This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of
the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo
and Juliet. The movie was a sensation when it came out in 1968, spurring
ticket sales in the millions and becoming one of the top-grossing features of
the decade. One reason the film made so much money was due to the number of
people who returned for a second or even fifth viewing. It seemed audiences
just couldn’t get enough of the story about those two star-crossed adolescent
lovers from old Verona. The movie’s memorable music score, composed by Nino
Rota, also became a best seller. The album quickly went gold and was later
repackaged in a beautiful deluxe box set that included the entire movie
soundtrack, along with two handsomely produced companion booklets.
was something about the film, for all its shortcomings, that many found almost hypnotic.
I’ll fess up and admit I was one of these people. I didn’t actually see it
until the 1970s when it was still being trotted out in theaters in order to
squeeze out extra profits for the studio. I was a teenager at the time and was
more into flicks like Billy Jack and
the Bond films than stories about people who lived hundreds of years ago and
spoke in rhyming couplets. The only Shakespeare I had read was in class, the
substance of which I found nearly indigestible.I did know something about the movie since one my English teachers had
once played a portion of the soundtrack for us in class. However, apparently
not having much else to do that summer evening, I decided to take a stroll down
the street to our local movie palace and buy a ticket.
The first thing I noticed about the film was
how rich in color it was. From the very beginning, following the smoky prologue
spoken by Laurence Olivier, everything is drenched in bright primary colors.
Things got off to a rousing start with the scene of the bloody brawl in the Verona
marketplace between those two wild and crazy families, the Montagues and the
Capulets. (I hadn’t realized until then that it was possible to be a real badass
and still wear red and yellow striped tights with pointy soft leather shoes.) Soon
the cops arrive (the prince and his soldiers) to break up the fracas and issue
a stern warning to all those who would disturb the civil peace in the future. Immediately
following this we get our first look at Romeo (Leonard Whiting), a handsome
love-sick youth with a shaggy haircut. He talks dreamily of some girl he’s got
a crush on, but then comes to his senses at seeing one of the wounded being
carried away. Meanwhile, back at the Capulet palace, Juliet’s father (Paul Hardwick) is coyly negotiating the
marriage of his daughter to a young man named Count Paris (Roberto Bisacco). The first time we see
Juliet (Olivia Hussey) she’s running through the house like a kid at play.
All this is interspersed between scenes of
Juliet and her bawdy, fun-loving nurse (Pat Heywood) talking to the girl’s mother
Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry)
about marriage and things, immediately followed by a night scene of Romeo and
his friends on a soliquious pub crawl through the deserted streets of Verona.
Later that same evening Romeo and his mates crash the Capulet masquerade ball. The ball scene is among the highlights of the film. It is here
Zeffirellireally shows his stuff,
combining visual pageantry with an almost obsessive attention to detail.
Everything about this sequence is highly choreographed, from the beautifully
composed dance scenes (“the moresca!”) right down to the fastidious arrangement
of the candles and platters of fruit (Zeffirelli had studied art and architecture in his student days). Absolutely nothing is left to chance. In the hands of a less gifted
visual director, and Zeffirelli was nothing if he wasn’t visual, all of this might
have come off as too showy and distracting. However, here the effect is just
the opposite. The viewer almost feels as if he or she is present in the scene,
seductively pulled in as we are by the sensuous whirl of warm colors, voices
and melodious music. All of it lovingly captured by the gifted eye of cinematographer
Pasqualino De Santi who was awarded an Oscar for his efforts on the project.
Clearly, the ocular accoutrements of this particular production are as
essential to its success as the words of Shakespeare himself.
Real-life husband and wife Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland made numerous films together. Among them: "Breakout", a 1975 film that was shot quickly in order to capitalize on Bronson's soaring popularity with "Death Wish". The crime thriller was lambasted by critics but performed very well indeed at the boxoffice. Click here for review.
Twilight Time has released the 1965 action adventure film "Genghis Khan" as a limited edition (3,000) Blu-ray. The film was released almost ten years after Howard Hughes produced the notorious clinker "The Conqueror" starring John Wayne as the legendary Mongol leader. A decade later, producer Irving Allen ensured he did not make the mistake of laughably miscasting the leading man. Omar Sharif, then a red-hot up-and-coming star, was cast in the title role, and while an Egyptian actor might not seem to be an obvious choice, Sharif possessed an exotic international appeal that saw him convincingly play characters of many different ethnic backgrounds. Ironically, while Allen had successfully hired a leading man, his judgment did not extend to the key supporting roles. If you want to enjoy "Genghis Khan", there are many positive aspects to the film- but you will have to overlook some jaw-dropping casting errors. That feat is a bit like trying to calmly peruse a newspaper in your living room while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla who is sitting across from you, but more about that later.
The film opens with a brutal raid on the tribal home of the young Mongol Temujin and his family. The raid is led by a rival Mongol tribe headed by the merciless Jamuga (Stephen Boyd), who murders Temujin's father and enslaves the women of the tribe. The story then jumps ahead a number of years and we find Temujin (Omar Sharif) has now grown to manhood and is still a captive of Jamuga. He's forced to wear a giant wooden yoke around his neck as a reminder of his humiliation. Ultimately, Temujin escapes captivity with the help of holy man Geen (Michael Hordern) and a mute Mongol warrior named Sengal (Woody Strode.), much to the chagrin of the infuriated Jamuga. Temujin vows to bring the warring Mongol tribes together so that they can form an unstoppable army capable of conquering the known world. How he achieves this is never shown but before long we see he has indeed amassed a devoted army intent on uniting the remaining Mongol tribes, one of which is headed by Jamuga.One of Temujin's obsessions is to humiliate Jamuga, which he does by kidnapping his woman, Bortei (Francoise Dorleac), who he then makes his own wife. As played by the gorgeous but ill-fated Dorleac (she died in a car crash in 1967), Bortei sports a modern hair style and the latest trends in makeup. She's a Mongol by way of the emerging mod scene on Carnaby Street. Dorleac is miscast but at least her performance isn't embarrassing. The same cannot be said of some of her otherwise revered cast members.
Since the film is designed to entertain, not enlighten, we are presented with a truncated historical record of Temujin's conquests. In short order, he and his army become feared as they relentlessly conquer seemingly any land they want to occupy, either by having the inhabitants willingly accede to their demands or face defeat in battle. The script boils down these tumultuous events into a Cliff Notes adaptation of a Classics Illustrated comic book. Temujin next sets his sights on the legendary land of China, and are admitted entrance through the Great Wall. Here they are guided by Kam Ling, a wise man who serves as chief adviser to the Emperor. The role is played by James Mason and if you thought, as I did, that this great talent was incapable of presenting a bad performance, be prepared to be enlightened. Mason sports a sem- Fu Manchu mustache and seems to be foreshadowing those now cringe-inducing Chinese detectives that would be played by Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov. But wait! Mason's performance seems positively inspired compared to that of Robert Morley as the Emperor. Yes, that Robert Morley, the rotund and usually delightful British character actor who played every role in precisely the same manner. Thus, we have the Emperor of China depicted as a prissy, comical figure. (Presumably, Paul Lynde was not available for the role.) The miscasting of these two pivotal roles makes it difficult to concentrate on the otherwise compelling script by Clarke Reynolds and Beverly Cross. Fortunately, events move quickly. The Emperor treats Temujin and his army with great reverence and respect- and Temujin is even giving the honorary title of Genghis Khan ("Great Conqueror"). But Temujin correctly suspects that they are being held as captives in a gilded cage. Seems the Emperor realizes that Temujin suspects that the Chinese military is a paper tiger and that he would be tempted to gather an even bigger army and take the nation by force. In a creatively-staged scene, the Mongols use the Chinese fascination with fireworks as an elaborate method to affect a daring escape. Armed with the advanced military technology they have secured from China, the Mongols' ever-growing armies continue to sweep through kingdoms far and wide. Jamuga, who had been held captive by Temujin but managed to escape, refuses an offer to join Temujin's forces- and even insults him by implying that Temujin's young son had been fathered by him. This results in a "Mongol Duel" in which both men go mano-a-mano, with the surviving winner taking control of the armies. The sight of two sweaty, hunky shirtless men grappling with each does have an unintended and amusing homo-erotic aspect but the scene is quite suspenseful.
Watch the original U.S. TV spot for Milos Forman's superb (but underrated) 1981 drama "Ragtime", the adaptation of E.L. Doctprow's bestselling novel. The film brilliantly interweaves the sagas of disparate characters in a grand, lushly produced production that marked the final feature film appearance of James Cagney, who was lured out of retirement after twenty years. If you've never seen "Ragtime", make sure you do. (By the way, the DVD is out of print in America and has never been issued on Blu-ray. Are you listening, Paramount?)
"Lawrence of Arabia". "The Godfather". "Gone with the Wind". "Casablanca". Is it time for "Ant-Man and the Wasp" to also enjoy Oscar gold?
BY LEE PFEIFFER, Cinema Retro Editor-in- Chief
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced changes to its annual Oscars broadcast. The event will be confined to three hours and certain awards will not be seen live on the broadcast. Instead, they will be given out during commercial broadcasts then edited into a segment that will be shown later in the telecast. After all, who wants to see some science-obsessed geek get honored for inventing something that enhanced the film industry when, instead, we can all enjoy some innovative ads for erectile dysfunction? Additionally, in an admitted attempt to gin up ratings, AMPAS will introduce a new awards category for outstanding achievement in popular film. That's right, movie lovers...you might live to see the day when the producers of a "Transformers" movie stroll on stage to be honored in the manner in which the greatest filmmakers of all time were. In fact, "popular" movies have long been recipients of major nominations. Films such as "Jaws" , "Star Wars" and "The Towering Inferno" were nominated for Best Picture, while a little flick from 1997 named "Titanic" won the coveted award. Exactly how the Academy will distinguish which "popular film" releases should be relegated to the new category is not known. What if the "popular film" that is honored happens to also gain a Best Picture nomination- or will the categories be mutually exclusive? AMPAS isn't saying.
AMPAS has been grappling with sagging ratings for the Oscars for years. Unless there is a major blockbuster to liven up the proceedings, audiences tend to drift away from the broadcast. Not helping matters is that the Golden Age of great Hollywood stars is also long over. That isn't anyone's fault but the lack of legends on any given broadcast only serves to diminish the special quality of the evening, as does the fact that there are now so many movie awards shows that ol' Oscar is struggling to remain relevant. The producers of the show are undermining the very people the ceremony was designed to honor. This is nothing new. AMPAS decided years ago that it was too boring to broadcast honorary awards to older people in the industry, thus these have now been consigned to a couple of snippets from an earlier ceremony. Ditto with the geniuses who are honored with technical awards. Under the current scenario, Charles Chaplin's acceptance of an honorary Oscar in 1972 (one of the great moments in Hollywood history) would now be deemed unworthy of being telecast. Instead, the broadcast has morphed into a quasi-comedy special hosted by late night hosts who replicate inane (and often embarrassing) extended skits that seem to drone on forever. It's the height of irony that there is plenty of time to allocate to such nonsense but it comes at the expense of the true artists who are supposed to be the focus of the show. As we point out every year in our review of the ceremony, even the tastefully creative tribute to talents who passed away in the last year has become contentious. Rather than simply extend the segment for a few additional minutes to include more qualified artists, the truncated tribute now not only excludes legendary personalities but even famed artists who were once nominated for an Oscar.
The reaction in the industry over these proposed changes has been universally negative, leading us to think this is the worst marketing "improvement" plan since the introduction of New Coke in the 1080s. Hopefully, the backlash with cause those who make the decisions at AMPAS to rethink their position- otherwise we're likely to soon see the creation of the Steven Seagal Lifetime Achievement Award.
sharks give you the willies?Does the
sight of a 12-foot Great White on the Discovery Channel make your heart skip
some beats?Then imagine a 75-foot super
shark, looking like a freight train with gills! Meet the villain of the new
Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller, The Meg
starring Jason Statham and Chinese star, Li Bingbing.
story concerns a Chinese-American exploration team penetrating the deepest
reaches of the Pacific, cut off beneath a thermal layer.The operation’s backer, a snarky billionaire
played by Rainn Wilson (TV’s The Office)
is hoping to exploit the sea bottom’s mineral wealth. Unfortunately this
untouched region is inhabited by a Megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark that
makes “Bruce” (the shark from Jaws)
look like a sardine.It can bend
submarines and implode research pods with ease… but it meets its match in a “washed
up but still heroic” rescue diver played by Jason Statham.
by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure)
and made with (lots of) Chinese money, there is an obvious Chinese influence
running throughout - with Chinese talent in key roles and the climax unfolding at
an exotic Chinese beach resort.(There,
several scenes such as a frantic mother searching for her child during the shark’s
attack, or the giant shark dragging swimming platforms like flotsam are truly
reminiscent of Jaws.)
the movie drags on the surface, it picks up speed underwater and the visual
effects of the enormous shark trashing whatever technology mankind throws at it
are superb.While Statham turns in his
usual rugged performance (and at 51, his physique remains a work of art), Li
Bingbing is lovely but a bit wooden. The dialogue tells us they’re inching
towards romance but their interaction has an odd formality, with nary a kiss to
be seen. Instead it falls to her
precocious daughter (the wonderful Sophia Cai) to tell Statham, “My mom likes
you.” As if an action movie icon like
Statham needs a romantic assist from an 8 year-old!
be fair, any shark movie made after 1975 will always be compared to the mother
of all summer tentpoles, Jaws, and
while The Meg does provide some
thrills, it’s not better… it’s just bigger. But maybe for the “global audience”
this movie is going after, that might be enough.
The Meg opens nationwide on
August 10th from Warner Bros.
Does this screen grab show an innocuous image of an unidentified extra in "Jaws"- or does it depict a young woman who would be murdered shortly thereafter?
In the summer of 1974 Steven Spielberg was filming his soon-to-be legendary blockbuster "Jaws" on Martha's Vineyard. One hundred miles away in Provincetown, Mass, a badly decomposed and mutilated body of a woman was discovered near a beach area. Police have doggedly tried to solve the crime ever since and the victim has become known as "The Lady in the Dunes". Enter writer Joe Hillstrom King, who writes novels under the nom-de-plume of Joe Hill. King, the eldest song of legendary horror writer Stephen King, became intrigued by the case after reading about it in a book about amateur sleuths attempting to solve cold cases. Shortly thereafter, King happened to attend a retro movie screening of "Jaws". At the 54 minute and 2 second mark, there is a scene in the film showing masses of tourists arriving at the fictitious town of Amity (in reality Martha's Vineyard). King immediately took note of a fleeting glimpse of a female extra who appears at this precise moment in the film. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash haunted him because he felt the extra bore a remarkable resemblance to police artist's conceptions of the murder victim. King recently revisited his theory, which was not dismissed by the police out of hand, on a podcast he hosts relating to the movie "Jaws". King doesn't claim he knows that the film extra and murder victim are one-and-the-same but he is still sufficiently intrigued to find out for sure. Someone out there knows who the woman in the film is...perhaps a Cinema Retro reader can shed light on the mystery?
