Woody Allen's landmark comedy "Annie Hall" is forty years old. The film won the Best Picture Oscar as well as Oscars for Woody Allen for Best Director and Diane Keaton for Best Actress. Writing in The Guardian, Jordan Hoffman pays extensive tribute by analyzing the film's 40 funniest bits. Click here to view.
If it's remembered at all, the 1970 WWII comedy Which Way to the Front? is generally attributed as being the film that ended Jerry Lewis' career as a leading man - at least for quite some time. During the 1950s, Lewis' partnership with Dean Martin made them the kind of pop culture idols that would only be rivaled by The Beatles and Michael Jackson. If that sounds absurd, search out newsreel footage of the thousands of people that stormed their hotel in Times Square, causing police to close the vicinity as Dean and Jerry merrily tossed autographed photos to the crowd below. When Martin left the act, thus bringing about one of the longest feuds in show biz history, both men went on to enjoy a successful careers on their own. Martin's friendship with Frank Sinatra did much to keep him in the public eye until he enjoyed his own fanatically loyal following. Lewis became a prolific producer and director, one of the first movie stars to successfully multi-task in front and behind the cameras. Others had given it a try only to give up after a film or two. Lewis persevered and earned respect for his knowledge of filmmaking techniques even as he enjoyed his ranking among the top boxoffice attractions in the world.
By the late 1960s, however, Lewis' brand of innocent slapstick humor had fallen victim to the new freedoms in the cinema. Suddenly he began to look like a quaint throwback to a much earlier era, even though only a few short years had transpired since the pinnacle of his career. His modest romantic comedies couldn't compete with Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice frolicking in the same bed. Lewis was dismayed by this trend and tried to fight back by opening a national chain of Jerry Lewis Cinema franchises that would be allowed to play only family-oriented films. His timing couldn't have been worse. The lack of appropriate fare not only sank the theater chain but also took down such iconic family-themed theaters as Radio City Music Hall. (Ironically, audiences couldn't be persuaded to pay $5 to see a new movie plus a magnificent stage show starring the Rockettes. Today, they line up in droves and pay $100 just to see the stage show.) Lewis gamely fought on but his films became afterthoughts to his once loyal public. He remained very popular in Vegas nightclubs and his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon continued to raise millions for charity.
Lewis' 1970 Warner Brothers comedy Which Way to the Front? has been released on DVD by the Warner Archive. The film is an curiosity in the funnyman's career in that, unlike his previous films, there is literally nothing funny about the movie at all. Even the least of Lewis' other works had a few scenes that would make his detractors chuckle, but this misguided farce seems to have been cobbled together at the last minute just to satisfy a contractual obligation. Lewis plays Brendan Byers III, "the world's richest man." Byers is bored with life and is surrounded by sniveling yes men who cater to his every whim. Thus they perceive a crisis when he gets a draft notice. That in itself is the first absurdity as Lewis was in his mid-40s at the time and would not have been of draft age. Nevertheless, Byers surprises his employees by rejecting their offers to find ways to get him out of military service. He has found his purpose in life: to fight for the American way of life. His joy is short-lived when he is rejected for military service. Crushed and humiliated, he befriends three other men (Jan Murray, Steve Franken, Dack Rambo) who were also classified as unfit for the army. The screenplay is so sloppy that it never explains why these able-bodied men were deemed unable to serve. Each one of his new friends has their own compelling personal crisis that makes it mandatory that they get out of the country. Byers comes up with a novel idea: if the U.S. Army doesn't want them, he'll use his unlimited wealth to create his own army.
Fox has reissued its original DVD release of the 1968 western "Bandolero!" as a region-free title in its made-on-demand "Cinema Archives" line. The film is top-notch entertainment on all levels- the kind of movie that was considered routine in in its day but which can be more appreciated today. The story opens with a bungled bank robbery carried out by Dee Bishop (Dean Martin) and his motley gang. In the course of the robbery two innocent people are killed including a local businessman and land baron, Stoner (Jock Mahoney). The gang is captured by Sheriff July Johnson (George Kennedy) and his deputy Roscoe Bookbinder (Andrew Prine) and are sentenced to be hanged. Meanwhile Dee's older brother Mace (James Stewart), a rogue himself, gets wind of the situation and waylays the eccentric hangman while he is enroute to carry out the execution. By assuming the man's identity he is able to afford Mace and his gang the opportunity to cheat death at the last minute. When they flee the town they take along an "insurance policy"- Stoner's vivacious young widow Maria (Raquel Welch) who they kidnap along the way. This opening section of the film is especially entertaining, mixing genuine suspense with some light-hearted moments such as Mace calmly robbing the bank when all the men ride off in a posse to chase down the would-be bank robbers. Mace and Dee reunite on the trail and the gang crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico- with July and a posse wiling to violate international law by chasing after them in hot pursuit. Much of the film is rather talky by western standards but the script by James Lee Barrett makes the most of these campfire conversations by fleshing out the supporting characters. Dee's outlaw gang makes characters from a Peckinpah movie look like boy scouts. Among them is an aging outlaw, Pop Cheney (Will Geer), a well-spoken but disloyal, greedy man who is overly protective of his somewhat shy son, Joe (Tom Heaton). The presence of Maria predictably results in numerous gang members attempting to molest her but their efforts are thwarted by Dee, who always comes to her rescue. Before long, Maria is making goo-goo eyes at her protector, conveniently forgetting he is also the man who slew her innocent husband. (The script tries to get around this by explaining that while her husband was a decent man who treated her well, she could never get over the fact that he literally bought her as a teenager from her impoverished family). The story also puts some meat on the bone in terms of Dee and Mace's somewhat fractured relationship. Both of them have been saddle tramps but Mace informs Dee that his reputation as a notorious outlaw allowed their mother, who Dee neglected, to go to her grave with a broken heart. Every time the script might become bogged down in these maudlin aspects of the characters, a good dose of humor is injected,
The story proper kicks in mid-way through the film when the gang finds itself en route to a remote town in the Mexican desert that mandates that they cross a hellish landscape populated by bandoleros, particularly vicious bandits who appear seemingly out of nowhere and pick off individuals one-by-one in a "Lost Patrol"-like scenario. July and his gang are also subject to the eerie murders as stragglers in the posse become victims. When Dee and his gang finally arrive at the town they find it deserted, as the population has fled the marauding bandoleros. Dee proposes to Maria and they agree to start a new life ranching with Mace in Montana- but their joy is short-lived when July and his posse sneak into town and arrest them. Before everyone can saddle up to return to the USA, the town is invaded by an army of bandoleros, setting in motion a truly exciting finale. The entire enterprise is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an old hand with horse operas and often memorable action flicks such as "Chisum", "The Wild Geese" and "The Sea Wolves". "Bandolero!" is one of his best achievements and he inspires fine performances by all. Martin plays it unusually straight and in a subdued manner, a rare instance during this era of him playing a realistic, multi-dimensional character. Stewart looks like he's having the time of his life and Welch, then still a contract player for Fox, acquits herself very well indeed among these seasoned pros. The supporting cast is excellent with Kennedy and Prine in top form and familiar faces such as Will Geer, Denver Pyle, Dub Taylor, Perry Lopez and Harry Carey Jr. popping up in brief appearances. There is also some excellent cinematography by William Clothier and a typically fine score by Jerry Goldsmith. "Bandolero!" is one of the best westerns released during this era.
The Fox made-on-demand titles are generally devoid of bonus materials but they have wisely ported over additional content that was found on the initial DVD release. These include a trailer for the film as well as a Spanish language trailer and a gallery of very welcome trailers for other Fox Raquel Welch titles. The transfer is excellent but Fox didn't catch a blooper on the main menu which depicts Stewart, Welch and- wait for it- what appears to be an image of Stuart Whitman! Apparently some Mr. Magoo-type who designed the menu eons ago couldn't tell the difference between Dean Martin and Stuart Whitman, who starred in both "The Comancheros" and "Rio Conchos" for Fox. A minor gaffe on an otherwise fine release.
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Despite the disappointing boxoffice results for the 2015 big screen version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E", the film's co-star Armie Hammer, who played Illya Kuryakin, says that a script is being developed in the hopes of bringing a sequel to the big screen. Since the 1970s U.N.C.L.E. fans dealt with promising rumors that a big screen version was in the works, originally to star Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who starred in the TV series. However, these projects ended up being thwarted by various factors. In 1983, Vaughn and McCallum did star in "Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E", a one-shot TV movie reunion. When the 2015 film was released it bore little resemblance to the TV series except for the Cold War setting and the names of the characters. Still, fans responded favorably to the re-imaging of the premise and expected a sequel which seemed unlikely to happen. Another plausible option might be to convert the much-beloved U.N.C.L.E premise into a cable TV series for Netflix and Amazon- that is, if the big screen sequel doesn't materialize. Click here for more.
Catlow is a fun MGM Western from 1971 with broad comedic overtones in addition to some fairly brutal violence. The film was directed by Sam Wanamaker and produced by Euan Lloyd, an old hand at bringing good action movies to the big screen (i.e. Shalako, The Wild Geese). The film is based on the novel by Louis L'Amour. Yul Brynner plays the titular hero, a charismatic, free spirit who travels with an entourage of vagabond cowboys and sex-crazed hot number, Rosita, played by Daliah Lavi, who is cast against type as a wild, unsophisticated character. The somewhat meandering plot has Catlow accused, perhaps erroneously, of stealing cattle. He is pursued half-heartedly by Marshall Cowan (Richard Crenna), an old army buddy who spends more time socializing with Catlow than making any real attempt to bring him back to a kangaroo trial. The scenes of the two men engaging in endless attempts to outwit each other are quite amusing. Leonard Nimoy's bounty hunter Miller poses a more realistic threat, relentlessly hunting Catlow and his men down to the wilds of Mexico where everyone ends up facing both the army and Apaches.
There are some solid, suspenseful action sequences such as when Cowan finds himself wounded and surrounded by Indians. There is also a neat double cross that results in Catlow and his men having their guns stolen just as they are about to face off with the Apaches. The inspired supporting cast includes Jeff Corey as the requisite sidekick that was played by Walter Brennan and Gabby Hayes in earlier Westerns. Jo Ann Pflug provides some glamour as a sexy upper class seniorita. The chemistry between Brynner and Crenna is the main pleasure of the film but Nimoy scores well in his limited role as a ruthless villain- and the site of him bare-assed fighting with Brynner beside a bathtub is one for the books.
Clifton James, the respected character actor who rose to fame as the bumbling southern Sheriff J.W. Pepper in two James Bond films, has passed away at age 96. James, a decorated veteran of WWII, appeared in many prominent films and TV series. Among his feature films: "Cool Hand Luke", "The Bonfire of the Vanities", "The Untouchables", "Juggernaut", "The Last Detail", "Will Penny" and "Something Wild". The portly James often portrayed lawmen and judges. His most prominent role came in Roger Moore's 1973 debut film as James Bond, "Live and Let Die". The character of Pepper as a comical racist lawman named Sheriff J.W. Pepper undoubtedly made audiences laugh. But to die-hard Bond fans his presence represented the increasing amount of slapstick that characterized some of Moore's Bond films. The producers brought the character back in the 1974 007 film "The Man with the Golden Gun" in which he coincidentally meets Bond in Thailand and participates in a wild car chase. The plot device was deemed absurd and the level of over-the-top comedy alienated most fans, thus the character of Pepper was never to return. It's a fair assumption that the character of Sheriff Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason in the "Smokey and the Bandit" films, was directly inspired by James' portrayal of Sheriff Pepper. Regardless of how Bond fans feel about the presence of Pepper in the two 007 movies, there is widespread respect for James' skills as an actor. He resided in New York City and was also a veteran of the Broadway stage. Click here for more.
In the mid 1960s Amicus Productions emerged as a Hammer Films wanna-be. The studio aped the Hammer horror films and even occasionally encroached on Hammer by "stealing" their two biggest stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The first Amicus hit was "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors", released in 1965 and top-lining Lee and Cushing. The format of various horror tales linked by an anthology format proved to be so successful that Amicus would repeat the formula over the next decade in films such as "Tales from the Crypt", "Vault of Horror" and "The House That Dripped Blood". The studio cranked out plenty of other horror flicks and by the mid-to-late 1970s Amicus was producing better fare than Hammer, which had made the mistake of increasingly concentrating on blood and gore and tits and ass to the detriment of the overall productions. Occasionally-indeed, very rarely- Amicus would branch out from the horror genre and produce other fare. (i.e. the Bond-inspired "Danger Route" and the social drama "Thank You All Very Much") but the studio was out of its element when it came to producing non-horror flicks. A particularly inspired offbeat entry in the Amicus canon was the 1970 production "The Mind of Mr. Soames", based on a novel by Charles Eric Maine. The intriguing premise finds John Soames (Terence Stamp) a 30 year-old man who has been in a coma since birth. He has been studiously tended to by the staff at a medical institution in the British countryside where a round-the-clock team sees to it that he is properly nourished and that his limbs are exercised to prevent atrophy. Soames apparently is an orphan with no living relatives so he is in complete custody of the medical community, which realizes he represents a potentially important opportunity for scientific study- if he can be awakened. That possibility comes to pass when an American, Dr. Bergen (Robert Vaughn) arrives at the clinic possessing what he feels is a successful method of performing an operation that will bring Soames "to life". The operation is surprisingly simple and bares fruit when, hours later, Soames begins to open his eyes and make sounds.The staff realize this is a medical first: Soames will come into the world as a grown man but with the mind and instincts of a baby.
Soames' primary care in the post-operation period is left to Dr. Maitland (Nigel Davenport), who has constructed a rigid schedule to advance Soames' intellect and maturity as quickly as possible. Initially, Maitland's plans pay off and Soames responds favorably to the new world he is discovering. However, over time, as his intellect reaches that of a small child, he begins to harbor resentment towards Maitland for his "all stick and no carrot" approach to learning. Dr. Bergen tries to impress on Maitland the importance of allowing Soames to have some levity in his life and the opportunity to learn at his own pace. Ultimately, Bergen allows Soames outside to enjoy the fresh air and observe nature first hand on the clinic's lush grounds. Soames is ecstatic but his joy is short-lived when an outraged Dr. Maitland has him forcibly taken back into the institute. Soames ultimately rebels and makes a violent escape into a world he is ill-equipped to understand. He has the maturity and knowledge of a five or six year old boy but knows that he prefers freedom to incarceration. As a massive manhunt for Soames goes into overdrive, the film traces his abilities to elude his pursuers as he manages to travel considerable distance with the help of well-intentioned strangers who don't realize who he is. Soames is ultimately struck by a car driven by a couple on a remote country road. Because the lout of a husband was drunk at the time, they choose to nurse him back to health in their own home. The wife soon realizes who he is and takes pity on him- but when Soames hear's approaching police cars he bolts, thus setting in motion a suspenseful and emotionally wrenching climax.
