Cinema Retro was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of screenwriter Michael France at the age of 51. He died from complications from diabetes. France's big break was writing the screenplay for Sylvester Stallone's 1993 blockbuster Cliffhanger, which he did "on spec", meaning he pitched his idea to the studio and was not commissioned to write it. France also wrote story lines for the 1995 James Bond smash GoldenEye, though he was not credited with the actual screenplay, which was a source of a strained relationship with the Bond producers. Some of his ideas that were developed for GoldenEye were utilized in the 1999 Bond hit The World is Not Enough. In the 1970s, he published the short-lived 007 fan magazine Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. France was a major comic book fan and wrote the screenplays for Ang Lee's 2003 version of The Hulk as well as the super hero flick The Punisher. On a personal note, I had lost contact with him in recent years, but have fond memories of both of us having many laughs at Eon Productions' spectacular London premiere of GoldenEye. The following year, I was a consultant on an official Bond celebration in Jamaica and managed to get an invite for France and his wife as guests. We had plenty of fun in the sun and these memories are quite special to me. My heart goes out to his family on the loss of this personable and very talented screenwriter. - Lee Pfeiffer
Here for your online viewing pleasure we have included the following nifty recreations of those great one-reel Super 8 sound horror and sci-fi digests of the past in a special salute to Castle Films and Ken Films! All but "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Return of Frankenstein" were edited by one Henry Senerchia, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org to direct your comments. Each film isguaranteed to produce 9 minutes of "warm fuzzies" for any "monster kid" who was lucky enough to grow up in the heyday of those great boxed film digests that winked seductively from spinning racks and shelves in elite camera departments of the finest department stores of the 1960's and 70's!
Showgirls! The Musical! is a satiric stage production based on the notorious NC-17 1995 film Showgirls that has had a vibrant after-life as a guilty pleasure for lovers of campy movies. The stage show debuts April 17 in New York City and runs through May 4. According to the web site DNAinfo.org:
"The new musical promises not only the “erotic dancing” of the original but also “questionable dancing,” according to a statement.
There will also be musical numbers like “Don't Lick that Pole, Girl” and “I’d Look Great in Versace” – as well as plenty of thrusting."
“Showgirls! The Musical!” will run at the Kraine Theatre at 85 E. Fourth St. from April 17 to May 4. All shows are at 8 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $18 from ShowgirlsTheMusical.com and can also be bought at the door for $20.
For more info, tickets and film clips visit the web site by clicking here
Winters in the classic gas station sequence from Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Jonathan Winters died on Thursday at age 87. Although superstardom eluded him, Winters is acknowledged as one of the most innovative comics of his era, having inspired others such as Robin Williams to emulate his talent for improvisation. Winters' off-beat, often crazy antics relied on off-the-cuff remarks rather than rehearsed comedy routines, though he did prove to be a popular television presence and released hit comedy albums. He was too unstructured to capitalize on his successful roles in classic comedy films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! A WWII veteran, Winters found early success with live comedy routines in nightclubs, but the pressure caused him to suffer two nervous breakdowns and he gave up the format in favor of making feature films and TV appearances. For more click here
The Museum of London pays tribute to a local boy-made-good, Michael Caine. The Cockney legend is the subject of an exhibition at the museum that includes rare photos and film clips. It runs through 14 July. For more click here
If you're a Cinema Retro reader, chances are you've probably seen director Don Siegel's 1971 crime classic Dirty Harry more times than you can count. However, what you may not know is that the film was not originally developed for Clint Eastwood. Other actors from John Wayne to Burt Lancaster turned it down first and Frank Sinatra had actually been signed for the role before an injury to his hand made him drop out. The web site www.todayifoundout.com provides some fun facts about the making of the movie. Click here to read
Actor Robert Vaughn discusses his long career and his new film, The Magnificent Eleven, a UK-sports based movie loosely based on the classic Western The Magnificent Seven in which Vaughn co-starred with other stars-to-be. He humorously relates his greatest career satisfactions and disappointment (he won't get to play Hitler) and talks about his most embarrassing scene as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Click here to read
“There is no one like Jack Black… No, I read
that wrong- no one likes Jack Black,”s aid Roastmaster Bob Saget as the School
of Rock star and Tenacious D musician was honored at star-studded Friars Club
event held at the New York Hilton on Friday April 5.
Saget masterfully set the tone for the roast:
“To say that Jack Black is a one-trick pony is an insult to ponies… Jerry
Lewis, you’re an icon,” he told the Friar’s Club Abbott, who announced that he
is celebrating his 84thyear in the entertainment business, “but I’m
glad you don’t take a bow- you’d yank your balls out of your socks.”
“It’s unusual for Sarah Silverman to be at table
with comedians,” Saget said introducing her, “she’s usually under a table
jerking them off.” “Anyone who’s seen Bob do comedy knows it’s nothing like
Full House,” Silverman replied. “He played a sweet Dad in Full House, and now
plays a lousy comedian for a half-full house.” Turning to the corpulent actor
Oliver Platt, she said: “you’re distantly related to Princess Diana, which
means that bulimia is not an inherited trait… Jeff Ross made a sex tape and the
next day his girlfriend was arrested for bestiality.”
The star-studded guest list ranged from Al
Roker, Oliver Platt, to KISS founder Gene Simmons, Debbie Harry, Chad Smith,
Richard Marx, The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, The Spin Doctors, Boyd Tinsley, Dee
Snider, Dreamworks’ co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg to Black’s Tenacious D
partner Kyle Gass.
“There are so many fossils here, I thought that
Ben Stiller was shooting another Night at the Museum sequel,” Silverman said.
Turning to Lewis, she said: “The last person who thought you were funny in
France just died. Jerry Lewis doesn’t think that women are funny and now no one
thinks Jerry Lewis is funny.”
“Jack Black is very shy- he prefers to be left
alone- that’s why he made Nacho Libre…School of Rock changed my life- because
you can’t get rid of anal warts… Jack is so fat, his last movie was shot by
Google Earth. He’s not starved for attention, just onion rings.”
Introducing Roastmaster General and creator and
star of Comedy Central’s “The Burn” Jeffrey Ross, Saget said: “Before the roast
he was standing next to Jerry Lewis in the lobby and somebody made a donation.
And Jerry took it. And then he humped the guy.”
“Bob is currently on a stand-up tour of
colleges, and it’s just nice to see someone not killing at a school these
days,” Ross said. “What a turnout: Dee Snider, Debbie Harry, Joan Osborne. Last
time I saw these three musicians together was in a Dollar CD bin… Is this a
roast or a charity concert for shingles? Turning to Mike Love, he said: “Don’t
you think it’s about time you change the name of the band to something more age
appropriate, like The Grateful Dead?”
Turning to the guest
of honor, he added: “Jack is widely considered a show business triple threat:
Diabetes, blood pressure, and gout… Anybody see Jack in the remake of King
Kong? Your version sucked so bad, King Kong jumped off The Empire State
Building! Jack sounds like Meat Loaf and his partner Kyle smells like meatloaf…
This is fun- I never roasted a marshmallow before!”
In its best incarnation, the roast is a
celebration of a career or life through testimonials barely veiled as insults
(and more often just insults themselves). Saget introduced Ross as one of his
closest friends (“he came to my father’s Shiva, and he was so funny he made my
mom choke on his kishka, which is what he calls his balls.”)
Ross’ interplay with Saget harkened back to the
legendary era of Friar’s roasts where most of the roasters were lifelong
friends, where Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Red Button, and Jan
Murray would jab each other like expert swordsmen. Comrades in insulting arms, they were
skilled at honoring someone they loved and respected through devout,
passionate, and creative dishonor. As
much as they were coming to see the guest of honor, audiences wanted and still
want to be part of the beloved family of friends that made fun of each other
with regularity and deep affection. With
close friends Saget and Silverman, Ross continued the private party tradition
where the roasters were happy to have you become a part of, where the
friendship made even the harshest barbs affectionate.
to Gene Simmons, he said: “You look like a Rabbi fucked an Indian Chief. What
happened, Gene? You used to rock and roll all night and party every day- now
you get up six times a night to go to the bathroom.” Getting Simmons to show
his infamously large tongue, he added “you’re two pieces of pumpernickel away
from being the Number 3 at the Carnegie Deli!”
Ross’ observation about Lewis: “We make fun
of Jerry Lewis, but what about the good things Jerry Lewis does? What about the
fact that just a few years ago, a six year old boy got up out of his wheelchair
and walked for the first time- to turn off the Jerry Lewis Telethon,” brought
down the house with the greatest laughs coming from Lewis himself.
Ross poignantly closed his set by telling the
capacity crowd how much the roasts mean to him. “I love, love coming to these
Friar’s roasts every year. Some of my best friends are on this dais and in this
room. I started out at these roasts. I will finish my life at these roasts. And
the fact that Jack Black knows enough about the traditions of comedy that he
would agree to do this is an inspiration to people with Downs Syndrome
Roast-contest winner and newcomer Amadeo Fusca
did an impressive job, starting by telling Saget “Thank you, Uncle Jesse.” To
Katzenberg he said, “I’ve seen your movies. Your dreams don’t work… Jeff Ross
is a veteran of these roasts- he shows up once a year and will probably be
“Jack Black will do anything for a movie role,
except sit-ups and pushups,” said Vh1’s Carrie Keagan; “This is my first
Friar’s roast and obviously Jerry Lewis’ last,” said Amy Shumer, “it’s hard to
film School of Rock when you’re not allowed 500 feet in front of one… how are
you holding a pen,” she said to Saget, “don’t your hands hurt from hanging on
by a thread for so long?” “In your version of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver
travelled right the video store,” Artie Lange said. “It’s very expensive to
bring Jerry Lewis to the roast- it costs $10,000 to bring him here and $10,000
to tell him where he is.”
There were also videos from Seth Rogen, James
Franco and Danny McBride, Matthew McConnaughey (“Jack Black is a very nice man,
unless you’ve met any other men”),Will Ferrell in his Ron Bergundy persona,
accusing Black of not returning “the AMC Hornet he borrowed,” and Shirley
MacLaine, talking about how much she loved Jack in “Save the Tiger,” confusing
him with former co-star, Jack Lemmon.
Cinema Retro contributor Eddy Friedfeld
teaches film and comedy history at NYU and Yale and will be hosting the Dick
Van Dyke Lifetime Achievement Award program at New York’s 92nd
Street Y on April 26th.
The Warner Archive has released That Hagen Girl as a burn-to-order DVD title. The 1947 soap opera stars Shirley Temple as Mary Hagen, a high school girl who is socially ostracized when it is suspected she was born illegitimately. The presumed father is Tom Bates (Ronald Reagan), who twenty years earlier had been romancing the high school prom queen. She suddenly vanished without explanation only to return with her parents and kept in isolation. The rumor mill indicated that she had given birth to a daughter, who was then given to a local childless couple to raise. Tom makes attempts to see his girlfriend but is rebuffed by her strict parents. Eventually Tom moves to another town but returns many years later when he inherits a house in his hometown. Now a successful lawyer, the handsome Tom turns heads even as the rumors resume over his presumed status as Mary's real father. Tom is unaware of the "scandal" and ironically ends up befriending young Mary and acting as her mentor. He later realizes that his presence in town has reignited the unsavory rumors that have haunted Mary since her birth. Her only real friend is Julia Kane, a young teacher who tries to stop the bullying of Mary by fellow students and school officials, who single her out as too undesirable to play the lead in the school play. Ultimately, Tom takes a bold stand to defend his presumed daughter- and in the process informs her of some very surprising facts about her heritage.