EVE GOLDBERG looks back on a "can't miss" film production that fell short of expectations:
Blues could have been a hit.It could have been a game-changer.It could have become a classic.Starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musicians,
this 1961 movie was filmed in Paris, directed by Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma
Rae,) and written by Walter Bernstein (The
Front).All the ingredients for a
compelling, top-notch entertainment were in place.
But the movie misses.Despite strong performances, a fascinating
milieu, meaty subject matter, gorgeous cinematography, several unforgettable
set pieces, and a score by Duke Ellington, the whole is distinctly less than
the sum of its parts.
So, what went wrong?
The problem is the
script.How the script falters, and why, is perhaps the most intriguing aspect
of the film.
Blues is based on a 1957 same-titled novel by Harold
Flender.The book tells the story of
Eddie Cook, an African American jazz musician living and working in Paris in
The author draws on the
historical reality that throughout much of the 20th century, many
African American artists, writers, and musicians emigrated to Paris, where they
found the personal and creative freedom denied them back home.James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Josephine
Baker, Sidney Bechet, Lester Young, and Bud Powell all found refuge from racism
in the City of Light.In addition, jazz
musicians discovered that their artistry was more highly valued and appreciated
in Europe than in the United States.Miles Davis said that his time living and working in Paris was
life-altering.“It changed the way I
looked at things forever.Paris was
where I noticed that not all white people were prejudiced.”
The novel Paris Blues re-creates this vibrant
world of smoky clubs, outdoor cafes, and a creative community where the
“mixing” of everyone is the norm.In
terms of plot, saxophonist Eddie falls for an African American school teacher,
Connie, who is touring Europe with a group of educators.Eddie is torn between going back to the
racist United States with Connie or forgoing their love and staying in Paris
where he feels respected as a man and musician.
In a comedic sub-plot,
Connie’s 60-year-old white roommate, Lillian, and Eddie’s middle-aged Jewish
band mate, Benny, are thrown together for a booze-filled night on the town,
during which Lillian experiences the wild side of Paris and begins to question
her uptight, chaste lifestyle.
Some of the chapters are
written from Eddie’s point of view, others from Connie’s, so we get a nuanced
and in-depth look into both individuals.The author successfully creates a set of appealing characters with
complex emotions and conflicts.While
the novel goes flaccid in the last third — its themes have been exhausted and
now it’s a forced slog to the end of a thin plot — just the fact that a 1957
novel by a white American writer features two fully-developed black
protagonists who are dealing with important, real-life issues, is an
achievement in itself.
Then, somewhere between page
and screen, things happened.
First and most significant,
in the film version of Paris Blues,
Eddie and Connie, the book’s central characters, are relegated to the
B-story.They now take a backseat to a
pair of white folks.
In the film, Benny, who in
the book is Eddie’s middle-aged, paunchy, Jewish sidekick, has been transformed
into hunky trombonist, Paul “Ram Bowen” Newman.Ram is handsome, sexy, charming, and brooding.He yearns to be a serious composer, but fears
he may not have the chops.He is the
undisputed leader of the band and the central character of the movie, with
saxophonist Eddie now playing the lesser role of “best friend.”
In a parallel revision,
Connie’s old-maid roommate Lillian is converted into a young, attractive,
divorced mother who is amazingly uninhibited when it comes to sex.She is played by Paul Newman’s real-life
wife, Joanne Woodward.
Near the beginning of the
film, we get a taste of what this movie might have been.Ram is at the train station, waiting to greet
the famous jazz trumpeter, Wild Man Moore (played with gusto by Louis
Armstrong).While at the station, Ram
accidentally meets Connie (Diahann Carroll).He flirts with Connie who tells him she’s waiting for her traveling
“Is your girlfriend as pretty as you are?”
(pause)“She’s a white girl.”
“Might be hard to find.All you white
girls look alike.”
Connie shoots Ram a “Huh?”
look.She’s clearly taken aback that
this white guy is flirting with her….and what does he mean by that strange
comment?The audience, and Connie, know
that we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Although there is no
interracial romance among the main characters in the original novel, the
filmmakers seem to be flirting with creating one in the movie.But apparently, the powers that be in
Hollywood decided America wasn’t ready for an on-screen interracial romance —
that moment would come several years later with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? — so Ram predictably pairs off with
white Lillian, as Eddie and Connie fall in love.
Poitier later stated, “Cold
feet maneuvered to have it twisted around — lining up the colored guy with the
name Sergio Martino will strike a chord with anyone who has even a passing
interest in Italian exploitation pictures of the 70s and 80s. Once seen, who
can forget The Great Alligator or The Island of Fishmen – both of which are
favourites of this writer in their showcasing of Barbara Bach at her most
radiant – or premium Suzy Kendall giallo Torso, or for that matter once ‘video
nasty’ and Ursula Andress headliner The Mountain of the Cannibal God? Marking Martino’s
second giallo, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (o.t. La coda della scorpione),
was released in 1971, sandwiched between a couple of his most highly regarded
titles, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. Scorpion’s
Tail isn’t quite on a par with either of those, but it’s still a respectable
entry in the sub-genre.
her husband is killed in a plane accident on a business trip to Greece, his
unfaithful wife (Evelyn Stewart) is informed she’s beneficiary to a $1 million
inheritance, with the one caveat that she has to travel to Athens to finalise
her claim. However, there are a number of people intent on getting their hands
on the not insubstantial sum, and at least one of them will remorselessly
resort to murder to do so. A turn of events results in the arrival of an
insurance investigator (George Hilton), who hooks up with a reporter (Anita
Strindberg) to check out some irregularities, and they inadvertently set
themselves up as targets for the killer.
enjoyable enough, if not particularly remarkable giallo then, touting a
convoluted plot loaded with sufficient a measure of misdirection to keep things
unpredictable. Opening in a very clean looking London and moving on to various
Greek locales, the travelogue location work certainly functions in the film’s
favour, lending it production value that eclipses the slightly ponderous
narrative of the screenplay (a collaborative affair from Eduardo Manzanos,
Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini). Most of – if not quite all – the
standard giallo trappings come into play, primarily there are a number of
graphic murders perpetrated by a fedora-wearing, razor-wielding maniac attired
in black (who’s not averse to donning a scuba wetsuit when the moment is
propitious). Some of them are pretty nasty too, including a startling– if not
particularly realistic – moment of eye-violence (squeamish viewers be warned!).
However, there’s a conspicuous dearth of nudity, in fact it’s about as coy as
they come that department; of course, nudity is seldom (if ever) pertinent, but
it’s standard enough a constituent within this sub-genre as to be noticeable
when it’s missing. The showdown on a forebodingly rocky stretch of desolate
Grecian coastline is fantastic, combining vertiginous camera angles and
suspenseful POV to maximum dramatic effect.
up a strong cast – which includes Alberto De Mendoza, Ida Galli (aka Evelyn
Stewart), Janine Reynaud and Luigi Pistilli – are George Hilton and Anita
Strindberg. Hilton also starred for Martino in the aforementioned pair, The
Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. His rugged good
looks found him top billing in a slew of spaghetti westerns – he was a one-spin
Sartana – as well as a run of crime and gialli pictures such as The Case of the
Bloody Iris, My Dear Killer and The Two Faces of Fear... though 1965’s spoof
Bond caper Due mafiosi contro Goldginger (in which he played Agente 007) can
probably be safely disregarded! He’s on top form here and rubs along well with
the very lovely Anita Strindberg. This writer first became aware of her in Who
Saw Her Die?, in which she appeared alongside George Lazenby and Adolfo Celi.
She didn’t enjoy as prodigious a career as Hilton, but she did score a lead
role in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key for Martino, as well
as featuring in such renowned fare as Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Women in
Cell Block 7. Her performance in Scorpion’s Tail is among her finest and there’s
no denying that the scene she spends clad in a sheer, clingy wet shirt affords the
audience a prurient bonus treat.
Flashback: 1972. Dustin Hoffman drops by the set to visit director Bob Fosse and star Liza Minnelli, who were filming "Cabaret". Hoffman would star in Fosse's next film, "Lenny", the biopic of Lenny Bruce.
Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site has once again done yeoman work by rounding up a panel of James Bond scholars (including Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer) to reflect on the 45th anniversary of Roger Moore's first James Bond film, "Live and Let Die".
Born in 1896, as a teenager Barbara La
Marr, then Reatha Watson, lead something of an adventurous life. Her father
worked in the newspaper business, and the family moved home constantly, almost
inevitably contributing towards the turbulence and seeming inability to settle
down that plagued her life. At the age of sixteen, now living in California,
her elder sister and her husband kidnapped Reatha, causing a minor scandal,
with some accounts stating that Reatha had helped plot the kidnaping herself in
a desire to flee her oppressive parents. Reatha was already an incredibly
luminous and attractive young woman, and she was regularly spotted in the
nightclubs of Los Angeles dancing, drinking, and generally behaving in such a
way that soon brought the wrong kind of attention. For her own protection a
court declared that she was “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city and
was ordered to leave Los Angeles.
This did nothing to assuage her
ambitions however, and she attempted to turn this publicity into a Hollywood
career. Having had stage experience as a child, she appeared as an extra in
several films within the still developing Hollywood studio system. Being
somewhat disappointed by her perceived lack of success, she went on to develop
a career as a dancer, and performed in nightclubs around the country, attracting
men wherever she went, until the strain on her health proved too great and she
headed back home to California. Reatha Watson was incessantly creative and
decided to try her hand as a writer. Her first attempt at a novel found its way
into the right hands, and in 1920 the Fox Film Corporation produced The Mother of His Children (Edward J. Le
Saint), the success of which lead to her becoming a staff writer for Fox.
Aware of the negative publicity
attached to Reatha Watson, it was around this time that she changed her name to
Barbara La Marr, and she was overjoyed to back in Hollywood, even if it was on
the other side of the camera. However, that state of affairs did not last long,
and she was soon invited to screen test and began appearing in small roles again.
Her friendships with A-list stars soon lead to bigger roles, and within just
three years she was playing major roles in The
Three Musketeers (1921, Fred Niblo) alongside Douglas Fairbanks, in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922, Rex Ingram)
with her good friend Ramon Novarro, and in Hollywood satire Souls for Sale (1923, Rupert Hughes),
the cast-list of which reads like a Who’s
Who of the silent era. La Marr often found herself cast as a ‘vamp,’ a Hollywood
type popular in the pre-code films, and as such she was often dressed in
amazing jewelled costumes and over-the-top headwear whilst tempting men to
their fate, often being punished for such licentiousness by the end of the
film. Despite being kind, overly generous and unselfish towards everyone she
knew in her real life, this Hollywood ‘vamp’ image began to follow her wherever
she went, and the Hollywood gossip press loved to tell tales of her somewhat
scandalous personal life, the truth of which is laid out in this meticulously
researched biography by Sherri Snyder.
of the unsung heroines of the 20th Century—her fame as a Hollywood
star notwithstanding—is actress and inventor
Hedy Lamarr. Few have known about her extraordinary proclivity to invent stuff,
and even less are aware that she came up with a patent (in collaboration with a
musical composer, no less) during World War II for a communications system that
was later adopted and is still used today.
Bombshell: The Hedy
a wonderful documentary on the woman’s life and career, deliberately emphasizes
that Lamarr’s scientific knowledge and technical imagination takes precedence
over her Hollywood legacy. And while Lamarr appears to have maintained an
upbeat attitude throughout the decades, the motion picture reveals that her
struggles were many. Lamarr was troubled, misunderstood, and too many times
ignored for her efforts beyond being a “pretty face.”
she was indeed. Lamarr was one of those Hollywood beauties who turned heads and
dropped jaws. She was talented, too—a competent leading lady with on-screen
charisma and a chemistry with (most) of her co-stars. Unfortunately, the
Hollywood moguls, namely Louis B. Mayer at MGM, refused to cast her out of the
pigeon-holed slot of “glamour girl.” Only after she broke away from the studio
and took better control of the kinds of roles she played did she begin to
display a wider range. Perhaps her most well-received role was that of Delilah
in Samson and Delilah (1949), for
which she campaigned in person to director Cecil B. DeMille. “I am Delilah,” she told him. He believed
who was from Austria, had made a controversial picture there in 1933 entitled Ecstasy, in which she frolicked about in
the nude. A love scene focused on her face, which portrayed, well, an orgasm. Looking
at these clips today, they all seem tame; but then—they were extremely potent. This “scandal” followed her to
Hollywood and seemed to forever taint her career in a hypocritical business
that exploited young starlets all the time. Nevertheless, she persevered and
made a name for herself, becoming one of Tinsel Town’s biggest stars of the
significant, Bombshell contends, is
that Lamarr should have been more appreciated for her brainpower. In the early
days of the war, prior to the U.S. involvement, Lamarr teamed up with
avant-garde composer George Antheil to come up with a way for battleships to communicate with torpedoes and guide
them to their targets. The system was called “frequency hopping,” and was based
on the way player piano rolls were constructed. If radio signals to a torpedo
jumped around in frequency, the Germans would be unable to block the
transmissions. The couple received a patent for the idea. Unfortunately, the
Navy poo-pooed the notion and shelved it. It was discovered later, after the
patent had expired, that the system was indeed developed and put into use.
Lamarr and Antheil never profited from their invention, but apparently the
system became the basis for much of today’s communications technology in GPS
Alexandra Dean assembles a fascinating portrait of Lamarr in a lean 88-minute
feature that relies on vintage footage, film clips, and interviews with family
members (Lamarr had a tumultuous love life—she was married six times),
filmmakers and film people (Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne,
Diane Kruger, Gillian Jacobs), and the scientific community. Dean doesn’t pull
punches when it comes to some of Lamarr’s more problematic history—her
studio-inflicted addiction to drugs, an arrest, the abandonment of an adopted
child, and her rejection of her Jewish past. Mostly, though, the film is a
celebration of a remarkable woman with an astonishing sense of self, curiosity,
Lorber’s 1920x1080p Blu-ray looks marvelous, and the vintage film clips are
especially sharp and clear. The soundtrack is 5.1 Surround with optional
English SDH subtitles. Special Features include an interview with director
Dean, outtakes of interviews with Brooks, Jacobs, and Osborne, and trailers.
anyone interested in Hollywood and/or World War II history, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story provides
worthwhile, revelatory viewing.
