1960s murder thrillers with Joan Crawford have been released by Mill Creek
Entertainment on single-disc Blu-ray.The cover sleeve bills the package as a “Psycho Biddy Double
Feature.”The films are “Strait-Jacket”
(1964), the first of Crawford’s three pictures with producer-director William
Castle, and “Berserk!” (1967), her first of two with producer Herman
Cohen.In using the possibly ageist and
definitely sexist phrase “Psycho Biddy,” Mill Creek’s marketing department
clearly hopes that audiences will have fond memories of the frenzied, middle-aged
Joan Crawford in 1981’s “Mommie Dearest,” shrieking “I told you!No . . . wire . . . hangers -- ever!” at her
terrified adopted child, Christina.Never mind that the belittling term “biddy” is problematic in the case
of Joan Crawford.There may be plenty of
biddies in the world, but the imperious Joan was never one of them.Never mind either that it was Faye Dunaway
impersonating Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest,” not Crawford herself.For most casual movie fans, the distinctions
are not likely to matter.
“Strait-Jacket,” scripted by Robert Bloch, prosperous farm owner Lucy Harbin
(Crawford) returns unexpectedly from a trip to find her younger husband (Lee
Majors -- his first film role) in bed with another woman.Enraged, Lucy seizes an ax and butchers the
pair as her young daughter Carol watches.Released from a mental institution twenty years later, Lucy is welcomed
home by her brother Bill and her sister-in-law Emily (Leif Erickson and
Rochelle Hudson), who have reared Carol in the meantime.Carol (Diane Baker) encourages her mother to
ease back into a normal routine by looking and dressing as she had, two decades
before.The gray-haired Lucy dons a
black, ‘40s-style wig and trades in her dowdy outfit for a tight dress.The tactic goes awry when Lucy, drinking too
much out of nervousness and getting tipsy, puts a move on Carol’s uptight
boyfriend Michael.More stresses
mount.Lucy hears things, sees things,
and dreads meeting Michael’s even stuffier parents, who are unaware of her
history.As they skip rope outside a
store where Lucy is shopping, two little girls appear to be chanting, “Lucy
Harbin took an ax . . .”Bill’s creepy,
disheveled hired hand, Leo (George Kennedy, almost unrecognizable at first
glance), asks if she wants to use his ax to chop the head off a chicken.Lucy’s therapist drops in for a visit and
observing how tense she is, gravely suggests that she’s at risk of a
relapse.Then one murder occurs,
followed by a second, and evidence points to Lucy.
the headlong pace and gruesome CGI of modern slasher movies, even older viewers
are likely to find “Strait-Jacket” quaint at best.A similar production today would probably
wind up as a made-for-cable, “my mom is a murderer” melodrama on the Lifetime
Movie Network.The film’s pacing is
deliberate, and the carnage is low-tech and mostly implied, despite the old
lobby poster’s promise in grand William Castle style that “Strait-Jacket
vividly depicts ax murders!”Although
the restrictions on movie violence had relaxed a little by 1964, and a
melodrama filmed in black-and-white like “Strait-Jacket” might tease the MPAA
standards on mayhem with slightly more success than one photographed in color,
studios were still careful not to push their luck too far.Of the three ax attacks in the film, only one
explicitly shows grievous bodily harm.Even so, with quick editing and minimal gore, the effect is more
impressionistic than realistic.These
days, grislier special effects routinely appear on prime-time TV crime shows.
FilmStruck, the streaming service that provided classic movies from the vaults of Warner Bros, the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies, will be shut down to subscribers on November 29, 2018. The corporations that owned the service cited the fact that it hadn't progressed from appealing to a "niche" market. Sadly, this is the case in today's entertainment industry. If every production or venture isn't an immediate blockbuster, there is little appetite to nurture the product in hopes of growing the audience. That's how it has come about that a film can literally gross over a billion dollars and still be considered a disappointment. Alex Cranz bemoans the loss of FilmStruck in an article on the Gizmodo web site. Click here to read.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
foundation established by legendary special effects visionary Ray Harryhausen
is pleased to announce a joint effort with Morningside Productions, the company
of late film producer Charles Schneer.Discovery of new materials in the vast archives of the Ray and Diana
Harryhausen Foundation will be the basis of a spectacularly new and original
theatrical motion picture in the style of such Harryhausen/Schneer classics
such as Clash of the Titans, the duo's most significant box office
collaboration from 1981.
project, tentatively entitled Force of the Trojans, is based on a screenplay by
Beverley Cross, and original production art and sculptures conceived by Ray
Harryhausen that are on par with some of his most iconic screen creatures.
of the Trojans will embody the spirit of the original Harryhausen films with
all the fun, vibrant action, epic scope and dedication to craftsmanship that
has made Ray Harryhausen's films timeless.
other revisits to the fantasy adventure genre, Force of the Trojans will bring
together stop-motion animation with the photo-real world of CGI, marking the
first time that a monster battle will mix both techniques on screen in a major
motion picture.In homage to a bygone
era, this film will bring both worlds crashing together.For the first time, we can put on screen
sequences that were not possible for Ray due to the limitations of special
effects photography at the time.
Harryhausen Foundation oversees and curates a vast creative archive of 60
years’ worth of artefacts in its 50,000-strong collection from the father of
animated special effects, making this the most complete and comprehensive
fantasy cinema and animation collection anywhere in the world.We are excited and challenged to have
unearthed this lost gem and a look forward to creating a film that will delight
both the fans of Ray Harryhausen and moviegoers everywhere.
Trustee, filmmaker and friend of Ray Harryhausen
Harryhausen 1920 - 2013
Harryhausen was a young puppeteer and animator heavily influenced by King Kong
in 1933 and then went on to work as apprentice animator with Kong animator
Willis O’Brien on Mighty Joe Young.Ray
went on to have a spectacular career establishing himself as the most
influential animators and special effects wizards in film history. From Jason
and the Argonauts, the 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans his imagery
and iconic creations are known the world over. His sixteen feature films
represent the most influential fantasy and science fiction cinema of the
Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars."
set up the Foundation in the, and he intended that future generations should
enjoy his work but also learn about the craft of filmmaking. I am delighted
that audiences want to visit the artefacts on display. We have over 50,000
items in the collection making it the largest of its kind outside of the Disney
Walsh is an award-winning film maker and trustee of the Harryhausen Foundation.
In 2019 his new book Harryhausen: The Lost Films is published by Titan Books.
If you were a boy growing up in the mid-1960s, chances are you had the Man From U.N.C.L.E Thrushbuster Corgi car. Not only did it come in cool packaging that included a display stand with photos of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but you also got a plastic ring with their photos on it. The ring would "flicker" and alternate the image of each actor. The well-made car was also pretty groovy- you pressed a button on top and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin would alternately shoot out of the side windows. (The add says there were sound effects for the gun shots but we don't recall this being the case). Most of the cars were painted blue but there were a small number of them available in white paint. These can now command hundreds of dollars on the collector's circuit. Here is an original ad for the car from the Moonbase Central web site.
at London’s Bond in Motion exhibit could be forgiven for wondering about the
steady stream of distinguished-looking people heading through the vehicle
displays towards a private area – but they were witnessing a bit of James Bond
history in the making. On on Thursday, October 11th, the Ian Fleming
Foundation, EON Productions, IFF founder Doug Redenius and this writer hosted a
remarkable book signing for Charles “Jerry” Juroe, the executive who ran
publicity on 14 Bond movies, from Dr. No
right up to the dawn of the Pierce Brosnan era. His memoir, Bond, The Beatles and My Year with Marilyn is just out from McFarland
Press.(Shameless Plug:Doug and I “line produced” it and the book is
a fascinating read, not just for Bond fans but for anyone interested in movie
history.)For 50 years, Jerry knew, worked
with or encountered “Anyone who was anyone”. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig,
Mary Pickford to John Wayne, William Holden, Alfred Hitchcock and, yes, the Fab
Four.Jerry even crossed paths with the
legendary Howard Hughes.Bond was only
part of Juroe’s remarkable career – he served as Marilyn Monroe’s publicist
(not an easy gig!) when she was making The
Prince And the Showgirlwith
Laurence Olivier in England. Jerry was an executive at United Artists, Paramount
and other major studios. Movies aside, Jerry is also a World War II veteran who
took part in one of the most significant military actions in modern history –
the D Day Invasion.
Credit: Danny Gibbons.
event’s guest list included many prominent alumni from the Bond series – director John Glen, line
producer Anthony Waye, Oscar-winning production designer Peter Lamont, talent such as
Carole Ashby, Valerie Leon, Jenny Hanley, Margaret Nolan, Caron Gardner,
Sylvana Henriques and Terry Mountain, Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah, Harry
Saltzman’s son Steven, former EON marketing executives Anne Bennett and John
Parkinson, along with a number of staff members from EON, who graciously
provided all manner of support for the event.(The signing was preceded by a private lunch for Jerry arranged and
attended by Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson) American actor
Billy Zane was on hand – meeting up with Peter Lamont who created the stunning
sets for the “little” film they made together in 1997, Titanic.The Bond community
was well represented with Cinema Retro’s Dave Worrall, From Sweden with Love’s
Anders Frejdh, Some Kind of Hero authors
Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Field, Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan
author Mark O’Connell and French Bond Club co-founder and Bond historian,
Laurent Perriot in the crowd.Designer
Mark Witherspoon was a photographer.
Above: Actor Billy Zane and director John Glen.Credit: Mark Cerulli.
and I each made a brief address – reading well wishes from the likes of Pierce
Brosnan and top Hollywood publicist Dick Guttman (a protégé of Jerry’s) then
turned the floor over to the Man himself.Jerry, long famous in the industry for his tough exterior, was visibly
moved.He thanked everyone for coming
and simply wished them “My longevity” (he’s 95) which got a big round of
applause.Many hadn’t seen Jerry – or
each other – in decades so as the old saying goes, “There was a lot of love in the room”. One thinks that actors and filmmakers hang out
with each other constantly, but in reality they do a film then it’s on to the
next project and they may never work with the same people again.Since working on a Bond film is arguably a
highlight of any career, these few hours in each other’s company were priceless-
an All Time High, for real.It was a privilege to be there.
(Photos copyright Mark Cerulli. All rights reserved.)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING ACTOR CHRISTOPH WALTZ ANNOUNCED AS A SPECIAL GUEST AT THE
2018 VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIALS ALSO ANNOUNCE HIGH PROFILE ADDITIONS TO 2018 PROGRAM INCLUDING BARRY
JENKINS’ IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK AND JULIAN SCHNABEL’S AT ETERNITY’S GATE
Also Include Sundance Award-Winning Documentary Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.
VA – OCTOBER 10, 2018– Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz
will be a special guest at the upcoming 2018 Virginia Film Festival, VAFF
officials announced today. The Festival also announced program additions
including Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins’ latest film, If Beale
Street Could Talk, and Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, which stars Willem
Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh. The Virginia Film Festival is a program of the University
of Virginia and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts. The
2018 Festival will take place from November 1-4 in Charlottesville and will
include more than 150 films and over 100 industry guests from around the world.
also announced today the addition of the Sundance Award-winning documentary
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. that charts the unlikely rise of a London Sri Lankan
immigrant through the ranks of the music industry to become one of the most
fascinating and controversial artists today.
thrilled to announce that Christoph Waltz will be joining us for the 2018
Virginia Film Festival,” said Jody Kielbasa, director of the VAFF and vice
provost for the arts at UVA. “Our audiences will not only have the chance to
hear from someone who is clearly one of the leading actors working today, but
also one who is at the very top of his game, and whose star is still on the
rise. He is truly one of the most interesting and talented actors of his time,
and brings a sense of originality to every role that makes it nearly impossible
to imagine anyone else in it.”
appear with Academy Award-winning producer and VAFF advisory board chair Mark
Johnson for “A Tribute to Christoph Waltz” on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at
1:00 PM at The Paramount Theater. The pair worked together previously on
Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, which opened last year’s Virginia Film Festival.
