school friends Enid Coleslaw (Thora Birch) and Rebecca Doppelmeyer (Scarlett
Johansson) absolutely cannot wait to be free of the prison of school, defiantly
flipping the bird and squashing their mortarboards following their graduation.
Enid isn’t off the hook just yet: her “diploma” is instead a note informing her
that she must “take some stupid art class” (her words) if she hopes to graduate.
Their fellow classmates are caricatures of everyone we all knew during our
adolescence. Melora (Debra Azar) is inhumanly happy all the time and oblivious
to Enid and Rebecca’s sense of ennui and contempt. Todd (T.J. Thyne) is
ultra-nervous to talk with the insouciant Rebecca at the punchbowl. Another bespectacled
student sits off by himself. Enid and Rebecca are at both an intellectual and
emotional crossroads. They want to share an apartment; however, they seem unaware
of the amount of money they will have to come up with for such a
venture. Instead of finding jobs, their post-graduation afternoons are spent
meandering through life while frowning upon society, following strange people
home, bothering their mutual friend Josh (Brad Renfro) and admiring the Weird
Al wannabe waiter at the new 50’s-themed diner which plays contemporary music.
Seemingly without a care in the world, the women have no plans to attend
college, preferring instead to prank an unsuspecting nebbish named Seymour (Steve
Buscemi) who has placed a personal ad in an attempt to communicate with a
striking blonde he noticed, with Enid feigning said blonde on Seymour’s
answering machine. Rebecca is a dour and solemn counterpoint to Enid’s aloof
yet occasionally jovial demeanor. If
Holden Caulfield had a girlfriend, she might be someone just like Enid,
sneering at the losers and phonies in her midst. Searching out Seymour, they
approach him and his roommate at a garage sale where he is unloading old
records for next to nothing. His affection for collecting 78 rpms begins to
endear him to Enid, who confides in Rebecca that she likes him despite their
25-year age difference. They have some truly funny moments together such as
attending a “party” for guys who talk techno mumbo-jumbo, riding in the car
together as Seymour screams at people walking through an intersection, and a
humorous romp through an adult video and novelty store.
Rebecca grows tired of hearing about Seymour,
and presses Enid to get a job but she only succeeds in getting fired repeatedly,
even from her position at the concession stand at a Pacific Theatre cinema when
she ribs the customers over their choice of movie and their willingness to eat
popcorn with “chemical sludge” poured on it. The tone of the film shifts from
one of comedic commentary on the world to one of disillusionment as Enid begins
to feel her world slowly begin to crumble around her. Her friendship with
Rebecca, an anchor in her life for years, is ending and like so many of us at
that age, she has no idea where her life is going or what she needs to be doing
when she isn’t changing her hair color or her now-famous blue Raptor t-shirt or
donning punk rock garb as a sartorial statement. Her summer art teacher
(Illeana Douglas) shows her students her personal thesis film Mirror, Father, Mirror which itself is a
parody of the pretentious student films submitted to professors. She pushes
Enid to create interesting and powerful art when Enid is only interested in
drawing the people she knows and Don Knotts. In short, nothing seems to be
going well for her. The only person she can rely on is Norman, the well-dressed
man who sits on a bench at a bus stop that stopped service a long time ago and
holds the key to the film’s long-debated denouement. Enid is almost like an
older version of Jane Burnham, the character portrayed by Ms. Birch in American Beauty (1999). In that film,
she barely reacted to her father (Kevin Spacey) and here her contempt for her
father (Bob Balaban) and his girlfriend Maxine (Teri Garr) is even more
Director Terry Zwigoff takes the source
material created by artist and writer Daniel Clowes and fashions one of the
most brilliantly entertaining and poignant ruminations on adolescence the
silver screen has ever seen. Ghost World
also boasts excellent use of music, much of it pre-existing, although the main
theme by David Kitay is an elegiac
piano theme that recalls David Shire’s theme to The Conversation (1974). The film starts with a bang to the
seemingly non-diegetic tune of the Mohammed Rafi hit “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” from
the 1965 Hindi film Gumnaam, the
scenes of which are intercut with images of the apartment complex’s
inhabitants. As the camera tracks from the exterior windows of these
grotesqueries, it settles upon Enid’s bedroom where the night before graduation
she dances to the aforementioned tune which we now see is being played back on a
bootleg VHS tape. The beat is frenetic and infectious. Enid, for the first of
only a handful of times in the entire film, appears to be in a state of joy as
she mimics the moves of the dancers. If only she could always feel this way! With this singular sequence, Mr. Zwigoff
achieves something reserved for only the greatest and rarest of filmmakers – re-identifying
a popular musical piece with his movie. I can’t hear “The Blue Danube” without
thinking of spaceships spinning throughout the galaxy.
Ghost World opened on Friday, July 20, 2001 in
limited release in New York and Los Angeles and garnered immediate critical
acclaim. Filmed in 2000, the film is a product of a simpler and more innocent
time. Before the brutal wake-up call of the September 11th attacks, there is a
complete lack of cell phone usage in the film. It makes a great companion to
2001’s other minor masterpiece of adolescent angst, the cult favorite Donnie Darko.
The year 1967 marked the high point of Sidney Poitier's screen career. He starred in three highly acclaimed box office hits: "To Sir, With Love", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "In the Heat of the Night". The fact that Poitier did not score a Best Actor Oscar nomination that year had less to do with societal prejudices (he had already won an Oscar) than the fact that he was competing with himself and split the voter's choices for his best performance. "In the Heat of the Night" did win the Best Picture Oscar and immortalized Poitier's performance as Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia detective who finds himself assigned to assist a redneck sheriff (Rod Steiger, who did win the Oscar that year for his performance in this film) in a town in the deep south that has experienced a grisly unsolved murder. When Steiger's character, resentful for having to work with a black man, refers to Tibbs as "boy" and asks what they call him back in Philadelphia, he replies "They call me Mister Tibbs!", thereby uttering what would become one of the cinema's most iconic lines of dialogue. In the film, Poitier plays Tibbs as a man of mystery. Little is unveiled about his personal life, which adds immeasurably to his mystique. He proves to be highly intelligent, logical and courageous, though refreshingly, not immune from making mistakes and misjudgments. The reaction to the movie was so good that, Hollywood being Hollywood, United Artists became convinced that Tibbs could be brought back to star in a "tentpole" series of crime thrillers. Kino Lorber has released both sequels to "In the Heat of the Night" as Blu-ray editions.
First up is the 1970 release, "The Call me MISTER Tibbs!" Aside from Poitier's commanding presence as the same character, there is virtually no connection between this Virgil Tibbs and the one seen in the previous film. The screenplay by Alan Trustman, who wrote the winners "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Bullitt", softens the Tibbs character to the point that he resembles one of those unthreatening TV gumshoes. When we first see him, he is now in the San Francisco Police Department, though Trustman doesn't provide even a single line of dialogue to explain how he got there. He's apparently been there for some time, too, because Tibbs has suddenly acquired a wife (Barbara McNair) and a young son and daughter. The movie opens with the brutal murder of a call girl who lived in a pricey apartment. Evidence points to Tibbs' old friend Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau), a firebrand street preacher and activist who enjoys a wide following and who is galvanizing the community to vote in a politically controversial referendum. Sharpe professes his innocence and Tibbs sets out to acquit him and find the real killer. The trail quickly leads to a confusing mix of motley characters and red herrings, among them Anthony Zerbe and Ed Asner. Poitier is never less than impressive even when playing a watered-down version of a once gritty character. However, his impact is diminished by the sappy screenplay which allocates an abundance of time showing Tibbs dealing with day-to-day family living. He flirts with his wife and offers life lessons to his son that border on the extremes of political incorrectness. When he catches the lad smoking, Tibbs decides to teach the pre-teen a lesson by inviting him to join him in smoking Churchill cigars and drinking some scotch. (Most of our dads would probably have employed methods that were slightly more "conventional".) This domestic gibberish reduces the character of Tibbs to a big screen version of Brian Keith's Uncle Bill from the "Family Affair" TV series. Director Gordon Douglas, normally very underrated, handles the pedantic script in a pedantic manner, tossing in a few impressive action scenes including one in which Poitier chases Zerbe on foot seemingly through half of San Francisco in the movie's best sequence. The scenes between Poitier and Landau bristle with fine acting but they only share a limited amount of screen time. Quincy Jones provides a lively, funky jazz score but the film never rises above the level of mediocrity.
Poitier returned to the screen for the last time as Virgil Tibbs in 1971 in "The Organization". Compared to the previous outing, this one is superior on most levels. The script by James R. Webb is just as confusing but there is a grittiness to the production and the character of Tibbs is toughened up a bit. Thankfully, the scenes of his home life with wife and kids are kept to a minimum. The film, well directed by Don Medford (his final production), begins with an inspired caper in which a group of masked men stage an audacious and elaborate infiltration of an office building owned by some shady mob characters. They abscond with millions in cocaine. Tibbs is assigned to the case and is shocked when the culprits secretly approach him and admit they stole the drugs. Turns out they are community activists who wanted to prevent the cocaine from hitting the streets. However, they want Tibbs to know that they did not commit a murder that occurred on the premises of the office. They claim someone else did the dirty deed and is trying to pin it on them. Tibbs believes their story and goes against department protocols by keeping the information secret from his superiors while he works with the activists to crack the case. At some point the plot became so tangled that I gave up trying to figure out who was who and just sat back to enjoy the mayhem. Tibbs' withholding of information from the police department backfires on him and he ends up being suspended from the force. Predictably, he goes rogue in order to take on organized crime figures who are trying to get the drugs back. "The Organization" is fairly good Seventies cop fare capped off by a lengthy action sequence imaginatively set in a subway tunnel that is under construction. The supporting cast is impressive and includes reliable Sheree North, scruffy Allen Garfield and up-and-comers Raul Julia, Ron O'Neal and a very brief appearances by Max Gail and Damon Wilson. Barbara McNair returns as Mrs. Tibbs but her sole function is to provide attractive window dressing. Gil Melle provides a hip jazz score.
The Kino Lorber Blu-rays look very good indeed. Bonus extras on both releases consist of the original trailers for the three Tibbs films.
(This article has been updated to correct the music credit for "The Organization". The composer was Gil Melle. We appreciate the correction from eagle-eyed reader Naresh Putra).
S'more Entertainment has released two rare 1965 interviews with Jerry Lewis that appeared on David Susskind's "Open End" chat show. The B&W videotaped broadcasts are shown in their entirety sans original commercials. According to the informative liner notes by Susskind biographer Stephen Battaglio, Susskind, a successful TV film producer of "highbrow" content, and Lewis had a previous relationship: Susskind had been the agent for Martin and Lewis in the 1950s. Their relationship soured in later years partly because Susskind was critical of actors in general, especially those who dared to produce and direct their own movies. None of that tension comes across in the interview but it still makes for a rather riveting experience. "Open End" was one of many talk shows during the 1960s that appealed to viewers' intellect. The primary objective wasn't to make news, get laughs or have a guest promote his or her latest venture. This is obvious in the Lewis shows- he isn't asked about what he is currently working on nor does he attempt to insert a plug for anything into the interview. Rather, Lewis- who was never lacking in self-esteem when it came to his career accomplishments as a filmmaker- seems to relish the opportunity to show his serious, personal side. Susskind proves to be the perfect interviewer- he asks intelligent questions then shuts up and gives his guest ample time to answer them, uninterrupted. Notably, the camera is rarely on the host and most often on the guest. Such techniques may seem quaint today but one wishes more of them were being employed.
In the first interview Susskind never questions Lewis about his films and only discusses the Hollywood aspect of Lewis's life in big picture terms. Lewis opines that he isn't part of the Hollywood party scene because he was obsessed with it as a young man. Instead, he says he prefers to simply go home and be with his family after leaving the studio. Lewis does defend Hollywood against its bad reputation, pointing out that the industry is filled with kind and generous people who devote their lives to bringing entertainment to millions of people. It's clear that family was always of paramount importance to Lewis. At the time he had six sons ranging from an infant to 19 year-old Gary, who had recently launched a successful career with Gary Lewis and the Playboys rock band, Jerry stresses in the interview how he and his (then) wife Patty attempt to provide a normal life for them. Susskind challenges him in that regard, pointing out Lewis's penchant for excessive spending and the fact that the family is living in Louis B. Mayer's former home, a 33-room estate that Lewis paid for with a check for $500,000. Lewis grapples with the paradox but admits that it's hard to try to explain why 33 rooms are necessary even for a big family. He says that much of his penchant for big spending is probably a psychological need to rebel against his humble past. Raised in a very modest home in New Jersey, Lewis's mom and dad (both alive at the time of this interview) were hard-working show business people who had a vaudeville act. Lewis remembers the pain of what that lifestyle meant: long hours, constant travel and little money because his father was a poor businessman. Most poignantly, Lewis recalls having attended fifteen schools in his childhood and the on-going pain he still feels from his humiliation at being left back one year in grammar school. (He describes a system that seems intentionally designed to psychologically wound such children.) He confesses to owning hundreds of suits and pairs of shoes but tries to mitigate his compulsion by pointing out he ultimately gives many of his possessions away to charity. At times Lewis comes across as a human paradox. He's humble, he's a bragger, he admits to being an egomaniac but at other times comes across as a sincere, down-to-earth husband and father who ascribes to an old-fashioned ethic of working hard to provide for those who are dependent upon him. Susskind asks him about the challenges of living in an interdenominational marriage (he's Jewish, his wife Catholic). Lewis responds with candor and explains that both he and his wife were patient and understanding with the other's beliefs and try to objectively expose their kids to both religions. (He also makes some comments about his parents' lack of tolerance for the situation which they probably didn't appreciate being broadcast on national television). Given the social mores of the era, it's probably not surprising that Lewis held to a traditional view that the man is the head of the household. He confesses to being insecure about letting his wife be alone for any length of time with another man and prohibiting her from even dancing with anyone but him. "Leave her alone- she belongs to me!" is how he would address any man who dared to inquire about a dance with his wife. Such misogynistic statements would seem outrageous today but in Lewis's defense, they were much more the norm in 1965.
