jaws (1975) from the box office number one slot. Sydney
Pollack’s compelling political thriller, Three Days of the Condor, achieved
that feat. It is a film steeped in speculative government dealings and the
shady side of its associations with large business corporations.Three Days of the Condor is arguably one of
the greatest thrillers to emerge from the 70s. it arrived directly in the
slipstream of the Watergate scandal that had witnessed the toppling of a
president and a severe shifting of the United States political arena. The
ripple effect from such political scandals bought about a change in American
cinema with film directors examining the fringes and paranoia fallout that
subsequently evolved. The darker side of American politics had suddenly become
the new in-vogue sub-genre. Probing thrillers such as Alan J. Pakula’s All the
President's Men (1976) became fascinating exposés as well as enlightening forms
In Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford stars as
Joe Turner; he’s an everyman employed on a clerical level by the CIA in New
York City. He’ss smart; an expert of sorts who provides advice and analysis
based upon foreign publications and what might be hiding in between the lines. One
afternoon he dashes out to the local deli to collect the lunch orders for the
office staff. He returns to his office to find that his entire group of colleagues
has been massacred. Panic stricken and confused, Turner calls his superiors to
request that he be bought in safely. However, the situation is turned on its
head when he finds himself being hunted down by the same group that murdered
his colleagues- and on the directive of his CIA superiors.
In desperation, and acting on pure adrenalin, Turner
abducts Kathy (Faye Dunaway) a photographer. Turner needs to get off the
streets and take some time to piece together the mystery. He ultimately wins
over Kathy and convinces her to assist him, despite the danger to her own life.
Because the twosome is played by Redford
and Dunaway, it will surprise no one that they become lovers in the process. Together, Joe and Kathy begin to unravel
clues while a sinister, lone assassin (Max Von Sydow) calmly manoeuvres ever
closer in their footsteps.
Some 40 years on, Three Days of the Condor still
works superbly. Based on James Grady's
novel, it is interesting to observe how the passing years have witnessed the
author’s fictional elements materialise into accountable elements of fact, a
realisation that makes the story that much more chilling. The passing of time
deems it almost entirely plausible, which perhaps diminishes the shock value to
some degree. Right or wrong, there is almost an acceptance regarding the shady
conspiracies that unfold when viewed today, even more so than at the time of
the film’s original release.
Redford and Dunaway are both magnetic on screen, two
iconic stars that were dominant on the silver screen around the mid-Seventies. Pollack’s
direction is tight and tense and keeps the narrative flowing at an even,
constant pace. Also noteworthy is Dave
Grusin's smooth and funky Jazz score. In recent times it has become something
of a legendary soundtrack and one that has rightly been proclaimed as a 70s
Eureka’s 1080p transfer is very nice indeed, Condor
(through the various incarnations I have previously owned) has never appeared
or stood out as the sharpest of 70s movies. Some scenes tend to have a ‘director’s
intent’ soft focus to them. However, its hidden beauty is made apparent with tighter,
close up shots, which look superbly detailed and reveal a vivid natural
clarity. The film also appears to be rather brighter – especially in night
shots. Blacks especially appear to retain just the right balance without
falling off into the dreaded, milky grey spectrum. The picture is clean
throughout and does not reveal any signs of blemishes, dirt particles or
scratches. The film’s audio is provided by
way of an English LPCM 2.0 channel and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
channel mix. The purist in me opted for the 2.0 channel mix, which is both
clear and perfectly detailed.
In the bonus features you will find The Directors:
Sydney Pollack – an original (and excellent) 60 minute documentary that
examines the film-making career of the esteemed filmmaker. It’s a great watch
which includes archival interviews and features contributions from Cliff
Robertson, Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Julia Ormond and Sally
Field. There is also a new video presentation featuring film historian Dr. Sheldon
Hall who discusses (in detail) the production history of the movie, the
identities of the main protagonists, the evolution of their relationships and Pollack's
directing style. As with any piece
featuring Sheldon Hall, you know you are in good, intelligent company with a
man who knows his subject well. At 22 minutes, it sadly passes all too soon. Also
included is the original theatrical trailer, which is generous at around 3
minutes. Included within is a superbly produced 32-page illustrated booklet
featuring a new essay by film critic Michael Brooke and an extensive interview with Sydney Pollack. It
is apparent that Brooke has obviously researched his subject to the highest
standard. Intelligent and hugely informative, Brooke’s writing is supported by
an equally impressive array of archival images. The booklet is a lovingly produced
piece that almost warrants its admission fee alone.
It’s a shame that Eureka’s Region B package doesn’t
include the Sydney Pollack commentary track as this is an addition I would have
dearly loved to hear. I can only assume this was unavailable due to copyright
restrictions, but as an admirer of Pollack’s work and legacy, I’m sure it would
provide a fascinating listen. Nevertheless, Eureka’s presentation pushes all
the right buttons and serves as a perfect example of what made 70s cinema so
unique and so damn good. Grab it without hesitation. https://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/three-days-condor
From 1978 Taxi, one of the most beloved sitcoms in
TV history, ran for five seasons and featured a hugely talented collection of
character actors. This was the show that made its’ stars household names, and
now that you can look back on the series nearly forty years later, it is easy
to see why. Unlike some classic television from the 1970s, Taxi is still funny.
Taxi focused on several taxi drivers and
other staff who worked for Danny de Vito, who sat safely in his dispatcher’s
cage barking orders at all around him. On the surface an unlikeable character,
there were occasional chinks in his armour revealing a softer side. Doing their
best to get by, surviving life near the bottom in New York City, were Judd
Hirsch, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, Jeff Conaway, Christopher Lloyd and Andy
Kaufman, amongst others. The latter played Eastern European idiot-savant Latka,
the mechanic who quickly became everyone’s favourite character, as evidenced by
the studio audience cheering whenever he walks on to the scene.
This new box
set, carrying every single episode, enables you to see how these great
performers grew into their characters, developing quirks and catchphrases as
the interplay of their personal relationships became the main reason audiences
came back every week. Sure, it was a funny show, but these were people you
could believe in. You could switch on your TV and spend time with a group of working
stiffs whose lives, loves and daily struggles were a lot like your own, and the
fact that they faced their challenges with a smile and a (mostly) positive
outlook gave you hope for your own sometimes difficult existence. The set
itself is thin on extras however: original series promos are on here which are
a slab of nostalgia in themselves. The only other bonus feature is a one-hour
compilation of the best of Taxi,
which given the fact that you now hold all 114 episodes in your hands seems a
It is no
surprise that Taxi only survived one
more season after the show’s main writers Glen Charles and Les Charles, along
with director James Burrows, left to create Cheers.
Taxi’s final season shows the hole
they left, but still contains a lot of entertainment nonetheless. And looking
back at Taxi now, a sitcom repeated
less often than Cheers, one can see
how the two are connected. Both take a comical look at the American working
man, but are not afraid to turn down the jokes for emotional moments when the
time is right. Taxi will bring back
waves of nostalgia for anyone over a certain age who remembers watching
television in the late 1970s and early 1980s. All that is missing from this box
set to make the experience complete are some vintage commercials and a few TV
Film Institute is currently showing the Director’s Cut of “Close Encounters of
the Third Kind” as part of its on-going celebration of Steven Spielberg’s
films. Here is the official press release:
Pictures Entertainment's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Director's Cut) will receive an exclusive
extended run at BFI Southbank from 27 May, screening from a new 35mm print.
This special presentation will lead the BFI's two month season dedicated to
Steven Spielberg - a celebration of one of the most influential and successful
filmmakers in the history of cinema that will screen more than 30 of the
director's films throughout June and July.Combining elements of both the 1977 original
version and the 1980 Special Edition, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Director's Cut)
represents Steven Spielberg's definitive edit of his sci-fi masterpiece.
theatrical run of The Director's Cut from 35mm will form a fitting tribute to a
filmmaker now synonymous with the magic of film and the ritual of cinema-going;
returning his version of the story to its intended format and setting.
from a new 35mm print, Sony Pictures Entertainment's Close
Encounters of the Third Kind (Director's Cut) will receive an
exclusive extended run at BFI Southbank from 27 May.
Mark Mawston reflects on the personal impact the film had on him.
Of all of
Steven Spielberg’s classic films, probably the most truly magical, the one that
really lifts your spirits is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Although this
is an incredibly important film, I consider it slightly down the pecking order
in the master’s great works although I, rather controversially I’m sure, would
always place it above Jaws in the auteur’s body of impressive films. The reason
is simple; whereas Jaws terrified me on my 10th birthday, Close Encounters
filled me with a sense of wonder. This
may have had something to do with the venue I first saw it in- The Queens in
Newcastle, which, when the film was released, was one of the few surviving
Cinerama theatres left. Its huge curved screen made any film shown seem like an
event but this one was simply made for it and had the most impact on me. I’ll
never forget the thrill of seeing twinkling stars begin to suddenly move from
the top left of the huge screen towards the events unfolding, especially in the
scene where the alien ships pay a visit to the remote farmhouse of the small
boy Barry and his terrified mother. The sheer impact that scene had on me will
never be forgotten and was one of the main reasons why I wanted to see this
film on the big screen again. I was not to be disappointed. I spotted many new
things that I’d missed when screening it on Blu-ray for my enraptured daughter and
from TV screenings and realised that the moving stars weren’t just limited to this
scene but appear specifically when Roy (Richard Dreyfuss- never better) is
sitting in his van at a remote crossing. It’s now easy to see so many things
that Spielberg drew upon, from shot for shot from North By Northwest to the
fact that When You Wish Upon a Star is playing when Barry’s toys “come alive”.