"The Mind of Mr. Soames" is unlike any other Amicus feature. It isn't a horror film nor a science fiction story and the plot device of a man having been in a coma for his entire life is presented as a totally viable medical possibility. Although there are moments of tension and suspense, this is basically a mature, psychological drama thanks to the intelligent screenplay John Hale and Edward Simpson and the equally impressive, low-key direction of Alan Cooke, who refrains from overplaying the more sensational aspects of the story. Stamp is outstanding in what may have been the most challenging role of his career and he receives excellent support from Robert Vaughn (sporting the beard he grew for his next film, the remake of "Julius Caesar") and Nigel Davenport. Refreshingly, there are no villains in the film. Both doctors have vastly different theories and approaches to treating Soames but they both want what is best for him. The only unsympathetic character is a hipster TV producer and host played by Christian Roberts who seeks to exploit the situation by filming and telecasting Soames' progress as though it were a daily soap opera.
Christian Roberts, Vickery Turner and Robert Vaughn.
Amicus had a potential winner with this movie but it punted when it came to the advertising campaign by implying it was a horror film. "The mind of a baby, the strength of a madman!" shouted the trailers and the print ads screamed "CAN THIS BABY KILL?" alongside an absurd image of Stamp locked inside an infant's crib. In fact, Soames does pose a danger to others and himself simply because he doesn't realize the implications of his own strength- but he is presented sympathetically in much the same way as the monster in the original "Frankenstein". Perhaps because of the botched marketing campaign, the film came and went quickly. In some major U.S. cities it was relegated to a few art houses before it disappeared. In fact the art house circuit was where it belonged but the ad campaign isolated upper crust viewers who favored films by Bergman and Fellini but balked when the saw the over-the-top elements of the ads.
Sony has released the film as a region-free made-to-order DVD and it boasts a very fine transfer but sadly no bonus extras. Still the company deserves credit for making this little-seen gem finally available on home video where its many attributes can finally be enjoyed by a wider audience.
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There have been two
films based on the story of Hugh Glass, the mountain man who in 1823 was
attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead in the territory now known as
South Dakota. “The Revenant” (2015), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is the more
recent and better known. It won three Oscars, including best actor, best
director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), and best cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki). It
was hailed as a cinematic tour de force because of its on-location photography
and Iñárritu’s innovative filmmaking techniques, not to mention DiCaprio’s endurance-test
of a performance. In some ways, however, the film is so over the top in style
and execution that the director’s techniques tend to overshadow the substance
of the story. It also fictionalizes the true events it is based on in a way
that makes it more melodramatic than it needed to be. Even the New York Times
noted its “Pearls of Pauline” approach to storytelling.
A more satisfying and
truthful telling of the Glass saga can be found in the first filmed version—the
sadly overlooked and highly underrated “Man in the Wilderness” (1971) starring
Richard Harris. Directed by Richard C. Sarafian and scripted by Jack DeWitt (who
also wrote the “Man Called Horse” movies), “Wilderness” tells its story simply,
directly, and far more powerfully. It’s now available from Warner Archive in
Blu-Ray, and it’s time this movie got a second look.
The basic idea in the
two films is the same. Glass, one of the trappers in the Captain Andrew Henry
expedition, is attacked by a grizzly and so badly injured that no one expects
him to live. Henry orders two men to stay with him until he expires. It is at
this early point in the plot that the two films diverge. Iñárritu’s film
depicts one of the men left behind, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) as a completely
despicable character—almost an Oil Can Harry villain. He hates Glass and Hawk, the
half-breed son he had by an Indian squaw, who serves as the hunting party’s
scout. He kills Hawk, who catches him trying to murder Glass and tells Bridger,
the other man left behind, that he saw some Arikara Indians coming and
frightens him into abandoning Glass. The bulk of the film follows Glass as he
overcomes his wounds and the elements, and faces a final showdown with his nemesis.
While this makes an exciting story, it’s not entirely in accordance with the
facts, and forces the film to have a somewhat clichéd ending.
Sarafian’s version of
the story takes a different, more realistic approach. Rather than to portray
the two men left behind to watch over Glass (renamed Zach Bass in this version)
as evil incarnate, he makes Captain Henry the villain-- although villain is too
melodramatic a word. Played by Hollywood legend John Huston as a cross between
Ahab and an Old Testament God-figure, Henry is a harsh authoritarian without an
ounce of compassion. When we first see him, in a scene that calls
“Fitzcarraldo” (1982) to mind, he is standing on the deck of a boat being
hauled by 22 mules overland to the Missouri River. The white-bearded captain
looks down at the men riding alongside on horseback as if he were the Almighty
Himself, and he runs the expedition as if he were. When he learns Bass is injured, he not only
orders the party to leave him behind, he tells Fogarty (Percy Herbert playing a
fictionalized version of Fitzgerald) and Lowrie (Dennis Waterman) to stay with
him until morning and kill him if he is still alive by then. He tells them to
say some words over him. “Say ‘he fought life all his life,’” he instructs them.
“`Now his fight is with you, God.’ I reckon that’s where he figured it always
The captain had good
reason to know of Bass’s defiant attitude toward religion. He raised Bass from
boyhood after finding him stowed away on his ship, which makes his decision to
leave him behind even more inhuman. In a
series of flashbacks that ripple through Bass’s mind as he recovers from his
wounds and regains his strength, we learn what turned young Zack Bass against God
and religion. When his mother died of cholera on board a ship and is about to
be buried at sea, he’s told by a priest that cholera is God’s punishment for
sin and that her death “was God’s will.” When he’s told he must attend the
funeral, young Zachary locks the door to his cabin and refuses to go on deck. Later
in a classroom a stern, bearded minister grills the class on the question of
who made man and why. When Bass refuses to answer the question, the minister
smacks his hands with a wooden pointer over and over, shouting, “God made man,
Bass. God made man.” But the boy remains stubbornly silent.
In another flashback,
Bass’s young pregnant wife, tells him, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.
And in the earth, and the sea. Have you never seen it? Never felt it?” He says,
“No.” He says he doesn’t have much in common with God. He speaks to the unborn
child in his wife’s womb, apologizing that he won’t be there when he’s born and
for bringing him into a world that is “hell on earth.” The wilderness he
struggles to survive in is as much spiritual as it is material.
The theme of spiritual
revitalization was a subject that screenwriter Jack De Witt focused on more
than once in his writing. His scripts for the “A Man Called Horse,” films,
which also starred Richard Harris, and especially “The Return of a Man Called
Horse,” were about a man, and a people, who had lost their spiritual identity.
In “Return” Captain John Morgan finds life in England stultifying after having
lived in America with the Yellow Hand Sioux. He returns and finds the tribe
decimated and demoralized after white trappers took their land and killed many
of their people. It is only when Morgan and the tribe’s survivors participate
in the grueling Sun Dance Ceremony, that they regain their identity and the
spirit to fight again.
In “Wilderness” a subtler
transformation occurs, when Bass, alone and on the trail of the expedition that
left him behind, encounters a small group of “Rickaree’s” (the name the
trappers called the Arikara) in a forest. He hides behind a tree as a squaw
dismounts near him and squats in childbirth. Seeing the mother and the newborn infant,
he cannot help but think of the son he never met, and it’s as though for a
moment he gets a glimpse of the “heaven within” that his wife spoke of. It’s
the story’s turning point.
“Man in the
Wilderness” is an uncompromising film. Just as it refuses to paint its
characters as black and white stereotypes, it also provides no easy answers to
the questions it poses. Sarafian and DeWitt don’t sugar coat anything. Life in
the wild is presented as a constant battle for survival. Starving, Bass finds a
bison being devoured by wolves. Unable to walk, he crawls on hands and knees,
beats the wolves off with a stick, and takes a chunk of bloody raw meat and
eats it. There’s’ no respite from the
harshness of frontier life. Even when a bird flies overhead, Bass looks up at
the blue sky only to see a hawk pouncing down on it. The Arikaras are depicted
as killers, and any encounter with them will cost a white man his life. And yet
when they find Bass unconscious and near death, they leave him alone, because
of an amulet left on his body by the expedition’s Indian guide. And later when
Bass is well and they meet again, the Arikara chief (Henry Wilcoxon) evinces
admiration and a liking of the fur trapper’s courage and ability to survive.
Warner Archive has
done a good job transferring “Man in the Wilderness to a 1080 p Blu-Ray. It was
filmed in the mountains of Spain and Arizona by Gerry Fisher, and his cinematography
is shown on the disc to full advantage. The film in presented in wide screen
2.41:1 aspect ratio with DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono. The picture quality is
very good, but it’s too bad there wasn’t a stereo soundtrack available.
Presumably. like a lot of films in the 70s, it was shot in mono. The sound is
definitely lacking in bass and the high frequencies are a bit shrill—the only drawback
to an otherwise very good Blu-Ray. A theatrical trailer is the only extra.
Bottom line: “Man in
the Wilderness” is a definite must-have. One of the rare things that come out
of Hollywood only occasionally—a film that tries to tell it like it is.
“One Million Years B.C.” (1966)
with Raquel Welch was sufficiently profitable for Hammer Films that producer
Aida Young and studio executive Anthony Hinds were incentivized to create a
sequel.In final analysis, “When
Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” (1970) seems more a reboot of the earlier movie than
a sequel to it.Victoria Vetri, who had
been Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1968 as “Angela Dorian,” succeeded Welch
as the female lead, and Jim Danforth took over the FX role from the otherwise
occupied Ray Harryhausen, with assistance from David Allen and others.Filming began in October 1968 but post-production
FX work delayed final completion and release for two years, probably sinking
any publicity value from Vetri’s Playmate fame.The picture opened in the U.K. in October 1970, in western Europe in
January 1971, and Stateside in March 1971 from Warner Brothers-Seven Arts.The European print ran 100 minutes and
included a few frames of fleeting nudity and implied sex.The skin was negligible by today’s
premium-cable standards but apparently deemed unfit for small-town moviegoers
in the Nixon era.Warner-Seven Arts
deleted the nudity from the U.S. edit and secured a “G” rating for the kiddie
audience.The film had a brief life in
drive-ins, but wider exposure followed in syndicated TV airings in the ‘70s and
The first home-video releases of
“When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” were simultaneous editions from Warner Home
Video in 1991, in formats now as extinct as the dinosaurs themselves, VHS and
Laser Disc. Both products were struck
from the rated-G print. I paid the
$59.95 asking price for the VHS cassette and probably would have sprung for the
Laser Disc too, had I owned a player at the time. I was glad to have the movie in a form that I
could watch at leisure in those days before streaming video and Netflix, when
local video stores rarely carried such second-tier titles for rental. A DVD edition appeared in 2008 as a two-fer
with Hammer’s “Moon Zero Two,” retailed through Best Buy. The DVD created a brief stir because the
unrated European print had been used as the source, supposedly by accident,
even though the case carried the “G” rating. The new Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection also is sourced from the
European print, but this time the case warns (or teases, depending on your
perspective) that it is the “International Theatrical release version which
The opening credits attributed the
“screen treatment” for the film to critically acclaimed writer J.G. Ballard,
misspelled onscreen as “J.B. Ballard,” and the screenplay to British science
fiction, horror, and thriller veteran Val Guest, who also directed. The respective accounts of Ballard and Guest
are sketchy and inconsistent as to what each writer contributed to the final
product. Such as it is, the story isn’t
bad -- even in 1971, you didn’t go to a movie titled “When Dinosaurs Ruled the
Earth” expecting dramatic complexity -- although it mostly serves to fill time
between the appearances of Danforth’s gorgeous stop-motion dinosaurs.
Set of three door panels displayed in theaters during theatrical release.
Sanna (Vetri) is one of six young
blonde maidens chosen by the fanatical chief of the prehistoric Mountain tribe,
Kingsor (Patrick Allen), as human sacrifices to appease the tribal sun god for
recent celestial unrest. Little do the
primitive tribesmen know, but the tremors on earth and in heaven that scare
them are caused by the formation of the Moon separating from Earth, not by
divine displeasure. Sanna escapes in a
sudden windstorm, falls into the sea, and is rescued by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a
young fisherman from the neighboring Shore tribe. At the Shore village, where tribespeople are
trying to tie down an unruly plesiosaur, Tara’s girlfriend Ayak (Imogen
Hassell) becomes jealous of Sanna, who flees again when Kingsor comes to
reclaim her. Chases, escapes, and more
dinosaurs ensue, including a charming if biologically unlikely subplot in which
a mama dinosaur and her baby welcome Sanna into their family after mistaking
her for a newly hatched sibling. Where
the earlier movie closed with a catastrophic volcano eruption, Guest’s ends
with the tide receding an unnatural distance, leaving a bleak mud flat from
which a giant crab emerges (the surrealistic mud flat seems to have been
Ballard’s idea), and then roaring back again in a biblical deluge generated by
the newly condensed Moon. In another
charming touch, a raft carrying Sanna, Tara, and their friends Ulido (Magda
Konopka) and Khaki (Drewe Henley) washes gently to rest on a matte-painting
cliff in the final scene after the flood subsides and dawn breaks.
Many fans seem to feel that the
casting of “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” is inferior to the earlier movie’s,
but Vetri holds her own in the lead. The
script gives her more to do than “One Million Years B.C.” demanded of Welch,
and she delivers. She has screen
presence and she looks great in skimpy
togs that accentuate her impressive physical attributes. Hammer clearly understood that sexy outfits
sell tickets at the box office, even in movies whittled down to a
family-friendly rating. It’s a strategy
still employed today by moviemakers, more than forty-five years later: case in
point, the ads for the new PG-13 action movie “Ghost in the Shell,” which place
Scarlett Johansson’s generous curves in a skin-tight body stocking front and
center. Hawdon, Allen, and Hassell
support Vetri with plucky, straight-faced performances. That may be the most anyone can ask of actors
who are required by the script to strip down to their skivvies and talk in
made-up Stone Age language. Fans of
modern CGI may disagree, and probably will, but the dinosaurs designed and
animated by Danforth and his associates have more heft and personality than
anything in the recent, expensive blockbusters “Kong: Skull Island” (2017) and
“Jurassic World” (2015). The music by
Mario Nascimbene, the maestro of biblical and Viking soundtracks, adds a
measure of classic-cinema panache lacking in today’s mostly by-the-numbers
action and fantasy scores.
The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray is welcome as
the latest iteration of “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” for the home
market. The colors are strong, and the
definition at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio is about as good as can be expected from
older studio elements, short of a costly digital makeover. The disc includes the original movie trailer
and, anticipating the needs of the target Boomer audience, English SDH captions. It’s questionable in this instance whether
captioning is necessary, since the dialogue consists of fifteen or twenty
nonsense Caveman words repeated over and over again, but it’s the thought that
Ken (Dale Midkiff) and Bob (Preston Maybank) land
in a propeller plane and speed off on motorcycles to a large mansion. Ken calls
Julie Clingstone (Debbie Laster) via radio as Bob scales the side of the
building. Julie wants him to give her access to “the mainframe” when suddenly,
somewhere a puppet (yes, a puppet)
begins yelling Danger! Danger!, obviously aware of the imminent
intrusion. Edward Brake (Wellington Meffert) is sleeping in bed in the mansion
while Bob takes off his necklace and lays it on the ledge after reaching the
mansion’s roof. He rotates a parabolic dish and the puppet, operating some sort
of a crude computer and using telepathic powers, makes the necklace turn into a
sphere (think Phantasm). Bob starts
to bleed from the face and falls to his death. The action breaks into the
opening credits to “Nightmare” as sung by Miriam Stockley.