Here's another batch of rare TV promotional ads, this time from 1966. Highlights include Adam West as Batman pitching savings bonds to kids on behalf of President Johnson so they can help support the Vietnam War (!); The Monkees in an ad for Rice Krispies, Elizabeth Montgomery in "Bewitched", Robert Loggia as "T.H.E Cat" and many more. Enjoy!
Bronson portrays a veteran secret service agent tasked with protecting the
First Lady in “Assassination,” now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Jill Ireland is
Lara Royce Craig, the First Lady under the protection of Jay “Killy” Killian
(Bronson). His assignment to protect her is a bit of a demotion and
a disappointment for Killian, but he makes the best of it along with his
partner, agent Charlotte Chang (Jan Gan Boyd), who also happens to have a serious
crush on Killian.
believes someone is trying to murder the First Lady, but nobody believes him, including Lara. She takes an instant dislike to “Killy” in spite of his saving
her life on several occasions, one of which results in her suffering a black
eye after a would-be assassin disguised as a motorcycle cop tries to shoot her.
Making matters worse for Killian is Lara’s habit of trying to slip away from
his protection. Veteran TV and movie actor Michael Ansara is on hand as Senator
Bunsen, who may be able to help Killian find the killers.
and Charlotte find time to rendezvous, but their love affair is brief as they continue
their search for those trying to murder the First Lady. Eventually Lara comes
around and starts to trust Killian after it becomes obvious her life is in
jeopardy and the clues may lead all the way to her husband. She departs with
Killian to hide out in the country in order to buy a little time and ferret out
the killers who also happen to be part of a terrorist conspiracy. The mayhem
that ensues includes a motorcycle chase, a helicopter and surface- to- air
missiles. In the end, the head of the conspiracy is revealed and the movie
comes to a satisfying, if predictable conclusion.
may not be one of the classics in Bronson’s long list of movie credits, but it
is typical of the movies that would define the later part of his career in the 1980s.
Bronson is unique among movie actors in that he represented his own genre. It
must be said, however, that prior to being an action movie icon, he distinguished
himself as a supporting actor in prestigious productions such as “The Magnificent Seven,” ,“The Great Escape,” “Battle
of the Bulge,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
Bronson was busy throughout the 70s, 80s and into the 90s making dozens of
action and crime thrillers starting with “Rider on the Rain” (1970) and
continuing through the final movie in the "Death Wish" series, “Death Wish V: The
Face of Death,” in 1994. Many of these movies- “Chato’s Land,” “The Mechanic,” “Mr.
Majestic,” “Death Wish,” “Hard Times” and “Breakout Pass” (to name just a few
highlights)- defined action thrillers and westerns during this period and
continue to do so to this day, while cementing Bronson’s reputation as one of
the actors of the period whose movies garner repeat viewing and discussion.
also worked with several great and often overlooked directors during this
period including Michael Winner, J. Lee Thompson, Peter Hunt, Richard
Fleischer, Walter Hill, Richard Donner and Don Siegel. Bronson and the filmmakers he worked with proved to be the right combination for his fan base during this
prolific period, even if critics rarely saw much merit to these populist productions.
is the final feature film by Peter Hunt, director of “On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service” and “Shout at the Devil,” who also worked with Bronson and Lee Marvin
on “Death Hunt.” This is also the last of 14 movies Jill Ireland co-starred in
with her real life husband, Bronson. Sadly, she died three years later in 1990.
The Kino Blu-ray
looks and sounds very good with an 88 minute running time. The disc features
trailers for this and three other Bronson titles. “Assassination” is comfort
food for Charles Bronson fans and is recommended for fans of 80s action movies.
McDormand and Brian Cox reveal a “Hidden Agenda” in the political thriller
about British brutality in Northern Ireland. The movie opens during a
pro-British parade in Belfast as two men describe the details of their torture
at the hands of local police. Human rights activists Paul Sullivan (Brad
Dourif) and Ingrid Jessner (McDormand) have just completed their investigation and
about to return to America after releasing their report. In the early morning
prior to their departure, Paul returns a call and meets secretly with a
possible IRA terrorist who has evidence of police brutality and a British
cover-up. Paul is murdered by members of a British security team who then cover
up his death and steal the evidence in his possession, a tape containing
details of a conspiracy.
the shooting death of Paul makes the news along with the possibility that
illegal police tactics were used, the British government sends an internal investigative
team from England to investigate the local Belfast police. Kerrigan (Brian Cox)
leads the investigation and is confronted by local police who are everything
but cooperative. He works with Ingrid to unravel the conspiracy which leads
back to the British government and the missing tape recording with confessions
by those involved.
Agenda” was released in 1990 and the viewer is informed that the time and place
is “Belfast: A few years ago.” The movie makes brief references to the “Birmingham
Six” and “Guildford Four,” innocent people who were recipients of brutal police
interrogation techniques in order to obtain what were later revealed as false
confessions in the aftermath of a 1974 London terrorist bombing which killed 21
and injured 182. The “Guildford Four” case was dramatized in the 1993 movie “In
the Name of the Father” featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon. They were
all released just prior to and shortly after the release of “Hidden Agenda”
which may be why “a few years ago” was included in light of recent actual events
in 1990 which unfolded while the movie was in production and prior to its release.
movie has an almost documentary feel by using what appear to be non-actors in
various on-location scenes throughout the film. As the story unfolds, the
action sometimes feels like its part of a live news broadcast. The movie was
directed by Ken Loach, who is known for using a naturalistic style and
encouraging improvisation between his actors to give his films a realistic feel
that I think works to great effect.. Much of his work throughout the 1980s
prior to “Hidden Agenda” was directing documentaries and those techniques are
only when Cox and McDormand appear on-screen that the movie feels less
improvised and more like a standard mainstream film. Maybe that’s partly because
both actors, while relatively unknown back in 1990, are very recognizable to
movie audiences today. “Hidden Agenda” arrived a few years before McDormand’s
breakthrough role as Marge in the 1986 thriller “Fargo.” Brian Cox was well
known to TV audiences in the UK and as the first actor to play Dr. Hannibal Lector
in director Michael Mann’s under-rated 1986 thriller, “Manhunter.” After a
memorable supporting part in 1975s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Dourif
remains one of the great underrated character actors.
24-hour cable news cycle was also relatively new back in 1990 and maybe that
has an effect on the way we view a movie like “Hidden Agenda” today, given that
we have become accustomed to watching events unfold in our living room on a
daily basis. Whether one appreciates Loach’s technique is ultimately for the
viewer to decide.
108 minute thriller looks and sounds very good and features an understated
score by Stewart Copeland. This Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber also includes
Jeanne Moreau, the iconic French actress, has passed away at age 89. Noted film critic Todd McCarthy pays a personal tribute to her life and career through the lens of someone who got to know her well. Click here to read.
may have directed The Paradine Case,
the 1947 adaptation of Robert Smythe Hichens’ 1933 novel, but the film is most clearly
a David O. Selznick production. It was his coveted property, he wrote the
screenplay (with contributions from Alma Reville, James Bridie, and an
uncredited Ben Hecht), and the movie itself discloses far more of its
producer’s temperament than it does its director’s. The Paradine Case was, in fact, the last film made by the
British-born master as part of his seven-year contract with Selznick, and by
most accounts, Hitchcock’s heart just wasn’t in it. Unfortunately, it shows.
But this is no
slipshod motion picture. Selznick spared no expense—the completed film cost
almost as much as Gone with the Wind—and
the entire project is built on quality and class. Set in London, in “the recent
past,” The Paradine Case stars an
always-dashing Gregory Peck as Anthony Keane, a renowned English barrister enlisted
to defend the enigmatic Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli, in her Hollywood unveiling).
Accused of poisoning her wealthy husband, Maddalena accepts the indictment with
what Charles Laughton’s sleazy Judge Lord Thomas Horfield calls a “mystic
charm.” Mystic or otherwise, her charm certainly works its magic on Keane. Much
to the uneasy chagrin of his kindly and patient wife Gay (Ann Todd, in a
radiant and undervalued performance), Keane grows obsessed with the case and
inordinately besotted with Maddalena; she is “too fine a woman” to be capable
of murder. He vainly tries to pin the homicide on the family’s servant, André
Latour (Louis Jourdan, also his American debut), but that tactic doesn’t stick.
Eventually, Maddalena comes to the defense of the shadowy André (he is
literally concealed in shadows during his introduction) and the complex
backstory of all involved comes to light.
Starting in a
realm of elegance, wealth, and refined manners (before settling mostly in a flavorless
courtroom), Valli plays Maddalena with an unnervingly unaffected reserve,
suspiciously never losing her composure until the very end. Her inscrutable
face reveals little more than trouble, especially for Keane. She is one of the
finer ambiguous characters to come from a Hitchcock film; referred to as “no
ordinary woman,” Maddalena may not be a classically cool blonde, but she is as icy
as they come. By contrast, Peck descends from jovial and spontaneous to fixated
The Paradine Case is a very talky film, and
subsequently, much of its success depends on the aptitude of its cast. While
Ethel Barrymore received the film’s only Academy Award nomination, for her
disturbing/disturbed supporting turn as Lady Sophie Horfield, the actorly
spotlight ultimately falls on Valli and Peck, neither of whom were first
choices. Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo for Maddalena (the actress was also
apparently Hichens’ inspiration), but she declined the offer. As did Laurence
Olivier, first pick for Keane. Other names for each part were bandied about;
Selznick settled on Valli, based on her burgeoning international stardom, and
Hitchcock suggested Peck, based on their achievement two years prior with Spellbound.
Hitchcock felt the
film suffered from miscasting across the board, yet in the end, among The Paradine Case’s strongest points of
praise is the interplay between Valli and Peck. It’s a tragically malicious
one-sided infatuation, but to watch his blind emotional descent and her shrewd
manipulation is astonishing, particularly when one realizes as much as he may
be shaping her testimony, directing her alibi as it were, it is she who holds
the guiding hand. However, because The
Paradine Case is at its best when focusing on this one-on-one interaction,
that there is a murder mystery developing becomes something of an afterthought.
Character behavior, as curious as it sometimes is, often usurps the overriding
crime at the core of the picture.
Given the ample
budget, Hitchcock and cinematographer Lee Garmes (Oscar-winning DP of the
stunning Shanghai Express, 1932)
fashion a handsomely lit and impeccably framed series of events; close-ups are
luxurious, wider shots are perfectly balanced. But while there are moments of
devious Hitchcockian touches—cunning glances and jarring movements—the film
evokes less filmic tension than his more engaged work. Though he used four
cameras during the court sequences, enabling him to experiment with long single
takes from a variety of angles, his technical inventiveness is largely
restricted, by the scenario and the settings. He wouldn’t let enclosed spaces
hinder him in the future (see Rope
and Rear Window), but here, even when
Keane just goes to visit rural Cumberland, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
The Paradine Case was not a box office hit, and it’s
fairly easy to see why. Any Hitchcock film is worth watching, but there are
only select titles that demand to be seen. Hampered by glaring issues (an overbearing
score by Franz Waxman) and minor annoyances (one character’s needless cross
examination play-by-play), this is not one of them.
Featuring a solid
audio-visual transfer, The Paradine Case
is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The disc also includes a
commentary with film historians Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn, excerpts from
the famous Hitchcock/Truffaut conversations, an interview between Hitchcock and
Peter Bogdanovich, a short piece with Peck’s two children, and “The Paradine
Case: Radio Play.”
Director Sofia Coppola's revisionist version of the 1971 production of "The Beguiled" is winning critical raves.This has inspired writer Mike Scott of the Times-Picayune to look back at the original version of the film which was shot at a historic plantation near Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1970. The film marked the third collaboration between newly-minted superstar Clint Eastwood and his mentor, director Don Siegel. The article provides some very rare on set photos and an overview of the gothic Civil War drama that bombed when it was first released, though its stature has increased among film scholars in the ensuing decades. Eastwood fans who have never seen the movie are advised to do so. It represents a major achievement in his early acting career and he also plays an unsympathetic character, a rarity for him. Click here to read.
For an in-depth look at the film, order Cinema Retro's special issue "The American Westerns of Clint Eastwood" by clicking here.
ANGELS ON WHEELS LA Screening with Richard Rush and Sabrina Scharf in Person
By Todd Garbarini
Rush’s 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels
celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special screening at the Noho
7 Theatre in Los Angeles. Starring Adam Roarke, Jack Nicholson, Sabrina Scharf,
Jana Taylor and Jack Starrett, the film runs 95 minutes and is one of several
films that Mr. Rush directed Mr. Nicholson in, the others being Too Soon to Love (1960) and Psycho-Out (1968). This is a rare
opportunity to see this film on the big screen.
PLEASE NOTE: Director Richard Rush and
actress Sabrina Scharf are scheduled to appear in person for a Q & A
following the screening.
the press release:
HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967)
Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 7:30 PM
A bunch of hairy guys on Harleys are causing trouble again in this, one of the
best-remembered examples of the biker flicks of the 1960's. Poet (Jack
Nicholson) is a moody gas station attendant who is looking for more excitement
in his life. When a gang of bikers roars through town, Poet is intrigued, and
after he pitches in to help the Hell's Angels in a bar fight (and pulls a
well-timed stick up), one of the gang's higher-ups, Buddy (Adam Roarke) asks
Poet to join. Soon Poet is riding with the Angels and living their lifestyle of
violent debauchery, but Poet begins to tire of their rootless decadence, and
Buddy is none too happy with Poet when he learns they're both in love with the
same woman. Hell's Angels On Wheels won a cult following for its agressive but
languid atmosphere and the fluid camerawork of cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs
(at this point still billed as "Leslie Kovacs"). Richard Rush
directed, and legendary Hell's Angels leader Sonny Barger appears as himself.
The Noho 7 Theatre is located at 5240
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601.
The phone number is (310) (310) 478 – 3836.