The one thing I hadn’t previously spotted that really stood out was that when
the alien visitor at the end of the film smiles after giving the famous hand gestures,
his smile and face are those of Barry’s. This is the kind of thing that you can
really notice on the big screen. Science fiction is the one of the genres most
suited to the big screen, with titles such as Blade Runner, Star Wars and 2001
made for this experience. However, it is Close Encounters that benefits from it most
and shows the sheer sense of scope that the young director brought to this
tale. Along with The Searchers, is there a more famous shot of a silhouette in
a doorway in movie history? To see this scene alone is worth the admission fee
and I urge you to see it on its BFI/Park Circus re-release. To paraphrase a
classic of the genre; For space, no one can beat a screen.
Spielberg always said that the added the
scene of the inside of the spaceship for the Special Edition of the film in
1980 was always a disappointment and I agree. What was on screen would always
pale in comparison to what you imagined and also took away for of the wonder. Spielberg
rightly exorcised this scene for this version of the film, which is easily the
best. This is still essential viewing to those who still watch the skies rather
than the “stars” of reality TV.
When I Love Lucy debuted on American television in 1951, nobody could
have suspected that it would become one of the most beloved shows of all time.
Across six seasons Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Cuban band leader
Desi Arnaz, shared their lives with millions. At the time it was the most
watched show in the United States, and undoubtedly helped fuel TV set sales
during the decade. It has also been repeated constantly since, and sold around
the world. Now, almost sixty years since the final episode, it is possible to
go back and view it all from the beginning.
Keeping their own names helped further
blur the line between the show and reality in the minds of the audience, and
watching Desi and Lucy every week felt like you were spending time with real
friends. For the most part the situations played out in I Love Lucy were relatable (despite the occasional flights of
fancy, such as a visit from Superman to her son’s birthday party), and
reflected the new booming post-war economy in the States, when homes were new
and filled with the latest labour-saving devices. Lucy was the perfect
housewife and foil to Desi’s rather serious-minded band leader. She was always
involved in schemes to manipulate or get around him, but would always end up
being put back in her place. In many ways Lucille Ball was a proto-feminist,
becoming one of the first powerful women in Hollywood, but the message of the
show was not always quite so advanced. Despite this she was adored by both male
and female viewers.
I Love Lucy
was, in part, an attempt to hold their marriage together. Lucille had insisted
Desi play her husband in the show to enable them to spend more time together,
but it clearly didn’t work. She filed for divorce in 1960, one day after
filming the final episode, claiming their marriage had not been like it was on
TV. She bought out ownership of their production company Desilu Productions and
became important and powerful force in Hollywood at the time. The Twilight Zone had first aired as an
unofficial pilot show as part of the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958, and
Desilu went on to produce Star Trek, Mission Impossible and many more.
If you have watched a lot of early
television, particularly that made in the UK, the first thing to strike you
when viewing I Love Lucy on DVD is
the quality of the production. Eschewing early, cheaper video formats, the show
pioneered the technique of using a multi-camera studio arrangement and recorded
straight onto 35mm film. Therefore, watching it now I Love Lucy looks as good, most likely better, than it did at the
time. This image quality occasionally works to I Love Lucy’s detriment now, as it is easy to spot the occasional
painted backdrops and hastily-created sets, something which would have been
lost in the low resolution broadcasts of the 1950s. The high production value
is owed almost entirely to Karl Freund, director of the Peter Lorre-starring Mad Love (1935) and one of the most
important cinematographers to come out of Germany: The Golem (1920) and Metropolis
(1927) are amongst his credits, and one of the first Hollywod movies he shot
was Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). He
was invited to be the Director of Photography on I Love Lucy and effectively invented the multi-camera format that
is still used for studio sitcoms and dramas today.
This box set includes dozens of bonus
features alongside the hours and hours of actual episodes. They have found
original openings and trails from the archives, which provide an interesting
glimpse into early 1950s television viewing. Also included are episodes of
Lucille Ball’s earlier radio sitcom My
Favourite Husband, the show that inspired I Love Lucy, deleted footage, home movie footage from the set, interviews
and much more.
If you Love Lucy, pick up this box set from 30th May.
Sam Mendes hosted the press launch to mark production of Spectre at Pinewood Studios in 2015.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Director Sam Mendes brought the James Bond franchise to an all-time high in terms of critical acclaim and boxoffice receipts with the 2012 release of "Skyfall", which marked the 50th anniversary of the movie series. He then announced he would not be on board for the next 007 flick, "Spectre". However, after much negotiating (and presumably a boatload more money), Mendes relented and directed that film as well. While not enjoying the hype and response that "Skyfall" did, "Spectre" was also a major international hit grossing close to $900 million, outdone only by "Skyfall", which racked up a gross of $1.1 billion. Now Mendes says he won't direct the next Bond film- and this time he says he means it. Mendes has nothing but good things to say about working on two 007 blockbusters but says it's now time for a new director with a new vision. He also says he doesn't know whether Daniel Craig will continue in the role. Craig, who has done four Bond films to date, has made conflicting statements about his desire to continue in the role. Mendes says that the ultimate decision will be left to producer Barbara Broccoli, who initially championed Craig for the part when virtually everyone else thought he would make a poor choice. That was then and this is now and Craig has enjoyed enormous popularity among the fan base. Still, while diamonds may be forever, a Bond actor's lock on the role isn't. Way back when Sean Connery left the series after "You Only Live Twice" in 1967 many critics predicted the end of the franchise. It would be too inconceivable, they said, to consider anyone else in the role. Over a half-century later, however ,the series is thriving. Bond is cool again even for kids and there is no signs of the character or the films running out of steam. Doubtless, the producers don't look forward to the stress involved in finding a new actor but they have succeeded many times before. George Lazenby played the part very well in his one turn before quitting the series in 1969. Connery came back in 1971 for one film before Roger Moore took the helm for a successful string of films that lasted from 1973 to 1985. Timothy Dalton played the part twice and Pierce Brosnan proved to be the Bond of the new era with four major successes between 1995-2002. Craig began the role in 2006 with "Casino Royale" and has been the Bond of record since. (Before the purists complain, we'll acknowledge that Connery returned again to the role in 1983 with "Never Say Never Again" but the production was not part of the official franchise.) The recent respectability the Bond films have enjoyed from the critical establishment has also upped the ante in terms of who directs the next film. Gone are the days when Bond directors would be dismissed as being workmanlike in their skill. In fact, a new generation of critics is far more complimentary toward some of the previous directors than critics had been at the time of the movies' original releases. The franchise is now attracting "name" directors who might have once avoided being pigeon-holed as a 007 director. One thing seems certain: any major decisions about the next Bond films seem to be quite a ways off. Even if Craig can be lured back to the role, he is committed to some high profile projects in the coming months. For more click here.
He's arguably the last of his kind from the Golden Age of stand-up comedy. Don Rickles is now 90 years old and still performing, though according to a profile in the Washington Post, he's now considered a sit-down comedian, with a recliner on stage being about the only concession he's made to his advanced age and the onset of some physical infirmities. But his razor-sharp humor remains intact and Rickles still writes his own material to perform in front of appreciative audiences. Most people would be uncomfortable with being singled out by a snarky comedian but Rickles' fans consider it be a mark of honor to be on the receiving end of his insults. There was a time when Rickles broke barriers with his unique act in the 1960s. Until then, most stand-up comics were relatively benign and respectful to their audiences. Rickles changed all of that. A downside of his influence is that, while Rickles gentle ribbing never crossed the line into vulgarity, the younger generation of comedians had no such reservations. Perhaps because his act reminds us of a gentler time in American comedy, Rickles is now considered to be a national treasure. It's worth noting that he is also an accomplished actor, having appeared in dramatic roles in feature films in such diverse fare as Roger Corman's "X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes", "Run Silent, Run Deep" opposite the likes of Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster and "The Rat Race" with Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. After Rickles caught on with his comedy shtick, he remained a popular fixture in feature films, often replicating his wiseguy persona, most memorably in the Clint Eastwood WWII comedy caper film "Kelly's Heroes". He also provided the voice of the grumpy Mr. Potato Head in the "Toy Story" films and reverted back to a dramatic role in Martin Scorsese's "Casino". In 2007, director John Landis paid homage to Rickles, who he met as an aspiring filmmaker on the set of "Kelly's Heroes", with the acclaimed documentary "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project". Click here for an interview with Rickles and clips of some of his best moments.
early 1970s Italian Gothic chillers from director Emilio Miraglia have been released
in the UK in a dual Blu-ray/DVD box set. Bearing the tantalising umbrella title
"Killer Dames", it could equally be looked upon as a Marina Malfatti
set, since the actress occupies a prominent role in both of the films contained
prolific assistant director throughout the first half of the 60s, Emilio Miraglia's
fourth spin in the director's chair following a trio of crime thrillers was
also his first foray into terror terrain. 1971's The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave (o.t. La Notte Che Evelyn Usci Della Tomba) concerns English aristocrat Lord
Cunningham (Anthony Steffan), a man devastated by the passing of his titian-haired
wife Evelyn, who he suspected was being unfaithful. Struggling to overcome his
grief over her death and rage at her perceived infidelity, Cunningham lures attractive
redheaded women to his castle residence on the outskirts of London where he
first seduces then tortures them in a dungeon kitted out with S&M gear. Cunningham's
doctor (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) convinces him that remarriage is the only way to stem
his unravelling sanity, whereafter he meets and falls for the beautiful Gladys (Marina
Malfatti). They wed and at first it appears that the doctor's advice was sound.