With the advent of the #MeToo movement, movie lovers are re-evaluating their opinions regarding older films, some of them indisputable classics. Case in point: "Manhattan", Woody Allen's 1979 romcom that sits high on the Woodman's list of significant cinematic achievements. The film's reputation survived Allen's own messy breakup with Mia Farrow and his subsequent marriage to her adopted daughter in the 1990s. However, in light of much greater sensitivities in the post-Weinstein era, some viewers may now find a key plot line in the episodic comedy to be cringe-worthy: Allen's character, a 42 year-old writer in a romantic relationship with a 17 year-old high school student. In real life, there would be moral and ethical consequences pertaining to the clearly sexual relationship that is depicted in the film but at the time of the movie's release critics and audiences were seemingly unconcerned. Writing in the New York Times, Steven Kurutz ponders "How do you solve a problem like "Manhattan?" and examines why some fans of the film are now finding it hard to enjoy its many merits. (Click here to read.) The article raises a larger issue: are we to ignore the artistic merits of cinematic classics because societal norms have changed- or do we still value them but view the films in the context of the times in which they were made?
The James Bond films may represent the longest-running movie series produced by the same company, but ol' 007 doesn't hold a candle to the longevity of Sherlock Holmes as a big screen hero. Holmes has been a cinematic staple since the silent era and though his popularity has soared and waned over the decades, he has remained a presence in popular culture throughout the world. In recent years, younger people have embraced Holmes as a hero thanks to hip, updated interpretations of the character on television and the big screen. However, there were long periods in which Holmes had disappeared from motion pictures. The films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were enormously popular from their first appearance in 1939 through their final cinematic adventure in 1946. Holmes and Watson would not re-emerge on the big screen again until Hammer Films produced the first color Holmes movie, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in 1959. The plan was to launch a Holmes series for the studio starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morrell. Although the film is very well regarded today, it was not a financial success and the series never materialized. The next major studio release of a Holmes adventure was "A Study in Terror", which has been released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek. The movie starred John Neville as Holmes and Donald Houston as Watson- and both of them performed admirably in the handsomely-mounted 1965 production. The concept of Holmes facing off against Jack the Ripper has been done numerous times to date both in literature and on the screen, but "A Study in Terror" was the first Holmes property to exploit the duel-of-wits between the fictional detective and the real-life serial killer.
"A Study in Terror" has the look and feel of a Hammer Studios film of the period and one expects Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee to pop up somewhere along the line, but we must console ourselves with a very fine cast of character actors, each of whom is used well thanks to the intelligently-written screenplay by Donald and Derek Ford and the assured direction of James Hill, who would go on to direct "Born Free". Among the standout appearances: John Fraser, Barbara Windsor, Adrienne Corri, Anthony Quayle as a seemingly devoted surgeon who might just be the killer, Georgia Brown as a beer hall singer, Peter Carsten as a shady pub owner, Robert Morley as Mycroft Holmes- and keep an eye out for young Judi Dench. Frank Finlay appears as Inspector Lestrade, but his role is frustratingly underwritten. The film has a lush production design that masks the fact that virtually all of it is shot in the studio, with the exception of some exteriors of stately mansions, and the score by John Scott is appropriately atmospheric. The story opens with the horrendous murders of prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London, a seedy place in the Victorian era where pollution was often so bad that one could barely see across the street, a factor that aided Jack the Ripper in escaping justice for his crimes. When police can't solve the string of murders, Holmes and Watson take up the cause and, as one might expect, the list of suspects includes a number of red herrings. This was the first Holmes movie to benefit from the new-found screen liberties. Thus, there is a blatant sexual element that would have been unthinkable a decade before. In addition to plenty of heaving bosoms and boisterous bar girls, there is also more violence and gruesome elements than had ever been seen previously in a Holmes feature film. It also features Holmes and Watson demonstrating their prowess with fisticuffs. As with most Holmes mysteries, the fewer details divulged, the better the element of surprise for viewers. Suffice it to say that the story moves at a brisk pace and that Neville and Watson both give spirited performances that should have led to sequels. Alas, "A Study in Terror" was not a boxoffice hit. The lack of marquee names along with a preposterous marketing campaign that emulated the "Batman" TV series (referring to Holmes as "The Original Caped Crusader!") seemed to ensure that the film would not be a popular success. However, that doesn't dilute its many qualities. The Mill Creek Blu-ray has an excellent transfer that does justice to the rich color schemes and fine set designs. Unfortunately, there are no bonus extras. Do we recommend it? The answer should be elementary: of course.
The early-to-mid 1970s was the heyday of grungy cop thrillers. Films exploring the seamier side of police work arguably got its biggest boost from the 1968 release of "Bullitt", which dared to show cops intertwined with ethically-challenged politicians in their common quest for career advancement. With the release of "The French Connection" and "Dirty Harry" in 1971, the genre kicked into high gear. In these films, the anti-hero disregards constitutional protections to take the law into his own hands. With America reeling from soaring crime rates, audiences cheered on these dubious symbols of our justice system. It's safe to say that watching these films from today's standpoint, one might have a different reaction to the tactics used by Popeye Doyle and Harry Callahan. However, there were more nuanced looks at modern urban police departments in films that explored corruption without the benefit of an superhuman anti-hero. Sidney Lumet's "Serpico" certainly exemplifies this type of film, with the protagonist being an every day cop who suffers terribly for calling out the blatantly criminal acts being committed by his peers. Similarly, a lesser-known film dealing the same subject matter- "Report to the Commissioner"- took a cynical look at the NYPD and found a nest of bribery, payoffs and other illegal methods used by many cops. This was not just some left-wing fantasy. The experience of Frank Serpico and fellow whistle-blower cop David Durk had blown the lid off massive corruption in the NYPD. The result was the formation of the Knapp Commission which uncovered widespread graft in the department and instituted radical changes to clean up the NYPD. A number of criminal indictments were handed down. "Report to the Commissioner" was released in 1975, well after the Knapp Commission had released its findings but during a period when faith in the NYPD remained weak among the citizens, who were shocked at the level of corruption unveiled in the Knapp probe. Adding to the public paranoia was the recent Watergate scandal. The film went into production shortly after President Nixon resigned in disgrace just two years after being re-elected in the biggest landslide in American history.
The story centers on the experiences of rookie undercover cop Bo Lockley (Michael Moriarty), who from the get-go seems too naive and sensitive to fit in with the hard-boiled detectives he's been assigned to work with. They cruelly subject him to hazing and never stop mocking him for looking like a hippie, even though he's not supposed to look like a cop since he works undercover. Lockley is shown the ropes around the Times Square district by fellow officer "Crunch" Blackstone (Yaphet Kotto), a hard-bitten veteran who strolls through the grimy neighborhood like a king, routinely abusing its denizens by words and physical actions. Lockley is appalled but Crunch warns him that survival in this part of the city depends on being feared, not being admired. The script introduces a parallel story line in which a young female undercover cop, Patty Butler (Susan Blakely) comes up with a dangerous plan to bring down local crime kingpin "Stick" Henderson (Tony King), who has evaded being arrested despite being the area's most feared pimp and drug dealer. Patty requests permission to pose a teenage runaway, seduce Stick and ultimately become his "old lady" with the intent of being able to witness his day-to-day operations and gather enough evidence to arrest him. The plan obviously violates departmental regulations but both Patty and her two superiors are eager for the promotions that would result from bringing Stick to justice so they approve her plan. Patty makes good on reeling in Stick and before long she's shacking up with him. Lockley, doggedly trying to find and rescue her on the assumption she is a runaway in distress, manages to trace her to Stick's apartment where the two men engage in a gun battle. Patty is tragically killed in the incident, and Lockley pursues Stick in a wild foot chase that includes Times Square before culminating in the men encountering each other inside an elevator in Saks Fifth Avenue. This is the most suspenseful sequence in the film. The police shut the power off, stranding Lockley and his prey in a sweltering, confined space with both men pointing guns at each other. Over time, they engage in a conversation in which Stick tries to persuade Lockley that they are both doomed because if they are allowed to live, their stories will bring disgrace to higher-ups in the NYPD. The conspiracy aspects of the script reflect the mood of the era. Nobody in the film is a traditional good guy except Lockley and he's treated like a fish-out-of-water.
"Report to the Commissioner" succeeds in presenting a gritty, realistic view of New York City during its decline in an era when crime was soaring, the streets were dirty and the future looked grim. Anyone visiting Gotham today would surely pronounce the city's turn-around as a miracle but there is no doubt that New York went through some difficult years and these were reflected in the movies of the era. However, the film is flawed in some key areas. Director Milton Katselas, who was revered as a playwright and academic more than a filmmaker (he directed only a handful of movies), is saddled with an erratic script by old pros Ernest Tidyman and Abby Mann, based on a novel by James Mills. The story isn't told in a linear fashion and instead jumps back and forth from present to past and vice-versa, making for an occasionally confusing experience for the viewer. Consequently, while some scenes are highly engaging, the film never gels satisfactorily as a whole. Not helping matters is the performance of Michael Moriarty as Lockley. We know he is supposed to be a naive rookie but at times Moriarty plays the part like he just stepped off a turnip truck and is seeing New York for the first time. His wide-eyed innocence often strains credibility. More convincing is Yaphet Kotto, who commands the screen in every scene in which he appears. Sadly, he vanishes from the middle section of the film, much to its detriment. Tony King is excellent as "Stick" and young Bob Balaban excels as a double-amputee who acts as a police informant. The scene in which he uses his crude, wooden wheeled "dolly" to hitch a ride on a speeding car makes for a thrilling experience. However, certain other cast members over-act and dilute the impact of their scenes. Even the great Elmer Bernstein's score seems unusually mediocre.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a very fine transfer that captures the glitter and the gutters of New York during this period. The Blu-ray includes the original theatrical trailer.
Although we've seen the individual theatrical trailers for the 1966 "Man from U.N.C.L.E." feature films "To Trap a Spy" and "The Spy with My Face", we had never seen this rarity: a 60-second U.S. TV spot presenting them in the double-feature format in which most fans saw them theatrically. Amusingly, the footage crediting David McCallum (who the narrator refers to as "David McCullum") was inexplicably lifted from another "Man from U.N.C.L.E" feature film, "One Spy Too Many" and shows villain David Sheiner in the same footage! The U.N.C.L.E. feature films were simply two-part episodes that had been telecast on TV, then converted into highly profitable movies, occasionally with some re-editing and extra footage added that was deemed a bit too steamy for network broadcasts.
A lost screenplay written by Stanley Kubrick and and novelist Calder Willingham in 1956 has been discovered by writer Nathan Abrams, who was researching his book about the making of Kubrick's final film "Eyes Wide Shut". According to Abrams, the script was based on "Burning Secret", a 1913 novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Kubrick and Willingham had adapted it to contemporary American society. The script dealt with a then- controversial subject matter: a 30 year old man befriends a pre-teen boy with the intent of using him for access to his married mother in the hopes of becoming her lover. The screenplay has been described as the "inverse of "Lolita" in which a man feigns interest in a mother in order to gain access to her young daughter. (Kubrick made a film version of "Lolita" in 1962). The "Burning Secret" project came about at a time when Kubrick was just starting to direct films for major studios. He had not yet developed an acclaimed reputation, nor did he have any clout with studios. "Burning Secret' was under consideration by MGM but the film never came to fruition, possibly because of the sensitivity of the subject matter in 1956. Indeed, Kubrick had to make major alterations to "Lolitia" years later in order to keep certain sexual elements subdued. For more click here.
MacMurray was brilliant in Billy Wilder's 1960 classic The Apartment, playing the philandering married boss of Shirley MacLaine.
For the baby boomer generation, Fred MacMurray was primarily known as the affable widowed dad on My Three Sons and the star of numerous Walt Disney films. However, as Movie Morlocks writer Greg Ferrara points out, MacMurray once excelled at playing charismatic creeps, giving brilliant performances in films such as Double Indemnity, The Caine Mutiny and The Apartment. Click here to appreciate the dark side of MacMurray's talents.
year 1989 brought us such Oscar-winning pictures as Driving Miss Daisy, Born on
the Fourth of July, Dead Poets
Society, and, of course, the blockbuster Batman. One picture, though, always stood out for me and was my personal
favorite of the year—Steven Soderbergh’s remarkable feature film debut, Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The Academy
nominated it only for Original Screenplay. The Cannes Film Festival, however,
awarded it the Palme d’Or and the
Best Actor honor for James Spader. The movie put Soderbergh on the map,
establishing him as an innovative, provocative filmmaker who was unafraid to
take on challenging subjects.
Criterion Collection has produced a new, restored 4K digital transfer and a new
5.1 surround mix (from the original sound elements), supervised by Soderbergh.
The results, in the director’s own words that appear in an on-screen comment on
the restoration, are such that one should “throw away” all previous home video
(DVD, Blu-Ray) versions of the film—this is the definitive edition.
for only a little over a million dollars, the story is really a chamber drama
of sorts that focuses on four characters. There is Ann (wonderfully played by
Andie MacDowell), a sexually uptight and frigid housewife married to John
(Peter Gallagher), a successful, go-getter lawyer who happens to be a lying
philanderer. He’s having an affair with Ann’s precocious and definitely not sexually uptight sister, Cynthia (Laura
San Giacomo), who works as a bartender. Enter Graham, an old college friend of
John’s, who has returned to town after nine years—and he is one strange dude.
James Spader delivers a nuanced, sensitive, but assuredly slightly perversely
skewed performance—one that pretty much defined the kinds of roles he would
play for years to come. Like Ann, he, too, is sexually inhibited due to
something that happened with his college girlfriend.
days the only way Graham “gets off” is by videotaping various female
acquaintances and interviewing them about their sex lives—and then viewing them
when he’s alone.
Ann suspects her husband is betraying her, she finds Graham oddly fascinating
and they become friends until she discovers Graham’s “habit.” This proclivity
is not a problem for Cynthia, though—she happily makes a video for Graham.
things turn out for the quartet of characters plays out like therapy. In fact,
Ann is seeing a therapist throughout the picture. Soderbergh has subtly
structured and presented the story such that, in many ways, we, the audience,
are the therapists observing the characters as they reveal their secrets.
1989, the material was shocking. Without any nudity or explicit sex scenes, Sex, Lies, and Videotape manages to be
extremely visceral, voyeuristic, and, yes, sexy. It explores how the most
intimate desires of human beings might seem kinky or perverse to some, and yet
be perfectly normal for others. The way the “therapy” of the film addresses
these hang-ups in the final moments is revelatory. Soderbergh may have never
written or directed a more perfect picture.
new transfer looks and sounds remarkable. An audio commentary from 1998,
featuring Soderbergh and filmmaker Neil LaBute, accompanies the film.
supplements are up to Criterion’s usual high standards. There’s a new
introduction to the film by Soderbergh, along with vintage interviews with the
writer/director from 1992 and 1990. A new documentary on the making of the
film, featuring actors MacDowell, Gallagher, and San Giacomo, is especially
informative and insightful. James Spader makes an appearance in a vintage 1989
appearance on the Today Show. There’s
a deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh. A new conversation between sound
editor/re-recording mixer Larry Blake and composer Cliff Martinez explores the
challenges of the location shoot in Baton Rouge. Finally, Blake takes us on a
journey through the evolution of sound restorations. The booklet features an
essay by critic Amy Taubin and excerpts from Soderbergh’s 1990 book about the
Sex, Lies, and
still relevant and powerful. The picture reveals a young filmmaker who is
exploding with talent, and four brave actors who dig deeply within to reveal
all. It’s a masterpiece of independent filmmaking. Pick it up.