Explosive Media, the German based boutique video label, has released the 1975 Charles Bronson crime thriller "Breakout" on Blu-ray. Bronson was riding high at the time, coming off the sensational success of "Death Wish". The film was originally supposed to star Kris Kristofferson under the direction of Michael Ritchie but those plans soon fell apart. Bronson took over the lead role with veteran director Tom Gries at the helm. The film finds Bronson well-cast as Nick Colton, a shady businessman/con man/grifter who operates a variety of small time business ventures on the Mexican border with his partner Hawk Hawkins (pre-kooky Randy Quaid.) Nick is living hand-to-mouth when he is approached by Ann Wagner (Jill Ireland) with a proposition to help her husband, Jay (Robert Duvall), escape from a Mexican prison where he has been sentenced after being framed for a murder. Time is of the essence because Jay is in declining health and may well be too weak to help effect his own escape. Colton and Hawk's first attempt to spring him ends disastrously and they barely escape back to America. Colton concocts an audacious plan for a second escape attempt that involves split-second timing. He will arrange for a helicopter to land in the courtyard of the prison and in the inevitable confusion, Jay is to make his way on board and presumably fly away to freedom. In order to pull off the caper, Nick enlists the help of a professional helicopter pilot as well as Myrna (Sheree North), a married ex-call girl who will be used to distract some of the guards when the copter lands inside the prison. When the pilot gets cold feet, Nick is forced to fly the chopper himself despite the fact that he only has minimum experience doing so. Another complication ensues when Jay is confined to the prison hospital and doubts he will be able to be in the courtyard at the precise moment Colton lands.
"Breakout" was inspired by an incredible 1971 real life escape in which an American was indeed rescued by helicopter from a Mexican prison. The screenplay has some other sub-plots that are poorly developed and quite confusing, but some of which are obviously related to the actual escape including some rumored involvement by the CIA. In the film, Jay Wagner's frame-up takes place at the behest of his evil tycoon grandfather, Harris Wagner (John Huston) for reasons that never become clear. Apparently, Harris is concerned that Jay may inherit some control over the company Harris runs with an iron fist, though these plot points remain murky as does the involvement of some CIA characters. Another potential plot device, which finds Nick and Ann obviously attracted to each other, also goes nowhere. The film has a rushed look to it and there are some unsatisfying aspects caused by the movie's rather abrupt ending. The movie studio, Columbia, apparently felt the film was a rather weak production and thus gambled on a massive ad campaign that probably cost more than the film's modest budget. Ads for "Breakout" were everywhere: in newspapers, on TV and on radio. Additionally, the film opened wide in 1,000 American theaters, which was a big number in 1975. The movie was dismissed by critics with Variety calling it a "cheap exploitation pic", and indeed the main poster artwork and graphics looked surprisingly amateurish considering this was a golden age for film poster designs. Nevertheless, Bronson's appeal seemed to override these negative factors. "Breakout" proved to be a major hit and helped cement his status as a top boxoffice attraction though his clout would gradually diminish henceforth.
Like a lot of older movies, "Breakout" probably plays better today than it did at the time of its initial release. Bronson is in top form and gives an unusually energetic performance that allows him to stress his rarely-used talent for light comedy. The only other standout member of the cast is Sheree North, as the epitome of the sexy cougar. She's a fast-talking, tough cookie who parades about in sexy lingerie in an attempt to seduce Bronson. (Surprisingly, Bronson's character does not engage in any sexual action throughout the movie.) Robert Duvall is largely underutilized in a low-key role and performance that could have been credibly played by almost any other competent actor. Huston's presence in the movie is disappointing, also. His role is confined to a few scattered cameo appearances that probably don't last more than two minutes. Some other familiar faces include Paul Mantee, Alejandro Rey, Roy Jenson and the Mexican cinema's favorite bad guy, Emilio Fernandez. As for Bronson teaming for the umpteenth time with real life wife Jill Ireland, the gimmick was wearing thin. Some screen couples could team without wearing out their welcome. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made many films together but they were always playing entirely different characters in entirely different scenarios. Bronson and Ireland, despite being competent actors, were no Liz and Dick. It became clear that their films together were largely made possible by Bronson's clout with the studios. Although Ireland always gave credible performances, she never lit up the screen. After a while the sheer predictability of their on-screen teamings probably undermined Bronson's popularity because it constrained him from interacting with other actresses. It was a trap Clint Eastwood also fell into for a period of time when he cast Sondra Locke in the female lead in six of his movies over a period of only seven years. Despite these gripes, it must be said that director Tom Gries keeps the pace moving briskly and there isn't a dull moment. He also knows how to milk some genuine suspense out of the helicopter escape scene, which is exceptionally well photographed by the great cinematographer Lucien Ballard. Jerry Goldsmith also contributes a typically fine score. The movie was shot in a wide number of locations including California, Mexico, Spain and France, where the impressive edifice that serves as the prison is located.
Scene stealer: Sheree North in posed cheesecake publicity photo for the film.
The Explosive Media Blu-ray looks terrific and contains the original trailer and an impressive stills gallery. The film is presented in either the English or German language versions. The region-free Blu-ray can be ordered through Amazon Germany or through Amazon UK.
The tagline for the 1971 crime movie The Last Run reads "In the tradition of Bogart and Hemingway..." That would probably seem preposterous to assign to an action film with most of today's soft-boiled leading men, but it seemed perfectly appropriate at the time for a movie starring George C. Scott. The script by Alan Sharp, who also wrote such underrated gems as The Hired Hand, Night Moves and Ulzana's Raid, is perfectly tooled to Scott's persona. With facial features that look like they were chiseled out of granite, the actor, who had just won the Oscar for Patton, is well-suited to the tough-as-nails character of Harry Garmes. Harry has forsaken a life in crime for a seemingly idyllic retirement in a small Portugese fishing village. Happiness, however, does not follow him. Shortly after their young son died, Harry's wife left for Switzerland to have her breasts lifted only to run off with another man. In one of the film's most amusing lines, Harry says he thought she was having them lifted as part of a surgical procedure. He finds that old adage "Be careful what you wish for- you just might get it" has special pertinence to his life abroad. He has succeeded in establishing the low-key, no risk lifestyle he so badly desired. However, he is now bored and feels out of place. He has a friendship with a local fisherman (Aldo Sanbrell) and a middle aged hooker who genuinely likes him (Colleen Dewhurst), but he feels he'll die of boredom. Thus, he decides to take on one more simple crime run, a seemingly low-risk job that involves transporting an escaped convict over the border to France.
The escape is cleverly planned and goes well, but Harry immediately gets a bad vibe from his passenger, a smart-mouthed, often manic career criminal named Paul Rickard (Tony Musante in a truly unnerving performance.) Ignorant of what the caper is actually all about, Harry is soon disturbed to learn he has to pick up Rickard's sexy young girlfriend Claudie (Trish Van Devere) to accompany them. Harry is the kind of man who doesn't like unexpected developments and his instincts prove correct. Before long, he finds himself wrapped up in a complex situation defined by double crosses and deathtraps. To say much more would ruin some of the more surprising elements of Sharp's gritty script, which is punctuated by smart dialogue. Director Richard Fleischer and the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist fully capitalize on the exotic scenery (the film was actually shot in Spain) and eschew studios to shoot even the interiors in actual locations. The decision adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of the movie, which is tense and engrossing throughout.
The film also benefits from a wonderful score by Jerry Goldsmith and fine supporting performances. From a trivia standpoint, the movie afforded Scott to star on-screen with then-present wife Dewhurst and future wife Van Devere.
The Last Run is an atmospheric crime thriller. It may not have looked like a work of art in its day but today it approaches that status, basically because when it comes to stars like George C. Scott, they just don't make 'em like that anymore.
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Writing for the Film Comment web site, Mark Harris revisits how Antonioni's "Blow-up" helped usher in a bold new era of moviemaking even as it divided audiences. Some felt it was a work of genius while some mainstream moviegoers demanded refunds at the boxoffice. Nevertheless, this much is certain: the film was instrumental in marking a new era of screen realism and sexual freedom from its opening frames to its much-debated final scene.
The historic Redford Theatre in Detroit will present two screenings of Stanley Kramer's comedy classic "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" on Saturday, July 29 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Click here for information.
Kino Lorber has been doing yeoman work by releasing first rate Blu-ray editions of obscure films that have largely been lost to time. Case in point: the little-seen "Wolf Lake", shot in 1979 by veteran director Burt Kennedy, who also wrote the screenplay. The production was an oddity for Kennedy, who was primarily known for working within the western movie genre (among his gems: "Hannie Caulder", "The War Wagon", "Support Your Local Sheriff" and "The Train Robbers".) Apparently, Kennedy had an enthusiasm to make this low-budget ($1 million) contemporary suspense thriller. Through his friendship with aspiring producer Lance Hool, Kennedy was able to get the film off the ground with Rod Steiger as the only "name" actor at the time. The story opens at the titular location, a sleepy benign remote location deep in the Canadian wilderness (filming actually took place in Mexico because of investments made by the Mexican government). A group of old friends led by Charlie (Steiger) arrive by seaplane for their annual hunting trip but for reasons never explained, their guide is not waiting for them. As they are helpless to move about the area without him, the men are confined to the lake area and several log cabin lodges that are built to house hunters. The only other people on hand are the new caretaker David (David Huffman), a long-haired, bearded young man that the ultra conservative Charlie takes an immediate dislike to. He taunts the quiet, intense David with typical anti-hippie wisecracks from the era. The vacationing men also discover that David has a live-in girlfriend, Linda (Robin Mattson), whose job is to cook for the men. The situation becomes increasingly tense when the four older men make overtly insulting and sexist remarks about Linda within earshot of the attractive young woman. A confrontation follows and things go downhill from there. Making matters worse, Charlie learns that David is a deserter from the American military- a fact that gnaws at him because he is still mourning his own son who was killed in Vietnam. Charlie and his friends are all WWII veterans and have little sympathy for David's situation, even when he tries to explain that he did not desert because of cowardice, but rather, because of disillusionment when he participated in a massacre of innocent Vietnamese civilians. The briskly-paced script sees Charlie becoming increasingly incensed at David's presence as he attempts to goad him into a violent confrontation. Initially, the other three men are able to keep Charlie from resorting to violence but after a while, he induces them to follow his lead. After encouraging the men to get extremely drunk, he has them break into David's cabin, knock him unconscious and then violently gang rape Linda. In the aftermath, Charlie correctly assumes that David will want vengeance. A shootout occurs in which one of Charlie's friends is killed by a stray bullet. With the gloves now completely off, Charlie and his two surviving partners-in-crime ruthless try to hunt down their younger prey. The finale of the film finds the couple trapped in a hunting lodge as their stalkers try various ways to gain entrance and kill them.
At first glance "Wolf Lake" is a low-budget rip-off of Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs". The film recreates the Peckinpah movie in many key aspects: the slow-to-anger protagonist, the sexual degradation of his lover and the finale that finds the heroes holed up in an confined space while under relentless siege. However, Burt Kennedy's script does try to introduce an original angle that was very much in the American psyche at the time: the aftermath of the recently-concluded Vietnam War. The character of Charlie is like a combination of Archie Bunker and the title character played by Peter Boyle in the movie "Joe", a hardcore, old-time conservative who laments the changing face of America and increasing tolerance of diversity. Although Charlie is clearly a venomous personality (he's even nasty to his friends), there at least is some legitimate nuance in that one can understand his resentment of David since he has lost his own son in the war. The movie does have some aspects that stretch reality. Would the sight of a single attractive young women turn a group of otherwise "normal" middle-aged men into sex maniacs? Also, while there is no doubt that mixing drunken men and guns can result in dire consequences, it seems hard to believe that Charlie could turn his gullible companions into cold-blooded murderers. Nevertheless, this is a tightly-scripted thriller that generally works. Steiger, who often has a tendency to chew scenery, never goes over-the-top and gives a genuinely chilling performance. David Huffman is very fine as the object of Steiger's rage (tragically, Huffman was killed in real life in 1985 while trying to thwart a minor crime), and the sparse supporting cast is also very good: Mattson and character actors Paul Mantee ("Robinson Crusoe on Mars", "A Man Called Dagger"), Jerry Hardin and Richard Herd (best known for playing George Constanza's boss, Mr. Wilhelm, on the "Seinfeld" TV series). Director Kennedy doesn't provide anything original in terms of concept or execution but he does wring enough suspense out of the tired premise of humans hunting humans to make the film reasonably entertaining.
Rich Hardy, writing on the New Atlas web site, explores the resurgence of interest in the long-dormant 70mm film format by today's retro movie-loving directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. There was a time when Hollywood embraced the magnificent widescreen format for some of the most ambitious epics ever filmed. However the cost of shooting in 70mm made the format virtually extinct until recent years. Tarantino brought 70mm back for "The Hateful Eight" and had to practically move mountains to find a way to have his film projected properly, given that most of the equipment and venues that once were associated with the widescreen process were long-gone. Now Christopher Nolan is presenting his WWII epic "Dunkirk" in 70mm. This article provides short history of 70mm and some useful information about the various formats the movie is being shown in. Click here to read.
Eon Productions has confirmed that the U.S. release of the 25th official James Bond movie will take place on November 8, 2019. The announcement was notable for aspects that were not confirmed, primarily whether Daniel Craig will return in the role. There is also no mention of what studio will be releasing the film, as Eon apparently are still in negotiations to make that determination. The official press announcement also does not mention a director or title, but does confirm that veteran Bond scribes Rob Wade and Neil Purvis will be writing the screenplay. The press release also acknowledges that the film will open first in the UK and other world territories, but does not specify a date. This is possibly due to the fact that the launch of the movie might well be tied in to the traditional gala premiere in London that is often attended by members of the royal family. Given the challenges of planning around logistics involving the royals, it may be that no set date for the UK can be set this early. The film will be produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, thus continuing the long tradition of having the same family oversee production of every Bond film. The four Bond films starring Daniel Craig have been particularly successful. "Skyfall", released in 2012, grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide. The 2015 release of "Spectre" also brought in enormous grosses totaling $880 million.
Update: the New York Times is reporting that Daniel Craig will indeed be returning to the role of Bond according to sources familiar with the negotiations. However, that can't be definitive until Eon confirms in their own official press release.
