RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVE
(Cinema Retro joins other retro movie lovers in mourning the recent passing of Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne. This is Lee Pfeiffer's interview with Osborne that originally ran in 2008)
Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer chatted with Robert Osborne, the popular host of TCM's movie broadcasts. Osborne, who is also the official Oscar historian, is well known for his informative introductions and epilogues for the films that TCM broadcasts. Director Sidney Lumet once said that even if he doesn't desire to see certain films, he always tries to tune in for Osborne's introductions. Osborne is as affable offscreen as he is on the air. Witty, knowledgable and conversant in all things Hollywood-related, he has many of the attributes he ascribes to the stars he grew up idolizing. In addition to being a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, Osborne is by all accounts America's premiere film historian.
CR: You seem to have every movie lover's dream job: to get paid to watch and analyze classic movies. How did this come about and what led to your association with the Academy?
RO: When I was first starting out as an actor, I was under contract to Lucille Ball at Desilu Studios, which was owned by Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Lucy knew I had this passion for movie history which at that time was not a normal thing. Most people weren't interested in movie history. She said, "You know, you would have a happier life as a writer than as an actor. You should be writing about movies, because nobody is." She told me that she thought being an actor would never make me happy, but writing would. She knew I was a journalism major at the University of Washington. She told me that if I took up writing as a profession, the first thing I had to do was write a book because people would look at you differently if I did. She told me it didn't even have to be a good book, but that everyone is impressed with anyone who writes a book because most people lack the discipline to do it. I knew she was telling me this for my own good, not some other agenda, so I quit being an actor and became a writer.
The thing I decided to write about was the Academy Awards because you could always find a list of who won Oscars, but you could never find a list of who was nominated. It was even hard to get one from the Academy because that was a very small organization at the time. So I wrote this book and it hit a chord with people because you couldn't get a book about the Oscars anywhere else. The cult success of that book has followed me around ever since. Years later, when they decided they wanted a history done of the Academy, they asked me to write it. (The latest edition of the book is titled 75 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards-Ed.)
The New York Times has a rare interview with Japanese actress Mie Hama, one of the few female sex symbols of 1960s cinema to break through to international audiences thanks to her appearance opposite Sean Connery in the 1967 007 classic "You Only Live Twice". Like many actresses who found cult status through the Bond films, Hama wore the mantle of fame somewhat uneasily and retired from acting at an early age to lead a more conventional life. She is still well-known in Japan thanks to the many dozens of films she had appeared in but today she is also known as a popular advocate for self-help theories. Click here to read.
a film festival in the mid-seventies, Sam Peckinpah was once questioned about
how the studios regularly bastardised his vision, his intension and more
specifically, if he would ever be able to make a ''pure Peckinpah'' picture. He
replied, '’I did 'Alfredo Garcia' and I did it exactly the way I wanted to.
Good or bad, like it or not, that was my film.''
narrative for Alfredo Garcia is neither complicated nor convoluted. Warren
Oates plays Bennie, a simple pianist residing in a squalid barroom in Mexico.
He is approached by two no-nonsense Americans (Robert Webber and Gig Young) who
are attempting to track down Alfredo Garcia. The womanising Garcia is the man
responsible for the pregnancy of Theresa (Janine Maldonado) the teenage
daughter of a powerful Mexican boss El Jefe (Emilio Fernández). In a display of
power, El Jefe offers $1,000,000 for the delivery of Garcia’s head. Bennie is
unaware of the true bounty, but fully aware that his girlfriend, local prostitute
Elita (Isela Vega) was once involved with Garcia. More importantly, Bennie also
knows that Garcia is in fact, already dead. Bennie recognises this as a way
out, a one off payday opportunity and convinces Elita to take him to Garcia’s
burial place. His plan is to dig up the body, cut off the head and collect on
his fee, an agreed $10,000. Elita shows some hesitancy, and before long the
heavy drinking, paranoiac aspects of Bennie begin to suspect that Elita still
carries feelings for the dead Garcia. After an arduous and testing car journey
they both finally reach their destination, a place where their plans will take
a devastating and unsuspecting twist.
has delivered a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. The
overall image is beautifully presented and a great deal cleaner than previously
seen. Dirt, debris and all other manner of light wear have now been removed. As
Arrow points out, there are some minor instances of density fluctuation and
photochemical damage, but these really are not distracting. I noticed slight
fluctuations during the torture of Theresa, but this is arguably due to the
condition of the original film elements and to be expected. More importantly it
does not distract from the overall presentation of the film. One could even
suggest that such minor defects are perfectly suited and in line with the
gritty, sweat soaked ambience that Peckinpah arguably sought to present. The 4K
scan has been fully justified and as a result the level of detail has been
greatly improved without ever compromising or hampering the genuine celluloid
look – an element so essential to a movie such as Alfredo Garcia. Colours retain
a realistic and natural quality, almost dry and dusty as opposed to a sun
drenched and over cooked. Thankfully, Arrow has also resisted the temptation to
beef up the audio, so don’t go looking for a falsely created 5.1 mix. Alfredo Garcia was recorded in mono, so purists
will be delighted with the original 1.0 mono mix transferred from the original
35mm single stripe magnetic track. The audio elements are also clean, dynamic and
hold a consistent level of clarity throughout.
Peckinpah on the set in Mexico.
the extras on disc one are two excellent audio commentaries. The first is a new
and exclusively recorded commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema:
Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies. Prince’s narration looks
closely at Peckinpah’s philosophy and theory. It’s a commentary that also
examines the characters to some depth. It also encourages you to think and ask
questions. There are also more generalised observations from Prince involving
the story, in particular the scene with the two bikers (played by Kris Kristofferson
and Donnie Fritts). It’s a scene which has always bothered me, and serves no real
importance to the story. So it was pleasing to hear that Prince agrees, and
that it provides very little - other than slowing down the pace and the
narrative. I don’t mind either film philosophy or debate, but I occasionally
believe it sometimes has a tendency to overstretch or lose itself in some strange
form of self-consumption. Nevertheless, Prince’s commentary does keep your
attention throughout and provides plenty of food for thought.
second audio commentary is moderated by film historian Nick Redman and features
Sam Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. This
commentary first appeared on the Twilight Time Encore Edition Blu-ray and works
extremely well. The advantage of course, is that it provides various different
perspectives and viewpoints. For instance, on this occasion, the same Kristofferson
and Fritts biker scene results in a clear difference of opinion. We, the viewer
are offered a perfectly logical and justified reasoning for this scene, in that
Bennie is provided with the opportunity ‘walk the walk’ rather than just ‘talk
the talk’. The implication of the scene, along with a contrasting perspective
of its inclusion, suddenly offers something new to digest and signifies perhaps
a different level to Bennie’s character. Seydor, Simmons and Weddle are not
afraid of arguing their opinions, but also retain a clear respect for each
other’s knowledge and understanding. It’s a perfect ensemble of experts, each
of whom is clearly on top of their subject.
Peckinpah: Man of Iron is Paul Joyce’s feature-length (93minutes) 1993
documentary featuring interviews with James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Monte
Hellman, Ali MacGraw, Jason Robards and many others. Its inclusion on Arrow’s
special edition marks the first time it is available on home video in the UK.
The documentary was released prior on Criterion’s Straw Dogs (1971) DVD release
but omitted some film clips due to copyright and reduced the running time by
some 10 minutes. Man of Iron is a very personal and enjoyable reflection of the
man and told by the people that knew him best. It is a brutally honest account
which shows Peckinpah, not only for his craftsmanship, but also for his flaws,
for which there were many. As gifted as Peckinpah was, there are also accounts
of his cruelty, manipulation and his complexity. His demise into alcohol and
later his cocaine use is arguably pitiful and reflected to some degree in his
later films. Regardless of this, he remained loved by his friends, many of
which returned to work with him over and over again. Whilst Man of Iron
celebrates the man and his work, it never attempts to paper over the cracks or
his personal frailties. It provides a well-balanced account and as a result,
makes for fascinating viewing.
up is The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, an audio only recording of the
director’s on-stage appearance at the National Film Theatre in London (47 minutes).
Whilst there is no indication, this recording possibly dates from around 1971.
Peckinpah does make a reference to his next film to be released, The Ballad of
Cable Hogue (1970) and because he is in the UK at this time may be an
indication that he was in pre-production stages for his next film Straw Dogs
(1971) which was shot in Cornwall. Peckinpah does sound a little uncomfortable in
front of an audience and not entirely at ease. There is almost a sense of
comfort knowing that his friend Warren Oates is sitting among the audience and
on several occasions Peckinpah tries to draw him actively into the
conversation. When questioned about certain aspects of his work, Peckinpah does
at times seem a little reluctant to answer and the sighs picked up by his
microphone appear to back this up. However, Peckinpah does reveal a great deal
of insightful information, as well as taking the opportunity in criticising the
film establishment, such as the censors and producers and in the way they have
handled his work. Historically, it is an important piece to include; my only minor
gripe is when it comes to the audience questions, which are at times close to
inaudible. As the audio interview is carried out over a still image of
Peckinpah, it might have been an idea to overlay some text in reference to the
actual audience questions. In doing so it would have made it a great deal
easier to decipher exactly what Peckinpah was referring to in his answers.
NoHo 7 Theatre (“North Hollywood” for those not “in the know”) in Los Angeles
will be presenting a 30th anniversary screening of the uncut
director’s version of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film Robocop. The 103-minute
film, which stars Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood
Smith, and Miguel Ferrer, will be screened on Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:30
PLEASE NOTE: At press time, Actress Nancy
Allen is scheduled to appear in person for a discussion about the film
following the screening.
the press release:
RoboCop (Director's Uncut Version)
Part of our Throwback Thursday series
in partnership with Eat|See|Hear.
As Richard Burton's star power began to decline in the early 1970s, he was chastised for appearing in too many inconsequential films and accused of simply taking any job that came along to help pay for his high-end life style. As with Marlon Brando, many of Burton's films that were initially despised by critics and ignored by the public have gained new appreciation in recent years. One such effort was Villain, a brutal British crime drama produced by Elliott Kastner, directed by the unheralded Michael Tucher and boasting script contributions than none other than character actor Al Lettieri, who made a career of playing gangsters. Clearly inspired by the reign of terror presided over by London's notorious Kray clan, the story finds Burton as Vic Dakin, an outwardly charismatic and charming man who also happens to be one of the city's most notorious crime lords. Vic is no white collar criminal. He still lives among the people he terrorizes and is a mainstay at the local pub. Vic dotes on his aging mother (Cathleen Nesbitt) and keeps his army of confederates in line through the threat of strict punishment for any violation of trust. Vic's ambitions get the better of him when he strays from neighborhood crime and plans an ambitious heist with a reluctant fellow crime lord. The plan goes horribly awry, leading Vic to fear that he will be sold out by his co-conspirator, who is severely wounded and in police custody. He becomes obsessed with gaining access to the man and silencing him before he can talk. Doggedly following his every move is a police inspector (well-played by Nigel Davenport), who engages in a game of psychological cat-and-mouse with Vic in his quest to bring the vicious criminal to justice.
Villain was denounced by British critics and movie fans at the time because of what was perceived as Burton's ill-fated attempt to master a Cockney accent. However, other aspects of his performance are admirable. Burton pretty much controls his penchant for scenery-chewing and offers a fairly restrained portrayal of a sadistic man who is nonetheless slow to reach his boiling point. Vic can be sensitive, funny and ingratiating..but when driven to anger, capable of administering much brutality himself. He also hides the fact that he is gay and his preferred sex partner is Wolfie (excellently played by Ian McShane), a good looking ladies man who one suspects is only bedding Vic out of fear of rejecting his overtures. (A sex scene between Burton and McShane was filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor.) The homosexual angle is only hinted at in the final cut of the film, but Burton had gone a bridge too far in this regard, at least as far as critics were concerned. Two years before, he had played a prissy gay man opposite Rex Harrison (as his lover) in Stanley Donen's Staircase, another fine film that was under-appreciated in its day. Burton's bold career moves would be praised today but met with scorn at the time. His face weather-beaten from years of personal excess, Burton was actually entering an interesting period of his career that saw him able to expand beyond playing hunky heart throbs. Villain affords him an interesting starring vehicle that is now being favorably compared to other classic British crime films such as Get Carter, a movie that was released the same year and also met with a mediocre response until a new generation discovered its merits. Perhaps the same will hold true for this film, which boasts an excellent supporting cast, fine direction and a literate, believable script.
The Warner Archive has released Villain as a burn-to-order DVD. Quality is fine, but sadly there are no extras.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Here's a rare gem for "Man From U.N.C.L.E." fans- silent footage from British Pathe newsreel of David McCallum arriving at London Airport in 1966 and getting a Beatles-like reception from screaming teenagers, some clad in home-made Illya Kuryakin tribute outfits.
