Cinema Retro has received the following press release.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise
will boldly go where they have never gone before when STAR TREK II: THE WRATH
OF KHAN Director’s Edition arrives for the first time ever on Blu-ray June 7,
2016 from Paramount Home Media Distribution. As part of the 50th
anniversary celebration of the Star Trek franchise, this classic film has been digitally
remastered in high definition with brilliant picture quality and will be
presented in both Nicholas Meyer’s Director’s Edition and the original
theatrical version. The Blu-ray also includes a brand-new, nearly
30-minute documentary entitled “The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of
Khan,” which details the development and production of this fan-favorite film
through archival footage, photos and new interviews.
In addition to the new documentary, the STAR TREK II: THE WRATH
OF KHAN Director’s Edition Blu-ray is bursting with more than two hours of
previously released special features including multiple commentaries, original
interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban and DeForest
Kelley, explorations of the visual effects and musical score, a tribute to
Ricardo Montalban, storyboards and much more.
Captain Kirk’s Starfleet career enters a new chapter as a result
of his most vengeful nemesis: Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically enhanced
conqueror from late 20th century Earth. Escaping his forgotten prison,
Khan sets his sights on both capturing Project Genesis, a device of god-like
power, and the utter destruction of Kirk.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Director’s
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English
7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital and
Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and
Portuguese subtitles. The disc includes the following:
Director’s Edition in high definition
Theatrical Version in high definition
Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Edition &
Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical
Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Edition)
Library Computer (Theatrical Version)
The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan—NEW!
Original interviews with DeForest Kelley, William Shatner,
Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban
Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek
II: The Wrath of Khan
James Horner: Composing Genesis
The Star Trek Universe
Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics
A Novel Approach
Starfleet Academy: The Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI
The Museum of the Moving Image will present its annual "See It Big!" 70mm film festival. The Museum is located in Astoria, Queens, only a short ride from Manhattan by subway or car. The titles being screened this year are:
Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Spartacus" starring Kirk Douglas
Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" starring Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson
Robert Wise's "Star!" starring Julie Andrews
Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine
Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet"
The Rolling Stones concert film "Let's Spend the Night Together"
Director Basil Dearden's 1966 epic "Khartoum" starring Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier and Richard Johnson.
By 1974 John Wayne was in the twilight of his long, distinguished film career that had spanned six decades. Although the genre that we associate him most with, the Western, was still in vogue, the trend among audience preferences had clearly shifted to urban crime dramas. Surprisingly, Wayne had never played a cop or detective - unless you want to count his role in the lamentable "Big Jim McLain", a 1952 Warner Brothers propaganda film that served as a love letter to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. In that turkey, Wayne played an investigator for HUAC, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee that served as McCarthy's private police force, presumably searching out commie infiltrators. All they ended up doing was ruining the lives of left-wing people in the arts and academia. Wayne, for his part, remained unapologetic for his support of HUAC even after McCarthy's popularity plummeted and he ended his career in shame and disgrace. However, Wayne might have been discouraged from sticking his on-screen persona into volatile contemporary situations. His next bout with controversy would not be until the release of his 1968 pro-Vietnam War film "The Green Berets", which outraged liberals but brought in considerable boxoffice receipts from Wayne's fan base. By the early 1970s, the success of the "dirty cop" genre led major stars to gravitate to these films in much the same way many actors had longed to play secret agents during the James Bond-inspired spy rage of the previous decade. William Friedkin's "The French Connection" (1971) is generally credited as being the influential film that launched this type of film but, in reality, one could argue that Steve McQueen's anti-Establishment cop in "Bullitt" (1968) paved the way. The late 1971 release of "Dirty Harry" sent the genre into overdrive and even John Wayne decided to get on board. In fact, Wayne had been offered the title role in "Dirty Harry" but had turned it down because he felt his fan base would not accept him in a film that had so much violence and profanity. His instincts were right: had Wayne played the role, the script would have had to have been altered and watered down to the point that all of its social impact would have been lost. Still, Wayne saw the monumental success of the Clint Eastwood crime classic and decided to play a rogue cop in the thriller "McQ". The project also marked the first and only time he would work with esteemed action director John Sturges.
The film, which is refreshingly set in Seattle instead of the usual locales (New York, L.A., San Francisco) opens with Seattle Police Detective Stan Boyle (William Bryant) assassinating two uniformed fellow police officers before getting knocked off himself. When Boyle's partner, fellow Detective Lon McQ (John Wayne) gets word he has been killed, he becomes obsessed with finding the murderer, unaware that Boyle himself had carried out the killings. McQ's boss, Captain Ed Kosterman (Eddie Albert), who also does not know about Boyle's dark side, feels that the murders are the work of local radicals. McQ disagrees and suspects that the killers were hired by Santiago (Al Lettieri), a local drug kingpin who hides behind the veil of being a respected businessman. Santiago has long had grudges against McQ and Boyle for times they've tried to bust him in the past. When Kosternan discounts McQ's theory and refuses to assign him to the case, McQ abruptly resigns from the force in order to move more freely. Relying on his police informants and contacts, McQ signs up with his friend Pinky's (David Huddleston) private detective agency in order to be able to carry a firearm legally. (An amusing running gag in the film finds McQ constantly being relieved of his weapons.) McQ learns from a local pimp, Rosie (Roger E. Mosley), who he routinely bribes for information, that the murders may be tied to a major drug robbery that Santiago has hired an out-of-town heist team to carry out. McQ's belief that Santiago is behind the police killings is reinforced by the fact that that he narrowly escapes two assassination attempts carried out by professional killers. Meanwhile, McQ learns that the brazen plan involves snatching seized heroin from the police department before it can be burned and abscond with a couple of million dollars of the white powder. McQ doggedly carries out his investigation and charms Myra (Colleen Dewhurst), an aging cocktail waitress with a drug habit who used to be friendly with Boyle. From her, he learns that corrupt police officials are in on Santiago's scheme and are willing confederates, but he doesn't know exactly who they are. McQ attempts to thwart the heist at police headquarters but the brazen thieves manage to get away despite engaging in a shoot-out with McQ, who fails in his attempt to catch them in a wild car chase through the streets and highways of Seattle.
McQ's private investigation leads him to infiltrate Santiago's business office where Santiago and his men are anticipating his arrival. They get the drop on McQ but Santiago has a surprising confession for the ex-cop: he freely admits to orchestrating the drug heist from police HQ- but shows McQ the disappointing fruits of his labors: white powder that turns out to be sugar. Both McQ and Santiago can appreciate the irony: the real drugs had been stolen by police officials prior to the robbery and replaced with sugar. Crooked cops have succeeded in swindling the crook himself. McQ and Santiago part company, both knowing that the other man is intent on finding the location of the real drugs before they can be sold. The closer McQ gets to the answer, the more precarious his personal situation becomes as a close personal informant is murdered and McQ finds himself being framed for complicity in the drug heist. The script by Lawrence Roman builds in tension under John Sturges' assured direction and leads to some relatively surprising plot twist in a caper film packed with red herrings. Wayne was faulted by some critics for being miscast and because he was nearing seventy and had a noticeable paunch. However, Wayne's appearance actually works to his benefit. He doesn't look like some glam movie star and his real world appearance makes him convincing as an aging everyday cop. Additionally, he remains quite convincing in the action scenes even sans saddle and can engage in punch-ups and shoot-outs with as much conviction as ever. Most refreshingly, McQ isn't some "know-it-all" hero. He frequently makes wrong judgments and assumptions and pays a heavy price for these miscalculations. Wayne benefits from a fine supporting cast. In particular, his scenes with Eddie Albert and Colleen Dewhurst are especially strong and its regrettable that this is the first time he ever appeared on screen with either of them. (Dewhurst had a memorable role in Wayne's 1972 film "The Cowboys", but they never shared the screen together). Al Lettieri, in one of his final screen roles, proves again why he was one of the most reliable movie villains of the era. Other fine support comes from Clu Gulager and Jim Watkins (now acting under the name of Julian Christopher) as McQ's police cronies who may or may not be as loyal as they seem and Diana Muldaur, who gives a very effective performance as the grieving widow who seems a bit too flirty with McQ. Some lighthearted moments are effectively provided by David Huddleston and Roger E. Mosley, both of whom become exasperated by McQ but who can't resist assisting him. The movie features some very fine action set-pieces and climaxes with a superbly staged car chase along the Olympic Peninsula that finds McQ driving on the beach through the crashing surf with Santiago and a car full of armed goons in hot pursuit.
Warner Home Video has released the film on Blu-ray land it looks terrific on all counts. Bonus extras are a vintage six-minute production short that includes brief interviews with Wayne and other cast members but which concentrates on filming the climactic car chase, which made screen history for the number of "roll-overs" a car did during a particularly dangerous stunt. An original trailer is also included.
I've always liked "McQ" and in our present era of dumbed-down cop flicks, it plays even better than it did at the time of its original release. It's one of the Duke's best latter career action movies and the new Blu-ray is a "must have" for Wayne fans.
The 1968 jungle-based adventure The Face of Eve has been released on DVD in the UK as a constituent
of 'The British Film' collection from Network.
Hunting for treasure in the Amazon, Mike Yates (Easy Rider's Robert Walker Jr)
encounters taciturn, scantily-clad jungle beauty Eve (The Velvet Vampire's Celeste Yarnall) when she rescues him from
certain death at the hands of savages. Meanwhile in Spain, Yates's financier –
the wheelchair-bound Colonel Stuart (Christopher Lee) – has knowledge of the
location of a fabled stash of Incan riches, but he's unaware that his friend
and business partner Diego (Herbert Lom) has been plotting to cheat him out of
his fortune. Diego has coaxed his wife Conchita (Rosenda Monteros) into
infiltrating the household in the guise of Eve, the ailing Stuart's long lost
granddaughter and imminent sole heir. After Stuart divulges the treasure's
believed location to Diego, the duplicitous pair take off to find it...with
Yates, in the company of the real Eve, in hot pursuit.
Emerging from under the wing of legendary and prolific producer
Harry Alan Towers – the man behind some marvellous exploitationers throughout
the 60s, including a splendid run of Christopher Lee/Fu Manchu chillers, plus
Shirley Eaton star vehicle The Million
Eyes of Sumuru and its sequel The
Girl from Rio – if nothing else The
Face of Eve gives audiences an abundance of plot for their money. What it doesn’t deliver is anywhere near enough
of its star attraction. The film was directed by Vengeance of Fu Manchu's Jeremy Summers, a jobbing director whose
name will probably be most familiar in that capacity to fans of ITC TV shows of
the 60s. Towers himself took on scripting duties under his oft-employed nom de plume Peter Welbeck. As such, its
pedigree was certainly sound enough. It's just a shame that the resulting film
falls short of expectation, largely because, as already touched upon, the pair
failed to capitalise on their main asset: Celeste Yarnall.
Following a fistful of appearances in TV shows (among them The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Land of the Giants and Star Trek), as well as
blink-and-you'll-miss-her walk-ons in films such as Around the World Under the Sea and The Nutty Professor, 1968 proved to be Yarnall's big screen
breakout year when she secured a major role in Elvis starrer Live a Little, Love a Little and,
perhaps a tad less prestigiously, the titular role here in The Face of Eve. The actress plays the ‘Sheena Queen of the Jungle’
bit to perfection, clad in an admirably-filled chamois leather bikini that gives
the eye-catching attire of other jungle babes (such as Evelyne Kraft, Marion
Michael and Tanya Roberts) more than a run for its money. Thus, unsurprisingly,
whenever she's on screen she's very much the focal point, amusingly changing
hairstyle as often as she does her outfit. The problem is that Eve is side-lined
for the middle third of the picture, which relocates to Spain and gets a little
bogged down in the despicable duplicities of the Diegos and their mission to separate
Stuart from his wealth. So protracted is the business going on here that viewers
could be forgiven for wondering if Summers is ever going to get back to the more
interesting vicinage of the Amazon.
Beyond the obvious audience-bait of Yarnall (depicted on posters clinging
to a jungle vine far more fetchingly than Tarzan ever did), Lee and Lom bring
star name lustre to the aid of the party – though the former's age-augmenting
makeup falls some distance shy of convincing – and wiry-framed Walker Jr makes
for an unlikely but surprisingly affable hero. Fred Clark is good value too as
a nightclub owner-cum-showman who smells $’s-to-be-mined by exploiting the
newly discovered jungle nymphet, whilst Maria Rohm (Harry Alan Towers’ wife for
45 years up until his death in 2009) lip-syncs a smoochy musical number as a
bar-room brawl gets into full swing around her.
Though it’s enjoyable enough for what it is, The Face of Eve is a criminally unremarkable film; one can’t help
feeling that its premise should have birthed something with so much more
pizazz. Case in point, it was shot in Spain and Brazil, exotic enough locales
that regardless of anything else going on should have gifted the production with
a ton of spectacle, yet Manuel Merino's resolutely uninspired cinematography renders
most of the jungle sequences cheap-looking and dull.
In summation: a really wasted opportunity.
The colours on Network’s 1.66:1 ratio DVD transfer (sourced from
the original film elements) are occasionally a little muted, but aside from a slightly
ratty opening titles sequence it's a nice clean print. The only bonus feature
is a gallery of posters, stills and lobby cards from around the globe.
Criterion Collection released Herk Harvey’s 1962 cult film classic, Carnival of Souls, sixteen years ago as
a two-disk DVD set, but that edition has long been out of print. Now, a new
Blu-ray restoration is available from the company, and it is worth upgrading
even if you happen to own the original. Note that Carnival of Souls is a public domain film, so it is available on
DVD from many inferior manufacturers in bad-to-okay quality versions, but the
Criterion’s releases are the ones to grab.
Carnival is indeed an oddity.
Harvey worked at Centron Corporation, a maker of educational and industrial
short films based in Lawrence, Kansas. It was much like Calvin Films in Kansas
City, where Robert Altman cut his teeth making shorts in the 1950s. Needless to
say, Lawrence, Kansas is not Hollywood, and it was not a hotbed of feature
filmmaking in 1961, when Carnival was
had helmed many of Centron’s shorts and got the idea to make a horror feature
when he was driving home from Salt Lake City, Utah. He noticed the ruins of the
great Saltair, an entertainment complex that had been built by the Mormons on
the edge of Salt Lake in 1893 as a family-oriented place for recreation. It was
a sort of Coney Island for Utah residents. Designed in an incongruous Moorish
style, the place looked like a palace for sultans. It was destroyed by fire in
the 1920s and rebuilt, this time including a gigantic pavilion for dancing.
Saltair burned down and was rebuilt again,
but eventually by the 1950s it had become a derelict, spooky place due to the
recession of the lake that left behind a dirty, polluted shore abutting the
resort. After the film had been shot there, another attempt was made to restore
the place, but that failed when the lake rose and demolished the resort for
good. At any rate, in 1961, Herk Harvey thought Saltair would make a good
location for a ghost story, and he was right.
for a final budget of only $33,000, Carnival
of Souls looks and feels like it might
have been a bad Ed Wood production—very cheap, with amateurish acting (all
of the cast except the lead was pulled from local talent) and clumsy editing.
But the black and white cinematography by Maurice Prather is actually quite
striking, especially in Criterion’s new restored 4K digital transfer. The
images are sharp and pristine, as if the movie had been shot yesterday. The
all-organ score by Gene Moore adds another layer of originality to the
proceedings, and it’s unsettling and eerie. Despite the cheesiness of the production,
though, Harvey manages to evoke a genuinely creepy atmosphere throughout the
picture. His multiple appearances as “The Man” (in ghoulish makeup) do provide
story concerns Mary (played well enough by Candace Hilligoss, a newbie stage
actress hired out of New York), who is in an automobile accident at the film’s
beginning. She survives and is shell-shocked, but she manages to go on with her
life as a church organist. However, she keeps seeing visions of “The Man,” a
ghostly stalker who, of course, represents Death. At times she goes through
mysterious fugues in which all sound drops out and no one around her can see or
hear her. What’s going on? Well, it all becomes clear at the end, but most
viewers should be able to figure out the Twilight
Zone plot twist pretty quickly. In fact, the entire thing plays out like an
extra long episode of that classic horror and science fiction television
Carnival of Dreams was not a success on
its first release, but it gained a cult following in the 1980s and beyond,
supposedly influencing the likes of David Lynch and George A. Romero. It is
definitely an entertaining and somewhat scary picture, but personally I’m not
convinced that it is the masterpiece some horror aficionados claim it to be.
Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray contains only the theatrical cut at 78
minutes. It has an uncompressed monaural soundtrack, as well as selected-scene
audio commentary with director Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford. The
original Criterion release featured the original director’s cut (84 minutes) as
well, but apparently the elements of the edited scenes weren’t good enough for
the new restoration, so they appear separately as supplements.
of the extras from the first release are ported over—The Movie That Wouldn’t Die, a 1989 documentary about the cast and
crew reunion; The Carnival Tour, a
2000 update on the film’s locations; a history of the Saltair Resort; the
theatrical trailer; and a selection of excerpts from shorts made by the Centron
Corporation. There is also a long selection of silent outtakes, cut to Gene
Moore’s eerie organ score. New supplements include an interview with comedian
and writer Dana Gould on the influence and merits of the film, and an
interesting new video essay by film critic David Cairns. The booklet contains
an essay by writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse.
the absence of the director’s cut is disappointing, the new Criterion Blu-ray
is a welcome release mainly for its superb video quality. Carnival of Souls is worth a late-night viewing for its historical
significance and moments of disturbing imagery, but I doubt it will give you
the hundreds of Italian Westerns
produced, naturally many of them rate as only sub-par. A few of these sub-par
entries have an interesting twist or stand-out sequence but are still only
sub-par at the end of the day. Despite its all-star cast and dynamic poster,
this is what I expected A Town Called
Hell (1971) to be like. To the contrary, not only is the film something of
an offbeat gothic-western similar to Django
Kill! and High Plains Drifter,
but it also has beautiful production values. The opening sequence, wherein a
church is the site of a bloody massacre during the Mexican Revolution, is
almost Hammer-like in some regards. Ten years later the very revolutionary
(Robert Shaw) who killed the priest has now taken his place in the same church.
And then comes to town a mysterious woman in black in a horse and carriage with
a pale mute manservant. In the carriage is a black coffin that she intends to
fill with the body of the man who killed her husband (whom she believes to be
in the town) but until she does she sleeps in the coffin like a vampire (she’s
not btw, it’s not that Gothic).
Unlike many predictable Spaghettis, A
Town Called Hell raises one intriguing question after another as the story
progresses. That being said, the answers to said questions aren’t exactly
mind-blowing and unfortunately overall the film is somewhat hard to follow at
times. However, the direction by Robert Parish is so engrossing one is still
able to be entertained even if they don’t fully understand everything. Parish
had previously directed the sci-fi flick Journey
to the Far Side of the Sun (1969) and portions of the 1967 Casino Royale for some of Peter
Sellers’s scenes. Robert Shaw is riveting in the lead as the revolutionary
turned priest, though fans looking forward to a large dose of Telly Savalas, featured
prominently on the poster, are in for a disappointment as he disappears (his
fate is unclear) relatively early into the movie. The rest of the impressivecast, which includes such stalwarts as Stella Stevens, Martin Landau, Michael Craig, Al Lettieri, Aldo Sambrell and Fernando Rey, put in
good performances as well, and the music score by Waldo de los Rios is
excellent. If one didn’t know better they might think Rios scored westerns
often, but in fact had scored only one other before this. The sets in
particular are a stand-out aspect of the production, most of all the interior
of the church where the massacre takes place, making this one of the more
lavish Spaghetti Westerns.
be accurate, the film isn’t actually a “pure-bred” Italian Western, but was
financed by Benmar Films out of Britain. As to the Blu-ray from Kino Lorber,
the transfer is gorgeous for the most part, but on the downside the spoken
dialogue is difficult to hear in some spots, another reason the film is
occasionally hard to follow. There are no special features aside from a trailer
for another Kino Lorber release, Navajo
Joe. Overall, though the story never quite lives up to the questions it
raises or its intriguing Gothic trappings, A
Town Called Hell is still highly recommended for Spaghetti Western buffs
Director Daniel Birt's
1952 crime drama The Night Won't Talk
arrives on DVD in the UK as an integrant of Network Distributing's impressive,
ongoing 'The British Film' collection.
In the wake of her murder
via strangulation it transpires that artists' model Stella Smith was a serial
gold-digger, the string of discarded and disgruntled dupes left in her
avaricious wake constituting a healthy number of suspects. Stella's
husband-to-be, artist Clayton Hawks (John Bailey), can't be certain that he himself
isn't the murderer; given to outbursts of uncontrolled rage, he was in the
throes of a stress-induced blackout at the time. With Inspector West (Ballard
Berkeley) breathing down his neck, Clayton – assisted by two friends, model
Hazel (Mary Germaine) and fellow artist Theo (Hy Hazell) – sets out to uncover
Daniel Birt lensed a
number of serviceable potboilers throughout the 40s and early 50s, among them Third Party Risk, Three Weird Sisters and The
Interrupted Journey. Running a couple of minutes short of an hour, The Night Won't Talk barely really qualifies
as a feature film but back in the day it constituted solid and efficient
A-feature support; it's a workmanlike and talky, yet never less than engaging serving
of Brit noir whodunnit – even if the identity of the ‘who’ that ‘dunnit’ ultimately
proves no great surprise.