My earliest introduction to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s
immortal Faust was not through the
original work of the revered German playwright. Perhaps original work is not
the best description of Goethe’s exploratory tragedy. The premise behind its conception – the
selling of one’s soul to the Devil for personal rewards and glorified ambition
- were based firmly in the tradition of austere Germanic folklore and accompanying
Teutonic condemnation. This allegorical fable
has formed the basis of so many subsequent films, books, and television scenarios,
that the concept has now passed into cliché.
My earliest encounter with a Faustian fable was likely Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1936 celebrated
short story The Devil and Daniel Webster. Benét’s tale transported the misguided and
tragic exchange of souls from Goethe’s grim, decaying German village to the
rugged hills and blue skies of New Hampshire. Benét’s short story was simply one more link in a long tradition. His tale was inspired by an earlier (1824) Washington
Irving short story also inarguably Faustian in execution.
One of my favorite films from childhood was RKO’s Academy
Award winning production of The Devil and
Daniel Webster (1941), which featured Walter Huston as the titular demon. If the fresh air setting of The Devil and Daniel Webster was
filtered almost completely through a prism of Americana, F.W. Murnau’s silent
epic Faust: a German Folktale (1926) is
most certainly its grim progenitor, one mirroring the darkest impulses of pre-War
Weimar Republic Germany. Working closely
from the storyboard charcoal sketches and ink and pencil concept drawings of his
imaginative expressionistic set designers Robert Herlth and Walter Röhrig, his
production of Faust Murnau would effectively
create a visually sodden and nightmarish world.
The film begins with a brilliantly choreographed
celestial argument between a gleaming, white-winged Archangel and a series of
Devils (the “Three Scourges of Hell”). The former champions the notion that man is essentially righteous and of
good will. The Devil’s cynically counter
– sadly, perhaps more realistically - that “No man can resist evil.” Choosing to test their argument, the Devil’s
wager they can tempt and transform a good man such as the humble, learned Faust
into a selfish, self-interested individual, motivated only by his personal
Faust (played by Swede Gösta Ekman) is a doctor and a
well-intentioned man of science, frail, elderly, and long-bearded. He is spending his golden years in a humble
garret, warmed by a hearth and surrounded by the piles of books accumulated over
a lifetime. These books, essentially,
signify the collective knowledge of man. Though he is also a dabbling alchemist, there’s no notion he’s
interested in the accumulation of gold in pursuit of riches and comfort. He’s more interested in the exacting exercise
of scientific formula.
There was a time once, in the far long ago, when
a kid, on any given Saturday, could take a quarter from his allowance and spend
an entire afternoon at his local neighborhood movie theater. The “Saturday Matinee”,
as it was called, was a weekly event that usually included the showing of a
couple of cartoons, a bicycle race, a Three Stooges short, a double feature, a serial
and a popcorn fight or two. Serials, in case you don’t know, were short,
two-reel chapters of a story that usually ran for 12 chapters, each chapter
ending in some kind of a cliffhanger in which the hero of the story seemed to
face imminent doom. You’d have to come back the next Saturday to learn how the
he got out of it.
Several studios produced serials during the Cliffhanger’s
heyday, which spanned the period from the 1930’s to the 1950s. They leaned
heavily on newspaper comic strips for their sources. Universal brought Flash
Gordon to life in perhaps three of the best serials ever made with Buster
Crabbe in the starring role. Columbia released a couple of Batman serials as
well as Superman, the Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician. But the studio that
produced more serials than any other—and some would argue the cream of the crop—was
Republic Studios. In terms of production values, scripts, stunts, and clever
cliffhanger chapter endings, no one else came close. And without doubt, one of
Republic’s best was “Daredevils of the Red Circle” (1939).
“Daredevils of the Red Circle.” What a great
title. Has certain ring to it, doesn’t it? You might wonder how they came up
with a title like that. Well, first of all, you need to know that as the story
begins a deranged criminal has escaped from prison. Harry Crowl, who refers to
himself only by his prison serial number, 39013 (pronounced Thirty
Nine-Oh-Thirteen) was sent to prison by millionaire philanthropist Horace
Granville (Miles Mander). Crowl has vowed revenge on Granville, and has
dedicated himself to destroying all of the wealthy industrialist’s various
properties. Crowl is played by none other than Charles Middleton, best known as
Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon chapter plays. Said to be a really nice
guy in real life, Middleton’s craggy face, hollow eyes and deep menacing voice
kept him in demand as one of the best movie villains ever to appear on the
As the story opens he has already set his sights
on the Granville Amusement Center as his next target. It so happens that a trio
of circus daredevils is appearing there, including aerialist Gene Townley
(Charles Quigley), escape artist Bert Knowles (Dave Sharpe), and strong man Tiny
Dawson (Herman Brix). Quigley is a barely known actor who never gained much of
a reputation but he does a good job here as a true blue hero. He probably could
have been cast as Captain Marvel if he’d had a better agent. Dave Sharpe was
one of Republic’s best stunt men, and although he was doubled for some of the
more dangerous stunts this time around, in this one he took quite a few flying head-first
leaps and had an abundance of fist fights. Herman Brix played Tarzan in an
earlier serial filmed in Guatemal and later had a fairly distinguished acting
career after he changed his name to Bruce Bennett.
But let’s get back to explaining how they
came up with the serial’s title. Thirty Nine-Oh-Thirteen’s men set fire to the
Granville Amusement Center which results in a personal tragedy for the trio of
acrobats. Now out of a job anyway, they offer their services to Granville to
help track down Thirty Nine-Oh-Thirteen
and bring him to justice. Granville has a daughter, Blanche, (Carole Landis)
who lives in the Granville Mansion with her father. Granville is a sickly old
man who can only communicate with visitors by telephone from inside a sanitized
room on the other side of a glass barrier. (Did you know Blake Edwards wrote a
character like that in one of his scripts for an episode of “Peter Gunn”? Guess
he was a Daredevils fan.) There are a couple of big surprises in the first
chapter alone, including the fact that Granville isn’t exactly who he appears
to be. As the story progresses chapter by chapter, the Daredevils receive help
from a mysterious, cloaked, and hooded figure who creeps around the Granville
mansion leaving cards with clues and hints written on them, all of them signed
by someone calling himself The Red Circle. Thus the title “Daredevils of the
For 12 thrilling chapters, the daredevils,
using their individual skills and strengths, manage to escape Thirty
Nine-Oh-Thirteen’s fiendishly clever machinations and death-dealing devices. Among
other perils, they avoid drowning in a flooded tunnel, being burned alive, gassed
to death, blown up, and disintegrated by a death ray. Will they finally capture
Thirty Nine-Oh-Thirteen and discover who is the mysterious Red Circle? You won’t
find out until Chapter 12, “Flight to Doom,” where all is revealed.
“Daredevils” was directed by William Witney
and John English, the team that turned out 17 of Republic’s 66 serials. This
was number 14 for them. Witney handled the action scenes, English did the
dialog scenes. The script was by written by five screenwriters including Barry
Shipman, Franklin Adreon, and Ronald C. Davidson, all veteran serial writers
who were adept at devising clever and believable cliffhanger chapter endings.
Kino Lorber has done another terrific
restoration job on the Blu-ray of “Daredevils of the Red Circle,” just as they
did with Roy Rogers’ “Sunset in the West,” reviewed earlier. The picture
quality of the 1080p transfer from a 4K scan is outstanding. A lot of the
serial was filmed outdoors in various locations around Los Angeles, all of
which look great in high def. It’s a fascinating look at LA before it was
ruined by the freeways, over-development, traffic congestion and
Informative and entertaining commentary on
several of the chapters is provided by film historian Michael Schlesinger on a
separate audio track. The disc also includes some trailers for other KL Studio
Classics releases. I recommend you get this one. Just make sure you have plenty
of popcorn and soda pop on hand. I guarantee once you start Chapter One, “The
Monstrous Plot,” it will be hard to switch it off. Thirty Nine-Oh-Thirteen and
the Daredevils will keep you hooked for the whole three and half hours.
have the rare ability to continuously satisfy. Not only does the label re-connect
us to the past with essential CD reissues, but also through re-recordings of
long forgotten and often overlooked classics. Vocalion’s three latest CD releases
continue to exemplify these principles, and all with a certain sense of style.
from The Exorcist (1974) and Flashpoint (1975) are two albums from Ray Davies
and the Button Down Brass. As albums, they formed part of an essential
collective, an audio treasury that would find their way into the hands of young
and enthusiastic kids, particularly of those who displayed an early interest
and love of both cinema and TV. They were usually the affordable route; a few
weeks pocket money would often result in one of these albums making it into the
comforting domain of your bedroom. Sat alongside your Geoff Love compilations, they
would provide countless hours of repeated enjoyment.
from The Exorcist and Flashpoint (CDSML 8526) offer a great twofer pairing.
Originally released on the Philips label, both albums contain a varied and
exciting selection of cuts. Aside from the ‘funky trumpet’ of Ray Davies, his
musicians including Alan Hawkshaw on keyboards, Alan Parker on electric guitar,
Herbie Flowers on bass guitar and Alf Bigden on drums, can all be experienced
here in top form and full flight. Covering the work of composers such as Lalo
Schifrin, Quincy Jones, Michael Small, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein and John
Barry, the selection is varied and vast. There’s a genuine refreshment to be
found in some of these interpretations, take for example Don Ellis’s The French
connection (1972) – Davies takes what could arguably be described as a frenzied
burst of dissonant trumpet sounds and applies a melody, a theme... Yes, it
perhaps lessens the intensity of its original, but instead provides a funky
reinterpretation, and one in which I believe works to a large degree. It’s
important perhaps to remember that these recordings were never in competition,
they’re not competing for supremacy – some are just far too big. Magnum Force
(1973) and its screaming, wordless vocals add so much to Schifrin’s original,
and any attempt to perhaps try and replicate that is left firmly alone, and for
good reason. However, a fresh approach certainly does it little harm, and can
be comfortably enjoyed as a separate listening experience and an addition. As
previously stated, it’s a really wonderful selection which takes in an eclectic
mix from television classics such as Kojak (1973-78) and The Magician (1973-74)
to cult movies of the day such as Mr. Majestyk (1974), Gold (1974), Point Blank
(1967) and even a couple of Bruce Lee Joseph Koo themes – The Big Boss (1971)
and Fist of Fury (1972).
high point of this SACD release is that it also contains both the quadrophonic
and stereo mixes. These titles were only ever previously available in 4-channel
sound through a Japanese release. Vocalion have again produced a dynamic sound
in their mastering process and provided a super set of notes which includes an
exclusive interview with Ray Davies and his recollections of the people and the
places relating to those exciting times. As always, Oliver Lomax provides a
fascinating and detailed journey which captures perfectly the essence of
yesterday. A great package, a great sound and a great journey; let’s hope there
is more of the same to come.
The legendary Ford Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in the famed car chase from the 1968 classic "Bullitt" has apparently been found by accident in a Mexican junkyard. Watch video above for the fascinating story.
Olive Films has released the 1963 Jerry Lewis comedy "Who's Minding the Store?" on Blu-ray. The film was made at the peak of Lewis's solo career following the breakup of Martin and Lewis some years before. The movie was directed by Frank Tashlin, who collaborated with Lewis on his best productions. It can be argued that, with the exception of Lewis's inspired "The Nutty Professor" (released the same year as "Store"), his work never reached the heights that he achieved by working with Tashlin, a talented director and screenwriter who never quite got the acclaim he deserved. "Store" is one of Lewis's best movies because it's also one of his funniest. He plays Norman Phiffier, a nerdy manchild who fails at even the most elementary of careers. When we meet him he's trying to make ends meet by running his own dog-walking service, which provides some amusing sight gags as Norman attempts to control about twenty dogs at the same time. Despite being a loser in terms of career, he's landed the right girl: sexy Barbara Tuttle (Jill St. John), an heiress to the famed Tuttle department store chain. Barbara shuns her heritage largely because she is estranged from her overbearing and dominating mother, Phoebe (Agnes Moorhead) and wants to make a career on her own instead of relying on her mother's bribes to live life under her terms. Barbara works at a Tuttles store in the innocuous career of being an elevator operator, working under an assumed last name. Her nice guy father John (John McGiver) plays along with the charade though he, too, suffers from his wife's constant nagging and insults. When Phoebe learns that Barbara is dating a common man with no financial resources, she devises a plan to break up their relationship before they can get married. She instructs her sniveling store manager Quimby (Ray Walston) to hire Norman and then assign him a series of humiliating and seemingly impossible tasks with the intention of having him fail and therefore lose Barbara's respect. However, despite a series of chaotic mishaps, Norman perseveres and frustrates Quimby by using some inventive methods of carrying our his assignments. These scenes are the highlights of the film, with Lewis in top form whether he is inching out on a horizontal flag pole on a skyscraper in order to fulfill a minor paint job or dealing with obnoxious customers who make extravagant demands. (Among them is Nancy Kulp as a legendary female big game hunter whose dictatorial demeanor results in Norman destroying an entire department). In the finale, Norman has to contend with an errant super vacuum cleaner that goes out of control and sucks up everything from women's furs to their pet dogs. It's a marvelously funny and inventive sequence that feature some highly impressive special effects work.
"Who's Minding the Store?" finds Jerry Lewis and Frank Tashlin in top form. The cast of esteemed "second bananas" are all wonderful, especially the great John McGiver who finally gets to find his mojo at the movie's climax. Other familiar faces from the era include Lewis's favorite foil, Kathleen Freeman and Richard Deacon. Francesca Bellini is memorable as Walton's sexpot secretary who is intent on sleeping her way to the top. Most of the comedic scenarios are highly predictable (once you see Lewis handling an appliance, there's no doubt he's going to wreak havoc with it) but predictability is an asset in a Lewis film. Not having seen the movie in many years, I was pleasantly surprised that it still made me laugh out loud.
The Olive Films Blu-ray looks very good indeed but the release continues the company's rather frustrating trend of almost never including any bonus material. C'mon guys, throw in at least a trailer (we'll provide one for you here). Highly recommended.