If you’re still reading this, I commend you,
because I would have stopped at the mention of the word “puppet”. There are few
films that leave me at a loss for words (Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 film Rubber is hands-down the most
infuriating movie I have ever watched; I might have to re-watch that one as I
must have missed the point completely),
but Henri Sala’s Nightmare Weekend
(1986) is, in the words of the late film critic Gene Siskel in his review of
1978’s Surfer Girls, one of the most
improbably lousy movies I have ever seen. This doesn’t stop one’s viewing of
the film from being a total loss,
however, as Nightmare is if nothing
else that we can be absolutely sure of a time capsule of the 80’s, with
artifacts of the Zeitgeist on full display: girls workout wearing leg warmers,
a guy dances nearly everywhere with a Walkman in his pants, a tough guy and his
Laura Brannigan lookalike chick get it on atop a pinball machine, and computer equipment is
crude, big and bulky. Clocking in at 85
minutes, Nightmare seems longer than
Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part
II (forgive me for mentioning them both in the same sentence, I do
apologize). Edward Brake is an entrepreneur/inventor who has created a
computerized “Biometer” which changes naturally aggressive animals into docile
house pets. He ultimately wants it to be used for the betterment of society,
but it’s just not ready for prime time. His partner Julie can’t wait for him
and goes behind his back to team up with a nefarious organization that will pay
her millions for the Biometer. Edward’s daughter Jessica Brake (Debra Hunter) is a Carol Alt
lookalike who, with her friend Annie (Lori Lewis) and another woman, has been
chosen to be part of Julie’s experiment for which they will both be paid 500
dollars each for their involvement. The idea is to see how the Biometer works
on people. The aforementioned puppet, named George, is housed in Jessica’s room
and is operated by a computer named Apache, indubitably the precursor to the Apache HTTP Server (Danger! Danger! Sarcasm!), and is part of
the whole operation. The motley crew, and there are a lot of characters to keep
track of unnecessarily, all find themselves one way or another being affected
by the Biometer.
two biggest issues with Nightmare are
the screenplay and the editing. I love bad movies that are entertaining but
unfortunately this isn’t one of them. The
film never seems to make up its mind as to what it wants to be: horror,
soft-core porn, comedy, campy/serious? Scenes and shots are so
short it’s nearly impossible to keep track of the goings-on. It’s also
occasionally insulting to women as they are all pretty much on display simply for
Nightmare is a Troma
production which means that it exudes its own special, patented brand of strangeness.
It’s difficult for another film director or producer to attempt to ape the Troma
style as it is a singularly unique, signature and patented style of strangeness.
Shot in July 1983 in Ocala, FL on a budget of ostensibly half a million dollars,
description which, in the hands of a seasoned auteur like David Lynch, can be a
good thing. That isn’t the case here. Nightmarefalls into the “so-bad-it’s-bad”
camp. You feel like you’re watching auditions with an amateur acting troupe,
although amazingly other reviewers have championed the acting in an otherwise
disjointed film. That being said, if you’re a fan of the film, it has been
released as a DVD/Blu-ray combo from Vinegar Syndrome. The image has been scanned in 2K and looks
really nice and is a far cry from the VHS tape from 30 years ago. It also
contains an interview with producer Marc Gottlieb that runs just under 13 minutes.
He’s very engaging and fun to listen to as he describes the making of the film
and how they promoted it at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Dean Gates, who did
the makeup effects, speaks for nearly 23 minutes and provides us with an
interesting perspective on the effects that he created in the days before movie
companies made the switch to CGI for most of this type of work.
Vinegar Syndrome has put together a really nice
package for this title. It has a reversible cover and very colorful
Weekend is best
viewed on a weekend while severely inebriated!
Hitler shaped history in ways we are still coming to grips with to this day. Our
understanding and interpretation of the devastation and evil he inflicted upon
the world involves not only warfare but his impact on the lives of individuals
who would become his victims. Some of his victims would become refugees, most
prominently Jewish and political dissidents who would make their way to America
and Hollywood. Their story is told in “Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to
Hollywood” available on DVD by Warner Home Video.
devastation of Europe resulted in an influx of movie talent to America and their
impact is extraordinary. The great German cinema brain drain started in the
early 1930s and delivered a variety of cinematic exiles, Jews and non-Jews
alike, who fled Nazi Germany to Vienna, Paris and London before making their
way eventually to Hollywood. Fritz Lang, Henry Coster, Fred Zinneman and Curt
Siodmak would join hundreds of other exiles after having their films banned or
after being precluded from working in Germany. Franz Waxman, Billy Wilder and
Peter Lorre fled to Paris and joined up with Henry Koster in 1933 before making
their way to America.
stories of these Hollywood legends began in the silent era in Germany where the
new aspects of cinema dominated the world with innovative visual style,
techniques and story telling. German Expressionist use of light and shadow
would be a major influence on Hollywood horror, film noir and comedy for
decades and continues to influence filmmaking to this day. Hitler’s cronies
tried to coax a few of them, notably Fritz Lang to head the German film
industry and make movies for Nazi Germany, Lang and the rest would have none of
this and left for America.
directed and produced by Karen Thomas and narrated by Sigourney Weaver, this
documentary combines archival interviews with contemporary voice actors portraying
various filmmakers and actors in the tradition of television documentaries like
Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” Reading personal letters and movie production
notes, the technique is very effective and brings these filmmakers to life as
they work to find success in Hollywood. Movie greats from Marlene Dietrich and
Paul Henreid to Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder are also depicted using
archival footage, film clips, home movies, photos and recordings to not only tell
their struggles to adapt to American culture, but how they would influence
Hollywood movies for decades to come. Many were not able to achieve the same
level of success they had in Germany. Others shaped Hollywood and the movie
industry for decades.
narration brings the stories of these exiles to life in a fashion that will be
appreciated by movie buffs and casual movie fans alike. Imagine if these exiles
had not made it out of Hitler’s Europe. Imagine the loss to not just American
culture, but to the world. Imagine not having Franz Waxman’s score for “The
Bride of Frankenstein.” Thankfully we have the gift of Waxman’s score and (to
use one of my favorite directors as an example) Billy Wilder movies. This
documentary brings to life the stories of some of the exiles in the movie
industry who escaped the greatest tyranny in history.
Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood” is available on DVD by Warner Home Video as
part of their Archive Collection and is a burn to order release. The picture
quality is terrific considering the age of much of the photos, home movies and
movie clips. This fascinating documentary was originally broadcast on PBS in
2009, clocks in at 117 minutes and makes for a very entertaining history lesson.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Entity 1982 Directed by Sydney j. Furie, Starring Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David
Labiosa and George Cole. Eureka Blu-ray released: 15th May 2017.
theatrically in February 1983, The Entity was an impressive piece of fantasy
horror. The film was based loosely on the story of Doris Bither and the events
that took place in Culver City in 1974.
Award nominee Barbara Hershey stars as Carla Moran, a hard-working single
mother who, one terrible night is raped in her bedroom by someone or something
that she cannot see. After meeting with sceptical psychiatrists, she is
repeatedly attacked in her car, in the bath and in front of her children. Could
this be a case of hysteria, a manifestation of childhood sexual trauma, or
something even more horrific? Now, with a group of daring parapsychologists,
Carla will attempt an unthinkable experiment: to seduce, trap and ultimately
capture the depraved spectral fury that is The Entity.
Entertainment’s Blu-ray is presented in its original 2.35:1 ratio and is an
improvement over previous DVD releases. However, The Entity, like many other 20th
Century Fox releases of the 1980s, does suffer from a rather unavoidable grainy
picture. For some reason the major studios seemed to occasionally adopt this
blatantly ‘soft-looking' style of film. Unfortunately, there doesn’t really
appear to be any method of improving that look, and as a consequence, it is still
evident on subsequent home video releases. Certain daylight scenes display an
improved clarity but of course, a great deal of The Entity’s scenes occur at
night or within dimly lit internal sets. Blacks are far from solid or deep and
instead display a milky grey quality with varying degrees of density. Another
disadvantage of darker scenes is that it shows up several flaws such as dust or
speckle. These imperfections are also evident, mainly in earlier scenes rather
than later where these flaws noticeably begin to improve. Nevertheless, you are
left wondering if The Entity has received any form of remastering? The film’s
colour palette retains a slightly dull and flat appearance, which is a shame as
it is such an enjoyable movie. The audio is both clear and punchy – elements of
which help compliment Charles Bernstein’s chilling and memorable score.
Eureka’s Blu-ray provides very little in terms of extras. There’s a relatively
short theatrical trailer which has to be said, is of poor quality. Eureka
actually produced a new HD trailer for promotional purposes (see below) and is available to
view on Youtube. It’s even shorter than the theatrical trailer, but sharply cut
and includes some different dramatic music. It might have been an idea to also
include this on the disc as it would of least provided fans of the film just
that little bit more for their enjoyment.
the poor quality of previous DVD releases, many admirers of the movie may feel
that an upgrade to the Blu-ray format is essential. However, to the casual
viewer, it may arguably be worth holding on to that DVD for just a while
of the Dead (AKA Horror Hotel) 1960 Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, Starring
Christopher Lee, Patricia Jessel, Venetia Stevenson, Betta St. John and Dennis
Lotis. Arrow 2 disc Blu-ray and DVD released: 24th April 2017
filming began on The City of the Dead, Christopher Lee was already established
as a leading horror star. Hammer was paving the way with a new brand of horror
and Lee had played a huge part in their success playing the Frankenstein
monster, Dracula and the Mummy. The City of the Dead provided the perfect
opportunity for Lee to spread his wings further within the genre by moving into
the realms of witchcraft, the occult and American gothic.
in a small New England village (and hardly a city as the title suggests), Lee
plays Professor Driscoll, an authority on the occult who persuades one of his
students Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) to research his hometown of Whitewood,
once the site of witch burnings in the 17th century. Booking herself into the
Raven’s Inn, she soon learns that devil worship among the locals hasn’t been
consigned to the past.
City of the Dead has just about everything working for it. Firstly, it is
drenched in atmosphere and reminiscent of those beautifully crafted movies
produced a decade earlier by the likes of Val Lewton and his films for RKO. Fog
shrouded and shadowy dark sets provide the perfect backdrop for this hugely
enjoyable and extremely well made film. The film also benefits from a great
production team, a blossoming partnership consisting of future Amicus founders
Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. In terms of its technical spec, The City of
the Dead is a genuine delight on the senses. Arrow’s stunning transfer captures all of Desmond Dickinson’s sumptuous
monochrome photography rather beautifully. Boasting a pin sharp picture with
lovely deep blacks and a wonderful balance in contrast, this new 4K digital
restoration (by the Cohen Film Collection and the BFI) is as close to
perfection as you are likely to see. The sound is also clean (and untampered)
presented in uncompressed mono 1.0 PCM Audio. It’s a wonderful viewing
experience, and a welcome change considering the film falls into the public
domain category, which, as a result has seen many inferior releases over the
years. The City of the Dead is an extremely important film, so it’s nice to finally
see it receive the treatment it so fully deserves.
A disgruntled consumer has filed a lawsuit seeking damages against MGM and 20th Century Fox over their release of a boxed video set that purports to contain all of the 007 films. According to Bond fan Mary Johnson, who filed the class action suit in the state of Washington, that claim is misleading because, upon opening the set found that it did not contain the 1967 spoof version of "Casino Royale" or the 1983 remake of "Thunderball" titled "Never Say Never Again". The two films have always presented a thorn in the side of Eon Productions, the producers of the Bond movie franchise. The roots of the problem extend back to the mid-1950s when Bond creator Ian Fleming sold the film rights to his first 007 novel "Casino Royale" for a pittance in the hopes of having Bond appear on the big screen. Instead the only film version turned out to be a one-hour live American TV broadcast on the program "Climax Theater" in 1954. Response was underwhelming and the Bond character seemed to be headed toward oblivion. However, Fleming's books picked up in sales and became vastly popular around the globe- especially when new president John F. Kennedy made it known he wa a fan. In the early 1960s Fleming signed away the film rights to his other Bond novels to producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who began making the movies under their Eon Productions banner. When the movies proved to be blockbusters, studios began to emulate the Bond franchise by launching a cinematic spy boom that lasted for years. By this time producer Charles K. Feldman had acquired the film rights to "Casino Royale". He wanted to jointly produce a film version with Broccoli and Saltzman but they rebuffed him. Feldman, who recently had a major hit with the mod spoof "What's New Pussycat?", decided that without Sean Connery to play Bond, there was no point in making a serious film version of "Casino Royale". Feldman opted to repeat the formula he had with "Pussycat": round up an eclectic big name cast and add elements of zany slapstick comedy. The film was released in 1967 overlapping to some degree Eon's release of "You Only Live Twice" with Connery.
The origins of "Never Say Never Again" are too long to go into here so here's a capsule version: in the 1950s Fleming teamed with producer Kevin McClory and writer Jack Whittingham to develop potential scripts for Bond-related movies that failed to attract any interest from studios. Fleming used elements of some of their work as the basis for his novel "Thunderball"- and was promptly sued by his partners for not crediting them for their contributions or allowing them to share in revenue. Fleming, who was in ill health, settled the suit and McClory ended up getting producer credit on the 1965 screen version of "Thunderball" as well as remake rights. When he tried to exercise those rights a decade later, Cubby Broccoli, who had by that point split with Harry Saltzman and was running the Bond franchise on his own, filed various lawsuits that stymied McClory's project until 1983 when it finally made it to the screen as "Never Say Never Again" starring Connery in his final appearance as 007. The Bond feature film franchise went on hiatus between 1989 and 1995 due to legal disputes between Cubby Broccoli and MGM. When the series was revived in 1995 with Pierce Brosnan as Bond, MGM was still battling McClory, who had for years attempted to capitalize on more "Thunderball" -inspired ways to exploit the Bond franchise. When he finally lost the battles in court, MGM moved to take control of even the "renegade" Bond productions and ended up buying the rights to "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again". While the company never buried the the titles, as some Bond fans feared, they were never incorporated into any releases of the Eon Bond movies on home video. Their absence in boxed sets has long perplexed casual fans of the series who were not conversant in all the legal intrigues surrounding them. It has been suggested over the years that MGM promote the Eon films as the "official" Bond movies, but of course, that wouldn't be accurate since both "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again" were legal adaptations of Fleming's works and thus no less "official" than the Eon films despite the fact that they are not held in as high esteem by fans. Perhaps the best solution from a legal standpoint is to state that such sets contain "All of the James Bond Films Produced by Eon Productions". In the meantime, the notion that this case should clog up a courtroom is almost certain to evoke the kind of public response reserved for people who sue McDonalds because their coffee is too hot. Seems to us that the simplest solution to anyone who is so traumatized by the absence of two films in a Bond boxed set is that they simply return it and get their money back.