John Bailey plays shifty convincingly
enough (even though there's never any doubt he isn't the killer), whilst
the resident feminine allure, in the shape of Hy Hazell and Hazel Germaine,
proves to be more than just decorous; Hazell is particularly good. Law
enforcement is represented by Ballard Berkeley (an actor for whom B-movie
police inspectors were a stock in trade back in the 50s, even though he’s
probably best remembered now for his latterday turn as the bumbling Major in TV
comedy classic Fawlty Towers) and a
perpetually pipe-nursing Duncan Lamont; the duo weed through the slew of
suspects with such insouciance it's a miracle they actually solve the case at
all, though naturally they come rushing in at the climax just in time to
prevent another fatality.
Most of the characters, both
male and female, speak in the clipped, dreadfully proper English of the "I
say, old man" ilk, there's a memorably imaginative and effectively rendered
moment involving the killer's shadow, and although much of the production is
set-bound there's some atmospheric footage of period River Thames at twilight
(Hazell's character resides on a houseboat).
Never threatening to reach
the lofty heights of gripping, The Night
Won't Talk still makes for a pretty decent hour's watch, and Network's
1.37:1 ratio DVD presentation delivers a clean and sharp transfer (taken from
the original film elements) which only falters in one of two brief instances of
missing frames. The sole supplement is a gallery of original release
many years Tarzan was a staple of cinema—in fact from its very onset. The first
Tarzan feature, Tarzan of the Apes,
came out in 1918 and was followed by close to 50 other adaptations in the last
century. His star started to fade in the late 1960s and there were no Tarzan
features in the 1970s save for one. The 1980s somewhat provided his last gasp
on the big screen with movies like the Bo Derek vehicle Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) and- more impressively- the
well-received Greystoke: The Legend of
Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. The 1990s saw only 1998’s Tarzan and the Lost City and
the 1999 Disney animated version. In fact, for all many “youngsters” know
Tarzan may as well have originated with the Disney cartoon. For the first time
in many years, we finally have a new big-budget live-action iteration of one of
the screen’s oldest icons in The Legend
of Tarzan from Warner Bros. Can it strike a balance between lovers of
vintage cinema who grew up on Tarzan and the new “iPhone generation”? Or will
it suffer the fate of that other recent Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation John Carter?
there is a lot of CGI vine swinging which will put some viewers off, but I for
one say it makes for very exciting action (and less risk for the stuntmen). And
secondly, would Tarzan’s journey through cinematic history be complete without
a little CGI? I think not. Though there is a lot of appreciation in watching
well-done stunt work, the CGI enabled Tarzan could well be the “purist”
representation of Burrough’s vision ever put on the screen. In fact, certain
shots of Tarzan swinging through the jungle with the apes look like a Frank
Frazetta painting come to life. A CGI-enable animal stampede unleashed during
the climax is also a scene straight from classic Burroughs, and would have been
impossible to pull off with real animals, as is Tarzan’s fight with a gorilla
midway through the picture.
he’s probably a little too far on the blonde side for Burroughs purists,
Alexander Skarsgard is pretty perfectly cast as Tarzan; and for more than just
his lithe physique. Playing Tarzan was usually a tough act to balance for most
actors. Mike Henry played him as though he were James Bond in Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966),
while Miles O’Keefe never even spoke in Tarzan,
the Ape Man opposite Bo Derek. Perhaps this is why the writers chose to set
this film ten years after he has left Africa for England, and Tarzan has become
acclimated to modern society as Lord Greystoke, John Clayton. Naturally in this
civilized period of his life the character is much easier to write and to
portray for Skarsgard. Therefore, this is probably one of the more relatable on
screen Tarzans, though I’d say Johnny Weissmuller is still safe as the all-time
for the rest of the cast, Margot Robbie is a knockout and does great as Jane.
However, it feels as though the production team felt a bit guilty about making
her a damsel in distress for most of the film and it shows in some of her
scenes in captivity. That being said, Jane’s kidnapping was a necessary
plot-device for this film’s story, not to mention something of a Tarzan
tradition, but perhaps in the future she can get a better subplot. As the
heavy, Christoph Waltz is his usual very watchable self. Though the story sets
up Waltz to look like a weakling in his first scene, he quickly proves to be
anything but in a nice twist. He even comes complete with a unique way of
killing his enemies that would be right at home in one of the older Bond
pictures. Samuel L. Jackson portrays Tarzan’s ally from the civilized world who
has to acclimate to the jungle, another Tarzan tradition of sorts. Rounding out
the rest of the big name actors is Djimon Hounsou who plays the leader of a
viscous tribe who has a vendetta with Tarzan, yet another series staple which
makes the film round all the usual bases (and I mean this in a positive
some respects, were I to ignore the CGI, I almost felt as though I was watching
some vintage cinema from a bygone era. Perhaps part of this feeling is due to
the period setting, since there are so few period piece blockbusters these
days. The film is also simply plotted, and is true to the Tarzan formula. An
evil white man is out to get the lost diamonds of Opar, and Jane naturally gets
kidnapped by him. Much like a Burroughs book, the action cuts back in forth
between Tarzan’s trek through the jungle and Jane’s efforts to escape captivity
from the villains. Coupled with this are flashback scenes to Tarzan’s origin
and first meetings with Jane, as this is more of a “sequel” than an origin
story. For purists who dislike CGI, have no fear at least when it comes to the
on-location shots of Africa, which are beautiful up on the big screen. Naturally,
there are of traces of the 21st Century filmmaking trends too. In
the wake of Marvel Studio’s success it seems every action film these days tries
to be a comedian, so to speak. The Legend
of Tarzan doesn’t try too hard, but I found most of its jokes fell flat
enough they should have been left on the cutting room floor.
overall I wouldn’t call it a fantastic film, in this day and age of obligatory
reboots I’d have to say The Legend of
Tarzan has more merit than most. As to how the new generations just being
introduced to Tarzan will react, who can say, but I have a feeling this film
will end up being embraced more so by the older crowd than the younger. But
just so long as it makes enough to produce a sequel, myself and many others
will be happy.
Lee Ermey and Wings Hauser are Marines defending an American outpost in Vietnam
during the Tet Offensive in “The Siege of Firebase Gloria,” directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith and recently released
on Blu-ray via Kino Lorber. The 1989 release was an independent production
filmed on location in the Philippines which is a common stand-in for Vietnam. The
movie opens as Marines come across a recent massacre in a South Vietnamese village.
The destruction is horrific with decapitated heads and piles of bloody bodies
killed by the enemy in order to send a message to others not to assist the Americans.
The Marines make their way to helicopter transport after rescuing an American
prisoner and fighting the Vietcong hiding in a fishing camp. The Marines’ destination
is Firebase Gloria, a jungle outpost surrounded by North Vietnamese soldiers
a Marine in real life, is very good as the tough Marine Sergeant Major Bill
Haffner. He takes his Marines across hostile Vietnamese territory and leads
them in reinforcing and defending the firebase against a continuous onslaught
by the Vietcong. His second in command, Corporal Joseph L. DiNardo (Hauser), is
younger and a bit more jaded than Haffner, but not about to take any chances
with the enemy. Gloria is surrounded by Vietcong and its defenses offer little
more than a series of buildings on a hill surrounded by barbed wire and
soldiers in trenches. The men assigned to Gloria know the situation is bleak
and spend their time indulging in getting high on drugs.
drug-using commanding officer has gone crazy so Haffner and DiNardo arrange a
fake attack that results in the commander being wounded and airlifted out of
Gloria. Haffner takes command, removes the drugs and strengthens the base
defenses in anticipation of the predictable attacks to come. After being
informed by the First Sergeant of the presence of female medical staff on
Firebase Gloria, Sergeant Major Haffner responds with one of the best of his many
sarcastic lines of dialog, “The shit's gettin' pretty goddamned deep around
here. Is there any nuns or Girl Scouts that I should know about on the
firebase?” Margaret Gerard plays the head nurse, Captain Cathy Flanagan, the
only major female character in the movie. She has a few good scenes mostly playing
off Ermey’s sarcastic comments, but she has very little else to do in the
battle scenes are relentless and bloody with little time for a break. Scenes of
the enemy assessing the situation at Firebase Gloria are dispersed between the series
of attacks, but don’t really add much to the movie. It feels as though the
filmmakers were attempting to humanize the Vietcong in these scenes, but it
doesn’t quite work and only adds unnecessary sub-titled dialog between the
Vietcong commander and his second in command as a sort of counterpoint to
Haffner and DiNardo. There is a scene during the climactic battle where the
Vietcong commander and Haffner are going at each other hand-to-hand just as the
enemy over-runs the base, but the Vietcong commander retreats upon arrival of
several Army Huey helicopters, thus ending their assault.
receives second billing to Wings Hauser, but Hauser is one of the weakest
aspects of this movie. Watch “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” for colorful dialog
by Ermey which adds the right touch of sarcastic counterpoint and humor,elevating
the film away from the typical gung-ho action movie. This rarely seen gem has
been missing in action on home video for years except for used VHS copies. MGM finally
made it available as a burn to order DVD in 2012. I haven’t viewed that disc,
but this Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty good, though there is an acceptable
amount of grain in the picture. The only extra on this Kino Lorber release is
the trailer. This movie is nowhere near the caliber of Vietnam War classics
like “Apocalypse Now,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Full Metal Jacket,” but is
recommended for fans of old fashioned military action B-movies and a memorable
performance by the terrific R. Lee Ermey.
on Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play, “The Children’s Hour,” These Three strays from the source most notably in its cause for public
outrage. While the earlier work took as its inciting gossip a suggestion of
lesbianism between two female teachers, Hollywood’s production code dictates
would not allow such an insinuation in a 1936 film (director William Wyler’s
own 1961 remake, which retains the play’s title, was more effectively able to
get away with it). Nevertheless, the rumor of
unmarried sexuality, on school property no less, is damaging enough for its time
and place, even if the film does lose some of the scandalous bite provoked by the
As These Three starts, best
friends Martha Dobie (Miriam Hopkins) and Karen Wright (Merle Oberon, fresh off
an Oscar-nominated performance in 1935’s The
Dark Angel) rush into their dream of opening a boarding school just minutes
after they graduate from college. “Take a chance with me,” implores Karen, and
with that, the two are off to a rural Massachusetts community. The area is charmingly
rustic, but the actual site of their institution, Karen’s inherited farmhouse,
is more than a little rickety. Though the poor condition of the structure is
played for laughs, it is also the first signal that their goal will not be
Alleviating some of that hesitation is the appearance of Dr.
Joseph Cardin (Joel McCrea, having also worked with Hopkins the year prior on Barbary Coast and Splendor), first presented here by the chunks of wood he comically
heaves through a hole in the building’s bee-infested Swiss cheese roof. Once introduced
to one another, the trio form a promptly congenial group, sitting together and
jointly munching on Joseph’s lunch. There is some stated surprise at their immediate
camaraderie, and there is a tinge of inevitable jealousy regarding whom Joseph
favors most, but all in all, Martha and Karen have found a solid ally.
With the bucolic setting comes a cloistered small-town mentality
and carefully arranged social structure. The two young women are instant outsiders,
apparently despite Karen’s roots in the region, and in their naiveté, they also
open themselves up to humiliation. Their first misstep is to procure the ire of
the precocious Mary Tilford (Bonita Granville), who is set up to be their first
pupil and the cause of their downfall. Furthermore, Joseph’s playfulness is regarded
by some as impudence, and Karen and Martha are generally greeted with cautious
skepticism. Before long, rumors and assumptions fly, deriving from Martha’s
annoyingly obtrusive aunt Lily (Catherine Doucet) and Mary, who is a conniving
troublemaker. When the girl is punished for lying, she retaliates by telling
her grandmother (Alma Kruger), a wealthy town benefactor, about the supposed
tryst between Joseph and Martha. A steady anxiety grows from the planted
suspicions, and, more than that, there is genuine shock when Mary reveals a
terrifyingly cruel violent streak. Confronted by accusations of illicit and
harmful activity at the school, Karen, Martha, and Joseph are thus embroiled in
a town-wide conspiracy. While they remain an unwavering team in the face of the
fabricated outrage, going so far as to make their case in court, the entire scheme
has been devastating enough to dismantle their idyllic institution and their
Even if the lesbianism in any overt sense has been left on the
stage, there is still a notably familiar friendship between Karen and Martha.
They frequently speak in the plural possessive and for much of the early
portion of These Three, the two are
framed closely together, stressing their physical proximity and their initial
shared expressions and thoughts. This type of composition is gradually less frequent
as Joseph comes between the women, but what seems to impede a full commitment
to the neighborly doctor, as much as the townsfolk distrust, is the sincere,
respectful bond between the two friends. Perhaps to limit the perceived possibility
of just where the jealousy may actually be directed—Martha’s jealousness at
Joseph choosing her friend instead of her rather than her being jealous of
Karen finding another love—the women bear no great hostility toward one another
as their work and lives are put to the test.
Produced by the prolific Samuel Goldwyn,
who was working with Wyler on the first of what would be their eight films
together, These Three moves along at
a decent pace. Even at just 93 minutes, though, there are times when the
developing drama is stretched a little thin in order to prolong the film’s
third act, only to then have the conclusion itself somewhat hurried. The performances
are generally good across the board, and Granville at just 14 would be
nominated for an Academy Award. A major drawback concerning nearly all involved,
however, is when the actors lose a considerable degree of empathy and
effectiveness by breaking into shrieking emotional outbursts, which happens a
lot. This type of fluctuating behavior is mirrored in the film’s tonal
oscillation as well; what starts innocent enough grows simply sinister as
hysterics set in amidst the close confines of the school. Adhering to the bound
constraints of the stage play, Wyler and cinematographer Gregg Toland seldom
venture outdoors, adding to the combustible claustrophobia (the restrictiveness
is literally evident when McCrea has to duck through one particular doorway). Neither
Wyler nor Toland were at their legendary status by this point, so though they
do contribute to clean, clear, and precise visuals, the imagery is so
restrained and unembellished that it scarcely suggests the pictorial brilliance
both men would soon exhibit.
These Three is
available now on a single-disc DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
is a band that has never taken itself seriously. In the 33 years I have followed The Boys, I
have come to regard them as musicians who have no trouble making fun of
themselves and this is an aspect of their personalities that endears them to so
many of us. The band’s use of the Three
Stooges theme to open many of their concerts since the 1980’s and their amusing
videos that open and close their later tours are proof that they don’t take
keeping in the spirit of such silliness, David Calcano’s 2015 book Rushtoons by Fantoons Vol. 2112 is a
tongue-in-cheek tribute to our favorite band by some world-class artists who
have created some beautiful cartoons that ape and good-naturedly poke fun at
Rush’s famous album covers, making visual puns and humorous references to
imagery that is as synonymous with Rush’s sound as hair is to Donald
Trump. The 23 talented artists showcased
are Mike Kazaleh, Chris Brubaker, Cristian Garcia, Raciel Avila Silva, Jose
Rodriguez Mota, Samanta Erdini, Angie Pik, Armin Roshdi, Drew Krevi, Juan
Riera, Tone Rodriguez, Camila Velarde, Min Jeong, Benny Jackson, Manuel
Sarmiento, Igor Teran, Gina Rivas, Rene Cordova, Paul Badilla, Rafael Luna,
Carlos Behrens, David Calcano, and Maryam Mahmodi Modhadam. Begun in April 2015 as a Kickstarter project,
Rushtoons by Fantoons Vol. 2112
quickly raised enough capital in 24 hours to become a reality. The final result is well worth the wait.
book is separated into seven chapters, beginning with a foreword by RIAB’s Ed
Stenger. Chapter 1 (Roll the Ads) features one of my favorite mash-ups of Corporate
America and Rush: Bill Gates sitting in a chair, pointing a remote control at a
window for MicrosoftPower Windows – clever! Chapter 2 (The Torontonian Cartoons) features
artwork that is most closely related to newspaper comics as they are black and
white with no color. The standout – Alex
sitting on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office, upset because “Geddy started
using keyboards!” Chapter 3 (Le Studio
D’Art) brings us back to color with visual puns on the motifs from the albums,
such as the Dalmatian running to a less-than-happy fire hydrant, and the same
dog chasing Neil who is driving a Red Barchetta. My favorite is the “Live Long and Prosper”
variant on Grace Under Pressure’s
amazing cover. Chapter 4 (Rushtoons)
features The Boys in comical variations on the Peanuts, Popeye, and even Eddie
Trunk is featured. My favorite explains
Alex’s closed eye on the cover of his 1994 solo album, Victor. Chapter 5 (In the
Mood Pin-Ups) features a cute send-up of the Presto cover with a buxom beauty; “Permanent Weathergirls”; and a humorous
parody of the Hold Your Fire cover as
a nude woman attempts to cover herself (use your imaginations on fire). Chapter 6 (Moving Pictures) encompasses
several nice Star Wars parodies, one
with Paula Turnbull’s turn as Leia in full slave girl garb. TheTwilight Zone, TheThree Stooges (how
can you not?), Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Indy trying to outrace the Vapor Trails fireball),
Miami Vice and The Terminator are all given the Rush treatment. Chapter 7 (Sugar Rush, The Cereals), the last
section, incorporates cereal box covers: Caress of Milk, Toasted to the Heart,
Permanent Flakes, Milk Under Pressure, Flakes for Echo…you get the idea!
I highly recommend this 170-page book to all dedicated
Rush fans. You can order a copy of Rushtoons by Fantoons Vol. 2112 online here at the Rush Backstage Club.
(The following reviews pertain to the UK Region 2 releases)
I'm in the right mood I adore bit of film noir. I admire the diversity of its
storytelling, I love every facet, from the hardboiled private eyes, duplicitous
dames and characters that seldom turn out to be what they first appear, to the
alleyways bathed in inky shadows, ramshackle apartments and half-lit street
corners they inhabit. How can you not get drawn in by the sheer delight of Edward
G Robinson playing a second rate psychic trying to convince the authorities he
can see the future in The Night Has a
Thousand Eyes? Or amnesiac John Hodiak on a mission to discover his own
identity, in the process getting embroiled in a 3-year-old murder case and the
search for a missing $2 million in Somewhere
in the Night? Yes, indeed, there's nothing quite like a hearty serving of film
noir on a Sunday afternoon to soothe those end-of-the-weekend blues.
released to dual format Blu-ray and DVD in the UK – carefully restored by UCLA
Film and Television Archive following several years of sleuthing by the Film
Noir Foundation – are a couple real crackers. I'd seen neither before but both have
quickly found a spot among my favourites.
up is 1949 United Artists picture Too
Late for Tears (also known under the re-release moniker Killer Bait), directed by Byron Haskin
from a Roy Huggins
story (first serialised in the 'Saturday Evening Post'). The plot hinges on a
bag packed with an ill-gotten $60,000 worth of banknotes. Husband and wife Alan
and Jane Palmer (Arthur Kennedy and Lizabeth Scott) are drawn into a deadly
game when someone in a passing car hurls a briefcase full of cash into the back
of their open top saloon – cash so hot it's "a bag o' dynamite", as
Alan sagely recognises it. He’s insistent that they hand it over to the cops,
but Jane is having none of it; their ship has come in and she intends to hop aboard.
Initially she swings Alan round to her way of thinking but it's not long before
the intended recipient of the money (Dan Duryea) shows up to claim it back.
Jane, tougher than she at first seemed, is determined to keep it even if doing
so means resorting to murder.
striking support from the slinky Kristine Miller and an urbane Don DeFore, this
is 100% Lizabeth Scott's parade. She's breathtaking as the ice cold blonde schemestress
with a loaded shooter in one hand and a clutch bag full of seductive ploys in
the other; as femme fatales go they don't come much wilier. Huggins' script is
awash with mistrust and the razor sharp repartee born thereof: "Looking
for something?"/"My lipstick"/"Colt or Smith &
Wesson?". The twists come thick and fast as Jane's scruples, if ever she
had any, are casually discarded as she calculatingly works to finagle the cash.
With a sucker punch of a final twist that doles out the roughest of justice, Too Late for Tears is a little gem.
Next up, a Universal Pictures release: Norman Foster's San Francisco based Woman on the Run, a tad lighter in tone
but equally gripping. Out walking his dog one night, artist Frank Johnson (Ross
Elliott) witnesses a murder – but the killer sees him too. With little faith in
police witness protection, Johnson does a runner. Believing that he's really trying
to escape their failing marriage, Frank's wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan) sets out
to find him. Assisted by intrepid reporter Dan Legget (Dennis O'Keefe), eager
to scoop a front page exclusive, Eleanor follows a trail of clues that reveal
things about Frank she never knew, all the while dodging the police (who believe
she'll lead them to her husband, the only person who can identify the killer), and
blindly unaware she’s being watched by the killer himself, intent on eliminating
the sole witness to his crime.
from a screenplay he co-wrote with Alan Campbell, Foster (who went on to direct
episodes of Batman and The Green Hornet for television) keeps
the action moving along at a fair old lick, never afraid to punctuate the mood
with a splash of comic relief; the Johnson's dog is called Rembrandt, because
"It's the nearest we’ll come to owning one". Although it initially
feels like folly when the story’s ace twist is played midway point, it’s in
fact a very shrewd move; arming the audience with such vital knowledge serves
to ratchet up the suspense thereafter to almost unbearable levels. Boasting
some fantastic San Francisco location work and climaxing amidst the after-dark
amusement park thrills of Santa Monica's Ocean Park Pier (a finale which
delivers squalling tension to rival the theme park located climax to Hitchcock
classic Strangers on a Train,
released the following year), if you dip into only one noir thriller this year,
be sure that it's 24-carat keeper Woman
on the Run.
