model Tina Cassidy (Kathryn Witt) visits Hollywood plastic surgeon Larry
Roberts with a specific list of tiny imperfections that need to be corrected at
the request of Reston Industries, a producer of glossy television
commercials.Dr. Roberts becomes curious
when he realizes that several of his recent patients have had the same type of
follows is a science fiction/police procedural that involves the murder of
these same models.The police become
suspicious when it is discovered that all the victims were patients of Dr.
Michael Crichton once again makes predictions based on emerging
technologies.His first feature film, Westworld
(1973), pioneered the use of digitized imagery to present the point of view of
Yul Brynner’s android gunslinger.
Looker, we have actors being converted to computerized images that may be
manipulated through animation.These
digital actors communicate subliminal messages that cue the audience to respond
favorably to the product.Once these
models are scanned by the L.O.O.K.E.R. (Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive
Responses) program, there’s no need for humans to create commercials.And if the process works so well at
convincing television viewers to buy, why not use it to manipulate a national
election and allow a corporate-friendly Senator to be elected President?
one effective scene, Tina returns to her home to visit with her parents and
finds that they can’t take their eyes away from a comedy show they are
watching.Mom and Dad have been drawn in
Industries is also preparing the L.O.O.K.E.R. technology for military
applications with a gun that renders an enemy immobile for several minutes
leaving no memory of the event.A
henchman hired to kill Dr. Roberts employs the weapon to almost humorous effect
as he taunts his victim.
good thriller requires a great cast and director Crichton chose wisely with
Albert Finney as the mild mannered
surgeon Dr. Roberts.One might wonder if
this character was at all inspired by the Beatles’ song of the same name.Also on hand are James Coburn as sleazy corporate head John Reston, Susan
Dey as model Cindy Fairmont, the always
beautiful Leigh-Taylor Young as marketing director
Jennifer Long and Dorian Heywood as
people may be aware of this film only from its claustrophobic pan and scan
showings on pay cable during the 80s and 90s.The Warner Archive’s’widescreen Blu-ray provides a beautifully restored
edition of Looker in all its Panavision glory.The stereo sound is properly re-mastered and showcases the music score
by Jerry Goldsmith.Goldsmith created a terrific techno-thriller
soundtrack that avoided the cheese factor and aged well.And then there’s that title song, performed
by Sue Saad, that will definitely earworm its way into your head for days.
new Blu-ray version of Looker will propel you back to the 80s in style and
comfort. Bonus features are the original trailer, an informative introduction by Michael Creighton and a deleted scene that was included in the TV broadcast of the film. Another great addition to the
Warner Archive library.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
handsome, beautifully-illustrated, and affordable entry in Turner Classic
Movies’ series of books on film history, genres, and trivia, comes just in time
for the holidays. Christmas in the
Movies—30 Classics to Celebrate the Season offers a selection of excellent
choices in chronological order. Author Arnold, a film historian and TCM
commentator, provides enough background, offscreen anecdotes, and justification
for his picks to satisfy the most critical movie buff.
Christmas in the
to tick all the obvious suspects (Holiday
Inn; It’s a Wonderful Life; Miracle on 34th Street, White
Christmas; A Christmas Story; The Nightmare Before Christmas), but
Arnold also throws a spotlight on some lesser-known gems such as Remember the Night (1940), with a
screenplay by Preston Sturges—although I’d haggle that the Sturges’-helmed
piece, Christmas in July (also 1940)
might be a better option. Other worthy entries include The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), 3 Godfathers (1948—yes, a John Ford western!), The Lion in Winter (1968—Christmas in medieval England with Henry
II and Eleanor!), Gremlins (1984), and
Die Hard (1988—yes, this action flick
is certainly a Christmas movie!).
is particularly gratifying that Arnold chose the 1951 Scrooge (released as A
Christmas Carol in the U.S.) with Alistair Sim in the titular role. Arnold
is quite correct that this is the
definitive adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, as there have been “far
too many to count.”
film’s discussion ends with a “Holiday Moment” sidebar. Here, Arnold highlights
a specific bit from the picture that epitomizes the selection as one of the
great Christmas movies. For example, the Holiday Moment from Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) is Judy
Garland’s iconic rendering of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Arnold
provides the lyrics of the song the way Garland sang it, juxtaposed with the
original lyrics, which were oddly much darker and cynical.
book or list that deems to choose a finite number of movies to represent a
specific genre or theme will invariably incite calls of “But what about ___?”
Perhaps one neglected title that brings out the Christmas spirit for James Bond
fans is the 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service, which had a Christmas song (“Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are
Grown?”), Christmas morning at Blofeld’s hideaway, and 007’s proposal to his
future bride on Christmas Eve!
minor quibble aside, Christmas in the
Movies is comprehensive, informative, and fun. It might well be the perfect
gift this season for the movie lover in your family!
a fascinating interview supplement contained on this amazing new release by The
Criterion Collection, film historian Joseph McBride calls The Magnificent Ambersons one of the great Hollywood tragedies in
that the film we got from writer/director Orson Welles was not the one he
intended. It is widely known that RKO Radio, the studio behind the production,
deleted forty-three minutes from Welles’ final cut, reshot the ending, and
released the film their way—all
against Welles’ wishes—and then promptly destroyed the cut footage so that the
movie could never be reconstructed.
is a stolen masterpiece.
said, the film is still a great
movie. In fact, it earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting
Actress (Agnes Moorehead), Best Cinematography (Black & White, by Stanley
Cortez), and Best Art/Interior Set Decoration (Black & White).
Ambersons, based on Booth
Tarkington’s 1918 novel (Welles claims that Tarkington was a “friend” of his
father’s), the picture was the director’s follow-up to Citizen Kane. Once again featuring some of the Mercury Players
(Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins, and Moorehead) and new casting choices (Dolores
Costello, Tim Holt, Anne Baxter), the production of Ambersons went well, with the picture going only a little over
budget. Welles delivered a 148-minute cut—and then Pearl Harbor happened.
Welles was appointed by Nelson Rockefeller to be a goodwill ambassador to Latin
America so that he could attempt to persuade South American countries from
entering the war on the Axis side.
dutifully went to Brazil and started shooting a film (It’s All True, another picture sabotaged by RKO) and was
essentially unavailable to receive notes and requests from RKO regarding Ambersons. RKO, unhappy with the film,
then took it upon themselves to change it to suit their needs, and there was
nothing Welles could do about it. The picture released in July 1942 was
88-minutes in length.
a Magnificent Ambersons that is an
hour longer be a better film than it already is? We can only assume. For one
thing, the ending was drastically different. Welles’ version was cynical, dark,
and ironic. Given the wartime climate, RKO wanted a more upbeat ending—never
mind that it really doesn’t make sense that the characters suddenly change
entire attitudes they have held throughout the film. Never mind that the final
half-hour of the movie feels choppy, rushed, and out-of-rhythm from the first
hour. The 88-minute version is what we have and must live with.
should be stated again—The Magnificent
Ambersons is still a great picture.
story concerns the wealthy Amberson family in the early 1900s Indianapolis. Beautiful
Isabel Amberson (Costello) marries Wilbur Minafer (Don Dillaway) instead of
Eugene Morgan (Cotten), but she regrets it… and she and Morgan carry torches
for each other for the remainder of their days. Enter Isabel and Wilbur’s
bratty son, George (Holt), who terrorizes the town with his bad manners,
arrogance, and boorishness. Things get complicated when he begins to woo
Morgan’s daughter Lucy (Baxter) and at the same time insult and humiliate her
father. All the while, Wilbur’s sister Fanny (Moorehead) also carries
unrequited love for Morgan and inserts herself into the already-touchy
Ambersons is about the downfall of a
respected and wealthy family to that thing called Progress—namely, the
invention and proliferation of the automobile and other industrial evolutions.
Welles makes an ecological statement with the picture (back in 1942!) which is
something else RKO was unhappy with, seeing that American industries had to
ramp up to support the war effort.
new 4K digital restoration looks marvelous, and it contains two separate audio
commentaries with scholars Robert L. Carringer and James Naremore, and critic
packaging is first-rate. The numerous and excellent supplements alone make the
product a 5-star purchase. Especially interesting and informative are the new
interviews with (previously mentioned) McBride and one with film historian
Simon Callow. Both men relate different insights into the history of the
production and the editing debacle. Director Welles appears on a 1970 segment
of The Dick Cavett Show (along with second
guest Jack Lemmon) for an often-hilarious and always-entertaining half-hour
discussion. New video essays on the cinematography and Bernard Herrmann’s uncredited score (that was also chopped
up with RKO’s editing), by Francois Thomas and Christopher Husted,
respectively, are a welcome addition.
included is the silent version of Ambersons,
originally called Pampered Youth (1925),
and re-edited for the U.K. as Two to One (1927).