The event will combine the onstage interview with clips of key scenes from
the newly-announced screenings and tribute event will go on sale on Friday,
October 12 at noon online at virginiafilmfestival.org; in-person at the UVA
Arts Box Office in the lobby of the UVA Drama Building, open M-F from noon to
5:00 PM; and by phone at 434-924-3376. Beginning October 24, Festival tickets
will also be available at the Downtown Box Office in the lobby of Violet Crown
on the Downtown Mall.
Tiffany has always been a magnet for fans who emulate Audrey Hepburn's iconic appearance in the film.
(Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved.)
There are legions of retro movie lovers around the world who hold the 1961 film version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" close to their hearts. Now the iconic New York landmark- the symbol of unabashed self-indulgence- is making it possible to follow in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly. Tiffany has opened an on-premises upscale restaurant that movie fans have been flocking to in order to live out a cinematic fantasy and enjoy a sumptuous meal in dazzling surroundings. White-gloved waiters serve the fare on the finest crockery amidst tables populated by diners who are dressed to the nines (and sometimes adorned as Holly). Washington Post writer Megan McDonough recently decided to experience the real breakfast at Tiffany's. Click here to read.
The Robb Report focuses on nine airplanes that were associated with famous films or stars and what has become of them over the decades. From a personal jet owned by Elvis Presley to a Spitfire from "Battle of Britain" to James Bond's microjet to a biplane that flew Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, the stories behind these unusual aircraft make for good reading. Click here to read.
movie censorship relaxed in the early 1970s, Mel Welles’ horror film “Lady
Frankenstein” added sex and nudity to the familiar Frankenstein formula of the
single-minded and arguably demented scientist who creates a monster and lives
to regret it.In the 1971 production,
now available in a handsome, fully loaded Blu-ray edition from Nucleus Films
encoded for Region B, Dr. Tanya Frankenstein (Rosalba Neri) returns home to the
family estate after completing medical school.Having inherited the family obsession, she is determined to help her
father (Joseph Cotten) realize his long-frustrated ambition of creating human
life in his laboratory.When Baron
Frankenstein and his associate Dr. Marshall (Paul Muller) balk at including the
refined young woman in their gory experiments, she fiercely overrides their
objections:“Stop treating me like a
child!I’m a doctor and a surgeon.”Frankenstein and Marshall successfully
reanimate a creature that they’ve stitched together from plundered cadavers,
but events take a turn for the worse, and soon a suspicious police officer,
Inspector Harris (Mickey Hargitay), begins nosing around the Frankenstein
Frankenstein” was filmed in Italy and independently marketed in Europe, where
Rosalba Neri, Mickey Hargitay, and Paul Muller were popular actors in genre
movies.In the U.S., it was distributed
by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.Inexplicably, New World billed Rosalba Neri as “Sara Bay” in the
American credits and promotional materials, and depicted the exotically
beautiful brunette actress as a blonde in the poster art.Like many other exploitation films from the
same period, notably New World’s own series of Women-in-Prison productions like
“The Big Bird Cage,” it professes to have a feminist message while at the same
time including a fair amount of female nudity to meet the expectations of the
grindhouse audiences to which it was pitched, here and abroad.
feminist aspect is clear when Tanya discusses the resistance she faced in the
conservative halls of higher learning.“Was it difficult, very difficult, being my daughter?” her father asks sympathetically.“Sometimes,” Tanya responds, “but mainly
because I was a woman.The professors
still have a lot of old-fashioned ideas about a woman’s place.”In the wake of recent news events, many of us
will sympathize with Tanya’s dilemma and reflect that things haven’t changed a
lot in the male-dominated corridors of power, either in the two hundred years
since the early-1800s setting of “Lady Frankenstein,” or indeed in the
forty-seven years since the film was made.
as the story progresses and Tanya takes center stage, she begins to employ sex,
seduction, and murder to achieve her ends.You may start to wonder:do her
ruthless and increasingly cruel methods invalidate the movie’s claim to advance
a feminist theme . . . or underscore it?When one character is murdered in cold blood at her suggestion while she
has sex with him to distract his attention, does the film idealize -- or
objectify -- Rosalba Neri’s bare breasts and ecstatic facial expressions?When the infatuated, middle-aged Marshall
professes his love for her, does Tanya practice gender bias in reverse by
suggesting that she respects his intellect, but she’d respect it more if
Marshall were also young and handsome? The answers, I suppose, depend on your
interpretation of female empowerment.
Photos all copyright 2018 by Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.
BY MARK MAWSTON
Three days before the
launch of the new Halloween film and
40 years since the original was released, Cinema Retro’s Mark Mawston was
invited to photograph the London leg of the new tour by the original films
director John Carpenter. As with his concert
here two years ago, John’s set was littered with some of his finest moments;
themes that have transcended their mere film score monikers to become rock music
synth classics in their own right. Tunes such as The Fog, accompanied as it was by dry ice and clips from the film itself,
projected onto screens around the stage, were nirvana for those many fans gathered
to witnesses the maverick director’s other great contribution to cinema: his music,
played live on stage.
Film critic Ann Thompson worked on early John Carpenter movies as a press agent, including the original 1978 horror classic "Halloween", which is being reissued to theaters. Thompson recently reunited with the director and actress to reminisce about the making of "Halloween", which was made for a relatively small budget and became a boxoffice blockbuster. Carpenter also discusses how his superb remake of "The Thing" made him cynical about working with major studios after it under-performed at the boxoffice- a fate that was blamed on his ambiguous ending to the movie. Click here to read.
John Carpenter's 1980 horror film "The Fog" has undergone a new 4K
restoration by Studiocanal and will be released to 50 American theaters
on October 26, presented by Rialto Pictures. The restoration finally
allows the movie to be seen as Carpenter envisioned it. Over the
decades, the movie was largely out of circulation due to the fact that
the prints had been allowed to deteriorate. A new trailer and theatrical
poster has been created for the presentations.
New original poster art by Matt Ferguson.
For a list of theaters presenting "The Fog" click here.
Shampoo (1975) is a movie
that can leave a viewer unsure as to what they just watched.Was it merely a vanity project for
Producer/Co-Screenwriter/lead actor Warren Beatty, who plays a babe magnet L.A.
hairdresser who juggles his three main girlfriends while haplessly attempting
to go into business for himself? Beatty portrays George Roundy, a flashy
dressing, motorcycle riding lothario who deftly manipulates the hearts and
sexual appetites of the beautiful women who constantly want to throw themselves
at him and his hair dryer. Or is it a
social satire, a la The Graduate,
that exposes the flaws in American life by showing us the sexual/romantic
dysfunction in the homes of the upper crust? One of Beatty’s character’s love
interests is the wife (Lee Grant) of the business tycoon (Jack Warden) he hopes
will finance his would-be new spa. Is it
a screwball sex comedy that aims for occasional emotional profundity? The
second of the hairstylist’s two lady friends is the tycoon’s mistress (Julie
Christie), and the third is that woman’s close friend (Goldie Hawn). Or is the
movie primarily a commentary on the American political climate of the late
1960s, and its damaging impact on the citizenry? The story takes place over one
24-hour span, that happens to be the day Richard Nixon won the 1968
answer is that Shampoo is a little of
each of those things. Which leads to the question of whether it was successful
in developing any or all of its themes. The feature’s overall quality has been
a debatable point over the decades. Roger Ebert felt it came up short,
summarizing that it “wasn’t confident enough to pull off its ambitious
conception,” “wasn’t as funny as it could have been in the funny places,” and
“it’s not as poignant as it could be in its moments of truth.” In the pages of The New York Times, meanwhile, critic Nora
Sayre positively savaged the movie, charging that it ultimately sank into “a
slough of sentimentality” while also calling it pretentious and dumb. Other
reviews have been kinder. It’s been called “a sharp satire” by Time Out, and
“one of the last true moments of personal expression in American cinema” by Elaine
Lennon in Senses of Cinema, etc.
can be hard to know what we’re supposed to make of the main characters. Roundy
is shown to be a user, and his three girlfriends, while likeable-enough people,
are hardly role models feminists of the day could have seen as on-screen
heroes. So are we supposed to find all of them laughably shallow people, tragic
figures victimized by their own egos and emotional needs, or are they simply
authentic representations of a womanizing hairstylist and the kinds of people
with whom he would be likely to consort? Director Hal Ashby, who struggled
while working alongside the overbearing Beatty in Beatty’s
open-to-interpretation role as Creative Producer, seems to have felt distantly
sympathetic to the characters. Ashby said of them, “They’re not people I spend
time with, but they’re people I’ve looked at and felt sorry for. So I spent a
lot of time being very kind to those people. The other way’s easy. To make fun
of people is easy. Life isn’t that easy.”
else with which Ashby had to tangle during the making of Shampoo was the often volatile artistic relationship between Beatty
and Co-Screenwriter Robert Towne. Beatty and Towne were engaged in a creative
power battle over the film’s content starting back from when it was only an
idea being bounced around between the two of them. Once Ashby was brought in,
he found himself often acting as referee between those two. Towne was actively
involved on the set, to the point where Goldie Hawn came to feel like she was
working under three different directors. Despite this circus atmosphere,
though, and despite Ebert’s and Sayre’s critiques, and despite what some see as
its foggy intentions, Shampoo took in
a slew of nominations at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Lee Grant won
the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
The times they were a-changin’ in the
1960s. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho did not feature a foreign monster (no
Dracula vampire with an Eastern European accent or Cold War alien creatures or
Japanese Godzilla.) The audience follows the main character (played by Janet
Leigh) to an American motel where the caretaker Norman Bates appears to be a
mild-mannered young man. Then he stabs the main character to death in a shower.
The camera slowly zooms out of the eye of the beautiful young woman’s corpse.
Norman Bates was inspired by the real-life serial killer Ed Gein, who committed
two ghastly and grisly crimes in Wisconsin in the 1950s. The assassination of
President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 traumatized the nation and the
race riots in 1964 and 1965 showed a conflict and crisis in American society
that could no longer be ignored. After midnight, on August 1, 1966 in Austin,, twenty-five
year old Charles Whitman stabbed his mother and wife and then shortly before
high noon he climbed the stairs of the clock tower at the University of Texas
campus and murdered multiple victims by firing at them with his sniper rifle
until he was shot by police officers.
Twenty-eight year old Peter Bogdanovich
had been obsessed with cinema his entire life. He wrote film criticism for
various magazines and had also been a movie programmer at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York City. He had left NYC for L.A. because he no longer wanted to
only write about films. He wanted to be a director. Yet it was his writing that
gave him his first directing job. Roger Corman had read an article Peter
Bogdanovich had written for Esquire, and the two of them discussed
filmmaking when they met at a screening. Corman gave Bogdanovich complete
creative control over his directorial debut, with one exception. He had to use
the actor Boris Karloff and footage from the film The Terror.