Joe Dante's Trailers from Hell site presents screenwriter/producer Larry Karaszewski's insightful appreciation of the little-seen and long-forgotten film "The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker" from 1971. Based on the novel by Charles Webb, who also wrote "The Graduate" (and who also directed this film), "Stockbroker" stars Richard Benjamin as a young man who is successful in business but no so successful in his personal life. He's got a beautiful wife (Joanna Shimkus) but he suffers from a psychological obsession with voyeurism. The film looks at his dilemma from a comedic standpoint but the underrated movie also provides plenty of insights into the human psyche and the way we deal with relationships. Benjamin is terrific as the every day guy whose obsession causes him quite a few problems. There are fine turns by Elizabeth Ashley and Adam West, whose amusing performance reminds us of how foolish Hollywood was to alienate him after "Batman". Sadly, the movie was only released on video in the early days of VHS and has not resurfaced since except for an occasional showing on Turner Classic Movies. Hopefully, this will be rectified and we'll get a Blu-ray release at some point.
“Broken Lance” (1954) is another great Blu-Ray release
from Twilight Time, which seems to be specializing in 20th Century
Fox Cinemascope productions from the 1950s. These wide-screen, star-studded
productions were all the rage back in the day. Utilizing the wider screen and
full directional stereophonic sound to tell big stories, they’re the kind of
movies they really just don’t make anymore. Director Edward Dmytryk shot this
film on location in Arizona and cinematographer Joe MacDonald fills every
outdoor seen with both a sense of grandeur and, somehow, a feeling of
loneliness, which befits a story about a man who outlived his time, and has
become a dinosaur.
Spencer Tracy is the man—Matt Devereaux, a tough,
hard-nosed rancher who owns the biggest ranch in the territory. He got
everything he has by fighting for it, and his hard-bitten attitude hasn’t
diminished with age. The tough way he treats everyone extends down to his four
sons, three, Ben, Mike, and Denny (Richard Widmark, Hugh O’Brien and Earl
Holliman) from a deceased first wife, and a fourth, Joe, (Robert Wagner) with a
Native American woman (Katy Jurado). The three from the first wife resent the
way they’re treated. They work hard and see little compensation for it. They’re
also a little jealous of the half-breed son, who seems favored by the old man.
The story starts with Joe being released from prison after
serving three years, taking a rap for the sake of the family. His father is
dead now and he’s taken to the governor (E.G. Marshall) and offered a deal by
his greedy brothers: $20,000 and a ranch in Oregon if he leaves the territory,
and trouble if he turns the offer down. Joe tosses the money into a spittoon
and rides out to the old ranch house. It’s deserted and ramshackle now, the
three brothers having moved into town. Joe stands before a portrait of the old
man on horseback asking for a sign to tell him what to do. The film then shifts
into a flashback which tells the story of the rivalry between the brothers, the
old man’s dispute with a copper mining operation next to the ranch that is
poisoning the water on the ranch, and a love story between Joe and the
governor’s daughter (Jean Peters). It’s a big, sprawling story of the end of a
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the story is
loosely based on two different sources. The first obviously is Shakespeare’s
tragedy of King Lear, which was a story of a king who bequeathed his kingdom to
two of his three daughters and lived to regret it. In the case of “Broken
Lance” the protagonist has four sons, not daughters, and Matt Devereaux doesn’t
intend to bequeath anything to anybody, at least not until he’s long buried in
the ground. The other more direct source of Richard Murphy’s screenplay is
Philip Yordan’s script for an older Fox noir pot boiler, “House of
Strangers.” In that one, Edward G. Robinson is the
patriarchal figure, the head of a bank, who gets ripped off by three of his
sons, while the good son, Max (Richard Conte) takes the rap when his father is
charged with embezzlement.
The urban drama, based on a book by Jerome Weidman,
translated fairly well to a western setting, and Dmytryk does a good job
keeping the action moving, while keeping the focus on the family’s internal
struggles and the titanic, doomed efforts of Matt Devereaux to hold his empire
together. Tracy gives a good performance, as usual, as a man who knows no other
way to live his life, although the character as written by screenwriter Richard
Murphy, seems a bit one-dimensional. It’s hard to feel sympathy for someone so
bull-headed. Wagner was adequate as the half-breed son, and Widmark turned in
his usual bad guy performance. Hey, he’s Richard Widmark and you expect him to
be a rat. Katy Jurado, of course, always added grace and dignity to any film
she appeared in and this is no exception. Jean Peters, as Wagner’s love
interest, provided at least one reason for the half-breed Joe to stay in the
The Blu-Ray transfer of this Cinemascope presentation is
first rate, as we’ve come to expect from these Twilight Time limited editions
(only 3,000 made). Picture and sound are very good. The extras include an audio
commentary with Nick Redman and Earl Holliman, who talks about what it was like
working with Dmytryk and Tracy. There’s an isolated soundtrack, featuring
composer Leigh Harline’s big orchestral sound, a booklet essay by Julie Kirgo,
some previews, and a newsreel showing Philip Yordan getting an Oscar for “House
of Strangers”. A pretty full package.
Bottom line: Although “Broken Lance,” strives to reach
the heights of a Shakespearean tragedy on horseback, Richard Murphy’s script suffers
from thin characterizations that lean toward stereotypes, and a plot that
eventually fizzles out in a standard horse opera shootout. It’s not a bad film,
but given the cast and the sources material it could have been great. Still, it’s
worth seeing. Recommended for fans of big westerns and the widescreen
extravaganzas of the fifties.
The packaging for the 1978 grindhouse film "Sex Roulette" states it is "a West German/Belgian erotic oddity". That's seems like an accurate description because this is, indeed, one weird production. While most X-rated fare from the era were relatively unimaginative, micro-budget affairs, "Sex Roulette" looks relatively lush and was filmed in some exotic European locations. It also presents some of the strangest characters ever assembled in a film of this type. We can start with Robert Le Ray, an actor who began his career in legitimate films only to transcend into the world of X-rated fare. Le Ray is the male lead in the film and he's debonair and handsome in a Leslie Nielsen kind of way. He was also 77 years old when he was cast. He plays Lord Robert de Chamoiz, an affable aristocrat with a sizable bank account and seemingly no responsibilities or worries. He has an unusually close relationship with his vivacious young niece, Veronique (Vanessa Melville). The two travel the world in style to indulge in their greatest passions. For Veronique this means the gaming tables at top-tier casinos where she gambles without abandon. For Lord de Chamoiz (who she refers to simply as "Uncle"), this means trying to tame his insatiable appetite for sex by bedding seemingly every young woman who comes into his orbit. He has a special passion for chamber maids and bribes them with large sums of money to not only go to bed with him but to also participate in sex acts they would otherwise not ever contemplate. These include arranged group sex encounters during which Uncle acts as a sort of perverted narrator for the action that is unfolding. He possesses an almost hypnotic ability to comfort the women involved and speaks to them in a soothing, paternal manner even while they are engaging in wild acts. Uncle is also a voyeur and he takes every opportunity to engage in this secondary passion. When he has a chance meeting with an auto mechanic who is repairing his car, he bribes the man to allow him to surreptitiously watch him make love to his girlfriend. Meanwhile, the gorgeous Veronique finds herself virtually frigid due to the fact that all of her time and thought process goes into gambling. Uncle has a solution for that: she should assertively have sexual encounters with the strangers in order to reawaken her libido. Turns out it's good advice. After she is seduced by lesbian sisters (!), Veronique finds her love life is back to whatever passes for "normal". The third major character is the Lord's faithful butler, a black man who also happens to be a little person. He's just as sex-crazed as his boss and functions as both a solicitor for his women but also manages to use his physical condition to attract women for himself on the basis that they've never made love to a little person. A running gag in the film is the butler's preference for engaging in sex on desktops, which mandates that he stand on a stack of telephone books. Every time he walks through the room with some telephone books, the Lord jokes that his loyal servant has gotten lucky again. After traveling to Monte Carlo and living it up on the Lord's seemingly inexhaustible funds, the film takes an even more bizarre turn when Veronique seduces her uncle. The whole story climaxes, if you will, with a big orgy atop gaming tables in a casino.
Veronique is addicted to the Bondian world of high stakes casinos.
There are so many distasteful elements to "Sex Roulette" that one can hardly chronicle them all here. However, the movie is genuinely funny, sometimes intentionally sometimes not. The dubbing is wildly inconsistent with some characters' lip movements rarely matching the associated dialogue. The exception is the voice over artist who dubbed Uncle with a gentle, soothing voice that somehow fits the character we view on screen. The film also boasts some impressive elements that seem out of left field. An extended scene of a car ride down a major highway at high speed benefits from having the camera mounted inside the car, which gives a real big budget feel to the sequence as well as some impressive footage. There are also scenes of Monte Carlo shot from a helicopter that seem appropriate for a mainstream travelogue. The most amusing elements of the film revolve around the characters of Uncle, Veronique and the butler. They seem straight out of "The Munsters" or "The Addams Family" in that they appear to be complete oblivious about the fact that their activities don't fit in with those of "normal" people. Just as Gomez Addams blew up toy trains with TNT and his children chopped off doll heads on a mini guillotine, the principals in "Sex Roulette" act as those their strange sexual doings are quite normal. Uncle is being serviced by a hotel maid? Okay, I'll just wait until they are finished to enter the room and discuss important matters. Veronique's encounter with lesbian sisters got her mind off gambling for a few hours? Marvelous! The butler finds love with a BBW-type who he met at an orgy? How wonderful that he's found his soul mate! There are some Bondian elements to the atmosphere with the trio visiting high stakes casinos where men wear tuxedos and women are adorned in expensive dresses and gowns. (One suspects the other elegant people who appear in these scenes probably had no idea they would turn up in a sex film.) Here, Uncle demonstrates a bizarre but unique talent. At the roulette table, he insists on tasting several of the steel balls used in the wheel. He churns them around in his mouth until he finally finds one that is acceptable-then with lightning speed he spits it out and has it land precisely on the number he wants to play on the roulette wheel. It's oddball scenes like this that make one think that these characters could have had a life in a "legitimate" comedy that wasn't dependent on hard-core sex scenes.
"Uncle" is about to indulge in his strange ritual of tasting roulette balls before spitting one on to the wheel.
Impulse Films has released "Sex Roulette" on DVD. According to the liner notes, the film was routinely butchered in various international markets because of the tastelessness of some scenes. (i.e: in one sequence, Uncle arranges for some young people to carry out an orgy inexplicably held in a literal pig pen.). The DVD restores all of the most controversial scenes and has been remastered from original 35mm elements. The end result remains an acquired taste for viewers with very liberal outlooks on what forms entertainment. However, for this writer, it is superior to most grind house fare from the era simply because it is so cheerfully off-the-charts crazy.
If you've seen "The Savage Is Loose", you're among the few who can make such a boast. In 1974, at the height of his career, George C. Scott decided to bring this unusual tale to the big screen. He also wanted to prove that an independent film could be successful without being distributed by a major studio. Scott, ever-temperamental, was critical of how studios used Draconian methods to control and often compromise films in the name of making them more commercial. "The Savage Is Loose" was an off-beat tale set in the late 19th century that centers on a husband and wife, John and Maida (Scott and real-life wife Van Devere) who, along with their very young son, David (Lee Montgomery), find themselves shipwrecked on a desert island. The first challenge is to adapt to the conditions and learn to survive but the more crucial challenge comes years later when the son (John David Carlson) comes of age and has a sexual awakening. With his mother the only woman he has ever known, tensions rise as he competes with his own father for her attention. This is hardly the kind of scenario that would have motivated Disney to bid on distribution rights. However, its bold premise was the reason that Scott independently financed and distributed the film himself, thus ensuring that he had total artistic control.
"The Savage Is Loose" is a generally off-beat and engrossing film despite the premise of impending incest that haunts the three main characters. The movie is done on a modest budget and boasts only one impressive set piece: the wreck of the ship that has left the family stranded on this remote island. As the months and years pass, father and son return to the wreck to explore for any lost items that might be of practical value. John makes a pivotal decision relating to how to raise David, informing Maida that they must accept the fact that rescue seems highly unlikely and that in order to ensure that David survives when they are dead, he must be schooled in the art of hunting and self-reliance. For years, John tutors David to act as a "savage" and to not take pity on the animal life found on the island, as he must regard it as his only source of food and nutrition. The strategy works and we next see David as a teenager, already proving his expertise in tracking and killing dangerous wildlife. It's clear, however, that with the passing of the years, there is an unspoken tension within the family. David becomes sullen and rarely communicates with his mother and father. The cause is apparent: with his hormones raging, he has set his sites on his own mother, who he wants to take as his lover. Devoid of having been schooled in the niceties and customs of civilized society, David cannot understand why he can't take engage in this relationship. He only knows that his father is determined to keep him from fulfilling this goal. Consequently, the movie turns into a thriller in the latter section, with father and son forced to engage in a potentially deadly duel of wits and strength, as Maida observes in horror what can only be a tragic conclusion, no matter who prevails.