It’s easy to see why Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight is generally regarded
as his finest post-Touch of Evil
achievement. This Shakespearean mélange is a dazzling showcase for Welles’
ingenuity, his evident appreciation for the film’s literary foundation, and his
relentless aptitude for stylistic inventiveness. However, its haphazard
production and its rocky release comprise a backstory as complicated as the
movie’s multi-source construction (the script, based on the lengthy play “Five
Kings,” written and first performed by Welles in the 1930s, samples scenes and
dialogue from at least five of Shakespeare’s works, primarily “Henry IV,” parts
one and two, “Richard II,” “Henry V,” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”).
Plagued by what were at this point familiar budgetary constraints, Welles shot Chimes at Midnight over the course of
about seven months in Spain, with a break when the financial well went dry.
When the film was finally released in 1966, premiering at the Cannes Film
Festival, it won two awards and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Unfortunately
for Welles, that was as good as it was going to get. Less amenable critics,
audiences, and, perhaps most importantly, distributors, relegated the film to
its decades-long status as an underseen vision from a used-to-be-great American
master, one who actually thought it to be his best film. Recent years have seen
a sharp turnaround, though, and when a new Janus Films restoration played in
New York earlier this year, it was enough to give this extraordinary work the
boost it needed. Following a series of theatrical screenings, the revaluation
and re-appreciation of Chimes at Midnight
has culminated in a stellar Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection.
As the film begins, Falstaff (Welles) is
navigating his fatherly-friend relationship with Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), who
is conflicted in his loyalty to his real father, King Henry IV (John Gielgud).
In the meantime, rival Henry “Hotspur” Percy (Norman Rodway) joins others in a
plot to overthrow the king, in retaliation for his brutal usurping of power
from Richard II. The ensuing drama is a complex web of political intrigue and
wartime struggle, balanced against the more intimate themes of betrayal,
friendship, family, and responsibility.
As the main character, a riotous, bulbous,
crass and somehow still charming nobleman, Welles gives one of his most
grandiose and memorable performances. In an interview on the Criterion disc,
historian Joseph McBride says it is “by far his greatest,” while in an
accompanying essay, Michael Anderegg writes, “Welles’s star performance as
Falstaff is one of his finest, tempering an unfettered exuberance with touching
vulnerability, his facial expressions and the modulations of his voice
projecting a cunning watchfulness at one moment and an openness to all of
life’s possibilities the next.” The slovenly outcast—rather “pathetic”
according to scholar James Naremore in his commentary track—is nevertheless
ambitious, scheming, and wisely opportunistic. Obviously reveling in such meaty
material, Welles plays Falstaff with a touching sympathy and a witty pomposity,
best juxtaposed when he is pranked and ridiculed by Hal and Poins (Tony
Beckley) in one scene, while in the next, his steadfast penchant for bluster
and exaggeration fails to waver in the face of shame. Unlike many of the other
individuals featured in the film, in Welles’ stage play, and in the various
Shakespearean texts, Falstaff has no historical grounding, which really doesn’t
matter. He was a popular character in Shakespearean times, always good for a
laugh, and in Chimes at Midnight, he is
similarly appealing as an endearing, comic individual.
While Welles is the clear figure of
prominence, Chimes at Midnight is
abounding in contrasting character types and a corresponding diversity of
performance. From a delightfully raucous Jeanne Moreau as Doll Tearsheet and a
rigidly formal Gielgud as Henry IV, to Marina Vlady as Kate Percy and Fernando
Rey as Worcester, Chimes at Midnight
boasts an exceptional cast with varying presentational styles. In scenes of
bawdy drunken revelry, where the words “grotesque” and “bodily humor” come to
mind (or at least they do in Naremore’s commentary), or in those sequences
distinguished by stoic primness, the actors all breathe exuberant air into what
could have easily strayed into the stolid territory of textbook Shakespearean
Leading the charge is, of course, Welles.
Under his tenacious direction, Chimes at
Midnight is a stunning assembly of formal brilliance and a masterfully
arranged adaptation, Welles’ inspired restructuring of the Shakespearean text a
testament to his familiarity with the subject. But even if he personally
oversaw details that could have been merely assigned (sketching the costumes
himself, for instance), Welles, especially in this film, benefitted greatly
from key collaborators. Edmond Richard, his cinematographer on The Trail (1962) (who would later do
excellent work with Luis Buñuel), production designer Mariano Erdoiza (his only
credit in such a role), and set decorator Jose Antonio de la Guerra all work to
contribute invaluable visual detail to the film. The Boar’s Head tavern is a
dingy and squalid retreat, a wooden structure that organically pulsates to the
rhythms of its rowdy clientele, while the King’s castle is a looming stone
chamber that, even in its sealed-off reserve, still yields vivid shafts of light.
To see just how these differing sets impact character interaction, one need
only to again go back to Welles’ portrayal of Falstaff. In the tavern, a
congenial, boozing Falstaff (the “king of winos,” according to McBride), holds
court as a larger than life figure, yet he awkwardly seems pinned within the
building’s narrow walls. “In a partly self-referential gesture—he was always
struggling with his weight—Welles goes out of his way throughout the film to
emphasize Falstaff’s sheer mass,” writes Anderegg, “his huge figure often
dominating the frame.” By contrast, at the castle, Falstaff is dwarfed by the
enormity of the structure and is reduced to being a disregarded shape amongst
the masses. In any location, though, Richard and Welles manage to strike just
the right visual balance of high-contrast black and white photography and
precise camera placement, which is nearly always conducive to a general
impression of tone, character stature, and narrative weight (nobody uses a low
angle quite like Welles).
Aside from the setting distinction between
the castle and the tavern, Chimes at
Midnight further builds on contrasting imagery. Close quarters crammed with
the bobbing heads of onlooking bystanders (many of whom were non-professional
chosen by Welles simply for the way they look) are countered by wide sweeping
natural arenas, like the setting of the Gadshill robbery, which is itself an
open patchwork of horizontal movement (Welles freely tracking through the
forest) and vertical expanse (it is a forest defined by pillaring sun-kissed
trees). The Battle of Shrewsbury, the most famous sequence from Chimes at Midnight, is similarly assembled
from juxtaposition, of speed, shot size, duration, and position. It’s an
extraordinarily well-orchestrated battle scene, an Eisensteinian montage of
quick cutting and movement textured by what Naremore points out as a Fordian
incorporation of atmospheric detail: wind, cloud cover, muddy terrain, etc.
With so much visual stimulus, the emotional
resonance of Chimes at Midnight can
potentially get lost in the crowd. By the time Hal comes to power and appears
to brush aside the pitiably loyal Falstaff, the creeping sadness that went
along with the dejected giant’s tragic optimism has become a potent, painful
betrayal—“The king has killed his heart,” says one observer. This is a film
heavily preoccupied with looming death and, worse yet, the fear of irrelevance.
Everyone’s lives are at stake in this tumultuous period, but what concerns many
more than that, particularly Falstaff, is the realization of not being wanted
or needed. Surely some of this was reflective of Welles at the time. Pushing
forward in the face of little money, limited technology, and an often
unreceptive audience, he continued to make films on his own terms, as best he
could (which was still as good if not better than anyone else). If Chimes at Midnight subsequently took
longer than hoped to be given a proper restoration and distribution, so be it.
Better late than never.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES!
By Lee Pfeiffer
The release of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds has thrust Enzo G. Castellari, the director of the Italian WWII pic that inspired it, back into the spotlight. This has resulted in a re-examination of his work, which has been relegated to cult status outside of his native Italy. Severin Films, which is fast becoming a major source of first-class presentations of otherwise neglected films, is honoring Castellari with the U.S. home Blu-ray edition of the director's 1969 WWII adventure Eagles Over London. Even fans of Castellari's Inglorious Bastards (note the spelling difference for the Tarantino version), probably are unfamiliar with this ambitious, relatively big budget 1969 film that was a hit in Italy, but was virtually unseen in America or England. Thanks to Severin, and Tarantino, who continues to champion Castellari's work, the movie can finally be seen and judged by English-language audiences. The film is highly impressive on all levels and one realizes the frustration that Castellari must have felt in having his achievement virtually unseen outside of mainland Europe.
Don Rickles, nicknamed The Merchant of Venom, has died at age 90. Rickles pioneered insult comedy and became a sensation on television and night clubs in the 1960s. He was performing until recently. Rickles had started as a dramatic actor and scored some supporting roles in memorable films but it was his stand-up comedy routine that made him a legend. Rickles penchant for insulting celebrities and everyday people paved the way for a new brand of comedy, though Rickles never delved into the vulgarity that characterizes many of the acts performed by those he inspired. Rickles' appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and the Dean Martin celebrity roasts were the stuff of legendary comedy moments on television. He occasionally delved back into acting in major hit films such as "Kelly's Heroes", "Casino" and the "Toy Story" franchise for which he provided the voice of Mr. Potato Head. He was scheduled to continue in that role in the next entry in the series. He was also the subject of the acclaimed documentary "Mr. Warmth: the Don Rickles Project" by director John Landis. For more click here.
Bob Hope's status as having enjoyed the longest reign as America's most beloved comedy icon remains unchallenged . When he passed away in 2003 at age 100, Hope had mastered seemingly all entertainment mediums. By the 1930s he was already a popular star on stage and in feature films. He could sing, dance and joke often simultaneously. British by birth, Hope and his family emigrated to America when he was five years old and he would ultimately become one of the USA's most patriotic public figures. His long-term contract with NBC stretched from radio days to being the face of the network's television broadcasts. It was TV that made made Hope the ultimate media icon. His NBC TV specials were the stuff of ratings gold, especially those that found him entertaining American troops in far off locations during the Christmas season. Hope continued this tradition, which started in WWII, through the early 1990s. His genius was that he never veered from his core act: quick one-liners that were designed to amuse but never offend. Although a life-long conservative and Republican, Hope knew how to thread the needle when it came to politics. He hobnobbed with presidents of both parties and the jokes he cracked about them gently poked fun at their eccentricities without offending either them or their supporters. Hope's political barbs were made in an era in which such humor would bring people together instead of polarize them. Hope's humor became dated but he never lost his popularity with older fans who continued to tune in to his TV specials and delighted at his frequent appearances on chat shows. Not everyone was a fan, however. Marlon Brando once criticized Hope's hunger for the spotlight by saying he would turn up at the opening of a supermarket if there was a camera there. Still, Hope's ubiquitous presence extended into the realm of movies, though cinema was decidedly a secondary career for him. In the 1940s and 1950s he was a top box-office attraction, with his "Road" movies co-starring Bing Crosby particularly popular. By the 1960s changing social values threatened Hope's brand of squeaky clean comedies but he still had enough juice at the boxoffice to top-line movies throughout the entire decade.
"Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number", released in 1966, is the epitome of a Hope comedy. He plays Tom Meade, a California real estate agent who has sunk a considerable amount of money into buying a house in a remote area of the mountains by a beautiful lake. He was certain he could turn a quick profit but it transpires that the house is located in an area that is a bit too remote and his investment has turned into a money-bleeding white elephant. At the same time, the story follows the exploits of Didi (Elke Sommer), an international screen sex siren who is known for including provocative bathing sequences in her racy films. Didi is shooting her latest movie when she has a fierce argument with her director/lover Pepe Pepponi (Cesare Danova) and storms off the set to go into hiding, thus initiating an intense manhunt that dominates the headlines. Through the type of quirk that can only happen in movies, Tom makes a business phone call and accidentally gets connected with Didi, who tells him she is hiding in a nearby hotel but lacks any food or sustenance. Tom realizes he possesses bombshell information and promises to visit her with food. He sneaks out late at night so his wife Martha (Marjorie Lord) doesn't suspect anything...but unbeknownst to him, his nosy and sarcastic live-in housekeeper Lily (Phyllis Diller) catches on. When Tom arrives at Didi's hotel room, she practically seduces him but Tom has something other than sex on his mind. He offers Didi the opportunity to stay at his dormant house at the lake until the manhunt dies down. He's motivated partly by compassion and partly by the opportunity to exploit the property as the house that Didi once hid in. Things naturally go awry when Martha insists on spending a romantic weekend at the house with Tom, away from their two pre-teen but precocious son and daughter. This sets in motion one of those traditional bedroom farce situations. Tom arrives separately in advance of Martha and discovers Didi is practically comatose after taking a sleeping pill. In the ensuing mayhem, he must drag her from room to room and hide her before Martha discovers her presence. This madcap sequence is the highlight of the film and it is deftly directed by old pro George Marshall. However, the film's final act crosses the line into over-the-top outright slapstick with Diller riding wild on a motorcycle and Hope being pursued in a car chase by FBI agents who think he murdered Didi.
The joy of any Bob Hope movie is that he never played the traditional hero. He specialized in portraying characters who weren't immoral but who were willing to gnaw around the edges of ethical behavior (i.e a coward who pretends he's a hero, a virginal buffoon who pretends he's a great lover, etc.) In this production, Hope continues that tradition and gets off some good one-liners. He's got the perfect foil in Phyllis Diller and their chemistry worked so well they made two more films together in short order, "Eight on the Lam" and "The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell" before Hope retired from the silver screen with his 1972 dud "Cancel My Reservation". "Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!" plays out like an extended TV sitcom from the era and was shot on a relatively modest budget. There are a few timid attempts to make the script a bit contemporary by including a some overt references to sex but it's still tame family-friendly viewing. It should be said that Elke Sommer, who was always somewhat underwhelming in terms of dramatic acting skills, had a true knack for playing light comedy and she's delightful in this movie in a physically demanding role that requires her to be tossed around while unconscious as though she is a rag doll. One of the more amusing aspects of the film is unintentional: Marjorie Lord's hairstyle, which is as high as a beehive and equally distracting. One keeps awaiting Hope to make some quips about it but they never come.
Olive Films has released the movie as a Blu-ray with an excellent transfer but no bonus extras. As retro comedies go, this is typical of a Bob Hope comedy from the era. It offers no surprises but somehow today the sheer predictability and innocence of his movies make for pleasing viewing- and this is no exception.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the History Press, UK in relation to the publication of a major new book about the life and career of Albert Finney by author Gabriel Hershman.
any actor or director of a certain age who was the most influential actor in
British cinema and theatre post-1960 and one name will immediately spring to
More than any other British actor Albert Finney was
responsible for the so-called New Wave, giving free rein to working-class
self-expression in cinema, especially in the landmark film Saturday Night
and Sunday Morning.
Other actors of the same ilk followed: Michael Caine,
Richard Harris, Malcolm McDowell, Terence Stamp and John Thaw, to name but a
few. But Finney was the original pathfinder, as all the above would have
acknowledged, his name synonymous with other British cultural mould-breakers of
the Sixties, such as John Osborne, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and George
Finney was also a supreme professional whose behaviour on
and off set - his perfectionism and precision - is often cited as the perfect
role model for others. Yet Finney is perhaps not as famous as his influence
would suggest. It is remarkable how he became the key figure in post-war
British film, a byword for the new style of acting, without selling his soul or
losing his privacy.