Kino Lorber has released a Blu-ray edition of "Tough Guys", the 1986 crime comedy that is best remembered for being the final screen team-up between old friends Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The film had unusual origins. In the early 1980s, Lancaster and Douglas made a very funny joint appearance on an Oscars broadcast and joked about being beyond their years as matinee idols. Up-and-coming screenwriters James Orr and Jim Criuckshank were greatly amused and began to ponder the possibility of pairing both actors for the first time since 1963, when they co-starred in the Cold War classic "Seven Days in May". Both actors were enthused about the project and Disney gave the film the green light. The movie opens at a penitentiary where Harry Doyle (Lancaster), age 72 and his partner in crime Archie Long (Douglas), age 67, are preparing to enter the free world for the first time since they were convicted in 1956 of committing the last train robbery in American history. Upon being released, they are told by their sympathetic probation officer Richie Evans (Dana Carvey) that they are prohibited from seeing each other for a period of three years, an edict that the men promptly ignore. They find a new world has come about during their years of confinement and getting used to the new technologies and more liberal social attitudes takes quite a bit of adjusting. Both men are committed to staying on the "straight and narrow" but things quickly go awry. Archie lands some menial jobs but balks at the abuse he is forced to take by both employers and customers. Harry ends up being forced to live in a senior citizen home where the meek residents are routinely exploited and belittled by the cruel staff. Before long he gets a reputation as a trouble-maker for instigating the residents to stand up for their rights. Both men do have success in resurrecting their romantic lives. Harry reunites with Belle (Alexis Smith), a former flame who coincidentally also lives in the same senior citizen home. Archie gets picked up by Skye (Darlanne Fluegel), a sexy twenty-something who finds novelty in bedding a much older man who is in such superb physical condition. A running gag in the plot finds Harry and Archie being stalked by Leon B. Little (Eli Wallach), a once-feared hit man who is now virtually blind. Leon was hired thirty years ago by a gangster to carry out a contract on the men but he can't remember why. Nevertheless, he's determined to carry out the task. Archie and Harry also have run-ins with Deke Yablonski (Charles Durning), the obnoxious detective who had them jailed thirty years ago and now stalks them like Javert, warning everyone that he suspects they will resort to crime once again. Ultimately, he's right. Fed up with being disrespected, Harry and Archie decide to live life on their own terms- and this includes pulling off an audacious caper by robbing the old time train they had originally targeted in 1956.
"Tough Guys" exists solely for the purpose of reuniting two Hollywood legends. If not for the presence of Lancaster and Douglas it would probably have been made as a TV movie. While the screenwriters deserve praise for bringing this reunion to fruition it must be said that their script is never quite as funny as you might expect it to be. The situations tend to be predictable and some of the scenarios play out in an overlong fashion, such as when Archie ends up working in an ice cream parlor and has to contend with an obnoxious kid. While the entire enterprise is consistently amusing, we never get the belly laughs that the various scenarios seem to promise. There's plenty to like about the film, however. Just seeing the gracefully-aged Lancaster and Douglas, dressed to the nines in their suits and fedoras from the 1950s, is a true pleasure- especially when we realize that both men would suffer terribly debilitating health problems in the years to come. The film benefits from the light touch of director Jeff Kanew, who had previously worked with Douglas on "Eddie Macon's Run". Kanew doesn't go over-the-top in a quest for a yuck and allows the charisma of his two stars to shine brightly. The supporting cast is very good across the board but it's Eli Wallach who steals every scene he is in and provides the funniest moments of the movie. I should point out that the opening credits (remember when movies had them?) are terrific. We see the camera glide over the relics of Archie and Harry's past, frozen in time: custom-made suits, expensive liquor, newspaper clippings of their capers, fine cigars, etc. As the credits unfurl, the sequence is set to a marvelous song, "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To", written by Henry Mancini and Carol Bayer Sager and nicely crooned by Kenny Rogers. It evokes a real sense of past glories even before we're introduced to the characters. The musical score by James Newton Howard is not nearly as impressive, relying on dated synthesizer sounds that sound cheesy today. Some of the more amusing aspects of the movie find our heroes getting used to "modern" society in 1986 when the era looks like ancient history today: girls with big hairdos in spandex involved in the new aerobics craze, not a cell phone in sight, slam dancing and the shocking novelty of accidentally walking into a gay bar.
In 1973 film critic Roger Ebert described Michael Winner’s The Stone Killer (1973) as a ‘superior example of its type - tough cop against the mob - and probably the best violent big-city police movie since Dirty Harry.' The Stone Killer certainly does have a lot working in its favour. The film arrived during a period where the tough cop drama was arguably at its peak. One could perhaps argue that, most would follow a particular formula or style, but they fulfilled a demand. The police vs the mob was certainly nothing new but the subject matter was still trending successfully during the early to mid-Seventies. As a police sergeant proclaims to Bronson’s character, ‘nothing changes, only the names.’
Director Michael Winner had certainly turned a corner after completing the western Lawman in 1971. The decision towards making American movies is one that Winner adapted to well. Bronson was considered by some as an awkward actor to work with, but by the time of The Stone Killer, Winner and Bronson had already completed two films together, the revisionist western Chato's Land (1972) and the action thriller The Mechanic (1972). Clearly there was a happy medium between both director and star and the partnership was also proving to be lucrative.
The Stone Killer doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. If 95 minutes of tough, no nonsense action is something you seek, then Bronson delivers the goods - hard and fast. Bronson plays Detective Lt. Lou Torrey an ex-New York City cop who is side-lined to the L.A. Police Department following criticism over his style of law enforcement. In L.A. he begins investigating a mysterious chain of events involving a violent campaign of murder. The trail eventually leads Torrey to the Mafia and Al Vescari (Martin Balsam). Vescari has hired an outfit of Vietnam veterans to stage an ambush that will wipe out the entire Italian mob leadership, thereby gaining revenge for a series of assassinations of Sicilians on April 10, 1931.
In general, the plot is somewhat thin, so it’s perhaps not worth spending too long examining it or dissecting it to any major degree. In short, it’s Bronson in a cop thriller with plenty of great action pieces, some great stunts and a whole lot of gun play. Winner’s direction is fast-paced and tight and the whole thing is wrapped up in a superb Roy Budd score which undoubtedly provides extra bite and attitude. The supporting cast also seem to relish their roles, no more so than Paul Koslo as Alfred Langley, a super character actor and the bad guy we all love to hate. Koslo had a knack of carving out these niche roles for himself, appearing in Joe Kidd (1972) and cult classics like Cleopatra Jones (1973), Freebie and the Bean (1974) and reuniting opposite Bronson again in Richard Fleischer’s Mr. Majestyk (1974).
Indicator’s region free Blu-ray marks its UK premiere and an impressive package it is, too. The Stone Killer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in 1080p. Sourced from Sony’s HD remaster, the picture quality stands up incredibly well, there is an especially well defined and vivid look about the film, especially in the daylight scenes of which there are plenty. It is an extremely clean picture, with a minor amount of original grain. Its colour retains a nice natural and consistent look which works well. It appears that Sony have appeared to resist the temptation of tinkering and adjusting too much and as a result, the film holds on to its 70s taste and texture. The same can be said for the audio department, which is both clean and true. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is punchy and free from any form of distortion or defects.
Indicator’s bonus material is led by an audio commentary from journalist and film programmer Nick Pinkerton who examines the history and production of The Stone Killer. It’s an interesting walk through in which Pinkerton clearly demonstrates he has done his homework and keeps the viewer engaged. Keeping with the audio delights, the disc also includes composer Roy Budd’s complete isolated score in stereo. Licensed by way of the Twilight Time Blu-ray release, Mike Matessino’s efforts to make these scores available is always welcome, and of course, appreciated a great deal by soundtrack enthusiasts in general. Roy Budd’s work here is regarded as one of the great retro scores and its inclusion here is close to essential.
Also included is an audio only recording of Michael Winner’s John Player Lecture. Recorded on September 13th, 1970 and with a running time of 65 minutes, Winner is interviewed by Margaret Hinxman at the National Film Theatre, London. The interview finds Winner in a relaxed, confident and incredibly humorous mood. Always with a plenty to say, he speaks without hesitation and with a ‘take it or leave it’ honesty. He is both entertaining and engaging throughout and often has his audience breaking out in spontaneous laughter. It’s a super find and entirely worthy of inclusion.
Landau (center) with "Mission:Impossible" co-stars (clockwise) Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau has passed away at age 89. Landau had originally intended to be a cartoonist before studying at the esteemed Actors Studio in New York City. With his intense looks and persona, he began to be noticed by Hollywood studios. In 1959 he was cast as James Mason's gay henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's classic "North by Northwest". It was Landau who suggested playing the role as a not-so-closeted homosexual, a rather daring strategy for the era. The result made Landau standout in a cast of heavyweights that included Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and Leo G. Carroll. Roles in epic films such as "Cleopatra" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" followed. Landau also appeared regularly on popular TV programs including "The Twilight Zone", "The Untouchables", "I Spy", "The Wild, Wild West" and many others. Between 1966-1969 he co-starred on the hit spy series "Mission:Impossible", playing Rollin Hand, a master of disguise. His real-life wife Barbara Bain also starred in the show. They both left due to either "artistic differences" or salary disputes with the producers. Between 1975-1977, Landau and Bain co-starred in the cult sci-fi series "Space: 1999". Landau's career went into decline although he never stopped working. It was the quality of the projects that had diminished. He had an unexpected renaissance in 1988 when director Francis Ford Coppola cast him in "Tucker: The Man and His Dreams". Landau received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The following year he was nominated in the same category for a brilliant performance in Woody Allen's dark comedy "Crimes and Misdemeanors". Landau finally won the award for his performance as actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film "Ed Wood". (Ironically, Landau had played a Lugosi-like character in "The Bat Cave Affair", a 1966 episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.").
Landau spoofed Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Dracula in an episode of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" (seen here with David McCallum). In 1994, he would win the Oscar for playing Lugosi in "Ed Wood".
Landau had been nominated for Emmy awards on numerous occasions beginning with "Mission: Impossible" and extending to more recent nominations for "Without a Trace" and "Entourage". Landau had been producer Gene Rodenberry's first choice to play the role of Spock in "Star Trek" but Landau decided to go with "Mission:Impossible". The role went to Leonard Nimoy, who ironically ended up starring in "Mission:Impossible" after Landau's departure from the series. For more click here.
it was actually his second film, 1988’s Stormy Monday marked the big screen debut of Mike Figgis; his
earlier feature, four years prior, was made for television. Given that it
was essentially a debut, though, the cast that the director managed to assemble
was quite remarkable; Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith, Sting and Sean Bean
(who looks about 18 but was actually 29) headline in a grim tale of corruption
set against the nightclub scene in Newcastle. With almost every frame screaming
1980s – from the neon-tube title emblazoned across the screen to Bean’s
trousers and Griffiths’ hairdo – the blend of jazz and sax-infused score
affords the proceedings a vaguely noir vibe. Unfortunately little of the above
provides sufficient grist to save the resulting film from the morass of
midst of a week of festivities celebrating everything American, drifter Brendan
(Bean) gets a job as a cleaner at the Key Club, a successful jazz nightspot
owned by Finney (Sting). Brendan clicks with his employer who quickly identifies
the lad as someone he can trust, with more worth to him than someone sluicing
vomit off the toilet floor. Finney is currently being harassed by shady
American businessman Cosmo (Jones) to sell him the club. As a man whose first
tactic is to send in the heavies to mete out a little physical persuasion, Cosmo
will clearly stop at nothing to get what he wants. Brendan meets and enters
into a relationship with waitress Kate (Griffith), but he's unaware that she's
affiliated with Cosmo…
Now, I accept
that I’m in the minority, but I should say upfront that I've never been able to
engage with Stormy Monday on any
significant level. Its pacing is just that little too sedate and it's gloomy to
the point of depressing. There’s also a serious dearth of likeable characters;
in a film of this ilk there should always be someone to root for, and the absence of sympathetic characters
completely undermines a climactic sting (lame pun intentional), robbing it of
the dramatic weight and emotional heft it desperately cries out for.
real stumbling block for me is the insipid performances. Sting is a terrific
musician, but I've never found him a particularly compelling screen presence
and his dialogue delivery here is shallow and unconvincing. Injuriously though,
he's only one among a number of surprising offenders. Jones too – a marvellous
actor with a bevy of splendid character performances under his belt – exudes
disinterest and proves frustratingly bland. Most disappointing in this respect,
however, is Griffith, who I absolutely adored back in the 80s; the same year as
Stormy Monday she appeared in The Milagro Beanfield War and Working Girl, the latter for which she
was Best Actress Oscar nominated; such a lacklustre turn sandwiched between two
such outstanding ones is a bitter pill to swallow. It may well be that these
underwhelming performances are a reflection of (what I consider to be) the colourless
narrative that the characters populate. I can’t decide, because Bean – in the
infancy of what would build into an impressive screen career – is decent
enough, with all the signs of a star in the making in evidence and there are
also small but memorable roles for Alison Steadman and James Cosmo (as a
deliciously simmering psychotic). Bond buffs meanwhile will want to keep an eye
open for Clive Curtis, Dulice Liecier (fresh off her glam CIA agent spin in The Living Daylights) and Prunella Gee.
there nothing worth dipping in to Stormy
Monday for? I honestly feel there isn’t. Roger Deakins' cinematography is
suitably moody, and those familiar with Newcastle might glean some pleasure
from the extensive location footage of the great City as it looked three
decades past. But beyond that, this one’s probably for diehard fans of the
actors within and Figgis completists only. Said
completists will doubtless be delighted with the fine new hi-definition Blu-Ray
release of the film from Arrow Video. Supplements are slender but add value; along
with a Figgis audio commentary moderated by Damon Wise, there's a 33-minute
retrospective documentary in which critic Neil Young discusses the film at
length whilst strolling around some of the film's locations, a stills gallery
and the original theatrical trailer. The release includes reversible sleeve art
and a limited edition collectors' booklet.