By the early 1970s there had been a revival of interest in the format of anthology suspense/horror stories. This genre had been all the rage in the late 1950s and early 1960s with shows like "The Twilight Zone", "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Thriller!" (hosted by Boris Karloff) attracting loyal audiences. "Twilight Zone" creator and host Rod Serling had two bites at the apple when he introduced "Night Gallery" as a TV movie in 1969 (giving young Steven Spielberg his first major directing gig) and then spun it off into a moderately successful weekly TV series. The early to mid-1970s also saw a major resurgence in horror-themed anthology feature films. The concept was hardly a new one for the big screen as the first major film of this type was "Dead of Night", released in 1945. Roger Corman oversaw some similarly-themed big screen anthologies in the early to mid-1960s, many of which were inspired by classic horror stories based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Not to be outdone, Amicus Films, a rival of Hammer Studios, debuted their anthology concept with the 1965 release of "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors". By the early 1970s we had "Tales From the Crypt", "Vault of Horror", "The House That Dripped Blood" and many others. All of the short stories were based on the same theme: a bunch of disparate characters encounter some supernatural occurrences with the less savory people ending up getting their just desserts through ironic circumstances. In 1983 producer Andrew Mirisch decided to give the anthology concept a try by teaming with producer/screenwriter Christopher Crowe and pitching the concept to Universal. Mirisch had found success in recent years with two popular TV series: "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century". Universal gave the green light for McCarthy's proposed series "Nightmares". The concept was to feature a self-contained horror tale within a half-hour format. For various reasons, including the possible demise of a similarly-themed show titled "Darkroom", the idea for a weekly series was nixed. However, Universal liked what they had seen and decided to morph the concept into a feature film, retaining the title "Nightmares". It consisted of four individual tales and the film was directed by the esteemed Joseph Sargent, who had some high profile TV series and feature films to his credit. The result was an unremarkable but consistently entertaining film that is not as sharp or memorable as some of the best anthology films but superior to some of the weaker ones.
"Nightmares" dispenses with a gimmick used in many anthology films: having a creepy host reveal each of the stories. These just open "cold" without any attempt to link the plots or characters. First up is "Terror in Topanga" which finds Cristina Raines as a young mother who is hopelessly addicted to smoking. One evening she discovers she is out of cigarettes and decides to make a drive into town from her rural home in order to get a pack. Her husband admonishes her and insists that she stays home. Seems there is a manhunt on for a homicidal maniac who has butchered a police officer and who has been terrorizing other residents. Naturally, Raines ignores the advice and sneaks out of the house. The ride to town proves to be ominous with a few red herrings thrown in to mislead the audience, including her encounter with a hitchhiker on a lonely road. When she does make it to the store, it's manned by a wacko clerk (played the inimitable Anthony James) who is somehow more frightening than the maniac. By this point, Raines regrets her decision and is eager to race home. Despite the fact that there is a murderer on the loose, she refuses to lock the doors to her car, even when she leaves it to enter the store. This leads to a predictable development that comes about when she (in true horror movie crisis cliche mode) discovers she is coincidentally almost out of gas. Every major gas station is closed but she eventually finds a lone station on a foreboding mountain road. She has a tense encounter with the sole employee on duty who looks at her menacingly even as he pretends to pump gas. The payoff is based on one of the oldest urban horror legends but the tale is briskly paced and highly entertaining with Raines giving a fine performance as the increasingly nervous victim-to-be.
"Bishop of Battle" goes in an entirely different direction. It eschews dark, foreboding places in favor of a bright suburban home and a crowded game center at a shopping mall. Emilo Estevez is J.J. , an obnoxious high school kid with a mad passion for playing the titular game. He becomes so obsessed with reaching the "13th level" (something few have supposedly ever been able to do) that he begins to withdraw from his parents and friends. His attempts to reach his goal become the stuff of local legend and big crowds gather to watch his attempts- but he always falls a bit short of his ultimate victory. Goaded on by the graphic of the Bishop of Battle, who constantly tempts him to keep trying, J.J. ends up defying his parents, who have ordered him to cease and desist from game-playing. One night he breaks into the arcade and begins his final battle with the Bishop. It leads to a disastrous but predictable conclusion. This segment is well-acted by Estevez and, despite the fact that we can predict the "shock" ending, it plays out well enough. Most of the enjoyment, however, comes from seeing how positively archaic "state-of-the-art" gaming was back in the early 1980s.
"The Benediction" features Lance Henriksen as a priest serving in a tiny desert parish who undergoes a crisis of faith. Having witnessed so many terrible things happen to good people, he decides to hang up his frock and leave the priesthood. His fellow priest tries to talk him out of it, but he is determined to go his own way and start a new life. A big clue as to what awaits him comes with the rather awkward plot device of his being given a gift of holy water to keep him safe on his travels. This promising concept of a priest at odds with his faith is soon abandoned for a ludicrous scenario in which he becomes menaced by a black truck with an unseen driver that keeps appearing out of nowhere and smashing into his car, rendering it inoperable. The demonic vehicle then attempts to kill the priest in a series of spectacular attacks. One of the more ridiculous aspects of a tale that borrows shamelessly from the classic TV movie "Duel", the God-awful Universal cheese fest "The Car" and Stephen King's novel "Christina", is the fact that throughout this entire ordeal not a single other vehicle is anywhere to be seen. We know we are in a horror flick but there still has to be some semblance of reality. Henriksen gives a good performance but "The Benediction" is the weakest of the four stories in "Nightmare".
"Night of the Rat" is the best-remembered segment of the film because of its outrageous premise. Veronica Cartwright and Richard Masur are a young couple with a cute little girl (Bridgette Andersen) who live a normal life in a suburban neighborhood. Mysterious sounds begin to occur and lead them to believe that rats are in the house. The headstrong husband insists he can handle the problem and indeed he does catch and kill the critter. However, this only leads to an escalation of terrors as inexplicable destruction begins to take place all over the house. Absurdly, the husband still insists he can solve everything but when cabinets start falling and dishes crashing, the wife calls in an exterminator who tells her that it appears the house is possessed by something of old German horror legend: a seemingly indestructible giant rat who is out to get revenge for the killing of her baby. The crazy premise actually works better than you might think thanks to the superior performances of the three leads who manage to keep straight faces even when confronted with a five foot rodent who invades their daughter's bed. The special effects of the rat itself look a bit laughable by today's standards but are admirable if one considers the technology of the era and the limited budget. The segment is the most enjoyable of the four and does contain some genuine chills before it's over-the-top finale. As with "The Benediction", there is a gnawing lack in credibility in that, despite the virtual wholesale destruction of this neighborhood home in the dead of night, apparently not one neighbor is aware of the situation.
Shout! Factory's horror label Scream! Factory has released "Nightmares" as a Blu-ray special edition. The main bonus feature is a highly enjoyable commentary track with Andrew Mirisch and Cristina Raines, who appears throughout the track even though she is only in the first segment. Seems she and Mirisch are old chums and had worked together on other projects. Their memories of this particular film get very spotty occasionally but the commentary rolls smoothly thanks to the moderator, film historian Shaun K. Chang, who runs the highly addictive retro film blog Hill Place (click here to access). Chang keeps the conversation light in tone and, not unusually for film historians, seems to have more facts about the making of the film than the people who actually made it. There is plenty of interesting discussion about the background of the movie as a TV project and some very amusing conversations with Mirisch about how "Nightmares" looks a lot richer in terms of production values than the notoriously cheap Universal productions of the era. (Mirisch notes that he was determined to avoid using the same staircase that appeared in seemingly every Universal TV show.) Chang also brings up a more disturbing and poignant fact: that actress Bridgette Andersen, one of the most prolific child actors of the time, died in 1997. Although he doesn't discuss the cause of her death of out respect for her memory, research shows she died at age 17 due to a heroin overdose. In terms of other aspects of the commentary, none of the three participants engage in pretentious analysis of the film and all seem content to regard it as a fun, if not overly significant entry in the horror film canon of the 1980s, though Mirisch concedes at the end of the commentary track that, having seen the film for the first time since 1983, it has aged better than he had expected. The special edition also contains a well-made original trailer and two ominous radio spots. (Remember when they advertised movies on the radio?) In all, a highly impressive Blu-ray release- but with one caveat. The packaging notes that there is a commentary track with Andrew Mirisch and Cristina Raines but doesn't even mention Shaun K. Chang, who does most of the heavy lifting in terms of setting the relaxed tone and getting Mirisch and Raines to reflect on long-forgotten aspects of the film. C'mon, Scream! Factory- how about giving credit where it is due?
“Do you like being filmed and talking about yourself,” director
Agnès Varda asks star and subject Jane Birkin in the 1987 film Jane B. for Agnès V. “Yes and no,” comes
the fittingly ambiguous answer. This fascinating film, recently released on a
Cinelicious Pics Blu-ray alongside Kung-Fu
Master! (1987), the purely fictional feature born from the
quasidocumentary’s unique study of Birkin as an actress and the art of
performance in general, is a movie made of memories, fantasies, and the hazy
area where the two coalesce. Essentially derived from Birkin’s stated fear of
turning 40, Jane B. for Agnès V. is a
ruminative examination of Birkin’s life and work, but it is just as much a
revealing look at Varda as an inventive filmmaker. “I'm filming your
self-portrait,” Varda says to Birkin, setting up the blurring of authorial
lines and not for the first time calling attention to the film’s self-conscious
formation. Constructed from a series of explicitly stylized situations, direct
to camera addresses, rigidly arranged tableaus, and further formal variations, Jane B. for Agnès V. is a cleverly
affected film on the part of both Varda and Birkin. Complicating matters even
more, when Birkin expresses trepidation about being chronicled, saying
specifically she is reluctant to look at the camera, Varda tries to alleviate
the discomfort by telling Birkin to think of the lens as if it were her (Varda)
that she (Birkin) was looking at instead. Of course, by doing so, she is
actually looking at us (the viewer), developing an additional layer of composed
artificiality. Jane B. for Agnès V.
is this kind of film.
There is sometimes purely sincere behavior from Birkin and those
captured by Varda’s probing camera; other times, the action is clearly staged
and simulated, to make and thematic point or strictly for aesthetic purposes.
To Birkin’s credit, her capacity for naturalism is evident—she is a great
actress—but just as the comfort of credibility begins to settle, Varda switches
gears and creates painterly reproductions and stunningly synthetic set-pieces.
There are about a dozen distinct segments through the course of Jane B. for Agnès V., and these brief
skits span a variety of genres and stories, each enabling Birkin to approach an
array of emotions and characterizations. The scene-by-scene randomness does
eventually shape into a larger portrait of an actress and her art, though there
is often no immediate connection between the scenarios—one may suggest a
correlation to a prior scene or a comment Birkin makes, others arbitrarily
Both Jane B. for Agnès V.
and Kung-Fu Master! are visually
heightened by the fabulous transfer for this Cinelicious Pics release (Varda
herself supervised the restoration), but these enhancements are most evident with
the former title. The film’s imagery is a layering of textures, colors,
production design, and camera angles. Its patchwork portrait covers diverse
narrative territory as well, from slapstick to historical drama. The string of
fictitious scenes give Varda and Birkin the opportunity to realize a variety of
genres, as a showcase for their complimentary directorial and acting skills. In
an interview on the Jane B. for Agnès V.
disc, Varda says as much, noting the film allowed Birkin to explore different
aspects of her talent (though Varda also says, in the actual film, that the
actress is the “queen of paradox,” with her desire to be a “famous nobody”).
One is inclined to take the various documentary-type situations as
truth, with no reason to assume they are otherwise. But therein lies another
element of this byzantine film: the obfuscation of the line between fiction and
reality. While some sections appear to be candidly caught on the fly, other
sections are created by Varda explicitly egging them on. Deconstructing the
illusion of filmmaking itself, Jane B.
for Agnès V. is a behind-the-scenes reflection and literal depiction of the
creative process. Near the end of the film, Birkin asks, “What now? Where do we
go?” “We agreed the film would wander, we’d set off someplace and stop along
the way,” replies Varda. “What if we lose our way?” questions the actress. “I
like mazes,” says Varda. “I like finding out where I've been at the exit.” This
awareness of the film’s development is followed by about 30 minutes of a
fictional film being made with Birkin, one in which Varda’s son, Mathieu Demy,
plays a part in the proposed story, which we see simultaneously realized before
Jane B. for Agnès V. then veers off down
This is the initial genesis that shaped Kung-Fu Master! Birkin gets story credit for the second film in
this Blu-ray set, as it was from her suggestions during the making of Jane B. for Agnès V. that Kung-fu Master! was created. Just as the
earlier film dealt with themes such as family, life, loss, and sexuality, so
too is this complementary picture informed by these concerns.
With a cast consisting partially of members from both Varda and
Birkin’s family—to the young Demy as Julien add Birkin’s daughters Charlotte
Gainsbourg, as Lucy, and Lou Doillon, as Lou—Kung-Fu Master! gets off to an upbeat start, with a stuttering
video game introduction to Julien. At a party for Lucy, where she and others of
her age are drinking and smoking and generally acting older and wiser than they
perhaps should, Birkin, as Lucy’s mother, Mary-Jane, first encounters Julien…as
he drunkenly vomits into a toilet. Mary-Jane finds the boy “pathetic” yet
“superb,” and wants to see him again, which she does when she literally runs
into him in her car. To make amends, she treats Julien to a coke and a video
game, the eponymous “Kung-Fu Master.” “Boys are curious and vulnerable,” says
Mary-Jane. “I find it touching.”
This is the start of a fleeting romance that was taboo enough in
1987 to greatly limit the film’s international release. As the courtship
progresses, Julien shows up with flowers and food for his friend’s mother,
while Mary-Jane picks up the boy’s homework when he is home sick from school,
just so she has an excuse to see him. Before long, they are setting dates for
just the two of them alone, where she tries to connect to his youth by playing
the video game and he tries to match her maturity by slipping his hand under
her shirt. The uneasy physicality of the relationship, to say nothing of the
moral quandary (Mary-Jane justifies it to Lucy by noting she herself was with a
man 15-20 years older when she was her daughter’s age), produces an
The Warner Archive has released director Lewis Gilbert's excellent WWII espionage thriller Operation Daybreak.The 1975 film is largely unknown despite the fact that it's one of Gilbert's most ambitious and artistically successful movies. The story is based on fact. Allied Intelligence convinced three Czechs serving in the British army to parachute into their occupied homeland to assassinate Reinhold Heydrich, one of Hitler's most trusted commanders and the man he cynically appointed "protector" of the conquered nations of Europe. Heydrich was considered even more brutal than Hitler and the Allies feared the worst if a scenario came about in which he would have been appointed fuerhrer. As Reinhold was heavily guarded at all times, the commandos were left to their own devices to concoct the assassination plan. After an initial attempt went awry, they opted to boldly approach his car in the middle of the street and spray it with machine gun fire. It will not spoil the film to relate the historical fact that the plan ultimately succeeded, but Operation Daybreak is as much about the aftermath of the incident as it is about the mission itself.
Incredibly, the principal assassins and their network of partisans survived, at least initially. However, on the verge of rescue, elements of betrayal and carelessness led to tragedy. In reprisal for the assassinatin, Hitler ordered that the entire village of Lidice be razed to the ground and every citizen murdered or sent to concentration camps. Gilbert shot the film on location in (then) communist Czechoslovakia. The locales add immeasurably to the sense of authenticity. The film also boasts a sizable budget and there are impressive sequences featuring large numbers of German soldiers parading in the streets - a sight that must have been chilling for residences who lived through the actual occupation. Ronald Harwood's screenplay, based on the novel Seven Men at Daybreak by Alan Burgess, is consistently gripping- and the final battle between the conspirators and a large force of German troops takes place inside a magnificent church. Gilbert ensures this sequence is superbly staged on every level.
If there is a weak link in the film it is the casting of Timothy Bottoms in the lead role. Bottoms is competent enough, but makes for a bland and colorless hero. He is out-shown by fellow cast members Anthony Andrews, Martin Shaw, Joss Ackland and Anton Diffring, who makes a coldly majestic Heydrich. Curiously, the film contains many extended sequences involving Heydrich in which German is spoken without the benefit of sub-titles. Whether this was the case in the original film, I can't say, but it does make for some irritation on the DVD version. Also, the Czech characters all speak English, but as they are portrayed by American and British actors without any attempt to form a common accent, it gives the film's dialogue a Tower of Babel effect. Nevertheless, Operation Daybreak is a memorable movie about real-life heroes that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Hopefully, the Warner Archive release will achieve just that.
(Lewis Gilbert discusses Operation Daybreak and his other war movies in an exclusive interview with Matthew Field in issue #18 of Cinema Retro)
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Cinema Retro has received the following press release
regarding the book “Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey” by Harlan Lebo (Thomas
“This book is a gold mine for fans.”―Kirkus
It is the story of a film masterpiece―how it was created and how it was almost
It is the celebration of brilliant
achievement and a sinister tale of conspiracy, extortion, and Communist witch
It is the chronicle of a plot
orchestrated in boardrooms and a mountaintop palace, as a media company that
claimed to stand for “genuine democracy” defied the First Amendment and schemed
to burn Hollywood’s greatest creation.
Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journeyis
the extraordinary story of the production of Orson Welles’ classic film, using
previously unpublished material from studio files and the Hearst organization,
exclusive interviews with the last surviving members of the cast and crew, and
what may be the only surviving copies of the “lost” final script.
Harlan Lebo charts the meteoric rise to stardom of the
twenty-three-year-old Orson Welles, his defiance of the Hollywood system, and
the unprecedented contract that gave him near-total creative control of his
first film. Lebo recounts the clashes between Welles and studio executives
eager to see him fail, the high-pressure production schedule, and the
groundbreaking results. Lebo reveals the plot by the organization of publisher
William Randolph Hearst to attack Hollywood, discredit Welles, and incinerate
the film. And, at last, he follows the rise ofCitizen Kaneto its status as the greatest film
up with the film music of Lalo Schifrin in the 1970s made these two albums somewhat
compulsory listening. Black Widow (1976) marked Schifrin’s debut album for the
legendary CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) label with Towering Toccata (1977) proving
to be a perfect follow up. Both of these albums (recorded in 1976) feature some
of the greatest Jazz musicians of the period including Eric Gale, Steve Gadd,
Hubert Laws, Jon Faddis, Anthony Jackson and Joe Farrell, to name just a few.
provides a Jazz funk vibe to some classic movie themes including Steven
Spielberg’s monster smash Jaws. The track (which still sounds incredible) was
released from Black Widow as a single and charted at number 14 in the UK
singles chart, becoming something of an established disco anthem. The Black
Widow album also did well, reaching number 22 in the US list of jazz
bestsellers and appeared in the R&B chart. Encouraged by good sales and positive
public reaction, Schifrin returned to CTI for Towering Toccata, another great
blend of smooth, disco funk grooves and a good selection of themes that had
been reworked in order to fit in with the overall album concept. The disco-laced
version of John Barry's theme from King Kong is fondly remembered and arguably
one of the album’s most enduring tracks.
of these albums are today rightly considered as classics. Yes, of course they
are dated; they’re a product of their time and of a certain generation. If you
can’t kick back and embrace the period sound without feeling a sense of
embarrassment, then these albums are not for you. If, however, you can look
back with great fondness and soak up the enormous sense of nostalgia that these
two wonderful albums can offer, don’t hesitate for a minute. Like me, you’ll probably find yourself hitting
the repeat button on a regular basis. Both Black Widow and Towering Toccata
complement each other seamlessly. For the virgin ear, there is no distinct
separation point from one album to the next; it flows sweetly and with a lush
sense of historic sophistication.
audio quality on this Robinsongs / Cherry Red Records release is remarkably
clean and clear with no evidence of distortion. Brass sections are sharp,
basses are deep and the overall dynamics are nicely balanced and sounding
perfectly natural, given their 40 year history. It is also worth pointing out
that both albums are presented here in their original release format with each
album containing its original eight tracks. Black Widow is not the extended
version which contained four bonus tracks. It’s a perfectly practical measure
of course, which enables the two full albums (at 39.24 and 35.34 respectively)
to be contained on just the single CD (thus keeping production costs down). The
packaging consists of a very nicely produced full colour 12 page booklet with
liner notes provided by Charles Waring of MOJO and Record Collector magazine. My
only criticism: smartening up the choice of font for the cover would only
enhance this release and be more reflective of the quality contained on the CD.