If that wasn’t enough, we get two Mercury Theatre radio plays: the 1939
adaptation by Welles of Ambersons (with
Welles playing the role of George), and a 1938 adaptation of Seventeen, another Booth Tarkington
creation. There’s more, such as audio interviews with Welles by Peter
Bogdanovich and at an AFI symposium, and the theatrical trailer. The booklet
comes in a stapled “manuscript” that resembles a typed screenplay. It contains
essays by authors and critics (Molly Haskell, Luc Sante, Geoffrey O’Brien,
Farran Smith Nehme, and Jonathan Lethem), and excerpts from a Welles memoir.
even in its sadly truncated form,further
illustrates the genius that was Orson Welles. This Criterion release is a
There's plenty to celebrate this time of year and at least one event isn't related to the holidays: it's the launch of Cinema Retro's 15th season. Thanks to our loyal readers, the world's most unique film magazine is entering another exciting year with every issue packed with the kind of coverage of classic cinema that you've come to expect. The season launches with issue #43 which ships shortly in the UK and Europe and in early/mid-January in North America and the rest of the world. So start the New Year off the right way by subscribing or renewing today and get all three issues for the year 2019. (Issue #44 will ship in April/May and issue #45 ships in September/October.) Don't forget, a subscription to Cinema Retro makes the perfect holiday gift for that movie lover in your life, so you can forget re-gifting the velvet painting of dogs playing poker and sign up that special someone today for a full season of great reading in print format.
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement:
Just in time for the holidays,
McFarland publications has released John Farkis’s latest book The Making of
Tombstone: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Modern Western. Which is only
appropriate as Disney/Buena Vista premiered this film on December 25, 1993, 25
years ago this month. While other books have been written about Wyatt Earp, Doc
Holliday, and the O.K. Corral, this is the only book written solely about the
making of that iconic film. With numerous behind-the-scene photos and
interviews from over 140 cast and crew members, stuntmen, extras, wranglers and
Buckaroos, this book is a virtual day-by-day summarization of how the film was
made. Starring Kurt Russell, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliott, Dana
Delany, Bill Paxton, and Val Kilmer in his Oscar-deserved role of Doc Holliday,
Tombstone is the story of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, Holliday, the Clantons and
McLaurys, and their tumultuous relationship, cumulating in the historic
gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and subsequent Vendetta ride.
Farkis details the stormy creation of
the project, from script development, financing and casting, to site location
and construction.Along the way, he also
explores Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp, which at the time, was in direct
production competition with Tombstone. In fact, Costner was
screenwriter/director Kevin Jarre’s first choice for the role of Wyatt. Known
for his screenplay of Glory (1989), Jarre was replaced early in filming by
action-director George Cosmatos. While extremely proud of their work on the
film, virtually everyone associated with the project said it was an extremely
tough, miserable experience. And Farkis details the trials and tribulations in
exquisite detail. With access to numerous script iterations, call-sheets, daily
production reports and internal communications, he unpacks the story behind the
story. Photographs supplied by cast and crew members serve to enhance this
experience. Not only does he explain the film’s concept and production, he also
describes the historical tale, from the founding of Tombstone, to the
conclusion of Earp’s Vendetta ride. And, he adds a postscript appendix of the
film’s recent 25th anniversary celebration.
Released on Monday, November26, this
book can currently be purchased through McFarland, Barnes & Noble, Amazon,
and numerous other sites. If one wishes to have a personalized autographed
copy, they can be ordered directly from the author. Jkfarkis@earthlink.net.
Relive the moving moment at the 1996 Academy Awards at which Kirk Douglas received an honorary (and well-deserved) Oscar, presented by Steven Spielberg. Though compromised by the effects of a stroke, the screen legend looked as handsome as ever and was gracious in his acceptance of the award.
Criterion has released a dual format Blu-ray/DVD edition of director Michael Mann's 1981 crime thriller Thief starring James Caan. It's a highly impressive film on many levels, especially when one considers this was Mann's big screen feature debut. He had previously directed the acclaimed 1979 TV movie The Jericho Mile, which was set in Folsom Prison. Mann was inspired by his interaction with the world of convicts and wrote the screenplay for Thief, which is credited as being based on author Frank Hohimer's novel The Home Invaders, but he maintains virtually none of the source material ended up on screen. The story centers on Frank (James Caan), a bitter man with a troubled past. As a child he was raised in state-run homes before being sent to jail for a petty crime. Inside prison, he committed violent acts in order to defend himself but this only resulted in lengthier jail terms. By the time he has been released, he has spent half of his life behind bars. While in jail, Frank befriended Okla (Willie Nelson), a older man and master thief who is doing a life sentence. He becomes Frank's mentor and father figure and teaches him the tools of the trade. When Frank is finally released, he becomes a master at his craft, which is pulling off seemingly impossible heists of cash and diamonds. Before long, he has become a legend in his field. As a cover, Frank runs a major used car dealership and a small bar. However, he realizes that his luck will certainly run out at some point and he is determined to retire after making a few more high end scores. He works with a small team consisting of two confederates (James Belushi, Willam LaValley) who are also pros in gaining access to seemingly impenetrable vaults. The headstrong Frank wants to also settle down and raise a family. He makes an awkward introduction to Jessie (Tuesday Weld), an equally head strong, down-on-her luck character who nevertheless becomes smitten by him and ends up marrying him. The couple face frustration, however, when their attempts to adopt a baby are thwarted by Frank's criminal record. Frank is ultimately approached by Leo (Robert Prosky), a local crime lord who entices him to stop working independently and pull off a high profile heist for a fortune in diamonds. Frank rejects the offer but eventually he relents, though he is reluctant to work with a new partner. Leo has managed to break through Frank's cynicism by showering him with praise the benefits of his influence, which include arranging for Frank and Jessie to illegally adopt the baby they want so desperately. The lure of being able to retire after this one huge score leads Frank to go against his better judgment and he agrees to work for Leo on this one big job. The diamonds are located in a vault so secure that it would seem to be better suited for Fort Knox. In order to break in, Frank and his team must use highly sophisticated drills and other equipment that would rival the top gear used by any branch of the military. On the verge of realizing his greatest score, however, things go terribly wrong on any number of levels. Frank, seeing his world crumble around him, goes on a violent rampage of destruction and self-destruction.
Thief is a highly stylized movie that moves at a rapid clip and features one of James Caan's strongest performances. The problem, however, is that the character of Frank is so obnoxious, he is difficult to relate to. Peckinpah, Scorsese and Coppola always had a knack for making disreputable characters seem appealing, but Frank is nasty, arrogant and self-centered. This is certainly realistic, given the bitter feelings he has toward society, but the viewer never warms to him in any meaningful way. He is only sympathetic because the people he deals with are so much worse. Nevertheless, Thief is a crackling good yarn that boasts some fine performances especially by Tuesday Weld and character actor Robert Prosky, who is brilliant in a scene-stealing role. Willie Nelson's screen time is very limited but he makes effective use of his two scenes. The film features superb cinematography by Donald E. Thorin, who made his debut here as Director of Cinematography. His night sequences on the rain-slicked streets of Chicago evoke visions of neon-lit nightmare. The film features an electronic score by Tangerine Dream, the band that provided the music for Willliam Friedkin's Sorcerer. Strangely, their score for that films holds up well but their work in Thief comes across as a bit monotonous and dated. The film's ultra-violent conclusion is exciting but rather cliched with Frank turning into yet another pissed off screen hero who decides to take down all of his enemies in an orgy of shootouts and destruction. (I know it sounds petty but I can never accept such sequences when they are set in urban neighborhoods in which no one ever seems to call the police even as houses explode and machine gun fire is sprayed all over the place.). The film excels, however, in the break-in sequences which are superbly directed and feature camerawork that make the crime scene look like an attraction from Disney World, with fireworks-like sparks filling the air.
The Criterion Blu-ray transfer is superb on every level. Extras, which are carried over to the DVD, include a commentary track by Michael Mann and James Caan that was recorded in 1995. There are also fresh video interviews with both men that are rather candid. (Caan, who has worked consistently through his career, modestly says "I was rather popular at one time" in reference to his work on the film. Mann says he is still debating in his mind whether he regrets using Tangerine Dream's score) There is also an interview with Johannes Schmoelling of the band, who discusses working with Mann to create the score. An original trailer is included as is a nicely illustrated booklet with an informative essay by film critic Nick James.
Ken Berry, who rose to fame in the 1960s as one of the stars of the "F Troop" TV series, has died at age 85. Berry entered show business thanks to the efforts of Leonard Nimoy, who was Berry's sergeant in the U.S. Army. After Nimoy left the service and entered the acting profession, he helped find opportunities for Berry, who went on to stardom in the mid-1960s as Captain Parmenter, the likable but inept commanding officer of U.S. Cavalry post in the old West that was populated by con men and incompetents. Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch co-starred with Berry in the show that ran from 1965 to 1967. When Andy Griffith decided to retire from his immensely popular sitcom, he created a spin-off series, "Mayberry R.F.D" that featured Berry as the male lead. The show defied expectations and began a ratings hit, thanks in no small part to Berry's pleasant, "guy next door" persona. Despite this, "Mayberry R.F.D" was a casualty of CBS's infamous cancellation of its most popular sitcoms because they skewed towards older, rural audiences. Berry went on to co-star in a spinoff of "The Carol Burnett Show", "Mama's Family" in the 1980s. He was also occasionally seen in feature films such as Disney's "The Cat from Outer Space" and "Herbie Rides Again". For more click here.