Scott came up with a distribution plan for the movie that was unique. Under this scenario, Scott would literally sell theaters prints of the movie and split the costs of advertising with them. The plan set off quite a bit of buzz in the industry with studio chiefs predictably calling it unworkable. They were proven right. Without the backing of a major studio with big advertising budgets, Scott was forced to peddle the film piecemeal to theaters, one at a time. Not helping matters was the off-putting subject matter. Although a fair number of theaters did end up showing the movie, it was quickly apparently that the buzz about the film didn't translate into public interest. The scathing reviews helped provide the coup de grace. ((The New York Times gave it an outright pan (click here to read)). The theaters played to mostly empty houses and quickly pulled the film from distribution, thus ending Scott's bold experiment. Scott blamed the fact that the film received an "R" rating for its weak performance but that was an absurd excuse. By 1974, an "R" rating was certainly not a factor that alienated audiences. The pity of it all is that there is much to admire in "The Savage is Loose".
Scott demonstrates admirable talent both in front of and behind the camera. His direction is understated, as is his performance, at least until the final reel when he must do battle with his own beloved son. Van Devere is also excellent, as is Montgomery in the early scenes in which David is an innocent little boy. Things go a bit awry when John David Carson takes over the role. His performance is effective but his look is all wrong. He sports a modern hair style and his language and mannerisms reflect the culture of the year in which the movie was made: 1974. Still, "The Savage is Loose" should not be dismissed because of a perceived "Yuck Factor" due to the impending threat of a mother taken unwilling as her son's lover. There are no villains here and Scott presents the dilemma as tastefully as possible. The very premise is enough to provide ample suspense for the average viewer. Scott makes the most of the picturesque Mexican coastal locations where the movie was shot.
"The Savage is Loose" is not available at this time on home video in America or the UK except for a bootleg version available through Amazon that could easily be misconstrued as an official release. (There had been an official Betamax and VHS release back in the Stone Age of home video). The quality of the transfer is adequate but only makes one desire to see a first-rate studio release. One suspects that convoluted rights problems might be preventing this but someone out there owns the distribution to this film. One hopes that a "real" Blu-ray/DVD release will one day become a reality.
Francis Ford Coppola is a visionary director, obsessed in his determination to make films his way- or at least he was. Nowadays, Coppola has contempt for the suits in the corner offices of big studios who simply want to crank out the next super hero movie. He seems content to simply concentrate on his other great passion: running his successful wine business. Back in 1976 Coppola began the agonizing quest to bring "Apocalypse Now" to the screen. The experience over the next three years almost broke him emotionally, physically and financially. That the film turned out to be a masterpiece seems even more impressive when one views the brilliant 1991 documentary feature film "Hearts of Darkness", directed by Coppola's wife Eleanor, which chronicles the day-by-day agonies Coppola experienced as the budget soared the production inched toward completion. In these excerpts, we see Coppola's frustration with two of Hollywood's great mavericks: Marlon Brando and a zonked-out Dennis Hopper, playing an appropriately zonked out character.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "APOCALYPSE NOW" SPECIAL EDITION THAT INCLUDES "HEARTS OF DARKNESS"
In the most notorious snafu in Oscars history, the wrong film- "La La Land"- was announced by presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (reunited for the 50th anniversary of "Bonnie and Clyde") as the winner of the Best Picture. However, within minutes, the triumphant producers had to hand the award over to the makers of "Moonlight", which was the official winner. Beatty and Dunaway were not to blame- they had been handed the envelope for Best Actress, which had just been given to Emma Stone for "La La Land". Confused, Dunaway announced the winner was "La La Land". The debacle left a group of incredulous people on stage even while the producers of "La La Land" graciously handed over the award to the "Moonlight" team. The finale looked like a scene from "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".
The ceremony itself was over-produced and over-long with Jimmy Kimmel as less-than-satisfactory host. He turned the entire event into a cheap comedy segment from one of his late-night shows with cringe-inducing bits that were both elaborate and unfunny. They ranged from literally parachuting donuts onto the audience to bringing in a busload of incredulous tourists into the auditorium. The latter was a one-minute joke stretched to interminable lengths as we watched the tourists ask the stars for autographs! Meanwhile, political punditry was predictably in vogue with many snipes at President Trump, whose obsession for media attention is considered a mental illness by opponents and an amusing eccentricity by his supporters, If Kimmel and company really wanted to get under the president's skin, they would have refrained from mentioning his name at all. Besides, nobody tunes into the show for political advice. There was an offensive comedy segment in which stars read actual offensive Tweets about themselves. More ridiculous was the segment that paid tribute to artists we lost over the last year. As usual, there were bizarre exclusions including director Guy Hamilton and Oscar nominee Robert Vaughn, to name just two. Meanwhile, the segment featured countless people the public never even heard of. With all the time wasted on comedy skits, couldn't they have extended this segment another couple of minutes to include more artists? The Best Song nominees were mostly duds and the banter between presenters was dreadful. On the up side there were some genuinely inspiring acceptance speeches and it was great to see so many films about people of color being honored. It had been a very fine year for movies but this Oscar telecast was one of the worst. The only upside is that during the Best Picture confusion, Kimmel was heard to promise that he won't be back as host. Let's hope it's a promise that is kept.
I wasn’t one of
those people. And while I never thought about it back then (I was just a little
kid), later when I had time to reflect, I realized that, far from being a
complete waste of my time, growing up
watching 1960s television had, in fact, been a great gift to my life. Granted,
much of the programming back then, as today, was little more than junk food for
the mind. Still, stuffed amid the junk were some real treasures, ones that
nourished both the mind and the soul. I believe one of these was the Daniel
Boone show, which ran on NBC
from 1964 to 1970. Starring Fess Parker(1924-2010)
in the lead role, the series featured the adventures of legendary frontiersman
Daniel Boone. Others cast members included Patricia Blair as Daniel’s wife,
Rebecca, Darby Hinton as his young son, Israel, and Ed Ames as his, pardon the
expression, “boon companion” Mingo.
Every week viewers
could see Dan involved in fighting the British, making peace with the Indians,
or doing battle with moral wrongdoers. Each show ended usually on a high-note,
with friends and family united and enemies’ vanquished. All and all, not unlike
a lot of other “family shows” of the era. Except this one was a little
different. To begin with, the character of Boone as Parker portrayed him,
wasn’t exactly your typical John Ford or Howard Hawks western hero. While he
possessed all the traditional qualities of the type (courage, resourcefulness,
personal honesty and physical strength), the creators of the show added
something to the stock: human compassion. For while Dan was as quick with his
fists as he was his flintlock, ready for a fight at the drop of a coonskin cap,
he was just as quick to turn the other cheek and offer forgiveness to a former
foe. What’s more, he went out of his way to help others, especially those
weaker and more vulnerable than himself.
In one episode titled Hero’s Welcome, which
first aired in 1968, one of his old friends, a man named Simon Jarvis, has
fallen on hard times. Simon, a former war hero, suffers a fall from grace when
he is accused of cowardice in a later battle against the Choctaw Indians.
Taking solace in alcohol, Simon loses both his family and self-respect. By the
time Dan finds him, he has been reduced to lying in a half-fetal position on
the floor, suffering from what seems to be a form of PTSD. Dan slowly nurses
him back to health, doing everything from shaving him when he’s too weak to
hold a razor, to gently tucking him in bed at night. He even teaches him a
soothing mantra to say to himself when the night terrors are upon him. In
addition to helping Simon, Dan forcefully defends the honor of his good friend
Mingo, who is half Cherokee, against the attacks of a group of racist bullies,
the same group who unjustly accuse Simon of cowardice. Training his long rifle
on them, he says quietly, “he’s as good as any man here.” That one line,
perhaps as much as any, embodies the attitude of the show.
Add to this the
fact that Daniel and Rebecca’s marriage was not your usual “father knows best”
variety. Dan looked to his wife for help and advice, trusted her implicitly in
all matters and was immensely proud of her independent spirit. Together, they
shared equal authority and responsibility in raising their children.
And while none of this may seem especially earth shattering
to us today, we must remember that back in the 1960s ideas about marriage, race
and masculinity had changed little in the country in two hundred years. Nowhere
was this truer than the part I grew up in, the rural South. Fables of
friendship, racial tolerance and equality between the sexes that Daniel Boone showcased were gentle and
understated, but no less real and powerful for that. The moral and ethical
lessons I learned sitting in front of our little black and white set each week,
in an era of violence and social unrest, never left me. Instead, they helped
shape and inform my adult worldview, and, I dare say, the view of others;
little boys all over America, little girls too, who loved both Fess Parker and
the icon he portrayed. If didn’t
matter so much that the stories were largely the fanciful creations of TV
script writers. What mattered were the ideals and values those writers took as
their common theme each week. Back then, we seemed to be a nation reaching for
something more than mere wealth and power alone could define, and these stories
of civic charity and social inclusiveness, told in the guise of an adventure
tale, taught us that. Fess Parker taught us that. We learn to put away childish
things when we grow up. However, there are certain lessons we should never
Elliott is an educator and writer who lives in Asheville, North Carolina
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "DANIEL BOONE: THE COMPLETE TV SERIES" FROM AMAZON
Cinema Retro recently caught up
with the editor of this fantastic new film poster book to talk movies and
CR: Where did you find all
these posters? Are they from several collections, are they yours, or are they
sourced from online collections?
Adam Newell: There are just over
1,000 posters in the book, and boy, do I wish they were all mine! That would be
an amazing collection to own. Alas, only a handful of them are mine, some are
from my co-authors, and many are from online collections (with a special tip of
the hat going to Mikhail Ilyin).
CR: Regarding the originals,
how does one go about finding posters like these, and how do you store and
AN: Back in the day, hunting
down vintage movie posters was a question of going to specialist shops down
dusty back alleys, being on the (snail) mailing list of the right dealers, or
attending movie ephemera fairs. I remember the first time I visited the US, in
1992, finding a shop down a back street in Hollywood, which was stuffed to the
gills with amazing US one-sheets for movies going back decades. It was a real
kid/candy store moment, and I spent hours in there looking at posters I'd never
seen before, mostly for films I'd never heard of! (As a complete aside, I also
remember that day earwigging a long conversation
between the shop
owner and a customer who was agonising over whether to buy a piece of TV
history the shop had for sale: an original Batgirl cowl, as worn by Yvonne
Craig. The price tag was $3,000, and I think he ended up not buying it. I
daren't think what that thing might be worth today...)
These days of course,
the internet has changed all that. At any one time, tens of thousands of
original movie posters are for sale online, along with countless repros, if
it's just the art you want. Need a repro of the one-sheet for Devil's Express, starring the amazing
Warhawk Tanzania in a pair of yellow dungarees? eBay will oblige. When I looked
a few weeks back, there was even an original one-sheet from that movie, for a
mere twenty bucks! I wish I'd bought it now. Specialist shops and dealers are
still around of course, and are always worth checking with if you're after
something in particular, and then there are auction houses for the really
high-end stuff. If you have several million dollars to spare, you could build
up a nice collection of original 1930s horror movie posters: in recent years
there have been quite a few sales of 'the only known surviving copy' of
particular posters, from the Karloff Frankenstein,
As for storage and
protection, it's the same as for any paper-based collectable: avoid damp,
cigarette smoke, and too much direct sunlight. I always think the best way to
store a poster collection is to have one of those floor-standing
display/portfolios you can flip through, so they can at be at least partially
'on display' at all times. If you've got the wall space, then put as many up as
you can! Decent clip frames will allow you to easily 'rotate' what you have on
the wall at any one time. Otherwise, it's best if they can be stored flat or
rolled, rather than folded, even if they came folded in the first place.
CR: What advice would you have
for someone who wants to become a film poster collector?
AN: If you don't mind having a
repro, then even those million dollar posters can be found inexpensively
(though you should always beware of the quality: one of those semi-automated
eBay sellers will happily sell you a full size repro of a poster, taken from a
scan which is not nearly up to the task...). If you're looking to buy original
posters, then whenever you can, simply buy what you like, not what you think
you 'should' be buying as an investment or whatever. Certain genres, artists
and series (James Bond, for example) will always attract a premium price, and
are way out of reach for most collectors, but that
doesn't mean there
aren't plenty of other posters to go around. Foreign language posters can be
cheaper than their US/UK equivalent, and often have cooler art!
first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor is the
subject of “Hacksaw Ridge,” a World War II drama directed by Mel Gibson and based
on the true story of Desmond Doss. Doss was raised a Seventh-day Adventist who
had his faith tested after he enlisted in the Army to become a medic. The tale
of Desmond Doss is one of the most remarkable untold stories of World War II.