But then the slayings begin...
screenplay, which Miraglia co-wrote with Fabio Pittorru and Massimo Felsatti, is
an intoxicating blend of Gothic mystery and stylish giallo, top-heavy with the
staple ingredients of the latter – copious nudity and sadistic killing. In one
particularly nasty sequence a victim is thrown into an animal enclosure where
the canidae residents rip out her intestines. Director of photography Gastone
di Giovanni brings plenty of visual lustre to the show and Bruno Nicolai
provides a dreamy cocktail lounge score. Although the pace slackens a tad here
and there and the sadomasochistic facet affords it an unnecessarily sleazy vibe,
in summation it’s a compelling enough little number which keeps one engaged and
guessing up until the last reel – bristling with unpredictable double and
triple crosses – and its slightly abrupt conclusion. Steffan makes for a solid
leading man, slipping back and forth between cultured sophistication and sweaty
paranoia, whilst Malfatti is delightful as the beleaguered heroine.
next film (and Evelyn's bedmate in
this set, surely not coincidentally also featuring a key character by that
name) was the following year's The Red
Queen Kills Seven Times (1972, o.t. La
Dama Uccide Sette Volte, a.k.a. The
Lady in Red Kills Seven Times - its onscreen title here).
the wake of their grandfather's murder by a masked figure cloaked in crimson, two
sisters (Barbara Bouchet and Marina Malfatti) inherit his castle abode. But the
murders continue, believed by some to be perpetrated by the mythical ‘Red Queen’
who, family legend has it, returns every 100 years to claim seven lives. Could that
possibly be the case? Or is there something more insidious going on?
has to be said that some aspects of Red
Queen are a little clichéd (it's one of those films where, when a character
utters those guaranteed-death-sentence words "I know who the killer
is" you just know they’ll get bumped off five minutes later without having
had time to spill the beans) and the otherwise creepy titular killer is
slightly undermined by a cartoonish burst of manic laughter accompanying each murder.
Nevertheless, in this writer's opinion it's the better film of the pair, slicker
paced with a superior narrative that builds to a more satisfying climax, and boasts
more imaginative death sequences than its predecessor (one memorably grisly impaling
is staged atop a spiked fence). Oh, and it also showcases an early Sybil
Danning performance, the Miraglia/Pittorru script ensuring the actress has
barely a single scene in which she isn't required to shed her clothing. The
director maintains a fine level of ‘who's-doin'-it?’ intrigue that, as with Evelyn, keeps the audience in suspense
until the final reveal (though seasoned giallo buffs will have little
difficulty seeing through the veritable shoal of red herrings), and there are
plenty of standout moments; a stylish nightmare sequence which culminates with
Barbara Bouchet strapped to a torture rack will certainly pique the prurient
proclivities of her fans. Bruno Nicolai serves up an infectiously chirrupy
score (you'll be humming it long after the end credits have rolled) and Alberto
Spagnoli's beautiful cinematography ensures that there’s always something on
screen to admire, whether it be the atmospheric Gothicism of the castle
interiors or the striking décor in the (then) modern apartments.
Variety reports that the family of the late director Sergio Leone is developing a six-episode Western TV series titled "Colt" based upon a concept that Leone had planned with his collaborators but which was never realized. His goal was to present the American West in a more realistic manner than had been seen in his classic "spaghetti Westerns". The focus would be on the handgun used by The Man With No Name, portrayed by Clint Eastwood in the classic "A Fistful of Dollars". The episodes would follow the trail of that gun as it passes from owner to owner. The first two episodes will be directed by Stefano Sollima, the high profile Italian filmmaker and son of Sergio Sollima, who directed Lee Van Cleef in the cult Italian Western "The Big Gundown". Stefano will also be writing the scripts for the series. Unlike Sergio Leone's Westerns, which were set in America but filmed in Spain, the Leone Film Group intends to shoot the series on location in the USA. Click here for more.
While doing press interviews at Cannes for his latest film "Cafe Society", Woody Allen was asked about his biggest boxoffice hit, "Midnight in Paris". Beyond confirming that the film's success surprised him greatly, Allen tells a fascinating tale about the origins of the story. Decades ago he was told by legendary Hollywood agent Swfity Lazar that Cary Grant, who was in self-imposed retirement, would return to films if he could be directed by Allen. Adding substance to the tale, Grant showed up one night at Michael's Pub, the New York jazz venue where Allen still plays with his band. Grant apparently loved the music and Allen was enthused about developing a film project for him. He devised a scenario in which Allen would play his usual nebbish character who, one night, finds himself whisked off in a limousine with Cary Grant. The two end up in the 1920s. However, when Allen approached Grant's office with the idea, he was told flat out that Grant would never return to making movies. He later learned that Swifty Lazar often passed around inaccurate rumors. Nevertheless, Allen kept the story concept tucked away until he used it as the basis for "Midnight in Paris". By then, Allen was too old to play the male lead so he cast Owen Wilson. Allen fashioned a superb film but the mind still reels at what could have been....For more click here.
Character actor Burt Kwouk has passed away at the age of 85. Although primarily known for his work in comedy in film and television, Kwouk was equally adept at playing dramatic roles. In fact in the year 2011, he was awarded an OBE in honor of his accomplishments in drama. However, Kwouk will always be immortalized as Cato, the long-suffering but fanatically devoted man servant to Peter Sellers' bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series. A common theme throughout the series was having Cato follow Clouseau's orders to keep him on guard by ambushing him at the most inopportune moments. Their raucous battles were the stuff of inspired lunacy. He and Sellers first appeared together in 1964 and he would continue to play the same character in new installments of the series after Sellers death up until 1992. Kwouk was also a popular presence in British television and reinforced his cult status by appearing in two James Bond films in supporting roles, "Goldfinger" (1964) and "You Only Live Twice" (1967). He also made an appearance in the 1967 spoof version of "Casino Royale". Kwouk, a gentle and good-humored man in real life, relished the fact that his appearances in the Pink Panther and Bond films had made him popular even with younger generations. He frequently attended Bond-related fan conventions at Pinewood Studios in London where he enjoyed discussing his career and signing autographs. For more click here.
A new F/X TV series titled "Feud" will recreate legendary Hollywood battles between celebrities. Top on the list in terms of retro movie lovers' interest will be the famous feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The two legendary stars united for the 1962 Gothic mystery "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" The low-budget film was a major hit with the public and critics and revived the careers of both Davis and Crawford. However, their off-screen drama during the making of the movie has become the stuff of legend, as the two women came to genuinely despise each other. For more click here
Cinema Retro issue #35 has now shipped to our subscribers worldwide. No other magazine centers specifically on the great Golden Age of film making: the 1960s and 1970s. Every issue is packed with exclusive interviews, rare photos and insightful columns about classic and cult movies that virtually no one else covers in this kind of detail. Please support classic cinema in the print format by subscribing or renewing today!
Highlights of this issue include:
Mike Siegel's 12 page in-depth report on the tragedy and triumph in the making of Bruce Lee's last film, Enter the Dragon
Mark Mawston's exclusive interview with Ian Ogilvy, who talks about filming She Beast, Witchfinder General and his close call with playing James Bond
Extensive report from Tim Greaves on the underrated Alistair MacLean spy thriller When Eight Bells Toll, which afforded young Anthony Hopkins an early starring role.
Peter Cook pays tribute to "The Art of Deception"- a look at the use of matte paintings in famous films.
Michael Commes takes a fun filled visit to The House of Bare Mountain, the infamous nudie monster flick
Esteemed photographer Keith Hamshere shares his memories and photos from The Living Daylights, Murphy's War and Death on the Nile.
Raymond Benson's Ten Best Films of 1954
Patrick Cooper pays tribute to Robert Mitchum and The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Lee Pfeiffer's "Take Two" column examines Assignment K starring Stephen Boyd and Camilla Sparv
Brian Hannan looks at what was hot at the boxoffice in 1966
Sheldon Hall reviews a video release of Jacques Rivette's films
Daniel D'Arpe celebrates the cult sci-fi flick Starcrash starring Caroline Munro and David Hasselhoff.
Adrian Smith joyfully uncovers the 007 sexploitation spoof Bonditis
Plus Darren Allison's latest soundtrack news and reviews, Gareth Owen's "Pinewood Past" column and the latest movie book and DVD reviews.
Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess
opens on a desolate Quebec City just before nightfall. Overcast skies, drenched
streets, and a still rustling wind suggest the tranquility of a recently
concluded storm. The camera moves toward a house, easing through an open
window. Inside, a dead body, that of a lawyer named Vilette, lies bludgeoned on
the floor. A man in priest’s cassock, which he soon removes, flees the scene
under cover of darkness. He is then observed by another priest as he hurriedly
enters a rectory. About a minute into this 1953 film, there has been a murder,
a passing glimpse of the assailant, and a witness, and a previously serene
environment is now the backdrop for a sinister scenario. Thus we have many of
the main ingredients necessary to set up a prototypical Hitchcock story.
But this story goes one brilliant step further. Based on the 1902
play by French-Canadian Paul Anthelme, Nos
deux consciences (Our Two Consciences), I
Confess has the murderer, in actuality a sexton named Otto Keller (O.E.
Hasse), tell the real priest, Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), about
his deed. The catch, of course, is that Michael cannot reveal what he knows due
to the strictures of confidential admission. Even if this wasn’t a perfect
murder—Otto only wanted to steal some money—it was a perfect confession.
The murder is more than simply an illegal secret Michael must
conceal, however. Visiting the scene of the crime the next day, his own
behavior raises suspicion, eventually to the point that he becomes the prime
suspect for Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden). And when the unhappily married Ruth
Grandfort (Anne Baxter) greets Michael and passionately mutters, “We’re free,”
it becomes clear that indeed Michael also has reason for wanting the lawyer
dead: he and Ruth harbor a taboo, though presently platonic, love, and only
Vilette knew about it. So the question then becomes not how the characters will
react to the crime itself, but how they will function following the confession,
how all involved will deftly handle the aftermath of this crime that benefits
more than just the murderer, and potentially leaves the consequences to fall on
an innocent man.
George Tabori and William Archibald are credited with the
screenplay of I Confess (one of only
two writing credits ever for Archibald), but the film was rumored to have
involved nearly 12 writers at various points in its eight-year preproduction.