That Hagen Girl is predictably corny by today's standards, with even the wildest teenagers dressed in suits and ties and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-style dresses. A product of the era, I suppose. Nevertheless, it's hard not to find much of the goings-on unintentionally funny. Yet, the film does manage to pack a punch in terms of being among the first such movies to denounce bullying and illustrating its devastating impact on the sense of self-worth of those who are victimized by it. The seemingly bold subject matter of out-of-wedlock birth becomes somewhat watered down in the conclusion, but the movie remains an enjoyable and engrossing experience thanks to the considerable star power of Reagan and Temple, who segued rather nicely from child star to respected adult actress. Reagan is his usual stalwart self. If there wasn't an Oscar-worthy performance lodged within him, it can be said he was a far better actor than most of his future political opponents would ever concede. Lois Maxwell is particularly impressive and won a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer for her performance. (She would become beloved by movie fans worldwide as James Bond's original Miss Moneypenny.)
The DVD features a fine transfer and includes an original trailer.
Click here to order from the Warner Archive and to watch a preview clip
Nana stands in front of the camera. With her head in close-up, she poses: left,
full profile and then right. Throughout Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie,
the philosophising prostitute is both alluring and clinical, free-spirited and
forced, but despite her famous speech in the cafe (and being seen and perhaps
censured by capricious cinephiles) can she be held responsible for her actions
within the film
Godard’s piece (naturally enough for the New Wave) is a mixture of
different styles, as suggested by its teasing, nimble title, Vivre Sa Vie, which translates roughly
as “live life” and has been moulded variously into It’s My Life, My Life to Live and To Live Her Life across the territories. It suggests an approach mixing
direct cinema with cinema verite-style camera work to indicate a defiant,
almost decadent posturing that is nonetheless a delicate portrayal of its theme
and holds its truth in the quickest flecks of light caught on camera behind the
beguiling Nana. Indeed, Nana’s relationship with the camera changes from scene
to scene; she flirts with it almost as a client, forces herself on it when
dancing and is followed by it when fleeing terrified from the scene of a
shooting. The film’s subtitle is A Film
in Twelve Scenes. Simply speaking, it charts segments in the life of Nana,
a wife and mother who has left her family to tread the boards.
She aspires to life as an actress and it could be argued that she
subsequently spends most of the time fulfilling a series of roles, such as the
moll she becomes for most of the feature’s duration. From the opening frame, Godard goads us, makes us strain for the
meaning in her scenes, for the meaning of her mythos as a whole.
Following the frames in which we are given information about the film’s
festival-circuit run, the opening section is where Godard’s starlet seduces the
camera. Nana stands still, sometimes almost in silhouette. Her eyelashes are fluttering
and there are slight movements of her tender mouth and smooth throat as she
breathes. While an understated gesture, it is sexual, sordid even and oddly
uncomfortable for the viewer, so personal is the image that it reminds them of
their own breath and rhythmic deglutition. The music appears, then disappears
and we are denied Nana’s eyes as they are blotted out by obviously obtrusive
text in the titles. The referent paradox is clear: she is Miss X of the same
generation, one of the modern masses, yet a subject worthy of study and a
creature so captivating she must be periodically censored for her audience’s
The film is an exercise in illustrating the paradoxes of interpretation,
so much to consider, yet every element included is a potential deconstruction. Nana
is an appealing mix of style and naturalism, function and frivolity. Her short
hair makes her comparatively boyish (as she semi-acknowledges in her letter to
a potential Madam, stating that it could quickly be grown out), yet it also
shows off that sensual neck. From the opening scene where we only truly see the
back of her head and hair, bulky jacket and cigarette smoke, she may drink like
a man, play like a man and talk like a man, but she can also be moulded by a
man. She talks about her torturous life to her ex-husband, Paul, in the café.
We see their backs and note their similar shapes and the ferocity of fear for
her fate versus her desire to be seen as “special” by him. She acts in place of
his inaction. We are desperate for them to touch as shutting us out of their
conversation (as the framing does) makes us feel vulnerable too, all the while
praising Nana for her forward-thinking vehemence. Above all, however, her
hair’s sleek cut makes her look extremely functional, as underlined by her
clothes and chamber while working as a call girl. Nana has an innate glamour
that both enhances her sex appeal and sterilizes her environment.
Here is a girl who borrows her gestures from the gentlemen she galvanises.
Her head bobs with theirs on her bored, business-like but Byzantine journey;
while leading them often around the room, she also follows their lead when
allowing herself to be purloined for their pleasure. The easy, lazy angle of
her hand holding a cocked cigarette is her calling card and is the art of the
tart considering the inevitable conclusion of her next conquest.
Art or apparatus, Godard wants us to feel the grit under Nana’s shoes in
order to understand the poetry of the situation; she cannot appreciate the
responsibility she claims during the canteen scene as for her (an actress in
both senses) it must remain unsaid lest it becomes a piece of performed fiction.
As Susan Sontag states in Against
Interpretation, she’s there to be seen, not to explain, so we must fill in
the gaps for her. Against this interpretation, however, is our own
interpretation of that. As Godard changes his camera angles and plays with diegesis
we cannot help but imply an interpretation. According to Sontag, these are simply
snippets of a kaleidoscope, a section of discourse that relates to the
narrative frame but not to our assertive femme for whom (she feels) no
explanation is given. Yet despite Sontag’s clear investment in stating the
alternative, it becomes impossible not to see the implied implications of the
oddly innocent girl’s situation.
Indeed, Nana’s more masculine behaviour only serves to silhouette her
slightness and frailty. As Sontag comments, each one of the film’s twelve segments
recalls a text and, as the ‘text’ in the café sequence suggests, Nana’s story is
that of ‘The Chicken’, that which’s soul can only be found when she has given
of herself. However, this is not through negation of herself as Sontag suggests
– it is not exactly a process during which Nana has no control over the layers
that are stripped away, but it is controlled submission. We see Nana unburdened
in the scenes in which she drifts, when her smile shines brightly enough for it
to light up her eyes. This is when the body and soul of this little ‘chick’ are
peeled away and we notice Nana unconstructed, a Nana of pure feeling inside the
skin cage, a ghost inside the machine.
We listen to Nana and her lover discuss passages
of Poe and may think her mask is beginning to slip; despite the simple, clinical
setting alongside the business-like montages of our Mademoiselle and her men,
we begin to feel warmth. Nevertheless, this is hope for the future that feels
hallucinogenic, so far is it from the narrative’s precision-focused frame. Nana
has become a body, a sculpted doll not only in her looks but in her assertive,
masculine behaviour, so it is natural that this, too, must be discarded. This
occurs in our final sequence, wherein our miss is sold to another pimp. She is manhandled
across a bleak parking slot from man to man until she is shot. Her delicate
figure contrasts against the shaft of the gun, yet like it she has become
little more than a mechanism of male control, a cog in a wheel of a criminal
machine maintained by money and murder. Nana’s impregnation by the phallic
symbol represents a loss, a commercial union turned sour. Nana the machinic
mode of production has been decommissioned. To put it crudely, the bullet has
given her more holes than necessary for her occupation and has marked her. Particularly
in the cold, hard light of the modern-day chicks, she is simply an appendage
sullied, and therefore sullying by association, another man.
After her evisceration and an indelicate death
dance, therefore, she falls to the floor by the car.
It is here the viewer finally feels Nana in
a way that Sontag would probably support; we feel her precisely because we
don’t. As she lies lifeless in the street, her personality begs a playback the
fast-paced action will not permit. We watch in horror as first one car leaves
her, then the other half speeds towards her as though to crush the evidence of
her calamitous conclusion by driving straight across her and leaving a pool of
unbelievably black blood oozing and oscillating on the tarmac. Such is the
departure from the film’s abstracted gentility that the idea alone of this sort
of image – regardless of the film’s final fade before it becomes possible – remains
with the viewer. While Sontag complains bitterly that the bombastic director
destroys the thematic complexity of his piece by allowing Nana’s death to
mirror the parable of the ‘poule’, it actually seems to do the exact opposite.
It forces Nana to live in our mind’s eye. We recoil from the image despite the
fact it never worries our retinas. We instead see Nana in all humanity,
philosophy and beauty precisely because God(ard) deprives her – his muse and off-screen
wife Anna Karina – of it in those final few frames. By placing herself in that
scenario, she is given chance to bear her soul.
She is responsible.
Dr Karen Oughton is an academic and film journalist. Click here for her web site
(Viva Sa Vie is available as a special edition Blu-ray from Criterion. Click here to order from Amazon)
Annette Funicello, who was discovered by Walt Disney himself and who went on to become the most legendary of his original Mouseketeers, has died from multiple sclerosis at age 70. Ms. Funicello was one of the biggest child stars of the 1950s, receiving thousands of fan letters every week. She was also placed under contract to make feature films for Disney. As she matured, Funicello became the subject of a lot of jokes as she tried to maintain her wholesome image even while nature took effect and she blossomed into a voluptuous young woman. She had a short-lived romance with fellow teen idol Paul Anka and she also built a second career in the popular "beach movies" of the mid-to-late 1960s, often starring with Frankie Avalon. As she matured, Funicello married and delighted in her role as a stay-home mom, though she would occasionally be lured back into the spotlight. She did a beach reunion film with Avalon in 1987. Upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she set up a research foundation for neurological disorders in 1999. For more on her life and career click here
Some of the most inspired special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases are coming from independent, niche-market labels that afford certain film titles the kind of grandeur that would never be afforded them by major studios. Case in point: Synapse Films, which routinely releases first rate special editions of "B" movies, cult films and obscure foreign imports (often with an erotic edge). The most impressive Synapse release I've seen to date is their Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the 1971 Hammer horror film Twins of Evil. The movie is rather notorious for representing a kinky penchant for shocking violence and a marketing campaign that implied an on-screen lesbian relationship between Playboy models (and real-life twin sisters) Madelaine and Mary Collinson. (In reality, there are no such scenes in the film.) The story is centered in a rural European village during the 17th century. The townspeople are in awe of a local nobleman named Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a handsome but evil young man who uses his absolute power to indulge in a penchant for practicing witchcraft and seducing local girls to visit his castle where he seduces them into a life of sexual deviancy. Karnstein also has a penchant for killing off certain virgins for pleasure and selecting specific women to fall victim to his secret powers as a vampire. Karnstein's crimes results in the formation of The Brotherhood, a local group of puritan vigilantes headed by Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a religious zealot who is also a self-appointed witch hunter. The local women have as much to fear from him as they do from Karnstein, as The Brotherhood routinely accuses young girls of being in league with the vampire. This results in them being burned at the stake in order to have their souls redeemed. In short, this ain't a great place to live if you're a single woman. Into this hellish situation come Gustav's nieces, Freida and Maria (Madelaine and Mary Collinson), two recently orphaned teenagers who must now reside with their uncle. Upon being warned about Karnstein's nefarious activities, Maria chooses to be vigilant but the more daring Freida is intrigued by stories of sexual perversion and orgies. She secretly visits Karnstein, who seduces her and turns her into his vampire lover. He convinces her to assume the identity of her sister so that Mary is convicted of murder and is sentenced to be burned at the stake.