Bogdanovich had been deeply disturbed by Charles Whitman’s mass shooting and
felt compelled to write a screenplay based on the event. How would he
incorporate Boris Karloff into this story? Karloff had been the iconic face of
horror in Hollywood history. His foreign facial features and voice had
frightened American audiences. The 1930s - 1950s was an era when America’s
deepest fears were of foreign enemies. The 1960s altered audiences’ views. Lee
Harvey Oswald was American. Charles Whitman was American. The enemy was no
longer foreign. The enemy was within American society.
Bogdanovich named his directorial debut
with the stark title Targets. He co-wrote the screenplay with his wife
Polly Platt. He was against his directorial debut being released by American
International Pictures. Bogdanovich wanted it to be distributed by a company
with historical significance. He sold the movie to Paramount. They had Boris
Karloff for five days and a shooting schedule of twenty-three days. They juxtaposed
two plotlines. In the first plotline, Boris Karloff plays Byron Orlok (a nod to
Nosferatu), an aging horror movie star who wants to retire, which
outrages the company who want him to make more films. Karloff was seventy-nine
years old when production on Targets started in 1967. He felt
rejuvenated by the opportunity to play a character that was a deviation from his
usual appearances in the horror genre. This was a character that had nuances
and was realistic. Karloff’s performance is wistful and wry, which fits his
character who is reflecting on the course of his career. Bogdanovich’s
performance is appropriately anxious and nervous as he plays himself, a cinephile
who has suddenly been thrown into the management position of his first major
motion picture. Bogdanovich plays (Sammy Michaels), a young director who is
both optimistic about Orlok (he believes the script he has written will be
Orlok’s best and most complex character) and skeptical about the state of the
movie business (“All the good movies have been made.”) Bogdanovich had a high
opinion of Karloff and was nostalgic for Old Hollywood. This becomes clear in
several scenes. Karloff and Bogdanovich watch a sinister scene together from The
Criminal Code and Bogdanovich praises his performance. Bogdanovich and the
hippie radio DJs (whom he satirizes as absolutely absurd in their lack of
serious questions for Karloff) gather around and listen to Karloff’s hypnotic, mesmerizing
voice as he recites the ancient fable of the Appointment in Samarra which symbolizes the inescapability of
death. This fable doubles as an epitaph for Karloff’s career (Targets was
his last major role in an American film) and as a commentary on the mass
shootings in American society. Bogdanovich also uses dialogue he wrote for
Karloff as a commentary on the changing attitude to the horror genre (“You know
what they call my films today? Camp! High camp!”) and on Bogdanovich’s own
perspective of Hollywood and L.A. in the 1960s (“what an ugly town this has
people represent their countries. In
music it seems, Elvis Presley was and is still, now more than ever, everything America represents. He optimized the
‘American Dream’ but the tale of the man who changed not only music but culture
forever, plays out more like a Greek tragedy than an American classic.
been many great documentaries on Elvis but few have matched the scope of “The King” mainly because its tapestry onto
which Elvis was sewn is America itself. Both follow similar paths.
moment when Ethan Hawke, one of the many key figures in this film says “when my
grandfather was alive, America’s greatest export was agriculture. By the time
my father grew up it was entertainment”. This one line sums up the entire
film. Elvis, like America, started off with humble beginnings and worked hard
to reap the harvest that the dry soils and endless toil could produce. When the Presleys lived in Tupelo
they didn’t have a cent to pay their bills and Elvis’s father was incarcerated
for changing the value of a check in the hope of buying a few weeks extra food. The analogy
of Elvis’s life and America’s own growth in the boom during the post-WW2 world
go hand in hand; from the lean to the bloated. Elvis grew up in Memphis, a
cultural melting pot and there is good reason to say that if the Presleys
hadn’t moved here, then the world would never have heard of Elvis and Rock ‘n
Roll as we know it would never have happened. When record mogul Sam Phillips
said “If I had a white boy that sounded black I could make a million dollars”
he wasn’t white-washing music as some people allude to here. What he was hoping
for was that he could find a singer who could break down barriers and introduce
the world to a new sound, based on old Delta blues, the definitive American musical heritage. In Elvis, Phillips found
the perfect mix of beauty and danger, sweat and cologne and more importantly,
black and white. The stars and indeed, the stripes, were aligned right
there in the tiny Sun studio in Memphis with Elvis simply tearing up the rule
book and playing the music he and Sam loved and admired. It changed music
another key figure in the documentary does his usual “Elvis stole from the
black artists” monologue but did he really? Did he not merely celebrate it and
introduce it to others as anyone wants to do when they fall in love with
something or someone? Would the world have even heard of Little Richard or
Chuck Berry or Fats Domino, great artists in their own right, if Elvis hadn’t
kicked down the doors that taste and indeed racial boundaries had kept
segregated up to that point? Elvis took the choice
to spend his childhood in Gospel churches and his teens in predominately black
areas such as Beale Street where BB King played. Thus, I find Chuck D’s diatribe
all a bit tiresome these days and think that he will be more famous for his
line “Elvis was a hero for some but meant shit to me” from Fight The Power rather than any of his other contributions to
music. If only James Brown or Jackie Wilson, who were there first hand and knew
Elvis, were still around to clarify it all. However, it’s the link between
Memphis and Elvis that again sums up the analogy that Presley was the spark
that lit the fuse, the plunger to the dynamite that enabled the great Memphis music
explosion that followed, both culturally and racially. Memphis was, like the
country itself, a place of extremes. Not only is it the birthplace of Sun and
Stax Records, two of the studios that made some of the greatest music the world
has ever heard, it was also the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the
shining light who broke down political racial barriers in the way Elvis had
done musically, was assassinated. Memphis is America in a nutshell and when
Memphis burned in the riots of the 1960’s, both Sun & Stax were left
standing. There may have been war on the streets but the places where entertainment
emanated from still stood tall and unscathed, their neon still flickering and lighting
up the night long after the flames had turned to ash.
It is the
parallels between Elvis and America that make this such a fascinating
documentary and so it’s strange that Elvis seems to have lost himself to the
entertainment industry he optimized. He was the Dr. Frankenstein who couldn’t
control or gain the respect of the monster he’d help create. In parallel
worlds, while Elvis suffered through those ‘60’s movies, American youth
suffered to a far greater extent through Vietnam. The 1970s brought the soul-draining
Vegas years for the singer while America itself took a long hard look in the
mirror when the Watergate scandal broke. Both brought artist and country to
Movie marketing sure has changed. Studios rarely advertise films in newspapers today (assuming you can still find a newspaper today) but that medium was once the most effective method of promoting new films. Not only were traditional ads run but clever off-beat ancillary campaigns were also featured in the guise of entertainment. For example, here is a promotional campaign for the 1966 epic "Khartoum" starring Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier that was squarely aimed at kids despite the fact that the intended audience was adults. This promotional block seen above was featured in the United Artists pressbook sent to American theater owners to suggest creative local publicity campaigns.
(For extensive coverage of the making of "Khartoum", get the Cinema Retro Movie Classic Roadshow Epics of the 1960s issue by clicking here.)
Cinema Retro reader and contributor Kev Wilkinson was kind enough to provide these rare photos of the British sexploitation film The Pleasure Girls playing at London theaters in 1965. For Adrian Smith's extensive articles on the British sex film industry in the 60s and 70s, see Cinema Retro issues #23 and #24.
Turner Classic Movies (North America) will broadcast "Treasures from the Disney Vault" on October 15. Here is the official description:
Once again, we are honored
to present an assortment of classics from the Walt Disney library, with TCM
friend and Disney expert Leonard Maltin returning as host. This collection
includes the TCM premieres of three Disney features and two cartoon shorts:
The Cat from Outer Space (1978) is a sci-fi
comedy feature about an intelligent extraterrestrial cat named Jake who crash
lands his spaceship on Earth and seeks help in making repairs so he can return
to his own planet. The human actors include Ken Berry, Roddy McDowall, Sandy
Duncan, Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson.
The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (1980) is a
family-adventure film in which a plane carrying various animals is turned into
a boat after crash landing on a desert island. (A full-scale Boeing B-29 bomber
was used in the film.) This film stars notable actors Elliott Gould, Geneviève
Bujold and Ricky Schroder.
Flight of the Navigator (1986) is a sci-fi
adventure about a boy (Joey Cramer) who is abducted by a spaceship and travels
into the future. Randal Kleiser directed and the cast includes a young Sarah
The premiering cartoons in our night's lineup
focus on the Mickey Mouse family of characters. In Magician Mickey
(1937), Mickey stages a magic show despite interruptions from heckler Donald
Duck. In Pluto's Sweater (1949), Minnie Mouse knits a hideous pink
sweater for Pluto, to the amusement of the kitty Figaro.
Two features are given encore screenings in the
theme of Halloween. The classic musical fantasy Bedknobs and Broomsticks
(1971), which combines animation and live action, stars the delightful Angela
Lansbury as an apprentice witch in WWII England, who takes in three children
during the London blitz and plans to use a magic spell to help in the war
effort. The film, directed by Robert Stevenson, received four Oscar nominations
and won in the category of Best Special Visual Effects.
The Little Whirlwind (1941), an encore
cartoon, has Mickey Mouse struggling with a small tornado. This short is of
particular interest because it employs a redesigned Mickey that was employed
briefly during the World War II period. In this version, Mickey has smaller
ears, larger head and hands and buck teeth.
The sci-fi adventure The Black Hole (1979)
concerns space travelers who locate a lost spacecraft that is hovering near a
black hole and try to solve the mystery of how the ship defies the enormous
gravitational pull. An imposing cast includes Maximilian Schell, Anthony
Perkins, Ernest Borgnine and Yvette Mimieux. This film was Oscar-nominated in
the categories of Best Cinematography and Visual Effects. It was the first
"dark-themed" Disney feature and the first to be given a rating of
By the mid-to-late1970s, the legendary Henry Fonda was deemed all-but-through as a leading man. What was a screen icon to do in an industry that no longer appreciated his talents? In Fonda's case, he began farming out his services in cameo roles, often playing scientists or presidents and bringing a bit of gravitas to such decidedly underwhelming productions as "Tentacles", "City on Fire", "The Swarm", "Wanda Nevada" and "Meteor", along with the hit WWII film "Midway". Clearly, Fonda was frustrated by being relegated to cinematic window dressing, which probably explains his participation in "The Great Smokey Roadblock", which went into production in 1976 and which received a spotty release the following year. Fonda probably disapproved of the fact that the studio had changed the title from the more appropriate "The Last of the Cowboys" in order to cash in on the CB radio craze and the unexpected success of "Smokey and the Bandit". It is rather shocking to see Fonda starring in this bare bones production shot entirely in rural California. But he brings dignity to his performance as "Elegant John", a well-known aging trucker who is revered by his peers for his record of reliability. Seems he's never missed a scheduled delivery and is known as a true professional. However when an illness confines him to a hospital, John falls behind on his truck payments and the vehicle is confiscated. Facing bankruptcy and the loss of his livelihood, John steals his own big rig and immediately becomes a wanted man. Low on cash and resources, he gives a lift to a young hitchhiker, Beebo Crozier (Robert Englund), a naive and shy young man who possesses enough cash to fill up the gas tank at least once. The pair hightails it to a bordello run by John's old friend Penelope Pearson (Eileen Brennan), who presides over a group of happy young hookers. However, they have just been busted by the cops and face arraignment. They concoct a daring scheme to move their possessions into the back of the big rig and take off for South Carolina, where for some vague reason, everyone feels they can safely start a new life. (Apparently, they have never heard of extradition laws.) John states that he may be doomed but he wants to make one last, big successful run.