Yet with so many cooks working on the broth, I Confess retains a fair amount of Hitchcock flavor. It is even
tempting to further read into it a personal connection for the director, given
that he was raised Catholic and identified with the religious setting,
appreciating Father Logan’s adherence to his religious principles, for
While Clift’s Method acting background (and his drinking) sometimes
ran contrary to Hitchcock’s preference for blindly obedient and unquestioning
actors, the two evidently worked well enough to elicit an excellent performance
by the astonishing young star, already with two Oscar nominations under his
belt and on his way to a third, for From
Here to Eternity (1953). To see Clift’s face as Hasse tells him about the
murder is an acting master class in close-up. Held in a single take, Clift’s
expressive features register his shock at the announcement, his guilty consideration
of its advantageous value, his acceptance of its significance, and his return
to priestly concern, all with the mere crinkle of a nose, blink of an eye,
facial twitch, or furrowed brow. There is no doubt Clift had one of the
screen’s more breathtaking faces, but more amazing is what he could do with it,
and we see it all in just this one shot. Costars Malden and Baxter fit their
roles well, but Clift in general gives a type of nuanced performance rarely
seen in a Hitchcock film.
In the opening sequences of I
Confess, Dimitri Tiomkin’s exuberant score pounds to operatic rhythms
matched by camera movement and editing, rising to a crescendo of high-pitched
tension as all of the above mentioned pieces are put into place. Things calm
down not long after this breakneck opening, though, settling to a statelier
pace with extensive passages of dialogue, detailed procedural interrogations,
and later, a prolonged trial sequence. Even the basic generic tenor switches
gear for a time to have its drive be the forbidden romance rather than the
murder. Before the 30-minute mark, it is clear that Michael knows too much,
Otto and his scheming wife Alma, played by famed German actress Dolly Haas in
her only American role, both know he knows too much, and Larrue knows everybody
knows more than they’re telling. The main problem with I Confess, as far as its maintaining a consistent interest, is that
we too know more than we should. Where I
Confess falters is that by this point, not even half way through the
picture, everything is more or less explained, except for perhaps how and when
the truth will be revealed, and much of what transpires until that moment is
simply getting in the way.
Actor Alan Young, the beloved star of the "Mister Ed" TV series died this week at age 96. In tribute, we are re-running Nick Thomas's exclusive interview with him.
(This interview originally ran in November 2009)
By Nick Thomas
Alan Young created some memorable characters over his long career in film and
television. Co-starring with Rod Taylor, Young played David Filby in the classic
sci-fi film of the 60s, The Time Machine. He also horsed around as Wilbur
Post for six seasons in one of best-loved sitcoms ever, Mister Ed,
and was the voice behind numerous cartoon characters such as the grumpy Scrooge
McDuck. Mr. Young is celebrating a milestone birthday- although he isn’t
especially fond of talking about such traditional annual events. But when
I spoke with him a few days ago, he was quite happy to chat about his long
Born in Northern England, Alan’s Scottish father soon moved the family to
Edinburgh, then later to Canada when he was six. Bed-ridden for months at a time
with asthma, Alan would listen to radio shows and write his own comedy routines.
He later made Los Angeles his home and went on to appear in some 20 films and
dozens more television roles. In 1994, he wrote "Mister Ed and Me," detailing
his experience with the world’s most famous TV horse, of course. He recently
revised and republished the book as "Mister Ed and Me... and More!"
Why did you update "Mister Ed and Me"?
My publisher suggested adding more stories about my life so I included some
that I think will interest readers. He also wanted more about Connie Hines, my
TV wife on Mister Ed. So I asked Connie if she would do a chapter about
her life and she was happy to.
The book’s divided into 3 sections, one called Lips Don’t Sweat. That’s an
When I was young, I was paid $3 for doing a short monologue. That impressed
my dad, who earned the same amount for working all day in a shipyard at the
time. He told me to "keep up this talking business because lips don’t sweat!" It
was good advice.
You also wrote "There’s no Business Like Show Business ....Was" which is
crammed with delightful Hollywood memories and stories. It’s extremely enjoyable
Well I love to write. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with so
many lovely people here in Hollywood. I’ve heard so many of them tell
fascinating stories, so I wanted to put it all together so fans could read about
working in Hollywood in the "old days." Young people often say to me that it
must have been easier working back then. But in many ways it wasn’t. For
example, we had to learn by the seat of our pants, as there were few schools
that taught acting skills.
One of the great joys any retro movie lover can experience is to view a screening of a classic film with a world-class orchestra playing the musical score as live accompaniment. Many acclaimed orchestras are now doing just that and delighting movie lovers across the globe. Among the most impressive performances, not surprisingly, are those presented by the New York Philharmonic, which has a very popular film-related series that is as diversified as it is irresistible. On May 19, the the NYP presented a superb tribute to Charlie Chaplin with a screening of his 1931 masterpiece, "City Lights". Conductor Timothy Brock informed that audience that by 1931 silent film was already dead. The new era of sound was all the rage but Chaplin's clout and popularity were such that he could still find financing for his films despite his insistence that they would be shot and presented as silent movies. Clearly the beloved Little Tramp would have seemed out of place in the new era. Chaplin not only wrote, starred in and directed the film but he also composed it's marvelous score. Brock was approached by Chaplin's estate to see if he could reconstruct the original score based on Chaplin's original notes. Over the decades, the score had been bastardized into many variations performed by countless orchestras and musicians around the world. The task took over a year but the effort was worth it. A sold-out audience at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center applauded wildly throughout. The evening was a triumph not only for Brock and the orchestra but also for Chaplin's legacy.
Charlton Heston fans will appreciate the fact that one of his few major films not to be released on home video has finally made it to DVD through MGM. "Number One" (released in certain countries under the title "Pro") is an off-beat vehicle for the superstar, who was then at his peak of popularity. The fact that the movie under-performed at the box-office and failed to score with critics didn't diminish Heston's status as a leading man. He would go on to star in such hits as "The Omega Man", "Skyjacked", "Soylent Green" "Earthquake", "Midway"and "Airport '75"- with cameos in the popular "The Three Musketeers" and "The Four Musketeers". The poor response to "Number One" doesn't diminish its many merits - and the fact that Heston was willing to play against type in a largely unsympathetic role. For the film, he reunited with director Tom Gries, with whom he made the acclaimed 1968 Western "Will Penny". Curiously, both movies center on the same theme: a macho man who can't come to grips with the fact that he is aging and, therefore, his chosen way of life is threatened. In "Will Penny", Heston played the title character: a middle-aged cowboy who feels the inevitable aches and pains of trying to maintain a career that is clearly suited for younger men. Similarly, in "Number One" he plays "Cat" Catlan, a star quarterback for the New Orleans Saints football team. Catlan has seen plenty of fame and glory as the team's Golden Boy and the idol of the crowds. But now he is 40 years old and, although still in Herculean physical condition compared to most men his age, he's fallen victim to the constant brutalities he suffers on the field. The film opens on a particularly disastrous game in which Catlan makes some serious misjudgments about plays and bungles some key passes. The result is an embarrassing loss for the team. The Saints' gruff coach Southerd (John Randolph) isn't ready to give up on Catlin but seemingly every other team member is. Catlan is subjected to some cruel jokes and he has to contend with the fact that a much younger player (Richard Elkins) is breathing down his neck, hoping to replace him as quarterback. Things aren't much better at home for Catlan. His long-suffering wife Julie (Jessica Walter) patiently endures his mysterious absences, unpredictable mood swings and volatile temper. She is a very successful fashion designer but Catlan is "old school" when it comes to the role of wives. He wants Julie to stay home and cater to his needs. In the midst of one of their frequent fights, he even stoops so low as to cruelly tease her about her inability to conceive a baby. Still, she sticks with him even when he confesses to having an affair with an another attractive, self-made woman, Ann (Diana Muldaur). Faced with the fact that his career is winding down, Catlan reluctantly explores his options for his post-NFL life. They aren't very enticing. His best friend Richie (Bruce Dern), is an obnoxious former Saints player who brags about having gotten out of the game at age 34. He now runs a very successful car leasing business and lives a playboy lifestyle. He wants Catlan to work for him, a prospect that doesn't sit well with the aging quarterback. He also gets an offer from a computer company to work for them but the idea of dealing of being surrounded by machines in the confines of an office is repugnant to him.Ultimately, Catlan is inspired by his wife to go out on a high note. During one of their rare moments of domestic detente, she convinces him that he still has some good games in his future if he can shake off the funk and get his confidence back. The film's climactic game is the very definition of mixed emotions. Catlan performs well and has his mojo back but the movie's ambiguous final shot is anything but uplifting.
Tom Gries was a good director for Heston. He somehow managed to tamp down Heston's larger-than-life personality and afford him the opportunity to play everyday men. In "Number One", Heston is subject to the sorts of problems that plague most middle-aged men. He's nervous about his future. He often takes his frustrations out on the people closest to him. He tries to reassert his youth by exerting his sexual prowess through having an affair. Throughout it all, Heston admirably does not try to make Catlan into a hero. There is a level of sympathy accorded to him because of the emotional and physical stress he is under but his sheer disregard for others makes him more a villain than a hero. (He even refuses to give fans his autograph). Even worse is his sheer selfishness in how he deals with his wife's needs. He feels threatened by the success she is enjoying in her own career and therefore diminishes her achievements. Heston gives one of his finest performances, ironically, in what was one of his least-seen films.He gets able support from the woefully-underrated Jessica Walter, whose performance a couple of years later in "Play Misty For Me" should have assured her of major stardom (and an Oscar nomination). Director Gries also utilizes the talents of real-life football players, some of whom exhibit impressive acting skills. Diana Muldaur also excels as the siren who lures Catlan into her bed. There is an air of authenticity to the film, primarily because Gries shot much of it in front of packed stadiums. (Cinematographer Michael Hugo's work is especially impressive). Gries also captures the feel of New Orleans back in the day, capitalizing on the local scenery, jazz clubs and even getting the great Al Hirt to perform a number and do a bit of acting. About the only dated aspects of the film concern the off-the-field activities of the NFL players. Catlan complains that they are paid like peasants, which was probably true in 1969, but is a rather laughable notion today. Also, the NFL team is required to wear jackets and ties when traveling to or leaving the stadium, another rule that would be virtually unenforceable by contemporary standards.