Twins of Evil came at a time when Hammer Films were struggling to maintain the audiences they had built in the previous decade. By 1971, seemingly every studio had made an attempt to emulate Hammer's success. The result was that there was a sea of imitators and the Hammer brand became in danger of imitating the imitators. The studio decided to rely more and more on nudity and overt violence, often at the expense of storylines and character development. Although this film is part of that exploitation campaign, it ranks with the better Hammer efforts of the period thanks to a good script, intelligent direction by John Hough and an impressive performance by Peter Cushing, as one of the least sympathetic heroes he ever portrayed. Damien Thomas was being groomed as the next Christopher Lee, with the intention of being a reliable leading man for Hammer. Although he makes a compelling villain, stardom was not on the horizon for him. The Collinson twins (both dubbed for their roles) provide plenty of eye candy, but the nudity that is overtly exploited in the publicity photos is somewhat fleeting. Twins of Evil is one of the gorier Hammer films, but it also remains one of the most compelling. It ranks alongside the other two great witch hunting-themed films of the era, The Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan's Claw.
Synapse Films has presented Twins of Evil as a truly outstanding Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The extras are to die for, if you'll pardon the pun. These include a superb documentary about the making of the film that is almost feature length. Directed and produced by Daniel Griffith, this is a fairly expensive extravagance for a niche market DVD company. The fascinating documentary is titled The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil and features a very informative overview of the Hammer vampire trilogy that derived from the classic 19th century vampire novel Carmilla that introduced lesbianism into the genre. (The first two films were The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire.) The documentary includes interesting insights from a wealth of Hammer and cult movie experts including director Joe Dante, director John Hough, Sir Christopher Frayling, film critic Kim Newman and publisher Tim Lucas. It's even more entertaining if you are not well-versed in Hammer lore. Other extras include a featurette that covers a private collection of Hammer film props, a stills gallery, TV spots and trailers, an isolated music and effects track and a deleted scene that absurdly presents teenage girls singing a 1970's-style love song.
In all, a great release from Synapse Films, a company that continues to impress us with their zeal for paying tribute to often overlooked and underrated films.
The annual Off Plus Camera independent film festival opens on April 12 in Krakow and runs through April 21. The festival honors independent filmmakers and celebrates contemporary and classic/cult indie movies. Guests include Costa-Gavras, Melissa Leo, Johhn Rhys-Davies and many other notable actors, directors and film scholars. For more click here
One hates to get sociological or philosophical about a lightweight sex farce like How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life), a 1968 trifle that nonetheless boasts an impressive cast: Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Eli Wallach and real-life wife Anne Jackson, Jack Albertson and Betty Field. However, the premise of the movie is so distinctly distasteful that it is sure to offend any self-respecting modern woman as well as any male who isn't still walking about clad in animal skins and clutching a club. The film, which is now available as part of Sony's burn-to-order DVD line, has a value that is more anthropological than comical. Wallach plays Harry Hunter, a successful New York business executive who is unhappily married to an attractive but shrewish wife (Katharine Bard). He finds solace by keeping a mistress, Muriel Laszlo (Anne Jackson) in an opulent apartment. His frequent visits there are as much therapeutic as they are sexual, with Muriel happily gearing her entire existence toward pleasing her man. She fawns over him, makes no demands, and pampers him constantly. When Harry brags to his best friend and fellow executive Dave Sloane (Dean Martin) about the joys of having a dedicated mistress, Dave sets out to test his theory about her never straying into the arms of another man. (One of the more cynical aspects of the script is that "kept women" are supposed to be completely loyal to their married sugar daddies). However, Dave mistakes another woman for Harry's mistress: Carol Corman (Stella Stevens), an attractive young sales girl in the corporation. When he observes her social behavior with other men, he assumes he has proof that Harry's "other woman" is cheating on him. To get further evidence, he decides to prove he can seduce her. Dave romances Carol and ends up renting her a luxury apartment right next door to Harry's real mistress, Muriel. It seems the apartment building is basically a classy bordello that houses numerous girlfriends of married rich men. In the film's most amusing scenario, Dave finds Carol understandably receptive to his sexual advances (after all, he looks a lot like Dean Martin.) Dave, however, can't take his "investigation" to the point of actually bedding the woman he thinks Harry really loves. There are some funny scenes in which Dave has to find a way to explain why he isn't eager to jump into bed with Stevens, who saunters about clad in a low-cut nightgown with a pouty look of sexual frustration on her face. He concocts a scenario whereby he explains that he is a widower whose beloved, late wife made him promise to never make love to another woman. It's a sign of the times that in 1968 you could plausibly present a plot scenario in which Carol still readily agrees to live with Dave, quit her job and devote her entire life to pleasing him. Naturally, complications ensue and she discovers she has been lied to. The script presents "liberated women" as those scorned mistresses who band together in order to force their sugar daddies to give them legally binding pension plans to get them through their later years, when they will have been discarded in favor of younger women. It's enough to give Gloria Steinem heartburn.
You don't have to be a knee-jerk liberal to wince at the entire tasteless scenario of this film. Not helping matters is director Fielder Cook's insistence that the always-watchable Wallach play his role in an "over-the-top" manner that is only matched by Betty Field's equally hysterical portrayal of an older, scorned mistress looking to wage war on all males. Usually, one doesn't analyze the production design in a romantic urban comedy, but it bears mentioning that, aside from a few second unit shots in New York City, there is absolutely nothing that suggests the look or feel of the city. A sequence showing the exterior of Dave Sloane's private club looks more like London than Gotham and the film has a rather cheesy feel to it, given the abundance of interiors. On the positive side, Martin and Stevens exude some real chemistry and there are a few scattered laughs. However, for the most part, this is a laborious exercise that celebrates an era in which women's fates were tied to dependency on the man in their lives.
The DVD presents a crisp, clean transfer but there are no extras.
There's a wonderful Facebook web page called The Old Movie Guy's Page that presents all sorts of great photos and comments pertaining to vintage cinema. In one recent posting, they unearthed some rare comments made by Nigel Bruce regarding the series of Sherlock Holmes films he did with Basil Rathbone. Bruce said, “The stories we did were modernised but the characters of the famous detective and his biographer were kept more or less as originally written by Conan Doyle. Watson, however, in the films was made much more of a 'comic' character than he ever was in the books. This was with the object of introducing a little light relief. The doctor, as I played him, was a complete stooge for his brilliant friend and one whose intelligence was almost negligible. Many of the lovers of Conan Doyle must have been shocked, not by this caricature of the famous doctor but by seeing the great detective alighting from an aeroplane and the good doctor listening to his radio. To begin with, Basil and I were much opposed to the modernising of these stories but the producer, Howard Benedict, pointed out to us that the majority of youngsters who would see our pictures were accustomed to the fast-moving action of gangster pictures, and that expecting machine guns, police sirens, cars travelling at 80 miles an hour and dialogue such as 'Put em up bud', they would be bored with the magnifying glass, the hansom cabs, the cobblestones and the slow tempo of an era they never knew and a way of life with which they were completely unfamiliar.”
Mike Bloomfield of moviepostermem.com is pleased to announce the launch of a new
website www.fiskenposter.com This website is dedicated to a single owner
collection of movie posters. We're showcasing posters in the collection &
trying to explain something about the artists behind the posters & the
market in general. Hopefully people will enjoy browsing & find it a useful
resource base. Of course, if you have any posters that you think would fit
into the collection. please contact me on email@example.com
(For a special tribute article to the legendary British movie poster artist Tom Chantrell, see Cinema Retro issue #25)
Spanish film director Jess "Jesus" Franco has died at age 82 in Malaga, Spain. The prolific pioneer of Spanish horror and fantasy cult films capitalized on a relaxation of censorship laws to create a body of films that have withstood the test of time and still maintain loyal followings today. Among them: Succubus, Vampyros Lesbos, 99 Women, The Awful Dr. Orlof, Necronomicon and the 1969 Count Dracula starring Hammer film favorite Christopher Lee. He also served as second unit director on Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. A respected talent who specialized in exploitation films, Franco also occasionally acted, wrote screenplays and composed music for his own films as well as those of other artists. In all, Franco was involved in the production of over 200 films.
With his long-planned remake of A Star is Born seemingly stalled, Clint Eastwood appears to be looking at another big screen musical: the movie adaptation of the Broadway smash hit Jersey Boys. The play tells the story of the meteoric rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to the top of the American pop charts in the 1960s. The show received widespread acclaim for not simply presenting a catalog of the group's greatest hits, but for also showing many of the unsavory, behind-the-scenes aspects of Valli's career and personal life. This would be Eastwood's first foray into the musical genre since the ill-fated 1969 big budget Paint Your Wagon in which he starred with Lee Marvin and Jean Seberg, although this time, he would be behind the cameras. For more click here
Pasha Roberts is the director of the
new film Silver
Circle. He obtained his masters in financial
engineering, which he describes as “hedge fund math,” roughly ten years ago. His interest was in financial digitalization
and how to apply modern computer graphics to high finance. His thesis subject
consisted of applying a game-like graphics engine to doing equity trading in
finance so that a reasonably intelligent 13-year-old gamer could use it to learn
this type of trading. Upon doing this,
he realized that what was missing from financial communications was a way of
describing complicated concepts from a Ph.D level and bringing it down to a
Masters level, essentially reducing the complexity and making it accessible; he
did this by working with banks, corporations and think tanks.
Beginning around 2006, he began moving towards
more economic-type concepts, and felt that it was important to describe things
on more of an economic level rather than a financial level. When the housing and financial crash occurred
in 2008, he decided that Silver Circle
should really be about a crash and the intrigue around that crash.
Todd Garbarini: Your animation company,
Two Lanterns Media, produced a series entitled Save Sonny which concerns a young adult entering the workforce who
becomes perturbed to find that some of his paycheck is being deducted by a
mysterious entity known as FICA (laughs). Does Sonny personify the average young
American in your mind?
Pasha Roberts: At that point, we kind
of did that, yeah. That was kind of a South
Park-level of humor, there are some farts jokes in there as well. The goal at
the time was to take the subject and make it interesting and acceptable for
somebody who, when they get their first job, suddenly realizes that they don't
get all of their money. They want to know where it goes to, specifically FICA,
and why. That was a whole, completely
different other style and was not as serious as (our new film) Silver Circle, but kind of
tongue-in-cheek and somewhat educational.