Like Marlon Brando, director John Huston was often considered to be a has-been during much of the 1960s into the early 1970s. He worked steadily, but- like Brando- it was assumed his glory days were behind him simply because most of his films during this period didn't generate sparks at the boxoffice. (The success of his 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King would temporarily restore his luster.) His acting career got a boost from his great performance in Chinatown, but even some of his directorial flops look far better today than they did at the time of their theatrical release. One major disappointment, artistically as well as financially, was the seemingly sure-fire hit The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, made in 1972 and starring Paul Newman fairly fresh from his triumph in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The movie is a whimsical tale that is nevertheless loaded with violence and gallows humor (literally). The story is (very) loosely based on the real Roy Bean, an outlaw who became a self-appointed judge who called himself the "only law West of the Pecos" at a time when parts of Texas were a no-man's land of thieves, murderers and swindlers. Bean became known as a hard-ass judge who dispensed lethal justice. In reality, he only sentenced two men to be hanged and one managed to escape. Nevertheless, his colorful background provides screenwriter John Milius with plenty of imaginative fodder for fictitious encounters and incidents. We first meet Bean when he ambles into a remote outpost where he is robbed and beaten mercilessly by the denizens. He returns shortly thereafter and single-handed kills them all, thus instantly making him a local legend among the peasants who live in the area. Bean becomes obsessed with studying the law and showing mercy on the poorest elements of society. He even takes a lover, a young Hispanic woman (Victoria Principal, in her screen debut). Bean appoints himself as a "judge" despite not having any legal authority to do so. He enlists a group of slovenly "deputies" to dispense justice in his courtroom, which is the bar in which he was robbed. Before long, Bean is holding kangaroo trials and routinely lynching anyone who incurs his wrath. Despite this, he gains a reputation for being fair and defending the defenseless. He adopts a bear and the movie presents some amusing sequences of Bean and his friends interacting with this over-sized "pet". The film traces his experiences over a period of years as the remote outpost becomes a bustling town. Bean is gradually sidelined as a force of influence. The death of his young wife during the birth of their daughter depresses him further and he rides off into oblivion. Twenty years later he returns to find that oil has been discovered on his property and that the corrupt mayor (Roddy McDowall) is using legally questionable methods to displace Bean's 20 year old daughter (Jacqueline Bisset) so he can control the oil on her land. Bean's reappearance causes a sensation as he rounds up his motley, aging group of former deputies to help his daughter fight for her rights. A fairly spectacular battle climaxes the film.
Bean offers many pleasures, not the least of which is a terrific supporting cast that includes cameos by Anthony Perkins, Tab Hunter (surprisingly good in an off-beat role), Anthony Zerbe, Stacy Keach (wonderful as a crazed, albino gunslinger), Ava Gardner as the legendary Lily Langtree, the object of Bean's romantic obsession even though he never meets her, and John Huston himself in an amusing appearance as Grizzly Adams. There are also plenty of familiar faces in the supporting cast including Ned Beatty, Bill McKinney (reunited from Deliverance with happier results) Richard Farnsworth and stuntmen Dean Smith and Neil Summers. The attempt to capitalize on the success of Butch Cassidy is fairly apparent, as evidenced by a fairly sappy love song and romantic montage that is obviously meant to emulate the famed Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head sequence from the former film. Nevertheless, Bean is a consistently enjoyable, rousing Western that probably plays much better today, when we can realize just how special acting ensembles like this truly are. Maurice Jarre's fine score adds immeasurably to the the enjoyment of the experience.
The Warner Archive has released the film as fine-looking Blu-ray. The only bonus extra is the amusing original trailer.
Cinema Retro contributor David Dorward found this interesting photo of young Steve McQueen and his wife posing with his Ferrari Lusso. The license plate number reads 007! We think this may be just a coincidence that one of real-life coolest guys on the planet had a license plate pertaining to the one of the coolest fictional characters, as the Bond phenomenon hadn't totally kicked in yet...unless McQueen was so smitten by the Ian Fleming novels and the release of Dr. No on screen that he was inspired to request "007". Either way, it makes for a fascinating photo.
Paramount has issued a 10-DVD collection of Jerry Lewis films, all but one of which pertain to his solo career. ("The Stooge" co-stars Dean Martin). The set is packed with 90 minutes of bonus materials including trailers, commentaries by Lewis and rare archival films and materials. Here is the official press release:
Paramount Home Entertainment has issued a repackaged DVD set containing ten Jerry Lewis feature films. Here is the official press release:
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Relive some of the greatest
film moments from comedy legend and Hollywood icon Jerry Lewis with the
new JERRY LEWIS 10 FILM COLLECTION, arriving on DVD June 12, 2018 from
Paramount Home Media Distribution. Celebrated for his remarkable range of
characters, outlandish antics, and uninhibited physicality, Jerry Lewis’ work
continues to delight audiences around the world and inspire new generations of
Featuring 10 of Lewis’ most beloved comedies, the JERRY
LEWIS 10 FILM COLLECTION is headlined by 1963’s enduring classic The
Nutty Professor, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year.
Considered by many to be Lewis’ finest and most memorable film, The Nutty
Professor was included on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100
funniest American films of all time and was selected for preservation in the
U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004.
The 10-DVD set includes the following:
Stooge (1951)—Features one of Lewis’ earliest pairings
with Dean Martin as a musical-comedy duo
Delicate Delinquent (1956)—A “teenage terror” is recruited
for the Police Academy
Bellboy (1960)—Lewis plays a friendly but clumsy bellboy in
this slapstick classic
take on the classic Cinderella story
Errand Boy (1961)—Paramount enlists a bumbling Lewis to spy on
their productions in this hilarious film studio comedy
Ladies Man (1961)—A girl-shy man finds work in a women-only
hotel with uproarious results
Nutty Professor (1963)—A socially awkward professor
invents a serum that turns him into the handsome but obnoxious Buddy Love
Disorderly Orderly (1964)—Lewis wreaks havoc in a private
Patsy (1964)—Lewis directs and stars as a novice
recruited to replace a big-time comedian
Family Jewels (1965)—Lewis directs and plays seven
distinct roles in this family inheritance farce
The mania for adapting non-musical TV shows and movies as musical productions on Broadway continues with the news that the 1960s sitcom "Green Acres" will be brought to the Great White Way with more tunes than just composer Vic Mizzy's classic theme song, which seemingly every American of a certain age can still sing to perfection. The show was a major hit back in the day and starred Eddie Albert as a New York attorney who became fed up with the congestion and stress of living in Manhattan. He relocates to a small town called Hooterville where the naive city slicker finds that the farm he has purchased is a dilapidated mess. Much of the fun centered on his gorgeous but not-so-bright wife played by Eva Gabor, who longs to return to the big city. Both she and her husband toil on the farm while still clad in the same attire they wore on Park Avenue. The show, which is still shown in re-runs, was created by Paul Henning, the mastermind behind two similar sitcoms, "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction". Cast members from each show would turn up as the same characters across the three series. In watching the series today, I've been impressed at just how funny it still is, thanks to the wonderful performances of Albert and Gabor as well as the many great character actors who were regulars on the series: Alvy Moore, Pat Buttram, Tom Lester, Frank Cady among them. The fish-out-of-water premise for a comedy extends back long before "Green Acres". Cary Grant tried to adjust to country living in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert did the same in "The Egg and I". In later years, Tom Hanks starred in the similarly-themed "The Money Pit". Whether contemporary audiences who don't even remember "Green Acres" will find its gentle style of humor entertaining is the big question. Let's just hope that keep that opening theme song.
was arguably the success of A Fistful of Dollars that really set the ball
rolling on the slew of shameless spaghetti western rip-offs and cash-ins that
proliferated throughout the 1960s, as film-makers jostled to get a taste of the
sauce and chow down on a cut of the rewards from what quickly became a very
profitable arena in which to be operating.
rode into town a little later than popular gunslingers such as Sabata, Django
and Ringo, but he made enough of an impression to warrant a number of official
sequels – and several unofficial ones too. Just five legitimate Sartana films
were lensed, with Gianni Garko (billed as John Garko) headlining in four of
them and George Hilton just one. Cucumber cool antihero Sartana was notably
more dapper than most of his mud-spattered box office rivals, a real snappy
dresser in fact; with his black cape lined in red silk, sharp matching cravat
and crisp white shirt, he cut a fine figure riding through desolate wasteland,
deck of cards in one hand, natty miniature four-shooter in the other, always
ready to spit out a death sentence when the moment was called for. In the first
film he even retrieved a musical pocket watch from a corpse and proceeded to
use its tinkly chime to taunt his nemesis.
fabulously contrived titles of the five films belied a series of enjoyable
enough but not exactly top-tier western actioners. Dripping with all the
requisite tropes of the genre, and occasionally sprinkling a few unexpected
condiments into the pot, they’re perfectly watchable fare, but it’s unlikely many
would favour any of them over a Sabata instalment or, indeed, an Eastwood
classic. If, for this writer, there’s any problem at all with the Sartana
series – and it’s one that prevents them from residing up there among the
genre’s finest – it’s that in every instance a plot suited at best to the
50-minute TV episode format was, out of necessity, stretched to feature length,
the resultant slightness of narrative rendering them all far too leisurely
five official Sartana films have now been issued on Blu-ray by Arrow Video in
an impressive collectors’ box set. Accompanied by an illustrated book, each
film is individually packaged and boasts reversible sleeve art, and the entire collection
is housed in an attractive slipcase.
series kickstarter was 1968’s If you meet Sartana pray for your eath (O.T.
Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte), directed by Frank Kramer, a.k.a.
Gianfranco Parolini. (Note: in Italian film titles, only the first word is
capitalised.) Among the most enjoyable of the quintet, the plot concerns a pair
of dodgy bankers who hire a group of Mexicans to steal a strongbox filled with
gold, subsequently allowing them to claim on the insurance. In fact, the
precious cargo has been substituted with rocks, the valuable contents having
already been squirrelled away in a coffin. Following the heist, the Mexicans
are quickly eliminated to wipe out any evidence of the scam. It’s up to Sartana
to uncover the truth and retrieve the gold. Any anticipation engendered by the
opening credit “with the special participation of Klaus Kinsky” (sic) is
swiftly quelled; it’s anything but special, for the A-class actor – who
possessed one of cinema’s most expressive faces (and intimidating grimaces!) –
is relegated to sideline status for much of the action. At least any
disappointment on that score is appeased by the presence of a satisfyingly
formidable bad guy in the shape of wild-eyed, buttercup-chewing William Berger
as Lasky, who, when he’s not gleefully massacring bandits with his hand-cranked
Gatling gun, proves to be a single-shot marksman, planting bullets
centre-forehead in more unfortunates than it’s possible to keep tally of. An
ace cardsharp, Sartana makes a fast enemy of Lasky when he cleans him out at the
poker table. Despite the paucity of plot, director Kramer manages to sustain
interest, layering in double and triple crosses as Sartana gently manipulates
the wrong-doers into turning on each other. There’s a stab at comic relief too
in the form of Franco Pesce as the town’s undertaker, but for this writer his
theatrical gurning and cartoonish mannerisms eclipse the intended amiable
quirkiness to become distractingly irksome.
2K restoration from the original film materials displays a fair amount of
grain, but aside from one brief moment of picture damage at the outset and a
slightly protracted patch of vertical scratching further along, the print is in
very respectable shape. The film can be viewed in either an English dub or its
original Italian with newly translated English subtitles. Supplements comprise
a commentary from film historian (and Cinema Retro contributor) Mike Siegel, an
interview with director Kramer, a helpful guide to the characters in the
Sartana universe, and a gallery of artwork and stills.
year later, in 1969, I am Sartana, your angel of death (O.T. Sono Sartana, il
vostro becchino) was unleashed. In this one our man (Garko again) appears to
have been involved in a bank robbery and finds himself at the top of the most
wanted list, with a $10,000 dead or alive price on his head. He didn’t do it,
of course, so has to hunt down the real perpetrator to clear his name, whilst
evading bounty hunters hot on his trail and intent on bagging the reward. It’s
a decent enough follow-up from director Giuliano Carnimeo (credited as Anthony
Ascott), which showcases another fine Garko performance (with Sartana now
displaying a knack for sleight of hand card tricks) and the return of Klaus
Kinski (spelt with the “I” this time) in a meatier, albeit less threatening
role, that of a gambler-cum-bounty hunter with the best character name of
anyone in the entire run of Sartana pictures: Hot Dead. Unfortunately, Franco
Pesce (uncredited this time) is also back, now promoted to town mayor,
fortuitously only briefly on screen but every bit as annoying. The story
unfolds at a sedate price, but Ascott and cinematographer Giovanni Bergamini
keep things percolating with some stylish set-ups, the camera lurching sideways
whenever bodies spin and hit the dust. One brief scene stands out for this
writer, if not for the right reason; when Sartana dodges a spray of bullets
from a trio of pursuing gunmen by zigzagging left and right, any sense of
suspense is undermined by spurred memories of the amusing Peter Falk/Alan Arkin
‘serpentine’ sequence in 1979’s The In-Laws!
had access to the original camera negative for this one and the 2K restoration
is very nice indeed. Again sound options are English and Italian. Extras
comprise a commentary from historian and filmmakers C Courtney Joyner and Henry
Peake, interviews with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and stuntman Sal Borgese,
plus a gallery of European poster art and German lobby cards.
The Orlebar Brown Company has released a super cool, officially licensed line of retro-based James Bond swimwear for men. The imaginatively-designed, high quality bathing trunks are available in four designs: "Dr. No", "Thunderball", "You Only Live Twice" and "Live and Let Die" and each designs features graphics from original 007 posters and promotional photos. The items are part of the company's "Bulldog" brand, so-named because of the sentimental connection between "M" and her ceramic bulldog that plays a role in the plots of "Skyfall" and "Spectre". The price of the swimwear might require the budget of Goldfinger himself with the trunks carrying a $395/ 245 GBP retail price. However, we are assured that each item has an official James Bond label sewn inside and comes with a limited edition, waterproof custom storage bag (illustrated above) for those blokes who regularly find themselves having to dispense with their trunks on short notice. We'll go out on limb and presume that the deadly spear gun, infra-red underwater camera and mini atomic bomb tow sled are not included with the swim trunks.