Book offers, movie contracts and other deals were offered after the war, but
Doss refused for decades. Hollywood studio executives even sent actor and fellow
World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy in a futile
attempt to convince Doss to allow them to tell his story.
movie opens during the Battle of Okinawa where we briefly meet Desmond Doss
(Andrew Garfield) and his fellow soldiers in battle. The script then flashes
back 17 years to his childhood in rural Virginia where Desmond and his brother
are out exploring in the mountains. After returning home, Desmond nearly kills
his brother during a fight after he smacks his brother on the head with a brick
and knocks him unconscious. This event sends Desmond closer to the deep religious
beliefs shared with his mother. The boy’s father, Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving) is a
WWI veteran suffering from what is today known as post traumatic stress
syndrome, commonly referred to as PTSD. Their father drinks heavily, beats the
boys and traumatizes their mother. The movie flashes forward to America’s entry
into the war when Desmond meets his future wife, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa
Palmer), a nurse at an Army induction site in town. Desmond enlists as an Army
medic explaining to Dorothy, “I can’t stay here while all them go fight for
me.” When Desmond’s father questions his ability to serve in the Army while
holding non-violent beliefs, Desmond says, “While everybody else is taking
life, I’m going to be saving it. That’s going to be my way to serve.”
second act of the movie takes place at Army basic training where the likable Doss
refuses to use a weapon and becomes the recipient of hazing and retaliation
from his fellow soldiers who brand him a coward. Desmond stands by his conscientious
objector status and is jailed on the eve of his wedding. The Army offers him a
dishonorable discharge and will allow him to return home. Dorothy wants him to
accept the offer but Desmond stands by his beliefs and tells the courts martial
board, “With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it don’t seem like such
a bad thing to me to put a little bit of it back together.” All charges are
dropped after a high ranking general in Washington D.C. intervenes on behalf of
Desmond’s father and asserts Doss’ right to conscientious objector status. The
convening officer informs Doss he is “free to run into the Hellfire of battle
without a single weapon to protect yourself.”
extraordinary heroic events come in the third act after Doss and his comrades arrive
in Okinawa. There they make their way to the Maeda Escarpment which ranged
between 75 and 300 feet high. The escarpment became known as Hacksaw Ridge by
the soldiers because the Japanese continually advance forcing the Americans to retreat
followed by a new American advance and the resulting high casualties during the
back and forth-like conflict. After a naval bombardment, the men make the
assent climbing the rope ladder up the face of the cliff. Blood drips down on
some of the men as they make the climb and upon arrival it appears as though
nobody could have possibly survived. However, the Japanese are dug in underground
in machine gun bunkers and hidden deep inside impenetrable caves. The Americans
appear to have made a successful advance until a new wave of Japanese soldiers attack
in the morning and drive the Americans down the cliff. Over a hundred wounded
men are left on Hacksaw Ridge including Doss, who chooses to remain behind
enemy lines and help his fallen comrades. He evades death searching for and
rescuing soldiers while hiding from the Japanese and even helps some of their
wounded. He searches through the night and carries or drags the wounded to the
cliff face and lowers them down by rope one-by-one. Astounded soldiers deliver the
wounded men to the hospital where they are treated for their injuries.
Throughout the night Doss prays and asks to save just one more. He eventually
evacuates 75 men lowering them to safety.
When it comes to sci-fi films I will admit that I'm generally turned off by plots that involve peace-loving aliens who come to earth to help us lead better lives. I'd much rather have some insidious creatures with ray guns who are seemingly invulnerable as they try to pulverize mankind. Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." were certainly landmark films with much to admire about them, but I'm generally more in the mood to watch his terrific remake of "War of the Worlds" in which we learned that if demonic aliens are to take on humanity, they apparently are going to start the attack in Bayonne, New Jersey. Director Denis Villeneuve's acclaimed Oscar-nominated film "Arrival" manages to convey enough ambiguity about the motives of visiting aliens to build genuine suspense. The film is the latest in a long line that refreshingly presents a female as the lead in a role that sixty years ago would have been played by Leslie Nielsen or Gene Barry. Adams plays Louise Banks, a single woman who teaches linguistics at a college in Montana. She came to the government's attention some years before when she assisted in interpreting during interrogations of suspected terrorists. Adams is living a benign lifestyle but as the film opens, we see that mankind is about to experience an incredible phenomenon: the arrival of twelve alien spaceships around the globe. As the world goes into a full-scale panic, Louise is approached by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) of U.S. Army Intelligence, who persuades her to join a quickly-assembled team of scientists and other intellectuals who have been brought to a remote field in rural Montana where an egg-shaped ship sits silently suspended in the air, just yards above the turf. Louise is told a shocking development that the public is unaware of: contact has been made with the inhabitants of the ship and the government is working with intelligence networks from around the world to find a way of communicating with them. Louise works closely with fellow linguist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and a small team as they nervously make their way into the inner sanctum of the alien craft. They have a peaceful but puzzling encounter with the beings from another world. (James Bond fans will be delighted to know that they appear to resemble giant versions of the Spectre organization's symbolic octopus.) Over the course of several days, Louise and the team frantically try to find a way for common communication with the aliens, who do not speak or make any noticeable sounds. Instead, they communicate via visual elements that resemble smoke rings, each one with a distinct meaning. Although the initial encounters appear to be non-threatening, Chinese intelligence discovers what they believe to be an inherent threat to mankind and before long, the world gears up for all-out war against the strange visitors. I won't say any more because "Arrival" is so filled with surprising and satisfying plot twists that any in-depth examination of the plot would reveal spoilers. Suffice it to say that the excellent screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on Ted Chiang's novella "The Story of Your Life", is remarkably intelligent and never less than fascinating. I'm generally not a fan of films that don't proceed in a linear fashion and at times "Arrival" throws out scenes of Amy Adams with a young daughter that are initially impossible to interpret, as the story bounces around through time periods...or perhaps these scenes are dreams or fantasies. When it all comes together in the emotionally wrenching finale, "Arrival" has taken its place as one of the most innovative and satisfying science fiction movies ever made. It's also one of the greatest expressions of parental love I have ever seen depicted in any movie.
Adams is superb and should have been Oscar-nominated for her role. She gets able support from Renner and Whitaker, both of whom are excellent. Most of the credit goes to director Villeneuve, for whom this was a dream project. He avoids every sci-fi cliche imaginable, from the look of the aliens and their spaceship to the nature of the implicit threat they may well pose. The production design by Patrice Vermette is outstanding, as is the innovate musical score by Johan Johannsson. Paramount has released "Arrival" in a package containing a Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. There are the expected bonus extras which are far more interesting than most because they go beyond the usual mutual backslapping by actors and crew members. Instead, there is heavy-duty analysis of linguistics and scientific theories, thus appealing to anyone who has an inner nerd. Doubtless there will someday be an "Ultimate Special Edition" but now this will suffice. "Arrival" is a great movie. It may not appeal to viewers who want action over philosophy, but for those who aren't afraid to delve into the mysteries of life, this movie about interplanetary visitors is literally out of this world.
Thanks to reader Mark Jarman for sharing this with us- British Pathe film archives silent footage reel showing film marquees in London in 1976. Here is their official description:
Cinema signs in London.
Various shots sign outside the Empire for 'To The Devil a Daughter'. Various
shots Jacey cinema advertising 'Bisexual'. Various shots Leicester Square
advertising 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'. Various shots Cinecenta. Various shots
Odeon advertising 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'. MS 'Operation:
Daybreak'. MS's Miss Fiona Richmond in 'Expose'. MS 'The Sunshine
Boys'. Various shots at Classic Moulin advertising 'I'm Not Feeling Myself
Tonight' and 'Housewives on the Job'. Various shots Odeon advertising 'Lenny'.
MS 'Return of the Pink Panther'. MS 'Emmanuelle'. MS's 'Jaws'. MS 'The
Hindenburg'. MS 'The Slipper and the Rose' at the Empire. MS's man behind sign
for 'Return of the Pink Panther' adjusting the wiring. MS's 'Love in a Women's
so could have been a by-the-numbers genre movie: “Sensitive boyfriend goes to meet hot girlfriend’s parents in secluded
country home and mayhem ensues…” and that’s exactly what happens in Get Out, the new thriller from
writer/director Jordan Peele, but in a totally unexpected way.
filmturns every horror trope on its
head while tackling racist stereotypes along the way. Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as Chris, an
aspiring young photographer who happens to be black. His beautiful, Ivy League-ish girlfriend,
Rose (Allison Williams from HBO’s Girls)
is bringing him home to meet her parents for the first time – a momentous
occasion in any new relationship but even more so when it’s interracial, a fact
the movie meets head on. Once at the
family estate, Chris feels that something is truly off – from the mind-gaming
father (Bradley Whitford) and his spooky psychiatrist wife (Catherine Keener)
to Rose’s hostile brother (Caleb Landry Jones). Their all black staff goes out
of their way to tell Chris how happy they are to be there, which just makes him
more uncomfortable. And then there’s the
family gathering Rose forgot to tell him about, where cousins and uncles leer
at Chris as if he’s on display, making clueless, subtly racist comments in a
perfect sendup of East Coast liberal elitism. Chris gamely endures all this while Rose seems genuinely mortified – but
it’s all an act! Chris has been brought
there for a sinister purpose and after Rose’s mom slyly hypnotizes him, that
purpose is revealed and Get Out moves
into high gear.
Peele, who made his name acting and writing in comedies like MAD TV and Keanu, deftly blends laughs and horror, all leading up to a truly innovative
climax as Chris desperately tries to escape. Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) is
spot on as a budding artist trying to navigate a difficult social
situation. Allison William’s Rose is
appropriately seductive and Milton “Lil Rel” Howery is hysterical as Chris’
loyal wingman, Rod, a TSA Agent who investigates when his friend goes
missing. Produced by genre hitmeister
Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Split,
The Purge), Get Out is a mystery
thriller that truly delivers while skewering today’s pervasive racial
stereotypes. It’s also is a stunning
directorial debut for Jordan Peele, who will doubtlessly be able to work in
whatever genre he chooses.
Here's a real rarity from some years ago: an officially licensed Steve McQueen Virgil Hilts action figure sold only in Japan back in the 90s. The Great Escape packaging is enough to make a collecting nerd out of any retro movie fan, especially when you throw in the optional U.S Army jacket patterned after the one McQueen wore in the film. The bad news: these figures sell for hundreds of dollars whenever they periodically show up on the collector's circuit. Now if they'd only make that Donald Pleasence companion figure! (Image from UK-based Metropolis Toys, which has a cool catalog of toys based on classic TV shows and movies)
Here is rare color footage of The Three Stooges in 1938, shot in Atlantic City New Jersey's famed Steel Pier. Moe, Larry and Curly vie for the affections of model Barbara Bradford, who was married to song and dance man George Mann, who shot the film and makes an appearance.
Movie poster artist Frank McCarthy was a legend in his field. Until his death in 2002, McCarthy had created, or collaborated on creating, some of the most iconic movie poster art of all time. The web site Dangerous Minds pays tribute to McCarthy's creations with a mind-boggling gallery of images from such films as "Thunderball", "Khartoum", "The Dirty Dozen", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", "Hatari!", "The Great Escape" and many others.
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement from the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation:
Do you have a collection of Harryhausen film posters?
We’d like to speak with you…!
The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation are excited to
be working with esteemed writer Richard Holliss on a book detailing the poster
art of Ray Harryhausen movies. We have been able to scour Ray’s vast poster
archive, and have found numerous rare and fascinating pieces. However, we are
now looking for the help of fans worldwide in order to make this the most
comprehensive collection of Ray Harryhausen posters ever assembled! Artwork
varied greatly across the world, and we just know that there are more hidden
gems out there.
If you think you have any unusual or rare posters, or
just want to share pictures of your collection with us, please get in touch by
emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, with a snapshot of the poster in
question if possible.
If it’s one which we are missing from our collection, we
will arrange to have it scanned. Once the book goes to print, your name will be
printed along with the poster in question, and you will be sent a free copy of
this fantastic publication!
Click here for more info and to listen to podcast segment about the project.
In the early 1970s producer and director Bob Chinn was one of the most prolific and profitable names in the adult film industry. Chinn's productions may have had skimpy production values but he generally made them look more grandiose than anything competing erotic film producers were able to offer. Like many filmmakers in this bizarre genre, Chinn aspired to do films that were more mainstream and meaningful. He entered a collaboration with Alain Patrick, a young hunky actor in the Jan-Michael Vincent mode who had his own aspirations to become a respected star. By 1971 Patrick had accumulated some legitimate film and TV credits but always in "blink-and-you'll-miss-him" roles. Like Chinn, he drifted into the adult film industry where he established some credentials as a director. He and Chinn teamed up that year in an attempt to make a mainstream movie about the porn film business. The result was "Blue Money", which has just been rescued from obscurity by Vinegar Syndrome, which has released the film as a special edition Blu-ray/DVD.