Those of us who share the rather unusual- and sometimes bizarre-profession of reviewing films for a living all share a nasty little secret: there are countless classic movies that we haven't seen. I'm not alone in making this mea culpa. No less than the late, great Robert Osborne, whose insightful introductions on Turner Classic Movies helped launch that channel's success, once confided in me that even he could list numerous classic movies that he had yet to catch up with. When he confessed this to Lauren Bacall, she told him that she envied him because she wish she could recapture the sheer joy of seeing a great film for the first time. I've never seen the 1942 musical "Holiday Inn". I can't say why but perhaps it's because that as a boy growing up in the Sixties, such productions seemed quaint and unappealing when I had a celluloid tidal wave of WWII flicks, Westerns and Bond-inspired spy movies. After all, John Wayne and Steve McQueen never danced on film, so why bother watching anyone else do so? Thus, when I attended the Papermill Playhouse's stage production of the much-beloved Irving Berlin song fest, I was in the unique position of not being acquainted with the property at all. At the risk of invoking the names of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, to be sure. However, the Papermill has outdone itself in presenting the ultimate "feel good" production for the holiday season.
The story is as sappy and sentimental as I suspected when I was a kid, but with the passing of decades, I've warmed to sappy and sentimental musicals and "Holiday Inn" turns the old concept of "Hey, kids- we can put the show on in the barn!" into a slight variation that boils down to "Hey, kids- we can put the show on right here at the inn!". The story opens with a song and dance trio just finishing a successful engagement. They are Jim Hardy (Nicholas Rodriguez), his girlfriend and dance partner Lila Dixon (Paige Faure) and Ted Hanover (Jeff Kready). Backstage, Jim drops a bombshell by proposing to Lila and announcing that they can now leave show business and move to a farm he has just purchased sight unseen in rural Connecticut. Although Lila accepts the marriage proposal, she says she wants to continue the act on the road for another six months with Ted while Jim prepares the farm for her to move in following their marriage. Jim agrees but when he gets to the historic Mason Farm that he has purchased, he discovers he's been snookered. The place is run down and he is immediately served with demands to pay back taxes and assorted other staggering debts he didn't know existed. While he struggles to cope, he is visited by Linda Mason (Hayley Podschun), the previous owner the farm, which had been in her family for generations. Seems Linda couldn't afford the upkeep and had been evicted, thus allowing Jim to secure the place while in foreclosure. In a coincidence that only occurs in musicals of this type, she is attractive and has a talent for performing on stage, though she gave up her career to become a teacher when sufficient opportunities didn't appear for her to make a living in show business. Jim imposes on her to sing a bit and he recognizes she has star power. Meanwhile, Lila makes a surprise visit and confesses she is so caught up in her own thriving career that she is calling off the marriage and going back on the road with Ted. You don't have to be the kind of person who wears a deerstalker hat and smokes a pipe to detect what happens next: Jim falls head over heels for Linda and they devise a plan to transform the failing farm into a hotel that presents musical productions. The plan proves to be an immediate success, drawing crowds from far and wide but things unravel when Ted turns up and announces that Lila has kicked him to the curb and broken up their act when a millionaire proposed to her. Desperate to jump start his career, Ted worms his way into the inn's revue, in the process falling for Linda, who is clearly smitten by Ted's talents as well as he egotistical self-assurance which is in contrast to Jim's modest nature.
The well-oiled plot device of a city slicker finding himself hapless as a farmer must date back to the invention of celluloid but it persists because it's a genuinely funny one, as evidenced by films such as "The Egg and I", "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House", "The Money Pit" and the still amusing "Green Acres" 1960s TV series. The fish-out-water concept provides some genuine laughs but it is the wealth of Berlin songs that elevate "Holiday Inn" to a special status. Just consider all of these classic numbers in one show: "Heat Wave", "Blue Skies", "Happy Holiday", "Cheek to Cheek", "Easter Parade" and a little number called "White Christmas" that might actually catch on. All of them are superbly performed by a flawless and talented cast under the outstanding musical direction of Shawn Gough with equally impressive choreography by Denis Jones. Gordon Greenberg is the director of the overall production which practically had the enthusiastic audience dancing in the aisles. Kudos to costume designer Alejo Vietti for providing some eye-popping creations and especially to scene designer Anna Louizos, whose creative sets are not only impressive but are miraculously changed literally in the blink of an eye without the slightest interruption. The four leads in the show illustrate the Papermill's painstaking casting process pays off. Rodriguez, Podschun, Kready and Faure are delightful to watch throughout. Each of them has the ability to knock 'em dead during the musical numbers but they also deliver the witty bon mots in a style that ensures big laughs. There is also a spot-on supporting performance by Ann Harada as a local handywoman who finds plenty of work repairing Jim's dilapidated inn. The book has been tweaked a slight bit to make the dialogue more relevant for today's audiences but there are some quaint references to Connecticut as a dull, largely rural state, which gets big laughs from tri-state audiences who have suffered the endless traffic jams on the I-95 corridor.The film version was released in 1942 during the early days of WWII, which accounts for the sentimental success of "White Christmas", but for reasons unknown, the stage production takes place in 1946. A notorious blackface musical number in praise of Abraham Lincoln that appeared in the film has also been mercifully left out of the stage production.
The Papermill's presentation of "Holiday Inn" illustrates why the venue is the gold standard of regional playhouses. The show delighted the audience so much that even the rude nitwits that generally walk out before the show ends in order to get a head start on reaching the parking lot seemed transfixed by all the talent on stage and remained to join in the roaring standing ovation. It's the perfect holiday show and runs through December 30. Don't miss it.
great Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti’s film The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)
will be the subject of a 55th anniversary screening at three Los
Angeles theatres. The 187-minute film, which stars Burt
Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Terrence Hill, and Paola Stoppa,
will be screened on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 7:00 pm. This
is the Italian language version with English subtitles.
From the press release:
Part of our Anniversary Classics series. For details, visit: laemmle.com/ac.
THE LEOPARD (1963)
55th Anniversary Screenings at Three Laemmle Locations
Wednesday, December 5 at 7:00 PM
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present 55th anniversary
screenings of acclaimed director Luchino Visconti’s sumptuous masterpiece, THE
LEOPARD ('Il Gattopardo'). The film will close out the year for the popular
Anniversary Classics Abroad program of showcasing vintage foreign-language
THE LEOPARD is based on the historical novel by Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa,
an international best seller upon publication in 1958. The story is set in the
1860s during the turbulent period of the “Risorgimento,” the struggle for the
unification of Italy. All this is reflected in the fate of one Sicilian
aristocratic family, headed by Prince Fabrizio de Salina (Burt Lancaster). The
Prince (the Leopard) at first resists all the political and social changes, but
comes to accept them after their embrace by his pragmatic nephew (Alain Delon),
who joins Garibaldi’s Red Shirts and marries the daughter (Claudia Cardinale)
of an ambitious small-town merchant-mayor to secure the family’s place in the
new Italy. Visconti was drawn to the material about fading aristocracy from his
own heritage, as he was born to nobility in Milan. He had previously explored
his country’s past with another historical adaptation, Senso, in 1954, and that
film is also considered a masterwork.
THE LEOPARD won the Palme D’or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and has been
reissued on several occasions. The film is notable for its rich production
design by Mario Garbuglia, cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno, and
Oscar-nominated costume design by Piero Tosi, who won an honorary Oscar in
2014. The original release reaped praise from The New York Times’ Bosley
Crowther, who called it “a stunning visualization of a mood of melancholy and
nostalgia at the passing of an age.” Admiration has grown through the decades,
with The London Observer calling it “that rare thing—a great film from a great
book.” J. Hoberman in the Village Voice exclaimed, “The greatest film of its
kind since World War II.” Martin Scorsese is one of the film’s champions,
placing it on his own personal list of the 12 greatest films ever made,
extolling “the deeply measured tone…its use of vast spaces, and also the
richness of every detail.” As a lament for a lost world, the film is considered
Italy’s 'Gone With the Wind.'
Terrence Hill (Mario Girotti) and Paola Stoppa co-star. Music by Nino Rota ('La
Strada,' 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'The Godfather'). Visconti co-wrote the screenplay
with Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, and Massimo
THE LEOPARD screens December 5 at 7:00 PM at the Playhouse, Royal, and Town
Director: Luchino Visconti
Writers: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (novel), Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Pasquale
Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, and Massimo Franciosca (screenplay)
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Terrence Hill (Mario
Girotti) and Paola Stoppa.
for tickets and theatre locations/information.