The current choice of font does appear to ‘cheapen’ its look, and Schifrin’s
music is much more worthy of something a little classier.
For Schifrin collectors and
fans alike, this excellent twofer release is very nice indeed and offers an
extremely inexpensive way of adding two of his classic 70s albums to your
collection. At £9.95 it’s really quite hard to go wrong.
I’ve always viewed “Cocoon” as the type of film that
Steven Spielberg would have been very happy to have made. It has all the
hallmarks of a Spielberg movie: a light hearted, warm, science fiction fantasy
that is also extremely enjoyable and a perfect piece of innocent entertainment.
It was, of course, Ron Howard who picked up the project, a relative newcomer in
directorial terms. However, his stock was rising based on the very popular
romantic comedy/fantasy “Splash” (1984) with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. It was
certainly enough to attract the attention of producers Richard Zanuck and David
Brown at 20th Century Fox who were happy to take on the ambitious Howard and
his vision for the film.
Given that the film was targeted at teenage audiences amid
the mid-80s trend for special effects-
laden spectacles, “Cocoon” managed to capture the imagination of a much wider
audience. At the centre of “Cocoon” was a senior cast, set in a retirement home
- elements of which may not at first appear to be particularly appealing to
teenage audiences. However, at its core there is a genuine heart, a story that
raises questions about life, death, existence and destiny. It is a
heart-warming tale that successfully blends a touching story of life with
fantasy, and as a result, managed to capture the hearts of audiences young and
Approximately 10,000 years ago, a peaceful alien species
from the planet Antarea set up an outpost on Earth, an island later to be known
as Atlantis. When Atlantis was submerged by the ocean, a number of aliens were
left behind and kept in hibernation within cocoons at the bottom of the
Atlantic Ocean. The story begins as a group of Antareans returns to Earth to
collect them. Disguising themselves as humans, their leader Walter (Brian
Dennehy) rents a house with a swimming pool, and charges the water with a life
force to give the cocooned Antareans enough energy to survive the trip home.
They charter a boat from a local named Jack (Steve Guttenberg) who helps them
retrieve the cocoons. After the aliens reveal themselves to him and explain what's
going on, he decides to help them.
Next door to the house the Antareans are renting is Sunny
Shores, a retirement home. Three of its residents, Ben (Wilford Brimley),
Arthur (Don Ameche) and Joe (Hume Cronyn), often trespass to swim in the pool
next door, thinking the house to be unoccupied. They absorb some of the life
force, making them feel younger and stronger and with their youth seemingly revitalised.
“Cocoon” boasts a wonderful cast lead by the three senior
citizens residing at the Sunny Shores retirement home: Brimley, Ameche and
Cronyn. Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon
and the beautiful Jessica Tandy are also wonderful as their wives and partners
respectively, each of whom delivers a measured and memorable performance. Brian
Dennehy as Walter is a perfect piece of casting, a subtle and touching
performance which proves that underplaying a role can also be very effective. Guttenberg
also puts in a nice little turn as Jack, who again delivers a nicely balanced, humorous
performance without ever allowing his delivery to run wild.
Eureka’s Special 30th Anniversary Blu-ray is presented in
a new high definition transfer and looks very nice indeed. Framed in its
original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the film has never looked better. Previous
editions have often appeared a little soft and grainy, but Eureka’s
presentation (whilst preserving a fine amount of natural grain) is smooth,
clean and nicely detailed. Night scenes in particular, almost all of which were
shot on location, are not drenched in deep blacks, but nevertheless look vastly
better. The colour grading procedure has certainly enhanced its look and the
film benefits hugely from the process and the time afforded it. The picture
does (perhaps naturally) spring to life in far more vivid detail during the
sunny Florida daylight scenes and the ocean bound journeys aboard Jack’s boat.
their heart firmly set in the retro cinema sound of yesteryear, Cineploit’s
releases are always greeted with a great sense of anticipation. Finding artists
or even a label that are so devoted to the genre is a rare thing, and a reason
why I continue to applaud the Austrian label. “Themes International” (Cine 15) is
the fourth LP release by Orgasmo Sonore, a group that continue to evolve and
perfect their sound with every subsequent album. Orgasmo Sonore’s latest album
again consists of brand new original material all composed, recorded and
produced during 2015. As the title suggests, each of the 12 tracks are based
largely on a theme, and there’s certainly a diverse range to be enjoyed. With titles such as ‘Giallo’, ‘KPM Library’, (the
exquisite and funky) ‘Turkish Psych’, ‘Spaghetti Western’, ‘Erotic’ and ‘Exotic’,
“Themes” International is an album that covers all the bases. There are also two
wonderful homage tracks devoted to the styles of legendary European composers,
‘Morricone’ and the late great French composer ‘François de Roubaix’. The whole album is warm, smooth and stylishly
groovy. It’s the type of album that you just don’t hear anymore, unless of
course it’s a re-issue of some cult 60s Italian underground soundtrack. Sonore
have reached that comfortable position where they play like seasoned musicians,
delivering a finely-tuned, pin sharp cinematic sound, all of which is
handsomely produced by Frank Rideau. With 21 tracks created from the ‘Themes’
recording sessions and selected down to a final 12 for the finished album, I
would again plead with Cineploit to make good use of this additional material,
especially in reference to the CD. At a little over 42 minutes, I’m sure fans
and admirers of the music would love to hear a handful of those unused gems
included as bonus tracks. Nevertheless, “Themes International” delicately
unfolds with a silky richness and a slick sophistication. So step on board set the
chair to recline and prepare for a wonderful flight.
audio and packaging is as usual, beautifully presented and of a very high
standard. “Themes International” is
released in a variety of limited forms. The First 250 copies of the 180g vinyl LP
are also supplied with the album on CD (the first 125 of these on solid
purple/black mixed colour vinyl) with a further 125 on solid black vinyl.
Another 250 copies of the vinyl only version are again available (125 coloured,
125 black). The CD only version is also limited to just 500 copies in a stylish
mini LP style wallet sleeve.
Noel Neill with George Reeves in "The Adventures of Superman".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Yet another pop culture legend of the Baby Boomer era has left us. Actress Noel Neill, who played Superman's love interest Lois Lane, has died at age 95. Neill began her career in Hollywood with bit roles in mainstream films. She was chosen to play Lois Lane, the intrepid female reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper of the fictional city Metropolis that Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent called home. As colleagues on the newspaper, Lois and Clark were friends but it was always Superman that stole her heart. One of the more amusing aspects of the Superman legend is that Lois Lane, a top reporter, could never affirm her suspicions that Clark actually was Superman simply because his "disguise" consisted of a pair of eyeglasses. Nevertheless, the Lois Lane character was unusual for the era because she represented an emancipated woman who displayed just as much courage as the men around her. Neill first appeared opposite Kirk Allyn in two series of "Superman" serials that were shown in movie theaters in the late 1940s and early 1950s. When "The Adventures of Superman" TV series debuted a few years later it became an instant hit. However, Neill wasn't the producer's first choice to play Lois Lane in the show. Actress Phyllis Coates had the role and when she left the series Neill was brought on board to take over the part. Coates had played the part of Lois for only one season while Neill had the part for five years (1953-1958) until the show finally left the air. On the TV series, Neill starred opposite George Reeves in the role of Clark Kent/Superman and their chemistry became the stuff of TV legend. Inevitably Lois and fellow reporter Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) would get themselves in a bind and Superman would have to rescue them. Despite the predictability of the formula, the show's popularity has only increased over the decades. When the series ended, Neill decided to retire to become a self-described "beach bum". However, she often participated in fan events and autograph shows over the decades. She also continued her relationship with Superman by making cameo appearances in the 1978 feature film that introduced Christopher Reeve in the role and the 2006 film "Superman Returns". She had also appeared in a 1991 episode of the "Superboy" TV series. Perhaps the most meaningful tribute to her role in "The Adventures of Superman" came when the real-life city of Metropolis, Illinois, unveiled a statue commemorating Lois Lane in 2010. Appropriately, the image was based on Noel Neill, who was proudly in attendance.
As with any major film star who dies young, Jean Seberg has become a cult of personality to some film fans, partly due to the fact that she died in Paris from an overdose of barbiturates at age 40 in 1979. Her death was ruled a suicide but conspiracy theories still abound because she was deemed a political radical by the FBI due to her association with far left wing causes and her support of the Black Panther party. On screen, however, Seberg's characters were generally not radical, although her breakthrough film did find her as the female lead in Godard's classic 1960 crime flick Breathless. Still, there were some hints of Seberg's liberated woman persona in her early career. One such film was In the French Style, a largely forgotten 1963 production based on Irwin Shaw's novel. Shaw wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by Robert Parrish, a respected veteran of the movie industry who never enjoyed a career-defining major hit. (The closest he came was directing segments of the bloated 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) The movie opens in Paris with Seberg as Christina James, a 19 year old free spirited girl from Chicago who has come to the City of Light to hone her skills as a painter. In the process of trying to acclimate herself to the metropolitan lifestyle, she meets Guy ((Philippe Forquet), a headstrong, sometimes arrogant 21 year-old who is nonetheless charismatic and quite handsome. He woos Christina and before long, they are a couple swept up in a whirlwind romance. However, it isn't long before there are strains due in part to their impoverished lifestyle. Guy, being a typical guy, tries to get Christina into bed, but she says when it happens, it will be on her terms and conditions. When the big moment arises, Guy's romantic evening turns into a disaster because he only has enough money to rent a room at a flophouse hotel without heat. In the course of the strained evening, Guy confesses to Christina that he cannot perform sexually because he is too nervous. He makes a shocking confession: he is actually a 16 year old high school boy and a virgin at that. While this does bring the story into a completely unexpected direction, it's the one element of the film that strains credibility largely due to the fact that Forquet was actually 23 years old at the time and looks it. Nevertheless, this plot device takes us away from what was shaping up as a conventional "boy meets girl" romance and plunges the viewer into unknown waters.
The story then jumps ahead in time and we find Christina now in her early twenties and very much in step with the Parisian lifestyle. She is the toast of her neighborhood's social scene and the belle of the ball in terms of attracting male suitors. In a rather progressive depiction of a single woman for the year 1963, it is made abundantly clear that Christina has her pick of lovers and routinely engages in short-term sexual affairs. Every time she meets the "right man", it turns out that differences in their lifestyles prevent them from enjoying a traditional relationship. Her father (very well played by Addison Powell) visits her from Chicago and, again Shaw's script goes against the conventional depiction of father and daughter relationships generally seen in movies during this era. Instead of being a square old fuddy duddy, Dad is actually amused by his daughter's somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and he asks her how many lovers she has had. "A couple", she replies, but it becomes clear that both of them regard that as a drastic understatement. When her father asks to see the paintings she has been working on for years, he gently informs her that they are below the quality he had expected. He cautions her that her party-filled lifestyle may be compromising her potential. Christina objects and two part company under a strain, but it becomes clear that her father's words have resonated with her and that it might be time to develop plans for a more productive career path.
All of that changes when she has a chance encounter with Walter Beddoes (Stanley Baker), a hard-drinking international newspaper journalist. They enjoy a torrid affair and fall in love but, alas, fate rears its ugly head once again when Walter's requirements to travel extensively takes him away from Christina for months at a time. He confesses to her that, while abroad "I don't live like a monk". Christina says she accepts that he will have other lovers but makes it clear that she will, too. Such behavior from a young couple was rarely depicted so honestly on screen in 1963, an era in which sexually assertive women were generally painted as floozies. By the time Walter returns from a three month stint in Africa, he finds Christina has a new boyfriend, an American doctor from San Francisco (James Leo Herlihy), who she says she intends to marry. She has a civilized lunch with both men, as Walter tries to persuade her to resume her affair with him. She confesses that she has seen her share of former lovers ultimately drop her to marry the girl of her dreams, a status she somehow never attains in their eyes. This climactic sequence left me a bit disappointed because in the end, Christina- that most liberated of young women- decides to throw in the towel to become a doctor's wife and live in San Francisco. However, director Parrish does afford us the nagging possibility that she knows she is selling out by doing so.
In the French Style is a very worthwhile experience. The Parisian locations add immeasurably to its pleasures and the crisp B&W cinematography Michel Kelber is impressive, as is the Joseph Kosma's atmospheric score. Not much happens dramatically in the film. You keep waiting for some earth-shaking development to emerge but it never does. However, that's part of the movie's charm. It recalls an era in which studios routinely backed small films with fine actors (they are all wonderful here) and gave them intelligent dialogue and direction.
Twilight Time has issued an impressive limited edition (3,000) Blu-ray edition that does justice to the fine B&W cinematography. The bonus extras include an isolated score track, informative commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, a theatrical trailer and a collector's booklet with liner notes by Kirgo.
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Over the last year the entertainment industry has suffered incalculable losses of talented people. Some of them hit home personally, as is the case with producer Euan Lloyd, who passed away this weekend in London. I first met Euan in 1978 when I was attending college in New Jersey. I had the enviable gig of being the film critic for the campus newspaper, which afforded me the opportunity to routinely attend press screenings of forthcoming films in New York, which was a stone's throw across the river from my native Jersey City. I had read about the upcoming release of "The Wild Geese" which seemed to promise a "too-good-to-be-true" cast composed of some of my favorite actors (Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris above all) in the kind of gritty, macho British war flick that I had become addicted to ever since seeing "Zulu" at age 8. To say the film lived up to expectations would be an understatement. I thought it was a superbly crafted blend of rugged action, social commentary and splendid performances under the capable direction of Andrew V. McLaglen. The film was inspired by the exploits of a real life mercenary named Col. Michael Hoare (not so affectionately known as "Mad Mike"). He was a technical adviser on the film and was speaking at the post-screening press conference along with the film's producer Euan Llloyd. I had seen some of Lloyd's earlier films and liked them. The two men gave a riveting account of the making of "The Wild Geese", after which I approached Mr. Lloyd and introduced myself. I told him that I was greatly impressed with the film and would be writing an excellent review of it. I had hoped to just get a handshake and a few nice words since I wasn't exactly representing the New York Times. To my surprise, Mr. Lloyd spoke to me at length about my experience writing film reviews. He hung on every word. Whether he was just being polite or had a genuine interest, I can't say to this day. However, he astonished me by inviting me to breakfast at the Plaza the next morning. As a college kid, the Plaza on Central Park was a place you only saw in the kidnapping scene of "North By Northwest", as few people from my blue collar background had the kind of bankroll that would afford a trip to the bar or restaurant. The next morning I dined with Mr. Lloyd, who insisted that I call him Euan. After breakfast we took a long walk around the city and he related fascinating stories about the film trade. He even gave me an inside scoop on the next James Bond movie. He said he had recently screened "The Wild Geese" for Cubby Broccoli, who was so impressed by the sequence in which the mercenaries sky dive into Africa that he decided to plan a major aerial scene to start "Moonraker" off with - and indeed he did. Euan had asked me to bring him copies of some of my reviews, which he read in my presence (a nerve-wracking experience for me, as I recall.) He was highly complimentary and encouraged me to take up writing as a career. I had never heard such words of encouragement from anyone. He also told me that if my schedule permitted it, he could get me a bottom-rung job on the set of his forthcoming film "The Sea Wolves". It was an offer I wasn't able to take because of factors in my personal life at the time, not these least of which were that I needed a steady job and was about to get married. Still, the offer was an extremely kind gesture. I parted with Euan that day and was destined not to see him for many years. In the pre-E mail era, these types of casualties happened to people's relationships.
Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger in "The Wild Geese".
In 2002, my old friend and future Cinema Retro publishing partner Dave Worrall happened to meet Euan Lloyd and Andrew V. McLaglen at an event at Pinewood Studios. He asked Euan if he might have remembered a guy named Pfeiffer he had met many years ago. To his surprise, Euan recalled the day I had spent with him and relayed the message that we should visit him when next I was in London. A few months later we did just that and I was delighted to renew my friendship with this remarkable man. In 2006, he was our guest of honor for a black tie dinner we held at the Reform Club in London. His anecdotes were captivating but he never seemed pretentious or full of himself. He was always an example of humility and class. When we started Cinema Retro magazine a few years later, Euan was front and center and we ran an extensive interview with him over the first three issues that was conducted by writers Mac MacSharry and Terry Hine. Euan would always be there when you needed him. It should be said that Euan was one of the first very successful producers to eschew studio financing in favor of raising money for his films on his own, then selling distribution rights to the major studios. In his early days in the industry he worked for future James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli and his (then) partner Irving Allen. Lloyd always credited Cubby for giving him a him this opportunity, which was actually arranged by Alan Ladd, who Euan had befriended. Euan helped oversee production on many successful movies for Cubby and Irving's Warwick Productions. When Cubby later teamed with Harry Saltzman to form Eon Productions, Euan continued to work with Irving Allen and co-produced the second Matt Helm film, "Murderer's Row" starring Dean Martin. From that point on, he would produce his own films. They included Sean Connery's first post-Bond film, "Shalako" in 1968. He struck pay dirt with the 1978 release of "The Wild Geese", which was a major hit internationally and spawned a loyal cult following that seems to be growing to this day. Some of his movies including "The Sea Wolves" and "Who Dares Wins" did not do well at the boxoffice in America but reaped large profits from the European markets. "Who Dares Wins", which was based on a real life incident in which the SAS fought terrorists to free the Iranian embassy in London, counted among its admirers Stanley Kubrick, who wrote Euan Lloyd a letter praising the film. Another admirer of the 1982 movie was President Ronald Reagan, who requested that it be screened at the White House. Euan was also a man who seemed to have no enemies. I once received an unexpected phone call from Sean Connery and in the process of speaking to him, I told him that I was a friend of Euan Lloyd's. Connery recounted his experiences making "Shalako" and said that although he had battled with producers many times over the course of his career, Euan was one of the most honorable men he had ever worked with. Similarly, Roger Moore, who starred in "The Wild Geese" and "The Sea Wolves" for Euan, counted him among the most trustworthy producers in the industry.
Lee Pfeiffer introduces Euan Lloyd at a dinner in his honor at the Reform Club in London.
Over the years, Dave and I would try to see Euan whenever we were in London. He would occasionally join us at the royal premieres of James Bond films. On my last visit in October 2015, I knew he had been seriously ill. We planned to meet briefly at his apartment but his illness prevented this from happening. I think Euan was looking out for me even then, as I don't believe he wanted me to see him in a weakened state. Perhaps he was right. My only memories of him are of a vibrant, elegant man who was always "dressed to the nines" and the epitome of class, style and kindness. He was old school in the best sense of the term. Small wonder that producer Jonathan Sothcott titled his excellent 2004 documentary tribute to Euan "The Last of the Gentleman Producers". I realize now more than ever how that title perfectly encapsulates the man. Upon learning of Euan's passing, Sir Roger Moore referred to him as "a legend". Somehow, that word seems equally appropriate.
(Click below to watch "The Last of the Gentlemen Producers")
The name James A. Fitzpatrick might be meaningless to all but film scholars today but decades ago his popular travelogues provided movie-goers valuable glimpses of exotic sights around the globe. Fitzpatrick broke into the movie business in the silent era and occasionally produced feature films but he's primarily known for his hundreds of travel shorts that were screened in movie theaters prior to the main feature. In the era before television, Fitzpatrick's productions represented a rare opportunity for the general public to see actual footage of historic places and different cultures. Best of all, Fitzpatrick had the foresight to film these excursions in Technicolor, a process that ensured that the film stock never faded. Thus, the shorts look as impressive today as they did decades ago. It should be noted that some of these shorts were filmed by cinematographers who would become legendary including Winton C. Hoch and Jack Cardiff. The Warner Archive has released thirty of Fitzpatrick's "Traveltalks" shorts as a three DVD set. The years covered range from 1935 through the mid 1940s. Fitzpatrick himself provided the narration for each film, immodestly billing himself as "The Voice of the Globe". He also employed a full orchestra to enhance the films with lush musical scores and occasionally laughably corny vocal renditions of old standards. Nevertheless, there is a timeless quality to the facts and sights unveiled in the shorts and modern audiences can still learn much from them. However, there is a far more poignant value to them. Fitzpatrick shot these films when the world was gearing up for the unthinkable: a second world war. Although Fitzpatrick deftly tiptoes between the international tensions (who wants to see a depressing travelogue?), the back story to what he had to ignore is rather fascinating. A 1935 short dedicated to modern Tokyo presents the city as a booming metropolis filled with serene scenes and an innocent population. However, the film was shot when the militaristic government of Japan had already invaded China and was committing genocide and other horrendous atrocities. Other shorts present peaceful scenes of great countires in days prior to the coming war. We see Czechoslovakia and Austria immediately prior to their takeover by Hitler's hordes. The World's Fair Exhibition in Paris is shown as a symbol of international brotherhood and cooperation even as war clouds were building over Europe. Within a year of this film being shot, France and England would be at war with Germany and shortly thereafter, "The City of Light" itself would be occupied by German troops. There is a poignancy in watching the innocent people depicted in these films today and one can't help but wonder just how many of them didn't survive the coming conflict. France alone would lose 250,000 military personnel in the battle against Nazism. Japan would lose hundreds of thousands of civilians before the war ended. On a more cheerful level, the set presents many travelogues of areas not affected by war: the mainland USA and South America, primarily. (Once the war broke out, Fitzpatrick seemed to restrict his films these geographic areas.) A 1935 short about Los Angeles is striking if only because of the lack of congestion and traffic. A short dedicated to southern Florida decades before Disney's influence emphasizes Miami Beach and such quaint sites as the Everglades and Silver Springs. Those films shot in the USA during the war years only reinforce that America largely escaped the horrors inflicted on other parts of the globe. Although 400,000 American servicemen would die in the conflict, the mainland remained isolated from invasion and day-to-day life largely carried on as normal, as illustrated in these shorts.