"Number One" never found its audience in 1969 but hopefully the crisp, impressive DVD release from MGM will find help retro movie lovers appreciate its merits. The film did have at least one critic who appreciated the movie and Heston's performance. Writing in the New York Times, critic Howard Thompson wrote: "Charlton Heston, minus a
beard, a loincloth, a toga or the Red Sea, tackles a starkly unadorned role in
one of the most interesting and admirable performances of his career…If Heston
could have been better, we don’t know how." Our sentiments exactly.
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London may have been the epicenter of the sexual revolution in the mid-1960s but that still didn't make it easy to see adult entertainment on the screen. The dreaded Office of the Censor wielded Draconian power as the guardians of British morality. Hence, the only place you could see anything remotely erotic on film was through 8mm "loops", short films that ran only minutes. The closest mainstream cinemas got to playing films with nudity was through pretentious "documentaries" that exposed the sordid side of London's nightlife or life in a nudist colony. In reality, these denouncements of promiscuous sex existed strictly to capitalize on promiscuous sex and everyone knew it. Pete Walker was an enterprising young entrepreneur who tried to fill the gap for sex-starved Britons by shooting hastily-arranged, no-budget black and white exploitation films that lasted only minutes. Walker had started in the even more staid early part of the decade by hiring well-endowed, free-spirited young woman to "star" in his modest productions. There was no shortage of talent, as Briton did have a booming market in glamour magazines that featured nude models and starlets. Walker would shoot the silent B&W films on 8mm before graduating to 16mm. The final product would be sold in local book shops for extravagant prices. Walker and the store made tidy profits and the consumer could feast his eyes on some bare female flesh. Everyone was a winner.
In 1969 Walker decided to do something far more ambitious by creating a film with an actual story line and populated by people who could really act. The result was "For Men Only" (AKA "Hot Girls For Men Only"), a ribald comedy that ran a scant 43 minutes but had production values that looked like "Gone With the Wind" compared to his earlier efforts. David Kernan (who played Pvt. Hitch in "Zulu" a few years before) plays Freddie Horn, a young man engaged to marry Rosalie (Andrea Allen). However, she demands that he quit his job as fashion editor for a prominent journal because he is generally assigned to interview beautiful young models who wear barely-there new clothing lines. She's right to be jealous, as Freddie has been living quite the life, indulging in the "fringe benefits" of being around so many willing young women. Reluctantly, he applies for a job as a writer for a bland magazine that will ensure he has no exposure to the fairer sex. He is summoned from London to the countryside to meet his prospective new employer, Miles Fanthorpe (Derek Aylward). He meets Fanthorpe at a local church where he is giving a stern lecture on morality and the decay of society, which he attributes to permissive sex and increasing tolerance of homosexuality. The small crowd responds enthusiastically to his conservative, fire-and-brimstone rant. Freddie is understandably depressed at the prospect of working for such a man but the first clue that not all is as it seems occurs when Fanthorpe gives him a lift back to his manor house- in an Aston Martin DB5. Once at the house, Fanthorpe comes clean. His uses his reputation as a conservative prude to mask his real personality which is that of a sex-obsessed rogue. Fanthorpe then introduces Freddie to his staff, which consists of busty young women of loose morals who spend the entire day romping around in bikinis or sunning themselves while topless. Freddie is understandably delighted to accept the job of writing for one of Fanthorpe's publications that deals with nude models. Within minutes, he is immersed in a virtual orgy- and he understandably forgets a vitally important social engagement for that evening. Seems he has to accompany Rosalie and her parents to a black tie dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The parents can't stand Freddie as it is and have warned Rosalie that he is addicted to skirt chasing. When Freddie doesn't turn up for dinner, Rosalie sets out to trace his whereabouts and ends up at the country manner where she sees the real scenario. Naturally, through happenstance even her prudish parents show up along with a local parson, resulting in a chaotic scene that culminates with a bevy of bikini girls being stuffed into the DB5 for a fast getaway. (Not even 007 enjoyed that privilege.) Although one could term the film as a "sexploitation" title, that doesn't do it justice. "For Men Only" is actually quite amusing and features some very fine comedic performances. The sexual content is quite mild but there is something erotic about seeing these lovely young actresses cavort about while scantily clad. It's like Matt Helm on steroids.
The other feature, "School for Sex", also features Derek Aylward in essentially the same kind of role he played in "For Men Only". Here he is an upper-crust type named Giles Wingate who inherited a manor house and a fortune and blew through it all by marrying a series of opportunistic golddiggers. To pay off his debts, he engages in some dubious financial tactics that end up with him being criminally prosecuted. He's spared a jail sentence and put on probation but still needs to find a way to pay for his lavish lifestyle as well as the salary for his elderly, intensely loyal butler. He comes up with an inspired idea. Since he was snookered by so many lovely young women, he decides to open a "School for Sex" on his premises. The idea is to charge beautiful young women a hefty fee for instructing them how to seduce wealthy men and ensure their financial well-being. In order to carry out the plan, he needs some female assistance. He hires the Duchess of Burwash, a widowed hot-to-trot middle-aged cougar played by Rose Alba, who main claim to fame was her short but memorable appearance as the SPECTRE "widow" who gets socked by James Bond in the opening of "Thunderball". She's a boozy opportunist but she delivers the goods in terms of instructing her students how to seduce naive men. Before long, there are more students than Wingate can accommodate. Rich families are sending their daughters for instruction, thinking they will be attending a finishing school for sophisticated young women. Instead, they will run around naked and engage in sex techniques. The film comes to an ironic conclusion as Wingate becomes a victim of his own success. "School for Sex" is described by Pete Walker as the worst movie he ever made. He blames himself for not getting a professional screenwriter and trying to keep costs down by writing the script himself. Although not as polished as "For Men Only", it still has its amusing moments and there is plenty of eye candy in the form of the lovely young ladies. The performances of Aywayrd and Alba are also very funny. The film is a bit more daring than "For Men Only" in that it does include topless sequences and a glimpse or two of full nudity.
Kino Lorber has released both films as a Blu-ray double feature edition. Both remastered prints look excellent and the special features in the package are most welcome. Pete Walker provides a new filmed interview and gives some interesting insights into the world of sexploitation films in England during the 1960s. There are also numerous Walker "loops", the early B&W silent nudie flicks as well as a trailer for "School for Sex" and alternate footage from the film featuring full nudity that was shot for the Japanese market.
In summary, it's a delightful trip down Mammary Lane for anyone who appreciates the low-brow pleasures of such "naughty" entertainment.
Pierce Brosnan in "The World is Not Enough" (1999) (Photo copyright: Danjaq/Eon)
"Shaken, not stirred". Those legendary words have been spoken many times in the James Bond films in relation to how 007 prefers his Vodka Martinis to be prepared. But as Daily Beast writer Noah Rothbaum points out in an article about the origins of that drink, it was largely the screenwriters who made Bond's instructions a catch phrase as opposed to the Ian Fleming novels on which the early movies were based. Click here to read some interesting insights into the drinking habits of the world's best known secret agent.
As the introduction explains, this is not an
attempt at a definitive guide but rather to be a companion piece to some of the
films released on the Arrow label; to extend enjoyment and expand upon some of
the cult material for fans old and new. A
significant portion of the text here has been recycled from Arrow's
already-published DVD and Blu-Ray booklets, but this is made clear from the
outset (also noted throughout where relevant) and collectors may appreciate the
comprehensive assortment here in book form nonetheless, alongside new and
Arrow Video's book provides a whistle-stop
tour of the great and the good of cult, horror and genre cinema here, arranged
nicely into sub-sections focusing on cult movies, directors, actors, genres and
distribution respectively. An overview
of the topics conjures up a nostalgic mixture of fare presented on cult TV
shows like Videodrome, or The Incredibly Strange Film Show; as director Ben
Wheatley aptly notes in his foreword, "I'm profoundly jealous of anybody
coming fresh to the back catalogue of world and genre cinema. It's mind expanding and f*****g
great." Long standing cult film fans
may well be more than happy to revisit examinations of Deep Red, Zombie Flesh
Eaters, Withnail and I, The 'Burbs and others whilst those just beginning to discover
these hidden pleasures (of whom I share Ben Wheatley's envy) are well directed
toward classic gems.
Directors like David Cronenberg, Tinto Brass,
Wes Craven and George A. Romero are deservedly examined; whilst it is glorious
to see Lloyd Kaufman (of Troma films) included in such an illustrious list, it
is a shame that no female directors are noted. This is redressed somewhat in the section on actors, with the inclusion
of chapters on Meiko Kaji and Pam Grier alongside Vincent Price and Boris
Karloff. Cult sub-genres under review
range from the well-known spaghetti western and giallo through to the less-obvious
Brazilian 1970s sexploitation genre 'Pornochanchada' and Canuxploitation
(post-1990s Canadian B-movies), amongst others. The final section on distribution is good to see, as the mechanics
behind and social context of cult cinema can often be at least interesting as
the films themselves. These chapters
provide overviews of the early days of cult and exploitation cinema, a look at
the Super-8 format, film festivals, fanzines and the more recent Asian DVD
It is a shame that in a glossy presentation
like this, clearly aimed at fans, where film posters are presented near full-page,
the decision has been made to treat images of film stills like columns of text,
split in half with a thick white line. Nonetheless, this is a very clear and accessible look at cult cinema,
with the inclusion of some less obvious subject matter alongside must-see
classics which would remiss to exclude in a companion such as this.