It took Sean Connery years to successfully cast aside the shadow of James Bond and establish himself as a diverse actor. Connery had made some fine non-Bond films even during the peak of 007 mania - The Hill, Woman of Straw, A Fine Madness and Marnie. Each of these worthy efforts afforded Connery a role that was significantly different than that of Bond but, much to his frustration, all of them were box-office disappointments, although he did have the satisfaction of seeing The Hill win international acclaim. When Connery left the Bond series in 1968, he made some more fine films. The Western Shalako was an international box-office success, as was The Anderson Tapes, which cast him as a charismatic crook. Yet, Martin Ritt's The Molly Maguires, an ambitious film about exploited coal miners, failed to click with audiences, as did The Red Tent, which afforded Connery top-billing even though he only had a supporting role. Connery returned to the Bond fold in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever and then quit the part once again. He gave one of the finest performances of his career in Sidney Lumet's micro-budget drama The Offence, but it played in only a few art houses before slipping into oblivion. John Boorman's Zardoz, which has attracted a cult following today, was a critical and box-office flop at the time of its release, as was a minor Connery thriller The Terrorists (aka Ransom). But Connery was not about to be counted out. He scored with Murder on the Orient Express, The Wind and the Lion, Robin and Marian, The Great Train Robbery and, most significantly, The Man Who Would Be King. All were critical successes even if they were not blockbusters. Connery also played a key role in the WWII epic A Bridge Too Far, a fine and underrated film. Soon thereafter, however, his choice of film projects became erratic. Although the films Cuba, Wrong is Right and Outland all under-performed at the box-office, they at least afforded him the opportunity to work with acclaimed directors Richard Lester, Richard Brooks and Peter Hyams, respectively. But the cheesy disaster flick Meteor could only be attributed to the desire to make a fast buck.
As Connery matured as a man and actor he still would take on films with limited commercial appeal if he felt the project was artistically rewarding. This was the case with the 1982 film Five Days One Summer which proved to be the final cinematic work of Oscar-winning director Fred Zinnemann, who had made such classics as High Noon and From Here to Eternity. Zinnemann had scored a late career triumph in 1977 with Julia but hadn't made a film since. The movie was an odd choice for both men since the story was small in scale and seemed to have no hope of attracting mainstream audiences. Five Days is very much an art house movie that was nevertheless given wide release based solely on Connery's presence as the leading man. Predictably, it had a quick playoff to largely empty theaters but perhaps more surprisingly, the critics who had lauded Zinnemann with praise for Julia now accused him of making a film that was too small in scope for a collaborative project with Sean Connery. Zinnemann was seventy-four years old when he made the movie and perhaps he felt he had paid his dues to the big studios over the decades. Now in the twilight of his years he might have simply wanted to make a very personal film that appealed to him, if not everyone else. The script is based on a 1929 short story, Maiden Maiden by Kay Boyle. The film was shot under this title before the decision was made to change it to the equally ambiguous Five Days One Summer. In fact, Maiden Maiden was a more intriguing title because it has a dual reference. The first is the the female protagonist of the story and the second is to The Maiden, an imposing mountain in the Swiss Alps where some dramatic events occur. The story concerns the taboo relationship between Kate (Betsy Brantley), an attractive young woman in her mid-twenties and her uncle Douglas (Sean Connery), a successful doctor in his fifties. Since she was a little girl Kate has had an uncontrollable crush on Douglas and as she grew older, came to resent his wife Sarah (Jennifer Hilary). Director Zinnemann zig-zags back and forth in time to show how a schoolgirl crush developed into a forbidden sexual relationship that finds Kate excluding any other potential lover in favor of Douglas. She alternates between joy and depression, the latter mood hitting her whenever she dwells on the fact that she can never be in anything but a secret relationship with the man she loves. Even if Douglas were to get a divorce, the incestuous love affair could never be made public.
The main part of the film concerns Douglas and Kate pulling off a risky holiday trip that will allow them to spend time together in a remote lodge in the Swiss Alps where they can indulge in their mutual passion for hiking and climbing. To avoid any suspicions, she poses as Douglas's wife in a May/December romance. At first she is as giddy as a schoolgirl because she can finally share a bed with Douglas and they can openly express affection for each other. Things get complicated, however, when their hiking guide turns out to be Johann (Lambert Wilson), a handsome young man who is Kate's age. From minute one he awakens long suppressed sexual desires in her for someone other than Douglas, who immediately perceives the unspoken attraction between the two. The trio enjoy a cordial and professional relationship as the hike and take in the scenic wonders around them. However, Johann becomes more forthright when he learns that Kate isn't married to Douglas (though she does not confide he is her uncle). Johann is outraged and tries to convince her to leave him, telling her that she is in a dead-end love affair with a married man that can't end well. Meanwhile, on a dangerous hike with Douglas, Johann also confronts him while they are atop the summit of the Maiden (not the most opportune place to have an argument with each other.) Douglas maintains that he is not using Kate and really loves her. Meanwhile, she has made up her mind to leave Douglas and marry Johann. Before she can give Douglas a "Dear John" letter, word comes that there has been a disaster on the mountain and that one of the men in her life has been killed in an avalanche. In the final scene, she sees a distant figure emerging from the snowy mountain landscape, staggering towards her and a group of rescuers. Is it her lover or her would-be lover? Either way, the result will affect her life in a dramatic way forever.
"Five Days One Summer" has been likened to the German "mountain romances" that were enormously popular in pre-WWII Germany. These films were known to have skimpy plots but magnificent scenery. If critics were kind to any aspect of the movie, it was Giussepe Rotunno's impressive cinematographer. Most reviewers wondered what it was about this modest story that appealed to Fred Zinnemann, who worked infrequently but generally made "important" movies. Despite the low-key nature of the scenario that unfolds on-screen, there is much to like about the film. The performances are first-rate with newcomers Brantley and Wilson making both faring well in their first major roles in a feature film. (Ironically, Wilson screen-tested for the role of James Bond in "Octopussy" when it seemed doubtful that Roger Moore would return to the 007 franchise.) Connery dominates the film, however, with an excellent performance playing a complex character who at times is sympathetic and at other times somewhat of a villain. He's all superficial charm but he cruelly risks destroying his niece's own life by using her as a bed mate. There's no doubt he loves her, but it's clear he isn't about to endanger his marriage to be closer to her. When she finally expresses her frustration and threatens to leave him for Johann, he reacts violently and slaps her. Equally complex is the character of Kate. We're left to speculate as to just why her obsession with Douglas has presumably led to the exclusion of any other men in her life. In this respect, the script is either lacking or intriguing, depending upon the views of individuals in the audience. The only easily definable character is that of Johann. He's a young man of simple means who has no interest in the world outside of the immediate domain in which he was raised. When he is smitten by Kate, his goal isn't to share her life experiences but rather, to incorporate her into his own world. In this respect, Kate's choices of lovers have one thing in common: they both want her to submit to their ideas about what is in her best interests. Douglas has clearly deluded himself into believing that his relationship with Kate is not harmful to her. Johann offers her a more independent, traditional life but still makes it clear that if she marries him, she would have to be content to live in a beautiful but remote mountain region. The end of the tale finds Kate finally exerting her own will and finding a determination to pursue her own destiny.
"Five Days One Summer" is barely remembered, let alone discussed, in evaluations of Sean Connery and Fred Zinnemann's careers. However that shouldn't negate its many merits. I liked the film far more today than I did upon its initial release. The Warner Archive has released the film on DVD. The transfer is a bit problematic. Some of the sequences in the lush mountain areas do justice to the magnificent cinematography but certain other scenes have excessive grain. Additionally, interiors are over-saturated to the point that characters who are seen in dimly lit rooms are sometimes reduced to shadowy blobs. The film is a prime candidate for a Blu-ray, remastered edition. The only bonus extra is the original trailer. It is a region-free release.
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In a worthy attempt to focus attention on the work of writer/producer/director/actor Delmer Daves, Criterion has released a Blu-ray edition of his 1956 Western Jubal. It's a rather odd choice for the label, which specializes in gold-standard editions of established classics and revered cult films. On the surface, Jubal may sound like a standard horse opera, especially with the title role played by reliable-but-unexciting Glenn Ford. However, the reason why Criterion sought to have the movie re-evaluated is immediately apparent. This is an unusually mature Western with a very dramatic story line that builds in intensity under Daves' assured direction. Ford plays Jubal Troop, a troubled loner and drifter, who is saved from certain death in the mountains by Shep Horgan (Ernest Borgnine), a boisterous but kind prominent rancher who nurses Jubal back to health and rewards him with a job on his ranch. It isn't long before Jubal proves his worth and impresses Shep enough to make him the new foreman- an act that offends and alienates another, long-time ranch hand, "Pinky" Pinkus (Rod Steiger), who had sought the position himself. Jubal's seemingly idyllic situation is further hampered by the fact that Shep's sultry Canadian wife Mae (Valerie French) is disgusted by her husband's boorish behavior and his tendency to treat her as a prized steer. Clearly suffering from sexual frustration, the isolated woman exists in a world of misogynistic men. It isn't long before she's making eyes at Jubal, who must summon all of his willpower to resist her advances out of respect for his friendship with Shep. Adding to the rising tensions is the fact that Mae had once had a fling with "Pinky" and he can't accept the fact that she now favors Jubal. The intricate plot takes numerous turns leading to Mae's manipulation of Shep and Jubal by implying to her husband that she has slept with his ranch foreman. This sets in motion a series of tragic circumstances.