No corn pone trucking comedy would be complete without a buffoonish lawman and in this case he's played by the inimitable and always amusing Dub Taylor. The plot finds the group arrested by Taylor and his equally dopey deputy but they turn the tables on them by using sex as a temptation. The big rig then takes off at high speed but now inter-state warnings are out and John and the girls are becoming the stuff of popular legend. Along the way, the rag tag group attracts more lovable misfits including a down-and-out DJ played by master impressionist John Byner and a crazed hippie from New Jersey played by Austin Pendleton, who seems to be channeling the future performance of Dennis Hopper as the whacky photographer of "Apocalypse Now". Soon, the entourage of counter-culture types forms a nomadic family that is perpetually one-step ahead of their pursuers. (Picture "The Outlaw Josey Wales" with motorcycles and a big rig.) The only action set piece in the film comes during the climax when police have set up the titular roadblock that Elegant John and his followers are determined to smash through on their way to a new life. The scene itself is well staged and features the requisite amount of crushed police cars for a film of this peculiar genre.The movie borrows heavily from director Richard C. Sarafian's 1971 cult flick "Vanishing Point". Both films center on outlaws who become populist legends by avoiding capture by the police. The film even has John Byner blatantly imitate the DJ from "Vanishing Point" played by Cleavon Little by having him broadcast propaganda to the masses on behalf of the outlaws.
Kino Lorber continues its welcome habit of unearthing cinematic rarities and making them available to retro movie lovers. Case in point: "Tiger by the Tail", a long-forgotten crime thriller filmed in 1968 as an independent production but not released until 1970. The film is the epitome of a good "B" movie from the era: lean, fast-moving and efficiently made with an impressive cast. The movie is typical of low-brow fare from the 1960s. It's primary purpose was to shot quickly and turn a modest profit. Many of these films, which often played as the second feature on double bills, had the asset of affording leading roles to actors and actresses who rarely had the opportunity to get top billing. Such is the case with this film which features Christopher George in the leading role. He plays Steve Michaelis, a recently discharged U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran who is returning home to New Mexico. However, he makes a nearly fatal pit stop in Mexico and the opening scene is a bit of a shocker. He's a about to bed a local beauty when two thugs enter the room and a brutal fight ensues that he barely escapes. This seems like an irrelevant scene, given all that follows, but we find out later its pertinent to his fate. Steve arrives in New Mexico where he reunites with his older brother Frank (Dennis Patrick), who raised him after their parents died. While Steve is down-and-out and broke, Frank has prospered as the majority share holder in the local horse racing track which fuels the local economy. The two men have a frosty reunion that is strained even further when Steve discovers that his former girlfriend Rita (Tippi Hedren) is now romantically involved with Frank. Nevertheless, the two men reconcile and things appear to be heading in the right direction. However, fate takes a tragic turn when the racetrack is robbed and Frank is murdered in cold blood. This sets in motion a complicated series of events. Steve learns he will inherit his brother's share of the racetrack stock, something that doesn't sit well with Frank's partners who inform Steve they intend to use a legal loophole to pay him off at a bargain basement price and assume total control of the operation. Steve soon discovers that he may not even get that money, as it becomes apparent someone has ordered him to be killed. Worse, he is being framed for the murder of his brother. The film follows the formula of old film noir crime thrillers and that isn't a bad thing. We see him use his wits and considerable fighting ability to thwart attempts on his life as he tries to find out who is out to get him. The logical suspects are the racetrack shareholders, a group of greedy elitists who don't want to be in business with him. Red herrings abound and Steve learns he can't trust anyone including Rita who informs him she wants them to resume their relationship now that Frank is in his grave.
"Tiger by the Tail" feels and looks like a TV movie of the era and that isn't a coincidence. Director R.G. Springsteen was best known for his work in television where he excelled in directing episodes of classic western series, and his colleague on those shows, writer Charles A. Wallace wrote the screenplay for the film. (This would prove to be Springsteen's final work in the film industry before his death in 1989.) Springsteen's direction is workmanlike in some areas but more inspired in others. He milks a good deal of suspense from the plot and keeps the action moving at a brisk pace across the movie's 99 minute running time. Springsteen, perhaps because of budget limitations, shoots virtually every scene in a real location which adds authenticity to the production. The film boasts a good cast of supporting actors, all in top form: Lloyd Bochner and Alan Hale as the greedy stockholders, Dean Jagger as a Scrooge-like banker and most intriguing, John Dehner as the local sheriff (in an excellent performance) with a penchant for using twenty dollars words in his vocabulary and who, along with his hot-headed deputy (Skip Homeier) may be complicit in working with the bad guys. Steve's only friends are Sarah Harvey (Glenda Farrell), the perky owner of a gun and souvenir shop who performs ballistics tests in the shop and New Mexico State Trooper Ben Holmes (R.G. Armstrong) who offers Steve whatever limited advice and support he can. The singer Charo (yes, that Charo) is cast in a superfluous role to provide a couple of songs in a local bar and to add a bit of additional sex appeal when we aren't gawking at Tippi Hedren sunning herself poolside in a bikini. As a leading man, Christopher George is top-notch. He's handsome, rugged and capable with fists and a gun as he takes on seemingly insurmountable odds. George should have been a success on the big screen. He was coming off a run in the hit TV series "The Rat Patrol" but never quite got his opportunity to shine on the big screen. "Tiger by the Tale" represents one of his few leading roles in a feature film, though he impressed as villains in the John Wayne westerns "El Dorado" (1967) and "Chisum" (1970). He died in 1983 at only 51 years of age from heart complications.
The Kino Lorber transfer is impressive, as usual, though there are some occasional speckles and artifacts. However, it's doubtful that there are many pristine prints of the film floating around, given its lowly stature. The Blu-ray features a very good commentary track by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, both of whom show a good deal of respect for the movie and all involved in its production. They are especially kind to Tippi Hedren, pointing out that she was long underrated as an actress. (She unfairly took most of the blame for the failure of Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" in which she starred.) The release also includes a gallery of other action films and mysteries available from KL, though no trailer is included for "Tiger by the Tail". I don't want to overstate the movie's merits. It certainly isn't a lost classic but I suspect you'll find it far more impressive than you might have suspected. Recommended.
those sage words of advice, 15 year-old Fannie Belle Fleming leaves her home in
the backwoods of West Virginia in 1950 to pursue a career in show business.What happens next is not exactly what the
aspiring country singer had in mind.
(1989 Touchstone/Disney), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino-Lorber, is based
upon the true story of the vocalist- turned- stripper who changed her name to
Blaze Starr and became scandalously involved with Governor Earl Long of the
Great State of Louisiana.
played by Lolita Davidovich (Raising Cain, Leap of Faith, Cobb), is persuaded
by sleazy club owner Red Snyder (Robert Wuhl) to try stripping, which he
assures her is a form of dancing.“Trust
me,” he tells her.After a timid start,
Blaze becomes a star on the Burlesque circuit moving from New York to Baltimore
and finally landing in New Orleans in 1959.
is there in the Big Easy that Blaze encounters the colorful Earl K. Long,
portrayed in bigger than life fashion by Paul Newman.One night Earl stumbles into a Bourbon Street
establishment where he apparently knows most of the strippers on a first name
basis.Immediately taken with her beauty
and figure, Long asks if he may take Blaze to dinner.Remembering her mother’s words, a sadder- but
-wiser Blaze asks the Governor “Can I trust you?” and is quite pleased when he
answers “Hell no!”Their brief, but
passionate affair was the stuff of legend in a state not unfamiliar with
political shenanigans.While not
addressed in the film, both the Governor and Ms. Starr were married to others at
Ron Shelton’s film follows a late ‘80s trend of comedy-dramas from south of the
Mason-Dixon Line, featuring a quotable script and likeable characters who are
anything but the backwoods stereotypes we are accustomed to seeing.Much like Steel Magnolias, Fried Green
Tomatoes and Shelton’s own Bull Durham, this movie gives us another strong
female lead, confident in choosing her path in life without relying on the support
or approval of men.Ms. Davidovich’s
portrayal of Blaze is both comic and intelligent in that she is able to partner
with Governor Long and guide him through his campaign for Congress.
Newman chews his way through Shelton’s script as a conflicted, progressive
politician caught in a system that still sees women and minorities as
second-class citizens.On the one hand
he supports a civil rights act that will guarantee voting and equal employment
opportunities for blacks in 1960 Louisiana, but at the same time he still holds
some of the racist beliefs of many in his own political party. “We can’t keep sleeping with them at night,
and kicking them during the day” he says during a raucous meeting with state
Curly and Shemp were long gone but even in the 1960s, the "new" Three Stooges continued to gain popularity with a younger generation. The slapstick kings "starred" in a series of cartoons and even inspired a long-running comic book series published by Gold Key. The web blog 1966 My Favorite Year presents a gallery of Stooges comics covers. Click here to view.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Even astute fans of retro cinematic classics may be unfamiliar with Billy Wilder's 1951 gem "Ace in the Hole". The film was a boxoffice flop in its American release back in the day but over the decades it has become regarded as a genuine classic and one of the best movies of its era. Kirk Douglas, in one of the truly great performances of his career, is cast as Chuck Tatum, a once-lauded reporter for a major New York newspaper, who finds his career on the skids. His cynical nature, overbearing personality and weakness for liquor has resulted in him being displaced to New Mexico, where- out of desperation- he convinces the editor of an Albuquerque paper to give him a job. Within hours, Tatum is bored by the sleepy atmosphere and passive nature of his co-workers, most of whom have no ambition beyond reporting minor stories of local interest. Things change radically when Tatum stumbles onto a crisis in the desert that could make for a compelling story. Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) is the owner of a cafe located on a remote road who finds himself trapped in a cave after venturing inside to look for ancient Indian artifacts. Tatum sees that rescue plans for the man are rather poorly staged by the local deputy sheriff (Gene Evans). He enters the cave at great danger to himself and makes a connection with Leo, whose legs and midsection are buried under debris. Tatum is able to communicate with him from a small opening in a dirt mound and he assures Leo that he will get food, water and cigars while he organizes a rescue team. Grateful, Leo looks upon Tatum as his guardian angel. However, it becomes clear that Tatum is using his relationship with Leo for his own selfish purposes. He sees the potential as one of those "child stuck in a well" scenarios that tends to galvanize the entire nation. By personally taking charge of the rescue effort, Tatum makes himself a national hero overnight, as hundreds of people stream to the remote location and erect a tent city in order to be on the scene when Leo is eventually saved. Tatum, fully aware of American's eagerness to embrace the bizarre elements of any story, also plays up the notion that Leo is the victim of an ancient Indian curse for prowling around sacred tribal grounds.