"Blue Money" suffers from the same limitations as Bob Chinn's other productions in that it was financed largely by people who expected to get a hardcore porn flick. Thus he was given a budget of $35,000, which was a pittance even in 1971, and a very abbreviated shooting schedule. Under Alain Patrick's direction, however, the movie went in a different direction and became a hybrid between the mainstream and porn film genres.Patrick gives a very credible performance as Jim, a 25 year-old surfer dude type who lives an unusual lifestyle. On the surface he leads an unremarkable existence: he has a pretty wife, Lisa (Barbara Mills) who is a stay-at-home mom who devotes her energies to raising their young daughter. Like most fathers, Jim is a dad who goes off to work every day...except that his "work" is directing pornographic feature films. Shooting in a seedy makeshift studio, Jim and and his partner sell the finished product to shady distributors who pay them premium prices for master prints of their latest 16mm productions. Because Jim is considered one of the top talents in the industry, theaters are always hungry for his latest films. Ironically, although Jim's career is filming people having sex, he prides himself on remaining loyal to his wife and resists the occasional overtures of his female stars. Jim and Lisa have a joint dream: they are renovating a schooner-type yacht with the quest of quitting the adult film industry and sailing around the world as free spirits. All of this is put at risk when Jim casts Ingrid (Inga Maria), an exotic European beauty who is desperate for money, in his latest production. Against his better judgment, Jim begins an affair with her- thus endangering his marriage after Lisa starts to become suspicious. At the same time the government is cracking down on the porn business. Suddenly, there is a dearth of distributors to take Jim's films. He is being paid far less than usual- and the entire industry is paranoid about the number of high profile arrests of performers, producers and directors in the porn business. Lisa begs Jim to quit but he wants to take his chances in the hopes of making enough money to finally finish the schooner's renovations and allow him to take his family on their-long planned journey.
"Blue Money" is an interesting production that never found acceptance by any audience. The film received some limited release in mainstream theaters but, although not quite hardcore, it is far too sexual for most general audiences. Conversely, people expecting to see a movie packed with gratuitous sex acts would also have been disappointed. Director Patrick has plenty of sex scenes and full frontal nudity but they are generally confined to the sequences in which we watch the actual filming of porn productions. In that respect, Patrick strips away any glamour or thrills from the process. Bored performers must enact explicit acts under hot klieg lights manned by total strangers. Jim must contend with moody actresses and actors who sometimes loath each other but who must engage in kinky sex. Every time Jim yells "Cut!", arguments can break out or the male leading man finds himself unable to perform on cue. Where the film excels is as a time capsule of sexual mores at the time of its production. There is much talk about the Nixon administration's Commission on Pornography report which had recently been released. Initiated by Nixon's predecessor, President Lyndon Johnson, the report came out during Nixon's first term in office. Nixon was confident that the report would legitimize his belief that pornography had a devastating effect on society- a talking point that would play well with his arch conservative base. Instead, the report basically said that there was no such evidence. Enraged, Nixon denounced the findings of his own commission and set about a crackdown on pornography. Countless man hours and millions of dollars were spent going after theater owners and people who made the films. In "Blue Money", when Jim is eventually arrested, the cops admit that the First Amendment would almost certainly ensure that he would win the court case- but the real strategy is to financially ruin those accused by having them spend their life savings on defending themselves. This gives the movie a hook that extends beyond the soap opera-like storyline centered on Jim's fragile relationship with his wife. The movie has a polished look to it and most of the performances are quite credible, with Patrick and Barbara Mills very good indeed.
Here's a hidden gem: an obscure interview from 1965 on the set of the James Bond thriller "Thunderball". The interview takes place at Pinewood Studios on the set that served as M's office. Not sure who the woman is who is conducting the interview or what network it was filmed for. Suffice it to say she epitomizes the type of uninformed interviewer that ultimately turned Connery off to the publicity surrounding the Bond phenomenon (she doesn't even know what city he was born in.) She also wastes time asking Connery about comparisons between Bond and MacBeth (!), who he had portrayed a few years earlier on Canadian television. Nevertheless, this is an interesting piece of long-forgotten Bond history. - Lee Pfeiffer
Mildred Pierce is one curious piece
of cinema. As film critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito point out in their
fascinating conversation that is a supplement on this beautifully-presented
Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, Pierce is a movie that almost doesn’t know what it wants to be. In
many ways it is a woman’s picture, that is, a melodrama, but it’s disguised
inside a manufactured film noir.
reasoning is sound, for in spite of novelist James M. Cain being known for
terrific pulp crime fiction (Double
Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings
Twice), his 1941 novel Mildred Pierce
is not a crime story, unless you want to say that a young woman having an
affair with her stepfather is “criminal.” The book is indeed hardboiled and
pulpy, but there is no murder in it.
the other hand, Michael Curtiz’s film version of Mildred Pierce actually begins
with a sensational murder—that of the stepfather—and the rest of the picture is
something of a journey to reveal who the killer is. This retooling of the story
must have been ordered by the studio to capitalize on the success of Billy
Wilder’s 1944 film adaptation of Double
Indemnity, and these types of crime pictures—what would later, in the 50s,
be termed film noir—were starting to
pour out of Hollywood. The noir trappings
are all there—an Eastern European director, highly contrasting black and white
photography, a look steeped in German expressionism, cynicism and angst,
unstable alliances, and even a femme
fatale—this time in the form of the daughter character.
(Joan Crawford) is a divorcee with two children. She still sees her ex-husband,
but also his best friend, Wally (Jack Carson), who hits on her every chance he
gets. Mildred struggles to make ends meet but eventually finds some success
running a small chain of bakeries (“Mildred’s”). Her bratty oldest daughter,
Veda (Ann Blyth), however, constantly complains about their social position in
the class structure, and is determined to tear her mother down. Mildred soon
marries somewhat-wealthy Monty (Zachary Scott), who is the man killed at the
beginning of the picture. The story is told as a flashback, as many films noir are.
all works, I suppose, although the more recent HBO adaptation of the novel
starring Kate Winslet is a much more faithful rendition of the story. Still,
the motion picture has top notch entertainment value, and it also contains
several powerhouse performances. Crawford deservedly won the Best Actress Oscarfor playing Mildred, and newcomer Blyth
earned a Supporting Actress nomination as the truly evil Veda. Eve Arden, as
Mildred’s spunky friend Ida, also scored a supporting nomination. Butterfly
McQueen deserves mention as the family’s maid—her presence always lights up the
screen. The men in the movie are fine but nothing special—this is definitely a
film dominated by the women. Ranald MacDougall was nominated for his
screenplay, and the picture itself was nominated for the top award. Curtiz, who
won his Oscar for directing Casablanca,
was left out this time around; but there is no question that his work is always
exemplary. He was a consummate studio helmsman who could make any kind of
with most Criterion releases, the visual and sound quality are near-perfection.
The new 4K digital restoration looks sharp, and the uncompressed monaural
soundtrack is full-front. Supplements include the aforementioned new interview
between Haskell and Polito; an excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show with guest Joan
Crawford; TCM’s 2002 feature-length documentary, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (which also appeared on the
original DVD release); an entertaining Q&A with Ann Blyth at a 2002
screening of the film, conducted by film
noir historian Eddie Muller; a worth-the-price-of-admission interview with
author James M. Cain from a 1969 segment of The
Today Show; and the theatrical trailer. The booklet contains an essay by
critic Imogen Sara Smith.
is much to recommend in this new Criterion Blu-ray release—a must-have for fans
of Cain, Curtiz, and Crawford, although not necessarily in that order!
Here's a bizarre double feature that opened in England in 1968: the would-be epic WWII movie The Battle of Anzio starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Falk on the same bill as Jerry Lewis' Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River. Note: in the USA, the Mitchum film was released under the title Anzio.
Don Knotts came to fame with his trademark comedy style of portraying a meek, excessively nervous character. He was Woody Allen before Woody Allen was Woody Allen. Knotts honed his skills on Steve Allen's show in the 1950s, with his "man on the street" Nervous Nellie routine sending audiences into fits of laughter. He co-starred with fellow up-and-comer Andy Griffith in the hit Broadway production of "No Time for Sergeants" and the subsequent film version. When Griffith landed his own TV series in 1960 in which he played the sheriff of fictional small town Mayberry, Knotts imposed upon him to write a small, occasional part he could play as Barney Fife, Griffith's inept but loyal sheriff. Griffith complied and the role made Knotts an icon of American comedy, allowing him to win an astonishing five Emmys for playing the same character. Five years into the series, Knotts was offered a multi-feature deal by Lew Wasserman, the reigning mogul of Universal Pictures. Knotts took the bait and enjoyed creative control over the films to a certain degree. He could pretty much do what he wanted as long has he played the same nervous schlep audiences wanted to see. The films had to be low-budget, shot quickly and enjoy modest profits from rural audiences where Knotts' popularity skewed the highest. His first feature film was The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, released in 1966 and written by the same writing team from the "The Andy Griffith Show". (Griffith actually co-wrote the script but declined taking a writing credit.) The film astonished the industry, rolling up big grosses in small markets where it proved to have remarkable staying power. Similarly, his next film, The Reluctant Astronaut also proved to be a big hit, as was his 1969 western spoof The Shakiest Gun in the West. Within a few years, however, changing audience tastes had rendered Knotts' brand of innocent, gentle humor somewhat moot. By the late 1960s audiences were getting their laughs from the new film freedoms. It was hard to find the antics of a middle-aged virgin much fun when you could see Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice cavorting in the same bed. Still, Knotts soldiered on, providing fare for the drive-in markets that still wanted his films. In 1969 he made The Love God?, a very funny and underrated film that tried to be more contemporary by casting Knotts as an innocent ninny who is manipulated into fronting what he thinks is a magazine for bird watchers but, in reality, is a cover for a pornography empire. Knotts' traditional audience balked at the relatively tame sex jokes and for his final film for Universal, How to Frame a Figg, he reverted back to his old formula.
Released in 1971, Figg casts Don Knotts as the titular character, Hollis Figg, a nondescript wimp who toils as an overlooked accountant in a basement of city hall. The film is set in a Mayberry-like small town environment but any other similarity ends there. In Mayberry, only the visiting city slickers were ever corrupt. The citizenry may have been comprised of goofballs and eccentrics, but they were all scrupulously honest. In Figg's world, however, the top government officials are all con-men and crooks. They are ruled by the town's beloved paternal father figure, Old Charley Spaulding (Parker Fennelly), a decrepit character who hands out pennies to everyone he encounters, with the heart-warming greeting "A shiny penny for your future!" In fact, Old Charley has plenty of those pennies stashed away. He and his hand-picked fellow crooks, including the mayor and police chief, have been systemically ripping off the state by grossly inflating the costs of local building projects and secretly pocketing the overages. Concerned that the accountants might get wind of their activities, they summarily fire them all except for Figg, who is deemed to be too naive to ever catch on. They justify the firings by saying it's fiscally prudent and replace the accountants with a gigantic computer that is supposed to be even more efficient. Through a quirk of fate, Figg and his equally naive friend, Prentiss (Frank Welker), the janitor for city hall, discover exactly what is going on. Figg dutifully reports his findings to the mayor (Edward Andrews), who convinces him to keep it secret while he launches his own investigation. Old Charley, the mayor and their cohorts decide to make Figg the fall guy for the corrupt practices. They give him a big promotion, a new red convertible and even hire a private secretary for him. She's Glorianna (Yvonne Craig), a leggy femme fatale who wears mini skirts and oozes sex. When her attempts to seduce Figg leave him paralyzed with fear because of his allegiance to his new girlfriend, the equally virginal waitress Ema Letha (Elaine Joyce), Glorianna gets Figg drunk, takes some embarrassing photos of him and the proceeds to have him sign a stream of incriminating documents that he has not bothered to read. Before long, Figg is blamed for all the missing funds and faces a jail sentence- unless he and the dim-witted Prentiss can figure out how to use the computer to thwart the real crooks.
How to Frame a Figg is the weakest and least-remembered of Knotts' films for Universal but it still affords plenty of laughs. Knotts is essentially playing Barney Fife under a different name and even wears that character's trademark outdated "salt and pepper" suit. Knotts never broke any new ground but no one ever called for him to do so...his familiar persona was just what audiences wanted. Figg also provides a plethora of wonderful characters from the period including the great Joe Flynn and Edward Andrews, who excelled at playing smarmy men of authority. Also popping up are such familiar faces as Billy Sands and Bob Hastings, both of whom co-starred with Joe Flynn in "McHale's Navy". The appearance of cast members from that show isn't a coincidence because the film was produced by Edward J. Montagne, who also produced "McHale's Navy". Some of the humor is a bit forced, especially scenes concerning the character of Prentiss, with Frank Welker overplaying the lovable dumb klutz bit. However, Montagne and Knotts were a comfortable fit and he produced and/or directed all of Knotts' Universal feature films. Figg was directed by Alan Rafkin, who had helmed The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Shakiest Gun in the West. He understood the Knotts persona and capitalized on it with considerable skill. Another alumni of all those films, the inimitable composer Vic Mizzy, provides a typically jaunty score.
Following the boxoffice failure of How to Frame a Figg, Don Knotts successfully morphed into a featured player in many Disney movies, sometimes teaming with Tim Conway. The two of them would perform together on screen and on stage for decades until Knotts' death in 2006. In the 1970s, Knotts also broadened his fan base with his role on the popular sitcom "Three's Company". There seems to be a great deal of nostalgia for his feature films nowadays among baby boomers, with The Ghost and Mr. Chicken especially popular. How to Frame a Figg is not of that caliber but it holds up well as a very amusing family comedy.
The Universal DVD release includes the original trailer.
Here's another rare one from the seemingly inexhaustible photo archive of Cinema Retro: a Bangkok, Thailand theater showing Darryl F. Zanuck's epic D-Day film The Longest Day in 1962. The acclaimed movie stood as the highest grossing black and white film until the release of Schindler's List in 1994.