Finney and Audrey Hepburn in "Two for the Road" (1966)
‘I like to observe people rather than be observed,’
Finney once said.
Albert Finney’s name has resonated through the West End
and five decades of film-making but Finney the man remained largely hidden from
view - watchful, chameleon-like, the unnoticed watcher in the woods. A
character actor who managed to submerge beneath the roles he played to portray
such truthful and compelling characters: the surly Arthur Seaton, a sly
Scrooge, a senile ‘Sir’, a drunken yet heroic consul, a cantankerous Churchill
and a curmudgeonly lawyer in Erin Brockovich.
Finney is the one figure everyone genuflects to -
the godfather of modern British film. His influence, even in retirement, still
resonates in all discussions about acting in Britain right up to the present.
(Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche) 1982
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón, Starring Jack Taylor, Christopher George, Lynda
Day George, Frank Braña and Paul Smith. Arrow 3 disc Blu-ray, DVD and CD.
continue to satisfy our hunger for classic slasher movies with their latest
release "Pieces" (1982), a classic slice of sickening nostalgia which emerged during
the height of the video nasty era.
Boston college campus is being terrorised by a black-clad maniac who collects
body parts from his unfortunate co-ed victims. As the corpses (and red
herrings) begin to pile up, can Professor Brown (genre veteran Jack Taylor)
unmask the murderer before his morbid puzzle is complete?
of the genre should be incredibly pleased with the treatment given to this
three disc collector’s edition. Let’s be clear from the outset, “Pieces” is not
the best directed movie you’ll ever see. Director Juan Piquer Simón, a native
of Valencia, Spain, began his career working in advertising; he was a marketing
man at heart. However, it’s a background that taught him everything regarding
exploitation. Because of his career, Simón arguably constructed his films
around the shock element, the all-important ‘money shots’ that fed his
audience. Simón almost regarded plot and narrative as secondary, and instead
focused on the essential elements, which in this case were the film’s
outrageously gory set pieces.
of the highlights of Arrow’s collection is the inclusion of the original
uncensored cut of the film, Mil Gritos
Tiene La Noche. It’s not, of course, because it is simply uncensored or
because the gore factor is increased by a notch or two. It is purely because
the original Spanish language version stands up far better than its U.S. dubbed
counterpart which suffers quite dreadfully in translation. Thankfully, Arrow
has intelligently covered all corners by including both versions of the film
and allowing for the individual’s preference.
terms of quality, the film benefits hugely from a brand new restoration in
glorious 4K. Colours are rich and vibrant and look exceptionally good for a
film of its age and in consideration of its tight production budget. The audio
tracks (presented in original English and Spanish mono) are also clear and
sharp with no evidence of hiss or distortion.
deep into this collection reveals an awful lot of treats, especially in the
audio department. The inclusion of Mil
Gritos Tiene La Noche, which is exclusive to the Blu-ray, also features the
original score by Librado Pastor. There is also an option to hear an
alternative music only re-score by composer Umberto. Switching to “Pieces” (the
U.S. version) enables you to experience an entirely different score consisting
of various composers such as Stelvio Cipriani and Carlo Maria Cordio. There is
also a separate audio CD included within this package containing the original score
with 16 tracks and lasting 36 minutes. This appears to be an expanded version
over the 14 track LP debut which ran for 28 minutes and was released in
Switzerland in 2015. There is also an enjoyable and informative audio commentary
by horror and slasher loving podcasters The
Hysteria Continues featuring Joseph Henson, Justin Kerswell, Erik
Threlfall, and Nathan Johnson. These guys really know their subject, and its
inclusion here is a very welcome feature. If all of these audio options are not
enough, you can also watch the film with the 5.1 Vine Theatre Experience, a
rather curious addition allowing you to watch the film with the audience audio which
was recorded when the film was shown at the Vine Theatre in August, 2002. As I said,
it’s a curious one which doesn’t really serve much of a purpose other than listening
to audience reaction, if that’s your thing…
Monsterpalooza convention in Pasadena, California this coming weekend will
afford convention-goers a rare opportunity to meet the last of the great horror
film stars, the Queen of Horror herself, actress Barbara Steele.
Steele, who is best known to genre fans for her work in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960), Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and
Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle
(1965), will be on hand to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans on
Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8, 2017.
convention will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 East Green
Street, Pasadena, CA 91101 from April 7 to the 9th, 2017.
Titling a film is no
trivial matter, especially from a marketing perspective. As history has proven,
there have been numerous films made which have little more to offer than a cracking
title. A really sharp one can help sell the poorest product, conversely a
stellar piece of movie-making can be undermined by something uninspired. When
you're trying to make your movie stand out in a marketplace awash with
alternatives, an attention-grabbing title is a crucial consideration and you'll
probably be aiming for something that harbours intrigue, allure, and is capable
of fostering curiosity and anticipation. When it was first unleashed
theatrically in 1985, Howling II: Stirba –
Werewolf Bitch was certainly an attention-grabber. Whether the film itself
turned out to be good, bad or indifferent, as enticing titles go the suffix Stirba – Werewolf Bitch sure did the
job, sending out a premium come and see me
you know you want to invitation with the promise of a no-nonsense serving
of lycanthropic flesh-munching and raunchy bodice-ripping, elements on which it
most certainly delivered. So, given that said title was suitably
efficacious, one has to wonder why someone later thought it was a good idea to
alter it to Your Sister is a Werewolf,
a moniker conveying more than a whiff of lightweight teen comedy – perhaps
something akin to the same year's Michael J Fox headliner Teen Wolf – as opposed to that of spicy horror movie. C'est la vie.
Following the funeral of
his sister Karen, Ben White (Reb Brown) is approached by occult scholar Steffan
Crosscoe (Christopher Lee), who informs him that his sibling was a werewolf and
submitted herself willingly to death. Dismissing these claims as balderdash,
White's scepticism is quashed when he witnesses a werewolf attack first hand.
Crosscoe subsequently tells White that the 10th Millennium of lycanthrope queen
Stirba (Sybil Danning) is imminent and on that night, beneath the glow of a
full moon, all werewolves will reveal themselves. To avert this catastrophe
Stirba must die. White and journalist Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe) set off
with Crosscoe to Transylvania to seek out the location of Stirba's coven and
destroy her. However, Crosscoe is withholding a personal reason for wanting the
werewolf queen dead.
Any sequel to Joe Dante's
1981 epic The Howling was going to be
facing an uphill struggle in terms of emulating its verve and director Philippe
Mora's Howling II: Your Sister is a
Werewolf certainly lives up to expectation on that account. Which isn't to
imply for one moment that it isn't entertaining; there's a lot of fun to be
had here, even if much of it is of the so-bad-it's-good variety. The draw
here for many viewers will be the significant participation of Christopher Lee.
For such an erudite man, Lee made some curious film choices throughout his long
and varied career; one supposes that in such a competitive profession – and one
burdened by rife unemployment – regardless of how demeaning it might be work
was work. Howling II wasn't among Lee’s
more questionable judgment calls but neither is it up there among the myriad of
cherries populating his CV. Regardless, consummate professional that he was, he
never gave less than 100% and with Howling
II he brings a degree of gravitas and worth to a film whose biggest crime
is not so much being bad as being rather unremarkable. Given what Lee brings to
the show, it's a shame that co-stars Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe prove so
unengaging. It would be easy to blame the slightly hackneyed dialogue – the
script was a collaborative effort between Gary Brandner (who also authored a
number of “Howling” novels) and Robert Sarno – but when you consider that
Lee managed to work his lines into something halfway decent that's not really a
valid excuse. The odd thing is that both Brown and McEnroe are competent enough
performers, as can be witnessed in some of their other films, so quite why
they’re so ineffectual here is frankly baffling. Regardless, any shortcomings are
compensated for by fine turns from the striking Sybil Danning in the titular
Stirba/sister role, Judd Omen as her swarthy aide Vlad and a sizzling Marsha A
Hunt (who's hotter than a jalapeño both in and out of her clothing). Brief but
noteworthy input too from Jimmy Nail and Ferdy Mayne, although the latter's
transformation into beast of the night is memorable for the wrong reason, his freaky
but unthreatening make-up and the fact he's wearing a flat cap combining to provoke
The cognoscenti will have no
doubt noted this is the third home video resurrection of
writer-director-co-producer Ted Newsom’s Flesh
& Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror. Originally issued on VHS in 1999 as part of Anchor Bay’s ambitious and
much welcomed “Hammer Collection” series, this affectionate documentary was
subsequently ported over to DVD in 2004 by Image Entertainment, Inc. Both of those earlier releases shared a
running time of some ninety-nine minutes. This comprehensive new version, curiously issued again on DVD rather than
as an upgraded Blu, boasts of a “Digitally Remastered Expanded Director’s Cut.” This newest incarnation, as promised, has
been expanded with an additional thirty-seven minutes of material. Whether or not the tighter original cut has
been artistically or informatively superseded by this director’s cut is open to
argument. While the new version is of more
generous length, it must be said the story arc occasionally meanders, unnecessarily
bloated by too-familiar footage culled from original trailers.
Regardless, this documentary
is an essential item for fans of Hammer, thoughtfully outlining the studio’s metamorphosis
from a small film distribution company to a vanguard of the British film
industry. In the mid 1930s Hammer’s
earliest successes were with such monochrome dramas as Songs of Freedom (with Paul Robeson) and mysteries as The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (with
Bela Lugosi). Not surprisingly, it
really wasn’t until after the country emerged from the rubble of WWII that the
studio would hit a proper stride, adapting such popular British radio shows as Dick Baron: Special Agent as cinematic
properties. But it wasn’t until the
studio acquired the rights to bring Nigel Kneale’s popular science fiction BBC
television series The Quatermass
Experiment to the big screen in 1955 that Hammer’s course was set. The success of that film spawned a sequel and
a knockoff which would signal what would follow. Beginning with TheCurse of Frankenstein
(1957), the studio would score with an influential and commercially successful string
of science-fiction, fantasy and horror films. These successes cemented the studio’s reputation as Britain’s preeminent
In that regard, Hammer had appropriated
the mantle previously held by Universal Studios as the foremost purveyor of
Gothic horror cinema. Though the studio
was barred from utilizing Jack Pierce’s iconic make-up designs - as well as other
Universal inventions protected by copyright – such public domain properties as
Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary
Shelley’s Frankenstein were free for an
original and modern updating. If
anything, the time was right for the torch of the angry villager to be passed
on. Universal had all but abandoned their
dependable stable of classic monsters, choosing instead to bring creatures of
the atom-age to the screen. As Flesh & Blood astutely notes, Hammer
would inadvertently rescue these monsters of folklore from the ignominy of their
being mere slapstick foils to Abbott and Costello. With their distinctive trademark mix of splashy
Technicolor, tawdry bloodletting, overt sexuality, and a battery of dreamy screen
sirens (and unashamed displays of ample cleavage), the studio effectively
reenergized interest in gothic-horror cinema.
To be sure, this is not an
easy story to tell to satisfaction. Flesh
& Blood bravely attempts to thoroughly document the sprawling history
and trajectory of Hammer’s hits and misses, offering a score of first-person
and genuinely interesting procession of candid talking-head interviews. The studio, as many of this film’s
participants take great pains to point out here, was a business first and
foremost. The producers were primarily interested
in turning a tidy profit on their investment and productions were sometimes
hobbled by miserly budgeting. Even in
the studio’s halcyon days (1957-1972) most of the studio’s film projects – many
pre-sold to distributors on little more than a colorful mock-up of an
exploitative film poster – adhered to a tight six week shooting schedule.
As the principal photography
of this documentary began as early as 1993, the pool of talent available for
interview had not yet been thinned by time and age. In truth, there’s hardly a then-surviving veteran
from behind or in front of Hammer’s cameras who isn’t interviewed or referenced
in the film. In a particular masterstroke,
the producers were able to enlist the studio’s two greatest and most iconic star
players, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, to serve as principal narrators of
the opus. It’s mostly Lee’s narration
that carries the documentary forward, though the wasting, frail voice of a
clearly ailing Peter Cushing also bravely serves in this capacity.
interviews, home movies, trailers, vintage newsreels, stock footage, photographs,
promotional materials, and elements sourced from television archives, we are
introduced to the surviving men and woman who served as the studio’s primary
movers and shakers. Those sharing
behind-the camera memories are Michael
Carreras, Anthony Hinds, Roy Ward Baker, Don Sharp, Freddie Francis, Aida
Young, Jimmy Sangster, Richard Matheson, and composer James Bernard amongst others. Among those who appeared on the silver screen
and were happy to share their insights and warm recollections are the bosomy
starlets who were the epitomes of “Hammer Glamour:” Ingrid Pitt, Martine
Beswick, Caroline Munro, Hazel Court, Raquel Welch, and Veronica Carlson.
Cinema Retro proudly presents this year's Movie Classics special issue: "WWII Movies of the Sixties", showcasing films that only Cinema Retro would cover in-depth. Some are true classics, others are simply vastly entertaining- and all are celebrated through rare production photos, international marketing campaigns, then-and-now location photos and little-known facts.
Films covered in this issue:
The Guns of Navarone - Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven
Battle of the Bulge- Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan
Anzio- Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk
The Victors- George Peppard, Eli Wallach, George Hamilton
The Train- Burt Lancaster, Jeanne Moreau
Tobruk-Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Davenport
Hannibal Brooks- Oliver Reed, Michael J. Pollard
The Devil's Brigade- William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards
Von Ryan's Express- Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard
Operation Crossbow- George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Richard Johnson
Is Paris Burning?- Orson Welles, Gert Frobe, Alain Delon
Play Dirty- Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport
The Heroes of Telemark- Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris
We realize that there are still plenty of worthy titles deserving of coverage and we plan to get to them in a follow-up WWII issue.
As with all Cinema Retro issues, this one is a limited edition - so order now and reserve your copy! We anticipate this issue will ship by the end of June in the UK and Europe and by the end of July in North America and the rest of the world.
Note: This issue is not part of the subscription plan and must be ordered separately.
“It Takes a Thief,” the
iconic adventure/espionage series that many consider Robert Wagner’s defining role,
has had an interesting if somewhat checkered DVD release history. As reported
in Cinema Retro back in 2010, the first digital presentation of Alexander
Mundy’s nefarious exploits appeared in July of that year courtesy of the German
company Polyband, which released all 16 season one episodes in a pair of
three-disc sets, followed up with a four-disc set featuring 12 of the 26 season
two episodes, but then inexplicably ended its release program. These Region 2
sets, which have English as well as German audio options, are still available
at Amazon Germany.
In October 2010, Australia’s
Madman Entertainment jumped into the fray, putting out the complete first
season in a five-disc set, and subsequently issuing seasons two and three as
seven-disc sets. These Region 4 sets are now out of print.