George A. Romero, the maverick independent filmmaker who changed the movie industry forever with his low-budget, high grossing 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead", has passed away at age 77 from lung cancer. Romero represented the true "guerilla filmmaker" when he and his partners cobbled together the meager production budget for "Night of the Living Dead", which was shot locally in Pittsburgh, where Romero had attended college, and used non-seasoned actors in starring roles. The movie, shot in B&W, quickly became infamous for its unprecedented grisly depiction of flesh eating zombies preying upon people trapped in a remote country house. Most critics were aghast but audiences responded with enthusiasm. Romero's film inspired a generation of young horror moviemakers but although it grossed many millions in profits, a snafu regarding the copyright prevented Romero and his investors from fully capitalizing on the phenomenal success of the movie. It was a mistake he would not make again. Romero would go on to make other zombie movies, all with much higher budgets and the copyright situation carefully paid attention to. He also occasionally directed other horror films for mainstream studios including the cult hit "Creepshow" in 1982 that was inspired by the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s. Romero's manager confirmed that Romero passed away in an almost manner far removed from the world of horror movies: he was listening to Victor Young's score for "The Quiet Man" .
For more about Romero and tributes from film industry colleagues, click here.
Here is the full length feature film "Night of the Living Dead".
The Guardian has rounded up an eclectic group of directors to weigh in on their own personal choices for the greatest film scenes ever shot. They range from the skeleton battle in "Jason and the Argonauts" to the car chase in "The French Connection". Click here to read the justifications for their choices.
The TV series Doctor Who premiered in the UK in 1963 and is still a highly popular cultural institution. Fans were shocked when the news was released that the thirteenth actor to portray the doctor will be a female, actress Jodie Whittaker. As you might suspect, the web is alight with debates between those who welcomed the news and feel that Whittaker's casting will be an inspiration to young female fans and those who are aghast that the traditionally male role has now gone "politically correct". Whittaker will take over the role in January, when the current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, retires from the series. For more click here.
‘I was there; I was in that picture, fighting
the Cyclops on the beach, running from the dragon! I was enthralled. It's one
of my strongest childhood memories.’ It’s very hard to argue with director John
Landis’s vivid account of his earliest memories and the fantasy films of Ray
Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer. They seemed to touch us all in an
indelible manner and took us into a fantasy realm far beyond our imagination.
Indicator has (for the first time in the UK) combined the three Sinbad
adventures in one very handsomely produced package. It’s a magical box that has
very little trouble in sending us on a journey, and back to a place called
The Seventh voyage of Sinbad (1958) was
something of a revelation back in its day. Ray Harryhausen’s pioneering stop-motion
animation had worked so well in films such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
(1953), It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and 20 Million Miles to Earth
(1957). However, he was about to enter a new period and face a new set of
challenges. Along with his producer Charles H. Schneer, Harryhausen was about
to embark on their next collaboration, The Seventh voyage of Sinbad, and it was
to be made in full colour.
The story of The Seventh voyage of Sinbad was
quite simple and uncomplicated. Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) and Princess Parisa’s
(Kathryn Grant) plans of marriage are interrupted by the evil magician Sokurah
(Torin Thatcher). Sokurah insists that Sinbad return a lamp that he lost on the
island of Colossa. Sinbad at first refuses, which leads to Sokurah shrinking
Parisa and blackmailing Sinbad and his crew on a dangerous adventure in order
to save her.
Exciting as the story was, the real magical
elements were of course in the monsters and creatures the Sinbad would
encounter along the way and was very much were Harryhausen stepped in.
Considering its age and taking into account the combination of early colour
film and special effects techniques, Harryhausen’s work was nothing less than
miraculous. From that startling entrance of ‘the Cyclops on the beach’ that
Landis so excitingly refers to, we as an audience are hooked. The blending of
an enormous, mythical creature and real life people, seemingly in a real
location, was enough to take any child’s breath away and leave them both complexed
and in wonder. There was naturally more to come, the giant Roc, the mysterious
snake woman, the fire breathing dragon and perhaps most enthralling of all
sequences, Sinbad’s sword duel with the living skeleton. The results were not
only seamless, but utterly mindboggling.
The new 4K restoration of The Seventh voyage
of Sinbad (from the original camera negative) really brings it to life. Colours
are both rich and vivid. Certain backgrounds may occasionally look a little
grainy, but nevertheless perfectly acceptable and no doubt down to separate
film elements used in the film’s original production. The high resolution scan
perhaps highlights these limitations to some degree. It’s necessary to also
remember, this production was working to a tight schedule and an even tighter
budget. However, simply look at the level of detail in close-ups and location
shots, and the real revelation of the restoration becomes extremely clear. The
audio also sounds marvellous and is presented in both mono and DTS
Speaking of revelations, Indicator’s
collection of bonus material is exhaustive – ‘exhaustive’ in the most
complementary way I might add. Firstly, we have a commentary track (from 2008) which
not only features Harryhausen at the helm, but a whole host of industry
wizards. Producer Arnold Kunert, visual effects experts Phil Tippett, Randall
William Cook and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven Smith all provide fascinating
insights and their respect towards Harryhausen’s work is undeniable.
Also included are the original Super 8mm cut
down versions. As any serious movie fan of a certain age will recall, these
were essential, especially if you were growing up in the 70s. Before the
introduction of videocassettes, these 200ft spools contained around 8-9 minutes
of film and featured condensed sequences or key scenes from the movie. You
could buy these in different versions such as b/w silent or colour sound (which
were a lot more expensive). Four parts were released for The Seventh Voyage of
Sinbad – The Cyclops, The Strange Voyage, The Evil Magician and Dragon’s Lair –
which was the reel I owned and watched over and over again. Each of these
segments is presented in their raw state, complete with speckles and tram line
scratches, but to be honest, I wouldn’t really want them any other way. They
are a wonderful, retrospective reminder of those glorious days. I should also
point out that parts 1 and 4 are in their colour / sound versions while parts 2
and 3 are in b/w / silent. There is also an option to play individual reels or
The Secrets of Sinbad (11.23) is a featurette
with Phil Tippet (in his workshop) recollecting on how he grew up on
Harryhausen’s films. He talks about the whole period and Forrest J. Ackerman’s
Famous Monsters magazine and how this became a key influence in his own career
Remembering The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
(23.31) has Harryhausen talking about the struggle in getting the film made. He
talks about various elements including the shooting in Granada, Spain, and
Majorca. Kerwin Matthews, the building of giant props, his creature designs and
his disapproval over the English censoring of the skeleton fight are among the
many other subjects discussed.
A Look Behind the Voyage (11.52) is a TV
featurette from 1995. It looks to be from a video source, which was being used
regularly during this period. This short piece features interviews with both
Schneer and Harryhausen and looks back at the early work such as Mighty Joe
Young and his fairy tale films. It also looks at the importance of his parents
and the role they played, the difficulties in moving from b/w to colour and
working to tight budgets. It’s a nice informative, condensed piece.
Music promo (2.34) – Well this is a nice rare
little piece and the sort of thing that really grabs my interest. In 1958,
Colpix (the record division of Columbia pictures), produced this 7” 45rpm
single to be played in cinema lobbies, radio shows and for giving away as kids
competition prizes. The song ‘Sinbad May Have Been Bad, But He’s Been Good to Me’
is as cheesy as hell, but oh so wonderful. It’s presented here in beautiful,
clear sound and played over a piece of Seventh Voyage poster artwork.
The Music of Bernard Herrmann (26.52) is a
fascinating essay on composer Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann biographer Steven
Smith presents an insightful and eloquent account of the composer’s love of
fantasy films. Smith takes us through his early work including CBS radio, Orson
Welles’s Mercury theatre, his innovative instrumentation style and his use of
Theremin, Brass and electronics. All of which is fascinating.
Keeping on the subject of Bernard Herrmann,
Indicator have pulled off a real treat with the inclusion of Herrmann’s full
isolated score. Presented in Stereo, the score is rousing, clean and dynamic,
it is also plentiful as Herrmann leaves very few scenes unscored. I believe
this marks its debut as an isolated score, but 2009 complete score CD (released
by Prometheus) came with a total time of 71 minutes, so expect a lot of great
Birthday Tribute (1.00) features a short
birthday tribute to Harryhausen from Phil Tippet’s studio – complete with
The Trailer Gallery starts with the original ‘This
is Dynamation!’ trailer (3.26). This is a fascinating preview that presents the
process of Dynamation and includes some rare behind the scenes footage, effects
shots and Kerwin Mathews practising with his fencing coach for the skeleton
fight. We then have the same trailer introduced and with a commentary from
Trailers from Hell presenter Brian Trenchard-Smith (4.47). Finally, there is
the re-release trailer which I believe is from 1975 (1.46).
The image gallery is quite comprehensive and
contains approx. 75 steps. This is a little misleading as a great deal of
portrait shots are placed side-by-side, so in reality there’s a great deal
more. Here you will find original promotional material, Harryhausen drawings,
b/w stills, mini lobby cards, comic books and poster art from around the
Joe Robinson, 2004. (Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved.)
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Joe Robinson, the estimable stuntman, stunt arranger and occasional actor, has passed away in his native England at age 90. Robinson came from a family of wrestlers and he won the European Heavyweight Championship in 1952. Robinson drifted into the film industry initially as an actor, starring in the 1955 movie "A Kid for Two Farthings". Leading man status eluded him but he found a steady career arranging stunts for films and television shows and occasionally acting in them as well. Like many British and American actors, he gravitated to Italy in the early 1960s to appear in some of the "Hercules"-inspired strongman films that were quite popular during that era. He scored small action roles in "Barabbas" and "Ursus" before returning to England, where he had a supporting role in Tony Richardson's classic "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Rnner. He was a noted judo and karate expert and helped train Honor Blackman for her action scenes in "The Avengers" TV series and in the 1964 James Bond film "Goldfinger". In 1971 he landed his best-remembered role as smuggler Peter Franks in the James Bond movie "Diamonds are Forever". In the movie's best action scene, he has a bruising battle with Sean Connery inside the tight confines of an elevator. This writer and fellow Cinema Retro publisher Dave Worrall met him in 1995 when he participated in recording a laser disc commentary track we were producing relating to the elevator fight along with "Diamonds are Forever" director Guy Hamilton at Pinewood Studios (the track is available on the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film today).
Robinson battling Sean Connery in the 1971 James Bond film "Diamonds are Forever".
Robinson was very much a free spirit who would often turn up unexpectedly at events and ingratiate himself with people by discussing his fascinating stories of working in the film industry. He later would appear with the James Bond International Fan Club at various 007-themed events and conventions where he enjoyed meeting his admirers and signing autographs. He once told this writer that many years after filming "Diamonds are Forever", he decided to drop by Sean Connery's estate in Spain. When he rang the doorbell buzzer in the gated community, Connery asked who was there. When he heard it was Joe Robinson, Connery exclaimed "Tiger Joe!", referring to Robinson's nickname in the industry. The two men spent a pleasant afternoon reminiscing about old times. In addition to his other achievements, Robinson and his brother Doug co-authored "Honor Blackman's Book of Self-Defence", a 1965 volume that illustrated their training sessions with Blackman. For more click here.
Watch the original trailer for producer Euan Lloyd's superb 1978 adventure film "The Wild Geese". It's as sensational as the movie itself even if it falls into the common problem of divulging too many key scenes and plot points. They really don't make 'em like this any more!
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR REVIEW OF THE "THE WILD GEESE" BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION
The Warner Archive has released the 1972 MGM thriller The Carey Treatment. James Coburn has one of his best roles as Dr. Peter Carey, a rebellious but esteemed pathologist who moves to Boston to take a prominent position at one of the city's most esteemed hospitals. The charismatic Carey loses no time in gaining friends, alienating top brass and bedding the comely chief dietician (Jennifer O'Neill). However, he soon finds himself embroiled in a politically volatile investigation when a fellow surgeon is arrested for performing an illegal abortion on the 15 year old daughter of the hospital's crusty administrator (Dan O'Herlihy). (The movie was released a year before the landmark Roe V. Wade decision that legalized abortion in America.) Coburn believes his friend's protestations of innocence and decides to launch his own investigation into the matter. The case soon unveils a lot of skeletons that some prominent people would prefer to be kept in their closets and Carey finds himself subjected to blackmail and physically assaulted as he comes closer to discovering the shocking truth behind the young girl's death.
TMZ reports that a much-ballyhooed auction of items belonging to the late Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds is causing concern in some areas. On a high profile "Good Morning America" segment, the show took a tour around Fisher's home, guided by her brother Todd Fisher. In the segment, Todd-accompanied by the correspondent and the representative of the auction house, Profiles in History, take a cheery walk through Memory Lane, pointing out various items and relating anecdotes about them. The concerns raised relate to certain "Star Wars" collectibles that were being represented as having belonged to Carrie Fisher. TMZ reports that at least some of them appear to have been purchased by Todd at "Star Wars" auction that took place after his sister's death. Profiles in History had hired a firm, CGA, to verify the authenticity of the items but apparently the company ensured that, while the collectibles were legitimate, they were not actually owned by Carrie. TMZ reports that CGA is now asking to re-examine twenty "Star Wars" items to further examine their provenance. The auction is scheduled for September 23. Todd Fisher has promised that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity.
Elsa Martinelli, who gravitated from modeling to a successful acting career in the 1950s, has died at age 82. Martinelli was a popular model in her native Italy when she was discovered by Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne. The Douglases decided to cast the unknown as an Indian maiden in Kirk's 1955 hit Western "The Indian Fighter". The film raised eyebrows at the time for presenting an inter-racial love affair between their characters. The movie helped successfully launch Martinelli's screen career in European cinema but it would be years before she starred in her next major Hollywood production. In 1962 director Howard Hawks cast her as the female lead opposite John Wayne his big budget African adventure "Hatari!". The film was a sizable hit and Martinelli began to appear in more American studio productions. She starred opposite Charlton Heston in "The Pigeon That Took Rome", with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in "The V.I.Ps", which was also a major success and opposite Robert Mitchum in the thriller "Rampage" . From the mid-1960s on, however, Martinelli worked almost exclusively on European film and TV productions. She had a long and esteemed career that ended with her recurring role in the acclaimed Italian TV series "Orgoglio" in 2004-2005. For more click here.
Dario Argento – whose directorial career has
now spanned almost 50 years, positioning him as a genuine icon of terror cinema
– is probably best associated with his clutch of intoxicatingly imaginative chillers,
each of them ornamented with brutal (and increasingly graphic) murder scenarios,
stylishly lurid lighting schemes and wildly inventive camerawork.