Sole is a production designer who has carved out a nice career for himself in
Hollywood, most notably on the television shows Veronica Mars (2004-7), Castle
(2009-16), and the reboot of MacGyver
(2017-18). Long before he chose that line of work however, he dabbled in the
world of film directing. His first film, the 1972 hardcore sex “comedy” Deep Sleep, must be seen to be believed
because despite a few flourishes of cinematic style and several humorous
sequences involving dialogue, it’s just a hardcore sex romp featuring folks no
one in their right mind would want to see naked let alone copulating. There is
absolutely nothing in this film to suggest that he would next direct one of the
greatest and most thematically disturbing thrillers of our time, 1976’s Communion, not to be confused with the
Christopher Walken/alien-probe-up-the-old-dirt-road 1989 outing based on Whitley
Strieber’s 1987 “non-fiction” book of the same name. His subsequent films,
1980’s Tanya’s Island with the late
and impossibly gorgeous Denise Matthews (credited as “D.D. Winters”) and 1982’s
star-studded comedy Pandemonium both
fared poorly at the box office, hence his career change. Thankfully Communion, with its high cinematic style
and deceptively low production budget, refused to die.
her screen debut, Brooke Shields plays Karen Spages (rhymes with “pages”), the
younger sister of Alice Spages, the latter brilliantly portrayed by New
Jersey-born actress Paula Sheppard. Karen is favored by everyone around her and
can do no wrong, mostly because Alice is a, forgive the pun, holy terror. Alice
teases Karen, locks her in a building to scare her, and mistreats her communion
veil. Why the horseplay? Alice was conceived out of wedlock and is not entitled
to receive the Holy Eucharist. As if this is her fault.
the day of her first communion Karen is brutally murdered right in the church
and all suspicion points to her sister after she finds the discarded veil and
wears it to the altar. This sets in motion some truly well-acted scenes wherein
the identity of the killer is constantly in question. Everyone suspects Alice,
even her neighbor Mr. Alphonse (Alphonse DeNoble), an obese monstrosity you
must see to believe. Karen and Alice’s mother Catherine (Linda Miller) is
grief-stricken and meets her ex-husband Dom (Niles McMaster) at the funeral. Afterwards,
there are suspicions about Alice’s whereabouts during Karen’s murder and Alice
submits to a polygraph which she mischievously pushes on to the floor. Her Aunt
Annie (Jane Lowry) battles with her sister and the latter accuses her of hating
Alice because of her sinful status. Annie refutes this until she herself is
attacked in a shockingly bloody sequence and fully believes that Alice is the
Alice takes place circa 1961 as evinced by the production design,
the old-style cars, the calendar on the wall, and the prevalence of a poster of
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that
can be seen if one really looks for it. Originally reviled amid concerns that
it’s an attack against the Catholic Church (how can it not be?), the film was
met with lukewarm box office. Director Sole was rumored to have stated that the
church was simply the milieu he wanted to set the story against, but the
commentary infers otherwise. It’s one of the most Catholic-themed films I’ve
ever seen, even more so than William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973). It has a look, a feel, and an atmosphere all
its own. This film is quite simply one of the best low-budget American horror
films ever made. It boasts a superbly eerie score by Stephen Lawrence who scored
a handful of other films. Yours Truly has been wishing for a soundtrack album
of this music for years, however one has yet to surface. Great editing,
wonderful set design, and excellent music all come together to make Alice an enjoyable shocker that can
easily be viewed more than several times.
film has had a strange history. Filmed in Mr. Sole’s hometown of Paterson, NJ
in the summer of 1975, Alice
premiered in Paterson (Lou Costello’s old stomping grounds) under its original
title Communion on Saturday, November
13, 1976 at the Fabian Theater (now the Fabian Building). The event was met
with much fanfare, however a subsequent theatrical release failed to stir much
interest. Communion was dropped by
the original distributor, picked up by another, retitled Alice, Sweet Alice, re-cut and
redistributed in 1981 as Holy Terror
and played up Ms. Shields’s participation in response to the success of the
previous year’s The Blue Lagoon. It
then made its way to cable television and local independent stations where the
bulk of us caught up with it. Later on it was relegated to VHS collecting dust
in discount bins beginning in 1985 with Goodtimes Home Video, seemingly forever
to be lost within the public domain due to a legal snafu. I bought it for ten
dollars, which was unheard of in an era when the MSRP on a VHS tape was roughly
eighty dollars. In 1998, the film received a laserdisc release from the Roan
Group which sported a highly entertaining audio commentary from director Sole
and the film’s editor, Edward
Salier. The film was given two DVD releases later on, which ported over the
commentary. Even without the benefit of Sole's discussion, one can
easily see the influence that Nicolas Roeg's astonishing Don’t Look Now (1973) has on this
With the blatant "Die Hard" rip-off "Skyscraper" now in theaters, it's time to go back to a really good disaster film: producer Irwin Allen's 1974 blockbuster production of "The Towering Inferno", which benefited from having been made in an era in which it was possible to have genuine all-star casts. When it comes to this particular genre, they really don't make 'em like that anymore.
audience members under the age of forty will not recall motion picture
theatrical exhibition in the 1970s. It was a most interesting time when
drive-ins and even first-run movie theaters would pair up an older feature
film, generally one that was one to two years-old, with the main feature on a
double-bill. A handful of theaters in my area used to engage in midnight showings
of older films, too. One theater exclusively ran The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for years while another
alternated between Stanley Kubrick's 2001:
A Space Odyssey (1968), Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards
(1971), Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains
the Same (1976), David Lynch's art-house favorite Eraserhead (1977) and Alan Parker's Pink Floyd The Wall (1982). Other showcases included uncensored
bloopers featuring Carol Burnett, the Three Stooges, and Abbott and Costello.
October 1978, Attack of the Killer
Tomatoes was unleashed upon the moviegoing public (filming had begun in
early 1977). The film is an effort to poke fun at the Japanese disaster and monster
invasion films of the 1950’s and 1960’s, movies that, according to director
John DeBello, were mostly unfamiliar to the moviegoing public. Billing itself
as a comedy, to today's eyes, it's really anything but that. Despite a few
laugh out-loud sequences the film, which runs nearly 90minutes, feels nearly twice that length. There are many films that came
out during this era that are disjointed and suffer from ineffective editing like
Attack. Black Socks (aka Video Vixens)
(1974) was an effort to introduce hardcore sex into a comedy and failed
miserably. The Groove Tube (1974) and
Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) are two
other inane attempts at hilarity. However, there are some truly funny films in
this vein, as 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie
and Airplane! in 1980, can attest to.
In Attack, there is a humorous scene
wherein military officials all cram into a small room for an impromptu meeting
to discuss the best course of action against the tomato attack; a sequence
involving a blind traffic cop; a badly dubbed Japanese official; and the
requisite Jaws parody – bested by the
Attack recalls the similar premise of George
A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead
(1968) wherein dead bodies inexplicably are reanimated and begin feeding on
human flesh. The one major difference here is that the unsuspecting American
public is under attack by giant, killer tomatoes. The plot is almost too
convoluted to be believed for a send-up, but the basic premise involves the
government attempting to keep the seriousness of the tomato attacks under wraps
so as not to give way to mass hysteria and have to call in the military.
makes people laugh today is apparently different from what made people laugh forty
years ago. However, there are certain comedies that are timeless. No matter how
old I get, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges never
fail to make me laugh. There aren't too many films made in the last thirty to
forty years I can claim are able to do that. Even It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), with its television viewings
and innumerable home video releases, is still to this day laugh out-loud
hilarious. The interaction between all the characters is truly astonishing.
There is no such chemistry between anybody in Attack. I’ll admit it’s unfair to compare Stanley Kramer’s epic
comedy filled to the brim with comic geniuses who honed their talents for years
with a film put together by a group of movie fans who wanted to make a film. To
be fair, Attack probably was designed
to play at drive-ins where people had other things on their mind besides a
movie. And who can blame them? If you had to watch this film, you would do
better off filing your nails.
won't hold it against you if you're a fan of this film as I have my share of
guilty pleasures, and if you are a
fan then this DVD/Blu-ray is an absolute must-have. The restored, 4K transfer
is very colorful and the film has never looked batter. The 2003 DVD release had
several extras that have been ported over to this new release, and I will also
list the extras that for some reason fell by the wayside. I would love to see
half the number of extras lavished upon this film bestowed upon some of my
favorite and lesser-known films that I grew up watching. For a film of this
kind, the new DVD/Blu-ray combo set from MVD is jam-packed. It would have been nice if
they included a hilarious cut of the film itself!
has been a good year for fans of model and actress Laura Gemser. Recently, Severin
Films released a deluxe Blu-ray package of two of her films, a soundtrack CD, a
really cool t-shirt and an enamel pin, the last item appearing to be something
that is new and all the rage nowadays. We’ll take a look at the two films
featured in this collection.
and the Last Cannibals
Gemser, the high cheekbone-chiseled, dark-skinned Indonesian goddess born
Laurette Marcia Gemser who appeared opposite Jack Palance in Emmanuelle
and the Deadly Black Cobra
(1975), returns in Emanuelle and the Last
Cannibals as Emanuelle. Here she’s a photojournalist who goes undercover at
a mental hospital with a 35mm camera hidden within a creepy children’s doll
that takes photos when the eyes open and close. She’s looking to expose the
hospital’s treatment of the infirmed and witnesses a horrific event wherein a
patient tries to eat one of the nurses. Yes, you read that right. A tattoo on
the patient’s torso of a cannibal tribe’s logo stuns Emanuelle. She comes to
find out that the woman was raised by a tribe of cannibals called the Apiaca. Eager
to pursue this story, she consults with her newspaper editor, an older man who
is looped so poorly you practically never see his mouth move. In fact, the
whole movie is looped with foley effects and dialogue that all sound so
unnatural but hey, that’s part of the fun of these movies. The story compels
Emanuelle to seek out Dr. Mark Lester (Ms. Gemser’s late real-life husband,
Gabriele Tinti) who agrees to accompany her on a journey to investigate the
Apiaca. Before she leaves on her trip, however, she decides to make love to her
boyfriend in full view of the New York skyline, but this is the last we see of
him as she appears to be smitten with the older Dr. Lester. Mechanical and
joyless softcore sex scenes proliferate, even after the point following their
arrival in the jungle to pursue the tribe. They are offered assistance by a
group of others who go with them: Reverend Wilkes (Geoffrey Copleston),
Isabelle (Mónica Zanchi), an overly emotional Sister Angela (Annamaria
Clementi), Donald Mackenzie (Donald O’Brien), and his wife Maggie (Nieves
Navarro). They are on a mission to locate Father Morales who is supposedly the
only person not from the Amazon who has ever had any contact with the tribe. Unfortunately,
they only discover his remains, which sets poor Sister Angela into a terrible
Donald can’t seem to satisfy Maggie anymore, so when they stop to make camp she
elects to get it on with natives in the jungle. As one would expect from director
Aristide Massaccesi, better known as Joe D’Amato, the sex scenes are overdone,
artificial and completely lacking in passion. Even Emanuelle’s multiple romps
do little to exult in the wonder of her lithe figure. If ever there was an
award for Best Mechanical and Robotic Sex Scene, director D’Amato would surely
win every time.
the more the group hikes further into the jungle the more they expose
themselves to potentially being captured and eaten. This horrific fate befalls several
of the party, but Emanuelle thinks of an ingenious way to escape once they are surrounded.
The ending is silly and predictable, but you pretty much know what you’re
getting with this acting troupe.
difficult as it may seem to believe, cannibal films enjoyed a high level of
popularity back in the 1970s and 1980s, so it was inevitable that they would
make their way into other genres. If the title is unfamiliar to U.S. audiences,
it should be. Though shot in the summer of 1977, Last Cannibals didn’t make its way to American shores until 1984
when it was dumped on VHS under the title of Trap Them and Kill Them. Like most exploitation films of the
period, some of the action is shot in the streets of New York City and it’s a
real hoot to see what Manhattan looked like 41 years ago. One shot has the
comedy Kentucky Fried Movie displayed
prominently on the marquee of the long-gone Rivoli Theatre which was known for
its extended showcases of 2001: A Space
Odyssey (1968) and Jaws (1975).
The film has just made its way to Blu-ray via
of Severin Films and the results are so far above what we’re used to from VHS
bootlegs that it looks like a different movie. Presented
in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and given a 2K transfer from a good
print that significantly brightens up the image, Last Cannibals looks good enough to make one dump the inferior and
murky VHS bootlegs of over thirty years ago.
disc has an unusual amount of extras for this sort of title. Up first is The World of Nico Fidenco which runs
twenty-seven minutes. Signor Fidenco is the film’s composer and he has written
an upbeat score for the film. He’s very interesting to listen to and describes
how his stint in the military got in the way of his original ambition which was
to be a film director. After he was discharged, he learned the guitar and
studied singing and this led him to composing music for film. He collaborated
multiple times with director D’Amato. (Note:
if you’re a fan of the score, the first 3000 Blu-ray pressings in a special
edition contain a separate compact disc of the score. The end of this review
will fill you in on how to order it).
A Nun Among the Cannibals: An Interview with Actress Annamaria
Clementi (twenty-three minutes). While watching the interview, I couldn’t
believe that the woman speaking to the camera was the same woman who played Sister
Angela in the film. She was roughly twenty-three when she shot the film, and is
now sixty-five(?!) in the on-screen interview. This bespectacled beauty could
easily pass for thirty-eight. Perhaps the interview was shot years ago? It
looks new to me. She talks about how shy and aloof she was with lead actress
Gemser, and how director D’Amato wanted to put her in his next seven films which
she declined(!), as well as a chance encounter with Robert DeNiro when shooting
in New York City. She also explains that she was approached by Pino Pellegrino,
the man who would become her agent, casually on the street and he asked her if
she wanted to become an actress. Remarkably, she trusted him and they had a
good working relationship.
Dr. O’Brien MD: This eighteen-minute interview with Donald
O’Brien who played Donald Mackenzie reveals how he got his start in acting,
like most performers do, in the theatre. I was amazed at how much he had aged
whereas the aforementioned Annamaria Clementi looked so much younger.
From Switzerland to the Mato Grosso runs nearly nineteen minutes and
features Monika Zanchi whom genre fans will remember from the nutso 1977 outing
Hitch Hike with Franco Nero and the
incomparable David Hess. She also appeared in the ridiculous Spielberg spoof Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind
last featurette is called I Am Your Black
Queen which runs just over eleven minutes and is a poorly-recorded
audio interview with Laura Gemser which is subtitled. She talks about how she
began, like most attractive young actresses do, by modelling. This is how genre
favorite Caroline Munro got her start. Her first film, Free Love, was released in 1974. Perhaps not so surprisingly, she
refers to her embarrassment over her nude scenes. Of the few movies that I have
seen of her, she rarely if ever looks comfortable in her own skin, almost as if
disrobing is a chore.
of all is the requisite theatrical trailer.
I mentioned earlier, the first 3000 copies of this Blu-ray also include a
soundtrack CD of the film’s score. The running time on the 31-track CD is one
hour. It can be ordered here as part of The Laura Gemser Deluxe Bundle which includes a second film, Violence in a Women’s Prison.