Among our most popular articles are those pertaining to video availability of vintage erotica (You old perverts!). Vinegar Syndrome, which has rescued countless grindhouse titles from the 1960s-1980s, has just released one of their most ambitious titles yet, "All Night at the Po-No", consisting of three DVDs packed with features and shorts that all played at the Po-No Theatre in L.A during the 1970s. Don't be immediately dismissive of all of these films, as some do show talent in the construction of reasonably compelling story lines. Surprisingly, when given an actual script to follow, some of the performers also show skill in terms of acting ability, so you can at least assure your significant other that you are watching these only for their artistic merits.
Here is the official press release:
Vinegar Syndrome presents its new ‘Storefront Theatre
Collection’, which celebrates both the strange and often homegrown productions
that played in ‘mini-theatres’ of the 70s. This special-edition 3-disc set is
uniquely packaged in 100% recycled card stock and features a heavy-duty
Throughout the early to mid 1970s, the most common way to
see underground feature films was to visit a ‘storefront theatre.’ Sometimes
referred to as ‘mini-theatres’ or ‘shoebox theatres,’ these small venues were
often converted retail stores armed with nothing more than a couple projectors
and nailed down folding chairs. And, unlike larger houses like the Pussycat
chain, the films screened in these small and cozy spaces were low-budget 16mm
efforts, affectionately known as one-day-wonders.
Hundreds of these theatres dotted the American landscape,
and with them, the most truly independent and underground filmmakers found a
place to exhibit their work.
In this first volume we focus on Los Angeles’ PO-NO
Theatre with 12 examples of LA made films, produced between 1970 and 1973.
Included titles are Huck Walker’s unrelentingly ALL AMERICAN HUSTLER, Anthony
Spinelli’s bizarre vampire comedy SUCKULA, Rik Tazi’ner’s low rent costume
saga, THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF HERCULES, as well as anonymously directed
efforts like CARNAL-GO-ROUND, SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE, HOMER THE LATE COMER, and
the experimental subjective-camera feature, EROTIC POINT OF VIEW, in addition
to five more surprise feature films featuring early genre stars like Rene Bond,
Sandy Dempsey, John Holmes, and more. All films have been scanned in 2k from
rare original theatrical prints to re-create the experience of stumbling into
the PO-NO late one evening and not leaving until dawn the next day.
Directed by: Various
1970-1973 / 740 minutes / Color / 1.33:1
Actors: Rene Bond, John Holmes, Sandy Dempsey, etc, etc…
• All films scanned and restored in 2k from ultra-rare
• Features two bonus short films
Cagney is Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., USN in “The Gallant Hours,”
available on Blu-ray for the first time by Kino Lorber. Affectionately known as
“Bull” Halsey, the movie is a biography of
Halsey told in a semi-documentary style with most of the narration provided by
Robert Montgomery, who introduces people, locations and explains the action
occurring off stage. Montgomery, a distinguished Us Naval officer in WWII, also happens to be the director of the movie
and this is his final effort on film.
movie opens at Halsey’s retirement ceremony, incorrectly stated as 22 November
1945 (Halsey retired from active duty in March 1947). Reflecting in his cabin with
his steward, retiring Chief Petty Officer Manuel Salvador Jesus Maravilla (Leon
Lontoc), the movie flashes back to the Battle of Guadalcanal as Halsey takes
command of American forces in the South Pacific on 16 October 1942. Once he
arrives on board his flag ship, Halsey forms staff and they come up with a strategy
for holding the island and defeating the Japanese. Halsey is a commanding,
straightforward man making the best of grim circumstances, but he’s earned the
respect of the men he commands. At the time the Japanese were still in a strong
position to win the war, but in spite of the odds against them, American forces
prevailed at Guadalcanal making the American victory in the Pacific a turning
point in the war against the Japanese Empire.
movie is unusual in a number of different ways. It has an unconventional score
composed by Roger Wagner, using a choir rather than an orchestra. There is some
incidental music, but according to IMDB, there was a musicians strike during
production and the score is largely sung by the Roger Wagner Chorale. The movie
predates other WWII movies like “Tora! Tora! Tora!” by depicting key figures on
the opposing side in their preparations for battle, which humanizes them in a
thoughtful and sincere way. The movie is unique for a WWII drama as it contains
no actual battle scenes, has no action scenes and relies heavily on the
characters and narrator explaining to the audience what’s going on. Suspense is
created via the radio transmissions and the actions of Halsey and his staff as
they react to the battle. Most of the scenes take place on sets recreating
aircraft and ship interiors with location shooting in San Diego standing in for
Guadalcanal and ship deck scenes. Somehow, it all works and I thoroughly
enjoyed the movie.
film benefits from beautiful black and white photography by Joseph MacDonald
which is filled with scenes of self reflection by Halsey in his spartan
quarters as he listens to radio messages and reacts to news. Cagney gives an
outstanding performance as the grizzled and outspoken Halsey and the movie includes
a wonderful cast of supporting actors with Dennis Weaver in a memorable
performance as Halsey’s aid and pilot, Lieutenant Commander Andrew Jefferson
Lowe III. Richard Jaeckel is also on hand in a brief role as battle weary
pilot, Lt. Commander Roy Webb.
in June 1960 (less than a year after Halsey’s death) by United Artists, the
movie would be one of the last for Cagney. It has been criticized by
nit-pickers for several historical inaccuracies and the viewer should be aware
that the movie takes a few liberties, but these are minor and do not detract
from the story. The film has a 115 minute running time and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray
looks beautiful and sounds terrific. The disc contains the trailer for this and
two other movies as the only extras.
Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), an up-and-coming young Hollywood studio exec
suggests in a meeting that writers could be eliminated and “any old news story”
could be adapted to provide a movie idea—“it would write itself”—Griffin Mill
(Tim Robbins), the guy at the studio who usually takes story pitches from
screenwriters, replies, “...what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the
writer from the artistic process. If we
could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something
is the satirical tone of The Player,
which is easily my favorite film of 1992. It’s a mystery why it wasn’t
nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but the Academy did honor the film with a
Best Director nod for Robert Altman, Best Adapted Screenplay for Michael Tolkin
(also co-producer), and Best Film Editing (Geraldine Peroni). Like 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, The Player takes potshots at the movie industry and skewers—fairly
Altman obviously had a good time with this one. He had spent the 1980s on the
outs with Hollywood after the 1970s, the years in which Altman enjoyed some of
his greatest acclaim (M*A*S*H, Nashville, among others). He had reason
to exhibit a somewhat cynical attitude toward Tinsel Town, and probably could
have gone further with the acerbic jabs The
Player gives to its subject matter. Instead, Altman plays it cool and
delivers a mildly critical treatise on the way movies are made, and provides a
darned good noir-ish murder mystery as
story involves Mill, superbly played by Robbins, who is receiving death threats
from an unknown screenwriter. Mill thinks he knows who it is, and he goes to
confront the guy (Vincent D’Onofrio). There’s a fight—and Mill accidentally
kills the writer. Mill spends the rest of the movie covering up the crime,
avoiding the police investigating the case (Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett),
and romancing the dead writer’s girlfriend, June (Greta Scacchi). In the
meantime, Mill’s job is threatened by the previously-mentioned Levy, who has
begun to attend meetings to which Mill isn’t invited. The Player is part satire-comedy, part 40’s-style noir (but in color), and all bravura
directed a handful of masterpieces, and this is one of them. Although it’s not
one of his signature “ensemble” films—there are really only six main
characters—the picture arguably could be called his ultimate ensemble film because around sixty celebrities appear as
themselves in cameos (Malcolm McDowell, Cher, Burt Reynolds, Buck Henry, Bruce
Willis, Julia Roberts, Lily Tomlin, Scott Glen, Jack Lemmon, Nick Nolte,
Elliott Gould, Harry Belafonte, and many more). As a testament to the respect
with which they held Altman, these people donated their time as a favor.
movie is also known for its spectacular opening eight minutes, a crane shot
that moves around the studio lot with no cuts, similar to what Orson Welles did
at the beginning of Touch of Evil (1958).
All through The Player, there are
nods and winks to movie insider trivia. The posters on the walls of the studio
offices where Mill works are only classics from the 1930s and 40s, mostly film noir titles, slyly suggesting to
the audience what we’re watching. Altman is really saying, “You’re watching a movie, folks, and we’re going to play it
up.” This is never more evident in the fact that the first thing we see is a
clapboard, and we hear the voice of the director calling, “Action!”
Criterion Blu-ray comes with a new 4K digital restoration that looks fantastic.
It has a 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and an audio commentary
from 1992 featuring Altman, Tolkin, and cinematographer Jean Lépine.
is a wealth of fascinating supplements. A new documentary on the making of the
film features interviews with Robbins, Tolkin, associate producer David Levy,
and production designer Stephen Altman (the director’s son). The original hour
long press conference from the 1992 Cannes Film Festival is included. There’s a
vintage interview with Altman, as well as a short documentary about the
shooting of the film’s fund-raiser scene that contains many of the cameos. A
helpful gallery of stills from the picture also helps to identify the many
cameo appearances. There are a few deleted scenes and outtakes, and a
deconstruction of the opening shot with alternate commentaries—one by Altman,
and another by Tolkin and Lépine. Trailers and TV
spots round up the extras, along with an essay in the booklet by author Sam
The Player is one for the
history books. As the original Blu-ray is out of print, the new Criterion
edition is a must-have. The film represents Robert Altman’s masterful
“comeback” to Hollywood, and it set him on an even course for the rest of his
book that claims to be a collection of the “best” of something—whether it is a
listing of movies, music, art, and so forth—has to be taken with a grain of
salt. These kinds of things are entirely subjective; although in this case, TCM
(Turner Classic Movies) does have a kind of clout and expertise in the matter.
said, we have this beautifully-designed and illustrated coffee-table trade
paperback that contains not 1000, not 100, not 50... but 52 “essential must-see movies.” TCM’s spokesperson, Robert Osborne,
explains the criteria in his Foreword—“The Essentials” is a weekly Saturday
night event on the television network in which a guest host (the likes of Rob
Reiner, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, Drew Barrymore, and more) introduce
a picture he or she believes is an Essential. The book is a collection of some
of these Essentials, with some sidebar comments by the various hosts who
appeared on the program.
big question is... why 52? Why not an
even 50? Why not 100? Aha! It’s meant to
be a movie-each-week. Fifty-two weeks in a year, one Essential per week.
every single entry in the book is indeed an essential must-see motion picture.