The DVD set is a remarkable time capsule that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history and travel. Well done, Mr. Fitzpatrick.
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Cimino and star Kris Kristofferson on the set of the ill-fated production of "Heaven's Gate".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Michael Cimino, whose fast rise to royalty in Hollywood was matched only by the sudden demise of his career, has died at age 77. He was born in Long Island and entered the film business with his first success as the co-writer of the 1973 Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry sequel "Magnum Force". (He had previously written the screenplay for the sci-fi cult film "Silent Running" starring Bruce Dern.) Eastwood was suitably impressed and gave Cimino the opportunity to make his directorial debut with the buddy crime caper "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot". Released in 1974, the film was a hit and helped launch Jeff Bridges to stardom with the Oscar nomination he received. In 1978 Cimino released his ambitious Vietnam War epic "The Deer Hunter" starring Robert De Niro and newcomer Meryl Streep. The politics of the big budget film are still being debated, with some arguing Cimino was an apologist for either the pro-war hawks or the anti-war peaceniks. Either way, the film packed a powerful punch and spoke to a generation that had suffered through the war. Cimino received Oscars for producing and directing the film and a promising future seemed to be in store. However, his 1980 mega-budget Western "Heaven's Gate" would derail his career forever. Accused of having a giant ego and being fast and loose with other people's money, Cimino oversaw the filming of the bloated production that lasted eleven months and ended up costing $35 million on a budget that was not to exceed $11 million. The three -and-a-half hour film was also the victim of bad timing. It had a pro-Marxist story but was released within weeks of Ronald Reagan's election to the White House. The nation was veering to the political right and Cimino's film was an homage to socialists. The film was roundly panned by critics and lost virtually all of its production cost in a sea of red ink. United Artists, which had failed to reign in Cimino's excesses, paid the dearest cost. The fabled studio, which had recently come under new management, almost went into bankruptcy and diminished over the ensuing years to being little more than a trademark instead of a thriving studio. In desperation, UA ordered Cimino to create a much shorter version of the film for wide release, but the results were still terrible. The debacle resulted in UA executive Steven Bach writing his well-received book "Final Cut", which documented the disaster on celluloid. Bach took his share of the blame for giving Cimino carte blanche on the ever-soaring budget but put the bulk of the responsibility on Cimino himself, whose hubris was such that he refused to even show UA executives his final cut until its first public screening in New York. By the time the reviews came out, the damage was done. (Rex Reed claimed the audience of sophisticates actually threw popcorn at the screen.) Cimino dismissed Bach's allegations but rarely spoke of the film ever again (although he did provide a commentary track for Criterion's Blu-ray special edition of the film in which he extolled its virtues while skirting the controversies.)
Cimino's looks changed radically over the years, leading some to speculate his was undergoing a sex change operation.
Cimino went on to direct a scattering of minor films, the most successful being the crime drama "Year of the Dragon". His last film was the little-seen "Sunchaser", released in 1996. He did have the satisfaction of seeing the uncut version of "Heaven's Gate" re-evaluated and gain respect in many quarters of the film industry. Nevertheless, he kept a low profile and his always eccentric personal behavior became bizarre. He underwent radical plastic surgery which so altered his appearance that many speculated he was undergoing a sex change operation. Cimino issued a non-denial denial that was more cryptic than illuminating. He also told conflicting stories about his early life and even once stated that he had served in Vietnam (he hadn't). In more recent years, he wrote occasional novels and would come out of seclusion to attend a film festival or event every now and then. He rarely gave interviews and disdained appearing on television. Whatever one thinks of his reed-thin filmography, Cimino thought in grandiose terms and went to extremes to fulfill his artistic visions. Whether he was indeed a visionary, a psychologically disturbed artist or both, will be factors relating to his legacy that will be debated for many years to come.
It may seem hard to believe in an era in which every personality on screen seems to be wearing a cape and tights but there are some intelligent films still being made for discriminating, mature viewers. The problem is that you often have to search to find them. Case in point: "The Lady in the Van", a 2015 British comedy/drama that found its intended audience but was relegated largely to the art house circuits in big cities. The movie is about as off-beat as you can imagine in terms of the central premise but we are told that it is mostly based on fact. Alex Jennings plays the film's real-life British playwright Alan Bennett, on whose experience the screenplay is based. Jennings was an aspiring playwright in 1974 when he moved to a relatively upscale neighborhood in London's Camden Town section. Bennett was enjoying some success with a show on the West End and was leading a fairly comfortable existence, though - at least in the film- he was frustrated by the fact that he no significant other. As a gay man, his unease was understandable- until 1969 homosexuality was a felony crime in Britain. Coming out of the closet was not something most gay people felt comfortable doing. The film presents Bennett creating his own live-in companion- an imaginary alter-ego with whom he trades barbs and discusses problems ranging from writers block to everyday household chores. His life takes an unexpected turn when a homeless woman arrives on his street driving a barely operable old van. She identifies herself as Mary Shepherd and is about as lovable as a tarantula. Mary becomes the talk of the posh neighborhood, moving her van occasionally to park in front of various houses. Some of the locals are kindly to her while others clearly disdain her, but all of them tolerate her presence and gets used to her. Mary keeps her "alternate side of the street" lifestyle going for several years. The van is her abode and she defends it with pride. She accepts handouts from neighbors but her prickly nature never results in her uttering the words "Thank you". Alan, like most of the locals, regards her with a bit of frustration as well as fascination. When a parking ordinance forces her van off the street, Alan offers his driveway as a place she can park "temporarily". You know how these things go. Before long, Mary has not only established the driveway as a permanent residence but is also making various demands on Alan to allow more privileges. Slowly, the months turn into years and both become accustomed to the bizarre living arrangements.(Mary never enters his home and the resulting effect on her hygiene is played for laughs). The two have a sometimes uneasy relationship but the gentle, meek Alan begins to care about her more than he will even admit to his alter-ego. He is wracked by guilt because his own aging mother is slowly deteriorating both mentally and physically and he feels guilty about having to have her committed to a nursing home. He uses Mary has her proxy so that an act of kindness towards her might help Alan alleviate some of his guilt about his mother.
Ultimately Alan's relationship turns to caregiver. Some of Mary's demands are reasonable (jury-rigging wires from his house so she can watch TV in her van) while others are too extravagant to comply with (constructing a tent so she can indulge in more hoarding of useless objects.) He also learns what the viewer has known from the opening, shocking frames: that Mary is hiding a terrible secret and lives in constant fear of being arrested. She, too, is wracked by guilt because she once killed a motorcyclist in an accident and fled the scene. We also learn that she is being blackmailed by an eyewitness (Jim Broadbent) to the event. Gradually, Alan sees her as a source of material for a writing project. He tracks down her only living relative, a brother who is somewhat estranged from her. He relates some remarkable details about her once-promising life and how it all went wrong when she sacrificed a musical career in order to join a convent. (The Catholic Church and religion play key roles in her life.) Nothing overly dramatic takes place in the leisurely-paced story but there is something remarkable the fact that Alan Bennett allowed this eccentric woman to spend a full 15 years residing in his driveway until her death in 1989.
Bennett published a journal about the experience titled "The Lady in the Van". In 1999, he adapted it into a play starring Maggie Smith. It was a major hit, running over 900 performances on the West End. The play's director, Nicholas Hynter, is a frequent collaborator of Bennett's, having worked with him on adapting Bennett's plays "The History Boys" and "The Madness of King George" for the screen. In 2015 they finally brought "The Lady in the Van" to the screen as well with Maggie Smith reprising the title role. Smith was now of an age where she could be even more convincing as the elderly eccentric and Bennett ensured that the movie was shot in the very house in Camden Town where the actual events took place. For all its charming aspects and the fact that the production presents two extraordinary performances by Smith and Alex Jennings, the end result is a mixed bag that you expect to move you in a more emotional way than it actually does. This is largely because Smith's character remains crusty, self-centered and pretty much an ingrate throughout. In the film's final moments, which details her death, Bennett and Hytner do manage to convey a softening of her persona in the final moments of her life but they then attempt to make her more lovable with an ill-advised funeral sequence in which we see the ghost of Miss Shepherd assuring us that she has found happiness in Eternity. The scene smacks of being a well-intentioned gimmick and seems somewhat out of place with the rest of the film. Jennings, known primarily as a stage actor, gives a marvelous performance as Bennett and manages the considerable achievement of not being overshadowed by the great Dame Maggie. The film starts off rather weakly but becomes more engrossing and satisfying if you stick with it. This is largely due to Bennett slowly unveiling key details about Miss Shepherd's challenges in life and the fact that she missed out on a promising musical career. Although Smith is very amusing in the comedic sequences, she is even more impressive in these dark, dramatic scenes. The end result is a mixed bag. The film is to be commended for presenting that rarest of screen experiences nowadays: an intelligent story aimed at adult audiences who seek fine performances and dialogue rather than mindless explosions. There are uneven and unsatisfying patches throughout but the performances alone merit it for recommended viewing.
Sony has released an impressive special edition Blu-ray of "The Lady in the Van". There are numerous featurettes including extensive interviews with Maggie Smith, Alan Bennett, Alex Jennings and Nicholas Hytner that give some interesting perspectives on the long history of the real life events that inspired the play and film. There is also a director's commentary with Hytner and some deleted scenes, some of which clearly show that Miss Shepherd is actually nt only extremely eccentric but is also suffering from dementia, as evidenced by her belief that she can be elected Prime Minister.
"Lost in Space", the sci-fi cult favorite that fell squarely into the "so bad, it's good" category, will get a relaunch from Netflix, which will develop a ten-episode trial series. The original series debuted in 1965 and ran for three seasons but is arguably more popular today among sci-fi buffs who look back fondly on the show's over-the-top humor and cheesy special effects. The series was the brainchild of producer Irwin Allen, who was associated with other popular sci-fi series of the era and who would go on to produce disaster movie blockbusters like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno". The premise of the show was a space age tale of survival inspired by the classic adventure novel "Swiss Family Robinson". The modern Robinsons were a family on a U.S. space mission who found themselves stranded and destined to travel between planets, encountering various exotic life forms. Accompanying the family were a handsome navigator and a weasley, back-stabbing stowaway, Dr. Smith, played by Jonathan Harris, who went on to steal the show and become a pop culture icon. The series also featured the Robinson's personal robot (actually Robbie the Robot, recycled from the 50s feature film "Forbidden Planet"), whose mechanical warning "Danger, Will Robinson!" became a national catch-phrase.
The series inspired a poorly received 1998 feature film version. The Netflix series has elicited the usual promises from its creators that it will bring the format into a new era while remaining reverent to the original show's roots. Uh-huh. Sometimes you simply can't go home again. Given some of the poor remakes of older TV series, maybe this project should indeed remain lost in space, but we'll reserve our judgment until we see the end result.
We've extended kudos to Impulse Pictures for their dedication to rescuing obscure adult films from bygone eras and giving them first-rate DVD presentations. As we've said many times previously, whether you love or hate these productions, they did play an important role in American pop culture from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, when adult filmmaking largely switched to made-for-video mode to accommodate the overwhelming desire for porn in the era when VCRs became standard household fixtures. While many of the Impulse releases offer some surprising signs of talent and even occasionally impressive production values, the 1972 biker flick "Bad, Bad Gang" is about as erotic as one of those high school "health" films we were all forced to watch in days of old. There's plenty of sex, to be sure, but there is virtually no other reason for the movie to exist. Much of it appears to have been shot in a hurry perhaps because the use of outdoor locations might have resulted in passersby reporting the goings-on to the police. The problem begins with the bizarre, childlike title. "Bad, Bad" might be acceptable if you're referring to ol' Leroy Brown, but for the title of a movie, it's downright bizarre. The film starts off with its one impressive aspect: well-filmed sequences of a sleazy biker gang racing down desert highways, with some effective shots due to cameras being mounted on cycles. Things deteriorate rapidly as the bruisers in the gang stop to pick up two teenage girls who are hitchhiking. They are no shrinking violets and seem downright enthused about being whisked away to parts unknown for activities that almost certainly won't involve lessons in decoupage. The bikers end up going to a remote location only to stumble upon a small camper with two young married couples who are enjoying a picnic. The bikers beat up the guys and kidnap the girls, who they subject to all sorts of sexual deprivations. The men rally and attempt to rescue them but are quickly overcome and are held captive and sexually abused by the biker women. Absurdly, two of the women take the two male captives off to another location by threatening them with tomahawks. However, the weapons soon disappear but the "captives" seem unaware of this, as they engage in sexual activities with their two tormentors- all the while neglecting the fact that they could easily overcome the two girls and rescue their wives, who are still being subjected to the whims of the sleazy male bikers.
"Bad, Bad Gang" is crudely shot and features editing that appears to have been achieved in a blender. Apparently, the film had been available previously in a badly cut version and this is the most complete its been seen on video. However, it seems likely that at least a couple of key scenes might still be missing. The Impulse transfer is appropriately gritty and grimy and the sex scenes (which include the requisite lesbian encounters) are badly shot and notably non-erotic despite being hard-core. The only "name" in the cast is Rene Bond, who built a following in adult movies. The DVD package includes some liner notes about the film that extol its alleged virtues in print so microscopic you'll need a telescope to read them. There are also excerpted sequences from the company's latest "42nd Street Forever" collection of silent grindhouse shorts from the 1970s.
Dr. Strangelove or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is such an iconic
motion picture that most readers of Cinema
Retro, I would bet, already own a copy of this brilliant keepsake of the
1960s on DVD or Blu-ray. The film has been released several times before, but
now it gets the Criterion treatment. Believe me—fans of the movie and of
director Stanley Kubrick will still want to get this edition. It is definitely
an upgrade in quality and the disk also comes with a plethora of fascinating supplements and some terrific goodies in
you’ve haven’t been paying attention to the lists of Great Movies You Should
See Before You Die, you know that Dr.
Strangelove is the story of how an air force general (Sterling Hayden) goes
“a little funny in the head... you know, just a little... funny...” and orders
one of his bombers to attack Russia in order to preserve our “purity of
essence.” To save the day it’s up to an RAF exchange officer (Peter Sellers),
the President of the United States (also Sellers), a Hawk-ish general in the
Pentagon (George C. Scott), the good-ol’-boy pilot of the bomber itself (Slim
Pickens), and a bizarre German nuclear physicist in a wheelchair (Sellers again). Maybe they rescue our planet,
maybe they don’t.
Strangelove was Kubrick’s first
time out as sole producer, along with serving as director and co-writer. Prior
to making the film, he had been partners with James B. Harris, who produced The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), and Lolita
(1962). Kubrick had also done a work-for-hire job for executive producer Kirk
Douglas on Spartacus (1960), which he
vowed never to do again, but that project afforded him the clout to carve out a
subsequent career of total creative freedom. Now as the producer of his own
pictures, Kubrick got what he sought. He secured his home base in England, set
up a unique and highly personal routine of making films, and proceeded to give
us some examples of extraordinary cinema. Strangelove
was the first masterpiece out of the gate, and, fortunately, was a critical
and box office hit.
was controversial, too, as are all of Kubrick’s films made since he began
producing them himself. At the time, some attacked Strangelove as being a “sick joke.” Nevertheless, it captured the
mood of early 1964 and, as Martin Scorsese has said about it, “the word on the
street was that it’s terrific.” It was the hip movie to see. It pushed the
envelope. It got people talking. It established Kubrick as the hot filmmaker of his day.
the early 1960s, the director had become obsessed with the arms race, experiencing
himself some of the Cold War paranoia that was prevalent in those years,
especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The British novel Red Alert by Peter George came to
Kubrick’s attention and he thought it would make a fine basis for a political
thriller. He brought in George to co-write, and at first the pair worked with James
Harris on the script. At some point during the process, they all started to
find funny things about the story. From then on, the screenplay morphed into a
comedy—a very black one. In fact, Dr.
Strangelove is arguably the definitive black comedy.
eventually left the partnership and went off on his own, leaving Kubrick to
produce by himself. That’s about the time Kubrick brought in satirist Terry
Southern to polish the work and add some needed dialogue tweaking. The result is
one of the most ingenious and original adaptations of a novel in movie history.
acting and the direction are as perfect as one can get. Production Designer Ken
Adam’s ultra-modern sets, especially that of the spectacular War Room, firmly situates the movie in its time
and place. Gilbert Taylor’s stark black and white cinematography in the
interior settings gives the picture its nightmarequalities, while the hand-held camerawork in the exteriors is
effective in creating a documentary/newsreel effect. The editing (by future
director Anthony Harvey, but certainly with Kubrick overseeing the work) is
razor tight. The director apparently deleted a lot of footage to achieve the
comic tension, including a now infamous pie fight in the War Room at the film’s
climax because it apparently didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.
all comes across with class and panache in Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition. The
restored 4K digital transfer is the best I’ve seen. There’s an uncompressed
monaural soundtrack, but also an alternate 5.1 Surround Soundtrack presented in
DTS-HD Master Audio. The movie has never sounded better.
then there are the supplements. Criterion provides several new pieces, and some
of the best features from previous releases have been ported over as well.
new supplements include: new interviews with Kubrick scholars Mick Broderick
and Rodney Hill, archivist Richard Daniels, camera innovator Joe Dunton and
camera operator Kelvin Pike, and Peter George’s son, David George. These all
come with film footage and wonderful unseen stills. Previous extras include an
excerpt from the tried and true 1966 audio interview with Kubrick by Jeremy
Bernstein; four different documentaries about Kubrick, the making of the film,
the sociopolitical climate of the period, and actor Sellers (two of which are
co-produced by Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief
Lee Pfeiffer). There are also 1963 interviews with Sellers and Scott, and an
excerpt from a 1980 Gene Shalit interview with Sellers.
trailers are included as supplements—the quirky theatrical trailer, which we’ve
all seen, and the “exhibitor’s trailer,” which we haven’t. The latter is a
little over fifteen minutes long; demonstration reels of this kind were
commonplace in those days in order to persuade theaters to book the picture.
It’s pretty much a short capsulation of the movie’s story using unedited
footage, but what makes it totally cool is that Kubrick himself narrates it. He
even makes excuses for a couple of monologue sequences that do not yet include
cut-aways to other characters. Fascinating stuff.
terrific bonus is the collection of “props” you get inside the packaging—everything
comes in a “Plan R” folder like the one used in the film. Inside is a “Top
Secret” Memorandum containing an essay by scholar David Bromwich, and a Playboy-style booklet called Strangelove. Tracy Reed, step-daughter
of director Sir Carol Reed and the only female in the cast, is on the cover of
the booklet and graces a centerfold. The latter is also seen in the movie in a
fictional issue of Playboy itself. The
booklet’s text is Terry Southern’s 1994 article on the film. Last but not
least, you even get a “miniature combination Bible and Russian Phrase Book.”
fella could have a good time in Vegas” with this superb release from the
how many of us took advantage of those wonderful psychedelic cinematic
discoveries of the late sixties and early seventies, the kind that beckoned
many a youth to view them in an altered state of mind? You know the ones—Yellow Submarine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantasia
(1969 re-release), Woodstock, El Topo, Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic,
Allegro non troppo... and of course Fantastic Planet,a surprise European import that hit U.S. theaters in early 1974.
It’s one of the stellar stoner movies that frequented the Midnight Movie houses
around college campuses.
by French animator René Laloux, with a production design by
eccentric French illustrator Roland Topor, Fantastic
Planet takes the audience to a very other-worldly place where humans are
tiny vermin compared to the gigantic blue Draags (called Traags in previous
translations), who are the superior race on the planet. In fact, Draag children
often keep humans—known as “Oms”—as pets, teaching them tricks and keeping them
imprisoned the way we might house a gerbil. Adult Draags, we learn, like to
“meditate,” which is apparently a euphemism for participating in a cerebral,
celestial orgy. While their bodies remain sedate, their consciousnesses are
released inside floating colored bubbles that travel to a nearby “wild planet.”
There, the bubbles attach to giant headless human-shaped statues, which then
come to “life” and dance together. In other words, it’s how the Draags get off.
story involves one human, Terr, who is captured in infancy by a young Draag and
kept as a plaything. Terr grows up, escapes his master, and joins a band of feral
humans to organize, rebel, and attempt to bring down the Draags.
all very creepy and strange, but it’s also a brilliantly fascinating and entertaining
film. The French-Czech co-production managed to win the Jury Prize at Cannes
that year, the first time an animated feature had taken such an award.