TG: The series reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock which endeavored to educate children
on science, economics, history, etc. Do
you see yourself as an educator for social change and personal financial
responsibility through animation?
PR: Yeah, you could say it that way. We
were focusing on the story first and therefore tried to make it fun and
interesting without trying to be too pedantic about it. That's why Silver Circle isn't full of speeches, although it has one or two
that are kind of mixed in. We were interested in working with people who wanted
to make a movie with a backbone and a spine and ideas in it. The audience can
certainly enjoy it on an intellectual level in that regard, but otherwise they
can also enjoy themselves from the movie perspective as we do have some action
sequences and a car chase.
Circle posits the financial collapse of the United States economic system
roughly six years from now. It is
animated in the style of a contemporary video game. Was this your decision from the get-go?
PR: We were actually looking at A Scanner Darkly, actually we did use Maya,
we didn't really use cel shading
for this but we did look a lot at that. We really wanted to make the characters
look less realistic and keep them from looking kind of spooky, and even so I
think we could have done more with that. It's kind of a crossover thing, you don't see
a lot of animated movies that are not comedies or fantasies, so people aren’t
used to seeing this type of animation with something serious.
TG: How long did the process of making the film take, from conception to
PR: Four years. We basically started
brainstorming about it the day after Lehman Brothers went down because it was
such a big dramatic moment, and I thought this could be a real interesting theme.
The screenwriting itself took about a year as there was a completely different
concept at first and it took a little while to burn through a couple of
screenwriters until we finally settled on Stephen (Schwartz). Then we spent three years on production. The overall
budget was roughly $2M. One of the really interesting things about the movie is
that the end credits contain the names of about ten core people who really
worked on it, compared to an army of animators.
TG: In the film, the Federal Reserve
has been tasked with stabilizing the economy, but all attempts have failed and
the Rebels illegally mint silver coins hoping to stabilize the financial health
of the country. How do you feel this
mirrors the current economic situation in the U.S. today?
PR: I think that we are currently heading in the direction that is depicted
in the film, although I don't think that it will be as bad. There were a couple of things that are in the
movie and were even in the script but hadn't happened yet but actually came
true as we progressed through making the movie. For example, there is a guy by the name of Bernard von Nothaus who is currently in prison for making money out of silver,
and that’s his crime. His sentencing
judge basically called him a domestic terrorist for trying to make money out of
silver. So, that was not going on. Then,
the Federal Reserve was actually talking about taking over neighborhoods and
basically calling them “land banks,” which is of course essential part of Silver Circle’s plot. So, there are
angles going on in that direction already and I do believe that marijuana is on
its way to being legalized, and this also occurs in the movie. I hope that the
movie obviously isn't prescient in terms of being completely true. We looked at a lot of the history of
Argentina and Zimbabwe and what happens when a currency begins to die and how
people behave as a result of that.
TG: What do you hope audiences will
take away from the film?
PR: First off, I hope that they enjoy
the story. Obviously, I want them to have a great time. I want it to be a fun,
good story for the audience. After that, I hope that people are not only
entertained, and but there are also a lot of embedded things in the movie for
the so-called armchair economists and conspiracy theorists. I really do hope
that it gets people to start to think about money and know that there is this
thing out there called the Federal Reserve that is very real and they are not murderous
bastards (laughs). I want the
audience to not take the concepts of money for granted. Most other countries
understand that and the changing of European currency and so on and so forth -
things abroad do not appear to be as well-established or as stable as things
appear to be here. So, hopefully the
audience will think about that. The angle that we're taking is that we really
can make an animated movie with a spine of ideas that people will actually
appreciate instead of just offering up a whitewashed movie.
O'Shea squares off in court against Paul Newman in The Verdict.
The acclaimed Irish actor Milo O'Shea has died after a brief illness at age 86. The Dublin-born O'Shea had lived in New York City since 1976. He was described as a giant talent of stage, screen and TV. His memorable feature film performances include the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, Barbarella, Ulysses and as the compromised judge who argues with attorney Paul Newman in Sidney Lumet's 1982 film The Verdict. O'Shea, an "actor's actor", also appeared in many popular American and British TV shows including The Golden Girls, Cheers, The West Wing and Me Mammy. For more click here
On TCM's Movie Morlocks web site, writer Susan Doll celebrates the movie poster art of Joseph A. Maturo. Never heard of him? Neither had we, but his work on Fox movie posters from the 1930s and 1940s is remarkable. The Italian immigrant, who once designed dresses for flappers in the 1920s, created memorable posters for Shirley Temple's Heidi, The Prisoner of Shark Island, Charlie Chan's Secret and many other golden oldies. Click here to read.
Most Google searches for “Chiller,” the
five-installment horror series originally broadcast in the mid-90s on Britain’s
ITV will turn up a lot of forums where fans ask: “Does anyone else remember
being scared by this show?”
Like many old horror movies, the fright it inspired
after stumbling upon the program probably sticks in the mind more than the
episodes themselves. But while “Chiller” may not be the pinnacle of scary
story-telling, it often stands the test of time. Part of the reason: Forsaking
the trappings of cheap surprises or over-the-top gore of many horror projects
on a smaller budget, each episode builds on a single creepy or supernatural
The plots are your standard horror staples: spirits
brought back from the underworld, demonic children, haunted houses, etc. Most
are summoned through the typical tropes as well. (Pro tip: Reading ancient
inscriptions outloud with a group of carousing friends has never led to
anything good.) Although there’s not much here that hasn’t been done elsewhere,
there’s something comforting about the nostalgia of made-for-TV horror.
The special effects are limited and the sets throughout
the British countryside are both quaint and creepy. And the acting carries the
sotries. The talent assembled for the episodes includes many prolific British
actors. (John McEnery, Nigel Havers, John Simm, Sophie Ward and more all star
One can easily imagine catching one of these programs
late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and having more than a few
sleepless nights. The Synapse Films DVD print is clean, although somewhat
bare-bones: Five episodes on two discs with no special features (to be fair,
there was little demand for behind-the-scenes making-of documentaries on a
short-run TV show in the 1990s).
Whether you’re looking to see if the program stands up
to your memories or looking for a taste of horror that plays more on the mind
than the senses, “Chiller” passes the test of a creepy good time.
Room 237 is the title
of the excellent new documentary by director Rodney Ascher that takes the
points of view of five off-screen individuals who do their best to unmask the
purported hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s initially disappointing yet
subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen King’s The Shining. In doing so,
they are keeping in line with a motif derived straight from the novel in a
sequence wherein Horace Derwent, a former owner of the Overlook Hotel, urges
his costumed party-goers to unmask at a lavish celebration, thereby revealing
their identities. The human face as a
mask is also a common theme throughout all of Mr. Kubrick’s filmography, so it
is only fitting that Room 237 takes the approach of removing layers to reveal
what might be hidden beneath the surface in order to get at The Shining’s essence.
As a fan of
Mr. Kubrick’s film for the past thirty years, I can honestly say that even
though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props,
visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out
(granted this was difficult to do on archaic home video systems such as CED or VHS due to their significantly reduced image quality,
to say nothing of the substandard televisions they were played back on,
although the technically superior Blu-ray is a much better medium due to its high definition
quality and lends itself ideal for this examination). Nor did I see the various continuity errors,
judged as deliberate by Mr. Kubrick from the narrators’ perspectives, such as
the carpet that changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall
disappearing during Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after
his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) interrupts his writing. An argument can be made that Room 237 is less about the hidden
meanings in The Shining than it is an
explanation of five different people’s interpretations and experiences of
seeing The Shining. There were times wherein the person speaking
discussed in great length the strange layout of the Overlook Hotel and I must
admit I could not see what they were getting at, however this is just one point
that is made and there are numerous theories to go around on other subtexts of
the film: the purported significance of the number 42; the architectural
impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman’s office; the ludicrous sexual
reference in Mr. Ullman’s first handshake with Jack (this is a bit of a stretch
– no pun intended, of course!); the Minotaur motif; the strange layout itself
of the Overlook Hotel; the references to the genocide of Native Americans and
even the Holocaust, the subject of which Mr. Kubrick later attempted to make a
film about but eventually abandoned as he felt he could not do justice to the
horror of this bleak period in history.
Ascher makes the interesting choice of not showing the faces of the narrators,
and this maneuver works to the film’s advantage since so much of it is about
pointing out what the narrators see. Cross-cutting between the narrators and the points they want to make
would have either reduced the film’s running time (102 minutes, roughly the
same as The French Connection (1970),
my favorite film) or would have left most of the cogent points on the cutting
room floor. I can only hope that the
forthcoming DVD will offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes. I am certain that there must have been some
discussion about the significance of Jack telling Mr. Ullman that Wendy is a
“confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,” yet her artistic escapes
consist of reading The Catcher in the Rye
and watching Summer of ’42 (there’s
that number again!), two classics about the coming-of-age of a young male.
liked Room 237’s framing device of
using Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985)
and Demons 2: The Nightmare Continues
(1986) as footage of an audience viewing The
Shining in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain
points. Ideally, The Shining should be viewed in a movie theater, although
realistically that is unfortunately not an option for most of us. The home video revolution saved many a film
from inevitable obscurity and this is where the majority of Shining enthusiasts (myself included)
had the opportunity to see it and thrill to it to our heart’s content.
prerequisites for enjoying Room 237
include more than a passing interest in The
Shining (it certainly helps to be a rabid fan of the film, thus having
tremendous familiarity of it), patience, and certainly a sense of humor. Room
237 succeeds in imparting to the audience just how compelling and
frightening The Shining can be to a
first-time viewer. It is also a
testament to the notion that film viewing is a solitary experience as no two
people will see any one film with the same set of eyes. Perhaps, as is the case with The Shining, and many other Kubrick
films, multiple viewings of Room 237
will clear up and even reveal more of what the narrators say they see. Whether you consider the film to be
completely true or complete bollocks, one thing that can be said is that Room 237 is entertaining,
thought-provoking, fascinating and enlightening. It’s my choice for Best Documentary at the
SFX guru Dennis Muren says, during one of
the interviews in Ray Harryhausen:
Special Effects Titan, that today special effects are no longer special. Audiences expect them, and are
no longer impressed by them. This wasn't the case back in the 50s and 60s when
master animator Ray Harryhausen was breaking new ground and entertaining
audiences the world over. That said, Harryhausen's work was right for the time,
but would not stand up with audiences not familiar with his work today. They
have come to expect the impossible, and that's what CGI almost delivers.
However, the difference between Harryhausen's creations and today's computer
generated creatures is that the latter were animated objects. They were 'real'
and as dimensional as the actors who worked alongside the. Tangible objects
that had a life of their own. Today they may seem dated, but they have far more
character than a CGI effect, which is no better than watching a computer game.