No question about it. Of the 52 included, I personally own 47 of them on DVD or
Blu-ray in my home library and have of course seen the others. Author Jeremy Arnold does a superb job presenting
the reasons why a particular film matters, and it’s not easy to vary
superlatives, which are what it takes to describe these great works of
the ones you expect are there—City Lights,
It Happened One Night, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Casablanca,
Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain, Rear Window, The Searchers, Lawrence of
Arabia, Jaws... as well as a few
that I was particularly happy to see listed (Duck Soup, King Kong, Double Indemnity, The Bicycle Thief, Seven
Samurai, Dr. Strangelove, Once Upon a
Time in the West, Annie Hall...).
enough, although after going through the book, one can’t help but think, but what about ___? Why isn’t The Godfather an Essential? 2001: A Space Odyssey? The Wizard of Oz? A Bergman? A Scorsese? A Fellini? I found
myself scratching my head in befuddlement at the lack of some truly significant
mentions. There is also nothing more recent than 1984’s This is Spinal Tap, althoughit’s
understandable that many pictures from the 70s and beyond might not be included
because TCM doesn’t have the rights to broadcast them.
so forget about what’s missing and concentrate on what’s there. Once a reader
decides to do that, then The Essentials is
an entertaining read and, in fact, a lot of fun. Arnold does manage to mention
other titles not contained in the book that may have been influenced by one
that is. The book also has some great stills, both color and black and white.
For a preliminary “bucket list” of must-see
movies, especially for younger aficionados who might want to get a jump start
on their film history class, The
Essentials is a good place to start.
Westerns exist in a surreal alternate universe filled with new landscapes, new
faces, new music, extreme violence and a slightly askew version of the Hollywood
western story that veered into new territory literally and figuratively. The
Spanish desert locations are unfamiliar and surreal filled with gunshots that
ricochet, echo and often sound like cannons. Good and bad men are not as we may
perceive them and behave in unexpected ways. Women and children are treated
harshly and often come to an early demise. Anachronistic cowboys, lawmen,
gunslingers, bandits and outlaws use guns and ammunition that may not have
existed during the period, but somehow it doesn’t really matter. We accept the
juxtaposition whether we are aware of it or not because Spaghetti Westerns are
a fantasy version of the fantasy west created by Hollywood. Hundreds of
Spaghetti Westerns followed the release of Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of
Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” and
changed our expectations for the genre.
Maria Volonte and Thomas Milian team up as unlikely allies in “Face to Face,” a
1967 Spaghetti Western available on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The movie opens
with history professor Brett Fletcher (Volonte) announcing to his students that
he’s leaving for Texas due to poor health. In his new life in the desert,
Fletcher looks pale and sickly, spending his days relaxing in the sun with his
mistress (Linda Veras). A stagecoach stops at his hotel with two sheriff
deputies escorting the bandit Solomon “Beauregard” Bennet (Milian). Fletcher
takes pity on Bennet, who takes advantage of the diversion and holds Fletcher as
his hostage and is shot during the escape. When he passes out from his wound, Fletcher
continues to help him escape.
agent Charlie Siringo (William Berger) runs into Bennet and Fletcher and seeks
to infiltrate Bennet’s Raiders by pretending to be an outlaw himself and
eventually succeeds. Fletcher is sent away by Bennet and convinced to return
back home in the East. While waiting for his train in Purgatory City, he sees
Bennet ride into town. Fletcher saves Bennet in a gunfight with about a dozen men
seeking Bennet’s bounty. Joining up with Bennet, they meet up with former
members of Bennet’s Raiders. Bennet is a sort of Robin Hood and the leader of a
large group of people, including women and children, living in the desert. The
women in the group vary from the beautiful Maria (Jolanda Modio) to Cattle
Annie (Carole Andre) who also happens to have a crush on Bennet, but both women
have very little to do other than to represent the Hollywood western tropes of
a mistress and the girl who dresses like a boy. They live a harsh life and are
treated badly, but stand by Bennet and Fletcher.
by the group and their way of life, Fletcher takes an active role as the
raiders rob a train and the passengers. Fletcher comes up with a bank robbery
plan that results in the capture of Bennet, but reveals Siringo as a traitor.
Fletcher takes over the gang running it with an intellectual ruthlessness, his
health improving as his character becomes more outlaw than professor. He leads
the group on a trek across the desert where many are killed by bounty hunters.
Bennet escapes his captors with Siringo hot on his trail and they eventually
meet up with Fletcher for a final showdown.
“Face To Face” takes place during the American Civil War, the movie does not
depict the war in any way other then making reference to it in a few scenes.
Charlie Siringo was a real man and a Pinkerton agent, too, but I suspect the
similarities end there. The movie has political overtones dealing with race,
class, gender and fascism and the 1967 release hints at the escalation of the
Vietnam War, but it can be enjoyed on its own merits as an engaging western.
by Sergio Sollima (“The Big Gundown,” “Run Man Run”), the movie didn’t receive
a theatrical release in America until 1976 which is a pity because it is one of
the better entries in the genre. Fortunately, “Face To Face” is available on Blu-ray
from Kino Lorber and it looks and sounds very good. Volonte is terrific and so are
Milian and Berger. The opening credits are reminiscent of those for “The Good,
the Bad and the Ugly” and the movie includes an outstanding score by Ennio
Morricone. The extra features on the disc include a trailer for another Kino Lorber
release and an option to watch the movie in the original Italian. The Italian
version is not in HD and looks its age, but includes English subtitles and is a
welcome feature for fans of the genre.
Carlos Tobalina was among the most prolific of adult film directors. From the late 1960s through the late 1980s, Tobalina ground out dozens of grind house porn flicks and, no fool he, appeared in any number of them as well, though often not in the sex scenes. What set Tobalina's films apart was the fact that he at least tried to instill some quality and occasional social messages into what was otherwise undistinguished fare. Tobalina, who died at age 64 in 1989, would probably have appreciated the fact that Vinegar Syndrome has been releasing quite a few of his titles in remastered DVD editions that probably look better than they did back in the day. Among these releases is a Tobalina double feature that he directed under one of his alter ego names, Troy Benny. Both of the movies have a common theme in that they star one William Margold, who apparently was quite influential in the adult film industry of the 1980s and is still appearing in sleazy movies today even though he is in his seventies. He is also a social activist, having founded the Free Speech Coalition and established a charity to look after down-and-out veterans of the porn industry. First up in the double feature is "Lust Inferno", a 1982 production in which Margold appears as a corrupt TV evangelist (is there any other kind?). Margold, who is curiously billed as "Mr. William Margold" (not even Orson Welles had that much clout), stars as Rev. Jerry, a charismatic preacher who rips off the suckers in his audience by indulging in the usual fire-and-brimstone sermons. He also "cures" invalids who he pays off in cash backstage after the event. At home, Rev. Jerry is very much a family man, but it's probably not the kind of family most of us could relate to. His wife (Rita Ricardo) is frustrated that the Rev won't indulge in intercourse with her because he believes the act is only for procreation. He does indulge in some other sexual activities with her that are entirely for his satisfaction. Consequently, she goes off to "group therapy" sessions that are actually bi-sexual orgies. Rev. Jerry's oldest daughter, Dora (Tamara Longley) does the same with her teenage friends because dad won't allow her to date anyone. (The effectiveness of that strategy seems to be dubious, at best.) Meanwhile, the youngest daughter, Lucy (Marguerite Nuit) is also finding it hard to deal with her raging hormones. She asks for- and receives- her mother's permission to adopt a disguise and seek work in the local bordello that is run by Madame Blanche (Lina Spencer). What Lucy and no one else in the family knows is that her father is Madame Blanche's best customer. He pays thousands of dollars for S&M sex sessions with Blanche's young hookers. This plot development leads to the film's ironic conclusion in which Reverend Jerry finally pays a terrible price for his immorality- but it also results in a major "Yuck" factor for the viewer. The hardcore scenes are pretty standard for the era with nothing particularly inventive going on but at least director Tobalina attempts to make a statement about the craze for supporting corrupt TV preachers. In fact, he was a bit ahead of his time. Within a few years some of the best-known televangelists would be brought down in their own sex scandals.
The most enjoyable aspect of the presentation is the recent interview with William Margold on a commentary track. Margold describes himself as a blowhard and its difficult to take issue with him. We're all for admiring anyone who takes pride in their work but Margold discusses "Lust Inferno" as though it's a major achievement. He indicates that he based his interpretation of the Reverend on Richard Brooks' 1960 film version of "Elmer Gantry" and says that back in the day he even met Burt Lancaster and correctly predicted he would win an Oscar for the role. The most amusing aspect of the commentary track has Margold, who was obviously watching a sub-standard VHS version prior to the film's restoration for DVD, complain constantly about the poor quality of the tape. He also rails against the fact that the version they are watching is missing key sequences, only to have him proven wrong when they turn up later. Margold, like most of the leading men in this peculiar branch of the film industry, was probably chosen more for his physical attributes than his acting abilities, but he seems to think that his work here is top-notch both. In fact, his performance is par for the course for porn films and there is no indication he possessed any admirable skills outside of the boudoir. Speaking of which, Margold waxes nostalgic about some of his sex partners in the movie, including one woman who became his wife and another who he continues to pine away for because he never appeared in a sex scene with her, sort of like the fisherman who gripes about "the one who got away". Regarding stock footage in the film of real life audiences at televangelist events, Margold chuckles and wonders if they ever knew they would end up in a porn film. It's also quite eye-opening to listen to Margold give the play-by-play for his on-screen antics and to provide opinions about his personal techniques for self-pleasure. Margold may indeed be a blowhard but he makes for an entertaining commentator. You have to admire Vinegar Syndrome for creating some value-added content that is both funny and insightful because it gives you an idea of what the adult film industry was like from the viewpoint of one of its veterans.