Here's a gem from the 1952 Academy Awards, which were very low-key back in the day and defined by short acceptance speeches by the winners. Here Greer Garson presents Humphrey Bogart with the Best Actor Oscar for John Huston's "The African Queen".
My only memory of "Swashbuckler" was seeing it for the first time when it was already in release for a year. The occasion was that this was an in-flight movie on my first trip to Europe in the summer of 1977. In those ancient times, films were still shown on 16mm projectors on pull-down screens in the main cabin. I remember being unimpressed with the film but the distraction of the (then) free liquor service might have affected my opinion. As Cinema Retro's latest issue features coverage of the 1977 film "The Deep" starring Robert Shaw, I decided to revisit "Swashbuckler" largely because it also stars the estimable Shaw, who never gave a bad performance. I found my opinion of the pirate tale had improved considerably since the first viewing. It's a raucous, old-fashioned yarn that perhaps too earnestly tries to recapture the vim and vigor of those old screen adventures that would star Errol Flynn or young Burt Lancaster. Ably directed by James Goldstone, who takes full advantage of the lush Mexican locations (representing old Jamaica), the film opens in the court of Lord Durant (Peter Boyle), the corrupt British governor of Jamaica who rules the island like a tyrant. When honest nobleman Sir James Durant (Bernard Behrens) runs afoul of him, Durant has him arrested and imprisoned to await execution of a death sentence. He also commands that Durant's wife (Louisa Horton) and daughter Jane (Genevieve Bujold) be evicted from the family estate and forced to live in a tenement. Durant's main nemesis is the pirate Ned Lynch (Robert Shaw), who- along with his merry men- acts as a sort of Robin Hood, stealing from the corrupt rich and dispensing much of their fortunes to the poor. Predictably, Jane has an encounter with Ned and professes to loathe him, but as these things inevitably play out, we know the two are attracted to each other. After much griping and fighting that literally includes a duel between Jane and Ned, she implores him to come to the aid of her father, who is facing imminent execution. Ned and his men launch a full-throttle attack on Durant and- if you haven't guessed it- save the day.
"Swashbuckler" is undistinguished on most levels except for the fact that it is exciting and lives up to its title by including an abundance of terrific sword fights. Kudos to all the actors, who performed these extended and exhausting duels with great professionalism, including Bujold, whose slight build must have certainly posed an obstacle in filming these scenes. The supporting cast includes some esteemed names including Geoffrey Holder (in full "Live and Let Die" Baron Samedi mode) and Beau Bridges as a bumbling British army officer appropriately named Major Folly. The action is impressively filmed by cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and it's all set to a lively score by John Addison. Shaw seems to be having the time of his life in what must have been a physically taxing role for him. Although the stuntmen are in abundance, it's quite clear he did many of his own action scenes. (Shaw says in the production featurette on the DVD that the film was more physically challenging than "Jaws"). Bujold does well as the gutsy young woman who defies sexual stereotypes and Peter Boyle is a great deal of fun as the evil Durant, even if he is miscast as a British nobleman. James Earl Jones has a prominent role as Ned Lynch's right-hand pirate. "Swashbuckler" wasn't designed to win awards or become a boxoffice blockbuster. It represents the kind of modest production that was designed to entertain and make a quick profit in an era before every release represented a major financial risk for the studio.
The Universal DVD features a very nice transfer and some welcome extras including an interesting original production featurette about the making of the film, cast and crew biographies and production notes and the original trailer. Recommended.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
for the Very First Time at Retail, the 6-Disc Set Features 24 Complete,
Remastered Episodes Loaded with Classic Sketches and Incredible Guest Stars Including Raquel Welch, Steve Allen, Johnny Cash,
Bing Crosby, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli,
Carroll O’Connor, Carl Reiner, John Wayne, Henny Youngman and Many More!
correctness met its match with Rowan
& Martin’s Laugh-In, NBC-TV’s groundbreaking variety series that became
a cultural touchstone and part of the fabric of ‘60s-‘70s era America.Every Monday night at 8pm from 1968-1973, straight
man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a supremely talented
comic ensemble through a gut-busting assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non
sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief.ROWAN
& MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON, from the award-winning TV
DVD archivists at Time Life, makes its retail debut on July 10 in an uproarious
set featuring all 24 re-mastered episodes from the fifth season (September
13,1971-March 20, 1972).
COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON, after years of shameless name dropping, Dick finally
gets his wish when bombshell Raquel Welch kicks off the new season with her
first and only appearance on the show.Former
Hogan’s Heroes POWs Richard Dawson
and Larry Hovis escaped CBS to join the cast. And, along with alumni Judy
Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Teresa Graves, they help to
celebrate Laugh-In’s landmark 100th
episode (September 1, 1971).THE
COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON also trots out many of the 20th century’s greatest
talents, including Steve Allen, Johnny
Carson, Johnny Cash, Carol Channing, Charo, Petula Clark, Bing Crosby, Tony
Curtis, Henry Gibson, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Arte
Johnson, Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli, Agnes Moorehead, Joe Namath, Carroll O’Connor,
Vincent Price, Carl Reiner, Debbie Reynolds, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell,
Vin Scully, Doc Severinsen, Jacqueline Susann, Tiny Tim, John Wayne, Raquel
Welch, Henny Youngman, and more!
COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON also includes such classic features as “Cocktail Party,”
“Fickle Finger of Fate,” “Joke Wall,” “Gladys and Tyrone,” “General Bull
Right,” “Big Al,” Lily Tomlin’s legendary “Ernestine” and “Edith Ann,”
“Tasteful Lady,” and “Ruth Buzzi’s Hollywood Report”.Additionally, Mod, Mod World takes on sports,
toys and games, families, politics, nutrition, leisure, year’s end, Manhattan,
television, small towns, crazy people, and the theater, Robert Goulet, Charo,
and Three Dog Night perform the Laugh-In
news song and there’s a hilarious “Salute to Santa” and a very modern Christmas
Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Lily Tomlin, Ruth Buzzi, Arte
Johnson, Gary Owens, Alan Sues, Ann Elder, Dennis Allen, Barbara Sharma, Johnny Brown, Larry
Hovis, Richard Dawson
Format: DVD/6 Discs
Running Time: 1239 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
About Time Life
Time Life is one of
the world's pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique music and
video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media collections that
evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and can be enjoyed
for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered trademarks of
Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by Direct Holdings
Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a 40th anniversary screening of "Grease" with director Randal Kleiser in attendance along with stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Didi Conn and Barry Pearl. Comedian and actor Margaret Cho will emcee. The event takes place on August 15 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Tickets go on sale July 25th. Click here for more info.
must confess that when I first settled down to read “Terror in the Desert: Dark
Cinema of the American Southwest”, a new book from McFarland by film-maker Brad
Sykes, it was with a distinctly doubtful attitude, insomuch that I couldn’t
quite believe there were enough films in existence to qualify its topic as an
authentic sub-genre. Surely it would be a padded affair...
an introduction in which the author outlines his discovery of and enthusiasm
for the films he identifies as “desert terrors” – distinguished specifically by
the dusty, inhospitable locations in which they’re set – if, just 6-pages in,
my doubts weren’t already being challenged, throughout the 275 ensuing pages
they were suitably quelled; by the end I was completely won over.
under-populated when compared to the staple sub-genres of slashers, vampires,
zombies, nature-gone-crazy and their ilk (most of which have members in their
community with facets that earn them a spot in the “desert terrors”
arena), there are nevertheless a surprising number of titles identified and
discussed in the book, many of which had previously slipped under my radar.
Quite a few of the films under examination have enjoyed their moment in the
mainstream sunshine, rendering them (if only in name) familiar even to
cinephiles with no interest in horror movies– From Dusk Till Dawn, Eight Legged
Freaks, Tremors, Duel, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hitcher – but it was the
intriguing-sounding entries I’d never heard of before which proved the most
intriguing aspect of Sykes’ book for me. There won’t be many with a passion for
cinematic terrors who, after having read about such titles as Raw Courage,
Mirage, Road Killers or The Sadist (the latter cited by the author as the one
which started it all back in 1963, and to which he devotes a whole chapter),
will be able to resist an online search into their availability.
discussing these films the text deigns to demonstrate, if I may quote the
author, “...how the genre has evolved over the years due to social, economic,
and political changes as well as stylistic technical transitions within the
movie industry.” If that makes it all sound rather hifalutin, be assured it
isn’t. Sykes writes authoritatively and informatively and never becomes bogged
down in thesis-style analytics. In fact, so readable is his relaxed writing
style that ultimately his enthusiasm becomes infectious.
in the Desert” is an engrossing – and for this reader, educational –
accomplishment and one that I’d not hesitate to recommend. There’s a handy A-Z
appendix at the back cataloguing over 150 key titles, and it was nice to be
reminded of movies I’d seen many moons ago, Sykes’ commentary about which
filled me with the incentive for a revisit; Death Valley, The Velvet Vampire,
Prey of the Chameleon, Ghost Town and Kingdom of the Spiders, to name but a
from the propensity to occasionally run a little too hot in recounting plot
detail – though fortunately it is only occasional – my one reservation in terms
of value for money with regard this slightly pricey volume is that pictorially
it’s pretty underwhelming, with an extensive number of its 100+ b/w images
being reproductions of (mostly) bland DVD sleeves and VHS cartons.
what did I take away with me from my immersion in “Terror in the Desert”? Definitely
a desire to widen my viewing ever further, but moreover that there really does
seem to be such a thing as the “desert terrors” sub-genre. Who knew? Certainly
Actor Tab Hunter has died at age 86 after sudden complications from a blood clot lead to a fatal heart attack. Hunter's blonde hair and hunky build made him a natural for the kind of beefcake leading men that characterized 1950s Hollywood. He was put under contract at Warner Brothers and became the studio's top grossing star during the years 1955-1959. Among Hunter's biggest hits of the era was the WWII film Battle Cry and the screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. Hunter's popularity briefly extended to singing and his recording of "Young Love" was a smash hit, displacing Elvis Presley at the top of the charts. However, changing attitudes among fickle movie-goers in the 1960s swerved away from the traditional studio concept of a leading man. Hunter continued to work but in less-than-stellar productions. He did, however, have memorable cameos in big studio productions such as The Loved One and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Hunter remained relevant by appearing on television shows and starring in two bizarre hit cult movies of the 1980s: Polyster and Lust in the Dust. Upon publication of his 2005 autobiography, he came out of the closet and stated he was gay. Hunter acknowledged the obvious: that had he done so back in his glory days, his career would have come to an abrupt end. He lamented how he would have to feign love affairs with actresses and be seen on faux dates. Hunter's late-in-life embrace of his sexuality was welcomed in the gay community and figures prominently in the 2015 documentary Tab Hunter Confidential, which was produced by his long-time romantic partner Allan Glaser. For more click here.
Liza Minnelli was reported by Radar Online to have given her blessing to a new big screen biopic of her legendary mother Judy Garland. However, the story was removed from Radar's web site when Minnelli publicly stated that she had no connection to the film and, contrary to the report, had never been in contact with its star, Rene Zellweger. The film chronicles Garlands 1968 concert appearance in London and all the surrounding drama that accompanied it. At that point in her career, Garland was suffering from many personal demons that would lead to her death the following year at age 47. In a statement, Minnelli said that she does not approve of or sanction the film. For more click here.
Here is newsreel footage from the 1966 Royal Film Performance of "Born Free" with Queen Elizabeth attending. Guests include the film's stars Virginia Mckenna and Bill Travers and celebs Rex Harrison and Rachel Roberts, Leslie Caron and Warren Beatty and Ursula Andress, along with Woody Allen, who were in London to film "Casino Royale". The event took place at the Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square, London. (Thanks to reader Dave Norris for the heads up on this. Dave served as chief projectionist at the Odeon for many years.)
Sam Spiegel was one of the most revered and accomplished producers in Hollywood history. His achievements included such classics as "On the Waterfront", "The African Queen", "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia". His body of work, though not nearly as extensive as that of some other producers, was notable in the sense that Spiegel thought big and shot for the moon when it came to bringing to the screen stories that spoke to the human condition. Following the triumphant release of "Lawrence" in 1962, Spiegel did not make another film for four years. When he did, the movie - "The Chase"- turned out to be a star-packed drama that won over neither critics or audiences. Spiegel had a more ambitious idea for his next production, a screen adaptation of the best-selling WWII thriller "The Night of the Generals" by Hans Helmut Kirst. Spiegel had the inspired idea of reuniting his "Lawrence of Arabia" co-stars Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif. They were reluctant to take on the project, but they certainly owed him. Both were virtual unknowns until Spiegel gave them the roles that made them international stars. Spiegel also added to the mix an impressive cast of esteemed British actors ranging from veterans such as Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray to up-and-coming young actors Tom Courtenay and Joanna Pettet. He chose Anatole Litvak to direct. Litvak had been making films for decades and had a few notable hits such as "Sorry, Wrong Number", "Anastasia" and "The Snake Pit". Spiegel being Spiegel ensured that the production benefited from a large budget and an appropriate running time (148 minutes) that would allow the story to unfold in a measured process.
"The Night of the Generals" is certainly a unique spin on WWII films. There are no battles or major action sequences, save for a harrowing sequence in which the German army systematically destroys part of the Warsaw Ghetto. Instead, it's very much a character study populated by characters who are, indeed, very interesting. The film opens with a tense sequence set in occupied Warsaw. The superintendent of an over-crowded apartment building accidentally overhears the brutal murder of a local prostitute in a room upstairs. From a hiding place he witnesses the killer walk past him. He does not see the man's face but recognizes his uniform: he is a general in the German army. The man keeps this information to himself on the logical assumption that divulging it might mean his death sentence. However, under questioning from the army investigator, Major Grau (Omar Sharif), he tells the shocking details of what he witnessed. From this moment, Grau becomes obsessed with finding the killer. Grau may be a German officer, but he is a pure cynic when it comes to the Nazi cause and the brutal methods being employed to win the war. He can't control the larger picture of how the war is being waged but he can control what is in his jurisdiction: bringing to justice the man who committed this one especially savage murder. Grau soon centers on three suspects. The first is General von Seiditz-Gabler (Charles Gray, channeling his future Blofeld), an effete, well-connected opportunist who is in a loveless marriage to his dominating wife Eleanore (Coral Browne). Then there is General Kahlenberg (Donald Pleasence), a man of slight build and low-key personality who has some eccentric personal habits that may include murder. Last, and most intriguing, is General Tanz (Peter O'Toole), a much-loathed and much-feared darling of Hitler's inner circle whose ruthless methods with dealing with civilian populations disgust his colleagues. Tanz has been sent to control or obliterate the Warsaw Ghetto.