This brilliant 2-disc documentary covers the
remarkable career of the movie industry's most admired and influential special
effects auteur. A man who inspired the likes of Spielberg, Dante, Landis
Cameron and Jackson, who in their own words admit it was Harryhausen who
inspired them to become movie makers. Loaded with clips, trailers, rare test
footage, props as they are today, and even home movies from Harryhausen's
immense collection, this is a documentary to die for. Miss it at your peril.
(Note: this review is based on the UK Region 2 DVD release. It has not yet been released in the North American market).
Plans are going forward to relaunch the National Lampoon 'Vacation' film series that was all the rage in the 1980s. Christina Applegate and Ed Helms will star. Producers are in negotiations with the films' original stars, Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo to reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold, though their appearance is being planned as a cameo throwback to the original series. For more click here
Richard Griffiths, who graduated from playing minor roles in British TV series and feature films to become one of Britain's most acclaimed actors, has died from complications resulting from heart surgery. He was 65 years old. In an industry obsessed with superficiality, Griffiths used his obesity as an asset. Beginning in the 1970s, he became a familiar face to British TV viewers and later gained prominence as an in-demand supporting actor in films. He is most recognized for his role as "Uncle Vernon" in the Harry Potter films. Griffiths was considered royalty on the stage, however, and he won a Tony for his leading role in the Broadway production of The History Boys. He also appeared opposite his Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe in a 2007 London production of Equus. For more click here
Sean Connery and Lana Wood in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Throughout the month of April, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California will be presenting big screen showings of classic James Bond movies including On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, Octopussy, Licence to Kill and Diamonds Are Forever. Each screening will feature appearances and discussions with a star or stars of a specific film including George Lazenby, Benicio del Toro, David Hedison, Trina Parks, Lana Wood, Kristina Wayborne, Maud Adams and Gloria Hendry. Click here for info and to view original theatrical trailers.
Our old pal and Cinema Retro contributor Richard Kiel is crossing "the pond" again for a couple of high profile personal appearances in the UK including one at London's Misty Moon Gallery and another at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, where he will be joined by his Moonraker co-star Blanche Ravalec. Click on each ad below for links to web sites.
Written and produced over the past 10 years with Ray
Harryhausen's cooperation and support, the complete 3-volume definitive
295,000-word career/biography features interviews with Ray and his colleagues
and is profusely illustrated with several hundred rare photographs, artwork,
and illustrations (many of which have never been previously published).
We published Volume 2 ("The American Films")
first, then Volume 3 ("The British Films"), and are now wrapping up
the set with Volume 1 (“Beginnings and Endings”).
Chapters in Volume 1 extensively cover:
Ray's Early 16mm Experiments, The Influence of Willis
O'Brien and King Kong, George Pal's Puppetoons®,
Ray's Film Work During World War II, The Fairy Tale Short Subjects, Ray's
Retirement Years (including tributes, awards, convention appearances,
colorizing his films, unfinished projects, the King Kong 50th
Anniversary celebration at Grauman's Chinese Theater in 1983, Ray's cameo
appearances in other films, Ray's Lifetime Achievement Oscar® from The Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Ray's "Star" on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, and much more).
As a special adjunct to the Willis O'Brien chapter,
we're including the complete first draft of the King Kong
screenplay by British mystery writer Edgar Wallace.
A special supplement that we're calling "How To
Make a Monster" will take you step-by-step through the process of
constructing a stop motion model using photos from numerous stop motion films (Caveman,
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, Willis O'Brien films, and more) —
from blueprint to armature to clay sculpture to plaster mold to final foam
rubber animation model. (Now you'll know the answer when someone asks,
"How did they DO that...?")
Contributors to Volume 1 include Famous Monsters editor Forrest J Ackerman, Darlyne (Mrs. Willis)
O'Brien, Lost World star Bessie Love, King Kong producer Merian
C. Cooper and star Fay Wray, screenwriters Beverley Cross and Kenneth
Kolb, animator and visual effects artists Jim Danforth and Randall William Cook,
director John Landis, producer Arnold Kunert, and many others, some of
whom have since passed away.
Stills and other visual material come from numerous
private collections, including considerable material that has never been seen
in print before (including Ray Harryhausen's own books).
• “Ray Harryhausen's Los Angeles” – A multi-page map
of key locations connected to Ray and his films in the 1940s and 50s;
• Advertising art and posters from different
• Reviews and story synopses;
• Filmographies of key cast and crew.
• 370 pages, 125,000 word text (chapters, appendices,
• Over 1,500 images —photos, artwork, posters,
technical diagrams and
other illustrations— in Spectacular Color, Nostalgic
Sepia-Tone, and Glorious Black-and-White.
• Hardcover: dark brown imitation leather with title
stamped in gold foil;
• Full color dust jacket;
• Heavy 70 pound semi-gloss paper stock;
• Overall dimensions 9" x 11-1/2";
• Weight: 5 pounds.
Majicks Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 are long sold out and now command
prices ranging from $350 to $500 to over $700 per copy on eBay and Amazon. So
don't delay— sales have been brisk and our limited edition print run of Vol. 1
(the final volume in the set) is on its way to selling out soon.
From his Preface to Volume 3 —
"There is no way to overstate the importance of
these books. [This book] is simply the most perfect book about
Harryhausen ever made. This is the book that you dreamt of having as a child
and makes you want to go out and re-watch every single one of the chronicled. It
makes you fall in love with cinema all over again."
— Guillermo del Toro, Director of Hellboy
and Pan's Labyrinth
From his combination review of Volumes 2 and 3 of Majicks:
“…Hankin’s in-progress overview of Harryhausen’s
career is unlikely to be surpassed; other books may offer different pictures,
different vantages and depths of specific information, but the totality of
Harryhausen’s achievement is best represented here.”
Here's a plethora of great movies showing during the same week in February 1965, as illustrated in this page from the Winnipeg Free Press: Mary Poppins, Goldfinger, Sex and the Single Girl, Jungle Fighters (aka The Long and the Short and the Tall), My Fair Lady and A Shot in the Dark. Wish we had a time machine....
The darkest period of modern French history was the nation's humiliating defeat by Germany in 1940. France boasted of having the greatest army in Europe but was led by inept leaders who mistakenly used tactics of WWI. The French squandered the opportunity to strangle Hitler's rising armies in their cribs, preferring to simply protest the building up of his armed forces in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. France and England declared war on Germany after Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939. However, a period of inaction followed, leading many to call the conflict "The Phony War". Although France had ample time to come up with strategies, its armed forces decided to fight a defensive war on French soil. The plan proved to be woefully inept in the era of the blitzkreig. The fall of France in 1940 led to a period of political discontent that is still being debated today. In the aftermath of the war, General Charles DeGaulle, leader of the free French forces fighting from England, successfully marketed the notion that his nation was filled with patriots who consistently did all they could to resist their German occupiers. In fact, countless French patriots did indeed sacrifice their lives in order to do so - both on the battlefield and through the Resistance. Paris was liberated prior to to arrival of Allied forced by brave men and women who rose up to violently resist the most feared army on earth. Nevertheless, collaboration was the order of the day in occupied France. Hitler installed the WWI hero Marshall Petain as the head of state in Vichy, a region that was supposed to be free of German occupation. However, the world recognized it was a puppet state with Petain acting as a toady for his German masters. Petain and his co-collaborator Pierre Laval, maintained that appeasement of Germany was the only practical way for France to maintain some measure of independence. Indeed, France did avoid many of the atrocities committed in other occupied countries. However, the price of peace was full compliance with the Reich's obsessive oppression against Jews and any other group that was deemed a threat. Consequently, Petain and Laval capitulated by willingly complying with orders that meant certain death for countless French citizens.
April 13 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale,” and the University of Illinois will recognize the event with a collaborative celebration hosted by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Spurlock Museum, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music. Much of the material featured in “The Birth of Bond” comes from the collection of Michael L. VanBlaricum, the president of the Ian Fleming Foundation and a U. of I. alumnus. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
April marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. To celebrate the anniversary, the University of Illinois will be hosting numerous events pertaining to Fleming, the novel and the 007 phenomenon. Titled The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming's Casino Royale at 60, the exhibition will include a film festival, costumes, props, lectures and rare recordings. The exhibition is being coordinated by Michael VanBlaricum, a well-known Bond scholar and President of the Ian Fleming Foundation. Click here for more info
I have always been a great admirer of Paul Henning, the crooner-turned-TV producer/writer of some of the best-loved shows of the 1960s. It was Henning who gave a voice to rural audiences by creating such classic TV series as The Beverly Hillbilllies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. If you revisit any of them today, they remain far superior to most contemporary sitcoms. Henning not only created shows that have timeless appeal, but he also brainstormed the concept of interweaving characters and plot devices between the series- a stroke of genius that brought cross-promotion marketing to new levels. Henning also prided himself on making his country characters eccentric, but never idiotic. They were simple people living simple lives and if they seemed to exist in a time warp, they were all honest, admirable folks. It was always the sophisticated city slickers who would get their comeuppance at the hands of these "bumpkins". Andy Griffith once told me that it irked him when audiences would say that the actors were just "playing themselves". He pointed out that, in most cases, these actors had long, distinguished careers prior to appearing in rural sitcoms. He wanted to stress that these were outstanding talents and should never have been pigeon-holed as actual country hicks. Paul Henning strictly oversaw quality control on his shows and demanded that every episode by family-friendly. Thus, I was in for quite a shock when I sat down to review MPI's screener copy of the 1981 TV movie Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. I don't recall this particular show, but from the get-go the title is deceiving. The only original Hillbillies are Buddy Ebsen's Jed Clampett and Donna Douglas's Elly May. Irene Ryan, who played Granny, had passed away years before. Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro, had the good sense to stay away from the project. Nancy Kulp reprises her role as Jane Hathaway, but her on-screen boss, the inimitable Raymond Bailey had also died and, like Ryan, his presence is sorely missed. (Henning cast actor Ray Young as Jethro, and although he does his best, we are all too aware that he was not part of the original cast.)