Tatum has some disturbing factors to contend with, however. The primary problem is dealing with Leo's bombshell, self-centered wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling in a terrific performance). She was already looking to get out of a boring marriage with a boring man and decides to leave town during Leo's moment of crisis. Tatum uses a combination of charm and threats to convince her that staying put and playing the role of loyal wife would be in everyone's benefit. His prediction comes true in the financial sense, as the Minosa's cash-starved cafe begins to burst at the seams with visitors due to its proximity to the cave. Ironically, Leo's life-threatening predicament is finally bringing him the financial success that has eluded him. While Tatum becomes obsessed with manipulating the crisis, he also finds that his dispatches from the scene and his exclusive access to Leo have put him back in demand as a writer. He bypasses his own employer to sell updates to his ex-boss in New York at extortionist rates. He also has a hot/cold relationship with Lorraine, who clearly has a submissive sexual aspect to her moody demeanor. She's excited when Tatum mistreats her, though it's never made clear if their relationship goes beyond the flirtation stage. Tatum gets some disturbing news when he learns that the rescue team can use an expedited method to rescue Leo. Not wanting to kill the goose who laid the golden egg, Tatum manipulates the corrupt local sheriff (Roy Teal) into ordering a more labored method of rescue, even though it will result in a delay of days before reaching the victim. The decision has startling consequences for all involved. To say any more would negate the surprising turn of events depicted in the film. Suffice it to say, the intensity of the story continues to build throughout, making "Ace in the Hole" a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience.
Criterion has released "Ace in the Hole" as a dual format Blu-ray/DVD. The quality, as one might expect, is up to the company's superb standards. The package is loaded with fascinating extras including a rare extended interview with Billy Wilder at the American Film Institute in 1986. In it, Wilder talks about "Ace in the Hole" and other aspects of his career. The film was an early directorial effort for him and the first movie he produced, following his career as one of the industry's most in-demand filmmakers. By his own admission, "Ace in the Hole" was a major source of frustration for him. The movie was ignored by American critics and audiences and even re-titled "The Big Carnival". In the post-WWII era, it was probably deemed far too cynical for U.S. audiences. In fact, the "hero" of the film is a cad, the leading lady is a self-obsessed phony and the local law officials are corrupt. Except for a few minor characters, there is no one in the film with a truly moral center. Wilder says he took heart from the fact that the movie was quite successful in its European release. The set also contains a 1988 interview with Kirk Douglas, who discusses the film and his respect for Wilder in a very informative segment. Most impressive is the inclusion of "Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man", a 1980 documentary by French film critic Michel Clement in which Wilder gives extraordinary access to his private life. We see him at home and at the office with long-time collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond as they laze around trying to come up with ideas for future projects. Wilder comes across as a symbol of Hollywood's bygone Golden Age. Speaking in a thick Austrian accent with his ever-present stogie at hand, Wilder regales the viewer with insights about his family's escape from the Nazi occupation and his unlikely meteoric rise up the film industry's food chain. Almost from the beginning he was a hot property and would remain a revered director, producer and writer throughout his entire career. The set also includes a vintage audio interview with another Wilder collaborator, screenwriter Walter Newman and an insightful and creatively designed "newspaper" with essays by critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin. Director Spike Lee provides a brief video "afterword" in which he extols the virtues of the film and also shows off a cool original lobby card that he treasures because it is signed by both Wilder and Douglas. Topping off the "extras" is a truly excellent audio commentary track by film scholar Neil Sinyard, who provides so many interesting background observations about the film that it will open any viewer's eyes to the latent meanings of certain sequences and images. Even if you consider audio commentaries to be dry and academic, I do urge you to give this one a listen. It's first rate throughout.
In summary, this is a first rate presentation of one of the most unfairly neglected American film classics; one that in recent years is finally getting the acclaim that it should have received on its initial release. Criterion has surpassed even its usual high standards.
Writer Jim George provides an unpublished interview with Stella Stevens conducted in the 1990s in our latest issue of Cinema Retro magazine, #42. It seems fitting to raid Jim's blog to resurrect an article he originally wrote in 1981 about Stevens' co-star in "The Nutty Professor", Jerry Lewis. Click here to read.
For anyone with a remote interest in
soundtrack music, they will probably have some knowledge of how difficult it is
to secure the rights to Stanley Kubrick’s film music. Permission has been basically
refused and the whole issue is generally tied up in a bundle of tightly wrapped
Whilst there is still a great demand for
these scores, the slow and unsuccessful process has left the fan base both
frustrated and in limbo. It’s not that there hasn’t been a gallant effort;
fans/producers such as the respected and much admired Nick Redman have taken up
the challenge, but alas to no avail. As a result, the Kubrick soundtrack sagas
remain something of an impregnable and stubborn wall to penetrate.
I can’t therefore condemn entirely the
efforts of some labels and their attempts to try and fill the void and at least
try and provide something for the fans that is at least commendable. El Records
have attempted to provide just such a set with the release of a 4 disc box set
Kubrick’s Music: “Selections from the Films of Stanley Kubrick” (ACME338BOX).
It is important to point out that this is neither the definitive answer nor the
solution to the long- standing problem, and neither does it pretend to be. Moreover,
El’s presentation comprises of musical selections from Kubrick’s central
masterpieces, complimented by pieces which the director used as ‘temp tracks’ during
the production (and by varied accounts) with every intention of using these in
the final film, only to decide to replace them late on.
As the press release states:
“Stanley Kubrick’s audacious use of music was
one of the aspects that distinguished his films. He handled music with
sensitivity, invention and respect and it resulted in the creation of some of
the most indelible scenes in cinema history. Three that spring to mind… the use of Vera
Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ over a ninety-second montage of nuclear explosions
that closes “Dr. Strangelove”; the deployment of Strauss waltzes to create an
elegant cosmic ballet during the docking sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey”,
and the highly controversial use of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” during
the attack on F. Alexander and his wife by Alex and his Droogs in “A Clockwork
In “2001”, the scherzo from Felix
Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (used for scenes of weightlessness) and
Vaughan Williams “Antarctica Suite” (for the Stargate effects and scenes on the
moon) were both used in preview showings of the film before being discarded.
While on “Eyes Wide Shut”, Wagner’s “Lieder Im Triebhaus” (“In the Greenhouse”)
from Wesendonck Lieder was a significant theme in the production for more than
a year before being replaced.
We have also assembled the complete vintage
ballroom music from “The Shining”. The final movement from Berlioz’s “Symphonie
Fantastique”, with its epic use of the chant from the Roman Catholic Requiem
mass, the “Dies Irae”, and a Sibelius piece, “Valse Triste”. Both were
important to the evolution of the film. Finally, as a young man, Stanley Kubrick fell
in love with Sergi Prokofiev’s score for the Sergei Eisenstein’s first sound
film, “Alexander Nevsky”. He played it to death, and it would inspire him later
in his own use of dramatic music. From the scintillating recording by Fritz
Reiner with the Chicago SO, we include the movement, “Battle On the Ice”.’
Bergman’s celebrated six-part mini-series, Scenes
from a Marriage, premiered on Swedish television in 1973. For markets
outside of his native country, Bergman cut the 297-minute TV version down to
169-minutes (not quite three hours) for a theatrical release in 1974—which is
the version I first saw.
recently discovered Bergman in the early 1970s while attending college, I
welcomed Scenes with enthusiasm and
awe, as did most critics. The film received numerous accolades, although the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deemed the picture ineligible for
Oscars since it had previously been a television mini-series. The acclaim for
the film, director/writer Bergman, and the movie’s two brilliant actors, Liv
Ullmann and Erland Josephson, was through the roof.
a nutshell, it’s the intimate, often painful, sometimes joyful story of the
twenty-year relationship of a married-then-divorced couple. The tale begins in
1965. Upper-middle-class Marianne and Johan have been married for ten years.
They have two tween daughters (who are seen only very briefly in the first few
seconds of the picture) and are seemingly happy. However, when Johan has an
affair with “Paula” (who never appears), the inevitable separation ensues,
followed by a divorce. But as ten more years elapse, Marianne and Johan
continue to occasionally see each other—even when they’re dating or married to
others—in an ongoing, never-ending tryst.
fact, in 2003, Bergman made a sequel to Scenes
from a Marriage. Saraband was a
Swedish TV-movie that was also released theatrically worldwide, and it featured
the now elderly Marianne and Johan, again played by Ullmann and Josephson. (Oddly,
their daughters’ names in Scenes are
Karin and Eva, whereas in Saraband their
names are Martha and Sara! Go figure.) Saraband
was Bergman’s final film.
made Scenes so remarkable back in
1973/1974 was its frankness, realism, and the camera’s near-claustrophobic
closeness to the actors—especially their faces and what they revealed through
subtle expressions or glances. Bergman, perhaps more than any other filmmaker,
used the landscape of the face to reveal the genuine subtext of a character’s
thoughts. The intimacy achieved in the work was revelatory, and the film is
said to have gone on to influence other filmmakers (most notably Woody Allen).
had revisited Scenes from a Marriage a
few times since its first release, but now having the chance to dive into The
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray edition, I approached the picture with a
fresh eye and mind, especially informed by the experience of age and a long marriage
of my own.
came away this time a bit puzzled. Who are
these people, that they can be so matter-of-fact about adultery and
mistresses and lovers? It’s as if it’s taken for granted that all married
people will have affairs at some point. Back in the early 70s, I suppose we all
thought that this was being “civilized” or “behaving like adults.” Or perhaps
it was a Swedish or European thing!
is more likely, however, that Scenes from
a Marriage was written and directed to be a somewhat autobiographical
treatise. Ingmar Bergman was married no less than five times, had numerous love
affairs (and mistresses while married), including a five-year romance with Liv
Ullmann (he was the father of her only child). Maybe in his world, or in the contemporary universe of artists and the literati in which Marianne and Johan
reside, this kind of attitude existed.
The Huffington Post's Jamie Scot takes a fascinating look back at the origins of gay and lesbian paperback novels that flooded the American market in the post-WWII era. It was the first acknowledgement that gays and lesbians represented significant numbers of the population, a fact attested to by the explosive sales of these novels. For the gay population during this period of cultural conservatism, these books provided a bit of titillation that heterosexual men had never had a problem accessing. More surprising to publishers was the significant sales of lesbian-themed books, some of which became bestsellers. (Undoubtedly, many of these sales could be attributed to men, who have always been preoccupied with lesbian sex.) Like any erotic paperbacks of the period, the covers of the gay-themed books featured provocative, highly suggestive artwork. Most of these artists labored in anonymity but today pulp fiction paperback art is considered by many to be an important aspect of American popular culture from this time period. Click here to read
Ever wonder what toy factories in China do with leftover parts? Generally, they try to make use of them by combining them in the creation of other toys, even when it isn't appropriate. In a hilarious slide show on Flavorwire, Jason Bailey has a remarkable collection of the worst bootleg superhero toys ever created. How about Superman using a parachute or riding a horse? Most of the toys change the name of the character, as though we're not supposed to believe he could possibly be based on Superman, Batman or Spiderman. Thus, we get Specialman, Spaderman and Silver Bat (who also rides a horse!) Click here to view
Here's a look back at what was playing in Winnipeg, Canada during one week in 1966. The Sound of Music, Alfie, Doctor Zhivago, the remake of Stagecoach, The Appaloosa, How to Steal a Million, Gigi, The Glass Bottom Boat, Battle of the Bulge, A Fine Madness, The King and I, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Torn Curtain and a great double bill of Our Man Flint and Von Ryan's Express. Those were the days, indeed!
From the rumored suicide of a Munchkin to debates about how many dresses Dorothy wears, there are still controversies attached to the beloved 1939 MGM screen version of The Wizard of Oz. Click here to find the facts behind the legends.