Certainly no other movie before or since looks
like Fantastic Planet, for its
eye candy exhibits a surrealism that echoes the work of Dalí, Ernst, or Magritte, but with a hallucinogenic science fiction
sensibility. Add a mesmerizing electronic jazz score by Alain Gorageur, and
you’ve got yourself one extremely trippy motion picture.
first released in the U.S., the dialogue was dubbed in English. The new
Criterion Collection disk features this optional soundtrack, but one must
really watch and listen to the movie in the original French (with newly
translated English subtitles) for the full alien effect.
new 2K digital restoration is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are bright and
vivid, bringing out the details of the drawn, “paper doll” animation. The audio
is an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Supplements include two short animated films made by Leloux and Topor—Les temps morts (1965) and Les escargots (1966)—and if you think
the feature film is bizarre, wait until you see these! The disk also contains a
2009 documentary on Laloux, an episode of a French television program from 1974
about Topor and his work, a short interview with Topor from 1973, and the
experiencing Fantastic Planet, you
may feel as if you’ve jumped back to the 70s and want to say things like, “Far
out, man,” or “roll another one.” Just be sure to Blu-ray responsibly. (“Whoa,
he used Blu-ray as a verb!”)
Bud Spencer, the burly former Italian athlete who became an iconic film star in his native country, has died at age 86. Spencer, whose real name was Carlo Pedersoli, chose his stage name as a tribute to Budweiser beer, which he loved, and Spencer Tracy, his favorite film star. Although Spencer's film found some exposure in the American market, his greatest success was found in European comedy westerns that often co-starred his friend Terence Hill. Among the films that are best known to English-speaking audiences are "Ace High", "The Five Man Army", "They Call Me Trinity", "Trinity is STILL My Name!", "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" and "A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die". Among the contemporary actors Spencer counted among his admirers was Russell Crowe. For more click here.
The Warner Archive has released a slew of worthwhile 60s spy movies and TV series lately. Among the under-rated gems is The Double Man, a 1967 Cold War thriller starring Yul Brynner, who gives a powerful performance as American intelligence agent Dan Slater. His teenaged son is killed while skiing in Switzerland and Slater suspects it was actually murder. He finds he's been lured to Alps as part of a complex plot to kill him and replace him with an enemy agent with his identical facial features and characteristics. The plot was covered with moss even at the time since it formed the basis of a two-part Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Double Affair, that was released theatrically the previous year as The Spy With My Face. Still, this is a highly intelligent, gritty film with Brynner as the most hard-ass hero imaginable. Devoid of any humor, Slater suspects both friend and foe as he leaves no stone unturned in trying to thwart the plot. The film benefits from a good supporting cast including future Bond girl Britt Ekland who finds herself unable to distinguish between the two Slaters. Clive Revill and Anton Diffring are excellent in supporting roles. There are some spectacular aerial sequences photographed by the late great cameraman Johnny Jordan, whose work on On Her Majesty's Secret Service bears a strong resemblance to this film, though both movies suffer from the shoddy rear screen projection technology of the time. The score by Ernie Freeman is sometimes overly-bombastic, but in the aggregate, this is one of the better spy films of the era thanks in no small part to the direction of Franklin J. Schaffner, who would win the Oscar several years later for Patton.
The transfer is crisp and clean and the DVD features the original theatrical trailer.
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Cinema Retro's Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer provides the foreword for the new paperback edition of author Michael Munn's acclaimed biography of James Stewart. Here is press release:
Getting to know the real Jimmy Stewart was an
exhilarating experience for film historian and author, Michael Munn. In Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend
(Skyhorse Publishing, A Herman Graf Book),
Munn describes how he met Jimmy Stewart and his wife, Gloria, and how over the
years, Gloria confided in Munn secrets about Stewart that the public never
knew. Some of these will surprise even serious fans: his explosive temper, his
complex love affairs, his service as a secret agent for the FBI, his innate
shyness, and his passionate patriotism.
Through his friendship with Stewart and his wife, Munn
was able to conduct many interviews with the Stewarts as well as their
colleagues and friends, and this personal touch shines through his writing.
This definitive biography reveals the childhood ups and downs that formed this
cinema hero, explores the legendary Henry Fonda–Jimmy Stewart relationship, and
recounts Stewart’s experiences making The Philadelphia Story, Rear
Window, Anatomy of a Murder, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington.
a film historian and the author of twenty-five books, including Stars at War, The Hollywood Connection, and the bestseller John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. As a journalist he has written
extensively on cinema, crime, ancient history, and the World War Two. He lives
in Suffolk, England.
Turner Classic Movies has released three Alan Ladd titles in a set titled "Alan Ladd: The 1940s Collection". Here is the official press release:
Handsome leading man Alan Ladd found success in the 1940s
and ‘50s, first as the tough guy in several films noir co-starring Veronica
Lake and then as the stoic hero in Westerns such as Shane (1953). Turner
Classic Movies and Universal are proud to present this three-film collection
that showcases Ladd’s talents in a range of genres from thriller to adventure,
as well as the work of such directors as Irving Pichel and Frank Tuttle, and
writers the likes of Richard Maibaum and Seton I. Miller. LUCKY JORDAN (1942)
Directed by Frank Tuttle (who also directed Ladd’s breakthrough film This Gun
for Hire the same year), LUCKY JORDAN stars Ladd as a racketeer who gets
drafted into the US Army and will do anything to get out of it—even go AWOL. As
he tries to escape, he soon finds himself dealing with a backstabbing
second-in-command, a patriotic WAC who wants him to change his ways and enemy
spies in this comedic crime thriller co-starring Helen Walker. TWO YEARS BEFORE
THE MAST (1946) Ladd takes to the high seas in this adventure film based on the
1834 travel book by Richard Henry Dana Jr. that exposed the conditions of
sailors aboard merchant ships. Ladd stars as Charles Stewart, the spoiled son
of a ship magnate who gets shanghaied onto one of his father’s ships. He spends
the next year under the tyrannical rule of the ship’s captain and eventually
finds the courage to lead the crew to mutiny. The film was directed by John
Farrow and costars Brian Donlevy, William Bendix and Howard Da Silva. O.S.S
(1946) Writer Richard Maibaum is most famous for his work on the James Bond
series (he wrote 13 of the franchise’s first 15 films), and his ability to
write taut spy thrillers is on display in this film starring Ladd and Geraldine
Fitzgerald. Set during World War II, Ladd and Fitzgerald play members of an
American spy ring who are sent into France with the objective of destroying the
French railway system. But as their mission gets more complicated, Ladd must
decide between obeying his commands and being a hero.
My Name is Nobody is many things: a 1973 spoof of the “young and old gunslingers” sub-genre that began with For a Few Dollars More; Henry Fonda’s
last Western (and Sergio Leone’s to an extent); and even a eulogy on the dying
of the Spaghetti Western itself. Spearheaded by Sergio Leone himself, Nobody was directed by Tonino Valerii (Day of Anger) and teams Once Upon a Time in the West’s Henry
Fonda with They Call Me Trinity’s
Terence Hill. As a combo of Leone’s straight westerns and Hill’s “Beans
Westerns” (a slang term for comedic Spaghettis) it amounts to quite the
crossover film and could’ve easily been called “Once Upon A Time in the West
They Called Me Trinity.” While it is never as funny as Hill’s two Trinity films or as epic as Leone’s
“horse operas” it is none the less a whimsical delight and a classic of the
Nobody has been released
from Image Entertainment (who previously released the DVD) on Blu-ray at a
suggested retail of $24.98. This pricey “40th Anniversary Edition”
unfortunately boasts no extras of any kind, not even a trailer. The big
question for collectors then becomes: without any special features is it worth
the upgrade? The beautiful transfer and crisp audio make it a resounding “Yes!”,
as both easily outclass the DVD. Thanks to the clear print I was able to notice
several details that escaped me during previous DVD viewings. For clarity, the
print does have its fair share of scratches, but for some of us (myself
included) the scratches aren’t always unwelcome and add a little nostalgia. On
the surface it may appear that there is no difference between this and the old
DVD release due to virtually identical packaging, but Image did use an original
Italian print for this release as the title credits on the Blu-ray are all in
Italian rather than English, as was the case with the DVD. Like the DVD it also
runs the full 116 minutes rather than the cut 112 minute version which also
exists. Though pricey and devoid of extras the excellent transfer makes it a
worthy Blu-ray for Spaghetti Western fans.
It’s night and a ship moves in the water through a dark
curtain of fog. We see George Raft as Captain Johnny Angel on the bridge
peering out into the pea soup as another vessel looms ahead suddenly in the
darkness, abandoned and drifting in the water. Raft sounds the foghorn but there’s no
response. He boards the derelict with several of his crew to search for clues
as to what happened. They go below to the captain’s quarters and finds it
wrecked. A picture lies on a desk in a shattered frame. Raft picks it up and we
see it is a picture of him as a younger man standing next to an older one. A
crew member enters the cabin and says there is blood below, and water in the
hold, but no signs of life.
“Maybe your father’s okay,” the crewman says. “Maybe—“
“He’s dead,” Raft replies tersely.
These first six-minutes of RKO’s “Johnny Angel” (1945), consisting
mostly of image and sound, set up the mood, tone, and basic plot and characters
with barely any exposition at all. Everything we need to know is shown, not
told—classic noir moviemaking. The lean, mean script for “Johnny Angel” was
written by pulp fiction veteran Steve Fisher, who also wrote other film noir classics such as “I Wake Up
Screaming” (1941) (he also wrote the novel), “The City that Never Sleeps”
(1953), “I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes” (1948), and “Lady in the Lake” (1947). He
wrote taut, tense, dramatic stories where not a word was wasted. Director Edwin
L. Marin was known primarily for westerns and movies like “A Christmas Carol.”
But earlier in his career he had turned out Philo Vance mysteries. Like Fisher,
he knew his way around a crime story.
After the opening scenes, Captain Angel learns that not
only is his father dead, but a shipment of gold bullion smuggled aboard the
ship has been hijacked. The bulk of the story takes place in New Orleans’
French Quarter, where Angel tails a mysterious French woman named Paulette (Signe
Hasso) who stowed away on his father’s ship and may be the only person who
knows what happened. He’s assisted in his search by an offbeat character played
by songwriter Hoagy Carmichael in the role of a cab driver named Celestial.
It’s a role somewhat similar to the one he played in Howard Hawks’ “To Have and
Have Not” (1944). Of course, Hoagy managed to get a scene into the film where
he sings one of his songs, “Memphis in June.”
There is a wide assortment of other strange characters.
George “Gusty” Gustafson (Marvin Miller) is the owner of the ship line Angel works
for. Gusty is an emotional cripple dominated by the female nurse (Margaret
Wycherly) who raised him and the glamorous wife (Claire Trevor) who’s cheating
on him with night club owner Sam Jewell (Lowell Gilmore). Miller and Trevor
turn in first rate performances. Miller seems creepier than usual while being
manipulated first by the domineering mother figure and then the wily blonde
femme fatale. Trevor seems even more hard-hearted than usual in this role. In
contrast to these weird characters, Raft appears as the one upright, honest guy
in town. His father has been killed, a gold bullion shipment has been stolen
from his ship and Angel wants justice.
Raft, over the years, got his share of criticism as an
actor of limited talent, who usually turned in a stiff, wooden performance. But
what he really did in all his films was play George Raft. He perfected the role
of the coin-tossing tough guy— stoic, cynical, a man of few words. He did what
Alan Ladd and John Waybe did. He created an image, found a niche, and stuck
with it. “Johnny Angel” is one of his better roles.
The plot follows Angel’s search for the French girl, the
development of a romance between Angel and Paulette, and a final showdown with
the person behind the murder and hijacking. The film moves along somewhat
leisurely and might have been improved if Marin had stepped up the pace a bit.
But there’s something to be said for a film that takes its time, savors the
atmosphere, and seems to enjoy itself, in contrast to the mind-bending, ultra-violent
crime films made today.
Harry Wild’s wonderful black and white cinematography
really stands out in this production. Wild is credited with other noir classics
such as “Murder My Sweet” (1944), “Cornered” (1945), “The Big Steal” (1949),
and many others. His work here in the night scenes on the waterfront and in the
Latin Quarter are excellent. The few contrasting daylight scenes in the
countryside beyond the city add texture and mood to the film.
“Johnny Angel” also has a beautiful, evocative score
composed by Lee Harline. The right music was essential to this film, which has
so many scenes without dialog.
The picture and sound quality of this Warner Archive burn-on-demand
DVD are good. Unfortunately, there are no extras, not even a trailer. Even so, “Johnny Angel” is highly recommended.
My new book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974 (McFarland) was recently released
and I keep getting asked the same question. Why a book on Pamela Tiffin? I
expected this from non-Sixties cinema fans but have been getting asked by more
fans and experts on the time period as well. So to answer why a book on Pamela
Tiffin? She is one of that decade’s most beautiful and talented actresses who
left an indelible impression on movie fans. For me, she is prettier than Raquel
Welch; funnier than Jane Fonda; and more appealing than Ann-Margret. Yet, they
all became superstars and Pamela did not. My book tries to explain why I think Pamela
Tiffin, gifted with expert comedic ability, did not achieve mega stardom though
she remains a cult Sixties pop icon to this day.
I first saw Pamela Tiffin in the
colorful travelogue The Pleasure Seekers,
which was broadcast on the ABC-TV 4:30
Movie sometime in the mid-Seventies. By then I was a huge Carol Lynley fan
due to The Poseidon Adventure and
would seek out her other movie appearances. I had heard of co-star Ann-Margret
but was not familiar with the handsome brunette Pamela Tiffin, the third member
of this romance-seeking trio. I recall not being impressed with Ann-Margret in
the least, though I thought she did swell performing the title song. I do love
Carol Lynley in this movie, but I found myself beguiled by Pamela. She took
what was the typical sweet naïve ingénue role and made it funny, touching, and
sexy. I was only thirteen years old or so at the time and even at that young
age I knew Pamela had a certain something the other two actresses did not. Soon
after, I began seeking Pamela’s movies out and the 4:30 Movie came through with For
Those Who Think Young and The Lively
Set. I was hooked and could not understand why she was not as a big of star
as Ann-Margret or even Carol Lynley.
I began researching Pamela Tiffin’s
career in my local Long Island library to discover that she practically
disappeared from the silver screen after 1966 with a few Italian movies popping
up thereafter. My determination to uncover all about Pamela Tiffin culminated
when I interviewed her at her New York City home for a series of short magazine
articles and a chapter in my first book in 1998. She was elegant and charming
with that same whispery voice. We stayed in contact for a brief period, but
then I stopped hearing from her, though my devotion to her never ceased.
Pamela Tiffin once described her
entrée into Hollywood “as a kind of Cinderella story.”And it truly was. A model and cover girl, she
was discovered while on vacation having lunch at the Paramount Studios
commissary. She won critical raves for her performances in her first two films Summer and Smoke (1961) and the Billy
Wilder comedy One, Two, Three (1961)
giving a wonderfully amusing performance as an addled-brain Southern belle who
sneaks into East Berlin and marries a Communist to the chagrin of her guardian
in Germany. Everyone from James Cagney to Billy Wilder to Jose Ferrer praised
her acting ability, especially her forte with comedy.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
favorite summertime tradition whenShark
Week: Jawsome Encountersarrives
on DVD (plus Digital) on June 14 from Lionsgate. For the past 28 years,
Discovery Channel has captured the world’s attention with Shark Week,anannual televised event that
explores the ocean’s most magnificent creatures. Featuring 13 fintastic
episodes from the 2014 season (never before released on DVD) just in time for
the newest season of Shark Week broadcast on Discovery.Discovery’s
annual event is bigger than ever! Dive deep into the mystery of “zombie sharks”
in New Zealand, get up close and personal with Tiger Sharks lurking below the
surface in idyllic Hawaii, and explore Great Whites off the coast of Australia.
to the Criterion Collection for releasing Whit Stillman’s charming trio of young
adult angst: Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), and The Last Days of Disco (1998). The bookend films have both been previously released
by Criterion on DVD and Blu-ray, but now the company bows Barcelona to complete the trilogy. Available as both a stand-alone disc as well as part of a set of the
three films, Barcelona features the
luminous Mira Sorvino in an early role.
trilogy of films that Mr. Stillman made as the beginning of his career and for
which he is most well-known are interesting in that they depict groups of
people who fall out of the scope of most of the general population and probably
appeal to even less. That is actually a
welcome relief. Metropolitan was shot in January and February in 1989 and released
in August 1990 (a curious choice for a film set at Christmas time) and the upscale
characters live in a Manhattan that is far less hectic than today’s, light years
before their lives were infiltrated and forever altered by personal computers,
cell phones, electronic tablets and violent video games. The absence of these devices is noticeable in
every frame of this film wherein the characters talk to each other rather than text. Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols are two of
the actors who appear in all three of these films, playing different characters
by name but are instantly recognizable by their attitudes and method of speak. In Metropolitan,
they play Upper Eastsiders. In Barcelona, they are cousins who bicker
about sex and politics in a Europe far less violent than today’s. In The
Last Days of Disco, they are an employee of a disco and a disco dancer,
Barcelona, referred to as “…the
funniest film ever made about the violent hatred of Americans…” by Michael
Weiss, begins with a terrorist explosion at
the American Library, an unlikely start for a film purporting to be a
comedy. This imagery has become all-too
familiar and far more brutal in present-day 2016 with the insurgence of groups
like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, but when this film was shot,
presumably sometime after the first World Trade Center bombing in February
1993, the world appeared to be a less frightening place. In Barcelona,
the time period that the film is set in is difficult to pin down just from
watching the film. There is talk in the
film that Spain is getting ready to join NATO, and that historical event took
place in 1982. The film does not look
like it is attempting to take place during that time, however.
are introduced to Ted Boyton (Nichols), a salesman originally from Chicago who
has just come out of a relationship and bemoans his inclination to fall for
overly attractive women in relationships that are ephemeral. He resigns himself to pursuing (in his words)
or even rather homely girls.” We can
assume that the failure of his latest LTR is a result of falling for the former
and so he tries to be philosophical about his future pursuits. He confides this to his cousin Fred (Eigeman),
a naval officer who shows up out of the blue and wants to stay with Ted for a
while, although his sudden appearance irks Ted. Fred’s attitude mirrors that of Nick Smith, the character that Mr.
Eigeman portrayed in Metropolitan, which
is to say that he is a tad angry about things. Fred occasionally dons his naval accoutrements
while out and about with Ted and the female counterparts they have met
accidentally (Tushka Bergen and Mira Sorvino as Montserrat and Marta,
respectively) which causes a rise in inflammatory anti-American sentiment
towards the group. While it is directed
at Fred it is never anything truly awful…until near the end of the film when
Fred is shot point blank by an assailant just outside the car he is riding
in. Ted is shocked and holds vigil by
Fred’s bedside, reading to him and wondering if he is even being heard. The women they have met also chip in and take
turns and Ted wonders if his cousin will ever be the same. Fortunately, Fred comes out of it, although
his attitude about life seems to be no different despite losing an eye.
Mr. Stillman’s dialogue most obviously
mirrors that of Woody Allen who gave himself and his co-stars wildly funny and
philosophical ruminations on male/female relationships, sex, politics, and the
world at large. There are some truly
funny moments, such as Ted’s dance to “Pennsylvania
6-5000” while he’s alone in the apartment, only to be interrupted by Fred and
Marta who return unexpectedly. The film
is a perfect slice of light entertainment in an atmosphere of films and
television shows that is almost exclusively comprised of super heroes, scheming
politicians, dysfunctional writers, and espionage.
The Blu-ray is a nice upgrade from the
2002 DVD. This edition features:
A new and restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by
director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with 2.0 surround
DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
The 2002 audio commentary featuring Stillman and actors
Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
New video essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about
the trilogy made up of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
The Making of “Barcelona,” a short documentary from 1994
featuring behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with Stillman and
Deleted scenes and alternate ending, with commentary by
Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
A segment from a 1994 episode of the Today show featuring
An episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with
An essay by film scholar Haden Guest
to order Barcelona on Blu-ray from
to order A Whit Stillman Trilogy on
Blu-ray from Amazon.com
Bruce Willis will top-line a remake of the urban crime thriller "Death Wish", to be directed by Eli Roth. The original film was a sensation in 1974 and helped elevate Charles Bronson to major stardom in his native America, after having found success in European productions. In that film, Bronson played Paul Kersey, a liberal New York businessman whose wife and daughter are brutally raped. His wife dies in the incident and his daughter ends up brain-dead. Enraged by the inability of the police to catch the culprits, Kersey gradually takes the law into his own hands,making himself an easy target and then killing those who intend to do him harm. Within weeks, his anonymous vigilante becomes a populist hero in a city in which the citizenry is fed up with the break down in law and order. The film, directed by Michael Winner, spawned some sequels, all of which were repellent and cartoonish at the same time, but the original movie still retains its power. Director William Friedkin once told this writer that the audience reaction to Bronson's on-screen killings was visceral and frightening as people cheered with every pull of the trigger.