Although Daves is best known for his seminal Western 3:10 to Yuma, there is much in Jubal that rivals that classic. Daves makes full use of the magnificent Wyoming locations, using the widescreen process as effectively as George Stevens did with Shane. While the personal relationships of the principal characters are perpetually in crisis mode, Daves seems to use the sweeping cinematography to intentionally dwarf the key players, as though to imply that, in the end, we're all just rather inconsequential figures in nature's landscape. The performances are all first rate, and this may well be the most effective performance of Glenn Ford's career. His low-key approach to acting has often been dismissed as boring, but Ford always brought a quiet intensity and "guy next door" quality to each of his performances. As Jubal, he's just a shy man who wants to get through the demons of his past by starting a new life that is unblemished by personal stress. Instead, he finds himself in the unlikely situation of being embroiled in a cauldron of sexual tension, betrayal and violent death. Ernest Borgnine is terrific as the hapless Shep, a likable "man's man" who remains oblivious to the fact that the wife he so adores has nothing but contempt for him. Rod Steiger seems a bit out of place here, as he as always seemed far more comfortable in gritty, urban dramas. Valerie French practically steams up the screen as the femme fatale at the heart of the deception that endangers the men in her life. She clearly the villain, but you can't help but empathize with her plight, which must have mirrored that of countless women of the plains: she is trapped in a man's world of endless work with little appreciation for her femininity beyond her "duty" to provide sex.
The Criterion transfer is flawless and the colors leap off the screen. Frustratingly, the film is devoid of any bonus extras. It would have been a nice touch to hear a film scholar discuss the film and Daves' work in general. However, there is a booklet that contains a lengthy and informative essay by Kent Jones. If you like Western, this one is a "must".
quirky, and often brilliant director Robert Altman had a hit-and-miss career
spanning six decades. After a mostly spectacular run of cutting-edge comedies
and dramas in the 1970s, Altman’s pictures in the 1980s faltered. He lost some
of the value in his stock that he had gained after such hits as M*A*S*H and Nashville. However, he had a strong come-back in the 1990s with The Player and Short Cuts, and he made a few more interesting movies in the last
ten years of his life.
of these was The Gingerbread Man,
based on an original story by legal-thriller author John Grisham. Apparently,
Grisham had also tried his hand at the screenplay, too, and successfully sold
it. Altman, however, rewrote it himself, and then Al Hayes (credited for the
film’s screenplay) finished it. Curiously, the picture is more of an action
crime-thriller than it is a legal-thriller.
actor Kenneth Branagh plays an American lawyer from the south (and convincingly
delivers the accent) who takes on as a client (and also sleeps with) a
high-maintenance young woman (Embeth Davidtz) who wants to put away her crazy
and violent father (Robert Duvall). Branagh must additionally and simultaneously
navigate his dysfunctional personal life with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and
kids, his sleazy private investigator (Robert Downey, Jr., in an entertainingly
bizarre performance), and his client’s ex-husband (Tom Berenger).
some good stuff here. While it cannot be placed in the upper tier of Altman’s oeuvre, it’s a solid middle-ground piece
that owes much to the director’s penchant for never doing what one might expect.
Hollywood lore tells us that the studio tried to pull an Orson Welles/Touch of Evil on him by re-editing the
picture without Altman’s knowledge—but the director’s version tested better, so
luckily that’s what we got.
Lorber’s new Blu-ray restoration looks fine and comes with 5.1 Surround and 2.0
Lossless Audio. Robert Altman does his own commentary, a delightful voice from
the past who ponders his film with detached amusement. Other supplements
include the theatrical trailer and other Kino Lorber release trailers.
Grisham fans may be disappointed by the lack of courtroom shenanigans, but
Altman aficionados will appreciate The
Gingerbread Man as another entry in the filmmaker’s hearty and diverse
A controversy over the style of drapes for a mansion's library would not seem to be the fodder for a sizzling screen drama but it is the catalyst for the events that unwind in The Cobweb, a 1955 soap opera that involves the talents of some very impressive actors and filmmakers. The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by John Houseman, based on the bestselling novel by William Gibson. The cast features an impressive array of seasoned veterans as well as up-and-comers. Among them: Richard Widmark, Lauren, Bacall, Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame, Lillian Gish, Oscar Levant, Susan Strasberg and John Kerr. The action all takes place in a psychiatric institute called "The Castle". It's actually a mansion house and the patients are seemingly there voluntarily. They are an assortment of eclectic types ranging from elderly eccentrics to young people with severe problems interacting with others. The nominal head of the institute is Dr. Devenal (Charles Boyer), an erudite, once-respected professional who long ago ceded actual power to his second-in-command, Dr. Stewart MacIver (Richard Widmark), who has implemented very progressive and controversial theories about patient treatment that involve giving those afflicted with psychiatric disorders a voice in the policies and events pertaining to the institute. He's routinely criticized for going too far in trying to build patient self-esteem but MacIver is convinced that such programs are the only way to ensure that those in his care can become self-sustaining members of society. The Castle is hardly the kind of loony bin depicted in most Hollywood films of the era. In fact, it looks more like an upscale bed and breakfast. Everyone is nattily dressed, exceedingly polite and indulges in social activities. MacIver is the one who seems closest to a complete breakdown. His marriage to his sultry young wife Karen (Gloria Grahame) is on the skids. She accuses him of being a workaholic who puts his career before the needs of his wife and young son (Tommy Rettig). On a more personal level, she makes it clear that she is sexually frustrated, as MacIver has moved into a separate bedroom, telling Karen that she is a self-obsessed party girl. There is truth in both accusations. The chain smoking MacIver does seem to be married to his job. Predictably, things get more complicated when MacIver has an affair with a co-worker at the institute (Lauren Bacall) and Karen's ill-conceived flirtations with the perpetually horny Dr. Devenal backfire and cause distress for both of them. The fragile tranquility among the patients also becomes strained when a controversy erupts over MacIver's plan to allow them to design and create new draperies for the library. This inspires the most problematic inmate, a young man named Steve Holte (John Kerr) who is traditionally anti-social but who comes alive by using his creative talents for the project. However, the institute's busy-body secretary, Victoria Inch (Lillian Gish) has already ordered expensive draperies from a company and she objects to using the patients' creations. This sets in motion a series of dramatic circumstances that has major consequences for all the main characters.
The premise of the screenplay reads like something out of a Monty Python sketch and critics at the time of the film's release pointed out the absurdity of having draperies serve as the catalyst for such dark goings-on. The film was considered a major disappointment and has largely been forgotten. However, looking at the movie today, one is impressed with the sheer amount of talent involved in the production. It should also be pointed out that saying the movie is about curtains is as inaccurate as saying The Titanic is a movie about icebergs. In fact, The Cobweb is a reasonably compelling drama that sustains interest despite an "everything but the kitchen" sink formula for introducing crisis after crisis for the main characters and a tacked on happy ending that deviated from the book. Widmark is a commanding screen presence and Gloria Grahame excels as his sex-starved wife. Grahame completely overshadows the presence of Lauren Bacall, who underplays to the point of invisibility. There is also a scene-stealing performance by Lillian Gish as an insecure administrator with no life outside of her office duties and who is immediately threatened by any incursion into her spheres of influence. Charles Boyer is an odd but inspired choice as the institute's director, a man who has sold out in terms of his professional ethics simply to enjoy a cozy life and a fat pay check. John Kerr and Susan Strasberg also impress as anti-social young people who predictably become attracted to each other.
The Cobweb is a potboiler, pure and simple. While it's not a "lost classic" by any means, it seems the film does deserve to be re-evaluated for its many merits.
The movie is available on DVD through the Warner Archive and is region-free. The transfer is very good and includes the original theatrical trailer.
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Nicolas Roeg, the supremely talented British cinematographer who ultimately became an acclaimed director, has died at age 90. Roeg's unique eye for filming scenes in a creative manner gained him a reputation in the movie industry in the 1960s. He was a second-unit photographer on David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and contributed to Lean's "Doctor Zhivago". By 1964, he was credited as Director of Photography on Roger Corman's "The Masque of the Red Death", one of the most stylishly filmed Corman horror productions. Soon, he found himself constantly in demand. Other films he photographed included "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", "Far from the Madding Crowd" and "Petulia". He also contributed to the 1967 spoof version of "Casino Royale".
Roeg next moved into the Director's chair with the bizarre and controversial 1970 crime film "Performance" that has since become a cult classic. Better received was "Walkabout", which- as with "Performance"- he both directed and served as DP. In 1973, Roeg directed his most acclaimed film, the horror thriller "Don't Look Now" which maintains its reputation as one of the most terrifying films ever made. His other notable movies include "The Man Who Fell to Earth", "Bad Timing" and "Castaway". Most of his films made since the 1980s were quirky in content and made little impact. Roeg's sometimes crusty nature also put him out of favor with major studios and he turned to the television industry where he occasionally directed TV movies. However, his best films are still revered by movie scholars worldwide. Click here for more.