Meanwhile, American fans clamoring
for a long-overdue Region 1 release finally had their wishes granted courtesy
of the Canadian media distribution company Entertainment One, which packaged
all 66 episodes, the full-length pilot film, plus video interviews with Wagner
and writer-producer Glen A. Larson into an 18-disc box set that went on sale in
November 2011. That set, unfortunately, is also no longer available.
Somehow, a world in which Al
Mundy—still the epitome of glamor, sophistication and excitement—is no longer readily
accessible to his countless fans just doesn’t seem right. However, “It Takes a
Thief” fans who failed to nab one of the aforementioned DVD options have now
been granted a reprieve, albeit from an unexpected quarter.Yep, the Germans have once again come to the rescue of this irreplaceable
cultural touchstone. To which we can only say a heartfelt danke schön!
Fernsehjuwelen, a DVD label
that specializes in “jewels of film & TV history,” has just released the
complete series in a deluxe 21-disc Region 2 set that can be purchased through
Amazon Germany. Comparable in most respects to the out-of-print Entertainment
One box, this new set does raise the bar significantly in terms of image
quality, at least for the season three episodes. The eOne set did right by the
season one and two episodes, which were generally sharp and clear; but season
three was problematic, with some episodes exhibiting a marked drop-off in
sharpness and, worse, considerable color bleeding and ghosting. Important
visual detail was sometimes lost, especially during nighttime or low-light
scenes. This was frustrating, as many of the third season “It Takes a Thief”
episodes were filmed in Italy, and the variable resolution detracted from the
beautiful location photography.
No such issues arise with
the Fernsehjuwelen discs. Each season three episode boasts excellent color
balance and image clarity. This is the main improvement offered by “Ihr
Auftritt, Al Mundy!”—the German title for the series that translates to: “Your
Performance, Al Mundy!” This set includes the same video interviews of Wagner
and Larson from the eOne set; an interview with Rainer Brandt, the German actor
who dubbed Wagner in many of the episodes; and an extensive German-language
booklet written by Oliver Bayan that features interviews he conducted with
Wagner and co-star Malachi Throne in 2010. Unless you sprechen Deutsch, you’ll have to avail yourself of Google
translation to read these brief but fascinating Q&As.
The Fernsehjuwelen box set,
which houses all 21 discs in a sturdy multi-DVD case, is available through www.amazon.de for EUR 58.99, which works out to
approximately US $63.43. Need I say that it’s a veritable steal?
(Note: to view this set, you will need a Region 2 or all-region DVD player.)
From the August 1968 issue of British Photoplay, Ingrid Pitt gets her first major break in films when she is cast by director Brian G. Hutton and producer Elliott Kastner in the MGM WWII adventure Where Eagles Dare starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The Man. The Legend. “The King of
Cool.” For decades, Steve McQueen has captured our hearts and
imaginations. His canon of films is filled with classic titles such as The
Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles, The
Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillon.
But his career was almost derailed by a doomsday pet
project that took nearly a decade to come to fruition: the ill-fated 1971 film Le
As it stands, Le Mans is the most discussed,
debated, examined and beloved auto racing film of all-time, which is
mind-boggling if the initial reviews of the movie are read. But ask
any motoring aficionado what is their favorite racing movie of all-time, and
nine times out of ten it will be Le Mans with an exclamation point.
Now Don Nunley, the property master for Le Mans and
Marshall Terrill, the star’s preeminent biographer, reveal the true story of
the actor and the movie in the new book Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the
Rearview Mirror (Dalton Watson Fine Books – April 10, 2017).
Featuring hundreds of never-before-seen color photos of
the superstar in his prime and a lively narrative, Steve McQueen: Le Mans
in the Rearview Mirror is an indispensable book on auto racing’s most
respected film, Le Mans and one of cinema’s most beloved stars.
“It was a bumpy ride for all of us. It was the strangest
picture that I ever worked on in three decades of filmmaking. And I can confirm
that it was not a fun experience,” Nunley said. “What was supposed to be a
simple, straightforward movie to make ended up being a five-month nightmare of
epic proportions. I like to think of myself as an easy-going guy who generally
looks for the silver lining in every cloud, but I’m still looking for one in
There were high hopes about the 106-minute motion picture
at the time principal photography commenced in June 1970. Five months later
when filming ended, there was no wrap party, no toasts, no grand farewells;
every-one just quietly went away, thankful their ordeal was finally over.
Steve McQueen was an honest-to-goodness real life racing
fanatic, and Le Mans was supposed to be his cinematic dream come
true. But the movie left him with bitter feelings and lasting emotional dents
in his armor. There were conflicts with the original director, John Sturges,
personal excesses, budget woes, a war with the studio, a shutdown, months of
delays, and an unfortunate accident that left one driver without a leg.
At the time, McQueen was at the height of his
stratospheric popularity after an amazing string of box-office hits. Le
Mans coincided with his mid-life crisis, racking up several casualties
along the way. In one fell swoop, McQueen ended a 15-year marriage, severed
ties with his longtime agent and producing partners, saw his production company
collapse and lost a personal fortune, not to mention control of the film he had
planned to make for over a decade.
He was also in constant fear for his life after learning
on the set that he was on Charles Manson’s “death list.” And at the end of the
snake-bitten picture, McQueen was presented with a seven-figure bill by the
Internal Revenue Service for back taxes.
Decades after crash-landing at the box-office and its
savaging by critics, Le Mans has left an indelible legacy in the auto
racing world and movie industry.
For more on the book and to order from the publisher click here.
# # #
About the Authors:
Since 1959, Don Nunley has worked in the motion picture
industry as a property master, set decorator and production designer. Nunley
also started the first product placement agency in Hollywood, working to get
products into movies and TV shows, including E.T. drinking Coors beer and Tom
Cruise sporting Ray Bans for Top Gun and Risky Business.
Marshall Terrill is the world’s foremost expert on Steve
McQueen and the author of more than 20 books, including best-selling
biographies of McQueen, Elvis Presley and Pete Maravich.
Antonioni’s Blowup (it’s spelled this
way in the film credits, but on theatrical posters and advertising it was
called Blow-Up) was a landmark,
envelope-pushing film that caused quite a stir. For one thing, it was one of
the nails in the coffin of the U.S. Production Code, paving the way for the
elimination of cinematic censorship and the eventual creation of the movie
ratings. Its depiction of nudity, sexual attitudes, and recreational drugs
crossed the line for late 1966. Nevertheless, newspaper ads got away with
simply proclaiming that the picture was “Recommended for Mature Audiences,”
since this was prior to the ratings themselves.
Blowup also stands as a
cultural landmark in that it captures that moment of time called “Swinging
London.” Everything was “mod”—music, fashion, art... even groups of youths were
called “mods.” Antonioni’s film could serve as a time capsule for that period
of artistic rebellion. It’s also a curiosity in that it was an Italian-British
co-production, financed by Hollywood—but it definitely comes off as “English.” The
filmmaker received his only Best Director Oscar nomination for the picture, and
he shared a nomination for Original Screenplay with Tonino Guerra.
story concerns Thomas, a professional photographer (charismatically portrayed
by David Hemmings), who we follow as he goes about his daily routine of
shooting gorgeous fashion models and whatever else strikes his fancy as he
roams London. He’s estranged from his wife (Sarah Miles), and it’s apparent
they have an open relationship (how very mod of them!). One day, while
strolling through Maryon Park (which still looks practically the same today),
Thomas spies a lovely young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) with an older man. He
snaps pictures without the couple knowing it, but then the woman chases Thomas
down and demands to have the film. He won’t give it up—the pictures are going
into an art book he’s planning to publish. When he develops the roll, Thomas
discovers that a murder may have occurred. Later on that night, he returns to
the park and finds that, indeed, the older man’s body is lying in the grass. The
mystery of the crime becomes Thomas’ obsession.
isn’t much plot beyond that. Instead, Antonioni presents an existential
treatise on the nature of seeing and not-seeing, or perhaps imagination vs.
reality. Thomas seems to have everything a good-looking, talented man could
want—his pick of “birds” (yes, that was the slang for “girls” then), money, a
fancy car, and the freedom to chase the muse. And yet, there is something
missing in his life and it soon becomes obvious that he’s not very happy. The
uncovering of the mystery further shakes him out of party mode and forces him
to face the real world. It’s a theme Antonioni explores in several of his
film is a visual feast. The sets are filled with the modern art of the period
and “Twiggy”-style clothing. The London locations are used to a great
advantage, and many of these are revisited in the new documentary on the making
of the film that is included as a supplement on the disk. The soundtrack is
also “hip”—Herbie Hancock provides the jazz score, and the Yardbirds (which at
the time included Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page) appear as themselves and perform at
an underground club. The ménage à trois scene that caused
all the fuss with the Production Code and features Hemmings, Jane Birkin (who
at the time was married to composer John Barry), and Gillian Hills, is wild and
raucous and was probably pretty shocking at the time—but today it would barely
classify for an “R” rating in the U.S.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray release of Blowup exploits all of these assets in a gorgeous restored 4K
digital transfer and an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The supplements are
plentiful—the aforementioned 2016 documentary; new pieces on Antonioni’s
artistic approach with photography curators Walter Moser and Philippe Garner
and art historian David Alan Mellor; a 2016 conversation with Vanessa Redgrave;
two archival interviews with David Hemmings; an archival interview with Jane
Birkin; footage from the 1967 Cannes Film Festival at which Blowup won the Grand Prix (also with an interview with the director); and two
trailers. The set comes with a fairly thick, lavishly illustrated booklet
featuring an essay by film scholar David Forgacs, an updated 1966 account of
the film’s shooting by Stig Björkman, the
questionnaires distributed to photographers and painters while developing the
film, and the 1959 Julio Cortázar short story on
which the film is loosely based.
short, Criterion has released an exemplary set for a milestone film. So take a
trip back to the swinging sixties for some free love, pop music, and far-out
modern art. It will turn you on.
Olive Films has released the 1990 TV movie "The Last Best Year" as a no-frills DVD. The movie is a sobering account of a young woman's battle against life-threatening cancer. Jane Murray is a 38 year-old career woman who has distinguisher herself in the corporate travel industry. A workaholic, Jane has placed her career trajectory above everything else. Consequently, she's respected by her boss and her peers but her personal life is largely devoid of personal relationships. She lives a solitary existence with only a pet cat as a companion. Her love life is relegated to occasional flings with an older married man. She seems content with her lot in life until she becomes mysteriously ill. She ignores the symptoms of weakness and dizziness until a visit to her physician, Dr. Castle (Brian Beford) becomes unavoidable. He delivers the bad news: she has terminal cancer and has only a number of months to live. The diagnosis hits Jane with understandably devastating results. She suddenly takes stock of her life and realizes how many unfilled dreams there are. Dr. Castle suggests that she get counseling from his friend, psychiatrist Wendy Haller (Mary Tyler Moore). However, Wendy is reluctant to take on Jane as a client because she is hesitant to form relationship with someone who is destined to die in a few months. It turns out that Wendy is haunted by the death of her own father at a young age when she was a little girl and has had her own mental barriers when it comes to dealing with people facing untimely deaths. Nevertheless, she is moved by Dr. Castle's pleas and agrees to see Jane. The two women form a close bond that goes beyond a doctor/client relationship. Wendy is happily married to a good man and they have a healthy son who is a college student. She realizes through Jane's plight how fortunate her own life is. She devotes herself to ensuring that Jane's remaining days are as as pleasant and fulfilling as possible. Jane has no living relatives except for her aunt Lizzie (Carmen Matthews), who still lives in a small town in Kansas where Jane was born. At Wendy's urging, Jane decides to make a surprise visit to Lizzie, who is delighted to see her. Through Lizzie, she learns much about her own childhood and the qualities of her parents, both of whom died at young ages.
As Jane's health declines, she increasingly relies on emotional support from a new found friendship with her secretary Amy (Erika Alexander), Lizzie and Wendy. Jane makes a shocking confession to Wendy: at age 18 she became pregnant. Alone and desperate, she received care in a convent and signed a legal agreement to give her baby son up for adoption. Over the years she has been haunted by the boy's fate. Before she passes away she wants to find out what his disposition in life is in the hope that he has been happy and successful. However, the agreement with the convent precludes her from finding out who her son's adoptive parents are and making any inquiries of them. Jane makes a trip to visit Sister Mary Rose (Kate Reid) at the convent in the desperate hope that an exception might be made so that she can have some peace of mind about her son's fate. The latter portion of the story concentrates on this aspect of Jane's dilemma as she finds her physical health diminishing rapidly and being confined to a bed.
Reunited: Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters at tribute dinner for Moore at the Players club in New York City, 2009. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved),
"The Last Best Year" is what would have been quaintly referred to in time's past as a "two-handkerchief" production, given the amount of emotional baggage the character of Jane is forced to carry. Although the movie was clearly designed to appeal to female viewers, it's central theme of how a health crisis can affect far more people than the person who is afflicted will resonate with everyone. The performances are universally excellent (the film features the final acting role of Dorothy McGuire in a supporting role) with Moore proving once again that she had plenty of skill in playing dramatic roles. The revelation at the time was that Bernadette Peters could, too. Up to this point, Peters was primarily known for her singing skills and for playing light comedy. She gives a superb performance as Jane, a strong-willed, courageous woman who never loses her dignity even as her personal situation leaves her in a rather undignified status, forced to rely on the kindness of her circle of newly-found friends. The production is very sensitively directed by John Erman, who eschews over-the-top sentiment and provides a realistic scenario that millions of people can identify with: the challenge of bringing comfort to a dying loved one. "The Last Best Year" is a predictably sad experience but ultimately one that manages to be uplifting, as well, as it deals with a brave individual and the caring people around her who try to make her tragic situation as bearable as possible. In that respect it concentrates on the best aspects of human nature, something only rarely seen in many of today's television productions.
We are pleased to announce that Cinema Retro magazine has once again been nominated for Best Magazine by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. (Rondo Hatton was the famed character actor who often played villains in "B" movies that are now cult favorites.) Although Cinema Retro differs from most of our worthy competitors because we are not strictly a horror-themed magazine, apparently we do cover the genre enough to impress the nominating group. It's a lot of fun participating in the awards which cover many other categories such as best film, best DVD commentary, best DVD extras, best restoration, etc. We'll put a blatant plug in for our own writer Mark Mawston, who is nominated for his wonderful interview with the late, great Ray Harryhausen in an issue of Scary Monsters magazine. (see category 14 on the ballot). Click here to access the awards site.
Some enterprising fans of Patrick McGoohan's landmark television series "The Prisoner" intend to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary with a multi-day convention that will be held in Seattle on September 29-October 1, 2017. You may not get to meet Number One but you will have plenty of activities including screenings, lectures, appearances by actors who were in the show, musical performances, cocktail parties and theatrical re-enactments. For more details and ticket info click here. "Be seeing you!"
In this 1995 segment from Turner Classic Movies, Martin Scorsese pays tribute to the American Western and examines such classics as "The Searchers", "The Naked Spur", "The Left-handed Gun" and "Unforgiven".