Mel Gibson has announced that he will co-write and direct a remake of Sam Peckinpah's controversial 1969 Western classic "The Wild Bunch". We can hear retro movie lovers around the globe shout "Oh, no!" But Gibson, who is enjoying a career renaissance since making some drunken, racist rants years ago, has a knack for making hit films out of seemingly unpromising ideas. He won the Oscar for Best Director for "Braveheart" and turned "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto" into surprise boxoffice hits. Still, tampering with Peckinpah's revisionist Western, which is better regarded today than it was at the time of its release, will be seen as treading on dangerous ground. No details are known at this time, as Gibson is working on a WWII film, "Destroyer" after which he is to commence work on "The Wild Bunch". Gibson's co-scripter Bryan Bagby, has a slim list of credits on IMDB. This much is known- Warner Bros., which released the original film, has been eager to remake the movie for many years. Gibson expressed interest in the project as early as 2009. One thing is sure: Gibson won't be able to improve on the original so the best that can be hoped for is that he turns out a credible effort that stands on its own merits. Hopefully, the remake will be set in the old West and not updated as an urban crime thriller. If you're dreading the remake anyway, you might take heart in the fact that Warner Bros. hinted many years ago that a remake of "Bullitt" was in the works but it never materialized. For more click here.
Here's a rarity from a Western Auto stores catalog for the 1966 Christmas holiday season: an abundance of those great toys tied in with the spy movie rage of the era. In addition to the generic non-licensed stuff, check out the ad for the Man From U.N.C.L.E. rifle and the James Bond shooting camera. If you had these in mint, boxed condition today, you could buy your own hollowed-out volcano from which you could plot to rule the world!
Indiewire chronicles the often torturous road of bringing Daniel Craig's last few James Bond films to the screen including an early plot suggestion for "Skyfall" (then titled "Once Upon a Spy") by screenwriter Peter Morgan in which Bond kills "M", which probably explains why Morgan was released from the film. With the departure of director Danny Boyle prior to production starting on what will be Craig's final appearance as 007, the producers scrambled to find another suitable director to helm the project. Cary Fukunaga got the nod, though the changeover in directors will bump back the planned release date of the film to February 2020. It is now reported by Indiewire that Craig is determined to make his final appearance as Bond be his most memorable and is looking back on the early days of the series, citing the classic 1963 film "From Russia with Love" as his inspiration. Recent political headlines involving Russia under President Putin have brought the quasi-Cold War status between that country and the USA and UK to a boiling point not seen for many years and it seems clear that Russian intrigue will play a major role in the script. Craig even paid a visit to the CIA to get first-hand experience on real-life counter-intelligence methods. For more click here.
All movie lovers have experienced it: a favorite movie theater closes
and is usually replaced by some nondescript cookie-cutter store, usually
part of a big chain..or worse, the place suffers the indignity of the
wrecking ball. Writing in the New Yorker, author Thomas Beller provides a
poignant personal view of the recent closing of a landmark New York
movie theater, the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, that served the community for decades. The landlord
declined to renew the lease despite the fact that the place was
profitable and there was broad community support to keep it open. I
guess that's the price of "progress"...the same "progress" that in
recent years has seen a virtual war declared on Gotham landmarks, the
very establishments that define neighborhoods and give them their
inimitable flavor. You don't have to be a New Yorker to appreciate Beller's sentiments, so read it and weep. - Lee Pfeiffer
Maverick director Sam Peckinpah tried to bring the 1934 novella "Castaway", an offbeat story about a man who survives an unnamed catastrophe by hiding in a department store, to the screen. Despite having collaborated with James R. Silke on numerous versions of the screenplay, the project was never realized despite Peckinpah apparently having found backers as early as 1981. Peckinpah, who had looked forward to directing the movie, was in a career decline at the time due in part to his abrasive relationship with Hollywood studios and his own personal demons. The last feature film he directed was the poorly-received "The Osterman Weekend" in 1983. Peckinpah died the following year. Now, however, there has been new life brought to "Castaway" as a team of producers is planning to finally put the film into production using Peckinpah's original script. Click here for more.
Cary Fukunaga, acclaimed for his direction of the "True Detective" TV series, has been named as the director the next James Bond film which will mark Daniel Craig's final screen appearance as 007. Fukunaga, whose anticipated "Maniac" series is debuting on Netflix on September 21, is the first American chosen to direct a Bond film. He replaces Oscar winner Danny Boyle who dropped out of directing the next Bond film after having "artistic differences" with the producers over the script. The search for a new director has meant that the film's premiere will be moved back from October 2019 to February 2020. For more click here.
With the recent passing of Neil Simon, let's look back on the smash hit 1968 film adaptation of "The Odd Couple" starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. (Did you know Art Carney played the role of Felix Unger in the Broadway production?)
Cinema Retro tries to remain neutral when it comes to weighing in on political issues of the day. About the only time politics enters our pages is when it's in the context of a review or analysis of the political elements of a film or stage production. However, this is an intriguing story reported by The Washington Post that is of interest to retro movie fans in the sense that it relates how the 1954 film version of Herman Wouk's bestseller "The Caine Mutiny" actually influenced one of the most important elements of American law: the 25th amendment, which indicates under what extreme conditions a president can be removed from power either temporarily or permanently. The amendment was drafted in the 1950s when "Caine" was very much on people's minds. The fictional tale centers on eccentric U.S. Naval Captain Queeg (memorably portrayed in the film by Humphrey Bogart in an Oscar-nominated performance.) He runs his ship as a strict disciplinarian but his quirky habits lead the officers and crew to doubt if he's sane. During a hurricane, Queeg appears to be a in state of panic and is unable or unwilling to give his executive officer, Maryk (played by Van Johnson) explicit orders in regards to navigating the deadly storm. Fearing that the ship will founder, the exec notifies the crew that he is taking command and he ultimately gets the vessel back to port safely. Maryk is placed on trial in a court martial and things look grim. Queeg, after all, is a career officer with a distinguished record and he comes across initially as the voice of reason when he is on the witness stand. However, he soon deteriorates under questioning from the defense counsel (Jose Ferrer) and has a form of breakdown that makes it clear he suffers from paranoia. The Washington Post article outlines how American lawmakers were concerned that there was no constitutional solution for addressing a situation in which a president is physically or mentally unable to perform the duties of office. Ultimately, the 25 amendment was drafted. It's understandably conceived to make it a very tall order to remove any president from power and requires overwhelming support among the president's cabinet and lawmakers in order to enact the amendment. The law is actually quite vague in certain key areas leaving plenty of loopholes to be disputed in the unlikely event the amendment is ever attempted to be enacted- but most interesting is the role "The Caine Mutiny" played in the very creation of the law. Click here to read.
Lorber Studio Classics has released “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die!,” a 1968
Italian Western, in a Blu-ray edition.In the movie, Gov. Lem Carter (Robert Ryan) offers amnesty to outlaws in
a bid to quell lawlessness in 1880s New Mexico.On the run from deputies and bounty hunters, desperado Clay McCord (Alex
Cord) decides to seek the governor’s clemency.McCord suffers from paralytic spasms of his gun hand.The attacks have become more frequent and
more severe, and he fears that they represent the onset of epilepsy, the malady
that disabled and eventually killed his father.But enemies on both sides of the law make it difficult for him to go
straight as he wishes to do.Bounty
hunters surround the town of Tascosa, where McCord must go to sign the needed
papers, and even if he can elude them, the cynical marshal, Roy Colby (Arthur
Kennedy), is disinclined to give him a break.The gunfighter is equally unwelcome in nearby Escondido, a haven for
fugitives, after antagonizing Kraut (Mario Brega), the brutal hardcase who
controls the rundown settlement.It’s
even money on who will bring McCord down first, Kraut’s pistoleros or Colby’s
deputies.Although I can’t find any
sources to either confirm or refute the speculation, I believe that Brega’s
dubbed English voice as Kraut belongs to American actor Walter Barnes, who made
several Italian and German Westerns in the 1960s.
an American executive producer, three high-profile ‘60s American actors in
starring roles, an Italian producer, an Italian director, and an Italian
supporting cast dubbed into English, “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die”
straddles the divide between the earnest tradition of U.S. Westerns and the
violent, anything-goes approach of the Italian kind.It opens with a long (actually, too long)
outdoor sequence of McCord and a pal eluding a posse, like characters in “One-Eyed
Jacks” and any number of other classic Westerns.Then follows a scene of two sadistic gunmen
roughing up a frightened priest in front of an altar, and eventually shooting
him in the back.Try to find a situation
like that in a John Wayne or Roy Rogers movie.The two gunmen are played by Aldo Sambrell and Antonio Molino Rojo, who
-- like Mario Brega, the Ernest Borgnine of Italian Westerns -- are instantly
recognizable from Sergio Leone’s stock company of scruffy character
actors.An unsympathetic critic might
speculate that a respectable if unexceptional American Western could have
resulted had the moviemakers tightened the script, dialed back the film’s high
body count, and substituted homegrown character actors for Italian ones in the
supporting cast.On the other hand, for
those of us whose moviegoing tastes were formed in the Cinema Retro era, the
manic unevenness of the picture as it exists has a certain freewheeling charm
of its own.
Kino Lorber’s cover
notes advertise the Blu-ray as a new high-definition master from a 4K scan of
the original negative.Although the
daytime scenes have some graininess, the nighttime lights and darks are clear
and sharp.The label’s resident
Spaghetti expert, Alex Cox, contributes an informative, droll, but respectful
audio commentary.Those new to Italian
Westerns will learn a lot about the genre from Cox’s remarks, while fans will
have fun matching their knowledge against his in spotting familiar Italian faces
in the movie’s supporting cast.As
another supplement, the disc also includes the original ending from the
European print of the movie, transposed from an old, overseas VHS tape.This bleak denouement is stronger by far than
that of the U.S. cut.
Kino Lorber has released “Singing Guns” (1950), a
Republic Pictures “singing cowboy” western filmed in Trucolor. The film is
based on a western novel by Max Brand, and is pretty unremarkable except for
the fact that the cowboy anti-hero, Rhiannon, an outlaw with a long bushy beard
who has been robbing stagecoaches to the tune of over a $1 million, isn’t
played by Roy, or Gene Autry, Rocky Lane Rex Allen, or any of the other western
stars in Republic’s stable. Rhiannon, is played by a popular singer from that
era named Vaughn Monroe.
I remember Vaughn Monroe when I was a kid. I used to hear
him singing “Racing with the Moon,” on the radio. He had a rich baritone voice
and my mother would turn up the radio every time it came on and sort of stare
out into space with a funny look in her eyes. Monroe also had another big hit
with “Mule Train,” with lyrics like “clippity clop, clippity clop, Muuuuuule
Traaaainn.” Whips cracking. Well, it appears “Singing Guns “was made so that
Vaughn could have a chance to sing “Mule Train” in a movie. The song has
nothing to do with the story, but fits in with a scene where Vaughn drives a
wagon pulled by two mules--- not exactly a train, but close enough, I guess.
Monroe sings three other tunes in the film as well.
The script by the screenwriting team of Dorrell and
Stuart McGowan concerns the attempts by Sheriff Jim Caradac (Ward Bond),
doctor/preacher Jonathan Mark (Walter Brennan), and lady gambler Nan Morgan
(Ella Raines) to catch, reform, and fall in love with the aforementioned stagecoach
robber, respectively. The movie has a real corkscrew of a plot, starting with
Rhiannon holding up the stage occupied by Nan and Sheriff Mark. When Rhiannon
finds out the sheriff outwitted him by making sure there was no gold on this
trip, he humiliates him making him march into town wearing a pair of Nan’s
bloomers and a hat that looks like a flower pot. The sheriff, furious, gets to
his office, grabs his other guns and chases Rhiannon out into the desert.