The annual British Academy of Film and Television Arts has presented its awards for the year 2016. For a full list of nominees and winners click here. Cinema Retro's London photographer Mark Mawston was there to cover all the action on the red carpet. Here is a selection of some of his photos. (All photographs copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
Elvis Presley is almost always associated exclusively with movie musicals. However, he did stray from the genre to make a Western in which he didn't warble one lyric. The film is Charro!, which is available from Warner Bros. Just as seemingly every actor tried to get on board the spy movie phenomenon of the mid-1960s, by the end of the decade they were attempting to similarly capitalize on the spaghetti western genre. This 1969 film is non-descript as a western - not among the best of the era but far from the worst. It does merit special consideration because perhaps more than any other of his films, Charro! exhibits a persona that Elvis had never been able to reflect onscreen - thanks to Colonel Parker's iron-fisted control over his career and his insistence that The King appear in outdated teen musicals. The razor-thin plot has Elvis trying to distance himself from a murderous gang he used to ride with. Gang leader Victor French isn't the kind of guy you quit on so he frames Elvis for crimes he didn't commit then tortures him into participating in an audacious plot that finds them stealing a giant cannon from the Mexican army and using it to blackmail a town.
The Swinger (1967) and The Pleasure Seekers
(1964) are films featuring the charismatic Ann-Margret. Both films are considered to be typical
Hollywood pop cinema; light and frothy, flawed, but full of period bric-a-brac
and stylish music, much like the Elvis Presley movies of the day. In fact,
Margret had already made quite an impact starring alongside Elvis in the film Viva
Las Vegas (1964). Margret was certainly beginning to shine in all the right
places and had come a long way since emigrating from her native Sweden back in 1942.
The title song of The Swinger was written by
André and Dory Previn and the score composed by Marty Paich with additional
arrangements by Johnny Williams and Quincy Jones. The Swinger was originally
released in both mono and stereo and appeared on the RCA Victor label as one of
their DYNAGROOVE recordings. It’s a great collection of songs performed by the
enigmatic Margret in her own unique style and also features a couple of tracks
from the film’s composer Marty Paich. As the title suggests, the album is also
woven with ‘other swingin’ songs’ so expect some excellent additional material
such as ‘More’ from Mondo Cane (1962) all of which fits rather seamlessly into
the overall essence of the album. At
just 32 minutes (which was typical of an album for this time), Cherry Red has
sensibly taken the opportunity to pair this album up to make a very respectable
and ideal twofer release.
The Pleasure Seekers soundtrack was also
originally released on the RCA Victor label and featured a score by Lionel
Newman and Alexander Courage. In addition the album also featured four songs
from the writing team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. The songs are of
course performed by Ann-Margret, with tracks such as ‘Bossa Nova’ and ‘Something
to think about’ adding a genuine lush, vibrant feel to the album. At 34
minutes, it works perfectly alongside The Swinger and rounds off the CD rather
The Swinger / The Pleasure Seekers (CD ACMEM324CD)
really does have a great deal going for it. Firstly, they are a match made in
heaven. Both albums showcase Margret’s distinguished vocal style and clearly
reflect her place in popular culture. Secondly, Cherry Red’s CD marks the first
time these two albums have ever been released on any digital format. It’s hard
to understand how they had previously slipped under the radar and never seen
the light of day before now. The audio quality is also very clean. Whilst there
is no indication of the source, both recordings are clear, with nice range and
are free from any form of background hiss. Cherry Red has also produced a very
nice 12 page booklet to accompany this release which is full of relevant and
interesting notes. The only minor grievance I have is in the booklet layout.
Whilst there is a lovely reproduction of the original album artwork of The
Swinger to the front of the booklet, the full page reproduction of the album
art for The Pleasure Seekers sits buried inside the booklet. Placing this
artwork to the back cover of the booklet renders it far more practical and
makes it completely reversible. It
provides the owner with an opportunity of choosing exactly what album cover
they want to display to the front. It’s a very simple option, but makes a world
of difference to the collector. Other than that, it’s a first rate release that
I’m sure will be welcomed and enjoyed by a great deal of people.
American politics have always been contentious. When people pine away for the good old days of political civility, well...they just never existed. Going back to the early days of the republic, candidates routinely lied about each other and passed around unfounded scandalous rumors. Even "Honest Abe" Lincoln secured the Republican presidential nomination by having his minions literally bribe people to pose as delegates and pack the convention hall. One thing is for certain, however: the country is seeing its most vibrant protest movements since the late 1960s, when the toxic mix of Vietnam, civil rights, women's rights and other emotional issues seemingly had everyone at each other's throats. In a New York Times article, writer David Bianculli recalls how the Smothers Brothers became unlike vessels of the counterculture movement. The clean cut comedy duo was hired by CBS to provide gentle family humor (Tom and Dick Smother's shtick always revolved around sibling rivalry.) What CBS didn't expect was political satire the likes of which the network never imagined. Suddenly younger people had a TV show that was geared for them and the Smother Brothers set off national debates in barber shops, diners and the family dinner table. CBS didn't like it one bit. The network was the home of such popular, non-threatening fare as "The Andy Griffith Show", "Green Acres", "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction". Now, CBS magnate William Paley was getting complaints from top politicians. That set in motion a delicate situation: CBS would routinely try to censor segments of the show, but by doing so they were undermining the very audience that had made it a hit. Compromises were made but the politicos were not satisfied when seeing guests such as Pete Seeger and George Harrison intermingled with safe, traditional stars such as Jack Benny. (Seeger sang "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy", a thinly-veiled protest song about the Vietnam War that the network tried to cut.)
Ultimately, CBS caved and cancelled the show in its fourth season, using a bogus excuse that resulted in the Smothers Brothers getting a $900,000 payout- big money back in the day. Although the brothers skewed to the political left, one of their first targets had been Democratic President Johnson, who was constantly attacked for his Vietnam policy. His successor, Republican President Richard Nixon fared even worse. Johnson had complained personally to William Paley but after leaving office, made peace with the brothers by acknowledging that satire was an essential part of American politics. As for Nixon, it was learned later that he had siphoned funds from one of his presidential war chests to pay for a private investigator to find dirt on the Smothers Brothers. He never succeeded and Nixon would resign a few years later in the most notorious political scandal of the 20th century. Perhaps the brothers' ability to make both Democrats and Republicans feel uncomfortable was their greatest talent. Click here to read and view clips.
If you're a retro movie lover make sure that "Florence Foster Jenkins" goes to the top of your must-see list. The acclaimed comedy is an old-fashioned film in the best sense of the term. In it Meryl Streep gives another truly inspired performances. In fact it's getting downright boring extolling her virtues as perhaps the finest screen actress we have today. Streep has a field day giving a tour-de-force performance as the titular character, a real-life New York eccentric who apparently had built a cult following that has lasted for decades. Set in the year 1944, we find Florence Foster Jenkins living a very comfortable life in her lush Manhattan apartment. She is catered to by her younger husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), who acts as protector and mother hen over his emotionally and physically fragile wife. Florence suffers from a variety of serious health issues that has resulted in her marriage to St. Clair remaining chaste (he even resides in his own apartment.) Although Florence is his meal ticket to a life that allows him many luxuries, including dalliances with other women, St. Clair clearly adores his wife and oversees every aspect of her daily existence. This includes her obsession with opera music. Florence had a lifelong passion for it and dedicated her life to pursuing an operatic singing career. There was only one problem: she was the worst singer imaginable. Despite her passionate embrace of opera, Florence's renditions of these works inevitably resulted in her bellowing out barely recognizable, high-pitched assaults on the eardrums of anyone who had the misfortune of being within hearing range. However, Florence had one major ally in her quest: her bank account. A very wealthy woman, she was also a philanthropist who donated huge sums of money to the arts and New York's private clubs that pertained to the arts. Consequently, she was beloved by the relatively small number of people in this social circle who politely attended her "concerts" and enthusiastically applauded her efforts. Encouraged by the but insincere enthusiasm of her friends, Florence began to believe she was a truly great opera singer. All was well as long as her performances took place exclusively in front of such tolerant audiences where St. Clair could control every aspect of the show and pull enough strings to ensure she would always get a rousing reception.
The film begins with Florence's quest to hire a suitable pianist to help her with her daily auditions (such was her influence that some of the great names in music would tutor her privately). Florence settles on hiring Cosme McMoon (yes, that was his name), a nebbishy, shy young man (played by Simon Helberg) whose abilities as a virtuoso are unrecognized. Desperate for money, he cannot refuse St. Clair's generous salary offers (i.e bribes) to pretend that Florence is a great talent. He agrees and manages to ingratiate himself to her and grow fond and protective of her as well. Things go smoothly, though we do see that Florence is bravely struggling with a deteriorating medical condition. Alas, a major crisis emerges when Florence announces that she has rented Carnegie Hall and intends to give a concert there- and to invite on a gratis basis servicemen who are in New York on leave. St. Claire immediately recognizes the dilemma: up until now no critic has been able to review Florence's performances because they were all held at private venues. He knows all too well what awaits her when the press attends the performance at Carnegie Hall. The final section of the film shows her disastrous performance and St. Clair and Cosme's efforts to convince her that it was a triumph. However, they can only pull this off if they ensure that Florence does not have access to the reviews- and she determined to see them. This results in a frantic situation that approaches that of a farce in which extraordinary efforts are made to keep the bad news from the lovable lady.
"Florence Foster Jenkins" is a true gem of a movie, the kind they supposedly don't make any more. Everyone is dressed to the nines, sips champagne and engages in Noel Coward-like witty banter. Streep, Oscar-nominated for her role, is superb as ditzy would-be diva, accentuating her eccentricities but never allowing her to look unsympathetic. Hugh Grant channels Roger Moore's mannerisms so explicitly that one suspects his performance is an homage to the actor. In any event, this is the best work he's ever done and he should have been nominated for an Oscar for his role as the charismatic, charming rogue. It's hard to steal scenes from these two pros but Simon Helberg (of TV's "Big Bang Theory") manages to do so. He's a joy to watch and, like Grant, seems to have been cheated out of a possible Oscar nomination. Kudos, too, for the outstanding production design Alan MacDonald and the fine work of composer Alexandre Desplat.
The Paramount Blu-ray?DVD/digital format special edition features a wealth of interesting extras including interview with Meryl Streep about her life and career and featurettes dedicated to the production design, music, script process, etc. There is also a marvelous interview with Gino Francescino, who has been the curator of Carnegie Hall's historical memorabilia since 1986, much of which is shown (including rarities relating to the real-life Jenkins concert, which sold out but was never filmed or recorded). There is also a selection deleted scenes.
All told, this is a "must-have" release for movie lovers who want to take a sentimental journey back to the golden age of moviemaking.
Alec McCowan (right) with Vivien Merchant and Jon Finch in Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy".
Alec McCowen, acclaimed British actor of stage and screen, has passed away at age 91. Theater was McCowan's first love and his one-man adaptation of the New Testament formed the basis for his critically-praised show, "St. Mark's Gospel". He would receive three Tony nominations throughout his career. He was classically trained as an actor and appeared in many high profile stage productions around the world. McCowen made occasional appearances in high profile films. His best-remembered role was as the London detective in Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 classic "Frenzy". In the part, McCowen had to track down a serial rapist and murderer who is terrorizing the city. He played the role with wry humor especially in scenes in which his doting wife, played by Vivien Merchant, insists on cooking him elaborately prepared dinners of barely edible food. McCowen also played the role of "Q", the gadgets master, in Sean Connery's final James Bond film, "Never Say Never Again" in 1983. Click here for more.
The classic movie streaming channel FilmStruck launched in October. This is a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection that allows subscribers to access classic and cult movies from the Criterion Collection through streaming services and view exclusive bonus content. Hundreds of films are available through the service and the library's titles will keep expanding on a regular basis.
The latest press release lists the streaming services that FilmStruck is now available on:
FilmStruck, the streaming movie service for film
aficionados, is now available on Google Chromecast second generation and
Chromecast Ultra devices. Continuing its rapid platform expansion, the
streaming service will also launch on Roku, Playstation 4 and Xbox One in
the coming months. FilmStruck, featuring the largest streaming library of
contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films and the
exclusive streaming home to the Criterion Collection, is available for
streaming on Apple TV 4th generation devices,Amazon Fire TV, web, iOS and
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Criterion has released a deluxe Blu-ray edition of director Peter Brook's 1963 screen adaptation of William Golding's landmark novel Lord of the Flies. As virtually anyone familiar with literature of the latter half of the twentieth century probably knows, the story involves a group of British schoolboys who are among the refugees deported from England out the outbreak of what is, presumably, a third world war. Their plane is shot down over the ocean but it crashes off shore from a remote island. All of the adults die but the boys miraculously survive and make their way to dry land. Realizing their survival is in their own hands, the boys (the age of whom ranges from pre-pubescent to early teens) set about the task of building shelters. They quickly master the essentials of staying alive and learn to start fires and to hunt and fish with reasonably effective hand-made tools. Inevitably, the fragments of a society begin to coalesce but there is stark contrast in philosophies. Jack (Tom Chapin) is an assertive, take-charge older boy who quickly learns he can use his aggressive personality traits to rise to a leadership position. Jack proves his worth by quickly going native and relishing the opportunity to play king. His skills are essential when it comes to providing food for the group. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Ralph (James Aubrey), a sensitive and thoughtful boy who rivals Jack as leader of the group based on his intellectual superiority. When the rivalry becomes heated, Jack and his numerically superior group of followers resort to violent methods to suppress Ralph and his friend Piggy (Hugh Edwards), a pudgy and harmless boy who must indulge many degrading insults and taunts. The resulting battle of wills leads to numerous tragedies and a conclusion that finds Ralph alone and being hunted down by his former schoolmates, who intend to kill him.