Bertolucci on location for "Last Tango in Paris" with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in 1972.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Bernardo Bertolucci, the acclaimed Italian director, has died in Rome at age 77. The cause of death was not immediately revealed. Bertolucci won an Oscar for his direction of the 1987 film "The Last Emperor" and also received acclaim for his earlier films that included "The Spider's Stratagem" and "The Conformist". A left-wing Marxist through much of his life, Bertolucci also directed the 1976 epic "1900" which was steeped in political overtones. His most famous and notorious film was "Last Tango in Paris" (1972), which was non-political but highly controversial. It's graphic sexual content was the cause of international controversy and resulted in Bertolucci being charged with obscenity in his native Italy. The film starred Marlon Brando in the tale of a depressed, middle-aged American ex-pat who indulges in a series of anonymous sexual encounters with a teenage Parisian girl (Maria Schneider.) The movie was highly praised in some quarters while being denounced as pretentious pornography in others. Largely on the strength of Brando's powerful performance, the movie was an international boxoffice smash despite the fact that it was basically fare for art house cinemas. Both Brando and Bertolucci received Oscar nominations for the film. Bertolucci also directed the 1979 drama "Luna" which was also controversial for its overtones of an incestuous relationship between a mother and her teenage son. He would go on to also direct "The Sheltering Sky", "The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man". "The Sheltering Sky", "Stealing Beauty". "The Dreamers" and "Me and You". For New York Times coverage, click here.
seventh grade English teacher was an interesting character. From 1981 to 1982 he
encouraged us to write our own stories and introduced us to collections of macabre
short stories in paperback format (he even read us a story that he wrote
himself, about a man who cooks and eats his wife!) The names Richard Matheson,
George Clayton Johnson, Charles Beaumont and the like became household names to
me, just a few years before I dove head first into Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone as these masters of
storytelling frequently adapted these stories from Alfred Hitchcock paperback collections
into episodes of that extraordinary series. They were classy, spooky, and
bereft of violence and gore and sent a chill down one’s spine.
you mention the character names of Julie, Millicent, Therese, and Amelia to
die-hard horror film fans over the age of forty, they will no doubt recognize
them as the characters portrayed by the late actress Karen Black in what is
unquestionably one of her most famous horror outings, Dan Curtis’s made-for-TV
movie Trilogy of Terror. Originally
aired on the ABC Movie of the Week on Tuesday, March 4, 1975, the film was
presented with the warning, “Due to mature subject matter, parental discretion
as the title tells us, there are three stories, or segments. The first is
“Julie,” adapted by author William F. Nolan from the short story “The Likeness
of Julie” by the late-great author Richard Matheson which first appeared in the
Ballantine Books collection Alone by
Night: Tales of Unlimited Horror in 1962. A college student, Chad Foster (Robert
Burton, Karen Black’s then-husband whose casting in the film compelled Ms.
Black to sign on to the three-segment project) cannot help but notice his English
teacher’s thigh, and wonders what she must look like under the minimal war
paint and her plain-Jane clothes. He watches her through a window as she undresses
and then gets the idea to ask her out on a date but Julie initially refuses,
then later accepts. They go to a drive-in movie and Chad spikes Julie’s drink
which puts her to sleep. Chad drives her to a motel and photographs her in
various sexually suggestive positions. He develops the photos in a darkroom and
shows her the photos. Julie is furious, and the story ends with a strange
twist. “Julie” is elliptical in a way, the structure calling to mind John
Fowles’s The Collector (1963). Actor
Gregory Harrison has a small cameo in this segment.
second story, “Millicent and Therese”, adapted also by Mr. Nolan from Mr.
Matheson’s story “Needle in the Heart” which was originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in October
1969, is arguably the weakest of the three. Millicent is a sexually repressed
woman with dark hair who fights with her twin sister Therese who is sexually
free and blonde. Millicent truly believes that Therese is evil and creates a
voodoo doll with the desire to kill her. Dr. Ramsey (George Gaines of Punky Brewster), Millicent’s
psychiatrist, does his best to help her, although the ending can be sensed from
a mile away. In lieu of “Millicent and Therese”, I would have liked to
have seen a version of Mr. Matheson’s “The Children of Noah” appear in this
collection, a short story that I read in that classroom in 1982. It left quite
an impression on me.
third and final segment is called “Amelia” and is based upon Mr. Matheson’s
short story “Prey”, originally published in the April 1969 issue of Playboy
Magazine. Mr. Matheson wrote the teleplay adaptation of his own source material
and it is this segment that has given Trilogy
of Terror its notoriety as being one of the scariest TV-movies of all-time.
Ms. Black plays the titular woman, Amelia, who has finally gotten away from her
physically overbearing mother. After spending a few hours shopping, Amelia
returns to her new apartment with a package containing a horrifically scary
wooden doll of an aboriginal warrior that possesses sharp teeth, a spear and a gold
chain that, according to the paper that accompanies it, must remain intact on
the doll in order to prevent it from coming to life. It is just the sort of
thing that any single woman would want to bring into their home.
mother still holds a sway over her and a one-sided telephone conversation
reveals that despite moving out, Amelia still feels guilty about her renewed
independence. Unfortunately, the chain on the Zuni hunter doll falls off, and
Amelia becomes embroiled in a life and death struggle against the crazed
spirit. Director Curtis employs many effective cinematic devices that make this
episode truly frightening, including low-to-the-ground P.O.V. shots of the doll
chasing Amelia, screaming and brandishing its spear. The creepy ending and
terrifying final shot make this segment the hands-down winner in a rather
uneven overall film. Try to imagine seeing this segment in 1975. The violence
and bloodletting alone was unprecedented for its time. The nightmares that this
segment must have induced in children no doubt still linger to this day.
Matheson, who is most famous for his short story “Duel” which appeared in the
April 1971 issue of Playboy Magazine and inspired the television movie of the
same name, directed by Steven Spielberg, collaborated again with Mr. Curtis in
1976 on Dead of Night (1977), another
creepy TV-movie that consists of three segments.
Cobert brings his own special brand of musical spookiness to the film. He and
Mr. Curtis certainly made quite a team! Perhaps not on the order of Hitchcock
and Herrmann, but very close.
"The Shakiest Gun in the West" was one of the feature film Don Knotts starred in for Universal after leaving his role as Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show"- a role that saw him win multiple Emmy awards. Released in 1968, the comedy is as plain vanilla as all of Knotts's Universal flicks, as it's family friendly throughout. There is one unusual aspect to this production, however, in that it is a remake of the 1948 Bob Hope comedy hit "The Paleface". Directed by Alan Rafkin, who helmed Knotts's first film for Universal, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken", "Shakiest" follows the formula that Knotts knew his fans wanted to see. He always played essentially the same character- a likable nerd with a lack of self-esteem who blunders into becoming a local hero only to be discredited and shamed. The conclusion of every Knotts film finds him performing some act of extraordinary courage that results in him becoming a legitimate hero and winning the girl, as well. Oh, yes, there's usually a scene in which Knotts's character ends up getting very drunk, thus allowing Knotts to slip and slobber, much to the delight of his audience. Although the original film was written for Bob Hope, a few tweaks by long-time "Andy Griffith Show" screenwriters Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum easily convert the story into a suitable vehicle for Knott's signature nervous guy persona. Both Hope and Knotts excelled at playing cowards. Hope would respond to dangerous situations with a string of quips delivered with the rapidity of a machine gun. Knotts, however, would fall physically and mentally into a virtual nervous breakdown. The result was always amusing and Knotts lived by the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Audiences- especially in rural areas- made his modestly-budgeted feature films very profitable.
"Shakiest" opens in Philadelphia in 1870. Knotts plays Jesse Heywood, a dental student who must complete an examination on a patient in order to get his degree in dentistry. Unfortunately, the patient is a woman who refuses to open her mouth. Jesse tries to cajole her with childlike sweet talk but when she still refuses, the situation turns into a physical battle royal with both of them engaging in a knock-down wrestling match that starts the film off on a very funny note. Jesse then decides to follow the advice of Horace Greeley and "Go West, young man." Presuming there is a dearth of available dentists in the newly-settled territories, the meek city slicker joins a wagon train (after being bilked by used-wagon salesman Carl Ballantine). A simultaneous plot line revolves around Penelope Cushings (Barbara Rhoades), a vivacious redhead who also happens to be a notorious bandit. When federal agents catch up to her, she is offered a deal: she can avoid a jail sentence if she acts as an undercover agent for the government and joins the wagon train to find out who among the passengers are intending to smuggle a cache of rifles to the Indians. At the last minute, the agent who was to pose as her husband is shot dead, leaving her with a dilemma: no single woman can be unaccompanied on the wagon train. Desperate, she uses Jesse as a pawn, fawning over the incredulous newly-minted dentist who can hardly believe his good fortune. Within hours they end up getting married but the minute the ink is dry on the license, Penelope gives a cold shoulder to her new husband. (The only sexually suggestive aspect to the film revolves around a running gag of Jesse being increasingly frustrated by his wife's stalling techniques when it comes to consummating their marriage.)