Throughout the second half of the 1960s
Argento had found a degree of success in writing stories and screenplays for movies;
he most famously worked alongside Sergio Leone for 1968's Once Upon a Time in the West. But it was taught 1970 thriller The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (o.t. L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo) that
marked his debut in the director’s chair and set him on the path to becoming
the Godfather of the giallo.
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American
writer currently residing in Rome, walks past a brightly lit art gallery late
one night and sees inside a shadowy figure, clad in black, stabbing a woman.
Attempting to intervene, Dalmas manages to get himself trapped in the entrance
between two sets of locked sliding doors, unable to prevent the assailant from
fleeing and helpless to assist the woman left bleeding to death on the floor.
Fortunately, aid arrives and the woman – Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi), wife of
the gallery's owner – survives. It transpires that Monica was the almost-victim
in a series of attacks that have left several beautiful women dead. Dalmas becomes
obsessed with the case, replaying what he saw over and over in his head,
convinced that he's missing a vital clue to solving the mystery. But in getting
involved he inadvertently sets himself up as a target for the killer.
Argento not only directed but also wrote The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (basing
it thematically on a 1949 pulp novel, “The Screaming Mimi”, by Frederic Brown).
He would go on to make better movies but for a debut feature this really is an
exemplary piece of film-making, bearing many of the embryonic flourishes – clearly
influenced by the works of Alfred Hitchcock and Mario Bava – that would later
become his trademark; specifically the faceless, black-gloved killer whose
nefarious activities are often shot POV and, on a more cerebral level, the misperception
of a witnessed moment, with characters struggling to retrieve a clue buried in
their subconscious, the significance of which failed to register upon them when
initially glimpsed. These recurrent themes would play out to varying degrees of
success in many of Argento's later films, most significantly Four Flies on Grey Velvet (o.t. 4 mosche di velluto grigio, 1971), Cat o'Nine Tails (o.t. Il gatto a nove code, 1971), Deep Red (o.t. Profondo rosso, 1975, considered by many to be the greatest of all
the Italian gialli), Tenebrae (o.t. Tenebre, 1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987),
Trauma (1993), The Stendhal Syndrome (o.t. La
sindrome di Stendhal, 1996), Sleepless
(o.t. Non ho sonno, 2001), The Card Player (o.t. Il cartaio, 2004), Do You Like Hitchcock? (o.t. Ti
piace Hitchcock, 2005) and Giallo
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage itself is a masterpiece of sustained
suspense. The escalating tension during a scene in which the hero's girlfriend
(Suzy Kendall) is menaced by the killer – who uses a large kitchen knife to
methodically chip away at the lock on her apartment door – is as perfect an
example as one could wish for as to why Argento is often referenced as the
Italian Hitchcock. The violence – notably an out-of-shot vaginal stabbing – was
transgressive for its day, and in spite of the fact that far more shocking
atrocities have been unflinchingly splashed across the screen in the decades
since, several moments in Argento's fledgling offering still pack quite a visceral
Mark Robson’s 1957 film Peyton Place celebrates its 60th
anniversary with a special screening at the Royal Theatre in Los Angeles. The
film, which runs 157 minutes, stars Lana Turner, Lee Philips, Lloyd Nolan,
Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn, Terry More, and Hope Lange.
NOTE: Actress Terry Moore is currently scheduled to appear at the screening as
part of a Q & A regarding the film and her career.
From the press release:
of our Anniversary Classics series. For details, visit: laemmle.com/ac.
PEYTON PLACE (1957)
60th Anniversary Screening
Wednesday, July 12, at 7:00 PM at the Royal Theatre
Q & A with Co-Star Terry Moore
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present a 60th anniversary
screening of 'Peyton Place,' the smash hit movie version of Grace Metalious’s
best-selling novel. The film earned nine top Academy Award nominations,
including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also
tied the all-time record of five acting nominations from a single film: Lana
Turner as Best Actress and four supporting nods, for newcomers Diane Varsi and
Hope Lange, along with Arthur Kennedy and Russ Tamblyn.
Metalious’s novel exposed the steamy shenanigans in a small New England town,
and even in a slightly toned-down version, the film tackled such once-forbidden
topics as rape, incest, sexual hypocrisy and repression. It opened in December
of 1957 and became the second highest grossing film of 1958 after going into
wide release and then spawned a sequel and a popular TV series in the 1960s.
Leonard Maltin summed up the critical consensus when he wrote, “Grace Metalious’s
once-notorious novel receives Grade A filming.” Producer Jerry Wald (whose
credits included 'Mildred Pierce,' 'Key Largo,' 'Johnny Belinda,' 'An Affair to
Remember,' 'The Long Hot Summer,' and 'Sons and Lovers') bought the rights to
the novel for $250,000 and hired a first-rate team to bring it to the screen.
Screenwriter John Michael Hayes wrote many of the best Alfred Hitchcock movies
of the 1950s, including 'Rear Window,' 'The Trouble with Harry,' and 'The Man
Who Knew Too Much.' Director Mark Robson started as an assistant editor on
Orson Welles’ 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Magnificent Ambersons,' then directed
such successful films as 'Champion,' 'The Bridges at Toko-Ri,' and 'Inn of the
Sixth Happiness.' Oscar winning composer Franz Waxman provided the memorable
The Hollywood Reporter praised
all the performances but singled out co-star Terry Moore, who “shows what a
forceful and moving actress she can be.” Moore made a vivid impression in
1949’s 'Mighty Joe Young,' then earned an Oscar nomination for 'Come Back,
Little Sheba' in 1952. Her other films include 'Man on a Tightrope' with
Fredric March, 'King of the Khyber Rifles' with Tyrone Power, 'Beneath the
12-Mile Reef' with Robert Wagner, and 'Daddy Long Legs' with Fred Astaire and
Leslie Caron. She made 77 feature films over the course of her career and also
appeared in many TV series and movies.
Royal Theatre is located at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd. 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., Los
Angeles, CA 90025. The phone number is (310) 478 – 0401.
Few would argue that George C. Scott was one of the greatest actors of stage and screen. His presence in even a mediocre movie elevated its status considerably and his work as the nutty general in "Dr. Strangelove" was described by one critic as "the comic performance of the decade". When Scott won his well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor in "Patton" (which he famously refused), he seemed to be on a roll. His next film, the darkly satirical comedy "The Hospital" predicted the absurdities of America's for-profit health care system in which the rich and the poor were taken care of, with everyone else falling in between. The film earned Scott another Best Actor Oscar nomination despite his snubbing of the Academy the previous year. From that point, however, Scott's choice of film roles was wildly eclectic. There were some gems and plenty of misfires that leads one to believe he was motivated as much by commerce as artistic expression. One of his worst films, the 1974 crime comedy "The Bank Shot", has been released on Blu-ray with a gorgeous transfer by Kino Lorber. If only the film itself lived up to the quality of the transfer. It's pretty hard to bungle a comedic crime caper. Alec Guinness used to knock out classics like "The Lavender Hill Mob" , "Kind Hearts and Coronets" and "The Ladykillers" seemingly in his sleep. In the 1970s Hollywood studios were enamored of the works by novelist Donald E. Westlake, whose books provided ample fodder for lightweight caper comedies such as "The Hot Rock" and "Cops and Robbers", both of which had much to recommend about them. Not so with "The Bank Shot". Not having read the novel, it's possible that it had plenty of merits, but suffice it to say that the film's director, Gower Champion, and his equally estimable screenwriter, Wendall Mayes, needed to provide a light hand in transferring it to the screen. Instead, they ended up with a lead foot.
Scott plays Walter Ballentine, a notorious and famous heist master whose last caper went awry. When we first see him he's serving a life sentence in a desert prison camp run by his arch nemesis, a lawman named Streiger (Clifton James, essentially recreating his role as dopey Sheriff J.W. Pepper from "Live and Let Die", with the addition of constantly smoking foot-long Churchill cigars.) Ballentine receives a brief visit from one of his confederates in crime, Al Karp (Sorrell Booke), who informs him that he has a plan to help him break out of the prison camp with the intention of joining his new gang. He sneaks Walter the plans for an audacious caper in which the gang will put a small Los Angeles bank on a set of wheels and literally steal it by attaching it to a truck and driving it away. In the first of many preposterous scenes, Ballentine manages to break out of prison using a Caterpillar earth mover and despite the fact that the vehicle moves about fast as a real caterpillar, the police are unable to catch up with him. He meets up with El (Joanna Cassidy), a bored rich beauty who is financing the caper seemingly out of boredom. She and Ballentine meet up with Karp and several other misfits who will work together to pull off the robbery. In order for even a nutball comedy premise to work it has to have its roots in some sense of believability. However the screenplay asks us to believe so many far-fetched premises that is never remotely believable. As with all similar films, the initial stages of the caper go well only to have unexpected twists of fate threaten to thwart the best laid plans of the lovable culprits. Why George C. Scott chose to be involved in this modest enterprise is anyone's guess but it may have been the rare opportunity to work with director Gower Champion, a legend for his work on Broadway. Champion only directed two feature films in his life (the other being the little-remembered 1963 romantic comedy "My Six Loves") and its equally puzzling as to why "The Bank Shot" lured Champion back to the film industry after a full decade. In any event, Champion is the main culprit for the film's failures. He seems determined to recreate the screwball comedies of the Keystone Cops era. Supporting characters dress absurdly, wear ludicrous disguises and the actors who portray them are encouraged to chew the scenery with over-the-top performances. (Among the other talents victimized by Champion's direction is young Bob Balaban.) Even Scott doesn't emerge unscathed- he sports exaggerated eyebrows that make him resemble Leonid Brezhnev. Champion goes for belly laughs but most fall embarrassingly flat, like that drunk at a party who tries to get laughs by dancing about with a lampshade on his head. You desperately want to like "The Bank Shot" and occasionally there are a few genuine chuckles to be found amidst the debris, which is all set to a jaunty score by John Morris. However the only crime worth remembering from this caper is that people wasted their money to see it in theaters.
The Blu-ray release contains an original trailer that features original footage of Joanna Cassidy in a bathtub that plays up the sexual aggressiveness of her character in the film. There is also a trailer for the far superior "Cops and Robbers", which is also available from Kino Lorber. Kudos to the company for retaining the wonderful poster art by Jack Davis for the sleeve.
Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” emerged as a surprise box-office smash
in the early months of 1972, studios and distributors hustled to meet popular
demand for more movies about life in the Mob. In New York, a dubbed print of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film “Le
Samourai” was hurriedly retitled and screened as “The Godson” in a masterful
example of bait-and-switch marketing. Melville’s chilly, claustrophobic picture about a hit man portrayed by
Alain Delon is a fine crime drama, but it had no connection to Coppola’s
picture or, for that matter, to any aspect of American Mafia lore at all. “The Valachi Papers,” based on Peter Maas’
bestselling nonfiction book, followed as a more legitimate successor. Rushed through production by Dino De
Laurentiis in spring and summer 1972, the film was scripted by Stephen Geller
and directed by Terence Young. Shooting
largely took place at De Laurentiis’ Rome studio. The producer claimed that he’d originally
intended to film wholly in New York, and some preliminary exteriors were shot
at Sing Sing prison. Then the production
relocated to Europe upon receiving threats from the Mafia, publicity materials
said. It’s a good story, whether or not
it was completely true. (I suspect that
De Laurentiis was motivated less by fear of the Mob than by the expediency of
getting the movie in the can as quickly as possible. That was easier done in Rome than in New York
or Hollywood.) Released by Columbia
Pictures, “The Valachi Papers” opened in U.S. theaters on November 3, 1972. The strategy of riding Coppola’s shirttail
was successful; despite largely mediocre reviews, “The Valachi Papers” earned
healthy ticket sales and became one of the top-grossing pictures of 1972.
movie follows the series of murders, double-crosses, and power struggles across
four decades of Mafia history that Maas chronicled in his 1968 bestseller,
based on accounts by informant Joseph Valachi. As a young man, Valachi (Charles Bronson) is inducted into the Mafia, or
La Cosa Nostra, after a chance meeting in a jail cell with Dominick “The Gap”
Petrilli (Walter Chiari) in 1923. Valachi works first for Gaetano Reina (Amedeo Nazzari) as the Gap’s
apprentice and partner. When Reina is
shot to death by a rival faction in a 1931 gang war, Valachi and Gap are
recruited by the big boss, Salvatore Maranzano (Joseph Wiseman). Later that year, the two join the crime
family of Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) after the dictatorial Maranzano is
murdered in a Mob shake-up engineered by Genovese and Lucky Luciano. Valachi marries Gaetano Reina’s daughter
Maria (inevitably played by Jill Ireland), acquires a restaurant as a business
front, and dutifully toils for Genovese as a driver, collector, and occasional
hit man over the next two decades.
loyalty begins to fray when Genovese orders other minions to castrate his pal
Gap for unwisely going to bed with Genovese’s mistress. (The real Gap was the victim of a 1953
gangland murder, but not for the reason invented for the movie.) When Valachi is sent to federal prison on a charge of drug trafficking in 1959,
Genovese -- also serving time for narcotics distribution -- begins to suspect
that Valachi will rat him out for other crimes. In turn, Valachi fears for his life once he receives the “kiss of death”
from the boss during a tense meeting in Genovese’s cell. A botched hit follows in the prison shower
room, as Valachi jumps and overcomes a would-be shooter before the other man
can gun him down. Anticipating a further
attack, Valachi believes that he’s being stalked by another inmate in the prison
yard, and beats the man to death with an iron pipe. Later, he finds out that the stranger he
killed had nothing to do with Genovese or the Mafia. Facing additional time for murder and the
ongoing threat of a contract on his life, Valachi agrees to reveal the workings
of the Mafia to an FBI agent (Gerald S. O’Laughlin) and to testify at a Senate
hearing on organized crime.
script efficiently compressed Maas’ sprawling history into two hours of
camera-ready copy and added a dramatic center by focusing on the initially
respectful but increasingly uneasy relationship between Valachi and
Genovese. That it’s essentially a
two-man show revolving around those two characters, and not a solo spotlight
for Bronson, is appropriately reflected in Bronson’s and Ventura’s dual billing
above the title in the opening credits. Dramatically, the strategy of giving Valachi and Genovese nearly equal
prominence compensates for the fact that Valachi himself is largely a passive
character on a low rung in the Cosa Nostra organization. Aside from the opening sequence of Valachi
getting the jump on his would-be killer in the shower room, there’s a dearth of
physical action for Bronson. Genovese’s
Mob ambitions drive most of the plot. Too, the shared billing was probably a shrewd commercial move by De Laurentiis
and Columbia to guarantee strong box-office in the important European market,
where Ventura was immensely popular. At
that, Bronson’s star was still rising, and he’d shared top billing in other
recent movies like “Red Sun” (with Toshiro Mifune), “You Can’t Win ‘Em All”
(Tony Curtis), and “Adieu l’Ami” (Alain Delon). “The Mechanic” (released on November 17, 1972), “The Stone Killer”
(1973), and “Death Wish” (1974) put him on Hollywood’s upper tier, by himself.