It's clear that Golding intended to use this scenario as a microcosm for society in general. He initially regarded himself as an optimist regarding human nature but that changed during his service in WWII, when he witnessed behavior that he thought was so horrendous that he became convinced that evil is far more prevalent in the world than he had suspected. That cynicism is carried over into the film, which is such a literate version of the novel that no one is credited as a screenwriter. Director Brook would assemble his cast of young boys (none of whom had any acting experience) and read passages and dialogue from the novel prior to filming each scene. The technique worked remarkably well. Brook's shoestring budget of $300,000 was cut in half after his ill-fated, short-term alliance with famed producer Sam Spiegel, who began to make significant changes to the production in the hopes of making it more commercial. When he insisted on adding a group of young girls to the mix, Brook ended their partnership but had to pay Spiegel half of his meager budget to cover expenses he had never even authorized. Left with only $150,000 in the coffers, Brook (who is primarily known as an acclaimed director of avant-garde theatrical productions) managed to get everyone to the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico, where most of the footage was shot. Brook could not afford a seasoned cinematographer so gambled on hiring a local still photographer, Tom Hollyman, whose work on the film is simply remarkable (though he would never make another motion picture). Hollyman's footage was supplemented by footage taken by Gerald Feil, who was given a hand-held camera and told to shoot anything he found interesting. The result is a superb compilation of both men's accomplishments. The movie was shot in B&W for budgetary reasons but it also worked beneficially in terms of the impact of this stark, bleak tale. Raymond Leppard's brilliant score combines British schoolboy songs with ominous jungle themes. It must be pointed out that, despite the impressive performances of the young cast members, only one- James Aubrey- decided to gravitate into acting as a profession. The real hero, however, is Brook himself, whose exercise in the ultimate "guerrilla movie making" still stands the test of time as a powerful and fascinating film.
Criterion's special Blu-ray release does justice to the movie on every level beginning with a superb transfer that emphasizes the glorious cinematography. The extras in the set are:
Audio commentary track featuring Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, cinematographers Tom Hollyman and Gerald Feil
Audio of William Golding reading excerpts from the book, accompanied by scenes from the film
Deleted scene with optional commentary track
Insightful interview with Brook from 2008 (in which he pointedly says he never made a commercial movie because he refused to compromise with the studios in terms of his artistic vision)
Wonderful home movies taken by the young cast members.
1980 British TV interview with William Golding (one of the few he ever gave)
A new interview with cinematographer Gerald Feil
The original trailer
Feil's 1975 short film documenting Peter Brook rehearsing cast members in Brooklyn for one of his off-beat productions. For those of us who do not "tread the boards" for a living, the rehearsals seem bizarre and resemble an exercise class more than an acting rehearsal. Some of it is unintentionally funny: the kind of pretentious scenario that is often spoofed by Woody Allen, with actors chanting and seeming to run about without rhyme or reason. Yet, who are we to argue? Brook's reputation as a major theatrical director remains firmly intact.
A collector's booklet featuring essays by Peter Brook and film critic Geoffrey Macnab
In summary, the Criterion release of Lord of the Flies is essential viewing for classic movie lovers.
The Spy Command web site provides an interesting article outlining changes made for home video release to specific episodes of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", "Hawaii Five-O" and "The F.B.I.". Some of the changes are rather "in the weeds" stuff that might only be noticed by diehard fans but the specifics are still very intriguing to read- especially about a "Hawaii 5-O" episode that was only telecast once and is not available on video, and an episode of "The F.B.I." that never aired at all. Click here to read.
Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti co-authored (with Louis Paul) the book "Femme Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973" for McFarland publishers. The book has just been issued in a softcover edition, revised and updated. Here is Tom Lisanti's story behind the creation of the book.
It was a long time coming, fifteen years in fact, but McFarland
and Company finally released a soft cover edition of the very popular and
well-received Film Fatales: Women in
Espionage Film & Television, 1962-1973 by Louis Paul and myself. The
book profiles 107 dazzling women (Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, Dahlia Lavi,
Carol Lynley, Elke Sommer, and Sharon Tate, among them) who worked in the
swinging sixties spy genre on the big and small screens. Some include interviews
with these sexy spy gals. This new edition contains some profile revisions and
updates and a few new photos.
The idea for this book was all Louis Paul’s. We worked together
at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and became friends.
Louis is an expert on European spy movies, giallos, thrillers, etc. from the
sixties and seventies. He had a side video business and produced a fanzine
called Blood Times. I had been interviewing sixties actresses for
magazine articles and culled them for a book that was called Fantasy
Femmes of Sixties Cinema. While I was finishing it up, Louis suggested we
do a book on sixties spy girls. There were books on just the Bond Girls but we
thought we'd go beyond that to also include actresses from the Matt Helm, Derek
Flint, and Euro spy movies. And we also decided to include actresses who worked
in TV spy shows like The Man fromU.N.C.L.E., I
Spy, The Avengers, It Takes a Thief , etc. At
the last minute I pulled quotes from some of my interviewees on their spy
films/TV shows destined for my first book and saved for Film Fatales.
Robert Vaughn and Donna Michelle in the Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature film "One Spy Too Many" (1966).
We felt that the book would reach a nice size audience because spy films have remained so popular due to James Bond. It is 2017 and they still are making Bond movies. It seems never ending and moviegoers just love the escapism. The affection for the 1960s Bond movies extends to the copycat films (Matt Helm, Derek Flint, Harry Palmer, Diabolik, etc.) and TV shows of the day. They all employed handsome debonair leading men, adventure, romance, diabolical villains, picturesque scenery, and some of the most beautiful actresses from Hollywood and Europe. The spy girls in particular remained popular because this genre gave them different type characters to play. A number of the actresses are exceptional and in some cases their characters are more memorable than the hero. In the book the roles are broken down into four distinct types: the helpful spy/secret agent/operative; the innocent caught up in the chicanery; the bad girl-turned-good; and the unrepentant villainess/femme fatale/assassin. This is why fans love their spy girls because of the varied facets found in this genre.
The Warner Archive continues to delve into little-remembered crime movies with the release of F.B.I.: Code 98, yet another in the seemingly endless attempts of J. Edgar Hoover to use popular entertainment as a vehicle to promote himself and his bureau as incorruptible pillars of American society. (As usual, Hoover ensures he is personally thanked in the credits, mentioned in the script, depicted in photos on office walls and appears in footage at the end of the movie.) Still, this is a tense little thriller that engages the viewer from minute one with its timely depiction of a task force trying to prevent acts of home-grown American terrorism. The plot centers on a group of business executives who are flying to a government conference. Their company provides crucial materials and engineering for the U.S space program. A nondescript employee of their company concocts a clever scheme whereby he manages to switch out a piece of luggage being loaded onto the executive's corporate jet. Inside is a time bomb. Only a quirk of fate allows it to be discovered and dismantled in time. The F.B.I. is brought in under the direction of field director Robert Cannon (stiff-jawed Jack Kelly). He works with the intended victims to sort out who might have had a grudge against them and this inevitably leads to delving into some sensitive areas of their personal lives- including illicit affairs between married people. The film is tense and engrossing throughout, thanks to expert direction by Leslie Martinson. The capable supporting cast includes Ray Danton (whose baritone voice always seems overly dramatic for any role he played), the always-watchable Andrew Duggan, Philip Carey, William Reynolds, Jack Cassidy (in pure heterosexual mode) and Vaughn Taylor as the mousey, unlikely would-be terrorist. To compensate for the low budget, there are some unintentionally amusing gimmicks to provide some sweep to the locations. An F.B.I. office in Vegas looks directly out onto the casinos on the strip; a Washington D.C. office is in direct line with the Capitol Building; a Florida office has a view of a space launching pad. Still, Martinson's use of real locations throughout most of the film adds to the dramatic intensity. The film takes pains to present every F.B.I. man as scrupulously honest and dedicated. The worst they are guilty of is flirting with secretaries.
F.B.I.: Code 98 is well worth a look. It's tightly scripted, well-directed and doesn't have a single wasted frame.
For author William Peter Blatty's interview in Cinema Retro, see issue #19 in our back issues section.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
With the recent passing of "Exorcist" author William Peter Blatty, the Washington Post takes a photographic journey back to the origins of the story that inspired Blatty to write the book. In 1949 the Catholic church issued a rare consent order to allow an exorcism to be performed on a young boy who priests feared had been possessed by a demon. Doctors and psychiatrists have long speculated that the cause of the boy's affliction was rooted in natural medical explanations but the priests reported that they witnessed events that could not have been caused by any earthly phenomenon. The priests involved remained made few public comments after the exorcism, though there are some sketchy diary entries that shed a bit of light on the proceedings. The boy who was the center of the case is still alive and is now 78 years old but has never commented publicly on his ordeal or his memories of it, if any. Unless and until he does, there will always be debate about what actually occurred in an ordinary house occupied by an ordinary family who would inspire one of the most extraordinary novels and films of the 20th century. Click here to view.
The Universal Vault series has released the 1970 film "Sometimes a Great Notion" on DVD. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, the film starred- and was directed by- Paul Newman. His skills as both actor and filmmaker and amply displayed in this engrossing, off-beat drama that never found its intended audience during its theatrical release, despite a heavyweight cast. The film is basically a domestic drama, though set amid the staggering beauty of the Oregon wilderness. The Stamper family runs one of the biggest logging operations around. The family's crusty patriarch, Henry (Henry Fonda), attributes the family's success to the fact that they lead a hard scrabble lifestyle and do much of the grueling work themselves rather than simply farming it out to paid employees. Henry ensures that he keeps the keys to his kingdom close to his vest: the only positions of power are held by him and his two sons, Hank (Paul Newman) and Joe Ben (Richard Jaeckel). Henry espouses his philosophy of life, which is that there isn't much purpose to existence other than hard work, eatin', drinkin' and screwin' (though perhaps not necessarily in that order). When we first meet the Stamper clan they are embroiled in a dispute with a union that represents loggers. The union has called for a strike and it appears that the workers have been dormant for quite some time. The Stampers refuse to accede to union demands that they stop their logging operations in order to show solidarity with the workers. Henry will have no part of it. He and his sons insult union representatives that come to reason with them and, in fact, physically terrorize one of them. Henry and his sons have no use for unions and adhere to the pioneer lifestyle in that every man has to fend for himself. A byproduct of this philosophy is that the Stampers are riding high as the only operating logging operation in the area. Consequently, the family gets all the business that the striking workers would ordinarily enjoy. However, the Stamper's luck is about to run out. Union members secretly begin to sabotage their operation and on one especially painful day, the family endures several tragedies of Shakespearean proportions.
Although top-billed and coming off the success of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", Newman doesn't hog the spotlight. As director, he's quite generous in ensuring that his co-stars get ample quality scenes. The film evokes a very believable atmosphere in terms of exploring the type of no-nonsense, working-class people who populate rural areas. At first glance the Stampers are a content clan but there are cracks in the facade. Hank's wife Viv (Lee Remick) is fed up with the misogynistic lifestyle she is trapped in. Among the Stampers, the women folk are meant to be seen but not heard. She was bored as a teenager growing up in a one-horse town until young Hank drove through on his motorcycle and literally swept her off her feet. Her dreams of an exciting life were quickly dashed and she now finds herself cooking and cleaning for a family of men who barely acknowledge her presence. Even romantic overtures to Hank go unrewarded and Viv is fed up with his inability- or unwillingness- to challenge his father's Draconian ways of managing the family and the business. Hank's younger brother Joe Ben is a happy-go-lucky, humorous fellow whose own wife Jan (Linda Lawson) shares his Born Again Christian beliefs and is quite content raising their kids and living a traditional lifestyle for women in this place and era. Dramatic tensions rise when Henry's estranged son Leeland (Michael Sarrazin) (Hank and Joe Ben's step brother) arrives out of the blue after being away for years. He's a troubled drifter with no particular goal or purpose in life. Henry welcomes him back but advises him that if he wants to stay, he'll have to learn how to work as a lumberman. There is also tension between Leeland and Hank because Hank once slept with Leeland's mother (!)