This portion of the movie section from a 1966 edition of The New York Times indicates just a portion of how many fine movies were in release during a single week. Among them: "The Ipcress File", "Thunderball", "Darling", "The Hill", "The Slender Thread", "A Patch of Blue", "Bunny Lake is Missing", "Viva Maria!", "The Pawnbroker" and a Beatles double feature: "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!". Those really were the days!
Here's a vintage Sean Connery interview from Belgian television. The description says its from 1969 but it must have been filmed in 1968, as Connery refers to the still undetermined American presidential election between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. He also discusses his observations about American life, how success has affected him, his retirement from the James Bond role (he gives a nod to the "new" 007, George Lazenby) and discusses making his recent western "Shalako" with Brigitte Bardot.
Welles, Bogdanovich and Huston on the set of The Other Side of the Wind.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Netflix has ridden to the rescue to team with a crowdfunding effort that raised $400,000 to help complete Orson Welles' final film, "The Other Side of the Wind", which is perhaps the most legendary unseen movie of all time. Welles promised that the movie would mark his return to greatness but his independent financing sources were diverse and unreliable. The production of the movie dragged on for many years and Welles was trying to complete it when he died in 1985. The film's original production manager, producer Frank Marshall, will oversee completion of the project, working in conjunction with filmmaker Filip Jan Rymsza, who headed the fundraising effort. Director Peter Bogdanovich, a protege and friend of Welles who appeared in the film, has worked diligently for many years to complete the movie but always ran into obstacles. Bogdanovich will serve as a consultant on the Netflix project. The few people who have seen footage from the movie, which Welles had mostly completed at the time of his death, provided mixed emotions, with some saying it's a strange and off-putting movie while others proclaim it a work of genius. It is a scathing take down of hypocrisy in Hollywood. The film stars John Huston playing a once-great director who has fallen on hard times, thus leading some to speculate Welles viewed the character as his alter ego. While no one doubted Welles' genius, his prickly nature, offbeat projects and unreliable habits caused major studios to shun working with him. Welles had turned to finding independent funding from often shady sources that would sometimes dry up unexpectedly. Additionally when Welles did get a substantial sum infused into the film, he would often blow through it by spending it on expensive hotel suites, fine wines and upscale cigars. The highly unusual deal by Netflix is sure to win praise from classic movie lovers who have hungered to see "The Other Side of the Wind". For more click here.
A wonderfully understated comedy-drama, The
Electric Horseman follows the story of Sonny Steele (Robert Redford), a five-time
champion rodeo cowboy now turned brand spokesman for AMPco, a giant corporate
firm selling 'Ranch' breakfast cereal. Steele's
life has become essentially a series of advertising appearances, at which he is
required to brandish a box of cereal with his face adorning it whilst wearing a
garish cowboy outfit festooned with electric fairy lights. The forced smiles, autographs and constant
touring are starting to crack Steele; when we meet him, he is a disillusioned,
unreliable drunk, stumbling from one engagement to the next.
The film centres around a big Las Vegas
convention where Steele is booked for a ride-on appearance with AMPco's prize mascot,
a 12-million-dollar racehorse. Horse and
rider are strapped up in purple paisley silk and electric lights, the
ridiculous spectacle of which, in the capital of sensational fakery and
money-worship, proves to be the final straw for Steele. Appalled that the horse (a past champion like
himself) has been drugged in order to fulfil the appearance, Steele decides
then and there to ride him off into the desert and away from the bright lights
of Vegas and the public eye. It is here
the film really begins, as investigative journalist Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda)
picks up Sonny Steele's story and pursues his mission to restore the horse to
In tracking down and following Sonny, Hallie
becomes impressed with his knowledge of animals, nature and the land; he is indeed
no fake but a 'real' cowboy in the most nostalgic sense; looking back to an
innocent, forgotten America. As Sonny
and Hallie drop their guards, against astounding mountainous scenery they sing 'American the Beautiful', unashamed and
without irony: "O beautiful for spacious skies/For amber waves of grain/For
purple mountain majesties...". Nonetheless,
there is little schmaltz to be found here; no overbearing passionate Hollywood
drama; Fonda's character is reminded by Sonny that there is no need for
pretension with him, "It's not gonna be on television".
Sonny's attempts to liberate the horse is
also a way of trying to free himself; from the world of fame and commerce, from
which he shuns further attention. The
kinship Sonny feels for the horse spreads beyond the screen; his nursing of the
animal in the film is detailed and attentive and in real life, Redford not only
did all his own riding stunts but, apparently, loved the horse so much he
brought it home and kept it for the rest of its life.
At its core, the story is really one of
authenticity; the world of money and business, bright lights and fakery versus
nature, friendship and the great outdoors. Sonny's faithful friend and manager Wendell is played by Willie Nelson
(in his feature debut, reputedly ad-libbing most of his dialogue), bringing
further authenticity to the cowboys; Wendell and Sonny, after yet another
dispiriting tour date, drunkenly sing a song Nelson himself had a recent chart
hit with: "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys/'Cause They'll
Never Stay Home and They're Always Alone".
There are no shootouts, saloons or spurs in
the language here, but aspiration to a gentle caring spirit and understanding
of nature and the outdoors. The only
'bad guys' are the heads of corporations who care only for profit, represented in
the film by an unusually cold, steely faced John Saxon. For its grand themes, director Pollack delivers
them in an oblique and unassuming way; the sound design during scenes in Las
Vegas has slot machines and tannoy announcements, disconcertingly, almost as
loud as the dialogue itself, which only emphasises the clarity, stillness and
simplicity of scenes in the great outdoors.
There are lots of great comic moments and
funny, sharply delivered lines; no less than you might expect from repartee
between Redford and Fonda, who had previously co-starred in The Chase and Barefoot
in the Park. Valerie Perrine (memorable
as Ms. Teschemacher in 1978's Superman) also plays a notable supporting role as
Sonny's soon-to-be ex-wife and Wilfrid Brimley (Cocoon) plays a marvellously
modest but key supporting role. For fans
of 1970s kitsch, there is a bit of everything here that you might expect from
the era; from cowboy rodeos and disco dancing Vegas showgirls to a full on horse-race
multi-car chase à la The Dukes of Hazzard (with one especially impressive
stunt, culminating in one police car tearing along whilst carrying another,
upside down, on top of it!).
The screener copy available for review of
this re-release had no menu or extras, but the picture quality is excellent and
does justice to the stunning cinematography of both the Vegas spectacle and its
vast surrounding desert scenery.
“A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY
INTO A LITTLE NIGHT SILENCE”
By Raymond Benson
Allen’s first dramatic feature film, Interiors,
released in 1978 on the heels of his hugely successful and Oscar-winning
masterpiece, Annie Hall, was met with
praise by some and head-scratching by others. Most critics, however,
acknowledged that the picture was a step the artist needed to take in his evolution
as a filmmaker.
to Annie Hall, Allen’s films were
zany comedies—the “early funny ones,” as facetiously described in a later work,
Stardust Memories. Beginning with Annie, Allen made a quantum leap forward
in originality, confidence, and stylistic maturity. He reinvented the romantic
comedy. In many ways, Annie Hall is a
movie with a European sensibility. It could be argued that Allen’s body of work
post-Annie resembles the kind of material
made by a director like, say, Francois Truffaut—small, well-written, intimate
gems about people, relationships, and life
that can be comedies, dramas, or “dramedies.”
Interiors is one of the dramas
and it’s deadly serious. The influence of Ingmar Bergman is heavily prominent,
but there’s also a palpable strain of playwright Eugene O’Neill running through
it. The movie is about an upper class
dysfunctional family that could be right out of an alternate version of
O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
(Geraldine Page) and Arthur (E. G. Marshall) are a separated couple with three
grown daughters—Renata (Diane Keaton), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), and Flyn (Kristin
Griffith). Renata is a successful poet, Joey is a lost soul searching for
meaning to her life, and Flyn is an actress. Renata and Joey are in flawed
relationships with Frederick and Mike (Richard Jordan and Sam Waterston,
respectively). Eve has a history of depression and suicide attempts. Arthur
just wants to get a divorce and move on with his life, especially with
new-found fling Pearl (Maureen Stapleton). Angst, recriminations, self-destruction,
and guilt abound.
not a happy story, but it is a
fascinating ensemble piece that demonstrates an uncommon mastery of cinematic
language. Allen’s direction is superb, and Gordon Willis’ color photography is
striking. The acting, though, is what places the picture above the bar. Page
was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (and won
the BAFTA, although she was in the supporting category), and Maureen
Stapleton was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar. Allen himself received
nominations for Directing and for his Original Screenplay. A fifth Academy
Award nomination went to production designers Mel Bourne and Daniel Robert for
what are stark, creepily sterile interiors—hence,
is especially striking in Allen’s direction is the total lack of music—there is
a little source music here and there, but no underscore. There is
sound—dialogue, clocks ticking a la Bergman,
the roar of the tide—but basically this is a movie that overwhelms a viewer
with its silence.
Time’s limited edition Blu-ray (only 3000 units!) is a 1080p High Definition
transfer with a 1.0 DTS-Master Audio. It looks quite good, on a par with the
recent Allen releases by the label. Unfortunately, as with most Allen home
video products, there is little in the way of supplements—here, it’s only the
theatrical trailer that is included.
Interiors has its detractors,
to be sure, but, as evidenced by the five Oscar nominations, the picture also
has many supporters. Still—it’s probably not for everyone. Woody Allen fans
will certainly want to give it a shot. For my money, in examining Allen’s
handful of dramas he’s made over forty-seven years, it’s one of the better
trailer tells you everything you need to know about “The Belko Experiment”,
writer James Gunn’s bloody trip to the dark side of the corporate
workspace.You know there’s going to be
a serious body count… you know there’s going to be some wicked humor… and you
know that somewhere you’re going to see Michael Rooker.But HOW things unfold is what makes Belko
such an entertaining ride.Think “Office
Space” meets “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”…
directed by Greg McLean (“Wolf Creek”), “The Belko Experiment” chronicles a
(final) day in the life of the staff of a rather bland American company set up on
the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. It’s
a typical workday until an anonymous intercom voice tells them they have two
hours to kill thirty of their co-workers or sixty of them will be “sacrificed”. The execs laugh it off as a prank - until the
back of a staffer’s head explodes, thanks to an “anti-kidnapping” locator they’ve
all had implanted. Soon Belko
descends into “Lord of the Flies”, for
real. Factions form, alliances are
made and friendships are erased by the basic urge to survive. The movie is
helped along by a terrific cast which blends relative newcomers with seasoned
pros: John Gallagher, Jr. plays a
workplace everyman trying to stop the carnage and protect his colleague/girlfriend
(lovely Adria Arjona). Tony Goldwyn is
outstanding as Belko’s COO who morphs from cool boss to killing machine so he
can make it home to his wife and kids. He doesn’t want to kill his direct reports…
he just has to. John C. McGinly
is deliciously evil as a leering workplace creep who methodically tries to
raise his “body count” using a meat cleaver. And yes, Michael Rooker is short but sweet as Belko’s stoic maintenance man
trying to find a way out of the hermetically sealed building.
a testament to writer/producer James Gunn’s growing power in Hollywood that
this film is getting a wide theatrical release in today’s megabuck franchise landscape. “The Belko Experiment “feels like a 1990s
action/horror film, which is a good thing: in the 1980s and 90s, small,
entertaining genre films routinely got theatrical releases – great movies like “Surviving
The Game”, “Trespass” and “Southern Comfort” all delivered the thrills
audiences wanted without costing tens of millions to produce. Most of them actually made a profit, unlike
today when almost every big budget release is a huge gamble - James Bond, Star Wars and Guardians
franchises excepted! Today those small 1980s/90s movies would be relegated to
streaming or other platforms if they found a distributor at all.
the special “Employee Appreciation Day” screening Cinema Retro attended in
Santa Monica, key cast and crewmembers talked about making the film. Fanboy favorite James Gunn said he wrote the
script in a “two week fugue state” of 18-hour days. John C. McGinley commented that what drew him
to the script was the fact that “the choices each character made determined their
survival.” He drew a parallel to 9-11 as
his brother worked in the Twin Towers and when an anonymous PA voice told his
floor to stay put after the first plane hit, he and other colleagues knew
enough to immediately take the stairs to safety. On a lighter note, Tony Goldwyn admitted that,
as an actor, he wanted in after reading a script that featured exploding heads!
person, Gunn is amiable and funny and managed to carve out a little time for
fans, many of who showed up with bits of “Guardians of the Galaxy” memorabilia
to be signed. Other cast members posed
with attendees and all the actors seemed genuinely happy to see each other for
the first time since their Bogota shoot. It made for a surprisingly happy ending after 90 minutes of onscreen carnage.
The Belko Experiment opens nationwide on
March 17th. Be prepared to never look at a tape dispenser the same
The most memorable aspect of "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" is its title, which still resonates with people of a certain age even though most probably never saw the film itself. "Harry" was a speed bump in Dustin Hoffman's meteoric rise to success that began with "The Graduate" in 1967 and continued with such diverse hits as "Midnight Cowboy", "Little Big Man" and "Straw Dogs" (which would be released a few months after "Harry"). Directed by Ulu Grosbard, who would direct Hoffman in the drama "Straight Time" seven years later, "Harry" is a bizarre comedy with an anti-Establishment social message. Hoffman, almost unrecognizable behind a mustache and curly hair, plays Georgie Soloway, a "Boy Wonder" in the music business for his ability to almost instantly write hit rock and folk songs, along with memorable advertising jingos. He has fame and fortune and resides in luxurious penthouse apartment in Manhattan that is a virtual museum to his own accomplishments. However, the affable Georgie is desperately lacking something in his life: genuine friendships and a loving, significant other. The film doesn't follow a linear path and bounces around between various stages of Georgie's life. We see him growing up in Brooklyn, the only child of two stereotypical, overbearing Jewish parents. As a teenager, Georgie goes through the customary stages of trying to deal with raging hormones. He and a friendly but air-headed girl become lovers but he cruelly ditches her when she becomes pregnant, which was an even greater dilemma for women in the era before abortions were legal. Later we see he had married when he impregnated another woman who bore him two children. Georgie ended up deserting them as well because he couldn't deal with the adult responsibilities that fatherhood demands. We see present-day Georgie having no problems finding bedmates but he realizes he only attracts women because of his fame and fortune. Every time he seems to enter a promising relationship it is compromised when the woman is contacted by a mysterious man who calls himself Harry Kellerman and who seems to know all the intimate aspects of Georgie's life. Kellerman routinely unveils to these women the sordid ways Georgie has treated previous lovers and inevitably, his new relationships fail. When we first see Georgie, he is a psychological basket case. He fantasizes about suicide as though it will be a charming and pleasant experience. He also desperately tries to forge genuine friendships with those in his life. For years he has been paying a psychiatrist (Jack Warden) to hear his problems and act as a surrogate father figure to him but it becomes clear the man only sees Georgie as another client. Similarly, Georgie's outreach to his business manager (Gabriel Dell) and his harried accountant (Dom DeLuise) fails to result in establishing anything but business relationships. Georgie is the ultimate poor little rich boy. Much of the story line finds Georgie increasingly infuriated by Kellerman's interference in his love life and becoming obsessed with finding out who he is and how he knows so much about him.