Thanks to Nick Sheffo of Fulvue Drive-in web site for alerting us to this 23 minute compilation of American TV ads from the year 1977. It's a fun hodgepodge hawking everything from Ford Pintos (fire extinguishers not included!) to celebrities: Jack Nicklaus pitching American Express cards ("Don't leave home without it!"), Caroline Munro oozing over Noxema shaving cream, George Lazenby as a thinly-veiled James Bond being introduced to Sony hi-tech gadgets in a clever 007 spoof, James Garner and Mariette Hartley in one of their popular ads for Polaroid cameras, inimitable character actor Anthony James giving an endorsement to Mobile 1 motor oil, actor Paul Burke for Radio Shack, Cicely Tyson for RCA color TVs, James Coburn in cowboy gear shilling for Schlitz beer and Ed McMahon endorsing Budweiser (yes, in those days, first-rate talents could promote third-rate beers.) Best of all, there's dear ol' O.J. Simpson, promoting Hertz, dashing through an airport at top speed- well at least faster than he moved in his slow-mo car chase. Coincidentally, another future "Husband of the Year" and murder suspect, the poor man's Brando, Robert Blake, turns up promoting STP auto additive. The ads are chock full of girls with Farrah hairdos, guys with wide colors and polyester suits, the miracles of cassette tape recorders, the Betamax and cars large enough in size to have fit comfortably in the Battle of the Bulge. Too bad they don't feature that other great innovation of the 1970s- canned wine.
is a tough one. On the one hand, Bring Me
the Head of Alfredo Garcia a picture that has gained a cult status and a
reputation among some cinema enthusiasts and certainly Sam Peckinpah fans as a
retro classic. On the other hand, this is one nasty piece of work.
remember immensely disliking the picture in 1974 (as did most audiences and
critics) when it was first released. I appreciated its dark humor and Warren
Oates’ superb study in futility and frustration—it was nice to see the longtime
supporting actor be a lead—but the overall nihilism of the movie left a sour
taste. I was eager to view to new DVD release by Kino Lorber on the chance that
perhaps my opinion would have changed over the last forty-three years, given
the title’s cult acceptance.
afraid my views have not changed.
Sam Peckinpah always had a confrontational relationship with Hollywood studios.
He was a rebel who liked to do things his way. By the time of Alfredo Garcia, he had pretty much given
up on Hollywood and was forging his own path. Luckily for him, United
Artists—known for indulging auteur filmmakers
in those days—gave him enough money to make the picture in Mexico with an
all-Mexican crew, save for a few key personnel. The film is perceived as one of
the director’s most personal statements.
story, by Peckinpah and Frank Kowalski, and adapted to screenplay by Peckinpah
and Gordon Dawson, follows an American ex-pat in Mexico, Bennie (Oates), as he
attempts to locate the body of deceased Alfredo Garcia, remove the head, and
return it to Mexican crime boss El Jefe.
Apparently, poor Alfredo impregnated El
Jefe’s daughter and ran off, so the boss has placed a million-dollar bounty
for her lover’s head. Bennie and his reluctant Mexican girlfriend, Elita (Isela
Vega), are in competition with various hit men and fortune hunters. Lives are
lost, women are tortured, shootouts occur, and violence (done in trademark
Peckinpah slow-motion) follows Bennie wherever he goes. Once he’s in possession
of the head, which Bennie carries around in a rucksack, flies are his only constant
don’t need Smell-O-Vision for this picture—you can swear the odors of sweat,
death, and blood penetrate the screen.
my biggest objection to the picture is Peckinpah’s treatment of women. Yes,
we’re talking about Mexico here, and we’re focusing on bad guys and prostitutes
and bar girls. But the misogyny and cruelty inflicted on the female characters
is cringe-worthy, especially today, when we’re supposed to be a little more
sensitive to this stuff. The sequence in which bikers (one is played by Kris
Kristofferson) attempt to assault Elita, and her “here we go again, let’s get
it over with” attitude toward it, is disturbing—and not because it’s supposed to be disturbing. I get that.
The problem is that the entire scene is unnecessary.
action bits/shootouts are well-done, and the latter half hour with Bennie
lugging around that head with the flies buzzing around it is grossly comical.
Hit men played by Robert Webber and Gig Young are fun to watch, and Oates’
performance elevates the picture to something that is, granted, watchable… the
same way you might slow down and rubberneck on the highway to gawk at an
Lorber’s transfer looks very good, but there seems to be something wrong in the
mastering with regard to subtitles. A lot of the movie’s dialogue is in Spanish
(for example, the first five minutes, which takes place at El Jefe’s home). There is no default for English subtitles here.
You must go to the main menu and manually turn on the subtitles. That solves
the problem for the Spanish dialogue—but then, the subtitles continue
throughout the picture even when English is spoken. Very annoying.
only supplement is an interesting and insightful audio commentary moderated by
Nick Redman and featuring film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and
David Weddle, all who have written separate books about Sam Peckinpah. There’s
the theatrical trailer, and several more trailers for Kino Lorber releases.
Bring Me the Head of
Alfredo Garcia just
might be your cup of tea—it’s probably beloved by the “Tarantino crowd”—so if
it is, then this DVD is for you.
With all the controversial films that were released in the 1960s it's hard to imagine that "The Sound of Music" (yes, that "Sound of Music") would have emerged as the center of a protest. However, in this case the protests weren't against the film itself but rather that it represented too much of a good thing. Turns out that by the time the film hit its 53rd week at the Moorhead Theater in Moorhead, Minnesota, the students at Minnesota State University had enough of nuns and Nazis-- they just wanted a new movie to play in the town's theater. What's truly remarkable isn't just that "The Sound of Music" instigated a student protest but that there was an era in which a theater could still reap profits from the 53rd consecutive week showing the same movie. Our crack team of researchers hasn't been able to find out if the student's demands were met and if "The Sound of Music" went on to play at the Moorhead Theater. The people we feel most sorry for are the theater staff. Can you imagine being an usher and seeing the same film several times a day for over a year???-
Behind every ghoulish, nightmarish creature
brought to life on the silver screen, there are stories that blur the line
between history and myth. In this grey area of human history, we are forced to
question the limitations of man and contemplate the possibility of the
impossible. Two such stories are explored in the History Channel’s double
feature DVD release of Frankenstein: The
Real Story and The Real Wolfman.
The Real Wolfman (2009) follows a two man
investigation team who’ve traveled to France to search for the truth behind the
accounts of the fabled “Beast of Gevaudan.” The first half of this unlikely
pair of investigators is a cynical, retired New Jersey cop of 25 years. He plans to use modern criminal analysis to
prove it was a flesh and blood human behind 102 killings in the summer of 1764.
His partner is an experienced crypto-zoologist whose deep knowledge of the
myths and lore of lycanthropy lead him to believe that there was a supernatural
element behind the attacks. Together the two investigators suggest an
assortment of hypotheses and arguments, ranging from devil worshippers to a
well trained dog. Their inconclusive findings
ultimately cater to both believers and non-believers alike.
Frankenstein: The Real Story is actually a
collection of three separate documentaries produced by the History Channel. This, in effect, makes this double feature a generous
quadruple feature. The first
documentary, titled In Search of the RealFrankenstein (2006), focuses on the possible real world
inspirations for the character of Dr. Frankenstein as imagined in Mary
Wollstonecraft Shelley’s original novel. In exploring four major scientific minds
of the time, historians attempt to piece together how an 18-year-old girl could
create a story encompassing mankind, humanity, and the risks of trying to play
God. The second documentary is simply titled Frankenstein (1997), and explores Mary Shelley’s life and the men
who inspired her to write of a character who would create artificial life
through electricity. It also explores the character of the Frankenstein monster
and how the creature’s persona has evolved over the years. Ultimately, we’re forced to face the
question: is evil born or made?
The last and most inclusive documentary (also the
longest) explores nearly every interpretation of the Frankenstein legend and
the ever-evolving relationship between the monster and the media. It’s Alive: The True Story of Frankenstein (1994)
focuses heavily on the original Universal Studio’s film of 1931 and its many
sequels. But the film also goes on at
some length to talk about the Frankenstein series as imagined by Britain’s Hammer
Studios, the evolution of the monster’s makeup, Mel Brooks’ cult classic Young Frankenstein, and such modern day
spoofs like The Rocky Horror Picture
Show. This documentary also includes an impressive amount of celebrities,
historians, and fans of the Frankenstein legacy sharing their impressions,
including cameos by Eli Wallach, Sara Karloff, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, Robert
DeNiro, Roger Corman, and special effects artist Rick Baker… just to name a
few. Although seemingly out of his element, It’s
Alive! is hosted by the late, great Sir Roger Moore. In light of his recent passing, Moore’s
kindly face and baritone voice will undoubtedly bring a heavy hearted sigh to
Sir Roger Moore hosts the documentary "It's Alive: The True Story of Frankenstein".
The History Channel has provided four extremely
well researched and interesting documentaries about two of the world’s most popular
and enduring monsters. Frankenstein: The Real Story and The Real Wolfman are both enjoyable and
educational investigations… but I’m a history major, so I may be a little
biased here in my opinions. With their exploration of both the folklore origins
and real life accounts of monsters and werewolves, these four thoughtful documentaries
are a “must see” for avid fans of horror film and literature… or anyone,
really, interested in the evolution of two of the world’s most famous and
enduring myths and legends.
In an interview with Craig Modderno of The Daily Beast, William Shatner reflects on all matter of subjects ranging from American politics (he claims to be agnostic on the subject) to his long-standing friendship with the late Leonard Nimoy and his disappointment at not having been cast in any of the recent "Star Trek" films. At age 86, Shatner is still one of the busiest stars in Hollywood, writing books, shooting TV series and feature films and hosting charity events. Click here to read.
At its peak, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was so popular that it spawned eight feature films that were derived from episodes of the T.V. series (often re-edited and sometimes containing some new footage that was deemed a bit too sexy for broadcast). Only the first three films were shown theatrically in the USA but the others proved to be hits in the international market. Here is the trailer for "How to Steal the World", the final film. It was appropriately enough derived from the final two episodes of the TV series, "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair" Parts 1 and 2 that were broadcast in January 1968.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE COMPLETE SET OF "U.N.C.L.E." FEATURE FILMS FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
In the old days it was common for movie studios to adapt hit Broadway stage productions for the screen. However, in more recent years the reverse philosophy has been all the rage with countless films being brought to the stage, generally as musicals. In some cases this makes sense, as illustrated by Mel Brooks' musical version of his 1968 comedy film classic "The Producers". However, the cost of staging a show on Broadway is almost prohibitively expensive. Thus, skittish investors know that tourists, who make up the bulk of ticket purchases, want a genial, uplifting experience, which explains why there has been a dearth of new dramas on the Great White Way. Even when dramas and non-musical comedies do show up, they are generally limited runs and powered by the presence of big movie stars in the main roles. The desire to squeeze musical numbers into any production has often reached the point of absurdity with horror and science fiction movies being adapted as song-and-dance extravaganzas. The Guardian takes a look back at some of the most notorious Broadway movie-to-stage flops that includes "Carrie", "Spider-man" and even "The Fly". Click here to read.
Walt Disney’s Bambi, which opened on Friday, August 21, 1942 at Radio City Music
accompanied by a live stage show, is an indisputable animated masterpiece based
upon Felix Salten’s 1923 novel of the same name. The story of a young fawn
growing up in the woods with his mother and cute animals in his midst, ty Bambi is not the sort of film that one
would normally associate with the Walt Disney name. As children, we are
introduced to the requisite characters who are synonymous with Disney and
labeled as “family entertainment” such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, either
through television viewings, theatrical rereleases or VHS/laserdisc/DVD/Blu-ray
viewings. The overall general attitude of a Disney film is one of fun and joy,
although there are exceptions as some movies, such as Pinocchio (1940) and The
Rescuers (1977), have moments that are emotionally dark. Bambi is no traditional Disney movie,
and dare I say it’s a film that parents of very young and impressionable
children should honestly think twice about before permitting them to view it,
as introducing the notion of death to a youngster through a cartoon may prove
to be a life-changing event (to say nothing of the constant images of violence
that children are subjected to on television and on the Internet each day).
Bambi experiences the many things in
life that children experience: meeting and taking a liking to new friends
(Thumper the rabbit proves a good companion and teacher and a fellow fawn named
Faline proves to be a fun female friend) and making honest mistakes (labeling a
skunk “Flower” of all things). He is very close to his mother, but does not
realize that the Great Prince of the Forest, who protects the animals from Man,
specifically hunters, and is both revered and feared by the animals, is his real
father. His fortitude is tested when his mother is killed by the hunters and
his father reveals his identity to him. Bambi realizes that to survive one must
As the years go by, Bambi matures,
grows up and adapts to the environment. He now views the equally older Faline
as a potential romantic mate, and wards off a fellow buck, Ronno, who competes
for her affections. His childhood friends also find their own romantic mates,
and Bambi and Faline are blessed with twins as Bambi becomes the new Great
Prince of the Forest. As they said in 1994’s The Lion King, the circle of life.