As director, Newman excels at capitalizing on Richard Moore's magnificent cinematography and making the lumber business seem quite interesting. The scenes of tumbling timber are thrilling and suspenseful and makes the viewer aware of just how dangerous this profession is, with the possibility of injury and death always only seconds away. In the film's most harrowing and best-remembered scene, Joe Ben is trapped under a log in a rapidly-rising river as Hank desperately tries to rescue him. Jaeckel is terrific here in a role that earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. The scene is difficult to watch but Jaeckel and Newman have never been better. (At the time of the film's release, critic Rex Reed complained that some of Jaeckel's best work in the film never made it into the final cut.) Screenwriter John Gay deftly sidesteps some anticipated cliches and every time you think you know where the story is going, it ends up in another direction. There is irony in Newman directing and starring in a film in which the protagonists are right wing and anti-union, as Newman himself was a career union man whose left wing activism earned him a place on President Nixon's notorious "Enemies List". (Newman claimed it was one of the great honors of his life.) There are some weaknesses: we never get any background on the merits of the case made by the striking loggers so we have no frame of reference as to whether we should sympathize with them or the Stampers. Also, some of the supporting roles are underwritten, especially Lee Remick's. Aside from one good scene in which she divulges her frustrations to Sarrazin, there's not much for her to do. The movie builds to its tragic climax although Newman does make sure there is a triumphant moment in the last scene, even if its represented in a rather gruesome fashion. It's a pity that Newman chose to direct only a few films. He was as impressive behind the camera as he was in front of it. The film also benefits from a fine score by Henry Mancini and the opening song, "All His Children" (sung by Charley Pride) was nominated for an Oscar. When the film failed to click at the boxoffice it was re-marketed under the title "Never Give an Inch"- although that strategy failed to work. Hopefully it will finally find a more receptive audience on home video.
The DVD transfer is superb but once again, Universal provides a bare bones release with nary a single bonus extra.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
If you enjoy the golden age of Blaxploitation films you'll be happy to learn about Brown Sugar, the new streaming service that describes itself "Like Netflix- only blacker!". The service, which costs $3.99 a month, features a gold mine of cult classics of the genre ranging from the Shaft films to action flicks starring icons Pam Grier, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. The network says that many of the films in their catalog are not easily available on home video. Click here for more info.
HBO is producing "Francis & the Godfather", a behind the scenes recounting of the making of the 1972 crime classic. As most retro movie lovers know, although "The Godfather" is now considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, it had a rocky production history. Paramount just wanted a quickie crime flick for fast playoff and balked at director Francis Ford Coppola's insistence on costly production values. The studio also wanted to fire Al Pacino and forbade Coppola from hiring Marlon Brando for the title role on the basis that Brando's decade-long string of failures made him boxoffice poison. Coppola, through shrewd instincts and an occasional bit of good luck, sidestepped these potential minefields and delivered a masterpiece that spawned two sequels and became part of international pop culture. No casting or director has been announced. For more click here.
Though Vincent Price would eventually garner a well-deserved
reputation as Hollywood’s preeminent bogeyman, it was only really with André De
Toth’s House of Wax (1953) that the actor would become associated with all
things sinister. In some sense the
playful, nervously elegant Price was an odd successor to the horror film-maestro
throne: he was a somewhat aristocratic psychotic who shared neither Boris
Karloff’s cold and malevolent scowl nor Bela Lugosi’s distinctly unhinged
madness or old-world exoticism.
His early film career started in a less pigeonholed
manner: as a budding movie actor with a seven year contract for Universal
Studios in the 1940s, the tall, elegant Price would appear in a number of semi-distinguished
if modestly-budgeted romantic comedies and dramas. His contract with Universal was apparently
non-exclusive, and his most memorable roles for the studio were his earliest. In a harbinger of things to come, Price would
register his first genre credit with Universal’s The Invisible Man Returns (1940),
a curiously belated semi-sequel to the James Whale 1933 classic. Though a satisfying B-movie vehicle, Price’s star
turn as the mostly transparent Geoffrey Radcliffe would be difficult work; it’s
an imposing task to make an impression when you’re only physically present for less
than half of a film.
More rewarding and noteworthy was his role as the
vengeful Clifford Pyncheon in Universal’s free adaptation of Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s brooding thriller The House of the Seven Gables (1940). That same year Price took a second memorable
turn as the effete, wine-imbibing Duke of Clarence in Rowland V. Lee’s Tower of
London. Purportedly a historical drama, Universal couldn’t help but play up the
horror-melodrama elements of Richard III’s grisly ascent to the British
throne. The scene when the Duke of
Clarence meets an ironic fate at the hands of the conniving, merciless and
bloodthirsty tag-team of Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff is, without doubt, one
of cinema’s great exits.
Though the actor would tackle all types of roles for his
next employer, 20th Century Fox, he had begun his transition from leading man
once-removed to a roguish sort of character actor, one short of neither charm
nor avarice. In 1953 the actor’s career
would be forever changed when he accepted the role of the mad Professor Henry
Jarrod in House of Wax, Warner Bros.’ colorful 3-D remake of Michael Curtiz’s The
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). The
success of the sinister House of Wax inspired that film’s freelance producer,
Bryan Foy, to – essentially – remake the same film for Columbia Pictures within
a year’s time. Unlike Universal or
Warner Bros., Columbia seemed less eager to embrace and invest long-term in 3-D
technologies, and The Mad Magician was one of the studio’s final rolls of the
dice in that format.
Bryan Foy had began his show business career in
vaudeville so it was only natural that both House of Wax and The Mad Magician share
the greasepaint, steamer trunks, velvet curtains and theatrical back stories of
the producer’s youthful experience. As he
had with House of Wax, Foy again tapped the talent of his favorite scribe, Crane
Wilbur, to write what was essentially a House of Wax pastiche. Wilbur was a seasoned pro who could knock out
a quick copy that still had integrity; both of the Victorian-era horror films he
would craft for Foy stylishly unraveled in thrilling fashion with neat twists
and memorable dialogue. In a wise move,
the German born John Brahm, an undeniably brilliant director of moody,
atmospheric thrillers and melodramas – mostly for 20th Century Fox - was
brought on to direct.
The most notable returnee was, of course, Vincent Price,
now typecast and expected to again menacingly wield his distinct brand of on-screen
villainy. With his stagey, Shakespearean
acting style having been honed early in his career, Price’s performances occasionally
teetered between outright flamboyance and devilishly morose… perhaps even a bit
hammy. That said, the actor’s refined
mannerisms and theatrical gesturing was refreshingly different from the common
brutishness of the usual cinematic heavies. His characters tended to be tortured souls as well; his villains were conflicted
but not unsympathetic individuals driven to madness by life’s travails and treacheries.
In House of Wax and The Mad Magician, the actor similarly
plays the part of a maligned artist. In
both films, his protagonists hide behind a series life-masks created solely for
the purpose of deception. As sculptor Henry
Jarrod in the former film, the devoted artist sees his beloved wax figures go
up in flames due to the actions of an unscrupulous business partner; Jarrod’s
scheming, unsentimental associate is not at all interested in the artist’s
creations. He’s only interested in the
swift collection of ill-gotten monies from his insurance fraud scheme. In The Mad Magician Price similarly portrays Don
Gallico, a low wage, belittled designer of magic tricks and illusions. Gallico
is the creative energy behind successful owner Russ Orman’s (Donald Randolph) respected
theatrical magic factory Illusions, Inc. Tired of seeing his boss farm out his very personal creations to more celebrated,
famous magicians – most notably the egotistical and scheming Great Rinaldi
(John Emery) – Gallico optimistically and dreamingly pines of someday being
recognized as a great stage magician himself.
Gallico is certain that day is not far off. In an attempt to attract attention to his own
talent, the magician tests a self-produced illusionist show in a cozy theater
in Hoboken, New Jersey. This engagement
is merely a step stone to his ultimate dream of securing a coveted booking on
Broadway and 44th Street. While his most
recent and exciting illusion, “The Lady and the Buzz Saw,” pushes the envelope
of high tension to an anxious extreme, Gallico is certain his work in progress –
an escape-artist illusion involving a gas-fueled 3500 degree inferno dubbed
“The Crematorium” will be the vehicle to bring him stardom at last. But Gallico’s dreams are soon dashed when the
well-heeled Orman, who years earlier had unsentimentally stolen away the
illusionist’s gold-digging wife (Eva Gabor), informs him to carefully read the
fine print of their business contract. In
a nutshell, Orman owns all of Gallico’s intellectual properties: contractually his inventions are not his
own. Needless to say, this soul crushing,
career-ending turn of events does not bode well for the briefly self-satisfied
Orman… and others.
Actress Barbara Hale has passed away at age 94. She started as a glamour girl in feature films and commercials before landing the role of Perry Mason's secretary Della Street in the long-running TV series that lasted from 1957-1966. Starring opposite Raymond Burr as Mason, Hale won an Emmy for her performance in 1959 and Della Street became her signature role. In 1985 she and Burr reunited for a Perry Mason TV movie. The show received very high ratings and the two would continue to reprise their roles periodically in other new TV movies about the famed attorney. Hale, the mother of actor William Katt, had many feature films to her credit including the 1970 blockbuster "Airport" in which she played the jilted wife of gigalo pilot Dean Martin.
Sir John Hurt, the chameleon-like British character actor with an ability to immerse himself in an astonishingly wide variety of roles, has died from pancreatic cancer at age 77. The son of a British clergyman and engineer, Hurt originally studied to be an artist before the lure of the stage led him to the acting profession. His first major film role was in the Oscar-winning 1966 film "A Man for All Seasons". Acclaim followed quickly and Hurt made his next big impression on screen in the 1970 British crime thriller "10 Rillington Place". He received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the 1978 film "Midnight Express" and was nominated for Best Actor for his most acclaimed role as the tragic, disfigured John Merrick in the 1980 film "The Elephant Man". He earned a place in pop culture history for his role in Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi classic "Alien" for a scene in which the titular creature violently erupts from Hurt's stomach in one of the most famous scenes in the genre's history.
Kino Lorber has released a Blu-ray edition of the 1973 Euro Western "The Man Called Noon", based on the novel by Louis L'Amour. The film was produced by Euan Lloyd, who had previously brought L'Amour's novel "Shalako" to the screen in 1968 starring Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot and an impressive supporting cast. "Noon" is no "Shalako". It's more in line with Lloyd's filmed production of L'Amour's "Catlow", which was released in 1971 (i.e instantly forgettable). Like so many Westerns of the era, it's a strange hybrid production top-lining well-known American stars with a supporting cast of European actors. The result is a reasonably entertaining but completely unremarkable horse opera that plays out with a familiarity akin to that of the well-trod shooting locations in and around Almeria, Spain. Richard Crenna, in a rare top-billed role in an action flick, plays the titular character, Rubal Noon, a notorious gunslinger. In the film's opening minutes he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt but is wounded in the process and, in that tried and true movie cliche, loses his memory. He doesn't remember who he is or why anyone tried to kill him. He is befriended by a shady saddle tramp, Rimes (Stephen Boyd), who informs him that he's wanted by the law and a virtual army of killers is after him. Rimes takes Noon to a ranch that serves as an outlaw hideout. It's owned by Fan Davidge (Rosanna Schiaffano), who has been kept captive on the ranch by the outlaws and forced to serve as their leader's mistress. Within seconds of meeting, Noon and Fan begin making goo-goo eyes at each other and we know that can only lead to trouble. It's at this point that the screenplay by Scot Finch becomes overly convoluted almost to the point of parody. A long series of facts and clues are presented to Noon that gradually help him discover his motivations and why so many people are after him. The jumbled explanations have something to do with avenging the deaths of loved ones and having knowledge of a secret cache of buried gold. However, by the time all of this is explained, there is no "A-ha!" moment of revelation. Instead, one just sits and ponders the long string of characters, names and confusing plot developments. On several occasions I backtracked on the Blu-ray disc, thinking I overlooked some obvious information but it still seemed like a confusing mess so I just gave up, sat back and enjoyed the frequent action sequences. Crenna does well enough in an undemanding, completely humorless role. The few moments of levity are provided by Boyd, who plays a character of dubious allegiance. Farley Granger shows up as a bad guy and Schiaffano is as lovely as ever, but the characters are poorly defined and the most impressive aspect of the movie are the well-staged stunts courtesy of legendary arranger Bob Simmons, who devised some of the best fight scenes in the James Bond series. Luis Bacalov provides the sometimes impressive requisite Morricone-like score. The finale of the movie finds the heroes holed up in a burning cabin surrounded by an army of antagonists. The scenario is similar to that in John Huston's "The Unforgiven" but with far less credibility. (Noon's method of terminating Granger's character is downright absurd.) The film was directed by Peter Collinson, who had shown great innovation and skill with his 1969 version of "The Italian Job". Not many of those skills are on view in "The Man Called Noon", which Collinson directed in a manner best described as workmanlike. Sadly, the young director never fulfilled his potential and ended up directing mid-range and mediocre fare before passing away in 1980 at only 44 years of age.
The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber has a crisp, clean transfer. There is a bonus trailer gallery that includes other Westerns available from the company including "Duel at Diablo", "Billy Two Hats", "Barquero", "The Spikes Gang" and "Navajo Joe".