The film was written by Herb Gardner, best known for his play "A Thousand Clowns", which was also about a dysfunctional New York man, who- like Georgie- was superficially charming but not very admirable. Gardner's screenplay drifts back and forth through time at a dizzying pace and sometimes it's hard to know whether we are viewing Georgie in the past or present. He also includes sequences that are genuinely bizarre but are later revealed to be dreams or fantasies. The end result is a rather unsatisfying mix of comedy and pathos despite fine performances by everyone involved. Director Grosbard makes scant use of the New York locations, other than some earlier scenes representing Coney Island in the 1950s and one fantasy scene that finds Georgie inside either the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel, which is totally deserted (trying filming that today). There are also some wonderful aerial shots of the city as we watch the bored Georgie pilot his personal jet for joy rides. But Grosbard never captures the flavor of New York and film could just have easily been set in any major city. The movie is primarily shot in dark interiors with grim lighting, making for a suitably depressing experience. The message of the movie seems to be that money can't buy happiness and that personal virtues are more important than a large bank account. This may be true but it wasn't exactly a unique theory even in 1971. The film comes alive mostly in its final phase when Georgie meets an untalented aspiring singer (Barbara Harris, superb in an Oscar-nominated performance) who is ditzy but lovable. She brings out the kind of genuine human emotion that Georgie had been suppressing for most of his life- but is it too late to save him from his own demons? The final scene of the movie sees Georgie finally seeming to find happiness as he soars above the boroughs of New York City in a wonderfully-filmed sequence that comes to an unexpected conclusion, even as it provides an answer to the question "Who is Harry Kellerman?"
Kino Lorber has released the film on Blu-ray sans any special features other than a trailer for Ulu Grosbard's 1981 drama "True Confessions". The transfer is very good indeed but can't overcome the deficiencies in the film itself. "Harry Kellerman" isn't a bad film and it does provide the joy of seeing another fine performance by young Dustin Hoffman. But it is a movie that falls far short of its aspirations and at times comes across as merely pretentious.
The BBC Concert Orchestra will provide live musical accompaniment of John Williams' legendary score for "Jaws". The screening takes place at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 21 October. Click here for info.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVE
(Cinema Retro joins other retro movie lovers in mourning the recent passing of Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. This is Lee Pfeiffer's interview with Osborne that originally ran in 2008)
Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer chatted with Robert Osborne, the popular host of TCM's movie broadcasts. Osborne, who is also the official Oscar historian, is well known for his informative introductions and epilogues for the films that TCM broadcasts. Director Sidney Lumet once said that even if he doesn't desire to see certain films, he always tries to tune in for Osborne's introductions. Osborne is as affable offscreen as he is on the air. Witty, knowledgable and conversant in all things Hollywood-related, he has many of the attributes he ascribes to the stars he grew up idolizing. In addition to being a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, Osborne is by all accounts America's premiere film historian.
CR: You seem to have every movie lover's dream job: to get paid to watch and analyze classic movies. How did this come about and what led to your association with the Academy?
RO: When I was first starting out as an actor, I was under contract to Lucille Ball at Desilu Studios, which was owned by Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Lucy knew I had this passion for movie history which at that time was not a normal thing. Most people weren't interested in movie history. She said, "You know, you would have a happier life as a writer than as an actor. You should be writing about movies, because nobody is." She told me that she thought being an actor would never make me happy, but writing would. She knew I was a journalism major at the University of Washington. She told me that if I took up writing as a profession, the first thing I had to do was write a book because people would look at you differently if I did. She told me it didn't even have to be a good book, but that everyone is impressed with anyone who writes a book because most people lack the discipline to do it. I knew she was telling me this for my own good, not some other agenda, so I quit being an actor and became a writer.
The thing I decided to write about was the Academy Awards because you could always find a list of who won Oscars, but you could never find a list of who was nominated. It was even hard to get one from the Academy because that was a very small organization at the time. So I wrote this book and it hit a chord with people because you couldn't get a book about the Oscars anywhere else. The cult success of that book has followed me around ever since. Years later, when they decided they wanted a history done of the Academy, they asked me to write it. (The latest edition of the book is titled 75 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards-Ed.)
The New York Times has a rare interview with Japanese actress Mie Hama, one of the few female sex symbols of 1960s cinema to break through to international audiences thanks to her appearance opposite Sean Connery in the 1967 007 classic "You Only Live Twice". Like many actresses who found cult status through the Bond films, Hama wore the mantle of fame somewhat uneasily and retired from acting at an early age to lead a more conventional life. She is still well-known in Japan thanks to the many dozens of films she had appeared in but today she is also known as a popular advocate for self-help theories. Click here to read.
a film festival in the mid-seventies, Sam Peckinpah was once questioned about
how the studios regularly bastardised his vision, his intension and more
specifically, if he would ever be able to make a ''pure Peckinpah'' picture. He
replied, '’I did 'Alfredo Garcia' and I did it exactly the way I wanted to.
Good or bad, like it or not, that was my film.''
narrative for Alfredo Garcia is neither complicated nor convoluted. Warren
Oates plays Bennie, a simple pianist residing in a squalid barroom in Mexico.
He is approached by two no-nonsense Americans (Robert Webber and Gig Young) who
are attempting to track down Alfredo Garcia. The womanising Garcia is the man
responsible for the pregnancy of Theresa (Janine Maldonado) the teenage
daughter of a powerful Mexican boss El Jefe (Emilio Fernández). In a display of
power, El Jefe offers $1,000,000 for the delivery of Garcia’s head. Bennie is
unaware of the true bounty, but fully aware that his girlfriend, local prostitute
Elita (Isela Vega) was once involved with Garcia. More importantly, Bennie also
knows that Garcia is in fact, already dead. Bennie recognises this as a way
out, a one off payday opportunity and convinces Elita to take him to Garcia’s
burial place. His plan is to dig up the body, cut off the head and collect on
his fee, an agreed $10,000. Elita shows some hesitancy, and before long the
heavy drinking, paranoiac aspects of Bennie begin to suspect that Elita still
carries feelings for the dead Garcia. After an arduous and testing car journey
they both finally reach their destination, a place where their plans will take
a devastating and unsuspecting twist.
has delivered a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. The
overall image is beautifully presented and a great deal cleaner than previously
seen. Dirt, debris and all other manner of light wear have now been removed. As
Arrow points out, there are some minor instances of density fluctuation and
photochemical damage, but these really are not distracting. I noticed slight
fluctuations during the torture of Theresa, but this is arguably due to the
condition of the original film elements and to be expected. More importantly it
does not distract from the overall presentation of the film. One could even
suggest that such minor defects are perfectly suited and in line with the
gritty, sweat soaked ambience that Peckinpah arguably sought to present. The 4K
scan has been fully justified and as a result the level of detail has been
greatly improved without ever compromising or hampering the genuine celluloid
look – an element so essential to a movie such as Alfredo Garcia. Colours retain
a realistic and natural quality, almost dry and dusty as opposed to a sun
drenched and over cooked. Thankfully, Arrow has also resisted the temptation to
beef up the audio, so don’t go looking for a falsely created 5.1 mix. Alfredo Garcia was recorded in mono, so purists
will be delighted with the original 1.0 mono mix transferred from the original
35mm single stripe magnetic track. The audio elements are also clean, dynamic and
hold a consistent level of clarity throughout.
Peckinpah on the set in Mexico.
the extras on disc one are two excellent audio commentaries. The first is a new
and exclusively recorded commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema:
Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies. Prince’s narration looks
closely at Peckinpah’s philosophy and theory. It’s a commentary that also
examines the characters to some depth. It also encourages you to think and ask
questions. There are also more generalised observations from Prince involving
the story, in particular the scene with the two bikers (played by Kris Kristofferson
and Donnie Fritts). It’s a scene which has always bothered me, and serves no real
importance to the story. So it was pleasing to hear that Prince agrees, and
that it provides very little - other than slowing down the pace and the
narrative. I don’t mind either film philosophy or debate, but I occasionally
believe it sometimes has a tendency to overstretch or lose itself in some strange
form of self-consumption. Nevertheless, Prince’s commentary does keep your
attention throughout and provides plenty of food for thought.
second audio commentary is moderated by film historian Nick Redman and features
Sam Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. This
commentary first appeared on the Twilight Time Encore Edition Blu-ray and works
extremely well. The advantage of course, is that it provides various different
perspectives and viewpoints. For instance, on this occasion, the same Kristofferson
and Fritts biker scene results in a clear difference of opinion. We, the viewer
are offered a perfectly logical and justified reasoning for this scene, in that
Bennie is provided with the opportunity ‘walk the walk’ rather than just ‘talk
the talk’. The implication of the scene, along with a contrasting perspective
of its inclusion, suddenly offers something new to digest and signifies perhaps
a different level to Bennie’s character. Seydor, Simmons and Weddle are not
afraid of arguing their opinions, but also retain a clear respect for each
other’s knowledge and understanding. It’s a perfect ensemble of experts, each
of whom is clearly on top of their subject.
Peckinpah: Man of Iron is Paul Joyce’s feature-length (93minutes) 1993
documentary featuring interviews with James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Monte
Hellman, Ali MacGraw, Jason Robards and many others. Its inclusion on Arrow’s
special edition marks the first time it is available on home video in the UK.
The documentary was released prior on Criterion’s Straw Dogs (1971) DVD release
but omitted some film clips due to copyright and reduced the running time by
some 10 minutes. Man of Iron is a very personal and enjoyable reflection of the
man and told by the people that knew him best. It is a brutally honest account
which shows Peckinpah, not only for his craftsmanship, but also for his flaws,
for which there were many. As gifted as Peckinpah was, there are also accounts
of his cruelty, manipulation and his complexity. His demise into alcohol and
later his cocaine use is arguably pitiful and reflected to some degree in his
later films. Regardless of this, he remained loved by his friends, many of
which returned to work with him over and over again. Whilst Man of Iron
celebrates the man and his work, it never attempts to paper over the cracks or
his personal frailties. It provides a well-balanced account and as a result,
makes for fascinating viewing.
up is The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, an audio only recording of the
director’s on-stage appearance at the National Film Theatre in London (47 minutes).
Whilst there is no indication, this recording possibly dates from around 1971.
Peckinpah does make a reference to his next film to be released, The Ballad of
Cable Hogue (1970) and because he is in the UK at this time may be an
indication that he was in pre-production stages for his next film Straw Dogs
(1971) which was shot in Cornwall. Peckinpah does sound a little uncomfortable in
front of an audience and not entirely at ease. There is almost a sense of
comfort knowing that his friend Warren Oates is sitting among the audience and
on several occasions Peckinpah tries to draw him actively into the
conversation. When questioned about certain aspects of his work, Peckinpah does
at times seem a little reluctant to answer and the sighs picked up by his
microphone appear to back this up. However, Peckinpah does reveal a great deal
of insightful information, as well as taking the opportunity in criticising the
film establishment, such as the censors and producers and in the way they have
handled his work. Historically, it is an important piece to include; my only minor
gripe is when it comes to the audience questions, which are at times close to
inaudible. As the audio interview is carried out over a still image of
Peckinpah, it might have been an idea to overlay some text in reference to the
actual audience questions. In doing so it would have made it a great deal
easier to decipher exactly what Peckinpah was referring to in his answers.
NoHo 7 Theatre (“North Hollywood” for those not “in the know”) in Los Angeles
will be presenting a 30th anniversary screening of the uncut
director’s version of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film Robocop. The 103-minute
film, which stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood
Smith, and Miguel Ferrer, will be screened on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:30
PLEASE NOTE: At press time, Actress Nancy
Allen is scheduled to appear in person for a discussion about the film
following the screening.
the press release:
RoboCop (Director's Uncut Version)
Part of our Throwback Thursday series
in partnership with Eat|See|Hear.
As Richard Burton's star power began to decline in the early 1970s, he was chastised for appearing in too many inconsequential films and accused of simply taking any job that came along to help pay for his high-end life style. As with Marlon Brando, many of Burton's films that were initially despised by critics and ignored by the public have gained new appreciation in recent years. One such effort was Villain, a brutal British crime drama produced by Elliott Kastner, directed by the unheralded Michael Tucher and boasting script contributions than none other than character actor Al Lettieri, who made a career of playing gangsters. Clearly inspired by the reign of terror presided over by London's notorious Kray clan, the story finds Burton as Vic Dakin, an outwardly charismatic and charming man who also happens to be one of the city's most notorious crime lords. Vic is no white collar criminal. He still lives among the people he terrorizes and is a mainstay at the local pub. Vic dotes on his aging mother (Cathleen Nesbitt) and keeps his army of confederates in line through the threat of strict punishment for any violation of trust. Vic's ambitions get the better of him when he strays from neighborhood crime and plans an ambitious heist with a reluctant fellow crime lord. The plan goes horribly awry, leading Vic to fear that he will be sold out by his co-conspirator, who is severely wounded and in police custody. He becomes obsessed with gaining access to the man and silencing him before he can talk. Doggedly following his every move is a police inspector (well-played by Nigel Davenport), who engages in a game of psychological cat-and-mouse with Vic in his quest to bring the vicious criminal to justice.
Villain was denounced by British critics and movie fans at the time because of what was perceived as Burton's ill-fated attempt to master a Cockney accent. However, other aspects of his performance are admirable. Burton pretty much controls his penchant for scenery-chewing and offers a fairly restrained portrayal of a sadistic man who is nonetheless slow to reach his boiling point. Vic can be sensitive, funny and ingratiating..but when driven to anger, capable of administering much brutality himself. He also hides the fact that he is gay and his preferred sex partner is Wolfie (excellently played by Ian McShane), a good looking ladies man who one suspects is only bedding Vic out of fear of rejecting his overtures. (A sex scene between Burton and McShane was filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor.) The homosexual angle is only hinted at in the final cut of the film, but Burton had gone a bridge too far in this regard, at least as far as critics were concerned. Two years before, he had played a prissy gay man opposite Rex Harrison (as his lover) in Stanley Donen's Staircase, another fine film that was under-appreciated in its day. Burton's bold career moves would be praised today but met with scorn at the time. His face weather-beaten from years of personal excess, Burton was actually entering an interesting period of his career that saw him able to expand beyond playing hunky heart throbs. Villain affords him an interesting starring vehicle that is now being favorably compared to other classic British crime films such as Get Carter, a movie that was released the same year and also met with a mediocre response until a new generation discovered its merits. Perhaps the same will hold true for this film, which boasts an excellent supporting cast, fine direction and a literate, believable script.
The Warner Archive has released Villain as a burn-to-order DVD. Quality is fine, but sadly there are no extras.
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