Once the wagon train is on the move, Penelope snoops around for the gun smugglers, who turn out to be a phony preacher (Donald Barry) and his partner (Jackie Coogan) who are secreting the weapons inside cases marked as containing bibles. Along the way, Jesse allows his wagon to fall behind the others and it is attacked by Indians. In mounting a seemingly futile defense, he is shocked to find that he has killed a dozen of his attackers, not realizing that the deadly shots were actually fired by Penelope. When word gets out of his achievement, Jesse is hailed and feted as a hero. The legend is reinforced when he is challenged by a notorious outlaw, Arnold the Kid (Robert Yuro), who is also slain in a gundown with Penelope secretly firing the fatal shot. (Shades of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"!) Ultimately, Jesse learns the truth and courageously admits to his fellow travelers that he really isn't a hero. He is rewarded for his honesty by being shunned and mocked. His misfortune continues with the admission by Penelope that she was only using him as part of her cover operation. The dejected Jesse is at a low point in his life when Penelope is kidnapped by the gun smugglers and brought to the Indian camp. Determined to save her, Jesse manages to locate the camp and infiltrate it while dressed as an Indian maiden(!). Needless to say, he finds his inner strength and in acts of courage saves the day and redeems his reputation.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Park Circus:
Park Circus is delighted to announce that Home
Alone will return to the big screen this December. The 1990 Christmas
comedy caper, which introduced us to Macaulay Culkin for the first time, as
Kevin, will screen at selected cinemas across the UK and Ireland from 5
All Kevin McCallister wants for Christmas is for his
family to disappear. So, when he wakes to discover that they have accidentally
left for their Christmas trip without him and that his wish has come true, he
does what any kid would do – he parties! But when he learns that two burglars
with a Christmas list of their own are working their way up the block, he is
forced to defend the family home on his own and sets about decking the halls
with ingenious traps to hold the thieves at bay until his relatives come home.
Perfectly paced, with a brilliant cast anchored by a
shining performance from Culkin, the film is both funny and touching. Home
Alone has something for everyone of all ages – and this Christmas will be
the perfect chance to see it back on the big screen.
Virgil Films has released the remarkable documentary "The Coolest Guy Movie Ever", a unique look at the 1963 WWII classic "The Great Escape". The film cemented Steve McQueen as a newly-minted superstar of the big screen and featured one of the all-time great casts: James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, Donald Pleasence, James Donald among them. United Artists originally intended the movie to be shot in Hollywood but director John Sturges argued that it would only be convincing if shot on location in Germany. "The Coolest Guy Movie Ever" visits those locations and presents how they look today. In some cases, the iconic locations have changed considerably while others remain instantly recognizable. The documentary was conceived, directed, photographed and edited by Christophe Espenan, a devoted fan of the film. Espenan and a team of dedicated assistants and enthusiasts of the movie painstakingly tracked down even the most minor locations. The documentary details the challenges this presented in Germany's ever-changing landscape. Most vitally, he also tracked down people whose families interacted with the film crew. Most interesting is the small hotel where key members of the cast, including Steve McQueen, stayed during production. The son of the couple who ran the hotel at the time (and who still operates it today) gives first-hand memories of what it was like to have legendary celebrities staying in the cozy venue and how polite everyone was to the family. The documentary is chock full of such wonderful anecdotes and is enhanced by ample film clips from the movie and very rare production photos.
We spoke to Joe Amodei, the President and CEO of Virgil Films, which has released the film as a region-free DVD. Here, Amodei shares his thoughts about the production.
did you first learn of the existence of “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever”
Somewhere around three years ago Steven Jay Rubin
introduced me to Chris Espenan who was directing the doc. I had previously
released Steve’s documentary “East LA Marine” about WWII hero Guy Gabaldon.
Steve knew I was a “Great Escape” fan and told me about the movie. I
immediately said “Tally Ho, I am in.”
attracted you in terms of agreeing to distribute the film through Virgil?
”The Great Escape” was the film that did it for me as a
kid going to the movies in Northeast Philadelphia. In those days I could walk
to the theatre so I went three or four times a week. I learned the meaning of “cool”
while watching the film. Steve McQueen was the definition of that word. We are
always on the lookout for film- related docs and this one really came close to
home. I also knew it was something I might be able to get my friend Michael
Meister involved in. He is a fellow “Great Escape” lover who ended up coming in
with finishing funds that allowed us to screen the film in the market at
Cannes. BTW Michael LOVES Cinema Retro!
did the rare production photos seen in the documentary originate?
A lot of them came from Walter Rimi’s son Christian who
graciously allowed us the use of his father’s photos. Walter was second unit
director of photography. Christian is in the film and gives a very emotional
talk about freedom and how important it s.
was WWII historian Steve Rubin’s role in making the documentary a reality?
He is the Producer of the film. Our very own Big X. My
Dad and I had the pleasure of seeing the film at Grauman’s Theatre (I still
call it that) in Hollywood a few years back during the Turner Classic Movies
Film Fest. Was very cool seeing it on the big screen with my father sitting
next to me. It’s not something I will ever forget.
are your personal memories of “The Great Escape”? When did you first see it?
The summer of 1963. The Merben Movie Theatre.
Philadelphia PA. I remember building a ramp for my bicycle to jump over. I was
lucky if I got the bike a foot or two off the ground. But it felt unbelievably
qualities about the movie do you feel resonate most after so many years?
The POW’s never give up. They try to escape from the
minute they get into the camp. They never give up. It is this heroism that the
real Stalag Luft 3 inhabitants had when they made the real escape in March of
1944. John Surges and crew made sure that courage was on display throughout the
is your favorite character in the film?
Simply put Virgil Hilts. But I do have a love for Charles
Bronson’s portrayal of “Tunnel King” Danny as well.
Nothing like that motorcycle jump over the fence to get
me going. There is also a scene where McQueen takes down a German soldier about
to shoot his friend, “The Mole” Ives. He
doesn’t get to save him but the gymnastic leap off the ground of McQueen’s body
into the German added to the coolness of the character. No one had done this in
movies before. We had cool actors like William Holden in “Stalag 17” or James
Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” But no one was cool like McQueen. No one.
reflections on Elmer Bernstein’s score?
In the top two or three of all time. It is the ringer on
my phone. I got the chance to thank him at a screening of “Sweet Smell of
Success” a while back. He was a nice and gracious man.
thoughts on John Sturges as a director and other films of his that have
Sturges never gets
the credit he deserves because a lot of his films were big time audience
favorites but not necessarily critical favorites. This guy not only made “The
Great Escape” but he also brought us “The Magnificent Seven", “Bad Day at Black
Rock,” “The Old Man and the Sea” and “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” Those are
Originally published in paperback back in 1973 to promote
Roger Moore’s first appearance as 007, this is a most-welcome updated edition
that includes a foreword by Sir Roger’s good friend and occasional co-star
David Hedison as well as an afterword by his PA and sometimes co-author, Cinema
Retro’s own Gareth Owen. In reading the book for the first time since its
initial publication, I was Impressed that Eon Productions allowed such candor
from its new star. Moore traces the trials-and tribulations he faced behind the
scenes from stunt mishaps to stomach disorders, strains in personal
relationships and weather-related problems, all of it related in his trademark
style of humor that includes plenty of self-deprecating barbs. The production company must contend with ghastly filming conditions, health issues and racial tensions when black stuntmen are sometimes passed over to employ white men who are then "blacked up" to play African-American characters. Moore also chronicles some occasional tensions with producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli.The book emerges
as a wonderful time capsule not only in Bondian history but also in terms of
relating a warts-and-all, candid look at the making of a major film production.
It’s a pity that Moore didn’t write any other diaries relating to his 007 films
but this one probably bruised a few egos and thus it remained the only such
experiment.(The book contains a photo insert section that includes some shots that will probably be new to even the most ardent Bond fans.)
Sam Peckinpah’s “The Ballad of Cable Hogue,” (1970)
recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection, is a movie that
doesn’t fit neatly into any specific category. Peckinpah, more notable for his
violent action pictures about outlaws who’ve run out their string and go down
in a blaze of glory, maintained that “Hogue” is a comedy. But co-star Stella
Stevens, in an interview included on this Blu-Ray release, disagrees. She claims
it’s a love story—a tragic love story. The answer, in my opinion, is that it probably
falls somewhere in between.It’s both a
comedy and a love story, and as such, is probably the most honest film about
the human condition the hard-nosed Peckinpah ever made.
The story is a simple one. Jason Robards plays the
titular character, a man left to die in the Arizona desert by two disreputable
partners, Taggert (L. Q. Jones) and Bowen (Strother Martin). Hogue swears he’ll
survive somehow and someday get vengeance on the double crossers. He wanders in
the desert for 4 days without water, occasionally raising his eyes heavenward, to
address the Almighty.“Ain’t had no
water since yesterday, Lord,” he says at one point. “Gettin’ a little thirsty. Just thought I’d mention it. Amen” Just when
he’s about finished he discovers a spring, the only water for 50 miles either
way along a stagecoach road. He builds a house there and calls the place Cable
A wandering preacher by the name of the Rev. Joshua
Duncan Sloan (David Warner) rides in. The Reverend claims to be the head of a
church of his own revelation. As dubious as he appears he reminds Cable that he
had better file a claim on the land he’s on if he wants to keep it. Cable takes
the preacher’s horse and rides into the town of Dead Dog. One of the first
things he catches sight of is Hildy (Stella Stevens), the town prostitute.