The screenplay (which includes contributions by an uncredited Gore Vidal) is a bit disjointed and cuts back and forth to the present day in which we see a French police inspector, Morand (Phillippe Noiret), investigating the case twenty years later as he tries to tie together Grau's findings with dramatic developments that occurred during his handling of the case. Morand also appears in the war era sequences, having befriended Grau, who does not seem at all disturbed when he learns that Morand is actually a key figure in the French Resistance. Grau becomes particularly intrigued by General Ganz. He is an elitist snob who is devoid of any humor or compassion. A workaholic with seemingly no human weaknesses, Tanz is ostensibly under the command of his superior officer, Gabler, but it becomes clear that his political connections make him the top general in Warsaw. Major Grau interviews all three suspects and finds that any of them could be the murderer. When he becomes too intrusive, he is conveniently promoted and transferred to Paris, presumably to shut down his investigation. However, as the fortunes of war decline for the Third Reich, the top brass is eventually moved to Paris and Grau resumes his investigation when he discovers that prostitutes are being brutally murdered there as well. There is a parallel story that accompanies that of the murder investigation. It centers on Corporal Hartmann (Tom Courtenay), a young soldier who has been reluctantly acclaimed to be a national hero. It seems he was the last surviving member of his unit after a bloody battle. The brass used him as a propaganda tool, bestowing medals on him for heroic actions. In fact, he is a self-proclaimed coward whose only goal is to stay alive through the war. Hartmann confesses this to his superior, General Kahlenberg, who is amused by his honesty. He assigns him to be General Tanz's personal valet and orders him to show Tanz the history and sights of Paris. Neither he nor Tanz wants to partake in the venture, but Gabler orders Tanz to take a few days vacation, largely because he despises the man's presence. The scenes in which Hartmann tries to appease the mercurial Tanz without making any missteps are fraught with tension and suspense. Tanz is a fascinating character, presumably devoid of the vices most men have. However, in the course of their time together, Hartmann realizes that Tanz is somewhat of a fraud. He surreptitiously drinks to excess and changes into civilian clothes in order to meet with prostitutes in seedy bars. Although Tanz chews out Hartmann for every minor infraction, he seems to come to respect the younger man's professionalism. This sets in motion another complex plot development that also involves Hartmann's secret romance with General Gabler's free-spirited daughter Ulrike (Joanna Pettet).
Just trying to summarize the various plot strands of "The Night of the Generals" in this space is fairly exhausting. Oh, did I mention that another subplot involves Field Marshal Rommel (a cameo by Christopher Plummer) and the July, 1944 plot on the part of rebellious German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler? Nevertheless, although the various story lines become quite complex, they are all tied together eventually in clever and compelling ways. The film is part "Whodunnit", part political statement and part war movie. The movie moves back to the present for its intense conclusion as Inspector Morand is finally able to solve the crime and attempt to bring the culprit to justice. When the killer is revealed it's about as shocking of a development as the revelation that the butler did it in one of those old British film noir mysteries. Still, director Litvak (who shares the producer credit with Sam Spiegel because he owned the screen rights to the novel) keeps the action flowing briskly running time and elicits outstanding performances from his cast. O'Toole, who would later capitalize on playing larger-than-life characters, was at this point in his career still very immersed in portraying introspective, quiet men. He is quite mesmerizing as General Tanz and quite terrifying as well. Sharif is, at least on the surface, badly cast. I'm not aware of any Egyptians who became prominent German officers. Sharif has the map of the Middle East on his face and lingering remnants of his native accent. It's to his credit that he overcomes these obstacles and gives a very fine performance as the charismatic investigator who doggedly pursues his suspects with Javert-like conviction. All of the other performances are equally outstanding, with Courtenay especially impressive- and one has to wonder why the very talented Joanna Pettet never became a bigger star. The international flavor of the cast gives the film a Tower of Babel-like effect. Some of the actors attempt to affect a quasi-German accent while others speak with British accents, and then we have the French and Poland-based sequences with even more diversity of languages. Still, if you could accept Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood speaking "German" in their native tongues in "Where Eagles Dare", you won't find this aspect of "The Night of the Generals" to be particularly distracting. I should also mention the impressive contributions of composer Maurice Jarre, cinematographer Henri Decae and main titles designer Robert Brownjohn (remember when films even had opening titles?) In summary, the film-which not successful with critics or the public- is a thoroughly intriguing experience and affords us the joy of watching some of the best actors of the period sharing the screen.
"The Night of the Generals" has been released as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray from Twilight Time. The transfer is gorgeous, giving full impact to the impressive cinematography and lush production design. There is also an isolated score track, the original trailer and an informative booklet by film historian Julie Kirgo, who examines Sam Spiegel's attempts to rebuild his career in subsequent years only to find that he was out of place in the new Hollywood.
love it when The Criterion Collection produces a lavish boxed set containing
multiple features, an abundance of supplements, and a thick and illustrated
booklet. What better collection is there than one featuring the six Hollywood
films made between 1930 and 1935 by Josef von Sternberg and starring the
exquisite Marlene Dietrich? Hats off to producer Issa Clubb for overseeing what
could be one of Criterion’s better products.
adventure-romances showcased a star who immediately defined the word “exotic”—a
German-born, English-speaking, beautiful, sultry, seductress who could act,
sing, and dance. Like Greta Garbo, who had arrived in Hollywood during the
silent era, Marlene Dietrich exhibited a European mystery to American audiences
of the early Depression years. Her self-styled (with the help of her trusted
director, von Sternberg) gender-bending wardrobes and mannerisms, her sometimes
ambiguous but often overt sexuality, and her allure of “knowing something we
didn’t” made her an overnight star… for a while.
documented in the various supplements that appear over the six Blu-ray disks in
the set, Dietrich and von Sternberg enjoyed a successful and acclaimed period
during the Pre-Code days. It seemed, though, that as soon as the Production
Code went into effect in July 1934, the popularity of the star and the
director’s films waned. For the second half of the 1930s, Dietrich, like
several other leading ladies, became what was termed “box-office poison”—that
is, until she made a booming come-back in 1939’s Destry Rides Again.
and von Sternberg first worked together in the 1930 German-produced picture, The Blue Angel, which was filmed in both
the German language and in English. The director, already an established filmmaker
in Hollywood, convinced his studio, Paramount, to bring Dietrich over and sign
her to a multi-picture contract. The young star left Germany on the night The Blue Angel premiered in her native
country. Paramount held the U.S. release back until after the exhibition of her
first official Hollywood production, Morocco
(also 1930). This initial appearance in America proved to be a sensation. The
English-language version of The Blue
Angel was released a month later, and Marlene Dietrich had arrived.
historical importance of the films in Criterion’s new collection can be broken
down into three words—light, shadow, and Marlene. Josef von Sternberg was a
master of visual imagery in motion pictures at a time when black and white
cinematography was evolving as an art form. A cameraman himself, he was one of
the few directors in Hollywood who knew how to light a set and photograph it
(in fact, he is not only the director but also the cinematographer of the sixth
title in this set, The Devil is a Woman).
Von Sternberg’s use of German expressionism—heavy on the shadows, high contrast
between light and dark—did wonders for Marlene Dietrich’s cheekbones. An
actress was likely never photographed so beautifully as in those first few
films—not even Garbo. The greatest pleasure of the Dietrich & von Sternberg
boxed set is the gorgeousness of its images. While von Sternberg certainly had
much to say about how his films were photographed, many kudos must be given to
the other two cinematographers he worked with—Lee Garmes (three titles) and
Bert Glennon (two titles).
(All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
We’ve all had it
happen to us: after years of watching your favourite films in your “second home”,
your favourite cinema closes its doors and the projection light flickers on the
end titles for the last time, only to be replaced by the flutter of pigeon’s
wings who come to roost in the empty theatre before demolition. It happened to
me with the Jesmond Picture House in Newcastle and I’m sure most readers have
had a similar experience. In these days of theatres without flesh and blood projectionists
and the slightly automated feeling that brings to movie-watching, it is always
special to have one last bastion, thriving on the tradition it’s built up over
many years and one you love and visit like an old friend. Such has been the
case with the London Film Fairs at Westminster Halls which I’ve been attending
since moving to London exactly 30 years ago this week. Although it’s great to
have something fresh, it’s also cathartic to have an experience that seems new,
yet traditional at the same time, which is the way I feel about these shows. I
can’t tell you how many wonderful collectibles I’ve picked up over the years here and
although it became a well-loved routine to go there every other month, it never
ceased to provide surprises. Sometimes that pleasure may come from meeting a
memorabilia dealer who had your passion for the same films or having the
opportunity to meet and photograph one of your childhood heroes through their
talks about appearing in the James Bond series or the Hammer and Amicus horror films.
Sometimes there were cast and crew reunions, such as the memorable time the cast
of "Thunderbirds" got back together with no strings attached. Thus, It was a
great shame but sadly not much of a surprise to arrive at Westminster on
Saturday 30June not only to find it was the last day of the month
but also the last fair at these hallowed halls.
The London Film Fair
began 45 years ago and was run by the much-missed Ed Mason for many years
before Thomas Bowington took over, retaining the essence of what Ed had begun,
yet bringing a more professional feel to the event, reflected in the many stars
who attended. The shows are now under Showmasters management. Although the
September Fair was always one of the biggest of the year, the next fair has been
cancelled as the event is now moving to The Royal National Hotel in Bedford Way
in London, near Russell Square. It remains to be seen if this change of location
brings with it changes in those dealers and collectors who attend. One would
hope it won’t but it was the familiarity I described earlier that worked so
well, not only for the collectors but alsofor those who were selling, many of whom attended
those first shows. One would hope that the fair, like the films it celebrates,
will be seen as worth preserving by those behind the scenes as well as those
who attend. We’ll know on November 18th.
Thomas Bowington & Rosalind Knight
The main stars of the
June show were, as ever, from all genres; from Bond “Octopussy” star Vijay Amritraj,
to Jane Merrow (who I interview in the latest issue of Cinema Retro, #41), Sylvia
Syms, Susan Penhaligon, Rosalind Knight, Leonard Whiting (who posed for Retro
in his best Romeo stance from the 1968 classic), to Dr. Who companion Louise
Jameson and Bond Girls Helen Hunt (“Octopussy”) and “You Only Live Twice”’s
Yasuko Nagazumi. The star of the show, however, was Tom Baker, who had huge queues
waiting to see him and got rapturous applause when he finally entered the
building after being delayed. All in all it was a great day, although one
tinged with a little sadness as it was the end of an era. Of course, although Tom
Baker was the main draw, the other stars of the day were the dealers whose
incredible posters, soundtracks, stills and other memorabilia still make this
show one of a kind. I hope the London Film Fair's loyal attendees follow it to the new
venue, as they are its beating heart.
Cinema Retro proudly announces its annual Movie Classics special
edition for 2018: Roadshow Epics of the '60s! This is an 80-page special
that provides in-depth coverage of the making of five memorable epic
Mutiny on the Bounty
Lawrence of Arabia
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The behind-the-scenes struggles to bring these monumental productions
to the screen often equaled the events depicted in the screenplays.
Indeed, all but Lawrence of Arabia proved to be boxoffice
failures (or disasters). However, Cinema Retro provides compelling
evidence that all of them were superbly filmed and provided many grand,
memorable moments. This special edition provides fascinating insights
into the often seemingly insurmountable challenges directors, writers,
producers and actors had to overcome in order to bring the films to
completion. These are the kind of movies we think of when we hear it
said "They don't make 'em like that anymore!". This special Movie
Classics issue is packed with hundreds of rare production stills and
on-set photos, as well as rare international advertising and publicity
As with all Cinema Retro issues, this is a limited edition so pre-order now to reserve your copy!
(This Movie Classics special edition is not part of the subscription plan. It must be ordered separately.)
Lorber has released the obscure 1969 Western “More Dead Than Alive” in a
Blu-ray edition.Discharged from prison
in 1891 after serving an eighteen-year sentence for murder, legendary
gunslinger Cain (Clint Walker) determines to stay away from firearms, find
honest work, and save enough money to buy a ranch.But his reputation as “Killer” Cain precedes
him, and chances for employment are slim until he encounters conniving showman
Dan Ruffalo (Vincent Price).“People
would have something to talk about, if they could see you using this notched
Colt of yours,” Ruffalo chortles.He
encourages Cain to cash in on his notoriety and join Ruffalo’s traveling show
as its star sharpshooting attraction, relegating the show’s current marksman,
Billy (Paul Hampton), to a subsidiary role.Monica, a free-spirited artist (Anne Francis), strikes up a friendship
with Cain and thinks it’s a bad idea for him to pick up a gun again, however
limited his options.Meanwhile, the
reformed pistoleer’s old enemies hope to see him dead, including outlaw Santee
(Mike Henry), who carries a grudge from a botched jailbreak.
the sheer number of Westerns produced in 1969, it’s a sure bet that some
pictures released in the shadow of that year’s Big Four -- “The Wild Bunch,”
“Once Upon the Time in the West,” “True Grit,” and “Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid” -- deserve rediscovery and reappraisal.In the case of “More Dead Than Alive,” fans
will welcome the chance to see Clint Walker, Vincent Price, Anne Francis, and
Mike Henry again in prime form.Script
and direction, not so much.The
action-packed poster, reprinted as the sleeve art for the Kino Lorber Blu-ray,
would lead you to expect a gritty, violent movie along the lines of “A Stranger
in Town,” “God Forgives -- I Dont!,” and other Italian Westerns that were
beginning to play widely that year in the U.S., following the breakout success
of Sergio Leone’s three “Dollars” movies.Instead, the gunplay and blood squibs are confined to the opening scene
and two sequences near the end.Otherwise, it’s a plodding, talky production that ambles from one
situation to the next without building up much momentum, like an episode from
one of the sedate television Westerns of the late ‘60s.The direction by TV veteran Robert Sparr is
dutiful but listless.Characters are
introduced whom we think will have major roles in the story (like a lady saloon
owner played by Beverly Powers), only to have them soon drop out of sight,
never to be seen again.Mike Henry’s
Santee is a terrific bad guy who stacks up believably against big Clint
Walker’s hero in size and macho presence, but he’s missing in action for most
of the picture.Once the script
remembers to bring him back, a well-staged, knock-down fistfight between the
two characters near the end of the movie injects a welcome jolt of energy that the
rest of the film could have used.
Kino Lorber Blu-ray offers “More Dead Than Alive” in an acceptable, 1920x1080p
encoding.As a bonus feature, the disc
includes an interview with the late Clint Walker, recorded in 2014.In discussing the film, his colleagues, and
his career in Hollywood, Walker is modest, dignified, and thoughtful --
qualities sadly lacking in today’s media parade of rancorous politicians,
Reality Show exhibitionists, and Internet provocateurs.