Henning's script is too over-the-top even for a Hillbillies plot device. In this case, President Reagan is desperate to solve the energy crisis. He dispatches Jane Hathaway (now a Washington bureaucrat) to track down the secret formula of Granny Clampett's white lightning, which is deemed to be so powerful it might be useful as a source of fuel. Jane arrives on horseback at Jed Clampett's mountain cabin. In the aftermath of Granny's death, Jethro went on to run his own movie studio and Elly May has opened a zoo. Rather than live alone in his Beverly Hills mansion, Jed has returned to his roots, his only concession to wealth being a bigger cabin that he has constructed. The feeble plot follows Jane and Jed's search around the premises for any remaining jugs of Granny's booze that can be brought to Washington to analyze. She is accompanied by C.D. Medford, a humorless member of the President's team who will use any ruthless method to obtain the formula for the white lightning. (One of the lamest aspects of Henning's script is a repetitive gag in which samples of the booze are repeatedly discovered only to be lost accidentally.) The role of Medford is played by the great Werner Klemperer, who is criminally misused here in a role that diminishes his talents and makes him a truly loathsome character. To compensate for Irene Ryan's absence, Henning created the role of Granny's mother! She is played by another TV legend, Imogene Coca but the character has to be one of the most grating and irritating in the history of the medium. She screeches like a banshee, runs about hitting people with a stick and otherwise making herself unwelcome. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the ill-fated venture is Henning's decision to deliberately move away from family fare to smut. That's right, this new, updated version of the series features such wholesome fare as strippers, Asian massage girls, scantily clad teenage "old maids" (young Heather Locklear among them!) and a very embarrassing striptease performed by Klemperer. Why Henning decided he had to degrade his characters in order to appear hip is not known, but he certainly should have known better. There are tasteless jokes about Jed Clampett's sex life (or lack thereof) and one punch line about Auschwitz! I kid you not...I actually had to backtrack to make sure I heard it right. Can you imagine an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies where the "funny" payoff line refers to a Nazi death camp? The movie is peppered with some welcome character actors including perpetual grouch Charles Lane, Lloyd "Shad" Heller, Lurene Tuttle and Earl Scruggs, who performs a musical number. Henning runs out the clock in the last fifteen minutes with an absurd, endless car chase featuring King Donovan in an obnoxious performance that makes Imogene Coca's character look like a model of restraint. The film is also disappointing in that Elly May and Jed only share the screen together in the last few minutes of the movie. The ill-fated venture was directed by Robert M. Leeds, who also should have known better because he worked on the last season of the original series.
Despite the dreadful aspects of the main feature, I am heartily recommending that you buy the DVD itself, if only because of the superb bonus extras. There is a one hour documentary about Paul Henning that features the man himself in vintage interviews, along with new insights from his daughter Linda (an actress who appears in Return of the Beverly Hillbillies), Max Baer Jr., Charles Lane and some of the producers and writers who worked on the original show. (Strangely, Donna Douglas is not among them.) They offer some wonderful anecdotes about Henning's triumph in creating three hit series in the 60s only to have CBS head honcho James Aubrey cancel these favorites in favor of appealing to urban audiences (which turned out to be a major misjudgment). Henning's talents extended to writing the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies, which ingeniously tells the entire premise of the scenario in popular ditty that is still being sung today. Other bonus extras include an introduction by Linda Nelson, a genial lady who clearly adored her father; a wealth of original Kelloggs Corn Flakes ads featuring the cast, original TV promos for the Hillbillies and Green Acres and a promotional short for a never-produced wildlife series featuring Donna Douglas as Elly May.
If you love the show, skip the main event and head straight to those bonus extras....
Update: Astute reader Scott Shea points out that the people interviewed in the aforementioned documentary blame James Aubrey for canceling CBS' slate of hit rural shows. In fact, Aubrey was the man who championed them and was fired himself from the network in 1965. It was Fred Silverman who actually canceled these series.
Horror films are a hot commodity. Some of the most well-known slasher films of
the 1980’s have been re-issued on DVD and Blu-ray by companies looking to
cash-in on audiences’ seemingly insatiable appetite for murder and mayhem while
also introducing them to a whole new generation of fans with disposable income. Two titles that fans want on DVD and Blu-ray
in the way of special editions are Paul Lynch’s Prom Night (1980) and Richard Ciupka’s Curtains (1983), both Canadian productions through Simcom, the
former having fared far better on home video than the latter.
Night was originally
released theatrically by Avco Embassy Pictures in July 1980. It was distributed on VHS by MCA Home Video in
1981 and again by Virgin Vision, Inc. in 1988. MCA also released a laserdisc pan-and-scan version on their laser
rot-prone DiscoVision line in 1981 (curiously, the film bypassed the RCA
Select-A-Vision Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) stylus-based format of the
early 1980’s, the direct competitor to laserdisc). The film fared better when a widescreen
laserdisc sourced from a 35mm interpositive followed in 1997 courtesy of Elite
Entertainment. In February 1998, Anchor
Bay Entertainment released a widescreen DVD that included the original
theatrical trailer (1.85:1 presentation is a must for this title as a boom mike
is clearly visible in several shots in the full frame format). After the rights lapsed the film was picked
up by Echo Bridge Entertainment and reissued in October 2007, this time
dispensing with said trailer. Overall, Prom Night has been released on home
video in three different formats no less than six times in the United States
alone, not counting the international, non-Region 1 releases around the globe. All of these U.S. versions contain only the
film without any additional extras that are practically a requirement to home
video now: running commentaries, on-set interviews, behind-the-scenes footage,
isolated musical scores, comments from contemporaries, stills galleries,
Curtains, on the other hand, is a thriller that
has suffered indignities far too numerous to list. Plagued from the outset by a problematic
production, the financing ran out and put the cast and crew on hiatus for over
one year. Much of the crew was replaced,
and despite having been released theatrically in April 1983 to many respectable
movie theaters by the long-defunct Jensen Farley Pictures, Curtains has only appeared on home video twice in the United States:
in December 1983 Vestron Video released it on VHS, and in October 2010 Echo
Bridge Entertainment released it as part of The
Midnight Horror Collection: Bloody Slashers set which also includes Hoboken Hollow (2006), Secrets of the Clown (2007), and Room 33 (2009). In a maneuver regarded as perfunctory by
those not in the know, Curtains
appears to be lumped in with these three contemporary tales for no better
reason than to “round out” the other titles – the original ad slick for Curtains was jettisoned and replaced
with an image of a hand parting a curtain.
Curtains was also released in April 2007 on
Region 2 DVD in the UK by Black Horse Entertainment. As with the Echo Bridge Entertainment release,
the original poster artwork was not used. Again, an uninspired makeshift cover image that fails to represent the
film in any way adorns the case. Curtains can be found at horror film
conventions on DVD-R sporting its beautiful and atmospheric original one-sheet
artwork, but the DVD transfer is sourced from the Vestron VHS cassette and is
therefore in dire need of color correction; a 2K/4K high definition upgrade is
Night has a creepy
score by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer (he scored a handful of films for Bob
Clark, including the classic 1974 film Black
Christmas and was also a musical consultant on “Act II” of Curtains). Mr. Zaza also scored Curtains, which might have been a rejected score for Prom Night as several cues that appear
in Prom Night also made their way
into Curtains. Director Ciupka’s name was also removed from
the credits to Curtains; whether or
not this has any bearing on the lack of a DVD release is a mystery.
Fans can ponder why these titles are
not available in full-blown special editions, and there are probably many
legitimate reasons why the current DVDs turn up in Walmart discount bins. The original 35mm film negatives to each
respective film may not be available as the whereabouts may be in question, or
they may no longer even exist; management might feel that an insufficient
number of fans willing to pay for the films exists and there is a fear of
losing money on these titles; both films were made as Canadian tax shelter projects and this may also pose a problem. With the glut of far lesser quality horror
thrillers available in beautifully designed special editions, the mind reels as
to why these two films in particular have been marginalized and seem to be
anathema to the royal treatment.
Echo Bridge Entertainment, a DVD
company that uses the slogan “The Entertainment Alternative for What the World Wants to
See” (not sure where that came from or what it is based upon), is now being approached
by fans on an online petition website respectfully asking them
to release the rights for these two films to Scream Factory, the Shout! Factory
subsidiary that is making a name for itself with beautiful deluxe versions of
genre favorites Terror Train (1980), The Funhouse (1981), Halloween II (1981), Halloween
III: Season of the Witch (1982), and the upcoming Deadly Blessing (1981) to name a few. This company would be an ideal organization
to release these films as their work thus far has proven that they will spend
the time and provide just the proper amount of TLC that these films
of this writing, the petition has 300 signatures and is looking for a total of
1200, which is not an impossible number to reach. Click here to sign the petition
on Petition Buzz requesting licensing of Prom
Night and Curtains.
We straight guys have spent inordinate amount of hours drooling over scantily-clad cavegirls in B movies. Seems only fair that gay guys can exercise the same right when it comes to cavemen. Inspired by a new scientific theory that there may have been gay cavemen, writer Chris Eggersten cobbled together a slide show of "Ten Hot Cavemen Who Can Club Us Anytime!" From Victor Mature to Brendan Fraser to Robert Vaughn, click here to view the slide show
Here are two forthcoming books by author Brian Hannan that are sure to interest Cinema Retro readers:
THE MAKING OF THE GUNS OF NAVARONE by Brian Hannan
(published by Baroliant Press May 2013
History tells us The Guns Of Navarone was a huge critical
and box office success. But for most of the filming and the run-up to release it
didn’t look that way. US producer Carl Foreman, a victim of the McCarty
anti-communist witch-hunt of the early 1950s, lost his scriptwriter
(Eric Ambler), preferred cast (William Holden and Cary Grant), director
(Alexander Mackendrick), two leading ladies and very nearly one the stars, David
Niven who almost died during shooting. Actor Gregory Peck turned into a
potential liability after the disastrous box office of Beloved Infidel. Calling
on new research material, Brian Hannan takes a fresh look at an old favourite,
creating a snapshot, movie-wise, of the period.
THE MAKING OF LAWRENCE OF ARABIA by Brian Hannan
(published by Baroliant Press May 2013 £8.99)
Nearly forty years in the making, with around twenty
different attempts to get the film
off the ground, Lawrence Of Arabia finally emerged in the triumphant David Lean
version. If the movie shoot was a nightmare, with spiralling costs and the
production eventually postponed, what followed was even worse with disastrous
advance bookings, a newspaper strike that paralysed advertising and the worst
snowstorms in a century that stopped people getting out. Using a wealth of new
research, Brian Hannan traces the genesis of the movie from the day TE Lawrence
himself purportedly walked into a movie producer’s office in the 1920s through
to the glorious reissues, providing, along the way, a history of the movie world
of the time.
Harry Reems, who soared to fame in the 1970s as the male star of Deep Throat, has died at age 65. Reems, whose real name was Herbert Streicher, had been battling a variety of health problems in recent years. Ironically, Reems was not supposed to appear in the infamous 1972 porn film that starred Linda Lovelace as a young woman whose particular talents resulted in her getting an orgasm from performing oral sex. Reems was on set as part of the crew. When the male lead didn't show up, director Gerard Damiano recruited Reems for the role. Reems went on to star in numerous porn movies but it wasn't all fun and games. At the height of the Nixon administration's crackdown on pornography, Reems became the only the actor prosecuted for appearing in an X rated film. His case became a cause celebre and anti-censorship forces rallied around him. Eventually, the charges were dropped. Reems may have led an exotic lifestyle compared to the average man but it was fraught with turbulence. He spent much of his "career" in an alcoholic haze. By 1989, however, he had kicked the habit and eventually turned his life around. He married and became a successful real estate broker in Utah. For more click here
Malick fans will rejoice for the newly restored (and director approved, I might add—so apparently he’s not as reclusive
as he’s been made out to be), marvelous release of the auteur’s first, and very
low-budget, feature film.It was
originally screened at festivals in 1973, and released to the public in early
’74.No punches pulled here—Badlands is a masterpiece, and its
arrival immediately garnered a fan following for the enigmatic director who has
made only five films in so many decades.But as producer Edward Pressman says in the exclusive video interview
that The Criterion Collection included as one of several good extras, Badlands was not a success on its first
release.Reviews were mixed—as would be
the case for any Malick film—and the public didn’t go see it.Pressman also had to fight for Malick to have
his own artistic vision, despite complaints and pressure from the backers.The film was properly “discovered” when it
started playing on cable television some years later.By then, Malick was making Days of Heaven, and these would be the
only two pictures he would make before a twenty-year gap in output.Already his mystique had been established.