The new version of "Death Wish" may find an audience, but we're willing to bet it doesn't. Chances are it will fall into the realm of other remakes designed simply to make a fast buck. For one thing, history is against the concept. America's urban areas are in far better condition than they were in 1974. Although high profile mass killings are on the rise, everyday crime is generally far lower than it was back in the Seventies. New York City has routinely posted crime rates that are as low as they were in the early 1960s. It's doubtful that the film will resonate with audiences in the same way that Winner's original version did. It was made during a period when emerging from certain New York subway lines with your wallet intact was considered reason to celebrate. That no longer is the case. Winner was trying as much to make a social statement as he was making a profit. He succeeded with both goals. However, the new "Death Wish" has the odds stacked against it. Charles Bronson was a leading man on the rise at the time of the first version, whereas Bruce Willis works is arguably over-exposed. He will apparently appear in your home movies if the pay check was large enough. He also hasn't had a major hit as the leading man in quite some time and it seems doubtful that this would be the vehicle to reverse that trend. He and Eli Roth deserve the benefit of a doubt, but I'm betting the studio will mostly be counting on profits from the video and Netflix rights.
The only commonality among the films of director Nicolas Roeg is that there is no commonality. Roeg graduated from being one of the industry's most respected and innovative cinematographers to becoming an esteemed filmmaker in his own right. Among his disparate productions: the London crime film "Performance", the bizarre David Bowie starrer "The Man Who Fell to Earth", the cult favorite "Bad Timing" and his most accomplished film, the adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's supernatural novel "Don't Look Now", which ranks as one of the most atmospheric and terrifying movies ever made. By the early 1990s, however, Roeg's penchant for making avant garde films with limited boxoffice appeal- combined with his insistence on not compromising his artistic visions in the name of commerce- put him at odds with studio executives. His movies were largely appreciated by the art house cinema crowd but that didn't endear him to the studio bosses in the corner offices. One of Roeg's most bizarre, ambitious and expensive films was the little-seen and even less-remembered "Eureka", a 1983 production that was bedeviled by bad luck. First the basics: Roeg initially approached screenwriter Paul Mayersberg to adapt a book titled "Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes?" by Marshall Houts. Sir Harry Oakes may have faded into historical obscurity but in 1943 he was certainly one of the most famous men in the world- and had been for two decades. It all began when Oakes, an American by birth, went north into the wilds of Canada in his quest to prospect for gold. He doggedly pursued this ambition for fifteen years before stumbling upon what became the greatest discovery and claim for gold in North American history. Overnight Oakes became one of the richest men on earth. He later moved to the Bahamas where he lived comfortably on a large estate with his wife and daughter. Enamored by the British gentry he interacted with, Oakes changed his citizenship and became a subject of England. Big money buys impressive friends and Oakes was quite chummy with the Duke of Windsor, who had made a wee bit of a splash himself a few years earlier when he was known as King Edward VIII- yes, that King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry the love of his life. Edward was by then relegated to being the Governor-General of the Bahamas, some theorized to get him off the front pages. Between his scandalous marriage and the fact that he was deemed an appeaser to Hitler in the lead up to the war with Germany, which was now raging, the Duke was not "Flavor of the Month" in his native England. Still, he and Harry Oakes hit it off rather well and before long Harry was knighted, ostensibly because of his sizable contributions to charity, but some theorized the Duke had pulled some strings on his behalf. Sir Harry's bliss was short-lived. In 1943, he was brutally murdered in his own bed. How brutal was the crime? Well, he was bludgeoned, tarred and feathered, burned alive and beheaded. Clearly, at least one person in his orbit was not very enamored of him and it was decided that the person who liked him least was his son-in-law, who Harry had virtually disowned. A sensational trial took place that resulted in breathless international coverage but the suspect was found to be not guilty on the basis of flimsy evidence. The sensational case remains technically unsolved to this day, though amateur sleuths still debate who the real culprit was and what his motive might have been.
Nicolas Roeg was understandably intrigued by this story and was delighted when screenwriter Paul Mayersberg had also read the book that Roeg wanted him adapt for the screen. He, too, had longed to make a film of it. With the two men in synch, they set out to make a linear retelling of the remarkable characters and events pertaining to Sir Harry's life. However, they realized that since several of the major players in his life were still alive, the production could be plagued by lawsuits. Thus, they decided to give fictitious names to the characters. This also liberated them in terms of using artistic license when desirable, as they were no longer attempting to present a purely factual study of Sir Harry's life and death. It also liberated Roeg by allowing him to bring more esoteric elements into the production. The central character was now named Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) and our first view of him is indeed striking: he in embroiled in a violent struggle with another man in the midst of a raging blizzard in the Canadian wilderness. An unidentified woman, presumably the other man's wife, pleads for the men to stop fighting and we learn that Jack, who has been enraged by something that is never explained, is splitting up his prospecting partnership with the other man. He eventually storms off into the intimidating landscape to continue to pursue his goal of finding a major strike. Ultimately he does just that by literally falling into a fortune when he slips through a crevice and finds himself in an underground cave that is literally raining gold dust. He rejoices in his triumph but his happiness is short-lived. He returns to the bordello where the love of his life, a local hooker and oracle (Helena Kallianiotes) is literally on her death bed and she dies in his arms. It's the first in a string of unfortunate incidents that will plague Jack's life. The scene then abruptly switches to twenty years later when we find Jack comfortably residing in his Bahamian estate named, appropriately enough, Eureka. He's a hot-tempered man prone to violent outbursts. The only calming influence in his life is his twenty year-old beautiful daughter Tracy (Theresa Russell), who he clearly adores but who also brings him consternation because of her strong, independent ways. Tracy has married Claude Malliot Van Horn (Rutger Hauer), a handsome, charismatic European gigolo. Jack can immediately see through Claude's motives and calls him out for being an opportunist who is using Tracy to get access to the McCann fortune. The rift results in Tracy becoming estranged from Jack and her mother, Helen (Jane Lapotaire), a weak-willed woman who Jack treats as he would the hired help. A parallel subplot finds Jack being pressured by his friend and business associate Charles Perkins (Ed Lauter) to sell his beloved estate to a group of American gangsters headed by a man named Mayaofsky (Joe Pesci) and his second-in-command Aurello D'Amato (Mickey Rourke). Seems they want to expand their operations to the island Jack resides on and consider his land crucial to their plans. Typically, Jack not only rejects their offer but insults them in the process, leading to the gangsters deciding to take strong-arm tactics against him. In the film's most disturbing scene (and there are several), Jack is murdered in his bed by being bludgeoned, tortured with a blowtorch and (we learn later) beheaded. It's an incredibly gruesome sight to behold, as Roeg holds nothing back from the viewer except the decapitation. (We should be thankful for small favors). The balance of the film concerns the resulting murder trial, which mirrors the real life case in that Jack's son-in-law was arrested and charged with the crime. He had motive and opportunity- but so did many of his enemies including the gangsters.
"Eureka" may have been an ambitious undertaking but it's also a highly unsatisfying one. The script provides us with a dearth of sympathetic characters. With the exception of Tracy (who is superbly played by Roeg's then-wife Theresa Russell, who made numerous other films with him), there isn't a single other character with any admirable traits. Hackman delivers a powerful performance as McCann but the character is sketchy. We all know money doesn't always buy happiness but we never get to the root cause of his dissatisfaction with life and everyone around him. The supporting cast is equally excellent with Rutger Hauer giving one of the best performances of his career as the vain, almost effeminate pretty boy whose charm makes Tracy blind to his vulgarities. These are demonstrated in a very haunting sequence in which Claude and two female companions secretly attend a voodoo ritual that becomes a pagan-like orgy which leaves everyone involved disgraced and emotionally scarred. Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke are impressive as the gangsters, with Pesci uncharacteristically underplaying his role, while Ed Lauter does the same as Jack's wimpy friend Charlie. The main problem with "Eureka" is that Roeg values style over substance. The entire first section of the film involving Jack's quest for gold is compromised by Roeg dropping in metaphysical and supernatural aspects, implying that his seer girlfriend is somehow sending him psychic signals to find the gold even though this will inexplicably cost her her own life. Even when the story gets on more traditional footing in Jack's later years, Roeg still toys with the viewer by inserting artistic touches that are visually striking but which distract the audience and make things quite confusing to follow. At times it's hard to figure out who is who and what everyone's relationships and motivations are.Roeg also can't resist making numerous analogies between the characters of Jack McCann and Charles Foster Kane, though the comparisons seem a bit obvious and heavy handed. Having said that, the movie looks beautiful and Alex Thomson's cinematography is top-notch, as is the lush musical score by Stanley Myers.
If Jack McCann's fate seemed cursed, so did "Eureka" as a major film production. The movie was financed and was to be distributed by United Artists. However, during production the management team of the long-troubled studio changed and "Eureka" was treated as an orphan project that had been green lit by the previous regime. Not helping matters was the fact that a test screening proved to be very discouraging, with the audience overwhelmingly giving the quirky film a "thumbs down" verdict. UA sat on the movie for two years before giving it a very minor and abbreviated release, after which it fell into obscurity. Twilight Time has released the film as a special edition Blu-ray, limited to only 3,000 units- and kudos for them for doing so. Although the film is a misguided and unsatisfying enterprise, it still has enough impressive aspects to merit a look by any serious movie scholar. Bonus features include extensive on-camera interviews with screenwriter Paul Meyersburg, producer Jeremy Thomas and editor Tony Lawson. In listening to their reflections on the film (Mayersburg in particular), one gains far more insights into what Roeg was hoping to achieve and how we should view the characters. It's a tremendous help in terms of providing fresh perspectives but a casual viewer who sees a film in a theater should not have to seek out interviews with the movie makers in order to gain such information. The special edition also has a rare audio commentary track consisting of Roeg answering questions at the movie's world premiere. A theatrical trailer is also included, as is an informative booklet by film historian Julie Kirgo.
"Eureka" is an artistic failure in this writer's opinion but at least it's a fascinating one and certainly worth a look in order to draw your own conclusions.
The Warner Archive has released the previously-issued Paramount special DVD edition of The Family Jewels as a burn-to-order title, carrying over the extras from the previous release. The 1965 film is a tour de force for Jerry Lewis, who not only starred, but co-scripted, co-produced and directed the film. There lies the rub. Lewis was certainly a pioneer in his field, one of the first actors to create a second successful career as director. Prior to his achievements, most other actors who tried to helm major films gave up after one or two efforts. (Charles Laughton, Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, etc.) However, the more overstretched the workaholic Lewis became, the more his work suffered. He is onscreen for almost every scene in this film, playing a variety of crazy characters. Eleven year old actress Donna Butterworth (charmingly billed as "Miss Donna Butterworth") is Donn Peyton, an orphaned rich kid whose guardians have instructed her that she must choose a new father from among her eccentric uncles, who she barely knows. Her best friend is Willard Woodward, her ever loyal chauffeur and caretaker. He's a bit of a klutz but his childlike manner ensures he's the perfect companion for the sophisticated young girl. It's Willard's job to escort Donna to various parts of the country to meet her uncles and see which one she will choose as her new dad. (Apparently, the uncles have no say in accepting this rather sobering responsibility). One is an ancient sea captain (Lewis in absurd makeup that makes him look like a cross between a mop and Captain Kangaroo), another is an unspeakably vile and self-centered circus clown, another is an inept airline pilot, while another is a bumbling boob with a British accent, while the remaining two are a gangster and a successful photographer of glamour models (Lewis reprises his Nutty Professor character of Julius for this role.) The plot, such as it is, exists only to afford Lewis any number of showcase moments as he wreaks mayhem on the screen as each of the idiotic uncles. Eventually, little Donna is kidnapped and held for ransom by the gangster uncle, thus allowing Willard the chauffeur to spring into action to save her. The climactic sequence in which Donna chooses the man she wants to be her new dad is as absurd as it is predictable. The film contains a couple of cringe-inducing examples of nepotism run wild. The first occurs in a sequence that exists for no other reason than to show Willard enjoying a new rock 'n roll album "coincidentally" released by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The second occurrence finds the group awkwardly making a cameo in the film. Now I like dear old Gary and his Playboys (I just saw him recently in an oldies concert and he was damned good) but this kind of blatant promotion proves to be more a distraction than a delight.
I've always been an admirer of Jerry Lewis and even second rate Lewis (which this is) still has some charming elements to recommend. Lewis, whose best efforts were under the restraint of director Frank Tashlin, has no one to keep him in check here. His characterizations of the uncles range from genuinely amusing (the photographer, the pilot) to over-the-top even by Lewis standards (the sea captain, the gangster, the Brit). He makes one of the most startling impressions as the nasty clown in the only role not designed to be humorous. "Miss Butterworth" is a very capable and likable actress and is able to hold her own on screen with Lewis (no easy task). There are some nice bits by well loved character actors like Neil Hamilton, Sebastian Cabot, Gene Baylos and Robert Strauss. As with even the least of Lewis' movies, it never commits the cardinal sin of being dull.
The special edition features include a commentary track by Lewis and singer Steve Lawrence (!), who had nothing to do with the making of the film. However, Lewis realizes what this writer learned a long time ago: when you are recording commentary tracks for comedies, it always flows better when there is byplay between two people. Solo commentaries are best left for the likes of Citizen Kane and Schindler's List. There are such long gaps between some of Lewis' comments that I had to check to see if I had somehow switched out of the commentary mode. Lawrence is there to serve as Lewis's Ed McMahon, serving up softball questions and laughing in all the appropriate spots. Still, Lewis does provide some nice insights into the film. He says he was reunited some years ago with Donna Butterworth and was delighted to see her again (she had seven children). Lewis also tells us during a sequence in which he makes a seemingly impossible shot on a pool table that he was coached for two days by Minnesota Fats himself, which is a rather fascinating tidbit. The DVD also includes some casual screen tests of Lewis chatting with Butterworth and an original trailer. In all, an impressive package for a mid-range movie that nonetheless is worth viewing if for no other reason than to experience a bygone era in which family comedies could be made without bathroom humor and sex jokes.
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Cinema Retro has received the following press release from The British Film Institute:
London: Friday 17 June 2016 – The first new trailer in four decades for Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar® and BAFTA-winning historical masterpiece BARRY LYNDON is released online today, ahead of the film’s re-release in cinemas across the UK on 29 July 2016.
Commissioned by the BFI in association with Warner Bros. Pictures and created by Ignition Creative London, the new trailer – the first since the film’s original release in 1975 – has a strong contemporary feel to appeal to new audiences. It focuses on the different and conflicting roles and characteristics of 18th century Irish wanderer Redmond Barry (later Barry Lyndon), played by Ryan O’Neal, whose adventures see him climb from innocent rural lad to a lying, cheating English nobleman.
A modern version of the film’s famous main title music – George Frideric Handel's ‘Sarabande’ (from Suite in D minor HWV 437) – adds pace and heightens the dramatic impact of the action on screen, which is as fresh and exciting today as it was forty years ago.
The trailer has been enthusiastically approved by Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick’s Executive Producer, who said:
“The trailer does the film justice. Brilliant. I am looking forward to watching the film again.”
It can be seen and embedded from YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjPSGuJskxM
Cinemas that will be showing BARRY LYNDON from 29 July are listed here, with more to follow in the coming weeks: www.bfi.org.uk/releases
BARRY LYNDON is the fifth film to be re-released by the BFI in an on-going partnership with Warner Bros., which has resulted in thousands of people being able to see Doctor Zhivago, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining back on the big screen.
get it out of the way - 11:55 is derivative. It's a showdown
film. Showdown films have a simple plot device and story line: the protagonist
is threatened and driven by angst, "Should I stay or should I go?"
The antagonist is driven by rage and revenge and has clear intentions. The
characters' reasons vary from film to film but the premise is the same. You've
seen films like that hundreds of times. Welcome to 11:55.
no shame in dragging out an old chestnut. William Shakespeare never came up
with an original story
line either. Co-director Ben Snyder admitted to the fact that the film's title
was inspired by High Noon. But this film, which had its world
premiere recently at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is the first directorial
effort of Ari Issler and Snyder.
Sanchez (co-screenwriter Victor Almanzar) is a returning Afghan War veteran. We
first meet him as we silently ride the bus home to Newburgh, New York. His earlier- than -expected arrival threatens to throw big sister Angie's party
plans awry. Chased out of the house, he surprises his long time girlfriend
Livvy for some quality time before acting dutifully surprised at the party.
There we meet many of Nelson's friends, some of whom are guys he ran drugs with
before entering the service. Nelson is a troubled man with a troubled past. He
escaped the mean streets where he grew up by joining the military - after he
accidentally killed a dealer from rival gang. His former protégé on the
streets, Teyo, breaks the news to him at the party: Nicky Quinn is coming.
Quinn is the older brother of the gangbanger killed by Nelson and he is out for
revenge. He arrives in town on the, you know it, 11:55 bus.
happy homecoming day suddenly turns sour. His plans did not include dealing
with actions from his distant past. Whatever he experienced in the war has
changed him. His sister and girlfriend convince him to run, make a new life in
Boston. But when Nelson and Livvy run into a couple of Quinn's goons at the bus
station, Nelson takes a stand - he's not going to run away this time; he's
going to stay and face what's in store.
The city of Newburgh,
for Nelson Sanchez, turns out to be a lot like Gary Cooper's Hadleyville.
Although he has an abundance of friends, like Cooper’s beleaguered sheriff of High Noon, none will commit to stand
with him in his hour of need. His efforts exhausted, he does what any
knowledgeable sacrificial lamb would do: he gets a haircut. This
is a gritty, moving film filled with a terrific supporting cast. Newburgh
should get credit as well. It once ranked in the 20 most dangerous communities
in the US and has been plagued by gang violence and drugs for years. It
provides a solid backdrop for the film's authenticity.
Almanzar shines as Nelson Sanchez. There's not a doubt in the viewer's mind as
to what Sanchez is thinking at any given time and Almanzar makes the viewer empathize with his plight. He is soulful and deep and you care about what he's been
through and where he's going. Hopefully, Almanzar has a promising future in
film. Elizabeth Rodriguez is scary and soft, sexy and tough as Angie, especially when she
threatens the "Greek chorus" of Nelson's cowardly friends in the barbershop
with a razor. Livvy,
as portrayed by Shirley Rumierk, is the dutiful girlfriend. She's torn between
supporting her man's choice and saving his life.
veteran actors lend some great turns in character roles. David Zayas is
Maurice, Nelson's former "Godfather" from his drug dealing days who'd
rather feed his pigeons than lend a hand. John Leguizamo, as Nelson's
wheelchair-bound, former marine buddy, is the only one willing to stand with
him. Yes, pun intended. He and Julia Stiles, as Nicky Quinn's pregnant wife
bring some terrific comic relief into the film. Her brief rant at Quinn as he
ignores her wishes and resumes his gang persona in order to avenge his brother
is hysterical. It also teaches us the differences caused by the effects of
serotonin and dopamine on the human brain. Mike
Carlsen in his brief screen time as Nicky Quinn is a threatening presence, a
subtle villain whose motivation may not be what it seems. And I can't leave out
Smarlin Hernandez. As Daiza, Nelson's niece and Angie's daughter, she portrays,
with honesty, the warring emotions teenagers feel about the person they both
love and hate the most in their life.
"11:55" is a modern-day, East-coast
Western. I expect to see more great things from those involved in this
production. Film history tells us that America won the West a long time ago but
it is in our smaller cities, those impoverished, under-employed, landscapes and
vistas where today's stories lie. There, real battles continue to be fought on
a daily basis by residents who wish little more than to live safely, securely
and in peace. This film tells just one of those stories.
Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door has been released as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection. The 1949 film starred
Humphrey Bogart and a very young John Derek as a defense attorney and his
street punk of a client.It's not high
on the list of Bogart classics, and it's not even one of Ray's best (It was his
second film, made after the far superior They
Live By Night). Ray never particularly praised it, saying only that he
wished it could've been grimmer. Ray once pointed to Luis Bunuel’s LosOlvidados,
a film about Mexican slum kids that came out in 1950, as an example of the sort
of film KnockOn Any Door could've been.If Bunuel's film had come out first, Ray said, the inspiration would've
been there to make a more penetrating, realistic work. "I would have made
a hell of a lot better movie," Ray said.
On Any Door is usually labeled as
film noir, but nothing in the story has the subversive taint found in the best
noir films, and there’s none of the sleek, European ex-pat styling, unless one
counts the expressionistic lighting that cuts across the prison floor in a
scene where a convicted killer makes his long walk to the death house. KnockOn Any Door is more in line with the crime dramas turned out by
Warner Bros during the 1930s, which makes sense when one considers Bogart got
his start in those Warner Bros crime flicks, and it was Bogart’s film company,
Santana Productions, that produced Knock
On Any Door for Columbia Pictures.
While it wasn’t a
blockbuster, it performed well enough at the box office to establish Bogart’s
group as a serious production unit. It also gave us the quote, “Live fast, die
young, and have a good looking corpse,” a quote so nice it’s given to us twice
by the angry Nick Romano, played by Derek with all the seething anger he could
muster beneath his impossibly long eyelashes. According to Bogart biographer
Stefan Kanfer, Bogie tried to boost Derek's performance by pointing out that
most of the day's top actors, from James Cagney, to Edward G. Robinson, to
Bogart himself, had started out in crime movies, and that a good performance as
a heel is always eye catching. Not surprisingly, Derek goes for broke in the
film, to the point where he appears to be auditioning for a role in ReeferMadness. Lookat me! he seems to say in every scene, Look at my perfect profile, my quivering
lips; look at how twitchy I am when I play angry! I'm a real actor, damn it!