The second feature on the DVD is "Marathon", a lazy production even by the low standards one would have expected for the genre. Shot in 1982, it's a quickie that features a lot of major stars from the industry including Ron Jeremy, Jamie Gillis. Sharon Mitchell and John Holmes. The "plot" simply features a large group of swingers who attend a costume party at Gillis's apartment. Everyone is getting it on while attired in crazy costumes when a phone call alerts them that a friend (William Margold) and his wife have been injured in a skiing accident and they are both in the hospital. Deciding to provide the kind of bedside companionship that no doctor would, they all barge into the hospital suite where Margold and his wife are being treated. Here, while still in costume, they resume the orgy. The therapy works as both patients join in the action. The film is played entirely for laughs and is therefore about as erotic as a dip in a pool of ice water.
The transfers of both features look very good with vibrant colors and enough original film stock grain to make you nostalgic for the era.
Cornell Woolrich is a writer whose work was much loved
and cherished by fans of film noir. The
Internet Movie Database lists 102 credits for him for both film and TV
shows—titles including “Rear Window,” “The Bride Wore Black,” “The Night Has a
Thousand Eyes,” “Black Angel,” “Fear in the Night,” and “Phantom Lady,” He
didn’t write any screenplays that I know of. The films and TV shows were all adapted from a prolific output of
stories written under his Woolrich and William Irish pseudonyms, and under his
real name, George Hopley.
While Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M.
Cain make up the Big Three in noir fiction, Woolrich carved out a special niche
for himself. Chandler, and Hammett wrote about tough guy heroes who usually
overcame the web of evil they encountered. Cain’s heroes weren’t always so
lucky, but at least they had a toughness about them that gave them a fighting
chance. Woolrich’s protagonists, on the other hand, were just the opposite.
They were guys or gals not really equipped by experience or temperament to
handle what fate had in store for them, but who tried to do the best they could
to keep their heads above water. There was always a sense of impending,
irrevocable doom, and a surrealistic atmosphere that set his tales apart from
Nowhere was that surreal quality more prominent than in one
particular low-budget feature from Nero Pictures called “The Chase “(1946). Directed by Arthur D. Ripley and adapted by
screenwriter Philip Yordan from Woolrich’s story “The Black Path of Fear,” “The
Chase” stars Robert Cummings as Chuck Scott, a man down on his luck in Miami
who finds the wallet of rich gangster, Eddie Roman, played menacingly by Steve
Cochran. When Chuck knocks on the door
of Roman’s mansion to return the wallet, you’d think he might have been a
little leery when a peep hole opens and we get a glimpse of an eyeball peering
out, and we hear Peter Lorre’s unmistakable voice asking, “What do you want?” Lorre
plays Gino, Roman’s right hand man.
Chuck is the proverbial fly stepping into the spider’s
parlor. For being such an honest guy, Roman hires him as his chauffeur. While
under Roman’s employ he meets the gangster’s wife Lorna, a sad blonde played by
French actress Michelle Morgan. Roman is a mean guy who slaps his wife around
and likes to inflict psychological cruelty, like a kid tearing the wings off of
flies. He likes to be in the driver’s seat too. Literally. In a bit of
weirdness concocted by Yordan, Roman has separate brake and accelerator pedals
in the back of his limo so he can take over when Chuck’s behind the wheel. He
tests Chuck’s tolerance for mental torture by driving the speedometer past 120,
while trying to outrace a train on the tracks ahead. Chuck remains cool and at
the last minute Eddie hits the brake. Roman turns to Gino, who’s looking a
little green around the gills, and says: “Hey, he’s alright.”
Chuck’s main job seems to be chauffeuring Lorna around on
long drives at night. She likes to stop at the beach and go out on a pier and
stare out over the water. Chuck feels sorry for her and besides, she ain’t bad to
look at. She asks Chuck what’s out there and he tells her Cuba, and she says
“Take me.” Despite his fear that Eddie is suspicious, he takes her to Cuba by
ship and no sooner do they stop in a Havana bar for a drink and a quick dance,
when Lorna collapses in his arms with a knife in her back. He’s suspect No. 1,
naturally, but a Cuban cop (Alexis Minotis) gives him a chance to try and
explain his way out of it. And, of course, all he does is get himself into
further trouble. He knows Eddie or Gino did it, but he’s got to get some
evidence. He has to make a break for it. All of this leads up to a really
strange midpoint in the story where suddenly everything takes a wild,
Yordan’s screenplay for “The Chase” plays fast and loose
with Woolrich’s original story, and how much you’ll enjoy the movie may depend
on how much of a Woolrich purist you are. Yordan and producer Seymour Nebenzal changed
the structure of the book. The novel opens with Lorna’s murder and Chucks’
attempts to clear himself. He finds an ally in a Cuban woman whose husband was
killed by cops, and the Miami portion of the story is told in flashbacks. The
restructuring and the new ending that Yordan came up with changed the story
considerably, but by providing a new background element showing Chuck to be a
returning WW II veteran with some psychological problems, it probably seemed
more plausible to audiences in the post- war America of the mid-forties. The
returning vet unable to adapt to a corrupted civilian life became a basic trope
of the genre. “The Chase” is not pure Woolrich but in its own way, it provides an
even more nightmarish finish than the original.
“The Chase” is one of those obscure little movies that
until now has only been available in very poor copies on VHS and DVD. The
picture was so dark and murky you could hardly make out the action in the night
scenes and dialogue was obscured by noise on the soundtrack. But Kino Lorber has
released a newly restored Blu-ray mastered from 35 mm elements preserved by the
UCLA Film & Television Archive. The restored picture is excellent. Contrast
and clarity are first rate, with very few flaws. Franz Planer’s impressionistic
black and white photography is shown off to great effect. The only complaint
might be that some of the interior shots inside Roman’s mansion are now a
little too bright—somewhat jarring for a movie that takes place in the twilit
world of dreams and nightmares. The soundtrack is crystal clear, however, allowing
Michel Michelet’s lush soundtrack to be heard to full advantage.
The 1920 x 1080p disc presents the film in 1:33 full-screen
aspect ratio, and has an informative audio commentary track by Canadian
filmmaker Guy Maddin. (Maddin’s only error is to misidentify Jack Holt, who
plays an Army shrink, as Bruce Cabot). Also included are two radio adaptations
of “The Black Path of Fear,” one starring Cary Grant. Overall, Kino Lorber gets
high marks for “The Chase.” It should be in every film noir lover’s collection.
character makes an excuse for the bad behavior of Dixon Steele, a Hollywood
screenwriter played by Humphrey Bogart, by saying, “He’s a writer—people like
him can afford to be temperamental.”
in the same year as Billy Wilder’s acerbic film
noir attack on Tinsel Town, Sunset
Boulevard, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s similar assault on show business, All About Eve, Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place was nowhere near as
popular—but it was just as scathing. It may not have been a box office success,
but the picture’s reputation has grown considerably over the decades, mainly
because Bogart’s performance as a bitter, angry movie scribe ranks among his
best onscreen personas. But it’s not pretty. The guy has anger management
issues, the likes of which probably had not been seen in a mainstream film
prior to the picture’s release. Dixon Steele is a tinder box ready to explode,
and of course he does, more than once, during the course of the story. Bogart
isn’t afraid to expose a dark side of himself in his portrayal of a man who
has, as his love interest observes, “something wrong with him.”
woman is Laurel, played by Gloria Grahame (who, at the time, was married to the
director). At first she provides an alibi to the police for Steele, who might
be a suspect in a young woman’s murder. After Dixon and Laurel fall in love,
their relationship is a stormy one. As outlined in one the supplements
contained on this new Criterion disk, the “romance” mirrors that of Nicholas
Ray and Gloria Grahame’s—they also had a tempestuous bond. It was so sticky
that Grahame had to sign a contract stating she would agree to follow Ray’s
direction during the making of the film. (And talk about sex scandals... Ray later
caught Grahame in bed with his thirteen-year-old son from a previous marriage.
Grahame eventually married the
step-son after her divorce from both Ray and another spouse in-between!)
the tale revolves around an unsolved murder investigation, In a Lonely Place is really about two lost souls trying to connect.
It’s more of a melodrama than a film noir,
although the stylistic traits of the latter certainly abound. This is not a
pleasant movie; in fact, it’s quite disturbing for a picture from 1950.
Bogart’s Dix Steele is not a likable guy, and yet we watch the train wreck that
is his life with morbid fascination. Why Bogie wasn’t nominated for a Best
Actor Oscar that year is a mystery—perhaps it was because audiences may have
been turned off by the character’s mean-spirited nastiness. Nevertheless, Lonely Place is a remarkable piece of
work, not only from Bogart, but also from Grahame and director Ray.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray release features a 2K digital restoration
with an uncompressed soundtrack and a new audio commentary with film scholar
Dana Polan. The noteworthy supplements include a 40-minute excerpt from I’m a Stranger Here Myself, a 1975
documentary about Ray; a revealing new interview with Grahame’s biographer,
Vincent Curcio; a 2002 piece on the making of the movie, featuring filmmaker
Curtis Hanson; a radio adaptation from 1948 of the original Dorothy B. Hughes
novel and starring Robert Montgomery; and the theatrical trailer. An essay by
critic Imogen Sara Smith appears in the booklet.
you like your film noir tough, mean,
and nasty, then In a Lonely Place should
be right up your sleazy alley. At the same time, the tortured romance should
appeal to love-cynics everywhere. It’s so dark, it makes a Bogart/Bacall movie
look like a Tracy/Hepburn flick.