Badlands is indeed a
remarkable film, not only because of the unique point of view Malick brings to
the table, but for the performances of young Martin Sheen and young Sissy
Spacek.They are both knock-outs, and
they were undeservedly ignored when awards season came around.Sheen, especially, gives a chilling
performance of psychopath-as-James Dean, more or less, because the character
fashions himself after the famous actor.You can’t help but like the guy.He is utterly charming to the girl he’s chosen to run away with him on a
killing spree, and the couple’s love for each other is so real and so oddball
that we can’t help but be fascinated by them.
is Malick’s most “accessible” film, perhaps, for it tells a linear,
sweeps-you-along story with characters you can follow through a story arc.If you know Malick only from his recent works
(The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line), you’ll know he
didn’t always stick to that format.However,
Malick displays many of his signature traits even here.A common stylistic and thematic element of
the director’s films is the marriage of nature to whatever story is being told,
thus there are striking cinematographic images of plains, bugs, birds, flowers,
wheat, and sky, all set to some unusual piece of music from an eclectic palate
of recorded works.(The unique soundtrack
to Badlands has never been compiled
and released, and someone should do
inspired by the real-life Charles Starkweather case of the late 1950s, Badlands is a road movie that is poetry
in motion, haunting and unforgettable.The 4K digital transfer is gorgeous.Other extras include an engrossing forty-minute piece on the making of
the film, featuring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek today, reminiscing about the
extraordinary experience they had with “Terry.”Associate editor Billy Weber also provides an interview, and a highlight
is the 1993 episode of TV’s American
Justice about Starkweather.
you’ve never seen Badlands, take a
look at this exquisite Criterion release and experience something beautiful and
1944, directed by Fritz Lang, and starring Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, and
Dan Duryea, looks fantastic on Blu-ray.It’s one of the best restorations and transfers I’ve seen of a
black-and-white film noir of the
period.Lang’s German Expressionistic
background is classroom-clear in the look of this intriguing spy tale, based on
a novel by Graham Greene (The Third Man).The high-contrast light-and-shadow and angled
lines are all over the place.Nazi spies
in England are the bad guys, and our innocent man on the run (Milland) thinks
he knows where a few of them are hiding.The problem is, he’s a former mental asylum patient who served time for
mercy-killing his already dying wife.This is a terrific World War II-era paranoia thriller, despite the fact
that so many American actors in the picture are supposed to be British, and they
make no attempt to sound that way.Still,
the story is compelling and the direction is superb.Includes an interview with Lang scholar Joe
James Cameron's The Terminator is a masterpiece of
cinematic storytelling, conceived by Mr. Cameron while in Rome with a fever
years earlier (the late director Robert Altman had a similar situation that led
to the writing of my favorite film of his, Three
Women, released in 1977).Shot in
early 1984 for roughly $6M (the amount spent solely on the sound mix of the
superb $90M sequel seven years later), this futuristic action powerhouse grabs
the audience by the throat and takes us on a wild ride.Despite the inexorable pace – much like the
titular villain’s nature – the film manages to come up for air and miraculously
never feels over-the-top, long-winded or plodding.
Terminator opened on Friday, October 26, 1984 and yours truly
missed out on seeing it, electing to see the horror film greatest hits
compilation Terror in the Aisles instead.I had to wait until the end of the school
year eight months later to see the film in a classroom on VHS, the small-screen
presentation diminishing none of the film’s raw emotional power to my teenage eyes,
both of which were glued to the television. The film made Arnold Schwarzenegger a super
star and was the surprise sleeper hit of the season, his depiction of a
terrifying cyborg with a relentless mission it will stop at nothing to complete
solidifying his place as an action icon.Two weeks later Wes Craven's A
Nightmare on Elm Street was unleashed on unsuspecting moviegoers and cinema
hasn't been the same since, introducing a child killer who invades teen-agers’
dreams in his attempts to murder them.The
Terminator added “Come with me
if you want to live.” and the oft-quoted “I’ll be back.” to the American
lexicon and became as familiar as “May the Force be with you.” and “Go
ahead.Make my day.”Nightmare,
of course, contributed the creepy “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”
Linda Hamilton shines as Sarah Connor,
a 28 year-old diner waitress who unwittingly is targeted for termination by the
Terminator after it travels from the future, determined to kill her so that her
unborn son cannot rise against the machines.Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn in a terrific and underrated performance) is
the human counterpart sent to intercept and destroy the Terminator so that
Sarah may live.What makes the film so
brilliant is not only the ideas it presents but how it conveys them to the
audience.For the first thirty-five
minutes, we are just as in the dark as Sarah (not knowing she’s about to be on
the run for her life) and Kyle (since the Terminator looks human on the
outside, he has to wait until it moves in on Sarah before he can strike) and
are only given little bits of information until Kyle and the Terminator meet
face to face at the TechNoir dance club (the shootout in this ultra-Eighties club, followed by the escape, are
beautifully edited set pieces that set the tone for the rest of the film).
The film may be low-budget, but it honestly
does not feel like it.The story is
enthralling and completely believable. Mr. Biehn gives a performance just as compelling as Donald Pleasence did in
Halloween (1978).Without his history, conviction and attempts
to make those around him believe that what he is saying is true, Kyle Reese,
the soldier from the future who comes across time to father John Connor with
Sarah, would fall under the weight of the film.There is a level of plausibility to the story that is lacking from other
films about the future, heightened by Stan Winston’s special effects work.The flashback battle scenes of the war in
2019 recall Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 (1981) (retitled The Road Warrior for its 1982 US
Terminator is the boiler plate for future films about, well. The future!
Fiedel has created a magnificently menacing score, robotic and simplistic like
the Terminator.Dick Miller provides a
great cameo as a gun store clerk (I just noticed the store’s address as 14329
and its similarity to 14239, the address of the first Sarah Connor the
Terminator kills from the phonebook listing – and I have seen the film many
times over!Oh, the clarity of high
The Blu-ray, which was released at least
twice before (once in a special version containing a hardcover book), comes
with the same extras ported over from the previous editions:
the scenes – runes about 13 minutes
·Terminator: A Retrospective – runs just over 20 minutes and contains interviews from
1986 and 1992
collection of deleted scenes
I wish that this
time around the disc included a running commentary with the director at the
very least.This is a watershed film
that rewrote the book on science fiction action films and it is deserving of
more extras than the studios have lavished on it thus far.If you have not yet picked up the film on
Blu-ray, this edition will do quite nicely.
The film has been
remastered and looks as good as it is going to in 1080P.
Since 1979, there have been rumors of a Man From U.N.C.L.E. big screen feature film. The near-miss opportunities date back so long that the TV classic's stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were originally going to reprise their roles of super spies Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. For various reasons, each planned film project fell apart including a recent one in which George Clooney was to star. Now Guy Ritchie is the director of choice and Deadline reports that Tom Cruise is the latest major actor in talks to bring the film to reality. Fans are skeptical that the project will ever see the light of day and it is virtually certain it will be a hi-tech, modern day, SFX-packed spectacle that will have little in common with the TV series aside from its title. Click here for more
Although he has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino on several films, legendary composer Ennio Morricone says he will never team with the mercurial director again. Morricone accuses Tarantino of lumping music into his films "without coherence". He is especially miffed that, after he declined to compose a score for Django Unchained, Tarantino simply used a previous Morricone composition in the film. Morricone, who is not known for personal restraint when it comes to expressing his opinion, says that he didn't care for the Oscar-winning Western, saying there was "too much blood." Click here for more
(Photo copyright Graham Hill. All rights reserved.)
Famed producer Robert E. Relyea passed away recently. He was 82 years old. Relyea served as producer, assistant director and unit manager during a long career that included such films as Jailhouse Rock, The Day of the Dolphin, West Side Story, The Magnificent Seven, The Hallelujah Trail, The Great Escape, Never So Few and The Alamo. In 2008, he released his autobiography "Not So Quiet on the Set". Cinema Retro contributing writer Graham Hill visited Relyea at his home in connection with the book's release. Click here to read his report.
Most big screen action films feel like
video games made for the theatres. The over-the-top, psychotically-edited films
of most of Michael Bay’s output of late, specifically the Transformer series, can attest to this fact.While the availability of inexpensive
technology that was non-existent twenty years ago has brought tools to those who
wish to push the envelope and find new and different ways to tell stories, there
is virtually no limit to how filmmakers can realize their vision.We have reached a point in our intake of
entertainment wherein movies influence video games and music videos and the
lines between these disparate forms of enjoyment are becoming ever less
Video games have experienced a surge in
popularity in recent years thanks in part to high definition graphics, powerful
home computers and gaming systems, and the ability to play against complete
strangers several miles away or across the globe.One of
the most profitable series is the Grand
Theft Auto game from Rock Star Games, a company that has received flack for
their violent and sexual content.The
game literally puts the player (or perpetrator, depending upon your point of
view) in the driver seat to navigate a dangerous city plagued by vagrants and
social undesirables.Your mission is to
commit as many crimes as possible as a means to an end.The graphics are high quality and the people
are very realistic.It is this style of
video game animation that has taken center stage in the terrific new film by Pasha
Roberts called Silver Circle.
Set in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. in 2019,
the same year as Ridley Scott’s Blade
Runner (1982), Silver Circle
concerns a world where inflation has run rampant following the financial
collapse of the United States.A beer
costs $90.00 and a gallon of gas averages $152.00, so $7.00 for a buzz and
$3.59 for the precious juice no longer sounds like such a bad deal.But, it’s all relative.Pot has been legal since 2016 (apparently the
war on drugs, a roughly $500 billion a year enterprise, is no longer a top
priority), the same year that silver and gold was outlawed, and the Federal
Reserve, referred to only as The Fed (much like Big Brother) is the country’s
third attempt at a centralized banking system and it simply isn’t working.Desperate attempts by the aforementioned entity
to stabilize the economy via printing worthless paper money with nothing to
back it up except waning public trust is proving disastrous while managing home
prices has similar effects.
Jay, an arson investigator, is brought in
to determine the party responsible for the destruction of several homes in the Glenwood
Homes subdivision which is the property of the Strategic Housing Reserve.He meets the lead realtor at the Cornwall
Real Estate office and is intrigued by her assistant, Zoe, who agrees to meet
with him later and give him some information off the record.Their meeting proves to be fortuitous as Jay
is saved by Zoe when he is ambushed by henchmen looking to throw him off the
case.Zoe gives chase in her
mini-automobile that would make William Friedkin smile, effectively losing the
bad guys.She clearly has some sort of expert
training that the average realtor assistant would be oblivious to.It turns out that Zoe is a part of a group
that call themselves The Rebels who illegally mint tangible, silver coins (hence
the film’s title) in the hopes of stabilizing the financial health of the
While it might be easy to dismiss Silver Circle as just a story told
through the unorthodox platform of video game animation, the film’s message is
very real and serious and most certainly topical.Unlike contemporary action films that hit the
audience over the head with cuts so fast that there is little time to process, Silver Circle moves at a much more visually
manageable pace.It’s a film that has a
message, and it manages to both entertain and inform the audience.The film’s greatest strength lies in getting
the audience to think instead of just veg-out.
The film will begin touring the country starting
in New York on Friday, March 22nd.Click here on the film’s
official website to see where it is playing and read more about the film, the
characters, and the talented animators who brought Silver Circle to life.
'Star Trek' has been with
us now for almost fifty years. It has spawned five different incarnations on
television, ten official movies and soon the sequel to J.J. Abram's successful
reboot of the franchise will be in cinemas, titled Star Trek Into Darkness.
Gene Roddenberry's vision of an international, interstellar crew aboard a
gigantic spacecraft whose mission was simply to explore the universe has
touched millions of people and generated some almost alarming levels of
devotion and influence. One only has to look at the campaign to build a real
Starship Enterprise to see that this show is taken very seriously by many
But not everybody is well
versed in 'Star Trek' lore. Over the decades of boldly going through the galaxies
a massive amount of alien races, mythologies and technology has been devised to
keep the shows and movies interesting. Some of these are well known even
amongst non-Trekkies, with most people knowing the difference, say, between a
Klingon and a Vulcan. What what about the Jem'Hadar? Or the Yridians? Could you
name the home planet of the Xindi? Or explain how the Suliban Cabal became
genetically enhanced? Thankfully these questions and more can now be answered
without needing to trawl back through all those old 'Star Trek' tapes. If you
want to be more familiar with the 'Star Trek' universe in time for the new
movie, or just want to take a warp speed trip down memory lane, this new book
from D.K. guides you through each incarnation of the television series, from
the original 'Star Trek' through to 'The Next Generation', 'Voyager', 'Deep
Space Nine' and 'Enterprise'. Also included is information from the first ten
Aside from the
introduction by John De Lancie, who played the mysterious extra-dimensional Q
in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', there is no acknowledgement in here that
this is all fictional. The book acts as a glossary providing imagery and
information as though it was all real. This is fun for fans who may want to
check how to distinguish a Type-1 Phaser from a Type-2 Phaser, but a little
frustrating if you are more interested in the history and development of the
production from its inception. However, there are plenty of other books out
there which cover that side of the story. Where Star Trek: The Visual
Dictionary stands out is in its wealth of imagery, plenty of which is quite
rare, having only just been released from the CBS archives. The book is well
laid out and is something you can quite easily dip in and out of. You can
marvel at the intricacies of the designs and the imaginations of the show's
creators even if you can't find out who any of them were.
paraphrase Jonathan Rigby in his book English Gothic, horror is the one
genre that Britain can truly claim as its own. And whilst British horror cinema
is inextricably connected to gothic-tinged memories of Christopher Lee,
cobweb-strewn castles and buxom scream queens, M.J. Simpson points out in this
excellently researched tome that the face of British horror today offers far
appears to have taken on the Herculean task of watching every film that could
fit the broad definition of being British (not always easy to tell, with
funding and production often involving multiple countries), and being horror,
again something of a broad church. A lot of the films he describes, giving not
only plot synopses but reviews, production information and interview extracts,
sound utterly terrible. He seems to have sat through a staggering amount of punishingly
bad films so that we, the readers, don't have to. But along the way he has
stumbled across a significant number of excellent films, too, many of which
have escaped either critical or commercial attention.
the term British Horror Revival, Simpson offers a complete breakdown of the
twelve years covered, digging up each film and presenting them in the order
they received any kind of release. It is fascinating to see just how difficult
some filmmakers have getting distribution, often producing a film in the UK but
finding it only coming out on DVD in Japan or Australia. Many films manage a
few festival screenings before disappearing into obscurity, so Simpson is to be
praised for finding them again. Of course, some of them sound so terrible that
it does not seem that much of a pity, but others sound like genuine lost gems.
If horror is your thing, this book will have you scouring the internet looking
for DVD or download copies.
the filmmakers discussed are genuine talents like Jake West (Evil Aliens,
2006), Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes, 2006), Neil Marshall (The
Descent, 2005) and Danny Boyle, whose brilliant and devastating 28 Days
Later (2002) did much to raise the profile of the British Horror Revival
around the world. Amongst the more obscure entries you can find Beyond the
Rave (2008), a cheap teen-themed vampire horror co-produced by the newly
revived Hammer Films, which Cinema Retro covered extensively (and even appeared
in briefly!) here: http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php/archives/387-EXCLUSIVE-REPORT-FROM-THE-SET-OF-NEW-HAMMER-HORROR-FILM%21.html
is an extremely well-researched book, and M.J. Simpson's occasionally sarcastic
and exasperated tone is entertaining, even if it does give the impression that
he had regrets about this project once he had embarked on it. He has uncovered
some gems and revealed that there is a very active, mostly micro-budget British
film industry which gets frequently overshadowed by the Bonds, Harry Potters
and Richard Curtis rom-coms. It is a pity that aside from a few pages of colour
stills the majority of the imagery in the book is black and white. This is a
genre that is frequently soaked in the red stuff. The main gripe however has to
be the lack of an index or references. It is impossible to search for a
specific title unless you know the year it was released, and even then you have
to wade through the chapter concerned. The book could have served as a useful
reference guide, but instead it appears to have been designed to be read from cover
to cover. However, this is only a minor reservation. If you are interested in
the horror genre, or want to find out just how active dozens of British
filmmakers have are, this is a great read.
(Click here for on-line index of people mentioned in the book)
(Click here for on-line index of titles mentioned in the book)
Screen Archives has released Jerry Fielding's Oscar-nominated score for Sam Peckinpah's 1969 classic The Wild Bunch as a 3-CD special edition with the complete score, remastered soundtrack album and collector's booklet.
and arcane religious rituals wouldn’t seem to make for good filmed
entertainment. And yet, the Vatican’s papal election process – occurring again this
week to name a successor to Pope Benedict XVI – has been detailed in cinema almost
as many times as the more Hollywood-sounding subject of papal assassination
while the workings of the pontifical election conclave might not be surprising
in a religious film, they were even deemed dramatic enough for inclusion in The Godfather Part III. Yep, Francis
Ford Coppola’s 1990 crime epic takes a break between whackings to portray the
1978 conclave that elected the first Pope John Paul.
more impressive than the fact that cinema has depicted this process is the fact
that, on occasion, the movies seem to have gotten it right. When a papal
vacancy isn’t being used as a premise for a goofy comedy (witness 1991’s The Pope Must Diet!), the election process
is treated with seeming care and accuracy.
course, screenwriters can only base such scenes on the generally accepted
consensus of how the election conclave of cardinals works; no press members have
ever documented the proceedings first hand. No cameras have been allowed.
I’ve never heard of a [conclave member] writing a report of it,” says Bill
Ryan, spokesman for the United Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ryan says he
assumes screen treatments of the conclave are “working backward from the
document,” referring to On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of
the Roman Pontiff.
1968’s The Shoes of the Fisherman, which
chronicles the rise of fictional Pope Kiril I (Anthony Quinn), also benefited
from the technical consulting of Monsignor Adone Terzariol, an unofficial papal
advisor. The film is likely the tastemaking cinematic vision of the conclave,
the blueprint for other films’ depiction of the same.
Anthony Quinn in The Shoes of the Fisherman.
Shoes of the Fisherman – a twice-over
Oscar nominee – presents the pontifical election in fine detail. We see the cardinals
locked in the annex of the Sistine Chapel by the Marshal of the Conclave. Ballots
are cast, placed onto a plate, then dumped into a chalice. Wet straw is burned with
the ballots to produce black smoke, indicating a failure to elect a pontiff on
the first few days of voting. Canopies collapse overhead each cardinal not
elected pope after the new pontiff has accepted.
Shoes of the
uses a TV news journalist (played by David Janssen) as its exposition.
Janssen’s character is stationed outside St. Peter’s, giving very specific
play-by-play analysis. If the dry crime-lab films of the 1950s can be termed
“Police Procedurals,” the mid portion of Fisherman
is truly a Pontifical Procedural.
only does Shoes of the Fisherman
capture the rituals of the election in great detail, its election of a
fictional Russian pope foretells the coronation of Polish pope John Paul II,
the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
films The Pope Must Diet! and The Godfather Part III (neither of which
credit a religious technical advisor) seem to have borrowed Fisherman’s vision of the election
The Pope Must Diet!, about a schlubby
priest (Robbie Coltrane) who is accidentally coronated as Pope, does serve as a
reminder that the elected Pontiff need not be a cardinal attending the conclave.
could be any baptized male,” says Ryan. Other reports suggest it can be any
adult Roman Catholic.
The Pope Must Diet! covers many of the
rituals surrounding a papal succession – at least those rituals that serve as easy
fodder for cheap jokes. In Diet, the
deceased pope isn’t just tapped on the forehead with the silver papal hammer to
determine death, he’s given a good whack. Papal nominations are struck down on
the grounds of “He’s too fat!” And the cardinals are wanded with metal
detectors before entering the conclave (though this last joke isn’t too far off
the truth; the conclave is reportedly screened for bugging devices).
the 1984 telefilm Pope John Paul II
shows a side of the electoral conclave not covered in Shoes of the Fisherman. The Polish pope-to-be, portrayed by Albert
Finney, is seen in his sparsely furnished conclave quarters between election
days. Apparently, this is an accurate depiction, as each cardinal has a cell furnished
only with a bed, a crucifix, a table and chairs.
even movies that don’t detail the conclave can raise provocative points about
1972 film Pope Joan – about a rumored
female Pope that snuck in around 855 – is one of several films to feature a papal
election but that skips the rituals of the election process (2003’s Luther and 1981’s From a Far Country are others). But when Pope Joan’s infirm pontiff (Trevor Howard) suggests a successor on
his deathbed, it raises the question of whether an outgoing pope has ever tried
to name his replacement.
totally in the realm of speculation or fiction,” says Ryan.
it all might be, considering that only cardinals, sworn to secrecy, have
witnessed a papal election conclave. The closest depiction we may ever see is on
Films Depicting the Papal Enclave
Shoes of the Fisherman” (1968), with Anthony Quinn as fictional Pope Kiril I
John Paul II” (1983), with Albert Finney as Pope John Paul II
Godfather Part III” (1990), with Raf Vallone as Pope John Paul
Pope Must Diet!” (1991), with Robbie Coltrane as a fictional pope
Films Featuring the Election of a New Pope
Joan” (1972), with Liv Ullman as rumored female successor to Pope Leo IV
a Far Country” (1981), with Cezary Morawski as Pope John Paul II
(2003), with Uwe Ochsenknecht as Pope Leo X