Derek was just a young,
inexperienced actor fresh out of the paratroopers when he was cast as
"Pretty Boy" Nick Romano, "the Skid Row Romeo.”Romano, like so many Hollywood hoodlums, is a
good boy shoved down the wrong path in life after losing his father at a young
age, and then growing up in poverty. Attorney Andrew Morgan (Bogart) has known
Romano for years and has watched him struggle. When Romano is accused of
killing a cop, Morgan hesitates to help. For one thing, the partners at his law
firm don't want the negative attention such a trial could bring. Morgan also
isn't sure if he believes Romano is innocent.
On Any Door is actually two films woven together. We
see Romano's tale in flashback, as he goes from being a mama’s boy, to a
typical slum rat and petty thief, to a beleaguered family man who drinks too
much and can't hold down a job. We also see Morgan's crisis of conscious as he
works up the enthusiasm to help him. Morgan, a former slum kid himself,
believes people should help themselves. Gradually, though, he sees Romano as a
kid worth saving. By the film's end, Morgan vows to spend the rest of his life
helping kids like Nick Romano.
The Nick Romano character
was a bit ahead of the times. He looks and carries himself like a character
from a mid-50s juvenile delinquent movie, perhaps The Wild One, or Blackboard
Jungle, or even Ray's own RebelWithout A Cause. There were even rumors,
possibly apocryphal, that Marlon Brando was interested in the Romano role. Hot
off his stage success in A Streetcar
Named Desire, Brando would've been an interesting Romano, and with his
realistic acting, might have booted this movie into something close to a
classic. According to different sources, Bogart was originally planning to make
the film under the direction of Mark Hellinger, with Brando as Romano. When
Hellinger died in Dec. 1947, the project was temporarily put aside until Bogart
started Santana Productions. Brando, who had wanted to work with Hellinger,
allegedly turned down Bogie’s offers, paving the way for Derek. (I find it a
little hard to believe that Bogart was, as some biographers claim, pursuing
Brando to any great degree, considering Bogart was notoriously disdainful of
the self-indulgent method actor types emerging out of New York. The thought of
Brando and Bogart together is fascinating, but just the fact that Bogart
eventually chose Derek, who was light years away from the brooding Brando,
makes me think the whole Brando rumor was nothing but a PR flack's pipe dream.)
Derek, with his greasy mop
of thick black hair, looks the part of a dashing street hood, but his acting is
too melodramatic and hasn't aged well. At the time, though, Derek made quite a
splash, inspiring Hollywood gossip columnist Luella Parsons to write, "I
predict John Derek will be one of the big screen stars of 1949."Stardom didn't quite find Derek, although he
acted regularly for many years, appearing in everything from westerns to bible
epics.He's probably best known to baby
boomers as the husband/mentor and sometime director of Bo Derek.Even when Derek died in 1998, most of the obits
focused on the couple's May/December romance, which was fodder for gossip rags
during Bo's brief run at movie stardom.
Bogart is Bogart, and not
much more needs to be said. There's an excellent scene where, suspecting Romano
has stolen 100-dollars from him, Bogart as Morgan lures Romano into an alley
and wrestles him to the ground, pinning him in the dirt with some sort of
commando hold and then rifling through Romano's pocket to get back his money.
"You're a two-bit punk, and that's all you'll ever be,” Bogart snarls,
spraying saliva everywhere.Always a
sprayer and a drooler, Bogart’s lips and chin practically shine with spittle in
this movie, especially during the courtroom scenes where he has long speeches
and no one around to wipe his mouth. Bogart’s forehead also perspires like crazy in
the court scenes, until he looks like he's performing on the bow of a ship
during a storm. He's great, though, and his closing speech to the jury is among
the better scenes of his late '40s period.Heavy-handed? Sure, but Bogart could always make these scenes
compelling, whereas if another actor tried it, the bit would come off as
"Knock OnAny Door is a
picture I'm kind of proud of, and I'll tell you why," Bogart the producer
said in a press release trumpeting the film. "It's a very challenging
story; different; off the beaten path. The novel (by Willard Motley) was
brutally honest. We've tried to be just as direct, just as forceful, in the
picture. I think you'll like it better that way. "
proclaimed Knock On Any Door "a
hard-hitting, tight melodrama," the film's Feb. 1949 release was greeted
by mixed reviews. The notion that criminals were not always responsible for
their actions was a relatively new and unpopular concept. The film was
occasionally praised for its direct look at life in the slums, but Bosley Crowther
of ‘The New York Times’ wasn't impressed. "Not only,” wrote Crowther, “are
the justifications for the boy's delinquencies inept and superficial...but the
nature and aspect of the hoodlum are outrageously heroized." Crowther, who
may have invented the word ‘heroized,’ added that the film was riddled with
"inconsistencies and flip-flops," and that "The whole thing
appears to be fashioned for sheer romantic effect, which its gets from its
'pretty-boy' killer, victim of society and blazing guns."
Actually, the film
could've used some more blazing guns. The opening sequence is a stunner, with a
cop being gunned down on a dark street, and a sudden swarming of the
neighborhood by cops rousting every local man with a criminal record. The scene
is a mere tease, though, for the film settles down into a talky courtroom drama
and doesn't quite live up to its opening blast. But give Bogie and his Santana
crew credit for choosing this project as their debut voyage. They jumped on the
juvenile delinquent bandwagon before it had really taken off, predating the
screwed-up teenager craze by five or six years. In a way, Derek’s Nick Romano was
a forerunner of James Dean, Elvis, Sal Mineo, and every other greasy hoodlum
with puppy dog eyes that would populate the movie screens of the 1950s.
The Choice Collection DVD offers no extra
features, but the transfer is crisp and clear, all the better to see Bogart
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was happy to finally catch up with Clouds
of Sils Maria since I missed its theatrical run; the picture received many
accolades, especially for Kristen Stewart, who apparently was the first
American to win the César award for Supporting Actress, as well as
several critics’ awards for the same category.
film is a commentary on the state of Hollywood filmmaking, an examination of
the psychological dynamics between women, and a philosophical—sometimes
playful—dramatization of parallel lives/characters. It’s as if an Ingmar
Bergman movie was crossed with one by Krzysztof Kieślowski.
Binoche stars as Maria, a popular, internationally-known actress who appears in
European and Hollywood films, and on the stage. Stewart indeed gives a
remarkable performance—the best I’ve ever seen her do—as Valentine, Maria’s
personal assistant. Twenty-something years earlier, Maria had starred in a
stage play and subsequent film adaptation about a lesbian relationship between
an older business woman and a younger subordinate. Maria had played the latter
role and this launched her career. Now, a respected Dutch director wants to
remount the play with Maria playing the older role and casting the younger one
with a hot, tabloid-fodder Hollywood actress named Jo-Ann, magnificently
portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz. Maria has her doubts about
playing the older role but accepts the part anyway.
of the picture involves the interplay between Maria and Valentine, who run
lines from the play together, with Valentine doing Jo-Ann’s part. At times,
though, we begin to wonder if the dialogue is really from the play or if it’s
the real-life dramatic action between Maria the actress and Valentine the
assistant. This is where director Assayas starts to have fun with the
actors—and the audience. The characters fight, they make up, they joke around,
and they dissect Hollywood and its stars. Real actors are mentioned, and
current trends (aka superhero movies) are lampooned. Things get heated when
Valentine is more receptive to current Hollywood fare than Maria. Assayas’ ageism
message here is not subtle.
is understated and enigmatic is when a key character of the story inexplicably
vanishes—and the film goes on as if that person never existed. Did she? Is that an observation about the
movie business, or is it an interpretation of the friendship/conflict relationships
that women sometimes have?
title refers to a natural phenomenon that really exists near the village of
Sils Maria in Switzerland, in which a “snake” of clouds rolls through the
Maloja Pass valley when the weather conditions are just right. Most of the film
is shot there, and Yorick Le Saux’s gorgeous cinematography captures the event
at the moment when the aforementioned
Criterion Collection’s 2K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master
Audio soundtrack, is superb. Supplements include a new interview with director
Assayas; new interviews with both Binoche and Stewart; a short 1924 silent
documentary, Cloud Phenomena of Maloja,
parts of which also feature in the movie; and the trailer. The enclosed booklet
contains an essay by critic Molly Haskell.
Clouds of Sils Maria might require a
couple of viewings to fully appreciate, but its rewards are full, fluffy, and
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Olive Films regarding the incredible 1981 film "Roar":
Thursday, June 16 at 7 pm
Central Time (8 pm ET), Olive Films is treating fans to another installment of
Actor/filmmaker John Marshall
joins us to discuss his most infamous project, Noel Marshall's ROAR (1981),
"the most dangerous film ever made."
Moderator Steve Prokopy of
Ain't It Cool News will ask your questions live on air. If you have a question
you would like to hear answered, send it to email@example.com.
You won't want to miss what
is sure to be an unforgettable interview! You can tune in through our Youtube
page or our Google Plus page.
WHAT: Spoiler Alert with John
WHEN: Thursday, June 16 @ 8PM
WHERE: Click here to access Olive Film's You Tube event page
Produced over the course of
ten years, Roar is an audacious cinematic experiment: a thriller showcasing the
majesty and ferocity of African lions, filmed on location amidst dozens of
actual untrained cats. Photographed by Jan De Bont (d.p. of Die Hard and
director of Speed), the result is a spectacular achievement—though often
terrifying to watch—as actors (not stunt men) flee, wrestle, and come
face-to-face with the massive hunters.
Writer/director Noel Marshall
stars as Hank, a doctor and outspoken naturalist in Africa who allows lions,
tigers, cheetahs, and other big cats to roam freely around his remote estate.
While away protecting animals from poachers, Hank’s family—including Marshall’s
real-life wife and daughter, Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and Melanie Griffith (Working
Girl)—arrive at his home and are stalked by the massive lions that have overrun
Not surprisingly, many
members of the cast and crew suffered injuries during the making of the film
though care was taken to ensure that no animals were harmed. Since filming Roar,
Hedren has become an advocate for the protection of big cats, founding the Roar
Foundation and the Shambala Preserve.
upon a time before cell phones, social media and the internet, there was
citizens band radio. CB radio is closely associated with truckers and was used like
a cell phone to keep in contact and inform one another on things like speed
traps, accidents and road construction in the days before cell phone mobile apps.
Trucker lingo like, “10-4 Good Buddy” and “Breaker-Breaker” briefly became a
part of the common vernacular due to the popularity of “Trucker” songs that
played on Country & Western radio stations throughout the 1970s. Hollywood picked
up on the trucker craze incorporating the “Good Old Boy” element and Southern
charm with TV series like “Movin’ On” (1974-76) and “B.J. and the Bear” (1978-81)
and movies such as “Smoky and the Bandit” (1977) and its sequels.
of the big radio hits of that era was “Convoy”, released in 1975 by Bill Fries
(better known to fans as C.W. McCall). The song reached number one on both the
country and pop charts in the U.S. and on the pop charts in the U.K. Hollywood
purchased the rights to the song and hired one of the biggest directors of the era
to make a movie inspired by the hit novelty song. Co-financed by United Artists
and EMI, director Sam Peckinph was given total control over its production,
which in hindsight, was a mistake as the movie went millions of dollars over
budget and two months behind schedule. The film was released in 1978 just as
the trucker craze was fading in popularity, but the movie became the biggest
money maker of Peckinpah’s career. Getting the finished production to the
screen was no easy feat, as Peckinpah was dealing with his personal addictions
and apathy toward the movie, but he filled out the cast and crew with many
friends who worked with him on his previous film projects. This prevented
studio heads from firing him, as major cast members like Kristofferson
threatened to walk from the movie with him.
Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine and Burt Young all worked with
Peckinpah in some of his most memorable movies. “The Wild Bunch” alone is one
of the greatest westerns ever made and while one can debate the merits of
Peckinpah’s other films, they’re all stamped with the indelible Peckinpah brand.
Peckinpah was a flawed man living in the shadow of his greatest achievement,
“The Wild Bunch.” “Convoy” is no “Wild Bunch,” but few movies will surpass that
classic. “Convoy” was a troubled production from the moment Peckinpah was
hired. It started life as a lighthearted action comedy inspired by a hit
novelty song that doesn’t have much of a plot. Peckinpah saw the movie as a
modern day western with truckers as cowboys standing up to corrupt police,
unfair interstate trucking laws and incorporating political satire.
“Rubber Duck” Penwald (Kristofferson) is a non-affiliated trucker opposed to
unionization who has a long standing feud with New Mexico sheriff Lyle
“Cottonmouth” Wallace (Borgnine). The sheriff sets up speed traps in order to
extort cash from truckers as they pass through “his” county. Photo journalist
Melissa (MacGraw) is passing through and meets up with Rubber Duck at a local
truck stop. What Melissa and Rubber Duck see in each other, not to mention why she’s
in New Mexico, isn’t really clear. Melissa sells her car along with most of her
belongings, and ends up catching a ride with Rubber Duck after he and about a
dozen fellow truckers flee the scene of an old fashioned western bar fight with
the sheriff and his deputies.
follows is over 90 minutes of large trucks driving at high speeds being chased
by police through New Mexico desert highways and at times off road through the
desert in an apparent protest against unions and big government. The governor
and local media get in on the chase and the result is trucks crashing and
driving through lots of dust clouds. This eventually builds to the climax
involving a National Guard tank blasting Rubber Duck’s truck off a bridge. The
desert scenes are interesting with trucks driving through miles of desert in a
Peckinpah slow motion ballet. What else is there? Not a whole lot. The movie
has a paper thin plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
is a serviceable leading man and, as depicted in the poster art, has his shirt
off a lot of the time. Burt Young is Bobby “Pig Pen” and Cassie Yates is truck
stop waitress Violet. Peckinpah cast a diverse group of actors including
Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike and Madge Sinclaire as Widow Woman. There’s a
racial element introduced as Mike is jailed and beat up by the sheriff’s
deputies. Widow Woman ends up sitting in the middle seat between Billy and
Whitey Hughes throughout most of the movie after her truck tips over during a
sharp turn. This on location accident was incorporated into the story and the
result is Widow Woman hitching a ride with the other truck. I think that’s one
of the big problems with a movie about truckers – too many shots of characters
sitting in a truck. There are a couple of scenes where everyone gets to stretch
their legs at a truck stop, but that’s where the trucker movie stops being a
is not for everyone, but it does have its moments. It’s a Sam Peckinpah movie and
that has to be worth something. It’s well known that Peckinpah was dealing with
alternating bouts of alcohol and cocaine addiction throughout his career which
certainly had a definite impact on his movies. The real reason for buying this new
Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber are for the generous supplements including an
audio commentary by film historians and Peckinpah experts Paul Seydor, Garner
Simmons and Nick Redman. The commentary is filled with anecdotes and personal
reminisces on Peckinpah, on the cast and crew as well as details on the
production. Their outstanding commentary opens up the movie and brings to life the
world of Sam Peckinpah. Kino Lorber didn’t stop there and also include a 73
minute documentary on the making of “Convoy,” deleted scenes, a montage of in-jokes
and cameos, radio spots, trailers, a promotional featurette, a stills gallery
and an interesting feature by a fan expert from Norway. The movie apparently
has a substantial cult following outside of America.
re-recorded “Convoy”, incorporating the plot and characters from the movie and
it briefly made its way to the top of the pop charts again. This new version
can be heard during the end credits. The Kino Blu-ray looks and sounds very
good and is a breezy, easy going experience which trucks in at 110 minutes.
Peckinpah fans will enjoy this release for the outstanding and generous
supplements. Fans of the “good old boy” trucker genre will also be entertained.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
BURBANK, CA (April 11, 2016) – Just in time for Father's Day and
the theatrical release, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the long
awaited animated series that aired when Saturday Morning Cartoons reigned
supreme. Available on DVD on June 14, 2016, Tarzan, Lord Of The
Jungle: Complete Season One was created by the Filmation Studio
for CBS and follows the animated adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs' ape man
from the 1970's. The two-disc collectors setincludes all 16
episodes from the series’ first season, and is priced to own at $19.98 SRP. The
DVD has an order due date of May 3, 2016.
As the opening narration explains: "The jungle: Here I was
born; and here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon
perished, too, had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted
me as her own and taught me the ways of the wild. I learned quickly, and grew
stronger each day, and now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle
animals. The jungle is filled with beauty, and danger; and lost cities filled
with good, and evil. This is my domain, and I protect those who come here; for
I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!"
“Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle was animated the
old fashion way, with many hours of hand drawn stills," said Mary Ellen
Thomas, Vice President Family & Animation Marketing and Partner Brands.
"They don't make animation like this anymore, and we are really proud to
be releasing this timeless classic just in time for the July release of Tarzan in
The Colonial Theater in Phoenixeville, PA, best known as The
‘Blob Theater’ is hosting a dynamite Triple Bond bill on Fathers Day, June 19. The films to be shown are From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s
Secret Service and Casino Royale.Arguably some of the best entries in the series, this a rare chance to
see them again in a restored single screen movie theater.Tickets to the triple bill are $21.Times are as follows:
must have done something right. Here
Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) has proven to be a timeless and universal movie
that keeps on giving, and the welcome new release from the Criterion Collection
attests to it.
premise of the film has been around for a while. Most of our generation know
the remake better—Heaven Can Wait (1978,
starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie)—which is a superb Oscar-nominated romantic
comedy in its own right. Another remake in 2001, Down to Earth, starred Chris Rock.
that’s not all. It wasn’t until I’d viewed the supplements
on the new disk that I appreciated the fact that Mr. Jordan was indeed the first of several Hollywood pictures dealing
with “heavenly” concepts—angels, the afterlife, and second chances. In a video
discussion, critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger
reveal how the picture’s popularity actually began a trend of similar movies
throughout the 1940s—A Guy Named Joe,
Angel on My Shoulder, A Matter of Life and Death, It’s a Wonderful Life, and even Mr. Jordan’s direct sequel, Down to Earth (1947, not to be confused
with the Chris Rock remake), which features both James Gleason and Edward
Everett Horton again playing their roles from the first movie.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
a major release and surprise hit from Columbia Pictures, a studio that always
struggled to be one of the majors despite having director Frank Capra on their
team in the ‘30s. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the picture successfully
blends fantasy, romance, comedy, and intrigue, creating a delightful, and sometimes
thought-provoking, piece of entertainment. It was nominated for Best Picture of
1941, Best Director (Alexander Hall), Best Actor (Robert Montgomery), Best
Supporting Actor (James Gleason, and he steals the movie!), and Best B&W
Cinematography. The film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original
Story, for Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller.
story concerns Joe Pendleton (enthusiastically played by Montgomery in a
stretch from his usual sophisticated tuxedo-clad characters) as a prizefighter with
a heavy New Jersey accent who crashes in his private plane. His soul is saved
by the Messenger (Horton), an angel whose job is to escort to Heaven the departing
souls from his “territory.” In the mist-filled outskirts of Heaven, Mr. Jordan
(benevolently portrayed by Claude Rains), a sort of St. Peter in a three-piece
suit, checks in the new souls as they board another plane to take them to their
afterlife homes. But Joe’s soul was accidentally taken before his body actually
died—and therefore Mr. Jordan grants Joe a second chance. However, his
consciousness must be placed into a recently deceased person—so Joe winds up
inside a rich, corrupt banker’s body. Joe, in his new persona, sets about turning
the banker’s life around for good, and he also attempts to continue his
prizefighting. For the latter, he calls in his former manager, Corkle (Gleason)
to train him. First, though, he’s got to convince Corkle that he’s really Joe
inside the new man’s form. To complicate things, Joe falls in love with the
daughter (Evelyn Keyes) of a man the banker destroyed financially and sent to
prison. Joe also doesn’t know it yet, but he will have to jump bodies one more
time before the story plays out.
comedy and romance work like a charm, and the fantasy elements of Mr. Jordan are surprisingly effective.
The movie is intelligently written and treats its subject matter with respect;
and yet it has fun with the mechanics of death and the philosophical discourse
of what we think the afterlife really is. The audience is tricked, in a way,
into pleasantly enjoying a movie about death. What happens to Joe Pendleton at
the end isn’t the norm for a romantic comedy. Technically it’s not a happy
ending—and yet, it is. It’s a feel-good movie with a bittersweet center. This
is a testament to the quality of writing in Here
Comes Mr. Jordan.
new 2K digital restoration looks fabulous. It has an uncompressed, monaural
soundtrack. Along with the aforementioned video conversation about the film,
the supplements include a long audio interview with Elizabeth Montgomery
(daughter of Robert Montgomery, and, yes, the star of Bewitched) about her father and the movie; the Lux Radio Theatre radio adaptation starring Cary Grant (who was
originally approached to star in the film—one can only imagine what it would
have been like with Grant), Rains, Keyes, and Gleason; and a trailer. An essay
by critic Farran Smith Nehme adorns the booklet.
little gem from Hollywood released just prior to America’s entrance into World
War II, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a
genuine classic, arguably superior to its many remakes and imitations. You will