Davis with fellow Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop in Las Vegas, 1960, for the filming of "Oceans Eleven". The Pack would film in the daytime, then perform sold-out evening shows at the Sands casino.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Entertainment legend Lionel Ritchie is joining the production team that is intent on bringing the remarkable life story of Sammy Davis Jr. to the big screen. The film will be based in part on Davis's 1965 bestselling memoir "Yes, I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr.". Davis led a dramatic life and career beginning as a child star in Vaudeville and progressing over the decades to be one of the most popular entertainers in the world. He conquered the mediums of stage, screen, records and television. Davis also broke barriers during the Jim Crow era of segregation in the American south. After gaining even more fame and fortune through his affiliation with Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Davis did the unthinkable: he dated white women, including Kim Novak. He would later marry Swedish actress May Britt. Their union lasted eight years. Davis was not without other controversies, however. While he enjoyed mainstream success in the 1960s, civil rights activists accused him of being soft on the issue despite Davis having marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. There were also criticisms that he was too willing to cater to Sinatra's whims because of his co-starring status in "Oceans Eleven", "Sergeants 3" and "Robin and the Seven Hoods". Still, by anyone's account, Davis's life is rich fodder for a major film production. Click here for more.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from MI6 Confidential magazine:
In 2017, after ten years of service, MI6 Confidential
introduced a new special format: a limited-run 100-page perfect bound issue of
the magazine taking a deep dive into one particular facet of the franchise. The
second release is co-authored by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury whose
"Some Kind of Hero" is the 21st century's modern Bond bible.
Rather than recounting the production history of Sir
Roger's epic seven film run as 007 the authors instead turned the narrative
over to Moore's on-screen co-stars. The actor, philanthropist and true
gentleman touched the lives of many — and many of his Bond co-stars who have
said little or nothing about their work on the EON films since took this
opportunity to regale Field and Chowdhury with some remarkable stories about
Sir Roger Moore. No two stories are alike but each adds to a picture of a
warmhearted man, a consummate professional, who never took himself too
In This Special Issue
100 page special magazine; professionally printed;
A unique look at the life and work of Sir Roger Moore
through the eyes of his co-stars
More than 60 of Moore's colleagues share memories,
including: Christopher Walken, Yaphet Kotto, Tanya Roberts, Britt Ekland, Lois
Chiles, Gloria Hendry, Julian Glover, Charles Dance, Steven Berkoff, and Vijay
Over 100 rare and interesting photos of Sir Roger with
his Bond 'family', plus beautiful key art from each film
A full report from the opening of the Roger Moore Stage
at Pinewood, including reflections from Michael Wilson, Sir Michael Caine, and
Although I have a weak spot for Italian westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, most can be appropriately evaluated by paraphrasing Longfellow: "When they were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid." "Blindman" is a curiosity from 1971 that I previously panned after viewing an allegedly "remastered" DVD edition that looked barely better than a VHS transfer. The film fits rather comfortably into the latter part of Longfellow's famous nursery rhyme. Although the movie has a devoted fan base, when I first reviewed it I call it "a pretty horrid experience and inexcusably amateurish in execution, given the well-seasoned people involved". The good news is that Abkco Films has released a truly remastered DVD version that considerably improves one's perception of the film. As the title implies, it's about...well, a blind man. He's played by Tony Anthony, who did rather well for himself as a sort of Clint Eastwood Lite character known as The Stranger in a series of Euro Westerns (Any similarity to Eastwood's Man With No Name must have been purely coincidental). Anthony went on to star in any number of lucrative, low-budget action films, the most notable being "Comin' At Ya!, a 3-D flick that has also built a loyal cult following. His co-star in "Blindman" is Ringo Starr. More about him later. The film was based on a Japanese movie titled "Zatoichi" about a blind samurai hero. As with "The Magnificent Seven", which was based on Kurasawa's "Seven Samurai", the story has been transplanted to the American west. When we first see the Blindman (whose name is never mentioned), he rides into a one-horse town and confronts his former partners. Seems they had a lucrative contract to deliver 50 mail order brides to some horny miners. However, a better offer was made from a Mexican bandito named Domingo (Lloyd Battista), who has exported them South 'O the Border to force them into prostitution. Blindman apparently has a sense of honor in terms of fulfilling the original contract. He manages to kill his former partners and sets off to Mexico to rescue the women, presumably so they can sold into another form of prostitution. At first the premise of this film intrigued me. How, after all, can you logically present a story about a blind gunslinger? The answer is you apparently can't. You could get away with it if the film was a satire, but there is surprisingly little overt humor in "Blindman". Yes, in true Eastwood fashion, the hero sometimes makes some snarky quips before, during and after dispatching his adversaries, but for the most part, the film takes itself far too seriously.
How does the Blindman find his way around? Well, he has his own "wonder horse" who seems more like a companion than a beast of burden. The hoofed hero is always at his disposal and seems to be able to do everything but read a map for him. Speaking of maps, Blindman gets to various destinations by running his finger over maps that engraved in leather...sort of a braille system. Given the fact that he has to navigate the state of Texas, then Mexico, one would think he would require maps the size of rolls of kitchen linoleum, but somehow he gets by with navigational tools that fit neatly into his pocket. When Blindman arrives in Mexico, he has numerous confrontations with the brutal Domingo and his army of thugs. He suffers the ritualistic beatings of any hero in the Italian western genre, but always manages to get the better hand by his deadly use of the rifle that he uses as a walking stick. Somehow the Blindman can use instinct and an uncanny hearing ability to gun down his would-be assassins with uncanny precision, though occasionally he does impose on some allies for advice. He also confronts Candy (Ringo Starr), Domingo's equally sadistic brother, who is keeping a captive woman as his mistress. What follows is a seemingly endless series of chases, confrontations and the obligatory imitation Morricone score, all of it under the pedestrian direction of Ferdinando Baldi, who has a revered reputation with some fans of the genre and does manage to set off some impressive explosions. (Amusingly, the concept of showing the "50" mail order brides must have taxed the limited budget so we only get to see them in small clusters.). There are a couple of sequences that stand out in terms of creativity. One involves the surprise slaughter of a barroom filled with Mexican soldiers. The other has a bit of suspense as the Blindman is served a food bowl that he doesn't realize contains a deadly snake. The finale of the film finds Blindman wrestling with Domingo, who has been blinded by a cigar! (Don't ask...) It's supposed to be a tense confrontation, but the sight of the two blind guys rolling around in the dirt looks like an outtake from a Monty Python sketch. The most intriguing aspect of the film is what led Ringo Starr into appearing in it. He had considerable on-screen charisma that he parlayed into a successful acting career. Here, however, his role is colorless and bland. He doesn't even play the main villain, but rather a supporting character who disappears from the story before the movie even reaches the one-hour mark. Starr supposedly was looking to jump-start his film career and worked with Tony Anthony to develop this production. While he acquits himself credibly, he might have at least given his character some memorable lines or characteristics.
The previously reviewed version of the film pointed out that the packaging had indicated the film had a running time of 105 minutes, which matches with the original timing cited on on the IMDB site. However, the screener we reviewed ran only 83 minutes and it looked like it had been edited with a meat cleaver. The ABCKO version is the actual 105 minute cut and the transfer is excellent, a vast improvement over the muddy mess we had previously reviewed. Seeing "Blindman" again under these conditions has allowed me to reevaluate my opinion of the film. While it certainly never rises to the standards of a Sergio Leone production, the movie's quirky premise and the amusing performance by Tony Anthony made the experience far more enjoyable the second time around.
Earlier this year, Acorn Media Enterprises with Free@Last TV
announced Acorn TV’s first sole commission with the return of Agatha Raisin,
Series 2 starring Ashley Jensen (Love, Lies & Records, Catastrophe), which
begins filming this summer.
“Lonely Boy: The Benny Hill Story” is an original drama that
spans the life and times of Benny Hill from his early days as a part of a
double-act to his heady height of fame as the most-loved British prime-time
comedian lauded on both sides of the Atlantic. The series will chart his tragic
decline and fall in the late 80’s as a new generation of rising stars usurped
Lonely Boy will follow the journey of a cripplingly insecure
young lad with a single-minded desire to make people laugh, through the dying
last days of variety and who is ultimately saved from obscurity by television. The
series will also examine the double-standards of the tabloid press.
Helping him achieve his goal will be a surrogate family; a
‘brother’ in comedy writer and lifelong friend Dave Freeman and a ‘father’ in
producer/director Ken Carter – and later Dennis Kirkland. These men believe in
Benny when no-one else does. They help him, hone him – emotionally and
An uplifting, deeply moving story with a universal truth at
its core; how our parents, for good or bad, shape who we are.
‘Lonely Boy’ takes
its name from one of Benny Hill’s classic 1960’s hits and was developed by
Free@Last TV’s David Walton in partnership with writer Caleb Ranson.
The series consultant is Hilary Bonner who was the co-author
of the Benny Hill biography 'Benny & Me' with Benny's long-term TV
collaborator Dennis Kirkland.
Barry Ryan, Creative Director of Free@Last TV noted, “Benny
Hill is a lost national treasure and a much-misunderstood man. Our drama will
reignite his legacy and address some of the misconceptions about the man and
his material while also chronicling the dying days of variety entertainment and
the birth of television”.
Writer Caleb Ranson said, “When I was a kid growing up in
the 70s and 80s I loved Benny Hill, his skits and wordplay and especially his
songs. Then as I got older, like the rest of the country, I fell out of love
with him. Why was that? What happened? Around the world he’s still revered but
here in the UK, he’s all but forgotten. A punchline to a bad joke. I want to
reclaim him from the comedy dustbin of history, to explore the Benny nobody
knows, the ahead of his time comedy genius of the 50s and 60s and why in his
twilight years he fell so hard and so quickly out of favour”.
Free @ Last TV was founded in 2000 by Barry Ryan and David
Walton. The company has produced over 450 hours of television for a variety of
channels including Gina Yashere: Gina Las Vegas, Martina Cole’s Lady Killers
and the comedy-drama Agatha Raisin. The company has a full development slate
including Reginald Hill’s thriller ‘Death of a Dormouse’, ‘The Charles Paris
Mysteries’ and ‘Spilsbury’ written by award-winning writer and actress Nichola
Acorn Media Enterprises commissions, co-produces and
acquires a diverse slate of international dramas for Acorn TV, North America’s
most popular streaming service for British and international television. This
news follows Acorn Media Enterprises and Acorn TV’s recent commission
announcements for the straight-to-series order of British drama London Kills Series
1 and 2 as well as a co-production announcements for Aussie comedy Sando and Irish
comedy Finding Joy from Amy Huberman, as well as the licensing of hit British
police procedural No Offence, Jack Irish, Season 2 starring Guy Pearce, and
Welsh drama Hidden. Read recent announcements at https://www.rljentertainment.com/press-room/
In 2018, Acorn Media Enterprises has already featured five
North American co-productions and Acorn TV Originals with Series 3 of
universally adored BBC comedy Detectorists starring Mackenzie Crook and Toby
Jones; Kay Mellor’s ITV drama Girlfriends starring Phyllis Logan (Downton
Abbey), Miranda Richardson (Stronger, And Then There Were None), and Zoe
Wanamaker (Agatha Christie’s Poirot); Irish legal drama Striking Out, Series 2
starring Amy Huberman; record-setting Welsh thriller Keeping Faith starring Eve
Myles (Torchwood, Broadchurch); and Aussie family comedy Sando.
Called “Netflix for the Anglophile” by NPR and featuring “the
most robust, reliable selection of European, British, Canadian and Australian
shows” by The New York Times, Acorn TV
exclusively premieres several new international series and/or seasons every
month from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and other
Steve Thompson's addictive blog 1966 My Favorite Year has a wealth of pop culture photos and videos pertaining to what was hot during that glorious one year period. There is an abundance of Batman-related posts including Batman "Sparking" Cola by Cott, which we confess we don't recall back in the day but was apparently marketed as the champagne of sodas. You'd need quite a few dollars in your utility belt to afford a can or bottle of this today. Click here to visit the blog...it's not only groovy, it's downright fab!
from a youth spent shooting their own movies on 8mm – the heartfelt intent and
burning enthusiasm for which sometimes (but not always) rendered the
made-for-pennies mini-epics amusingly watchable today – in 1987 the
enterprising Chiodo brothers finally got to stage their first feature film
production, which was released to decent acclaim in 1988. Produced and
co-written by Charles, Edward and Stephen Chiodo, with the latter occupying the
director’s chair, that film is every bit as bizarre as you’d expect of one
bearing the title Killer Klowns from
of Crescent Cove is under assault by alien beings, which appear in the form of
freakish clowns and whose spaceship adopts the facade of a circus tent. These
aliens are abducting the populace and cocooning them in a flesh-eating
substance resembling candyfloss. It’s up to local cop Dave Hansen (John Allen
Nelson), clean-cut lad Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and a pair of simpleton ice
cream vendors – the Terenzi brothers (Michael Siegal and Peter Licassi) –
to rescue Mike’s girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) from a horrible fate and
save the town.
hyperbolic to say that Killer Klowns from
Outer Space is a comic-horror caper like no other. A kooky, colourful
confection of chuckles and gore, the Chiodos lay on the (pop)corny gags and
cheesy SFX with unrestrained relish. How much fun there is to be found in
balloon animals coming to life, pieces of ‘living’ popcorn mutating into
aggressive clown-headed snake-creatures, human ventriloquist dummies,
acid-laced cream pies, and giant shadow puppets eating spectators is, of course,
entirely subjective. For this viewer it has to be said that by the time the
final reel unspools the silliness overload runs out of fizz, but there’s
certainly no faulting the imagination and passion at play here. And it’s hard
not to enjoy something that gifts John Vernon with a frothy bad guy role; although
for many (myself included) he’ll always be Animal
House’s Dean Vernon Wormer, he’s on good form here as a bully-boy cop who
gets his just desserts. Coulrophobics
should unquestionably avoid this one, for the titular Klowns are the ugliest,
most rotten-toothed bunch you’ll find this side of a Billy Smart’s Circus OAP
reunion. But for everyone else, as daft as the whole shebang may be, this is
post-pub Friday night fodder of the highest order.
Video has issued the film on Blu-ray with a Big Top’s worth of supplemental material,
though it’s as interested in the careers of the Chiodo brothers in general as
it is Klowns-specific. The key lure
is a documentary about the Chiodo’s passion for the home movies mentioned at
the start of this review, and HD transfers of the half a dozen titles shot
between 1968 and 1978 are included, technically proficient and evidencing their
love of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion monster animation. There’s also a tour of
Chiodo Bros Productions in the company of Stephen. Tied to Klowns itself there’s a feature-accompanying Chiodo commentary.
Interviews with actors Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder, along with theme song
performers The Dickies, are appended by archival pieces from Charles Chiodo,
effects supervisor Gene Warren, creature creator Dwight Roberts and composer
John Massari. There are 2 deleted scenes (with optional commentary), bloopers,
Klown auditions footage, a vintage trailer and a gallery of artwork,
storyboards and stills. It’s so par for the course now that it scarcely needs
mentioning, but the usual Arrow sugar-coating of a reversible sleeve is present