Rhiannon gets to his mountain hideout and shoots the sheriff off his horse. He
later goes down to bury him (he’s a decent sort of outlaw) but the sheriff was
faking it and gets the drop on him.
He’s about to take Rhiannon in, but in another twist,
Rhiannon jumps him and shoots him. In another weird turn, he decides to take
the sheriff to town so the doctor can patch him up (like I said he’s a real
decent sort of outlaw). Doc Caradac tells Rhiannon the sheriff needs a
transfusion. The outlaw rejects his call for help (he’s not that decent, he’s gotta get out of
town), forcing the doctor to slip him a mickey and perform the transfusion
while he’s unconscious. (Aren’t there ethics rules being violated here?) Even worse
than taking his blood, the doc also shaves off Rhiannon’s beard! When he wakes
up he’s not only a quart low, he’s clean shaven!! And here comes the most
unbelievable plot element. Without the beard, when he wakes up, nobody
recognizes him. He’s just some guy who saved the sheriff’s life!!!
The story goes on like that with the plot switching back
and forth, with the sheriff sometimes wanting to help Rhiannon and other time
wanting to jail him, and Nan sometimes hating Rhiannon and sometime loving him,
and Doc Caradac saying he’s just as interested in saving his patients’ souls as
he is healing their bodies, and just wants everything to be okay.
Ignoring the ridiculous plot, perhaps the best thing
about “Singing Guns” is the way it looks. It’s a brand new master by Paramount from
a 4K scan of the original 35mm Trucolor nitrate negative. It’s sensational
looking. And for the first time I’m aware of, “Singing Guns” shows how
beautiful Ella Raines’ eyes were. The film she’s remembered for most is
“Phantom Lady” (1944), the noir thriller based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel. It
was shot in black and white, so you couldn’t see what color her eyes were. Film
historian Toby Roan in his highly informative audio commentary said that
cinematographer Reggie Lanning had trouble getting the color right; sometimes her
eyes looked green, sometimes blue, sometimes yellow. Roan says he thinks
they’re turquoise. Whatever they are they’re fascinating to look at, so much so
I found myself having to reverse the disc in several places because I’d lost
track of what she was saying. Maybe I was hypnotized. Raines only made 20 films
in her lifetime. It’s a pity she didn’t make more..
“Singing Guns” is directed by R. G. Springsteen, who also
directed Monroe’s only other western, “Toughest Man in Arizona.” The film is
also notable for the number of familiar faces in the cast, including Jeff
Corey, Harry Shannon, Rex Lease, and Jimmy Dodd (as well as Eleanor Donahue,
and Billy Grey, who would later play Robert Young’s kids on “Father Knows Best”).
Bonus features include the aforementioned audio commentary and several trailers
for other KL Blu-rays. It’s another one of those discs that astonish you in
regard to how good an old movie can look and sound when it’s done right. They
can’t release enough of these to satisfy me.
Samuel Fuller is today regarded as a revered name among directors. Unlike his peers- John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Howard Hawks, to name but a few- Fuller didn't get much respect when he needed it, at least from critics and studio heads who regarded his talents as workmanlike. Consequently, this talented director, screenwriter and occasional novelist and actor, toiled under meager budgets and scant support from studio executives. Fuller was typical of directors of his generation who had come of age during the Great Depression and World War II. He had a tough guy persona and had learned to survive on the mean streets of Manhattan where he worked as a crime reporter in the 1930s. Fuller could have landed a cushy job in the military during the war but eschewed the opportunity in favor of volunteering for combat duty in the European campaign. His scripts were tightly-written, no-nonsense affairs and his direction was direct and to-the-point. Fuller cut a larger-than-life figure with an out-sized personality and his penchant for indulging in cigars that were so large they looked as though they were inspired by cartoons. Despite the budgetary limitations on his films and the fact that he never enjoyed a career-defining breakaway hit, Fuller's movies have stood the test of time and before he died in 1997, he had witnessed his work being favorably reassessed by a new generation of directors and critics.
"Underworld U.S.A." is one of Fuller's true gems. A 1961 film noir crime story, the movie gave an early career boost to Cliff Robertson but its significance goes much deeper. Although viewed as a typical low budget crime thriller back in the day, the movie is a a true classic of the genre. The film opens with 14 year-old Tolly Davlin (David Kent), a street-wise product of a crime-infested unnamed big city, witnessing the beating death of the father he idolized by a pack of enforcers from a mob syndicate that he had crossed. Tolly's dad, himself a low-life who was teaching his son how to survive in the urban jungle by being more cunning and ruthless than the competition. Tolly, now orphaned, finds the only friend he has is Sandy (Beatrice Kay), a tough-as-nails saloon owner who takes a maternal interest in Tolly, though he rarely heeds her advice. Tolly is consumed with avenging his father's death. He arranges intentionally builds up a criminal record leading to him being incarcerated in a juvenile detention center- but all the while he is painstakingly following leads about who his father's murderers were and who employed them. The story jumps ahead and we find Tolly now a young man in his late twenties (played by Robertson) having been incarcerated in a prison that houses one of the killers, a man who is literally on his death bed in the hospital ward. That doesn't stop Tolly from smothering him with a pillow and making it look like natural causes. When Tolly is released from jail, he reunites with Sandy and has a chance encounter with a sexy gun moll who is nicknamed Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) who has been marked for death for having failed to carry out a mission for the mob. Tolly saves her life and secretes her in Sandy's apartment while he begins his pursuit of two other men who killed his father that fateful night. Having succeeded in getting his street justice, he goes for bigger game: the syndicate bosses.
Fuller's film is somewhat unique in that he avoids the cliche of showing the mob echelon as seedy, Al Capone types. Instead, they are elite, sophisticated and corrupt businessmen and elected officials who run a major complex called The National Projects which ostensibly benefits the poor because periodically the Olympic-sized swimming pool welcomes neighborhood children. In reality, the top bosses live in splendor in penthouse apartments there and ruthlessly oversee their crime organization. In a clever plot device, Tolly works with the local crime-busting city official (Larry Gates) and volunteers to go undercover and work with the mob in order to bring them to justice. He then tells the mob he's a double agent, so to speak, and really working for them. Ultimately, he devises an inspired scheme by which he places circumstantial evidence to convince the crime lords that their partners are out to betray and kill them, thereby leading them to "off" each other and ensuring that Tolly's hands are clean. It's a plot device that was used in "The Godfather Part II" when the mob boss Frankie Pantangeli becomes mistakenly convinced that Michael Corleone tried to have him assassinated and tries to do the same to him. Similarly, in the 1989 James Bond film "Licence to Kill", 007 infiltrates a major drug gang and convinces the big boss that his key people are betraying him, thus leading to their murders.
Belgian author, Georges Simenon, wrote close to 500 novels and an abundance of
short stories in his lifetime, and these included 76 novels and 28 short tales
featuring the French police detective, Commissioner Jules Maigret, published
between 1931 and 1972. That’s an impressive achievement in and of itself, but
more importantly, Maigret became a worldwide beloved fictional character in the
mystery genre. Oddly, Maigret is not as well-known to the general public in the
United States as he is in Europe and the U.K. Thankfully, Penguin Books in
America is in the process of reissuing the series in English.
have been numerous film and television adaptations of Simenon’s works. Jean
Renoir did the first feature film adaptation in 1932 (Night at the Crossroads). British television has produced three
different series, with three different actors (Richard Harris, Michael Gambon,
and Rowan Atkinson). France made an overwhelming number of TV episodes with a
couple of actors.
1958 and 1959, two very good Maigret pictures were made in France, elevated to
a high status by the presence of actor Jean Gabin in the role. Gabin is without
question a key figure in French cinema. In many ways he could be called the
“French Spencer Tracy.” Well-regarded for such classics as Pépé le Moko and Grand Illusion
in the 1930s, Gabin enjoyed a long career into the 1970s. He was thus the right
age to play Commissioner Maigret in the late 50s, and he is easily one of the
best of the several actors who have interpreted the role.
Maigret is a no-nonsense investigator
who is smart, gruff, and is never without a pipe. Some might compare him to
Hercule Poirot, but Maigret is decidedly less eccentric of a character. He also
appears in darker, noir-ish tales
that are closer to psychological crime dramas than Christie’s detective ever
did. Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case, the
first two of three Maigret pictures that Gabin made, are indeed surprisingly
dark and deal with some seriously sick criminals.
For example, in Sets a Trap, the perp is a Jack the Ripper type who gets off on
stabbing young women in the street at night—and the filmmakers don’t pull any
punches in frankness. Much of the setting is in sleazy Parisian back alleys. while
gathering clues and focusing his suspicions on various men—and women—Maigret carefully
constructs an elaborate and ingenious net with which to snare his prey.
The St. Fiacre Case takes
place in the country, near Moulins, Maigret’s childhood home. A countess with
whom the inspector was close back in the day has been threatened—and then
mysteriously dies. Maigret quickly determines it was murder, and he sets about
again laying the foundation for a gathering of suspects at the end of the movie
to reveal the culprit.
Director Jean Dellanoy fashions two
stylish whodunnits that maintain the viewer’s interest and keep us guessing.
While there are moments of humor here and there, these pictures take the
Maigret character seriously and faithfully and satisfactorily execute Simenon’s
Kino Lorber’s new restorations of the
two films (separate releases) are marvelous. The images are crystal clear and
without blemishes, and they are some of the best transfers of 1950s material
I’ve seen. The soundtracks are in 2.0 mono and are in French with optional
English subtitles. There are no supplements other than the theatrical trailers.
Fans of Simenon and Maigret, or of Jean
Gabin, or of whodunnits in general, will want to pick up these two releases.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "MAIGRET SETS A TRAP" FROM AMAZON
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "MAIGRET AND THE ST. FIACRE CASE" FROM AMAZON
Universal has released a superb boxed set of their horror classics. Here is the official press release:
City, California, August 22, 2018 – Thirty of the most iconic
cinematic masterpieces starring the most famous monsters of horror movie
history come together on Blu-ray™for the first time ever in the Universal
Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection on August 28, 2018, from
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Featuring unforgettable make-up,
ground-breaking special effects and outstanding performances, the Universal
Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes all Universal
Pictures’ legendary monsters from the studio that pioneered the horror genre
with imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror in
unforgettable films from the 1930s to late-1950s.
the era of silent movies through present day, Universal Pictures has been
regarded as the home of the monsters. The Universal Classic Monsters:
Complete 30-Film Collection showcases all the original films featuring
the most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula,
Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf
Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Starring
some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon
Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester in the roles that they made
famous, these films set the standard for a new horror genre and showcase why
these landmark movies that defined the horror genre are regarded as some of the
most unforgettable ever to be filmed.
Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collectionincludes
a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare
production photographs and is accompanied by an array of bonus features
including behind-the-scenes documentaries, the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula,
Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce, 13
expert feature commentaries, archival footage, production photographs,
theatrical trailers and more. The perfect gift for any scary movie fan, the
collection offers an opportunity to experience some of the most memorable
horror films of our time.
Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula
(1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible
Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935),
Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The
Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The
Mummy's Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of
Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy's Ghost (1942), The Mummy's Tomb (1942),
Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein
Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of
Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy's Curse (1944), The Invisible
Man's Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London
(1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and
Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954,
and includes a 3D version), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge
of the Creature (1955 and includes a 3D version) and The Creature Walks
Among Us (1956).
3D Versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the
Spanish Version of Dracula
on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce
Expert Feature Commentaries
Not mentioned in the press release is the impressive collector's booklet packed with rare photos and movie poster artwork.
One caveat to note: the set was accompanied by a letter from Universal explaining that some of the Blu-ray discs containing the 3-D version of "Revenge of the Creature" and the 2-D version of "The Creature Walks Among Us" had some manufacturing snafus and customers might experience some playback problems on this one disc. If that occurs, Universal will send you a corrected disc if you E mail them at: USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com
As any retro movie lover knows, the 1961 John Huston film "The Misfits" was steeped in tragedy. Both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe would be dead by the time the film was released, making the production the final time either star would be seen on the big screen. Now the Daily Mail reveals that footage of a controversial nude scene Monroe had filmed has been discovered...along with numerous takes of the bedroom scene. Director John Huston ultimately decided not to use the footage in his final cut. Click here to read the fascinating story of a historic find.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" has long posed a conundrum for film critics and historians. How do you assess a film that is brilliantly made but which promotes a hateful message? The 1934 production which was created as a love letter to Adolf Hitler and his rapidly-rising National Socialist movement has been relatively shunned at film festivals and the art house circuit over the decades. It's undoubtedly been most widely seen in classrooms and on home video. Yet the passing of time has allowed the film to be more actively shown in recent years and it is nearly always accompanied by an introduction that rightly explains its relevance both to the period in which it was made but also as it pertains to today's world. Director Riefenstahl had been a popular actress in German cinema who had caught the eye of Adolf Hitler, who was quite the movie fan (his favorites included "Gone With the Wind" and Laurel and Hardy.) Riefenstahl had recently become a pioneer as one of the first women to enter directing in the era of sound films. Hitler commissioned her to film the Nazi party's annual meeting in Nuremberg in the expectation that it would bolster the movement as well as increase the fanatical cult of personality that was already attached to him. Hitler had tried to overthrow the German government a decade earlier but ended up in jail. He turned this to his advantage by becoming a martyr to the cause and writing his personal bible Mein Kampf from his jail cell. By the time he was released, even those who had prosecuted him were trying to curry favor with the future dictator. Hitler ran for office and won the election to become Germany's chancellor. In reality he had most of the political power but was prudent enough to bide his time until the ceremonial head of state, Von Hindenburg, passed away from natural causes. Hitler knew that the public would not abide him disrespecting the beloved Von Hindenburg, who was regarded as a national war hero.As it had so many times in these early days of Hitler's rise, fate cooperated with his interests. Von Hindenburg passed away and Hitler went full throttle to establish himself as a virtual dictator. His first order of business was to eradicate Germany's fragile hold on democracy, first attacking the free press and then nationalizing it as a propaganda arm. The nation had come out on the losing side in WWI and was suffering terribly from onerous war reparations that had to be paid to the Allies, who were basically using Germany as a cash cow. Hitler quickly put to rest the last remnants of the loathed Weimar Republic and combined the offices of chancellor and president, thus giving himself unchallenged power over the country. He then persuaded the Reichstag to voluntarily cede most of their powers to him, thus making the series of checks and balances in the government a rubber stamp for Hitler's policies. Hitler still had important goals to fulfill. It was important to mobilize the nation as a fighting force in the expectation of war. However, he was bound by the Treaty of Versailles which mandated that Germany's armed forces number no more than 100,000 men. Hitler got around this by organizing numerous civic and political groups and turning them into paramilitary organizations. In this way he was able to train millions of Germans as soldiers even if they carried picks and shovels instead of rifles. Hitler also did some controversial "house cleaning" within his party by personally ordering the murders of SA head Ernst Rohm and his top lieutenants. The SA was Hitler's personal bodyguard but had grown to the size of an army. He worried that Rohm had political aspirations of his own and that he might orchestrate a coup. On the so-called Night of the Long Knives, the top echelon of the SA was systematically executed. Hitler appointed a more benign stooge, Viktor Lutze, as the new head of the SA. Hitler's biggest challenge was to ensure that he and Lutze could convince the rank and file SA men to stay loyal to the party and Hitler himself. This he intended to do at the Nuremberg rally, where he would give speech extolling his appreciation of the SA. The ploy worked and any dissension never spilled over into a threat to Hitler.
"Triumph of the Will" presents a sanitized picture of all these dastardly goings-on. What emerges is a nation that is completely behind Hitler and the Nazi cause. This was nonsense, of course. There were countless people who opposed the regime and over the course of the next few years they would pay dearly for their protests against the demise of German democracy. Nevertheless, as a propaganda piece the film is probably unrivaled in its impact. Although the movie was shown internationally, it didn't quite have the alarming impact one might have assumed. The Western democracies still thought of Hitler as primarily a quirky crank whose influence would be confined within Germany's borders. Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was a master of using cinema as a tool of manipulation. Not wanting to alarm the Allies before Germany had been rebuilt militarily, the film was given rather non-threatening sub-titles to accommodate its international showings. Meanwhile, within Germany, the messages were more ominous. When viewing the film even today one gets the feeling that Germany was an invincible power. One can only imagine the trepidation Allied troops must have felt when they finally had to go up against what had become a seemingly unstoppable war machine. The clues were in the film. The legions of robot-like paramilitary adherents are presented as fanatical loyalists to the new dictator. In fact the "real" armed forces were featured so slightly in the film that they raised protests. To appease them, Hitler commissioned a second film by Riefehstahl titled "Day of Freedom" (also included in this set). The movie has her trademark use of imaginary camera angles but it amounts to basically a sop to the armed forces by showcasing their prowess through military training exercises. More powerful are the scenes in "Triumph of the Will" that carefully showcase Hitler as a demi-god. He is seen traveling to Nuremberg by the small plane he favored for use in his political campaign stops. (Hitler was the first politician to eschew the traditional whistle stop train tours in favor of using a plane in order to cover more territory.) The images of his plane flying through the spectacular cloud formations are truly stunning. We also watch him as he stares down at the massive rally forming in expectation of his arrival. When Hitler does arrive at the rally he is preceded by a small army of his top officials who were being formally introduced to the German people through this film. In retrospect, they formed the perfect "Rogue's Gallery" and would go on to perpetrate some of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century. Most paid for their sins with their lives though others were sentenced to jail terms in the aftermath of the war. When Hitler takes to the podium he uses his trademark practice of starting his speech in a low voice but gradually rising in tone and emotion into a virtual scream. The most disturbing part of the film occurs when all of the countless thousands of participants march past the podium and pledge their loyalty, not to Germany, but to Hitler personally. The film then concentrates on the ancillary fanfare that took place during this seminal week in the nation's history as we watch torchlight parades march past Hitler's hotel balcony where he looks on approvingly. At all times Riefenstahl diminishes the notion of individualism in order to present Hitler in an almost superhuman manner. He is photographed from angles that make him seem literally larger than life.
The Synapse Blu-ray, which features a restoration by Robert A. Harris, contains some valuable extras, the most informative being a feature-length commentary track by Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, an expert on German history. Santoro's calm, laid-back manner is somewhat jolting at times, given the gravity of what we are viewing, but he provides excellent information regarding the nuances of these scenes and the fate of the individual Nazi top brass.Where the track falls a bit short is in Santoro's discussions of Riefenstahl and her legacy. He acknowledges her talents as a director but doesn't put much meat on the bone in regard to her personal life and legacy. (She lived until the age of 101 and never fully repented for her association with Hitler, nor was she ever prosecuted. She would defensively point out that she never actually joined the Nazi party, which is indeed surprising.) She would go on to make another important propaganda film for Hitler in 1938, "Olympiad", an equally whitewashed account of the 1936 Olympics that were held in Berlin and which also managed to elevate Hitler as a star attraction even though he was largely a bystander. Arguably, "Olympiad" was the more important and effective film as it was meant to appease foreign concerns about the atrocities that were just being implemented in Germany. Some of the slack from the commentary is addressed in excellent liner notes written by director and film historian Roy Frumkes, who delves deeper into Riefenstahl's fascinating life. Frumkes points out that the film should not really be considered a documentary because many of the "spontaneous" scenes were staged by Riefenstahl and some were shot repeatedly in order to get the desired footage. The new 2K restoration is impressive on all counts and does justice to Riefenstahl's astonishing camera angles. This presentation also boasts newly interpreted English sub-titles that accommodate the film's original German language version. It's beneficial to watch the film first then view it again with Dr. Santoro's commentary to provide context.
Compromised genius: Riefenstahl directing Triumph of the Will.
"Triumph of the Will" is indeed a major cinematic achievement- but tragically it promoted the greatest evil of the 20th century. The mind reels at what Leni Riefenstahl could have achieved had she not been compromised by her political beliefs. More importantly, the movie clearly illustrates that democracies are fragile states that can deconstruct under the influence and spell of one man.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
MURDOCH MYSTERIES: Home for the
DVD/Blu-ray Debut from Acorn TV on
September 18, 2018
Special feature-length episode of the
hit Canadian and Acorn TV period mystery series
Praise for Murdoch
haven’t seen it, you must.” —Globe & Mail
procedural police drama” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
Bisson is perfect as Murdoch.” —Deseret News
fast-paced fun” —The Globe and Mail
more than two dozen Gemini® nominations and the sole 2016 ‘Fan’s Choice Award’
at the Canadian Screen Awards for Yannick Bisson, MURDOCH MYSTERIES: Home for
the Holidays makes its DVD/Blu-ray debut on September 18, 2018 from Acorn TV. Set
in Toronto in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the age of invention, Murdoch
Mysteries (aka The Artful Detective) centers on Detective William Murdoch
(Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective, who enlists radical new forensic
techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders. This DVD/Blu-ray
1-Disc features a feature-length Christmas special from Season 11 and bonus
behind-the-scenes featurettes ($24.99, Amazon.com). Murdoch Mysteries: Home for
the Holidays made its U.S. debut in December 2017 on Acorn
TV. The series is currently in production on Season 12. Called a “glorious
streaming service… an essential must-have” (The Hollywood Reporter), Acorn TV
is North America’s most popular and largest streaming service focused on
British and international television.
detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson, Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye) must solve a
holiday whodunit in this feature-length special of the award-winning mystery
series set in Edwardian Toronto. Days before Christmas, Murdoch and his wife,
Dr. Julia Ogden (Gemini® winner Hélène Joy, Durham County), travel to Victoria,
British Columbia, to spend time with Murdoch’s eccentric brother. But instead of
a relaxing holiday with Jasper (Dylan Neal, Dawson’s Creek) and his family,
they end up investigating a murder at an archaeological site.
Toronto, Constables Crabtree (Jonny Harris, Still Standing) and Higgins (Lachlan
Murdoch, Copper) try to impress their sweethearts before a skiing outing, and
Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig, Where the Heart Is) and his wife invest in
a money-making scheme run by a man named Ponzi. Guest stars include Kate
Hewlett (The Girlfriend Experience), Jake Epstein (Degrassi: The Next
Generation), and Megan Follows (Reign, Anne of Green Gables).
September 18, 2018
Feature length episode – Approx. 89 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles – UPC
1-Disc: Feature-length episode – Approx. 89 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles –