was released by American International in 1976, just as the blaxploitation
sub-genre was pretty much tailing off and indeed when A.I.’s most prolific
years lay behind them. It was directed by Arthur Marks, best known to me for his
year earlier blaxploitation entry, Friday
Foster (headlining Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto), but also notable as
writer/director on early 70s drive-in fodder such as Bonnie’s Kids and The
opens with a fast-paced prologue set in 1942 New Orleans, during which a heated
argument in a meat-processing plant between Betty Jo Walker (Alice Jubert) and
Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard) culminates with him slitting her throat. The body
is discovered by her brother, scar-faced black-marketeer J.D. (David McKnight),
who’s mistaken for the killer by her boyfriend, Theotis’ brother Elija (Louis
Gossett), who promptly shoots J.D. dead. (Keeping up? This is the framework for
everything that follows.) We slingshot forward 34 years to present day and meet
Isaac ‘Ike’ Hendrix (Glynn Turman), cab driver by day, law student by night.
Out at a club with his girlfriend Christella (Joan Pringle) and some friends,
Ike gets up on stage to participate in a hypnosis act, but whilst he’s in a
trance his mind is infiltrated by the vengeful spirit of J.D. With increasing
frequency, the unhinged gangster intermittently seizes control of Ike, using
him as a tool to exact revenge upon Elija and Theotis, who’ve now moved up in
the world and – along with the former’s daughter Roberta (Jubert again) – are shamelessly
using a religious set-up as front for their criminal activities.
by Jaison Starks, J.D.’s Revenge is a
gritty serving of schlock with a supernatural slant, serving up a banquet of
graphic bovine slaughter, un-PC dialogue, scathingly sexist attitude and more
than a splash of Dulux-variety bloodshed. Yet although it’s staged competently
enough, it falls shy of joining the ranks of the more thrilling blaxploitationers,
in fact on a couple of occasions it almost crosses the line into parody; it’s
hard not to smirk when Ike takes to strutting around togged up in unflattering,
ill-fitting 1940s regalia, whilst his frenetic cavorting during the climactic
face-off is truly bizarre. The only thing that rescues it from descending into
silliness is the omnipresent streak of nastiness against which the unfolding
events are juxtaposed. Nowhere is this more prevalent than a scene in which Ike
drastically changes his hairstyle; he looks utterly ridiculous and Christella
tells him so, but any urge on the viewer’s part to laugh is swiftly quelled as
Ike brutally strikes her down and rapes her. It’s one of a handful of unforgivably
misogynistic scenes that hamper producer-director Marks’s movie. To play fair, hard
as it may be for a young 21st century audience to comprehend, in
1976 such material was perfectly acceptable and the makers would simply have been
feeding demand; viewed 40 years on, however, there’s no disputing that it’s archaic
and makes for uncomfortable viewing.
root, of course, Sparkes’s script is riffing on the hackneyed – though seldom
less than fun – Jekyll/Hyde formula, and
Turman does an excellent job of vacillating between the two diverse personas of
Ike and J.D. Nuances such as Ike absentmindedly running a finger across his
cheek where J.D. was scarred subtly add veracity to the notion he’s possessed.
Gossett meanwhile brings bags of energy to the table, particularly in the
scenes when he’s vigorously preaching to his flock, and both Pringle and Jubert
deliver admirable work. As an additional note on the cast, J.D.’s Revengefeatures what
was the second (and final) screen appearance of Ruth Kempf, who’d achieved
global recognition in her fleeting but memorable debut as novice pilot Mrs Bell
in Bond film Live and Let Die; it’s
fair to say, however, she’s left in far worse shape having crossed paths with
the possessed Ike than she was in the wake of her comparatively lightweight
encounter with 007!
The FX work,
when it isn’t bluntly quease-inducing, is nicely effective. Particularly striking
is an optical when Ike is stands before a shattered mirror and sees the
glowering visage of J.D. staring back at him.
The world of horror films lost two of its
most important and influential figures recently with the passing of filmmaking
geniuses George Romero and Tobe Hooper. Although the careers of these two great
artists can fill (and have filled) entire books, I’d like to briefly mention
their most important works and pay my respects to them both.
When I was around ten or eleven-years-old, I
had snuck out of bed late one night to watch some old movie on TV; a Tarzan
flick I think it was. In order to avoid waking my parents, I had to keep the
volume on the television set very low, but sit close to the set so that I could
hear. As I sat alone in my parents’ dark living room waiting patiently for the
commercials to end, a bunch of zombies appeared on the screen and quickly
lurched forward with their arms outstretched! I jumped back while
simultaneously screaming which, of course, woke my mom. Needless to say, I
never got to finish the Tarzan movie, but I made up for it by having my first
taste of the cinema of writer/director (and sometimes editor and actor) George
A. Romero; even if it was only a TV spot for his 1979 zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead.
Romero’s feature film debut, 1968’s immortal Night of the Living Dead, which was made
independently for the paltry sum of $114, 000, not only began his immensely
popular zombie series (six films which
lasted until 2009), but also singlehandedly created the entire zombie mythology
which is still being used today. As a matter of fact, anyone who has made a
zombie film after 1968 not only owes a debt to Romero, but a royalty check as
well. Night, which deals with the
dead returning to life as flesh-eating ghouls and surrounding an old farmhouse
filled with seven frightened and bickering humans who cannot get along, was
filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where Romero lived for much of his adult
life) and combines scares/graphic violence with social commentary; a formula
the master filmmaker would return to many times. The creepy, atmospheric and
nihilistic film reflects the turbulent time in which it was made and its
graphic tone was mainly inspired by the Vietnam War.
If I had to pick one film in the Romero canon
that I feel is an underrated masterwork, it would have to be his amazing, 1976,
modern-day vampire film Martin. This
enthralling piece of cinema, which Romero himself has said to be his favorite
of all the films he’s directed, concerns a shy and confused young man (excellently
portrayed by John Amplas) who may or may not be a vampire. Romero leaves this
up to the audience to decide. The master filmmaker also touches upon subjects
such as religious beliefs (both too strict and too casual), mental illness
(perhaps caused by a strict, religious upbringing), the healing/saving power of
love and understanding, disbelief in things that have yet to be proven, and how
such disbelief can allow someone/something dangerous to move about freely in
the world, just to name a few.
Although he is known for a plethora of
thoughtful and entertaining films (The
Crazies (1973), Creepshow,
Knightriders, Two Evil Eyes, The Dark Half, Bruiser, etc.), many of which
he made alongside special makeup effects master and longtime friend Tom Savini,
the pioneering Romero will forever be remembered for his series of scary,
gore-filled and thought-provoking zombie films.
If the word zombie has become synonymous with
George Romero, then there’s only one phrase that springs to mind whenever
someone mentions writer/director Tobe Hooper: “chain saw”. A native of Austin
Texas and a former college professor, Hooper’s name was put on the horror map
after the 1974 release of his now legendary, low-budget, living hell of a horror
movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; a
film about a crazed family who hunt, kill and eat humans (in this film, it’s a
group of hippie friends) in order to survive after “progress” has made them
obsolete. Chain Saw’s savagery was
inspired by violent Vietnam War news reports which Hooper would view nightly on
television. Few who saw this indie masterwork back in the day have ever
forgotten the absolutely shocking first appearance of the film’s central
villain, Leatherface (the late Gunnar Hansen); a cannibalistic, chain saw-wielding
killer who wore a mask made of human flesh. The terrifying film, which shows very
little onscreen gore, not only became an enormous hit which, to date, has
spawned four sequels, a remake and two prequels, but its influence on horror
cinema is immeasurable. A true artistic work, Chain Saw, which also stars the late Marilyn Burns and features
narration from John Larroquette, now has a permanent place at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York.
José R. Larraz’s 1982 film “Black Candles” -- original title, “Los
Ritos Sexuales del Diablo” -- has been released on Blu-ray by the specialty
label Code Red. Carol (Vanesa Hidalgo)
and her boyfriend Robert (Jeffrey Healey) fly to the U.K., where they accept an
invitation by her widowed sister-in-law Fiona (“Martha Belton,” aka Helga Liné)
to stay at Fiona’s country estate. As
the viewer already knows from a pre-credit sex scene, Fiona and virtually
everyone else on and around the estate are members of a devil-worshipping orgy
cult. But Carol and Robert are clueless,
even after they see satanic lithographs on the wall and Carol experiences bad
dreams. Fiona seduces Robert into the
coven, while the coven’s master, the sinisterly goateed Reverend
Hübner, decides to initiate Carol at the cult’s next satanic ceremony
. . . And that’s probably all anyone
needs or wants to know about the plot, which unabashedly copies “Rosemary’s
Baby” and adds all the nudity and simulated intercourse that Euro-movie fans
would expect from the relaxed censorship of early 1980s, low-budget
sexploitation cinema. Like Larraz’s
marginally more famous “Vampyres” (1974), it’s probably better judged against the
criteria of Joe Bob Briggs, “The Bare Facts Video Guide,” and “Mr. Skin” than
by mainstream critical standards. That
is: How many skin and sex scenes are in
the film? Where do they occur? How long, umm, do they last? And how much skin do they show? By those benchmarks, Larraz delivers the
goods. And for the record, his film at
least is more honest in meeting the viewer’s baser expectations than any of the
terrible sequels and remakes of “Rosemary’s Baby,” not least the now mercifully
forgotten 2014 TV miniseries. The only
actors in the cast likely to be recognized by anyone are Helga Liné, the foxy
leading lady of countless 1960s and ‘70s Eurospy films, spaghetti westerns,
giallo thrillers, and gladiator movies -- yes, she’s frequently nude in “Black
Candles,” and in sleek form at almost 50 -- and Carmen Carrión, a familiar
supporting actress in Jess Franco’s Eurotrash soft-core sex movies.
BCI Eclipse released “Black Candles” on DVD in the U.S. in 2007
as part of a “Welcome to the Grindhouse” double feature. Before that, there was a DVD-R pressing from
Midnight Video under Larraz’s original Spanish title. The Code Red hi-def Blu-ray in anamorphic,
1.78:1 widescreen is far superior to either in sharpness and clarity, and
likely the best home video edition we’ll ever see. The BCI Eclipse DVD lists an 85 minute
running time, and Code Red lists 82 minutes for its Blu-ray. Based on a comparison viewing, however, the
two editions seem to be substantially the same. The opening credits of the Code Red print give the title as “Hot
Fantasies,” once used for late-night cable showings. The only extras are other Code Red
trailers. The Code Red Blu-ray, which
retails for $24.95, is available from Screen Archives Entertainment HERE.
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it to The Criterion Collection to present a jaw-dropping, eye-popping Blu-ray
release of Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece that many critics have called one
of the most beautiful films ever made. While the picture received many
accolades upon its initial release, including Oscar nominations for Picture,
Director, Adapted Screenplay—and wins for Cinematography, Production Design,
Costumes, and Adapted Score—it was again one those Kubrick films that was
controversial and misunderstood at first. It was not a financial success in the
U.S., and yet today it’s considered one of the auteur’s greatest works.
such titles as Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, it may have seemed
to be an odd choice for Kubrick to make a picture such as Barry Lyndon. One must look back to the period between 2001 and Clockwork to understand it. Kubrick had wanted to make an epic
movie about Napoleon and, in fact, spent two years in pre-production on it
before MGM got cold feet and pulled the plug. The director changed studios (to
Warner Brothers) and shot Clockwork cheaply
and quickly to prove that he could make them some money—and he did. So what was
he to do with all the previous research materials he had amassed for the
Napoleon project? He satisfied his desire to study the past by adapting an 18th
Century novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (The Luck of Barry Lyndon) so that he could tell a tale about class
dichotomy, ambition, greed, and hubris.
the beginning, Kubrick wanted to take an audience back to late 1770s England
and Ireland to demonstrate exactly what
it was like to live then. The authenticity he strove to achieve consisted of commissioning
a NASA lens so fast that it was capable of filming by candlelight (as well as utilizing
only natural light throughout the production), employing real clothing from the
period, and shooting at real locations where this past still existed. The
results are breathtakingly gorgeous renditions of English and Irish
countrysides and majestic, elegant manors. All of this surrounds the precise
depiction of the manners of an aristocracy that hasn’t been seen on screen
before or since.
O’Neal, who was at the time of production still a box-office star, was cast as
Barry, at first a naïve Irish boy who allows heartbreak and jealousy to shape
his future endeavors to elevate his social standing. He learns quickly that to
get ahead in society he must be a bit of a rogue, a schemer, a liar, and a cad.
The first half of the little-over-three-hour picture documents Barry’s rise to
prominence. After the intermission, we witness his resounding fall from grace.
story is told with Kubrick’s keen sense of irony—in
fact, no other filmmaker has had such a firm ability to elicit this very
difficult blend of satire, causticness, and paradox. You find it in all of his
pictures, but Barry Lyndon literally exudes it. This is accomplished in no
small part by the detached and slightly amused voice-over narration by Michael
the movie is slowly paced—as it should be. Things moved slower in the 1700s.
There is a stateliness and pageantry to the proceedings that is entirely
appropriate to the setting, but also to the overall message of the film—that
despite the airs one puts on to impress, underneath we’re all still human and
pretty much the same.
aspect of the production is about as perfect as it can get. John Alcott’s
cinematography, Ken Adam’s production design, Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund’s
costumes, and the musical score, adapted by Leonard Rosenman and consisting of
classical pieces and traditional folk material performed by the Chieftains, all
combine to transport the viewer into an age of great beauty and yet cold,
Criterion Blu-ray is a 4K digital restoration that looks magnificent, and this
is accompanied by an uncompressed monaural soundtrack as well as an alternate
5.1 surround soundtrack. The music, as well as every birdsong and musket shot,
sounds clean, clear, and vibrant.
entire second disk contains the plentiful supplements that will take a few
hours to get through. The main attraction is “Making Barry Lyndon,” a new documentary that features audio excerpts from
a 1976 interview with Kubrick about the movie, appearances by executive
producer Jan Harlan, the director’s daughter Katharina Kubrick (who also
appears as an extra in the film), and other members from the cast and crew (no
Ryan O’Neal, though). There are separate featurettes on each of the technical
aspects—cinematography; production design; costumes; editing; music; and the
fine art of the period from which Kubrick and the designers drew inspiration.
An interview with author/critic Michael Ciment focuses on the themes in the
director’s works and how they relate to Lyndon.
There are two theatrical trailers. The thick booklet enclosed in the package contains
an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and vintage, illustrated pieces from American Cinematographer.
short, Barry Lyndon is a remarkable
piece of cinema that is unfortunately underrated by the general public. It deserves
a spot alongside Stanley Kubrick’s other acknowledged “masterpieces.” The new
Criterion edition is just the way to see it and perhaps rediscover this
brilliant work of art.
Our friends at Park Circus invited us to a preview
of The Shining, which is returning to
the big screen this Halloween for limited screening in 100 theatres. This is
where the film really should be seen.
I first saw The Shining, under age, in my local cinema where the kindly staff
used to let us watch X Cert films from the stalls which were closed to the
public. At the time The Shining really
didn’t have the impact of Friday The 13th
to my 13 year old self. Certain images did stay with me obviously, this was Kubrick
after all, but the one thing I do remember was that the image from the poster
of Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” moment terrified my younger sister and I
used to put the poster up just to scare her. Boys, eh? Over the years I’ve re-watched The Shining several times and each time
it’s become more and more of a favourite. This is an adult film, dealing with
adult themes and it’s a lot different watching the terror of the young boy Doc as
a parent, rather than being closer in age to the character, as I was then. What
I also gleaned from this screening was how important sound is in this film and
this new print really does justice to the look and aural experience Kubrick
strove to achieve.
There were many points that stood out that
I’d missed on TV and DVD viewings, such as the aforementioned use of sound when
one of the protagonists is “Shining” or indeed the use of mirrors throughout
the film; whole scenes where the character’s reflections address the camera, T
shirt logo’s in reverse, which pre- empt the famous use of the words REDRUM
later in the film.
The film was trailered by the short but interesting new documentary Work & Play. This accompanying film
concentrates on the stories of the actual people involved with the production, whereas
other documentaries have concentrated of the enigma of Kubrick and the film
itself, such as Room 247. Here we
have interviews with the film’s iconic twins who are just as fascinating to
look at today and still talk in unison- obviously even off the camera, as well
as those who rightly intone that “95% of films are forgotten but the ones that
fall into that 5% are the great ones, the ones that remain”. So does The
Shining fall into that 5%? As far as horror movies go, yes. Like a great
wine, The Shining gets better with
age, both in look and standing. Although Jack Nicholson’s performance has been pastiched
many times, it still stands up as one of the best examples of a man falling
into madness ever to cross the silver screen. Although Steadycam camera shots
had been used in horror a couple of years earlier (i.e John Carpenter’s Halloween), they have never been utilized
better than the scenes of Danny or “Doc”, the boy who can shine, as he races
through the Overlook Hotel’s corridors. Again, this is another example of the
use of soundscape, as the child’s bike wheels jar from hard floor to carpet in
the same way a heartbeat quickens when you approach something dreadful.
The wonderful touches such as Doc wearing an Apollo
NASA T shirt alluding to the fact that Kubrick was supposed to have been the
director of the “faked” moon landings just add to the fascination of this film.
The documentary shows that the working title was “The Shine” and that is exactly what this film will continue to do.
I’d be interested to see what Stephen King thinks of the movie now after
famously disliking it for so many years. Whatever the case, this is a landmark
work and whatever one thinks of the finished product, it’s clear that King wrote
a timeless source novel and Kubrick developed it into a classic film. This is
the perfect time of year to see for yourself, thanks to Park Circus. Let it
CLICK HERE FOR LIST OF INTERNATIONAL CINEMAS SHOWING THE FILM
Tim Hunter’s “River’s Edge” (1987), high-school student John (Daniel Roebuck)
tells his pals Matt, Layne, Clarissa, and Maggie that he’s killed another
friend, Jamie.The other kids don’t
believe him -- he makes the statement with complete lack of emotion -- until he
takes them down by the river and shows them the body.The revelation stymies the teens.As Hunter observes in his commentary track on
the new Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition of the film, “These are kids who just don’t
have the tools to make the tough choices life has thrown their way. . . . No
one has taught them morals or values.”Their parents are either dead like John’s, absent like Matt’s father, or
helpless like Matt’s divorced, stressed out mother.
(Crispin Glover) argues that there’s nothing they can do for Jamie now, and
they have to be loyal to John. He tries
to cover up the crime by rolling Jamie’s corpse into the river, and advises
John to lay low at the run-down house of their pot dealer, Feck, a crippled
ex-biker (Dennis Hopper), until he can sneak out of town. Maggie (Roxana Zal) and Clarissa (Ione Skye,
billed as Iona Skye Leitch) make a half-hearted attempt to report the murder
before changing their minds. Only Matt
(Keanu Reeves) shows any sustained remorse over Jamie’s death. He goes to the police, setting up a tense
series of events as the cops look for John, Feck and John wander back to the
river, and Layne tries to figure out who snitched. Like the events of two other seminal teen
movies, “American Graffiti” (1973) and “Dazed and Confused” (1993), the action
stretches into nighttime and into the following morning. In the meantime, Matt’s little brother Tim
(Joshua Miller), angry at Matt for hitting him after Tim callously upsets their
younger sister Kim, steals a gun from Feck’s house and determines to use it on
and visually bleak, “River’s Edge” benefits from a strong script by Neal
Jimenez and uniformly fine performances, with Reeves, Glover, and Hopper
notably compelling. Reeves’ pensive,
low-key presence effectively balances Glover’s jumpy, gawky physicality.
“There’s a great method to Crispin’s madness,” Hunter observes in his
commentary track. Glover is particularly
striking in a display of grief near the end of the movie, aligning vocal
reaction and body posture perfectly. To
say more would reveal a spoiler, but you’ll know the scene when you see
it. Skye and Zal have one of the best
moments in the film, providing some subtle macabre humor as Clarissa and Maggie
debate reporting the murder and go to a pay phone:
do I call anyway?”
police, I guess.”
am I supposed to know the number?”
holds the receiver indecisively. “You do
don’t know what to say. Here, I’ll dial,
his commentary track, Hunter compliments Danyi Deats, who plays the murdered
Jamie. Aside from a silent flashback to
the moment of Jamie’s murder, Deats’ scenes call for her to lie still on the
open ground as the dead girl’s corpse, vulnerably and frontally nude. “She had a tough time,” Hunter says
sympathetically, commenting that Deats took the pivotal but static role to get
her SAG card. Jamie’s motionless, waxen
corpse mirrors two other objects in the film: Feck’s inflatable sex doll, which
he calls “Ally,” and little Kim’s doll which Tim vindictively throws off a
bridge into the river in the film’s opening shot. Tim’s action begins the string of events that
lead him to stalk Matt with a gun. It’s
telling that Kim shows more feeling for her lost doll and Feck for his sex toy
than Jamie’s friends display for her.
The 1980s details of
“River’s Edge” look a little quaint today, when the 24/7 media give parents new
reasons to worry about their kids with headlines and top-of-the-hour stories
about teens sexting and swapping explicit selfies by smartphone. Nevertheless, the movie’s story and characters
remain unsettling. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray’s hi-def, 1920x1080p image is serviceable. Besides the director’s commentary track, the
disc includes a theatrical trailer.
Sometimes we should just let the music do the editorializing. Just sit back and relish the greatness of John Barry's 1969 main theme for "Midnight Cowboy" and ponder why we don't hear music like this in contemporary cinema.
Knott’s suspense play “Wait Until Dark” premiered on Broadway on Feb. 2,
1966. Lee Remick played Susy Hendrix, a
young blind woman who becomes the target of a manipulative scheme orchestrated
by a sinisterly glib psychopath, “Harry Roat Jr. from Scarsdale.” Robert Duvall, in his Broadway debut, had the
pivotal supporting role of Roat. A movie
version opened on Oct. 26, 1967, starring Audrey Hepburn (in an Oscar-nominated
performance) as Susy and Alan Arkin as
Roat, produced by Mel Ferrer (Hepburn’s husband at the time), directed by
Terence Young, and scored by Henry Mancini. A predecessor of today’s popular, trickily plotted suspense movies like
“Gone Girl” (2014) and “The Girl on the Train” (2016), the film was a
commercial and critical success, ranking number sixteen in box-office returns
for the year. Movies
adapted from plays often feel stage-bound, but "Wait Until Dark"
avoids those constraints, thanks in no small part to Young's fine
pacing, sharp eye for detail, and sure grasp of character.
Crowther’s October 27, 1967, film review in the New York Times noted that the
Radio City Music Hall screening of “Wait Until Dark” included a stage show with
a ballet troupe, performing dogs, and the Rockettes. Fifty years later, going out to a movie,
you’re lucky to get a good seat and decently lit projection for the price of
admission. Any live entertainment comes
courtesy of the patrons behind you who can’t put away their smartphones for two
play was confined to one interior set, Susy’s cramped Greenwich Village
apartment, which makes it a perennial favorite for little-theater and
high-school drama productions on limited budgets. The movie adds a new opening scene in which
Susy’s husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), a freelance photographer, meets an
attractive young woman, Lisa, as they board a flight from Montreal. When they land at JFK, Lisa hands Sam a
child’s doll and asks him to hold on to it for her temporarily. She says it’s a present for the child of a
friend, she just learned that the friend and the little girl will be meeting
her at the airport, and she doesn’t want to spoil the surprise; she’ll call and
come by for it later. Unknown to the
obliging Sam, it’s a phony story: Lisa is a drug mule, and narcotics are hidden
inside the doll.
had planned to double-cross her accomplice Roat and split the money from the
drug shipment with Mike (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston), her
partners in past criminal schemes. Roat
murders Lisa and enlists Mike and Carlino to help him find the doll in Susy and
Sam’s apartment. He lures Sam away with
a call promising a big photo assignment. In his absence, Mike poses as an old Army friend of Sam’s, and Carlino
impersonates a detective investigating Lisa’s murder. In a bad guy/good guy ploy, the phony
“Detective Sgt. Carlino” insinuates that he suspects Sam of Lisa’s murder. Mike intervenes, offering his support to Susy
to gain her trust. To further disorient
Susy, Roat poses as two men who appear to lend credence to the con. “Harry Roat Sr.,” an aggressive old man,
barges into the apartment, noisily claiming to be in search of evidence that
Lisa, his daughter-in-law, carried on a clandestine affair with Sam. Later, mild-mannered “Harry Roat Jr.” knocks
on the door and apologizes for his “father’s” outburst. It’s a nice gimmick for Alan Arkin, who gets
to impersonate three characters with different costumes and personalities. For audiences who watched the Broadway
production, it might also have provided an effective “Aha!” moment when they
realized that there was only one Roat, not three. But it’s no surprise for the movie audience,
since close-up camera angles make it clear immediately that the other two are
also Arkin in heavy make-up.
new Blu-ray release of “Wait Until Dark” from Warner Archive Collection
presents the movie in a 1080p print for high-def TV. It’s a definite improvement in richness from
previous TV and home-video prints. The
tailor-made audience is likely to be those older viewers who saw the film on
the big screen in 1967, who may wonder if the movie’s “gotcha” climax still
holds up. Suffice to say without
spoiling the scene for new viewers by going into details, it does. The film’s stage origins are obvious in the dialogue-driven
plot set-up and in the constrained setting of one cramped apartment. The measured exposition may be a hurdle for
younger viewers used to a faster pace and visual shorthand, but the
concentration of character interplay in a closed space isn’t necessarily a
problem, even for Millennials who have been conditioned to expect ADHD editing
and splashy FX in movies. It imposes a
sense of claustrophobia that subtly forces the audience to share Susy’s
mounting fear of being hemmed in and trapped.
“Take a Look in the Dark,” an eight-minute special feature ported over to the
Blu-ray from a 2003 Warner Home Video DVD release, Alan Arkin notes that the
psychotic Roat, with his granny-frame sunglasses and urban-hipster patter, was
a break from the usual sneering, buttoned-down movie and TV villains of the
time. “By and large, the public had not
been exposed to that kind of person,” he recalls. “But they began to have people like that live
next to them, or see them in the newspapers or on TV.” Ironically, if Roat was unsettling to 1967
audiences, he and his flick knife may seem insufficiently scary for younger
viewers today, in the endless wake of movies and TV shows about flamboyantly
demented murderers since “The Silence of the Lambs” (1990) -- not to mention
the perpetrators of real-life mass murders that, numbingly, we seem to see
every night on CNN, network, and local news.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will present two live accompaniment presentations of "An American in Paris" on November 25 at the Performing Arts Center in Newark and on November 26 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Here is the official description:
"Fall in love with Paris all over again! Watch this 1951
classic film, starring Gene Kelly as a former American GI who falls for
Parisian Leslie Caron, on the big screen while the NJSO plays the score live.
Memorable songs of George and Ira Gershwin—including “Embraceable You,” “Nice
Work If You Can Get It,” “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful” and “Our Love is Here
to Stay”—plus captivating dancing from the two charismatic stars will
deliver an unforgettable experience for movie lovers!"
After each performance, conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos will hold a discussion about the art of playing live to a film presentation.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents this rare 1960 eleven minute industry promotional short that was sent to theater managers to explain the innovative ways they could promote Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". Hitchcock personally oversaw the construction of the unique campaign that intentionally made seeing the film a status symbol. No one was admitted after the movie had started and large lines of ticket holders waited patiently for the next screening. Theater fronts and lobbies were decorated with extravagant advertising materials and Hitchcock himself provided recorded announcements to keep the crowds entertained. When no studio agreed to give "Psycho" the green light, Hitchcock financed the movie himself on a shoestring budget using many of the people who were working with him on his weekly T.V. series. The film became one of the top-grossers of all time and netted Hitchcock a fortune.
They may be dinosaurs but there are still drive-in theaters hanging in there, mostly in rural America. Travel+Leisure has provided a list of the drive-ins that represent the best in the nation. Click here to read.
Curtiss (Robert Blake) aspires to be a champion stock-car racer.Fired from his job as a mechanic and
dirt-track competitor in small-town Bates, Texas, he abandonshis wife Peggy Jo (Charlotte Rampling) and
their two small children, collects his pal Buddy (Chris Connelly) and heads
east in his 1966 Barracuda.His
destination: NASCAR’s Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he hopes to hook up with
the legendary Richard Petty.Corky met
the great Petty once, fleetingly, and he anticipates that the racing champ will
remember him and offer him a chance at the big time.
but interesting and relentlessly downbeat, “Corky” (1972) veers off into
unexpected turns as Blake’s troubled character pursues his chicken-fried
odyssey from Texas to Georgia. Ben
Johnson and Laurence Luckinbill appear prominently in the credits, but they
have hardly more than bit parts as rural racing impresarios whom Corky briefly
meets as he passes through Louisiana. A
scene with Pamela Payton-Wright as a fading and not-too-bright beauty queen,
and one with Paul Stevens as a sympathetic track manager in Atlanta, don’t go quite
as you might expect them to. Four NASCAR
stars (Cale Yarborough, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Buddy Baker) appear in a
brief scene. Waiting hopefully to meet
Petty in the NASCAR offices at the Atlanta speedway, Corky spies the four
drivers through a soundproof glass wall in an adjacent room. As Corky waves, Yarborough glances at him,
then turns away, and the other three appear not to notice him at all. The racers’ body language suggests that
they’re preoccupied with planning for an upcoming meet, and not intentionally
dismissive, but one wonders whether, today, NASCAR would insist on a
fan-friendlier scene. Back home, Peggy
Jo goes to Corky’s old boss Randy (Patrick O’Neal) to see if her husband is due
any back pay that she desperately needs. Convention suggests that the older man will put the moves on the pretty,
vulnerable girl. Instead, he’s a decent
guy sympathetic to Peggy Jo’s plight. He
gives her a check for her husband’s back wages and additional “severance pay”
without strings. The biggest surprise
among surprises is Rampling, who is believable and appealing in her atypical
role. She even manages a decent Texas
“Corky” was one of the MGM productions in the early ‘70s that suffered at the
hands of imperious studio chief James Aubrey. One suspects that some of the film’s shortcomings, such as uneven pace
and ragged continuity, and maybe the quick disappearances of Johnson and
Luckinbill, were results of Aubrey’s post-production intrusion. Other lapses, like the miscasting of O’Neal
and Connelly, good actors in wrong roles, probably not. Robert Blake’s performance is all over the
place: abrasively pugnacious one moment, infantile and maudlin the next. Like the downward spiral of the story, which
finally drops Corky as low as he can go, without redemption, Blake’s rawness is
a reminder of the bygone cinema of the early ‘70s, where happy endings were
hardly ever the norm and volatile actors were expected and even encouraged to
get in the viewer’s face. Sometimes,
watching today’s sanitized and exhaustingly upbeat products from Hollywood, I
miss the old days.
is a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R from Warner Archive Collection. The letterboxed, 2.35:1 image is
satisfactory. The film’s theatrical
trailer is the only extra. I wasn’t
familiar with “Corky” before putting the disc in the player, but apparently the
movie has a small but appreciative fan base of viewers who remember it from
long-ago drive-in and TV showings. They
should be particularly pleased that Warner Home Video has released the title.
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Warner Archive Collection has released John Landis’ “Innocent Blood” (1992) in
a new, remastered Blu-ray edition. The
Blu-ray incorporates two minutes of footage that appeared in overseas prints
but were not included in previous U.S. releases. The film opens with a montage of the
Pittsburgh skyline after dark, scored with Jackie Wilson’s lush 1960 ballad,
“Night.” French vampire Marie (Anne
Parillaud, in a lengthy nude scene) sits alone in her hotel room, deliberating
on where to find her next sanguinary meal. She opens a newspaper to an article about a local Mafia crew headed by
Sal “The Shark” Macelli and smiles: “I
thought -- what about Italian?” She
allows herself to be picked up by one of Sal’s henchmen, Tony (Chazz
Palminteri), whose CD player is loaded with Sinatra discs. Just as Tony thinks she’s going to have sex
with him, she chomps into his throat and drinks his blood -- no dainty bites
here, she does a job on his neck -- and then, having satisfied her thirst, she
obliterates his head with a shotgun blast. The massive cranial damage prevents Tony from coming back as a vampire
himself. Marie also thinks that the
blast will cover her tracks by leading police to believe that Tony was murdered
by rival mobsters (but the forensics guy who later examines the scene figures
out that the blood splatter from the shotgun is smaller than it should be --
“this guy was five quarts low.”) Marie
chooses Sal (Robert Loggia) as her next victim, but she’s interrupted and
forced to flee after biting him.
dead and taken to the mortuary, the blood-soaked Sal climbs off the gurney and
searches out his gang, turning them into vampires too. “We got the blood. We got the muscle. We’ll crack this town like a lobster,” he
boasts, energized by the super strength he’s developed as one of the
Undead. One of his victims is his sleazy
lawyer Manny, played by Don Rickles. The
stunt casting doesn’t disappoint, particularly if you’re a fan of late insult
comic. The remorseful Marie enlists wary
undercover cop Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to help her hunt down the gangsters and
do away with them before they can inflict more damage. Joe has a personal stake, so to speak, in
bringing down Sal, Undead or not, whom he’d been close to busting in an earlier
assignment. Moreover, he’s sexually and
romantically attracted to Marie (this is Anne Parillaud, after all). But, knowing she’s a vampire, he’s worried
that he’ll be her next appetizer.
Blood” opened in theaters on September 25, 1992, and earned a relatively paltry
$4.9 million in its brief theatrical run, far outpaced by another release that
debuted on the same day, Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans.” In the years since, it’s slipped into
obscurity on cable and home video, probably remembered only by compulsive
horror fans and John Landis completists. The new Warner BRD at the correct 1.78:1 aspect ratio presents the film
in peak condition, looking substantially better than it has on any previous
home video edition. In fact, it’s
probably an upgrade over the way it looked in most theaters on first release,
given the slipshod maintenance of projector bulbs in the average suburban
multiplex, then and now. The impeccable
hi-def visuals are particularly impressive in Mac Ahlberg’s on-location
exterior shots in Pittsburgh, with their electrifyingly vivid nighttime neons. Setting the movie in Pittsburgh doesn’t serve
any particular dramatic purpose story-wise, but it gave Landis and the studio a
tax credit from Pennsylvania’s Hollywood-friendly department of revenue, and
locals will get a kick out of seeing the Liberty Tunnel and other area
chiller-thriller from the pen of Brian Clemens, 1971's See No Evil was a
notably lower-key affair for director Richard Fleischer, former helmer on such
celebrated cinematic epics as The Fantastic Voyage, Doctor Doolittle, Tora!
Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Which isn't to imply See No Evil is
inferior. Quite the contrary, in fact.
blind after a horse-riding accident, Sarah (Mia Farrow) moves in with her Aunt
and Uncle, Betty and George Rexton (Dorothy Alison and Robin Bailey) and her
cousin Sandy (Diane Grayson) at their opulent riverside home. Familiar with the
geography of the sprawling house, Sarah is able to confidently go about coping with
her disability. Arriving home after spending the day with an old boyfriend, local
horse breeder Steve (Norman Eshley), Sarah believes the family to be out for
the evening and prepares for bed, unaware that in her absence all three have
been brutally murdered. She eventually stumbles upon the bodies and encounters
the mortally wounded gardener (Brian Robinson) whose dying words warn her that
the killer is certain to return to retrieve a damning piece of evidence he carelessly
legendary Brian Clemens is probably best known as producer-writer on classic TV
show The Avengers, but he was also the mind behind a batch of very fine Brit
movie chillers, among them And Soon the Darkness, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, the latter which he also directed. His script
for See No Evil is an efficient little knuckle-whitener, questionable perhaps
only in the motivations of its wrongdoer. Is watching a couple of X-certificate
movies – in the opening scene the killer-to-be, face unseen, leaves a cinema screening
‘The Convent Murders’ and ‘Rapist Cult’ (both fictitious) – and getting one’s gaudy
cowboy boots splashed by a passing car really sufficient impetus for a murder
spree? Of course, no-one expects the bad guy in this type of movie to be sane,
but the heavy-handed message during the opening credits sequence that society’s
glorification of violence is the cause for what follows is pretty tenuous.
any event, See No Evil (which I first saw on late night TV as Blind Terror, its
original UK theatrical release title) is less of a tawdry exploitationer than
it might have been, making up for any perceived deficiency in that regard with
a goodly infusion of nerve-jangling suspense. Indeed, Fleischer and Clemens aim
for burgeoning ill-ease as opposed to gory spectacle and for my money they hit
the target square on. There are occasional moments of nastiness peppered
throughout – the sudden reveal of Sandy’s corpse, a haunting shot of George
immersed in a bathtub of bloody water – but they're fleeting and it’s fair to say
the film works primarily as an exercise in measured pacing and sustained
suspense. Take for example a protracted sequence in which Sarah goes about her daily
routine unaware that she's just feet away from the dead bodies of her family.
Throughout this stretch Fleischer toys mercilessly with the audience and Gerry
Fisher's cinematography really comes into its own as we're treated to a series
of impressive tracking shots, each homing in on a dropped or discarded item,
increasingly telegraphing the sense that something bad has happened, until the
eventual reveal of the Rextons’ corpses. Of course whilst we, the audience,
witness all this – including broken glass on the kitchen floor (which we just know
will be trodden on at some point and, in a wince-inducing moment, it is) –
poor, sightless Sarah sees none of it. Once she finally realises what's
happening the pace quickens and the story mutates into an extended game of cat
and (blind) mouse. There's a beautifully framed instance of tease when our
cowboy-booted killer climbs a flight of stairs; Sarah stands foreground, hidden
from him, and the camera circles so that whilst it remains focused on her it
simultaneously observes the killer's ascent. One can't help but strain to see
the face that remains tantalisingly out of shot! If the suspense loses momentum
a tad when Sarah's plight changes from being pursued by the murderer to an
unexpected ordeal instigated by a latecomer to the party, well, it's only a
UK release poster.
with any murder mystery worth its mettle there's a proliferation of suspects on
hand too – a gypsy encampment just down the lane from the Rexton abode offers
up a whole shoal of red herrings – and it’s not too surprising that one's eye
is frequently drawn to inspect a character’s footwear.
Farrow conveys blindness convincingly and Norman Eshley makes for a suitably
handsome hero, whilst Lila Kaye and a surly Michael Elphick stand out among the
myriad of gypsies. It’s nice to see Paul Nicholas and Christopher Matthews in
small but not insignificant roles. Elmer Bernstein furnishes the proceedings
with a lush score, although rather amusingly he can't help slipping into The
Magnificent Seven territory during a sequence when Sarah and Steve are out
riding on horseback.
Bava’s Gli invasori or The
Invaders (1961) was imported to U.S. theaters in 1963 by American
International Pictures in a dubbed print as Erik
the Conqueror -- not to be confused now with Terry Jones’ 1989 farce, Erik the Viking. It was the sort of genre movie that would
have played on a weekend double-bill at the Kayton, the second-run theater in
my home town. There, it would have been
paired either with another Italian peplum
or sword-and-sandal epic, with a Hammer Films horror show, or with an Audie
Murphy western. The Kayton’s 1960s
double features were eclectic, to say the least. In that buttoned-down Cold War era, the peplums satisfied international box-office demand for movies about brawny
bare-chested heroes, curvaceous scantily-clad women, and exotic settings that
Hollywood productions like Quo Vadis
(1951), Ben-Hur (1959), and Cleopatra (1964) were slow to satisfy
because they were so expensive and time-consuming to produce. The model for Erik the Conqueror was Richard Fleischer’s very popular 1958 epic The Vikings, produced by and starring
Kirk Douglas. The influence must have
been obvious at the time even to undiscriminating audiences who watched the
dubbed import at the Kayton and its counterparts in other small towns. But The
Vikings required an investment of $5 million in 1950s dollars from Douglas’
Bryna Productions and its partners to pay for A-list Hollywood talent and
on-location filming in Norway. Bava
wrapped Erik the Conqueror for a
fraction of that cost using existing studio interiors, exteriors on the Italian
coast, a modest cast, and ingenious camera tricks that obviated the need for
hiring thousands of extras for crowd scenes and constructing new sets.
International’s 1963 movie poster played the film for exploitative value. “He lived only for the flesh and the sword!”
the tag line proclaimed. The British
poster under the title The Invaders
similarly advertised, “He lusted for war and women.” Both ads suggested more sex and skin than the
script, costuming, and actors actually delivered. Like The
Vikings, Erik the Conqueror
centers on two antagonists who don’t realize at the outset that they’re
brothers. Dispatched by English King
Lotar (Franco Ressel) to negotiate peace with the Viking chief Harald, the
treacherous Sir Rutford (Andrea Checchi) instead attacks Harald’s village,
massacres Harald and most of his people, and engineers Lotar’s murder. Harald’s young sons are separated in the
chaos. Eron is rescued and carried to
Norway, while Erik is adopted by the now-widowed English queen, Alice. Twenty years later, colluding with Rutford,
Eron (Cameron Mitchell) leads an invasion of England and sinks an English
warship commanded by Erik, now the Duke of Helford. Kidnapping Queen Alice, Eron installs Rutford
as his regent. In the meantime, Erik
(George Ardisson) is shipwrecked among the Vikings. In a romantic misunderstanding, Erik mistakes
Eron’s bride, the Vestal Virgin Daya (Ellen Kessler), for his own sweetheart,
Daya’s twin sister Rama (Alice Kessler). The Vestal Virgins are an anachronism in the Medieval setting, but the
conceit gave the producers a chance to include dancing girls in diaphanous
gowns to pique the attention of male viewers. Once the misunderstanding with Rama is squared away, Erik rescues the
queen and proceeds to a showdown with Eron and the turncoat Rutford.
Video in the U.K. has released a new, 2K restored print of Erik the Conqueror from the original 35 mm camera negative in a
Blu-ray and DVD combo package. The new
release provides a renewed opportunity to reassess Bava’s movie in a sharp,
letterboxed 2.35:1 Dyaliscope image, with critical context provided by
supplementary materials. Rescued from
the drab, pan-and-scan format to which it was doomed in old TV and VHS
editions, and enhanced even beyond Anchor Bay’s worthy 2007 DVD edition, it
emerges as an acceptable B-movie with respectable costuming and action
scenes. The production values are
notably better than those of most peplums
and easily comparable to those of Hollywood’s second-tier Technicolor epics of
the 1950s, if not to the overall finesse of higher-profile releases like The Vikings and Jack Cardiff’s lively,
underrated Norse epic from 1964, The Long
Ships. Plot, dialogue, and
characterizations are rudimentary, but then, so are those in the joyless,
overstuffed, multi-million-dollar costume epics of recent vintage. At that, some of the sillier lines in Bava’s
movie can be avoided by turning on the Blu-ray’s Italian voice track and
English subtitles instead of the English-language dub with its alternately
wooden and childish voices. The
simple-minded dialogue in Gladiator
(2003), Robin Hood (2010), and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
is pretty much inescapable short of turning the volume completely off.
year 1987 saw the release of director Steve De Jarnatt’s debut feature, Cherry
2000, an actioner planted in a dystopian future. A strong headlining
performance from Melanie Griffith aside, it’s not a particularly remarkable
film, but I liked it when I first saw it and still do. However, De Jarnatt’s
second offering, which he also wrote, is a different beast altogether: A unique
and intoxicating cinematic nightmare. Where else but in Miracle Mile can you
see a fledgling romance play out against the countdown to the apocalypse?
strolling around a museum in Los Angeles, Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards) and
Julie Peters (Mare Winninghan) cross paths several times. They get talking and
it’s evident there’s a mutual attraction between the two lonely hearts. Having
arranged an after-midnight date with Julie when her waitressing shift at an
all-night diner on L.A.’s Miracle Mile finishes, Harry decides to take a nap.
But his alarm fails to go off and he’s late – almost 4 hours late in fact.
Julie has unsurprisingly given up and gone home. He tries to call her from a
phone booth outside the diner but gets no reply. As he walks away the phone
rings and he returns to answer it. Believing Harry to be someone else, a
distraught man’s voice informs him he’s at a silo in North Dakota from where
nuclear missiles are set to be launched in less than an hour, with reprisals
targeting L.A. expected to follow minutes later...
Mile’s opening scenes introduce its two instantly likeable protagonists and
swiftly lay out enough lightly comic trimmings that anyone going in blind could
easily be primed with expectation for a gentle rom-com. Indeed, we subsequently
follow the couple through a montage of first-date activity and Harry is
introduced to Julie’s beloved grandparents. But hold on, because things are
about to veer off into less comfortable territory. Following the aforementioned
telephone conversation – a couple of minutes during which the film’s tone darkens
quite dramatically – Harry goes into the diner and recounts what he’s just
heard to the motley assembly of patrons. In doing so he plants a seed that
quickly sprouts into a living nightmare. The sense of urgency builds at an
ever-increasing rate as the remainder of the film charts Harry’s race against
time to locate and get Julie to safety, encountering as he goes a succession of
quirky and dubious characters lurking on the night-shrouded streets of L.A.
the escalating tension driven by a hauntingly eloquent Tangerine Dream score, there’s
one burning question that propels the narrative: is what Harry was told during
that phone call for real or was it some sort of twisted hoax? Suffice to say
that as time ticks on and the sun begins to rise all hell breaks loose, with
politesse kicked into the dirt as panic-stricken people behave the way that panic-stricken
people do; cars filled with terrified citizens clog the streets out of the city
and there are glimpses of the animalistic manner in which the less conscionable
choose to spend what they perceive to be their last minutes on Earth. Worse
yet, as potential Armageddon fails to materialise when predicted, Harry begins
to fear that he – rather than any genuine impending threat – may have
inadvertently instigated all the madness, anxiously likening himself to Chicken
Miracle Mile may be touching 30 years old, but for the benefit of those
unfamiliar with the film I shall leave any further discussion about the plot
Edwards and Mare Winningham deliver splendidly endearing performances and
director Steve De Jarnatt invests just enough time establishing the romantic
thread at the outset that, as fate unrelentingly conspires to separate the
pair, the viewer is filled with an overwhelming desire to see them make it out
alive to pastures green. Although almost every other character in the story
appears only briefly, there are memorable turns from Mykelti Williamson as a trader
in knock-off hi-fi gear, John Agar and Lou Hancock as Julie’s grandparents and
Brian Thompson as a fitness freak who just may facilitate Harry and Julie’s salvation.
I wasn’t expecting Citizen
Kane, really I wasn’t. When the
top-billed actor in your already quirky production is the Edward D. Wood
regular the Amazing Criswell, the failed psychic… Well, you know what to expect
on some gut level. The Amazing Criswell,
admittedly an already very minor celebrity psychic in his day, achieved certain
notoriety for his ridiculous and wildly inaccurate predictions. Following his turn in Wood’s seminal cult
classic Plan 9 from Outer Space
(1959) and the (very) belatedly released Night
of The Ghouls (shot in 1959 but only released in 1984), the pale,
blue-eyed, bleached blond Criswell is outfitted in Count Dracula-like garb for Orgy of the Dead (1965). This is, as one might expect, a classic
Criswell performance; it’s both refreshing and strangely comforting to listen
to him put all his dramatic inflection and stresses on the wrong words,
accentuating the coordinating conjunctions rather than the nouns of nearly
In Orgy of the Dead,
directed by A.C. Stephen from a threadbare “script” written by the revered Mr. Wood,
the not always Amazing Criswell portrays the “Emperor of the Night.” The Emperor is holding court at an eerie
cemetery… or as eerie a graveyard as one can set-dress on a shoe-string budget and
an indoor soundstage. The Emperor is soon
joined by his “Empress” (Fawn Silver), a Vampira- meets- Elvira character with
Sapphic tendencies who sports a layer of blue make-up that covers the entirety
of her body. Well, all of her body
except for the deep crease between her two ample breasts. I suppose the production’s make-up artist was
too shy to apply and “go deep.”
If this spooky scenario seems promising in a “so-bad-it’s-good
sort-of-way,” there’s disappointment ahead. Despite its fog-bound horror film trappings, Orgy of the Dead is not remotely a horror film at all. In fact, the only genuine horror to be found on
screen is in the ineptitude demonstrated by this the ensemble of actors,
actresses, and, um, exotic dancers. There is no real narrative here; the film is merely a ninety-minute long
topless peep-show revue with Halloween trimmings. Before the film sputters to a merciful
finale, we’ve been made to witness no fewer than ten interpretative topless
dance routines, all mind-numbing and pretty much non-erotic in their presentation. It’s all freeform and non-stop bumping and
grinding and jiggling in panties and G-strings and bad costumes. Take my word on this; it’s not as good as it
of the Dead is the celluloid equivalent of those 1960’s
nudie magazines that featured buxom, cheesecake cuties on their covers. The sort of “men’s magazines” that were
prudently stashed in the top-tier racks of tobacco shops and stationary stores
as to not offend the readers of Good
Housekeeping or Better Homes and
Gardens. The parade of beauties and
near-beauties tapped to ply their trade before a leering camera are not former
members of the Martha Graham Dance Company. More probably, they took the night off from their regular gig performing
at a local topless gin mill or adult-themed nightclub. Or maybe they were
making some quick afternoon dough by strutting their stuff on this grass mat
and fog shrouded set.
The dancers try their damndest to play to the camera, but
it’s all sort of sad. Almost all of the cast
share one common trait, and not a good one: blank and expressionless eyes. Everyone seems to be looking past the rolling
cameras into some far-off beyond that only they can see, sadly detached from
their own performances-in-progress. I
imagine this type of personal disengagement was honed on stage during their
nightclub exhibitions, perhaps as some sort of protective emotional cocoon.
It’s almost a relief when, some twenty-five minutes or so
into a parade of not-particularly-well-executed interpretative dance routines,
that a muse seeking mystery novelist named Bob (William Bates) and best gal
Shirley (Pat Barrington) are kidnapped by a Mummy and a Wolfman, dragging the bewildered
pair from the bushes. One might expect
things to become a bit livelier with this turn of events but, sadly, it is not
to be. These two masked monsters (referenced
as “The Keepers of the Damned”) simply strap the couple to a pair of stakes in
the cemetery, a punishment for their eavesdropping on the unholy ceremony in
progress. Forcing this bewildered couple
to bear witness to this seemingly endless string of interpretative dance
routines can certainly be considered cruel and unusual punishment. They should have invoked the Geneva
Sync- sound recording is kept to the barest minimum,
confined only to the wince-inducing exchanges of dialogue between Bob and
Shirley and the self-proclaimed Emperor of Empress of the Night. I cannot reasonably include the occasional and
wretched banter between the Wolfman and Mummy as sound synch as both characters
are wearing masks and presumably dubbed throughout.
Even for the most unapologetic Edward. D. Wood devotee,
this endless parade of non-erotic topless dance routines becomes increasingly
tiring, the burlesque showcase more tedious than titillating. Even the Vampira meets Elvira –like “Empress
of the Night” character eventually dismisses the parade of nudie dance routines
as “infinitesimal bits of fluff,” and for once I’m in total agreement. The film starts off promisingly in the
classic Wood Jr. fashion with two bad actors tripping over their tongues as
they attempt to deliver halting sobriquets of Wood’s God-awful dialogue. But it’s all downhill from there.
their characters have become iconic, the now classic fantasy monster films of
Universal Studios have suffered a reputation of creakiness, cheap thrills, poor
characterization and logic gaps. While the images of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula,
Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, and Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of
Frankenstein dominate magazine covers, notebooks, posters, mugs and other
collectibles, the series of movies that introduced these characters seems to
get very little respect from film historians. A step in the right direction to
correct this is the excellent new book The Monster Movies of Universal Studios
by James L. Neibaur, published by Rowman and Littlefield. In this fascinating
new study, the author puts Universal’s horror series into proper historical
context. Unlike other books on the subject, Neibaur has limited his focus to
films that feature one or more of Universal’s line-up of monsters. This book concentrates
on the classic era, with the range of focus highlighting movies from 1931
through 1956. Any movie made by
Universal Studios during this period with Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the
Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon
is discussed in-depth with a chapter devoted to each feature, twenty nine movies
in all. These include all of the sequels and films that blended fantasy and
comedy elements when Universal paired up their monsters with their house comedy
duo Abbott and Costello. The book is an impressive work of film scholarship and
shines a spotlight on classic Hollywood moviemaking by looking at one of the longest
film series at a major studio.
disappointed that Neibaur didn’t discuss such mystery and horror offerings from
Universal during this period such as The Old Dark House and Murders in the Rue
Morgue (both 1932) shouldn’t be. The focus on the monsters makes the book a one-
of- a- kind study devoted to characters that seem to always be taken for
granted. While Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) is celebrated for it’s
daring, unconventional storyline, the films that feature the monsters seem to
get lumped in with low budget movies from a later era. In fact, movies such as
The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula’s
Daughter (1936) share more in common with The Black Cat than just being made at
the same studio. The author restores these films to their proper place as
valuable works of cinematic art.
isn’t to say that when there are jumps in narrative logic, especially evident
in the later movies, Neibaur doesn’t point them out. However, even these
assembly line B films are given more respect in this book then in previous
studies of the Universal genre catalog. The usual pattern of writers discussing
movies made during the Great Depression and World War II is to highlight the
escapism and lighthearted nature that many of those films exhibit. Examples
that prove this pattern include the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers cycle at RKO, the
Topper films, etc. In this work Neibaur presents a different argument- that the
monster series presented something very real to fight against, a threat that
personified the evils of economic crisis and foreign fascism. Given this
argument, it is somewhat less hard to believe that the horror series at
Universal would decline in popularity after the war ended.
addition to the nation’s and the world’s economy fluctuating during the time of
the Monster films covered in this book, it was also true that there were money
problems at Universal as well. First, Universal founder Carl Laemmle Sr.
borrowed too heavily and lost control of the studio. It was then decided at
that time that the horror series would continue as B films, relegated to a more
factory mode of filmmaking. Whereas Universal’s monster series began with cinematic
artists such as Tod Browning and James Whale helming Dracula and Frankenstein
(both 1931), the series ended with Jean Yarbrough directing She-Wolf of London
(1946) in a decidedly non-flourished way, with cost cutting in mind. The
contrast couldn’t be more evident as She-Wolf is a film with a Scooby-Doo like
ending, a far cry from the earlier films that embraced supernatural elements
such as vampirism, invisibility, lycanthropy or fantastic science that brought
life to the dead through lightning or tana leaves. It’s interesting to note
that when the B movie factory mode of the series finally ran its course, a
happy ending was not in the cards.
it comes to good adventure stories, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
will arguably feature among the very best. It is one of those films that
continue to delight audiences both old and new. In terms of elements it seems
to tick all the boxes. At its heart, there is a fine, good natured yet entirely
gripping story. A wondrous subterranean vista provides the viewer with
monsters, vast underground oceans, villains and plenty of cliff-hanger moments
was perhaps a well-timed stroke of luck that some of the stories penned by
Jules Verne were entering a period of public domain status. Two of Verne's
adapted novels were to feature James Mason. Disney's adventure 20,000 Leagues Under
the Sea (1954) starred Kirk Douglas as a 19th-century whaler and Mason as Nemo,
captain of the story’s legendary submarine, the Nautilus. Five years later,
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) was made by Twentieth Century Fox an
ambitious project which starred Mason as professor Lindenbrook, who sets about
leading an expedition into an Icelandic volcano along with his group to a
magical, underground world.
Lindenbrook discovers a long-hidden message that reveals the existence of a
passage into the centre of the Earth. He leads a team of unlikely adventurers including
singer Pat Boone (who is actually rather good), Arlene Dahl, and a duck named Gertrude.
The group’s daring expedition will see them come up against exploding
volcanoes, rockslides and even flesh-eating reptiles! The film also features a
classic score by the great composer Bernard Hermann and was lavishly filmed in
stunning Cinemascope. A landmark in both science-fiction and adventure
filmmaking, Eureka Classics presents the movie for the first time on Blu-ray in
the UK and from a very impressive 4K restoration.
keen fan of the movie, I’ve followed closely the numerous home video releases
over several decades – from the humble VHS, Laserdisc and DVD era through today.
Whilst each format provided a natural improvement in terms of quality, it was a
film that never looked entirely satisfactory, with issues around dull colours
and an overall grainy presentation. I did have some initial fears about the new
4K restoration, mainly concerning if it would only enhance the grainy look to
the film. Thankfully, my worst fears were immediately put to rest.
new Blu-ray looks nothing short of stunning; there is a genuine freshness to
the picture quality. The colour retains a wonderful, natural feel, vivid but
never too rich, especially in the opening scenes based around the college and
the Edinburgh street locations. The colour is ramped up a degree for the
subterranean scenes, as of course they should. But these scenes are now nicely rendered,
bursting with shimmering colours and crisp detail. I was also pleasantly
surprised by the lack of grain that had previously hampered so many other home
editions. Instead, the 1080p, 4K restoration (provided by Twilight Time) is
beautifully balanced, extremely clean and as close to perfection as we’re ever
likely to see. It’s been a long, patient journey for fans of the movie. Without
a doubt, Journey to the Center of the Earth should always have looked this
good. Leo Tover’s glorious Cinemascope photography has never been showcased so
well, and I very much doubt if it could ever be improved upon. Twentieth
Century Fox’s Cinemascope features have never fallen short in terms of rich
detail, it’s always been there. However, in respect of Journey to the Center of
the Earth, it’s arguably never received the kind of close attention that it’s so
fully deserved. Eureka’s release also provides a couple of audio options
including a stereo PCM track and a rather impressive DTS 5.1 HD master. Both
tracks are clear, clean and dynamic.
the extras is a very enjoyable audio commentary with actress Diane Baker and
film historians Steven C. Smith and Nick Redman. Diane Baker really emerges as
a wonderful commentator with an incredibly detailed memory and she has no
trouble reciting anecdotes from the production. Steven C. Smith (a Bernard
Herrmann historian) also demonstrates a vast knowledge of cinema and engages
effortlessly even when veering away from Herrmann’s incredibly important
contribution to the film. With two such enthusiastic and knowledgeable guests,
Nick Redman’s role as moderator is made very easy, and the entire duration of
the commentary is both an insightful and absorbing experience.
included is an isolated music and effects audio track.
to this release is a video interview with critic and author Kim Newman. As
always, Newman provides many important insights into the production, a look at
the written works of Jules Verne and the subsequent adaptations of his stories to
the screen. Lasting around 15 minutes, it’s a welcome and enjoyable piece.
is also a previously released featurette on the film’s restoration history
which provides split screen examples of various home editions of the movie.
extras are rounded off with the original theatrical trailer which features
James Mason’s perfectly delivered voice over.
Packaging consists of new artwork, which is ok, but I
would much rather see the original poster artwork put to good use. Inside
contains there is a booklet featuring an original review of the film from 1959;
a poster gallery; and a selection of rare archival imagery.
Overall, it’s a terrific package with a stunning
presentation of an important movie. Fans of the genre and the film, should at
last find a great deal of satisfaction in Eureka’s release. It’s been a long
time coming, but entirely worth the wait.
Since my all-time favorite TV series is "The Honeymooners", the legendary sitcom that was originally broadcast in 1950s, one might think I would have been overjoyed at the prospect of seeing the show's new incarnation as a big-budget musical production that just premiered at the prestigious Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, a venue so revered that it was honored with a special Tony award. In reality, I had considerable trepidation about seeing the show. The characters in the TV series- bus driver Ralph Kramden, his devoted but long-suffering wife Alice and their best friends, sewer worker Ed Norton and his wife Trixie- have been ingrained in the minds of every American baby boomer. In fact, the re-runs have rarely left the New York airwaves even sixty years after their original airings and the four main cast members- Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph- are all permanently enshrined as pop culture icons. It's for precisely that reason that I feared the new stage production would be less an homage than a ripoff, created by people who have no real feel for the show. We've certainly seen this occur before, especially in translating classic television series to feature films. Thus, I'm happy to report that the musical stage version of "The Honeymooners" is a success that will almost certainly please even the most die-hard fans of the show. Tickets are selling rapidly due to good reviews and word-of-mouth. Cinema Retro attended the October 8 performance, which coincided with a press night and cast and crew after party.
The plot fits snugly into the type of scenario found in any of the T.V. episodes: the working class Kramden (Michael McGrath) and his best friend Ed Norton (Michael Mastro) engage in one of their generally doomed get-rich-quick schemes, this time submitting a jingle for an advertisement promoting a brand of cheese. Lo and behold they actually win and before long are being wooed to join an advertising agency, with the promise of sky-high salaries. As you might imagine, Ralph starts scouting luxury apartments in midtown Manhattan before he's even earned his first paycheck, much to the chagrin of Alice (Leslie Kritzer). Meanwhile, a subplot follows Trixie Norton (Laura Bell Bundy), who has decided to return to the burlesque circuit in order to pursue her own career- a decision that leads her into the grasp of her lecherous boss, who surprisingly is not named Harvey Weinstein. (Trixie's career in burlesque was mentioned in one episode but never explored beyond that.) Predictably, the good luck that falls upon Ralph and Ed becomes a case of "be careful what you wish for", as they are subjected to seedy Madison Avenue executives, a devious boss (Lewis Cleale) and a grumpy sponsor (Lewis J. Stadlen) who expects a great jingles on the spur of the moment. The new-found success also causes a strain on Ralph and Ed's friendship.
Joyce Randolph and cast members Michael Mastro, Laura Bell Bundy, Michael McGrath and Leslie Kritzer are joined by Brian Carney (right), son of Art Carney at the afterparty. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved).
The show's book is written by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, both of whom are obviously fans of the T.V. series, as evidenced by the peppering of references to classic episodes that left the audience delighted. The script presents plenty of zingers associated with the characters, each of of whom is expertly portrayed by their modern counterparts. McGrath and Mastro do masterly work, evoking all of the character traits of Gleason and Carney and even bearing a substantial resemblance to the comedy legends (though McGrath reportedly wears padding to match Gleason's chubby physique.) Leslie Kritzer is highly impressive, channeling Audrey Meadows even as Laura Bell Bundy creates a new interpretation of Trixie that benefits from the fact that the script emphasizes the character far more than the T.V. series did. (Though purists might growl about Trixie's sultry dance number). All of these are extremely talented young actors and they do yeoman work. (McGrath is Tony winner and Bundy is a Tony nominee.) The supporting cast is also first-rate. The musical score by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills are impressive even if no breakthrough numbers emerge that will have you humming when you leave the theater. The entire enterprise is creatively directed by another Tony winner John Rando, who keeps the pace lively despite the fact that the show is a bit overlong. The choreography by Joshua Bergasse is very creative but there are at least a couple of musical numbers that could be trimmed without causing any negative impact on the show. There are also missed opportunities: the production practically calls out for some reference to the Huckabuck and Mambo dances that feature prominently in two of the best episodes, but which are nowhere to be seen. (A Huckabuck skit was originally included but was cut from the finished production. Time for the producers to rethink that one) and I don't recall hearing the iconic theme from the T.V. series, "Melancholy Serenade", which was composed by Jackie Gleason. I must confess that I'm not a proponent of turning non-musical properties into big, lavish musical stage productions. The writing in "The Honeymooners" is good enough to have carried the show perhaps as a 90 minute comedy sans music and intermission. However, there is no doubt that the audience relished the songs and the reaction was overwhelmingly good. I should also mention that it was a wise decision to keep the story set in the 1950s and the impressive sets evoke a real feel for the show, including the legendary Kramden kitchen where most of the action in the T.V. series took place. There is also a very creative aspect to the final moments of the show with the introduction of a surprise plot device focusing on "Cavalcade of Stars", the program where "The Honeymooners" was introduced as a series of periodic sketches before it became a regular series. It makes for a delightful finale. Most importantly, like the T.V. show, this version of "The Honeymooners" isn't just a litany of one-liners. It has heart and real emotion, as it explores the value of relationships.
(Photo: Evan Zimmerman)
I attended the performance in the company of Joyce Randolph, who is an old friend and the only surviving member of the original "Honeymooners". Joyce, who would have no problem voicing disapproval, gave the show a big thumb's up- and if it's good enough for Trixie Norton, it will surely please the legions of fans who are salivating to see it. Don't panic if you can't get tickets. Like so many of the hit shows that have world premieres at the Papermill Playhouse, there's talk of moving "The Honeymooners" to Broadway, a development that even Ralph Kramden couldn't dream of.
CLICK HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION FOR THE SHOW, WHICH RUNS THROUGH OCTOBER 29.
(CONTINUE READING FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THE PRESS NIGHT)
Frank Sinatra made his first appearance in The Sands, the legendary Las Vegas casino, as a young crooner in 1953 when the town was a microcosm of its present self. The Chairman of the Board would become synonymous with the place as the years passed. In 1960, Sinatra and his fellow Rat Packers- Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford- were filming "Oceans Eleven" by day and appearing on-stage at night in their sensationally popular, largely improvised "Summit" act which consisted of music and comedy. Sinatra's efforts on behalf of African-Americans helped integrate the hotels in Vegas and he was the town's major draw. However, Sinatra's mercurial temper also loomed large in outrageous displays of anger. When Howard Hughes took over the Sands in 1967, he cut off Sinatra's credit line (which apparently the crooner never intended to pay for). Sinatra had a hissy fit and went wild in the main casino before quitting the place to lend his talents to Caesar's Palace.
Writing on the Daily Beast site, Allison McNearney recalls the doomed love affair between Sinatra and the Sands. Click here to read.
In Raoul Walsh’s “Gun Fury,” a 1953 Columbia western,
Donna Reed plays genteel southern belle, Jennifer Ballard, who is traveling
west by stage to meet her fiancé, Rock Hudson, who plays a former confederate
soldier by the name of Ben Warren. Warren now owns a ranch in California and
all the two of them want to do is forget the war and settle down near the
ocean. Also on the stage is Phil Carey (you remember him as Asa Buchanan on
“One Life to Live;” and years earlier as Philip Marlowe on an ABC TV series).
Carey plays Frank Slayton, an “unreconstructed” Southerner who’s pretty ticked
off on the way the war turned out. He’s immediately attracted to Donna Reed, though.
She represents the kind of southern woman of good breeding he’d always hoped to
settle down with some day. He tries to ingratiate himself with her but she
gives him the cold shoulder.
Also on the coach is the lantern-jawed Leo Gordon, who has
played bad guys in more westerns than you can shake a stick at. He plays Jess
Burgess, Frank’s partner. The stage stop for the night at a relay station with
a hotel and Ben arrives to claim his bride-to-be, much to Slayton’s chagrin. At
dinner we have some character development in which we learn Ben had enough
social interaction during the war and now just wants to mind his own business
and settle down with Jennifer and ignore the rest of the world. After spending
the night in the hotel (in separate rooms, of course) they climb back on the
stage next morning, only to be attacked by an escort of Union troops, who shoot
the driver and shotgun. Turns out Frank and and Jess are stage coach robbers
and the soldiers are really members of Slate’s gang. They killed the real
soldiers and took their uniforms. There’s some gun fury action and Ben is shot
and left for dead. Slayton and his gang
run off with the gold and the girl.
So far, not a bad set up. The first cliché’d plot twist
comes right after that, however, when we see Old Ben isn’t as dead as Slayton thought
he was. It’s the old “merely a nick on the side of the head” routine. He’s
pretty upset, though, when he finds his fiancé has been kidnapped and he takes
out after them. Meantime Slayton and his gang reach a hideout and Slayton and
Jess get into a fight over the girl. Jess wants her left behind, otherwise she’ll
cause trouble. Slayton wins the argument and Jess ends up left behind and hog-tied
to a fence. Ben shows up a bit later and frees Jess and they make a deal to
ride together. Ben wants his girl and Jess wants revenge and his share of the
fortune he helped steal. It’s an unlikely alliance, but given that neither one
of them have any alternative but to work together, it’s more or less
They ride on and stop to the next town and ask the
sheriff there for help. The lawman says it’s none of his concern; the robbery
happened outside his jurisdiction. Rock’s isolationist philosophy of just
minding his own affairs comes back to bite him in the butt. But he’s determined
to get Jennifer back and Jess still wants his money. So they move on and there’s
a lot of riding and some nice views of the Red Rock country around Sedona,
Arizona, where the movie was filmed. Ben
and Jess are soon joined by an Apache who wants revenge on Slayton and his gang
for killing some of his people. The three of them eventually catch up with the
gang, who have also kidnapped a Mexican girl that gang member Blackie (Lee
Marvin) took a shine to. When Slayton realizes he’s being hunted not only by Ben
Warren, (who he thought he had killed), but also by his old buddy Jess (who
he’d left hog-tied to a fence), and an unknown Indian, well, it shakes him up.
Slayton and his gang are only a few miles from the
Mexican border, he’s got to decide what to do fast. He comes up with the idea
that they’ll trade Jennifer for Jess and everyone will go on his merry way.
Whaaaat?? Make a deal with the guy you left hog-tied to a fence, and then
suddenly give up your yen for the genteel southern belle you’ve always dreamed
you’d settle down with, and gone to so much trouble to get? Just like that? And
what about Jess? Does he really think he can get back in the gang and get his
share of the loot, after Phil was so ticked off at him that he left him for
dead, hog-tied to a fence? It’s obvious Slayton only wants to get Jess out in
the open so he can plug him. How stupid is Jess to think it’s possible to make
a deal like that? What kind of crazy deal is this anyway?
“Gun Fury” was not only directed by the legendary Raoul
Walsh, who made many great films, the screenplay was written by two well-known
pros—Irving Wallace and Roy Huggins. Are you telling me that these three
couldn’t have come up with a more believable finish to this sagebrush
potboiler? Couldn’t they see, when they got to shoot the final scenes, that the
story was going off the rails? Couldn’t one of them have come up a more
believable finish than the laughable prisoner exchange at the end? Hard to
believe. But they totally wrecked what could have been a good action western. Was
cocaine already that big a problem in Hollywood in 1953?
First Run Features has released director Lucia Puenzo's acclaimed 2013 film "The German Doctor" on DVD. The movie is the highest profile Argentinian release in years and was honored at numerous international film festivals. Puenzo, who also wrote the screenplay, based on the film on her novel, which- in turn- is said to have been inspired by the real-life experiences of a family who interacted with the infamous Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. During WWII, Mengele was known as "The Angel of Death" at Auschwitz. Here, he utilized his considerable medical skills for evil purposes, selecting who would live and die among the wretched masses who arrived daily at the death camp. Those who were spared were consigned to a living hell of torture and slave labor. The few children who were not put immediately to death were used as human guinea pigs in Mengele's bizarre and cruel medical experiments. He was obsessed with genetics in his goal of helping Hitler fulfill his ambition of creating a "Master Race". Mengele played a key role in attempting to manipulate pregnancies to ensure that only Aryan children would be born in nations under Nazi control. His bizarre theories have long been discredited by the mainstream medical establishment, particularly his obsession with twins. Mengele studied pairs of twin children through inhumane methods, often operating on them without any pain-killers. The few prisoners who interacted with him and managed to survive the war report that, for all his barbaric practices, Mengele had a calm, almost soothing demeanor that would often lull his victims into thinking he was a benign presence in the camp. He would pat children on the head and offer them candy, only to dispose of them like rubbish hours later. In the aftermath of the war and the chaos that ensued in Europe, Mengele managed to escape (along with many other Nazis) to South America. In his case, he found refuge in Argentina, where the corrupt government sheltered him, presumably in return for his "expertise" about how to fine-tune torture tactics.
It is against this backdrop- what we inherently know about Mengele- that Puenzo's story begins. It is 1960 and we see Mengele (Alex Brendemuhl), using the assumed name of Helmut Gregor, lost on a remote country road. He has a chance encounter with a young couple, Eva (Natalia Oreiro) and Enzo (Diego Peretti), who are traveling with their three children. Mengele befriends the family, who consent to having him follow them in his car along the desolate roadways. Along the way, Mengele charms each member of the family and he explains that he is a doctor en route to an institute where he will be working. Coincidentally, the institute is very close to the family's destination, which is a resort hotel that they have inherited. The couple intends to reopen the hotel and hope to make a financial success of it. Enzo, it appears, has not been successful in financially providing for his family. He fancies himself an inventor and his real passion is creating a unique doll that can marketed to little girls. He finds a sympathetic ear from Mengele, who reinforces his bond with the family by becoming their first tenant at the hotel. Eva is immediately smitten by the charming German doctor but he seems more interested in the couple's oldest daughter, Lilith (Florencia Bado). Although twelve years-old, she is very short and slight of build, giving the impression she is much younger. This results in terrible bullying at the local school, where there are children of German ex-pats who are particularly cliquish and cruel to Lilith. Both Eva and Lilith are charmed by Mengele, who professes to help them by offering to inject Lilith with hormone injections that will spur her growth. Enzo is adamantly against the idea, but Eva secretly gives the doctor permission to proceed. Before long, Lilith is experiencing strange medical complications. Simultaneously, Mengele discovers that Eva is pregnant with twins. This smorgasbord of potential medical experiments excites him and before long, he has convinced Eva to also undergo some of his quack medical treatments. He has also ingratiated himself with Enzo by finding a financial backer who will mass produce Enzo's dolls. (A sequence set in a doll factory is brilliantly staged and genuinely eerie, with row after row of hollow-eyed dolls evoking memories of a death camp.) However, when Enzo sees his wife and daughter suffering from mysterious illnesses, he begins to suspect that his new friend is really a villain. He is not alone. A local photographer (Elena Roger) is, in fact, an Israeli intelligence agent who also begins to believe that the seemingly benign and charming man of medicine may actually be one of the most wanted men in the world.
"The German Doctor" plays out at a slow, deliberate pace that is refreshing in a film industry defined by fast-editing and mindless action sequences. The script allows each character to be fully developed and the relationships between the key players becomes fascinating, as Mengele uses psychological methods to manipulate his next victims. The performances are uniformly extraordinary, with Brandemuhl particularly impressive. Although portraying one of the most notorious criminals in history, he deftly manages to make him charming and likable, both necessary ingredients if we are to understand why the family he has befriended can be so easily manipulated by him. The film is engrossing throughout and, even though we know through history how Mengele finally met his fate, it doesn't deprive director Puenzo from milking a considerable amount of suspense from the scenario.
The First Run Pictures DVD offers an excellent transfer but is frustratingly devoid of any bonus materials. It would be a worthwhile ambition for the label to eventually put out a special edition of this excellent film with a commentary track that helps viewers understand the historical context of what they are seeing.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Nebraska film historian Bruce Crawford has announced the film to be
presented for the 41st tribute to classic films. This tribute
will be the 1983 comedy classic, ”A CHRISTMAS STORY.” The film
will be screened on Friday, Nov. 10th, 2017 at 7pm in the beautiful and
historic Witherspoon Hall at Joslyn Art Museum, located on 2200 Dodge Street,
Omaha, Nebraska. Special guest appearances will be made by
actors Scott Schwartz, who played “Flick” and Zack Ward whose character was
“Skut Farcus” in the film. This event will mark 25 years since Crawford started
hosting classic films and their film legends for audiences in Omaha.
CHRISTMAS STORY has become one of the most popular holiday films in film
history and a perennial Yule-time tradition. Both Schwartz and Ward
will speak prior to the screening and share memories of the making of this
iconic film. They will also host a meet and greet, including autograph
opportunities for the fans..
will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.
Dr. David Ruben’s sex manual Everything
You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask) was published
in 1969, it became a best-seller and quickly entered the mainstream. Everyone
talked about it. It was even office water-cooler fare. It wasn’t meant to be
funny—just informal, straight, and to the point. The book was organized as a
series of questions, such as “Why do some women have trouble reaching an orgasm?”
and the author would answer.
1972, Woody Allen freely adapted it as a comedy, taking a handful of the questions
from the book and creating a series of seven vignettes that are, well,
ridiculous. It became one of Allen’s biggest hits of his entire career—right
now BuzzFeed ranks it as his fourth highest box office earner when adjusted for
was only Allen’s third picture (not counting Play It Again, Sam, which he didn’t direct and was released earlier
in ’72), so the auteur was still
finding his way. He was still all about making zany, but smart, movies that
were all about the gags. But because of the episodic nature of its structure,
some sketches work better than others. Of the seven “questions” that are
illustrated, I would say two are 5-star brilliant, two are 4-star good, and the
rest just okay. In 1972, some of the material was R-rated shocking in a
dirty-joke, nudge-nudge way. Today, Everything
comes off a bit tawdry and dated in places. However, it’s still a
worthwhile picture with some major laughs in key sequences.
two highlights are “What is sodomy?”—in which Gene Wilder delivers a brilliantly
subtle performance as a doctor who gets it on with a sheep; and “What happens
during ejaculation?”—which is presented like a NASA-mission with a “control
room” inside a man’s brain manned by Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, and others,
and featuring Allen as a bespectacled sperm who is afraid to leap out, paratrooper-style.
funny moments are “Do aphrodisiacs work?”—with Allen as a court jester in
Shakespearean times, trying to seduce the queen (Lynn Redgrave), and “Are the findings
of doctors and clinics who do sexual research and experiments accurate?”—in
which Allen and a journalist (Heather MacRae) visit a mad doctor (John
Carradine), whose lab work produces a giant-monster-breast that terrorizes the
game show What’s My Line?-parody
(retitled What’s My Perversion?) is
clever, as it’s presented in old television black and white kinescope style
with the original host (Jack Barry) and contestants. Other actors appearing in
the film are Louise Lasser, Anthony Quayle, Geoffrey Holder, Lou Jacobi, and
Twilight Time Blu-ray looks fine in its 1080p High Definition; but frankly, the
old 1970s film stock just doesn’t lend itself well to HD. Does it look better
than standard DVD? A little. The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is an improvement,
however; the pictures sounds terrific.
usual with Allen’s Blu-ray releases, the only supplements are an isolated music
and effects track, and the original theatrical trailer. Julie Kirgo provides
the knowledgeable essay in the booklet.
this sex comedy worth buying on Blu-ray?” The Answer—yes, especially since this
release is limited to only 3000 units. And while it doesn’t rank as one of
Woody Allen’s best movies, it will
make you laugh, especially while having sex.
It’s taken 35 years for the often talked
about sequel to one of sci-fi cinema’s finest moments- Blade Runner- to actually appear in the form of Blade Runner 2049. Most
fans were against the idea of a sequel, pondering how you could improve on
perfection. Well, like the Replicants of the first film, although perfect in many
eyes, the original version underwent its own various modifications to improve
significant flaws over the years. We had the original “noir” version, the “director’s”
and the “final” cut before director Ridley Scott and most fans were happy. This
final cut also seemed to answer the conundrum relating to Deckard (Harrison Ford)
being a Replicant himself. Or so we thought. If, as I and many thought pre-screening,
Deckard was indeed a Replicant, how has he lived so long and aged? Did this
mean that the Replicants were given skin that would age, yet their strength
would remain? If so, then Harrison Ford
is still the perfect choice but I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything as director
Denis Villeneuve asked for reviewers to refrain from giving away any key
aspects from this special preview in London on Oct 2nd. Not only that,
I’m still not sure of the answer after
seeing this incredible continuation of the Blade Runner mythos. What I am sure
about is that this is, along with The Godfather Part II, one of the greatest sequels
in movie history.
The premise is thus: LAPD Officer K (Ryan
Gosling) is a Blade Runner in 2049. During an investigation, he unearths a long
hidden secret that, if true, would lead society into chaos. Once begun, his
quest leads to him tracking down the long missing Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford)
to find out the truth; but will he and, indeed, Deckard, like what they find?
Everything about Blade Runner 2049 works.
From the perfect casting to the sets which rise from the dust bowls of a
radioactive Vegas and the sodden Los Angeles like glistening tiers in the rain.
The cinematography by Roger Deakins is stunning while the screenplay by Hampton
Fancher and Michael Green is as subtle as the music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin
Wallfisch in complementing, yet adding to, the mythos of the original. As a viewer,
you are like a feather on the breeze and have no choice but to be blown
in whichever direction Villeneuve and producer Scott decide to take you.
The film is like a spiral interior of a sea shell; whether it’s leading you out
or into its centre is the question you have to try and work out for yourself.
With a running time just short of three hours,
this film, like the beloved “spinners” which have replaced cars, simply flies
by and the fact that this screening took place on the eve of director
Villeneuve’s 50th birthday led me to think that this is a movie will
still be talked about 50 years from now. We may not have flying cars by then but I’m
sure we’ll still have neon advertising dominating our cities and climate change
affecting our lives.
This is a modern masterpiece that you really need to
see on the big screen, although I left there thinking I’d love to
see it in the “Elvis” room Deckard has. See it and you’ll know what I mean.
To commemorate the 35th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's masterful "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial", Universal has released a highly impressive edition comprising of Blu-ray, DVD and digital HD versions. The film has lost none of its wonder and timeless appeal and this gorgeous home video release makes it possible to re-live those great memories in appropriate style. (Some of us are old enough to remember being excited about the movie being released on VHS!) This limited edition is out of this world.
Here is a description of the contents:
Combo Pack Includes Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD* Over 3
Hours of Bonus Features! The E.T. Journals: Featuring behind the scenes footage
from the filming of the movie, this featurette gives viewers a unique feeling
of being on-set and living the excitement of what it was like to make E.T. (Blu-ray
Exclusive) Steven Spielberg & E.T.: The director reflects back on the film
and discusses his experience working with children as well as his overall and
current perspective on E.T. Deleted Scenes A Look Back: A special insider’s
look into the making of E.T. featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, the
cast, and others intimately involved with the film. The Evolution and Creation
of E.T.: From idea to screenplay, through casting and making the film. The E.T.
Reunion: The cast and filmmaker reunite to discuss their thoughts on the impact
of the film. The Music of E.T. A Discussion with John Williams: Interviews and
footage of the long-standing relationship between John Williams and Steven
Spielberg. The 20th Anniversary Premiere: Composer John Williams played the
score of E.T. live at the Shrine Auditorium for the re-release premier of E.T.
This featurette gives us a behind the scenes look at this presentation.
Collectors and enthusiasts of the serials produced by
Republic Pictures Corporation (1936-1955) have reason to rejoice. Save for the too occasional and often spotty
rare film release, proprietary rights to the Republic’s vast back catalog from
that studio’s “Golden Age” have mostly languished in the vaults. Then, with little fanfare, Paramount
Pictures, Inc. - the company who had obtained the rights through a dizzying history
of corporate takeovers and mergers - began to quietly make some of these
moribund but treasured troves of rare films digitally available to fans in late
2015. Though streaming through the Youtube
channel via the company’s Paramount Vault portal was not the platform that many
of us had hoped for, it was a welcome
turn of events and certainly better than nothing.
If nothing else it was a long time coming. Devotees of these decidedly nostalgic vintage
chapter plays have too long been forced to enjoy these treasures via ropey and
gauzy VHS rips from tattered 16mm film elements. Many collectors will recall the old days when
the only conduit for tracking down copies was through the purchase of
bootleg-market videotapes from mysterious and transient P.O. Box address-only sellers
listed provocatively in back page classifieds of genre magazines.
of Captain Marvel, now available on Blu-Ray via Kino/Lorber
Studio Classics, is generally acknowledged as one of the finest and exciting serials. It’s also noteworthy as the titular Captain Marvel
is the first comic book superhero to make it to the big screen with an equally
big splash. The character Captain Marvel first appeared in the second issue of Whiz Comics in February of 1940. He quickly became the best-selling comic book
superhero of the 1940s, his popularity partly due no doubt to the success of
this Republic serial of 1941. On the
printed page, Captain Marvel would face down many enemies, but in real life his
greatest nemesis might have been the creators of Superman. The man from Krypton, of course, made an
earlier debut in Action Comics in
June of 1938.
With his leotards, tall boots, cape, whisk of black hair,
gift of flight and apparent invincibility, there was something about Captain
Marvel that seemed uncomfortably too similar and oddly familiar to Superman’s
copyright holders – and soon the inevitable teams of lawyers were brought in to
sort it all out. The litigation lasted
for years and years, but within a year of the character’s creation Republic
Pictures had already brought The
Adventures of Captain Marvel successfully to the big screen. In contrast, Columbia Picture’s Superman serial (starring Kirk Alyn as
the big screen’s first man from Krypton) would not be released until 1948.
In some small way, you can hold some degree of sympathy
for the litigious maneuverings of Superman’s copyright holders. Much like the fabled “Man of Steel,” Captain
Marvel was similarly styled in appearance and powers and hid behind the
protection of a secretive dual identity. He could also fly, withstand a barrage
of gunfire, and bend steel bars in his bare hands. In some small ways the Fawcett Publications
superhero was different. Though it takes
a good dose of rare Kryptonite to bring down the mighty Superman, in The Adventures of Captain Marvel it seemingly
only takes a good jolt of electricity to – if only temporarily - incapacitate
our hero. In any event, the popularity of The
Adventures of Captain Marvel would cause Republic to return to the
wellspring of their success. Throughout
the 1940s the studio would produce a score of serials featuring pop-culture characters
licensed from the pages of comic books: these iconic films would introduce
young moviegoers to the first celluloid adventures of Dick Tracy, Red Ryder, Spy Smasher, Captain America, The Lone Ranger
Cinema Retro's Raymond
Benson’s new stand-alone novel, THE SECRETS ON CHICORY LANE, will be published
October 10, 2017, by Skyhorse Publishing, but it is trickling into stores now.
The book is also listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links to retailers can
be found here.
Raymond has signing
events scheduled for October 4 and
October 8 in the Chicago area, and signed books can be pre-ordered from these
outlets as well prior to the appearance date:
From the New York Times
bestselling author comes a new novel of suspense involving a small town
neighborhood street where first love, a child abduction, and abuse collide.
Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a best-selling
romance novelist, receives a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who
is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for
As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving
reunion, she steps into the memories of her past, recalling her stormy
five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the
beautiful and talented—but troubled—boy who lived across the street to become a
Shelby fears that her flashbacks, whether they
occurred in the nearby public park, in their respective houses, or in their
“secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, might be
shocking . Most significant was the tragedy of one summer that set in motion a
lifelong struggle against an Evil—with a capital “E”—that corrupted their
With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby
braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic
events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she
knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
RELEASE YOUR INNER ARTIST WITH THE BIG DRAW AT BOND
·Participate in three James Bond themed art activities throughout October
at the London Film Museum as part of Living Lines: An Animated Big Draw Festival
·Founded in 2000, The Big Draw is an arts education charity that promotes
visual literacy and the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning,
expression and invention
·Celebrate the work of visionary James Bond Production Designer Sir Ken
Adam at the Bond in Motion exhibition, Covent Garden
28 September 2017, London. The Big Draw Festival is the world's biggest celebration of drawing,
organised by The Big Draw charity (formerly the Campaign for Drawing), and this
year Bond in Motion at the London Film Museum is offering visitors the chance
to release their inner artist with a variety of activities celebrating the
Living Lines theme.
Lines: An Animated Big Draw Festivalis open to a wide range of interpretations from animated,
theatrical, illusionary, technical or just plain messy. Visitors to Bond in Motion will find the inspiration to spark creativity from the original items on display from the 007 film series
including concept drawings, storyboards, scripts, model miniatures and full-size
cars, boats, and motorbikes.
Visitors can take part in three complimentary art activities
in October; design a 007 disguise, create a fantasy James Bond storyboard, and contribute
to a collage wall by drawing a scene from their favourite 007 adventure.
A selection of the finished designs will be posted
on the London Film Museum social media pages with Bond in Motion prizes awarded
for the best creations.
Many James Bond vehicles, costumes and
unforgettable movie scenes started life as a storyboard or concept drawing.
From Dr. No in 1962 through to Spectre in 2015, the James Bond
films have featured the work of incredibly talented designers and artists who have
imagined, drawn, painted and created some of the most fantastic and futuristic
ideas ever to feature on the big screen.
Throughout the exhibition, guests can admire and
take inspiration from the work of visionary James Bond Production Designer Sir
Ken Adam, one of the most significant production designers of the twentieth
“We are delighted to support The Big Draw
initiative,” said London Film Museum Founder and CEO, Jonathan Sands. “In October,
we are offering visitors to our permanent Bond in Motion exhibition in Covent
Garden the opportunity to take part in three James Bond themed art activities
which we hope guests of all ages will enjoy.”
years, every studio salivated over Marvel’s profit machine where iconic
characters jump in and out of each other’s films. To get in on the action, Universal
mined their monster vaults by creating the Dark Universe franchise. The first
entry was The Mummy starring Tom
Cruise, Annabelle Wallis and Russell Crowe (as Dr. Henry Jekyll). Directed by
Alex Kurtzman, the film also starred Algerian stunner Sofia Boutella as the
title creature, who is light years away from Karloff’s 1932 creation.
film stirred a pot o fan controversy when it was announced because of, well… Tom Cruise in a horror movie? Not to worry, he dove into the hero role with
his trademark enthusiasm and ageless good looks, doing stunts that would leave
any other mortal in a coma or full body cast. The film is entertaining; it’s a popcorn ride, full of beautiful scenery
and state-of-the art visual effects, and Boutella steals the show as the
sensuous 5,000 year-old Egyptian Princess who is pure evil.
with their $125 million film, Universal packed a sarcophagus full of extras on
the 2-disc, dual format set that also includes a digital download version. Extras in the set include:
The Plane Crash (in Zero G)
others – adding up to over an hour of bonus material. Say what you will about Tom Cruise doing
horror, The Mummy featured
spectacular sets and some of the best action sequences this side of a James
Bond movie. (And the vicious sandstorm taking out London’s financial district is
a show stopper.) Universal’s first
plunge into their Dark Universe is definitely worth your time – and you might
as well get familiar with it because, if the studio has its way, The Mummy is just the tip of the dark
iceberg: The Bride of Frankenstein (with
Javier Bardem as The Monster) is already in the works as is The Invisible Man (with Johnny Depp no
(For Mark Cerulli's review of the film's theatrical release, click here).
Bond girls Jenny Hanley, Caron Gardner, Francesca Tu.
BY MARK MAWSTON
The ultimate “Bonding” session once again
took place at the home of the 007 franchise, Pinewood Studios, on Sunday 24th
September. Those lucky enough to attend were treated to a dealer’s room, a 50th
Anniversary 4K screening of You Only Live
Twice, at which organizer Gareth Owen read a message received from the e
Prime Minister herself, Theresa May, which touched on the amazing feats of
ingenuity and sheer technical mastery that went into the construction of the
films famed volcano set; a three course lunch and afternoon tea and of course a "who’s who" from the world of Bond from both in front and behind the camera.
Peter Lamont - Assistant Art Director - Art Director and Production Designer of 18
Bond films, Terry Ackland-Snow - Art Director on two Bond films, Alan Tomkins - Art director on five Bond films, Monty Norman – Composer, Vic Armstrong - 2nd Unit Director and stunt performer /
supervisor, Rocky Taylor - Stunts - You Only Live
Twice and many other Bond films; Norman Wanstall - Dubbing Editor/ Oscar-winning Sound Designer, Paul Weston – Stunts, and
William P. Cartlidge- Assistant Director- You Only Live Twice and future
Bond Associate Producer.
Monty Norman, composer of "The James Bond Theme".
Shane Rimmer, a Bond film veteran cast member and his wife Sheila, lead the crowd out of the John Barry Theatre.
Alan Tomkins and Peter Lamont.
Brian Gorman presented his one-man Bond tribute show.
And from in front of the camera: Shane Rimmer - three Bond films including You Only Live
Twice, Eunice Gayson - Sylvia Trench in Dr. No & From Russia With Love, Jenny Hanley – “Irish
Girl” in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Sylvanna Henriques - Title sequence - You Only Live Twice and “Jamaican
Girl” in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Caron Gardner - Pussy Galore Flying Circus pilot in Goldfinger,
Nadja Regin - Kerim's girl
in From Russia With Love and Bonita in Goldfinger and Francesca
Tu, Osato’s secretary- You Only Live Twice.
Stunt Legends Vic Armstrong and Rocky Taylor enjoy some amusing anecdotes along with interviewer Gareth Owen.
William P. Cartlidge reflects on the trials and tribulations of bringing "You Only Live Twice" to the screen.
The highlight for many of those stars, as well
as the fans in attendance, was a special tribute to the late, great Sir Roger
Moore. The day was rounded off with a specialpremiere
of Brian Gorman’s wonderful 60 minute one-man show “One Man Bond” (every Bond
film in 60 minutes!). Afterwards Gorman said “It’s a dream to perform at
Pinewood at this event, as you already know that this audience will get it,
terrifying though it is if you get something wrong! It’s not like a normal
crowd and I’ve never used a microphone before!” He needn’t have worried though and
this rounded off what was another excellent event organized by Bondstars Andy
Boyle and Retro’s own Gareth Owen.
(All images copyright Mark Mawson. All rights reserved)
Harry Dean Stanton, who died earlier this month at age 91, was the epitome of the successful character actor: he could play a wide range of characters (though they were usually eccentric) and he had won critical acclaim even when some of the films he appeared in did not. More importantly, Stanton had built an enthusiastic following among hardcore movie lovers and scholars. Stanton, The Kentucky native and WWII veteran had, like so many of his colleagues, had knocked around in odd jobs before moving to Hollywood to take up acting. His first credited screen role was in the 1957 "B" western "Tomahawk Trail". The film wasn't special but Stanton fit well into the Western genre. In the coming years, Stanton would appear in many horse operas on the big screen as well as on television, where his credits included "Gunsmoke", "The High Chaparral" and "The Wild, Wild West" to name but a few. Ultimately, his quirky mannerisms and distinctive appearance made him a much in-demand character actor. He began to appear in major films such as "Cool Hand Luke", "Kelly's Heroes", "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", "The Godfather Part II", "Farewell My Lovely", "92 in the Shade", "Straight Time" and "The Missouri Breaks". He scored well with critics and audiences with a major role in Ridley Scott's original "Alien" in 1979 and would go to be seen in "Escape from New York", "Christine", "Repo Man", "The Last Temptation of Christ", "Twister" and "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (in the role of Carl Rodd, which he played again earlier this year in the revival of the "Twin Peaks" TV series). Stanton never made it to superstardom but neither did he ever go out of style. He was in demand until his final days- a fitting legacy for an actor's actor. For New York Times obituary, click here.
Raymond Benson with Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.
true American innovator and icon has left us.
I would never claim to be one of this brilliant man’s inner circle of close longtime
friends or family, I was privileged to know him for nearly three decades. I was
a guest at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles on numerous occasions, many times
along with my wife and even my son, who first visited when he was eight years
old! Hef was always a generous host—kind, warm-hearted, and full of
conversation. He also had integrity. His championing of civil rights and First
Amendment freedoms is legendary. He gave us the permission to embrace the
sexual revolution—and, believe it or not, he was a strong advocate of women’s
rights. The women who truly knew him loved
first “met” through correspondence after the publication of my 1980s book, The James Bond Bedside Companion. I had
been a Playboy reader and subscriber
since I was old enough to be one (and was sneaking it into the house before
that!), so I knew the magazine well, its philosophy, and its impact on popular
culture. I also was well aware that Hef was a James Bond fan. Playboy was the first American
periodical to publish fiction by Ian Fleming. Beginning with the March 1960
issue, Playboy published several of
Fleming’s short stories and excerpts from his novels during that decade. The
magazine also featured pictorials from the films that lasted into the 80s.
sent Hef a copy of the Bedside Companion and
I was surprised and pleased that he wrote me back, thanking me for the book and
relating a little of how he first screened Dr.
No at the Chicago Playboy Mansion in 1962, months before its official ’63 release
in the U.S. Additional occasional correspondence between us ensued over the
next few years, and then, in 1994, I was invited to visit Playboy Mansion West
on “movie night” while I was attending a James Bond convention being held in
Los Angeles. A year later, I landed the gig to become the first American author
to pen official 007 novels. I suggested to the Ian Fleming people that we
approach Hef to do an exclusive short story for the magazine and re-establish
the Playboy/Bond connection. The
result was the publication of my Bond fiction in six issues of Playboy between 1997 and 2000.
Raymond took this snap from the sidelines in 1999 as the 45th Anniversary photo is taken of Hef and hundreds of Playmates. (Photo copyright by Raymond Benson. All rights reserved.)
of the more memorable weekends I spent in Hef’s company was during the “Playboy
Expo,” held in L.A. in 1999 for the 45th Anniversary of the
magazine. I was invited to be a guest speaker at the expo, which ran for two
days and featured the appearances of around 300 Playmates, past and present. I
was on the sidelines when the iconic photograph was taken at the Mansion of Hef
and all the women present who had graced the centerfold since the 1950s. That
was surely a “pinch me” moment.
normally visited the Mansion on “movie nights.” These were held on Sundays,
when up to fifty guests were invited for a buffet dinner and the screening of a
current film. When no other events were happening, Hef had “classic” movie
nights of old movies on Fridays and/or Saturdays. Hef was a serious movie buff!
fact, Hef made many contributions to the world of cinema. He was one of the
movers and shakers (and financiers) for the restoration of the famous “Hollywood”
sign that had come into disrepair by the 70s. Playboy Enterprises had a working
film production company during that decade and made a few memorable pictures.
For example, the first Monty Python film, And
Now for Something Completely Different (1971), was a Playboy production.
Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (also 1971)
was executive produced by Hefner.
work in television was also pioneering. His Playboy’s
Penthouse, that aired for two seasons in 1959-1961, was the first variety
show to break the “color barrier” by ensuring black performers mingled with
impact that Hef’s magazine had on the world cannot be capsulized in this short
tribute. I will leave that task to others. Just know that a young Hugh Hefner
created Playboy on his kitchen table
in a modest Chicago apartment with very little money. Now the rabbit logo is
one of the most widely recognized symbols around the world. Hef is a perfect
example of someone who pursued the American Dream and achieved it.
in Peace, Hef, and thank you.
Cinema Retro extends its deepest
condolences to Hugh Hefner’s family—Crystal, Cooper, Marston, Christie, and
(For Raymond Benson's exclusive interview with Hugh Hefner about the films he produced, see Cinema Retro issue #5)
Allen came off an incredible run of five superior films released between 1983
and 1987 (Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The
Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her
Sisters, and Radio Days) and then
delivered one of his occasional “serious” pictures (without his presence as an
actor) in late ’87 that was so dire that it only grossed approximately $500,000
in its initial run.
a six-character “play” that takes many cues from the works of Anton Chekhov, September is set in a Vermont country
house where depressed Lane (Mia Farrow) is recovering from a suicide attempt.
Her best friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest) is there for moral support. Lane is in
love with tenant/writer Peter (Sam Waterston), and neighbor/teacher Howard
(Denholm Elliott) is in love with Lane. She doesn’t share Howard’s affections,
but Peter, however, is in love with Stephanie. Coming to visit into this
quartet of woe is Lane’s extroverted mother, a former actress named Diane
(Elaine Stritch) and her second husband Lloyd (Jack Warden). Diane and Lane
have a complicated relationship. When Lane was young, she found her mother
being abused by a man and she killed him (shades of the infamous real-life case
involving Lana Turner, her daughter, and a mobster).
sound like one of Woody Allen’s laugh-fests, does it?
September was a problem project
for the writer/director from the beginning. He had originally cast Christopher
Walken as Peter, started shooting, and then decided that wasn’t working. He
recast the role with Sam Shepard. Maureen O’Sullivan was playing Diane, and
Charles Durning had the part of Howard. Allen shot the entire movie and edited
it. He was unhappy with it for some reason, so he decided to recast the
roles of Peter, Diane, and Howard, and remake
the entire movie. I’m sure the studio, Orion Pictures, loved that
prospect—but at that time Allen’s stock was uncommonly high and he had the
clout to do it.
acting is good enough, I suppose. Elaine Stritch, in particular, shines in the
showy role of the crazy show biz mom. The problem is that these are people we
can’t really care about. The love and angst on display quickly becomes
no one has ever seen the first version of September
that Allen shot, I can’t imagine that the picture we saw in the cinema in
December ’87 was any better. For the record, I will state that Woody Allen,
with nearly fifty titles under his belt, is one our national treasures as a
filmmaker…but September ranks as one
of the worst five movies he ever made. Luckily, he followed the picture with
one of his best “serious” titles—Another
Woman (also available from Twilight Time).
looks gorgeous, though! The cinematography
by the late, great Carlo Di Palma emphasizes the autumn colors of Vermont with
a pastel palette that is very pleasing to the eye. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray
1080p High Definition transfer is admirable, accompanied by a fine 1.0 DTS-HD
Master Audio. The only supplements, however, are an isolated music and effects
track (the music consists of Allen’s typical Great American Songbook jazz
standards), and the theatrical trailer.
September—a nice product of
only 3,000 (limited edition) units—will appeal to Woody Allen completists.
When Franco Nero rails at God, you can almost imagine
that God hears him. ("Is that Nero yelling again? What did I do
now?") While watching The Sack of
Rome (1993), an Italian production which features a good amount of Nero’s
skyward beefing, I tried to imagine an American actor playing such a part.I couldn't think of many. Even a pair of
scenery chewers like Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster would seem too urbane. I’d
give Japan’s Toshiro Mifune a shot at reaching God’s ear, but only if Akira Kurosawa
was directing him. Daniel Day Lewis could get God’s attention, but he’s not
American. The problem, of course, is that American actors haven't had many
chances to shout at the heavens. In American movies you can yell at your boss,
or your spouse, and you can shoot people in the head, but you don’t get many
opportunities to yell at God. This is true now more than ever, for contemporary
actors aren't asked to do much beyond work on their pecs and whiten their
teeth. Can you imagine Channing Tatum or Shia LaBeouf railing at God? That's
why Nero's performance in The Sack of
Rome is so impressive. Compared to Nero, American actors seem twitchy and
neurotic, as pampered as a bunch of models at a Victoria’s Secret shoot. Nero? I’m tempted to say it’s just the Italian
language that makes him seem so explosive, but even when Nero's not talking,
he's simmering. He’s an actor not given his due.
The film takes place in 1527 when mercenaries invaded
Rome and began a horrific course of looting and destruction. Nero plays Gabriele da Poppi, an artist who
feels above it all. Gabriele believes artists are immune during times of war.
He lives like a 16th century rock star, buffered from the outside world by a
kind of grand opulence. He saunters about his enormous estate looking as
glittery and well-fed as one of Rembrandt's noblemen. He lives with Gesuina, his lover and model (the
angelic Vittoria Belvedere, a young woman whose perspiration looks like it
would go well over flapjacks) and her little punk of a brother. Gabriele calls this
teen duo his "beasts." They bathe together and play games in what
seems like an indoor Eden. Suddenly, Gabriele’s
idyllic life is upended when the soldiers raid his mansion, destroy his
artwork, and kill Gesuina’s brother.
The head of the mercenaries holds Gabriele and Gesuina captive
in their own home, demanding Gabriele paint a portrait of him. Gabriele,
however, suffers a kind of psychotic meltdown after seeing his beloved city
turned to rubble. All he can paint are bizarre images of salamanders and
flowers. His sleep is troubled by nightmares. He wonders if debauched lives
like his own contributed to Rome's fall. He also feels guilty over not getting Gesuina to safety when he had the
chance. The worst of his fears, though, is that the sacking of Rome may mean
the end of previous concepts of art and beauty.
Sack of Rome is hard to follow at times. Still, there's
an undeniable passion in the film, boiling under every scene. Director Fabio
Bonzi is telling a story about the passing of an age, and he tells it with just
a handful of characters. When Gabriele sees Gesuina in bed with their captor, he
mourns the ending of an epoch, yet, he marvels that the hell they're in has
actually made his muse more beautiful. These scenes are wrenching because Nero
uses only his face and eyes to convey Gabriele's profound regret. Later, as
their abductor lay eviscerated, Gabriele doesn’t celebrate. His life has changed too quickly and
violently. The young girl he once playfully sniffed before her bath has become
hardened. Even the soldiers outside are
bracing for the future like the aging outlaws in The Wild Bunch, exchanging their swords in favor of primitive
firearms. Murder will become abstract, less personal. "The golden
age," Gabriele says, "is over."
Although TheSack of Rome boasts a couple of mildly
erotic scenes, the new DVD from One7Movies is a change from a company that
usually focuses on European erotica. For
those wondering about such things, the only bonus feature is a gallery of
stills, and the movie is presented in full screen rather than widescreen; it
looks scratchy in places, and seems older than a film from ‘93. Still, it's a
beautiful movie with impressive costumes and set decoration. (If you search for the film on the IMDB, use the Italian title, Zoloto.) I can’t vouch for the film’s historical accuracy, but it’s
worth a look, particularly for Nero's performance. When he lets it rip, few can
In the late 1970s producer David V. Picker was persuaded by a friend to see up-and-coming comedian Steve Martin on stage. Picker had never heard of him but was impressed enough by his oddball comic genius that he signed him for a movie deal with the esteemed Carl Reiner directing. The result was "The Jerk", which turned out to be a smash hit upon its release in 1979. Martin seemed set for a meteoric rise in the movie industry but he stumbled badly with his second film, the bizarre, downbeat and ill-advised "Pennies from Heaven". Hoping to recapture his celluloid mojo, Martin soon teamed again with Picker and Reiner for "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", an inspired film noir spoof that, through the technology of the day, allowed Martin to "star" with cinematic legends of bygone eras. Despite favorable reviews, the film was too unconventional for mainstream audiences and under-performed. Undeterred, Martin, Picker and Reiner teamed for a third time in 1983 on what seemed to be a sure-fire spoof of horror films, "The Man with Two Brains", co-written by Martin, Reiner and George Gipe. The film seemed certain to draw in the audiences that had packed theaters a decade before for Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein"- but alas, "Brains" also laid an egg. Martin would soldier on in films until he finally scored some hits, but the fact of the matter is that some of his best work was done in some of his least-seen films, "The Man with Two Brains" among them.
As the title certainly implies, the film is based on a zany premise. Martin plays Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (the name itself is the basis of many hilarious gags in the film), a world-respected brain surgeon who has perfected the "screw-off" method of removing the top of a patient's skull. He's a rich egotist but he's also despondent over the recent death of his beloved wife, with whom he enjoyed the kinky habit of eating lunch off her behind. Meanwhile we meet Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner), a vivacious man-eater who has just finished abusing her elderly millionaire husband to the point that he has a fatal heart attack- only to learn that he had changed his will so that she won't inherit anything. Fleeing the house in anger, Dolores steps in front of Michael's car and suffers a traumatic brain injury. Instantly obsessed by her beauty, he performs a life-saving operation. Upon awakening, Dolores senses that Michael is a trusting, naive soul who she can instantly manipulate. Before long, the two are married - a plot device that sets in motion a running gag about how the perpetually horny Michael has to keep chaste while he waits for his wife to recover from her medical problems (even though she is sleeping with hunky guys at every opportunity.) Her motive is to ultimately manipulate- and presumably kill- her husband without ever having to consummate the marriage- especially when she learns he has just inherited millions from a deceased relative.
Most of the action is set in Vienna, where Michael is attending a brain surgeons conference. Although it's obvious that the closest anyone in the production got to Austria was a Vienna sausage lunch cart in Hollywood, the change in locale opens the story up to more exotic aspects. Michael meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), a fellow nutty professor who has a Universal Monsters-style laboratory constructed in his urban condo. The two men form a friendship- but it's challenged when Michael falls in love with one of his new friend's experiments, the disembodied brain of a lovely lady who he can communicate with by telepathy. In one of the funniest scenes, he takes his new love out for a spin in a rowboat- and puts a hat on the glass jar to prevent "her" from getting sunburned. Meanwhile, a clever subplot is introduced in which Vienna is being terrorized by the mad "Elevator Killer" who offs his victims by injecting them with window cleaner! (The unmasking of the villain's identity is one of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film.) To continue to explain the story line as though it were logical would be an exercise in futility. Suffice it to say, "The Man with Two Brains" is Steve Martin at his best. The film is packed with many hilarious scenarios and sight gags- and Kathleen Turner adds immeasurably to the fun with a spot-on performance as the evil femme fatale. Carl Reiner proved to be the perfect director for Martin and the films they did together hold up well today.
The Warner Blu-ray release is quite welcome and will hopefully allow the uninitiated to enjoy the many pleasures of this film. The only bonus extra is an original trailer which, bizarrely, doesn't mention or credit Kathleen Turner, who had already achieved major stardom from her appearance in "Body Heat".
Director Michael Ritchie seemed to be on the fast track in becoming one of Hollywood's "A" list young filmmakers. His career started in television and hit a speed bump when he was fired from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." after arguing with a producer about the content of a script. However, he eventually segued into movies. His first big screen feature was "Downhill Racer", the 1969 drama starring Robert Redford that displayed Ritchie's talents behind the cameras. A few years later, his career went into overdrive. He directed the quirky hit crime film "Prime Cut" followed by the prescient political satire "The Candidate" and then the critically-praised satire "Smile". His genial comedy "The Bad News Bears" proved to be a major boxoffice hit. Ritchie never stopped working but the momentum faded by the late 1970s. He had the occasional modest hit ("Semi-Tough", "Fletch") but all too often he was consigned to mediocre films that played to mediocre results. Whether Ritchie was denied bringing innovative visions to reality by short-sighted studio executives or whether he just ran out of steam is not known. However, by the time he died in 2001 at only 62 years of age, those of us who admired his earlier films couldn't help but think that some great, unfilled projects had died with him. One of Ritchie's "work-for-hire" productions, the 1988 comedy "The Couch Trip" has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The quirky screwball concept falls short of its potential but there is much to recommend about it.
The movie opens at a psychiatric institution in Illinois where John W. Burns Jr. (Dan Aykroyd) is being held against his will. However, if he is a prisoner, it is in the sense that Bob Crane's Colonel Hogan was prisoner: the inmate is literally running the asylum. Burns has it pretty good for an incarcerated man. He's overflowing with confidence, charisma and superficial charm and wins over everyone in his sphere of influence. There seem to be few pleasures that he is denied at the institution and even finds a way to have sex with the secretary (Victoria Jackson) of the chief psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Baird (David Clennon), an uptight, humorless man who doesn't relate to the inmates under his care. The script introduces a separate story line concerning Dr. George Maitlin (Charles Grodin), an esteemed and very popular psychiatrist who dispenses pearls of wisdom to "patients" who call into his popular radio program. When it turns out that Maitlin himself is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he decides to take a sabbatical and attend a professional conference in London with his bubble-headed wife Vera (Mary Gross). He puts out the word that he wants an obscure psychiatrist to fill in for him by hosting his radio program, on the proviso that the substitute host isn't impressive enough to challenge Maitland's stranglehold on his audience. When word reaches the institute that Dr. Baird has been chosen to interview for the hosting gig, Burns intercepts the message, orchestrates a brilliant escape, steals a car and adopts the identity of Baird, even managing to fly to L.A. on his plane ticket (this was 1988, after all, before today's onerous security measures would render such a feat virtually impossible). Once in Hollywood, Burns is met by his "colleague", Dr. Laura Rollins (Aykroyd's real life wife Donna Dixon), who- in addition to being brainy- is also a sexy, leggy blonde. He also meets Harvey Michaels (Richard Romanus), a smarmy, fast-talking agent who is representing Maitland. The faux Dr. Baird quickly intimidates Michaels by making outrageous demands to host the radio program, all of which are met. Burns hits a speed bump when he has a chance encounter with a seemingly crazed con man named Donald Becker (Walter Matthau), who recognizes him as a wanted man and threatens to expose him if he doesn't make him a partner in his schemes. Left with no choice, Burns has Becker move into his lush hotel suite.
When Burns makes his debut in the guise of substitute host Dr. Baird on the radio program, he radicalizes the format by dispensing brutally honest advice to his troubled call-in audience. At times, he indulges in outrageous behavior and tosses out obscenities that shock Michaels and Dr. Rollins. However, all is forgiven when he becomes an overnight sensation and a ratings smash. Before long, "Dr. Baird" is the toast of Hollywood, leading to him making even more outrageous demands. A fly in the ointment comes when the real Dr. Baird meets Dr. Maitland at a convention in London. The two men realize they're being exploited and hurry back to Hollywood where they attempt to thwart Burns as he accepts an award on Maitland's behalf at a black tie dinner.
"The Couch Trip" starts out as an uninspired comedy but improves considerably as it progresses. The script is most effective in satirizing the (then) new populist trend of having troubled people rely on advice of radio show hosts to make life-altering decisions in their lives. The concept was absurd in the 1980s and has grown exponentially today with people using social media platforms as Dollar Store versions of psychiatrists, taking the advice of total strangers in regard to resolving their most intimate problems. Aykroyd is in top form with his cynical con man schtick. Matthau appears only fleetingly but adds his considerable skills to the merriment- and the supporting cast is also very amusing with Charles Grodin and David Clennon particularly funny. Director Michael Ritchie proves to be as adept with comedy as he was with dramas and thrillers and his "hands off" style allows both Aykroyd and Matthau to shine. The film bombed on its theatrical release but it offers enough gentle pleasures that it can recommended for home viewing. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray provides what appears to be segments from the film's original electronic presskit including some interesting behind the scenes footage and interviews with Aykroyd, Dixon and Ritchie (though grumpy old man Matthau's interviews have a total running time of about 20 seconds). The original trailer is also included.
For lovers of classic cinema as well as classic music, the recent emergence of presenting screenings of films accompanied by live orchestras has proven to be manna from Heaven. This was particularly true last week at Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall when the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of David Newman, presented a big screen showing of "Star Wars: A New Hope" with the Philharmonic providing live accompaniment of John Williams' legendary score. To call the resulting event thrilling would be an understatement. The atmosphere in the hall was unusual for a Philharmonic event, as concert producer Betsey Tumarkin thought outside the box and allowed the Philharmonic to go funky. The hall clearly embraced and catered to the fan movement, which allowed attendees the opportunity to pose for photos with characters from the film. It was an amusing sight, with uppercrust patrons walking about with Martinis intermingling with families with young children who were thrilled to meeting Darth Vader and some of those evil storm troopers. Additionally, self-described "Star Wars" geeks proudly wore their own costumes to the event, making an interesting contrast to those attired more traditionally for a Lincoln Center concert. The resulting detente between both aspects of the audience was due to their common respect for the music of John Williams. Even conductor Newman, an esteemed film composer in his own right, got into the action following four-- yes, four-encore appearances demanded by the thundering ovations - by wielding a light sabre from the podium. I must shamefully admit that I only saw "Star Wars" once, when it opened theatrically in 1977, though I did revisit portions of it back in the dark days of VHS to fact-check a book I was co-authoring with Michael Lewis, "The Films of Harrison Ford". Thus, when the Cinema Retro was invited to attend and review the opening night of the concert series, this became the ultimate offer I couldn't refuse. Perhaps my distance from the film served me well on this particular night because, while I certainly remembered the most iconic aspects of the movie and those classic lines of dialogue, I was able to enjoy the many wonderful nuances of the story and the performances as if for the first time, including the homage to John Ford's "The Searchers" when Luke finds his home destroyed and his family brutally murdered. It was also delightful to see British acting icons Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing evoking applause from contemporary audiences when they first appeared on the screen.
Attendees got into the spirit of things by warming up to dastardly villains.
The version of the film that was screened was the "Special Edition" from 1997. It was especially created for concert events, as it had the dialogue in sub-titles for those instances in which the overwhelming sound of the orchestra drowned out some of the soundtrack. There was an intermission mid-way through the screening, presumably to give the musicians a break, but also to ensure that there was a race to the souvenir stands where attendees could buy exclusive "Star Wars" concert merchandise. In the program created for the event, John Williams states "These live performances allow audiences to hear these scores in a new way. The performance by a live symphony orchestra enables audiences to hear a lot of music that can go unnoticed in the cinema." As for the challenge such events present to musicians, Williams says ""The orchestra must play pretty relentlessly for two hours or more. It is very intense for the brass, particularly in many of the battle sequences that can be 15 or 20 minutes long." Horn player Leelanee Sterrett is quoted as saying, "The brass parts are very prominent in almost all the famous themes you think of: The Imperial March, Princess Leia's Theme, the Throne Room. We have a really important role to play in the storytelling." Of Williams' score, David Newman says "It was so groundbreaking. It completely changed film music".
Sales of concert merchandise were out of this world.
Perhaps the greatest tribute to visionary mind of George Lucas comes from John Williams himself: "(He) created something that seems to be timeless. You'd have to look back to Walt Disney or even Dickens to find a comparison to the longevity enjoyed by the fabulous characters George has conjured. Darth Vader, Yoda and Luke Skywalker are very much still with us and will continue to be for decades to come. Forty years is now looking like a very short time."
(The New York Philharmonic will next present "The Empire Strikes Back" on September 26, 27 and 28; "Return of the Jedi" on October 4 and 5 and "The Force Awakens" on October 6 and 7. Click here for information and tickets.
Hollywood studios are still licking their wounds over one of the worst years in memory in terms of boxoffice performance, though there are signs of a strong final quarter. Still, the guys and gals in the corner offices can't get out of a rut when it comes to lack of imagination. When they have a good thing, their only strategy seems to be to over-indulge in it. As David Sims writes in the Atlantic, Warner Bros. is planning three- yes, three- simultaneous comic book-related films featuring the Joker. The abundance of superhero films is the latest trend and, as usual, studios are over-indulging in it to the point that the bloom will come off the rose with audiences that are always seeking the next shiny object. Eventually, the quality of the films, which are all similar in content, begins to diminish and all the CGI effects imaginable can't make up for an uninspired script. There's already signs that audience exhaustion with superhero flicks is already setting in, despite the great success of some of the franchises. Universal is in the same dilemma: trying to dust off its classic Universal Monsters franchise for modern audiences despite anemic response to their updated version of "The Mummy" starring Tom Cruise. The recent remake of Stephen King's "It" indicates there is still a big market for horror films....but let's remember, the film is still a remake of a TV production. The lack of imagination and risk-taking among the major studios has left independent productions and art house films to dominate the market for mature audiences who want to see something a bit different than young women being pursued by maniacal killers. Perhaps the success of Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" might embolden the studios to have more faith in diversity- but I wouldn't be surprised to see a film about the battle of Gettysburg somehow involving Superman and Batman. Click here to read.
Allen’s very first directorial effort (not counting What’s Up, Tiger Lily? from1966, which was, in actuality, a
Japanese spy movie that Allen rewrote, dubbed, and re-edited into a comedy) was
the low budget, no frills Take the Money
and Run, released in the summer of 1969 to an unsuspecting audience. While
Allen was already somewhat familiar to the public via his numerous television
talk show and stand-up appearances, as well as his small roles in three late-60s
motion pictures, no one was quite prepared for the zany, nebbish onscreen
persona that Allen debuted in Take the
Money. It was a cinematic guise he would keep to the present day.
intellectual Jewish nerd that Allen presented (here his character’s name is
Virgil Starkwell) quickly became the guy whom we all thought Woody Allen really
is. Some folks might have said, “Oh, he’s just playing himself.” Perhaps
certain characteristics of the real Woody Allen may have been a part of Virgil
Starkwell, or Fielding Mellish, or even Alvy Singer, but like Groucho Marx and his onscreen persona, we now know that Woody
Allen is not that guy. In truth, he tends to be surprisingly shy, quiet, and
introverted. This revelation makes the performances in his movies that much
Take the Money and
also a milestone because of its “mockumentary” format, a comedy sub-genre that
had been rarely explored up to that point. Something like A Hard Day’s Night might be called a mockumentary, but it wasn’t
until Allen’s landmark unveiling of his first feature that we saw the comedic
possibilities of presenting a story as if it were real news—complete with
documentary-style narration (provided in this case by veteran Jackson Beck).
movie is the tale of a common serial thief, and how his love life and eventual
marriage (to Louise, played by Janet Margolin) affects his “career.” The
hilarious biographical narrative includes wacky robberies, failed attempts to
go straight, and numerous stints in the pen. One cannot easily forget the
classic bank holdup scene in which Allen passes a note to the teller, who can’t
read the handwriting. Before long, the entire staff of the bank is attempting
to decipher whether Starkwell wrote “gub” or “gun.” “Is this a holdup?” one guy
for roughly $1.5 million, the picture looks, well, cheap, and it has that 1960s
shot-on-newsreel-cameras feel, which of course is entirely appropriate. The
direction is competent; Allen has long acknowledged the contribution of editor
Ralph Rosenblum to his early comedies. It’s not unfair to say that Rosenblum
may have taught Allen essential lessons in directing. That said, it’s also no
small feat to act in, direct, and co-write (with Mickey Rose) a movie. Despite
the low rent vibe of the picture, the jokes really do come every few seconds,
and this is worth the price of admission. It is a very funny movie.
Kino Lorber Blu-ray transfer looks fine, although the video quality of the
original picture wasn’t particularly great to begin with. Unfortunately, like
with most Allen Blu-ray releases, there are no supplements other than trailers
for other Kino Lorber releases.
Take the Money and Run is a
worthwhile examination of a genius artist’s baby steps. There’s no question
that Allen’s career began with an impressive laugh riot—and things would only
"Thunderball" co-stars Martine Beswick and Luciana Paluzzi.
Hammer and "Live and Let Die" actress Madeleine Smith.
BY MARK MAWSTON
The London Film Convention, organized by
Thomas Bowington was quite literally a Who’s Who of heroes and villains from
the small and silver screen. The actual Who came in the shape of a Dr. himself
in the guise of Sylvester McCoy, along with Who assistants Katy Manning who played Jo and
Bernard Cribbins from both the Amicus film version and the TV version. There was also a
rare appearance from Garial Woolf. The other key cult British film genres-the Carry On films, James Bond and Hammer horror- were all represented too, with many of the star
guests appearing in all three: from the Carry On Films we had Fenella Fielding,
Anita Harris and Amanda Barrie, from Hammer and Bond we had Maddie Smith,
Valerie Leon, Martine Beswick, Eunice Gayson, John Wyman, Deborah Moore, Jan
Williams, Shane Rimmer, Robert Watts, Golden Girl Shirley Eaton and a rare
appearance from Luciana Paluzzi.
We also had the Star Wars and action films
represented by Vic Armstrong, Wolf Kahler, Jack Klaff, Virginia Hey and many others.
All in all, a fabulous day for the fan and the collector alike with many of the
attendee’s purchasing back copies of Cinema Retro to be signed by the guests! (All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
Wolf Kahler- still recovering from looking inside the Lost Ark of the Covenant!
The First Lady of Bond, Eunice Gayson.
Anita Harris & Amanda Barri
Carry On’s Fenella Fielding
Famed Producer & Production Manager from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Bond Robert Watts with Who assistant Katie Manning.
James Bond's "Golden Girl" Shirley Eaton.
Bernard Cribbins plays ventriloquist to Sylvester McCoy.
They were two of the greatest acting talents of their time. But when Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh discarded their spouses and families to begin a torrid affair, it paved the way for scandal and madness. Olivier found himself seduced by the sexually aggressive Leigh, who worked diligently to help deconstruct his marriage, as well as her own. When the two finally married, the relationship became erratic when Olivier discovered that Leigh had been diagnosed with what would now be known as bipolar disorder. Her range of emotions varied wildly and as time wore on, her mental condition deteriorated to a tragic level. Writer Michael Thornton covers the tempestuous relationship for the Daily Mail and points out that Olivier and Leigh never fell out of love with each other- even after they divorced. Adding to the salacious aspects of the story, Thornton maintains that both Olivier and Leigh were actively bisexual and carried on affairs with members of the same sex. Leigh, however, fell victim to her psychological disease and would have quick sexual interludes with men she would pick up on the street. To read, click here.
CINEMA RETRO HAS RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING PRESS RELEASE:
12, 2017 - New York, NY – At this year’s 15th edition of the New
York City Horror Film Festival, broad-ranged character actor Brad Dourif,
beloved to fright fans as the voice of killer doll Chucky, will receive the event’s
Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, Oct. 28. The prestigious trophy honors Mr.
Dourif for his long-ranging contributions to horror cinema, and the actor will
accept in person.
Dourif began his career on the stage where he was eventually noticed by Milos
Forman and cast as Billy Bibbit in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, a role
which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He has
brought his craft to classic genre films including the John Carpenter-scripted EYES
OF LAURA MARS; David Lynch’s DUNE and BLUE VELVET; and William Peter Blatty’s THE
EXORCIST III. Dourif gained further renown for voicing Chucky in the CHILD’S PLAY
franchise, the latest film of which, CULT OF CHUCKY, debuts this fall.
features and 31 short films make up this year’s festival, which opens Thurs Oct.
26, with a range of films including New York premieres of Mitchell Altieri’s THE
NIGHT WATCHMEN; Norbert Keil’s REPLACE starring Barbara Crampton; Benjamin
Arfmann’s DISMISSED starring Dylan Sprouse; Richard Stringham’s CLOSE CALLS;
and Mathieu Turi’s HOSTILE starring Javier (IT) Botet; and the North American
premiere of Michael Mongillo’s ghost story DIANE.
festival runs October 26–29, at Cinépolis Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street.,
at the corner of 8th Avenue and 23rd Street in the heart
of New York’s Chelsea district, just one block over from the famed Chelsea
Hotel, once home to Sid Vicious, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Bob
Dylan, and Arthur C. Clarke.
NYC Horror Film Festival was born in 2002 by filmmaker Michael J. Hein as a
venue for newer independent horror filmmaking. After Michael’s passing in 2011,
the festival created the Michael J. Hein Achievement Award to celebrate the
hard work and perseverance of creators in the field. George Romero was the
first recipient of the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by other
classic scaremeisters including Rob Zombie, Roger Corman, Frank Henenlotter,
Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, and the beloved late Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper,
Angus Scrimm, and Herschell Gordon Lewis.
The full schedule for the New York City Horror Film Festival is here:
Cinema Retro issue #39 has now shipped worldwide. For subscribers, this is the final issue of Season 13. Please renew for Season 14 (see below) and keep supporting the world's most unique movie magazine.
Issue #39 devotes a full 32 pages to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", which starred Sean Connery as 007 and introduced Donald Pleasence as the immortal villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Why did we dedicate half of the pages in this issue to the film? Largely because of the outpouring of contributions from talented writers from around the world, not to mention esteemed names like composer David Arnold, actress Karin Dor, who played the villainous femme fatale Helga Brandt, Tsai Chin who played Bond's bedmate in the pre-credits scene, legendary lyricist Leslie Bricusse, assistant director William Cartlidge, future Oscar-winning production designer Peter Lamont and Nancy Sinatra, who recalls the nerve-wracking experience of singing the title song. Plus in-depth looks at composer John Barry, the cars of "You Only Live Twice", the inside story behind the Little Nellie autogyro, "now and then" photos of key locations and a Bondwagon full of rare photos and promotional art, some of which are published here for the first time- plus a look at all the accompanying international 007 collectibles.
Issue #39 also concludes our celebration of the life and career of actress Susan George and examines the kinky little-seen crime thriller "Night Hair Child" (aka "What the Peeper Saw") plus the obscure-but-worthy cult flick "Deadly Strangers" starring Hayley Mills- plus tributes to the late, great Sir Roger Moore.
In reality, you only live once- so don't miss this limited edition issue.
You can still subscribe to Season 13 and get all three issues shipped to you
at once, including issue #37 and #38, which honor "Rocky" and "The Dirty
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
(o.t. Morte sospetta di una minorenne)
(1975) is a bit of a queer fish. It's widely regarded as the last – and
arguably the least – of director Sergio Martino's giallos, though in fact it
only barely qualifies as such, spanning as it does several genres. It's a
curious hybrid wherein the giallo element is fairly low-key, playing second
fiddle to poliziotteschi tropes with an ill-judged sprinkling of comedy.
been rudely propositioned by a guy at a dance, a young girl is chased from the
place by an impeccably dressed, unspeaking assassin. He corners her in a room
at an insalubrious Milan hotel where he savagely slays her. The guy whose unwanted
attentions the girl drew prior to her murder is later revealed to be Inspector
Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli), working undercover to expose a drugs and
underage prostitution racket in which she was embroiled. Every time Germi gets
close to the next link in the chain that person dies, each falling victim to
the silent assassin who's keeping one step ahead of him and eradicating anyone
whose evidence could lead to the identification of the top banana and bust the
trafficking operation wide open.
Sergio Martino was the man behind such excellent giallos as Torso, All the Colours of the Dark and the gloriously titled Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have
the Key, whilst co-scripter Ernesto Gastaldi (as well as collaborating with
Martino on the aforementioned trio) penned such renowned works as The Case of the Bloody Iris and Death Walks on High Heels. And yet,
although purely in terms of its subject matter there's a dark underbelly festering
away in The Suspicious Death of a Minor,
it never quite plumbs the anticipated depths of sleaziness that its title and
credentials might imply. As is standard for Italian films of this period the
female cast is typically gorgeous, notably Patrizia Castaldi (as the story's
first victim), Barbara Magnolfi and Jenny Tamburi. But none of them actually
look like minors, nudity is employed with uncommon restraint for this sort of
movie and, a couple of graphic attacks aside, the production is not nearly as
brutal as it might have been either. None of which is to suggest it's not worth
dipping in to; there's some great stuff going on here.
all odds Claudio Cassinelli is eminently likeable as Germi, the cop who get
suspects to talk at gunpoint, drives like a maniac, recklessly fires off his
weapon in the midst of civilians, sleeps with prostitutes and hooks up with a
petty thief (Gianfranco Barra) as an accomplice. "It was self defence,
right?", Germi’s boss (Mel Ferrer) encouragingly prompts when he’s being
raked across the coals by a superior officer for his aberrant technique;
"No, sir, it was self offence,"
Germi replies bluntly. Indeed, his Dirty Harry-esque modus operandi may be unorthodox but it sure gets results. (As an
aside, Cassinelli was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1985 whilst
working on Martino's sci-fi actioner Hands
photographed by Giancarlo Ferrando, highlights include a chase which begins
with a shootout on a fairground Crazy Mouse ride and ends messily on an
underground rail track, and a tense confrontation atop the retractable roof of
a cinema. The first half of the film unfolds reasonably unpredictably – it's
some time before we learn that Germi is actually one of the good guys – but
once our man has established the identity of the first victim it's not too much
of a strain for the viewer to see where the plot is going and who the brains
behind the prostitution ring is likely to be. That said, there are still a few twists
en route to the slightly abrupt
finale, one of them particularly cruel and involving Barra and Tamburi. All
this is offset, as indicated earlier, by some mostly unwelcome humour. There's
a running gag in which Germi is constantly breaking his spectacles that isn’t
too intrusive. But the front door of his beat up jalopy keeps falling off too, adding
a slapstick dimension to the proceedings; during an extended car chase, which is
played purely for chuckles, his passenger leans out and with much amusement pulls
off the back door too, hurling at the pursuing vehicle.
With a terrific
score from Luciano Michelini – which sandwiches traditional 70s cop movie
sounds between between piano-driven melodies evocative of the Confessions films (no, really!) and
Goblin's superlative work on the Argento classics – The Suspicious Death of a Minor will never be cited as one of the
greats, but it's enjoyable enough and unlikely to leave anyone with an
appreciation for the golden period of Italian filmmaking feeling disappointed.
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
hits DVD and Blu-Ray as a dual format Arrow Video release bearing the on-screen
title Too Young to Die. A brand-new
2K restoration from the original camera negative, the transfer is faultless,
with sound options available in English mono and Italian mono (with English
subtitling). Supplements are sparse, at least by Arrow standards; there's a
feature commentary from author Troy Howarth, a generous 43-minute interview
with Martino (in Italian with English subtitling) and a trailer (again in
Italian with English subs). A collector's booklet and the usual Arrow reversible
sleeve are dropped in to round off the deal.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER (This is a Region 2/Pal format release)
Lisi and Rod Steiger are “The Girl and the General,” available on DVD via the
Warner Archive Collection. The poster art on the DVD cover asks, “What happens
when the roles of man and woman are reversed?” The answer on the cover, “‘The
Girl and the General’ is what happens!”
is an Austrian general captured during WWI by Italian Private Tarasconi
(Umberto Orsini) who is separated from his unit while retreating from the
advancing Austrian Army. Realizing he will receive a reward by his superiors
for capturing and turning in the general, the private attempts to bring the
general to his Italian commanders. He has dreams of using the reward money to
buy a farm and live a quite life in the country. Where do the Italian and
Austrian lines begin and end? Who can be trusted? Outsmarted by the general,
the terrain and the confusing and changing front lines, the private is driven
by his dreams, hunger and safety when he finds an abandoned farm house. There’s
no food, but they have a place to rest for the night. The general escapes and
the private encounters the beautiful Ada (Lisi) who is equally hungry and also
seeking safe haven from the raging battle. Private Tarasconi and Ada agree to
split the reward if she will help him recapture the general and take him to the
Italian army. They find and recapture the general and they continue their trek.
private is drawn as much to Ada’s beauty as he is to the reward, but hunger
becomes the great equalizer for all three. Keeping the general their captive is
no easy task as the trio journey from one problematic location to another,
encountering Austrians and Germans, but no Italians and end up back at the
abandoned farmhouse where they started after traveling in a circle. In spite of
their partnership, Ada is not about to give in to the private’s lust for her, nor
is she about to share a precious egg she has found. The private takes the egg
from a sleeping Ada and returns the empty egg after sucking out the contents.
His hunger partially quenched, he turns to his lust for Ada, but she stops him.
He shares his dream of buying a farm and Ada warms to him with the possibility
continue their journey as the general does everything he can to outsmart them
and escape. Ada outsmarts the private using his attraction and trust of her against
him and locks him in a closet on an Austrian train car. The private soon
returns and they use money found in the farmhouse to buy a donkey and cart so
the private and general can hide in the barrel on the cart as Ada leads them
through enemy occupied territory. In one scene, Ada goes out searching for food
only to pass into an Austrian encampment. She asks for food, which they give to
her, but they have a demand for repayment. Ada endures the humiliation of being
fondled in return for potatoes until the men are ordered to leave when their
superior arrives. Upon returning to the private and the general, she lies and
says there was no food.
each try to one-up each other with their shared needs like food and shelter,
the general’s need to escape and the private’s dream of buying a farm and
marrying Ada. She simply wants to survive and uses the two men for her own ends
as they make their way to the Italian lines, but to get there they must cross a
mine field. All I will say about that is the donkey doesn’t make it and the
movie comes to a satisfying conclusion.
more accurate title for the movie could be “The Private, the Girl and the
General,” but that doesn’t have the same ring or commercial appeal as “The Girl
and the General.” Produced by Carlo Ponti, the movie was directed by Pasquale
Festa Campanile who also contributed as co-writer of the original story and is
credited as a co-screenwriter. He was also co-writer on “The Leopard” in 1963
featuring Burt Lancaster in one of his signature roles. Campanile also directed
“The Girl from Trieste,” in 1982 which featured Ben Gazzara. The movie features
terrific location shooting and a fabulous score by the great Ennio Morricone.
Has he ever delivered a bad score?
Perhaps, but there’s always added value to any movie where Morricone has made a
is not a typical war movie as there is very little in the way of combat. The
soldiers on both sides disappear for most of the movie except when they show up
as road blocks to the trio’s progress. Roles are not reversed so much as
equalized as the trio search for food, safety and shelter in a basic will to
survive. This common struggle trumps everything and brings them together as
danger blocks them at every turn. The movie is also very funny, especially when
Steiger is involved with outsmarting the easily outsmarted private. In an early
scene after being captured, the general convinces the private to take his boots
off and, after setting them aside, the general tosses them over a cliff,
forcing the private to walk in his socks until he finds suitable replacement
in the fall of 1967 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer in the U.S., the movie is well worth
a viewing. Lisi and Orsini are very good and the incomparable Steiger is very
appealing in his role as the general. The movie looks and sounds terrific and
clocks in at 103 minutes. The DVD is bare bones with no extras.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
The stars must have formed a fortuitous
alignment. Somehow, a great wrong has been righted and order has been restored
to the universe. Kino Lorber, under its
KL Classics brand, has just released “Sunset in the West,” the first-ever high
definition Blu-Ray edition of a Roy Rogers Trucolor western. This may not sound
like a big deal to some people, but for the initiated—those who grew up watching
Roy on the big screen at countless Saturday matinees in the 1950s— it is monumental.
Because, until now the only Roy Rogers movies available for home viewing were
dark, faded, and badly edited transfers released first on VHS and later DVD by
Republic Studios. Republic treated Roy’s movies with criminal disrespect. The
studio let the movies fade away with in their vaults, and then sold them to TV
where they were butchered to fit time slots. By the time they got to home video
there were a mess. For Roy’s fans, it seemed a hopeless situation that would
never be corrected. But now, thanks to a first class restoration by Kino
Lorber, you can see what John McClane was talking about in “Die Hard,” when he
told Hans he was kinda partial to Roy Rogers more than John Wayne, because: “I
really like those shirts.”
Color was an essential component of the
Rogers westerns. In addition to the western-style shirts he wore, there was the
bandana around his neck, the silver studs on his holster and gun belt, the hand-tooled
boots with touches of turquoise on them, all of which combined to make Roy
practically a living work of art. Even Trigger, his golden Palomino, billed as
“The Smartest Horse in the Movies” was outfitted with handsomely a burnished
leather saddle festooned with silver doo-dads and a Mexican-style saddle
blanket. But you could hardly see any of that on home video. Part of the
problem was the Trucolor process itself. Republic invented its own cheaper red
and green two-strip color process to save money and still compete with
Technicolor. The absence of the third blue strip resulted in more pastel shades
than Technicolor with the picture emphasizing oranges and blues. The result was
a special look that was immediately identifiable, and put Republic’s, and
especially Roy Rogers, movies sort of in a class by themselves. But the big
drawback was that Trucolor film faded quickly. Kino Lorber has done a
praiseworthy restoration, remastering “Sunset in the West,” from a 4K scan, and
the movie looks just about as good as it must have when it was first released.
It’s a significant event in the history of film restoration.
“Sunset in the West” is a typical Roy Rogers
movie. Certainly not the best he ever made, but a good one.
I would vote for “Bells of San Angelo” as the best, but I suppose it’s all a
matter of opinion. When you’re talking about the King of the Cowboys what can
you say? They’re all great. In this one Roy finds himself involved in a plot
involving gun runners. The script by screenwriting veteran Gerald Geraghty starts
with a train hijacking. (That’s another plus right there. Roy Rogers and
trains! There are several steam locomotives in the story, although it’s likely
there was only one that was used and made over to look different each time.)
The bad guys drive the trains to isolated areas, dump out the freight, and
replace it with guns to be smuggled across the border to a foreign power. The
trains are found later wrecked somewhere along the track. Roy finds out about
it when the train he was expecting to pick up the cattle he had driven to
Bordertown races right on by without even stopping. Not a man to let a thing like
that go by, Roy jumps on Trigger and races after the steaming locomotive. He
overtakes the train, jumps aboard and is immediately punched out by the
engineer and knocked off the speeding locomotive.
And that’s just the first reel of this
action-packed movie. Directed at a frenetic pace by the legendary William Witney
(one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite directors), “Sunset in the West” packs a
slew of galloping horse chases (Roy takes down two baddies riding double in one
scene), numerous fist fights (including a barroom brawl that must have used
half of Republics fabled team of stunt men), several gun fights, four or five
quick musical numbers, and a finale that takes place along the crashing waves
of a deserted beach. And all packed into a dizzying 67 minutes.
The cast includes Penny Edwards, playing the
niece of Sheriff Tad Osborne (Will Wright), an old timer who’s about to chuck
his 30-year career because he can’t solve the mystery of the highjacked trains.
The plot gets moving when Roy, is deputized and helps find out who’s behind it all.
Also on hand for comedy relief is Gordon Jones as “Splinters” a hiccupping
barber/deputy sheriff. Pierre Watkin appears as Gordon McKnight, a leading
citizen of Bordertown who seems kind of shady, and Estelita Rodrigues, who
plays Carmelita a Mexican gal singer who doubles as a spy for Deputy Splinters.
Foy Willing and the Sons of the Purple Sage are on hand to provide some of the
Kino Lorber presents the movie in a
1920X1080p transfer and in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, slightly wider
than the standard 1.33:1. Bonus features
include audio commentary by Western film historian Toby Roan, who provides
interesting info on the cast, the locations, and, just about anything else
you’d want to know about the movie. There are also previews of other westerns
in the KL catalog. There’s no question. This is one Blu-Ray you have to own. Let’s
hope there are more restorations of these classic films to come. Until then, Happy
Trails, partner, and may the Good Lord take a liking to you.
Bava's celebrated 1966 Gothic chiller Kill,
Baby...Kill! – o.t: Operazione Paura
(Operation Fear) – is something of a
masterpiece in terms of stylish tableaux, yet where engaging narrative is
concerned it somewhat fumbles the ball; the plot underpinning what is without
question a beautiful film to look at is so humdrum that I'd suggest it can
really only be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities. Whether that's
sufficient grist to warrant a visit (or indeed a revisit) is purely subjective.
the death of a woman impaled on railings in a remote East European village,
Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) summons an outside coroner, Dr Paul Eswai (Giacomo
Rossi Stuart), to perform an autopsy. It transpires that the woman is the
latest of several villagers to fall prey to the malevolent ghost of a child,
Melissa Graps (Valerio Valeri). Aided by local nurse Monica Schuftan (Erika
Blanc), Eswai is compelled to probe the mystery. But the pair are soon drawn
into a hallucinogenic world where familial secrets lurk in the shadows and, as
those around them begin to perish, their own lives come under threat.
admit that the preceding synopsis reads rather intriguingly. However, even at
85-minutes Kill, Baby…Kill!'s story
feels stretched – to call it a slow-burner would be an understatement – and its
distinctly anticlimactic denouement serves only to sprinkle salt on the wound.
Bava himself worked on the screenplay alongside writers Romano Migliorini (La notte dei diavoli) and Roberto Natale
(L’isola delle svedesi), and one
really might have expected something more interesting to emerge from the
focus on the positives, as already asserted Kill,
Baby...Kill! is brimming with Bava's trademark flourishes and so can at
least be dubbed an artistic triumph. Several genuinely startling moments
involving the ghost of the little girl, the gorgeous mist-shrouded graveyard
set and the vast cobweb-strewn crypt bathed in eerie green and magenta lighting
combine to varnish the production with a surreal dreamlike sheen. In some cases,
it adopts a satisfyingly nightmarish quality, for example the dizzying sequence
in which Monica runs from the child down a vertiginous, seemingly bottomless
spiral staircase. And another when Eswai pursues a fleeing man, only to catch
up and find himself face-to-face with...himself!
footnote, I’ve never been too keen on either the original Operation Fear or Kill, Baby…Kill!
titles under which the film is so often widely identified, both of which – if
one knew absolutely nothing about it – seem to hold more the promise of a
frothy 60s spy romp than the early 1900s-set chiller that it is. Far better is
its less employed UK moniker, Curse of
the Dead, which if nothing else more honestly telegraphs its Gothic horror intent.
has been issued by Arrow Video in the UK as a dual format DVD/Blu-Ray combo.
The movie itself is a restored 2K hi-def transfer with mono English and Italian
soundtracks (English subs being provided for the latter). Bonus goodies
comprise a feature introduction and 11-minute interview with Erika Blanc (both
in Italian with English subs); a commentary from Bava expert Tim Lucas; a video
essay on devil children in Gothic horror by critic Kat Ellinger; a 25-minute
interview with Lamberto Bava (son of Mario and assistant director on this film),
in Italian with English subs; a trailer; an alternative German opening sequence
bearing the on-screen title Die Toten
Augen des Dr Dracula (The Dead Eyes
of Dr Dracula) – and I’d wager there were a few disappointed patrons among
those lured in by that outrageous
retitling! – with the credits running over different footage to that in its Kill, Baby...Kill! incarnation; a stills
gallery comprising German lobby cards and poster art; a 7-minute short entitled
Yellow that pays homage to Bava's distinctive
cinematic style; and finally a collectors booklet plus a reversible sleeve
featuring original and newly commissioned artwork.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER (This is a Region 2/PAL format release)
Lynch is today’s foremost surrealist. In many ways, he has taken up the mantle
begun by those artists of the 1920s who attempted to present in tangible,
visual forms the juxtapositions, bizarre logic, and beauty/horror of dreams.
Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray,
Germaine Dulac, René Magritte—to name a few.
people know Lynch from his films, but as this thoughtful and insightful
documentary reveals, he is and has always been primarily a painter. Lynch began
his career in the “art life” studying and practicing fine art… and he sort of
fell into filmmaking along the way. Even today, despite his recent foray back
into television with Twin Peaks—The
Return on Showtime, Lynch spends most of his time in his home studio
drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and painting.
film is narrated by Lynch himself as he takes the audience through moments of
his early life growing up first in the state of Montana, then Idaho,
Washington, and finally Virginia. After high school, Lynch briefly attended the
School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but he dropped out because he
wasn’t inspired. His friend Jack Fisk (future production designer on several of
Lynch’s films and future wife of actress Sissy Spacek) got the artist to join
him at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and that’s where
things started to take off.
documentary might be disappointing to Lynch fans in that it covers only his
childhood and twenties…just up to the point where he makes Eraserhead (which took four years in the mid-seventies and was
finally released in 1977). Other documentaries, such as 1997’s Pretty as a Picture, might delve into
Lynch’s more well-known feature work. However, for this unique documentary, Lynch
has provided never-before-seen home movies and photographs of his childhood,
family, and artwork. As these biographical stories are related in chronological
order, we see Lynch at work in his studio… drinking coffee, smoking, and
painting. In fact, we get a very good look at a great deal of his artwork. And
if you think Lynch’s movies are strange, wait until you see his paintings!
Stylistically, they are three-dimensional multimedia pieces. A canvas might
contain found objects, gobs of thick paint, wood and metal, odd figures and
creatures, and lettering. Fascinating stuff.
explains how he got the idea for a “painting that moved,” which resulted in his
first film, Six Men Getting Sick (Six
Times) (1967), and then moved on to make other surrealistic, avant-garde
short films such as The Alphabet and The Grandmother. These efforts led to
his moving his family in 1971 (he had gotten married in ’67 and had a child in
’68) to Los Angeles so that he could study at the AFI Conservatory. It was
there that he began his first feature film, the iconic independent
takeaway from the documentary is that Lynch evolved as an artist whenever there
were obstacles to overcome. He developed a knack for taking a bad situation and
turning it into something productive. We see this occurring repeatedly in his
tales of journeying from childhood to becoming an adult.
Criterion Collection presents the film in the company’s usual top-notch
excellence. The video quality of the Blu-ray High Definition digital master is
gorgeous—you can see every wrinkle of Lynch’s weathered face, as well as the
fine lines of his silver-white hair. Sound—always important in a Lynch film and
just as vital here—is a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio. The package is short
on supplements, though. Along with the theatrical trailer, an interview with
one of the directors, Jon Nguyen, illustrates the working process the
filmmakers had with Lynch. An essay by critic Dennis Lim appears in the
only 88 minutes, David Lynch—The Art Life
is a short but worthwhile look into the mind—and dreams—of one of today’s
most important visual artists.