After he files his claim and secures a loan from a bank, he pays a visit to
Hildy, who lives in a room on the second floor of the town saloon. He’s
immediately smitten with her but when he tries making love to her, the sound of
a preacher holding a Bible meeting next door reminds him of Rev. Sloan, who at
this very moment might be trying to jump his claim. He runs out on Hildy, promising
he’ll be back soon as he can.
The rest of the film is about the Cable/Hildy
relationship in which Peckinpah presents about as honest a portrayal of human
beings and their struggle to survive and find comfort in one another in a
brutal world as has ever been put on film. At one point Hildy asks Cable if her
being a prostitute bothered him.
“Hell no, it never bothered me,” he answers. “I enjoyed
it. Now what the hell are you? A human being? Trying the best you can. We all
got our own ways of living.”
“And loving?” Hildy asks.
“Gets mighty lonesome without it.”
Despite the hard-boiled attitude both characters profess
to adopt, after they’ve spent some time living together in his house, in one
brief moment it all comes down like a house of cards. They’re having dinner
with the Rev. Sloan and talk turns to Hogue’s penny pinching ways, charging
everyone for water and food when they stop at the Springs. The reverend says
he’s surprised Cable doesn’t charge Hildy for supper. “Why would I charge you?”
Cable tells her. “You never charge me.” And, because of that one thoughtless
sentence, suddenly you see a dream die on Hildy’s face. It’s the end of their
relationship. The scene -for all its subtlety - has a devastating emotional
There’s more to the story, including Hildy’s return after
living in San Francisco, and the long- awaited showdown between Cable and his erstwhile
partners, Taggert and Bowen. Strother Martin and L. Q. Jones, who were part of
Peckinpah’s informal stock company, having appeared in several of his films,
are perfect here. Nobody took a bullet and died on film better than L. Q.
The ending is not comedic at all. It is filled with a sad
irony that shows as simply and as understatedly as possible, what a puzzling
thing life really is.
This advertisement from the New York Times Archive from November, 1965 illustrates the wide variety of fine movies that were playing in New York theaters simultaneously. Among them: "The Cincinnati Kid", "The Hill", "Darling" "King Rat", "The Ipcress File", "The Leather Boys", "Ship of Fools", "Repulsion", "The Greatest Story Ever Told", "Return from the Ashes", "The War Lord" and "Sands of the Kalahari".
When it comes to publishing top-end film books nobody
does it better than Titan. The company has its pulse on every movie geek’s
desires and their recent title “Harryhausen: The Movie Posters” should leave
fans of the late, great special effects genius Ray Harryhausen drooling over
the superb representations of his films. Author Richard Holliss wisely leaves the
text to a minimum to allow the wonderfully-reproduced graphics exemplify the
sheer excitement and wonder of the sci-fi and fantasy films associated with
Harryhausen. The book presents a mind-boggling number of rare international
movie posters and assorted oddities relating to the promotion of his films.
Titan has published the book in an appropriately large size hardback format
that allows the stunning graphics to be fully appreciated.
becomes aware of
just how important of a role the classic movie posters played in selling
films to the public, thanks to their ingenious designs by
artists. Represented are wonderful graphics from such films as "Might
Joe Young", "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", the Sinbad films, "First
Men in the Moon", "Mysterious Island", "Jason and the Argonauts" and so
many other classics. With a foreword by John Landis, a long-time friend
and admirer of
Harryhausen, this is the most impressive film book to cross my desk this
Kudos to all involved.
Kudos to the New York Times for recognizing the passing of Jerry Ohlinger, the famed Gotham movie memorabilia dealer who passed away this week at age 75. Collectors would travel far and wide, especially in the pre-internet age, to rummage through Ohlinger's early shops that boasted a wealth of vintage movie stills, magazines and rare posters. Over the years, he moved locations several times and his shops, by necessity, became better staffed and more organized. Ohlinger seemed to be omnipresent, holding court at the shop, chatting with customers, shouting out orders to staffers who were in search of that illusive something that a customer required. He was quite the character: eccentric, engaging and always seen with a soggy cigar in his mouth that, ironically, was never lit because he didn't like smoking cigars. Go figure. Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Memorabilia Shop went through some hard times in recent years due to the skyrocketing rents that have wreaked havoc on small businesses in major cities. With Jerry's passing, it truly is an end of an era for collectors of vintage movie memorabilia, though his presence will be felt due to the fact that the last location of his shop will remain in operation. For more click here.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" presents Alan Spencer analyzing Robert Wise's 1966 epic "The Sand Pebbles", which afforded Steve McQueen his only Oscar nomination for his superb performance. Spencer succinctly nails down the key aspects of this superb film, which received wide acclaim when released but which is often ignored by the critical establishment today.
(Goldman with James Caan on the set of "A Bridge Too Far"- 1976)
BY LEE PFEIFFER
There's an old joke among writers about the naive young starlet who thought she could make it in Hollywood by sleeping with screenwriters. Indeed, the people who made it possible for hit films to exist by writing the scenarios the actors carried out on screen were often regarded as being very low on the industry totem pole- and relatively low-paid as well. Not so with novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who elevated regard for screenwriters while demanding- and receiving- the kind of breakthrough salaries that revolutionized the film industry's respect for writers. Goldman has died from cancer in Manhattan at age 87. He was known to be opinionated, abrasive and demanding, but no one questioned his talents. He won Oscars for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men". Among his other screenplays: "Harper" (aka "The Moving Target"), "Marathon Man" (adapted from his own novel), "A Bridge Too Far", "The Princess Bride", "No Way to Treat a Lady", "The Hot Rock", "The Stepford Wives", "The Great Waldo Pepper", "Magic", "The Princess Bride" (adapted from his own novel), "Misery", "Year of the Comet", "Chaplin", "Maverick" and "The Ghost and the Darkness". Goldman was inspired to take up screenwriting after buying a book about the profession in an all-night Times Square book shop. His first novel to be adapted for the screen was "Soldier in the Rain", though the screenplay was written by Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin. Goldman's book "Adventures in the Screen Trade", a scathing look at the film industry, is still widely-read. He famously wrote of his conclusion about competence among studio executives: "Nobody knows anything". Goldman's brother James, was also an Oscar winner, having written the play "The Lion in Winter" for which he received the award for Adapted Screenplay. Even if you've never heard of Goldman, you're familiar with some of his dialogue which has become ingrained in popular culture. The Washington Post provides examples. Click here to read.
As with any major film star who dies young, Jean Seberg has become a cult of personality to some film fans, partly due to the fact that she died in Paris from an overdose of barbiturates at age 40 in 1979. Her death was ruled a suicide but conspiracy theories still abound because she was deemed a political radical by the FBI due to her association with far left wing causes and her support of the Black Panther party. On screen, however, Seberg's characters were generally not radical, although her breakthrough film did find her as the female lead in Godard's classic 1960 crime flick Breathless. Still, there were some hints of Seberg's liberated woman persona in her early career. One such film was In the French Style, a largely forgotten 1963 production based on Irwin Shaw's novel. Shaw wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by Robert Parrish, a respected veteran of the movie industry who never enjoyed a career-defining major hit. (The closest he came was directing segments of the bloated 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) The movie opens in Paris with Seberg as Christina James, a 19 year old free spirited girl from Chicago who has come to the City of Light to hone her skills as a painter. In the process of trying to acclimate herself to the metropolitan lifestyle, she meets Guy ((Philippe Forquet), a headstrong, sometimes arrogant 21 year-old who is nonetheless charismatic and quite handsome. He woos Christina and before long, they are a couple swept up in a whirlwind romance. However, it isn't long before there are strains due in part to their impoverished lifestyle. Guy, being a typical guy, tries to get Christina into bed, but she says when it happens, it will be on her terms and conditions. When the big moment arises, Guy's romantic evening turns into a disaster because he only has enough money to rent a room at a flophouse hotel without heat. In the course of the strained evening, Guy confesses to Christina that he cannot perform sexually because he is too nervous. He makes a shocking confession: he is actually a 16 year old high school boy and a virgin at that. While this does bring the story into a completely unexpected direction, it's the one element of the film that strains credibility largely due to the fact that Forquet was actually 23 years old at the time and looks it. Nevertheless, this plot device takes us away from what was shaping up as a conventional "boy meets girl" romance and plunges the viewer into unknown waters.
The story then jumps ahead in time and we find Christina now in her early twenties and very much in step with the Parisian lifestyle. She is the toast of her neighborhood's social scene and the belle of the ball in terms of attracting male suitors. In a rather progressive depiction of a single woman for the year 1963, it is made abundantly clear that Christina has her pick of lovers and routinely engages in short-term sexual affairs. Every time she meets the "right man", it turns out that differences in their lifestyles prevent them from enjoying a traditional relationship. Her father (very well played by Addison Powell) visits her from Chicago and, again Shaw's script goes against the conventional depiction of father and daughter relationships generally seen in movies during this era. Instead of being a square old fuddy duddy, Dad is actually amused by his daughter's somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and he asks her how many lovers she has had. "A couple", she replies, but it becomes clear that both of them regard that as a drastic understatement. When her father asks to see the paintings she has been working on for years, he gently informs her that they are below the quality he had expected. He cautions her that her party-filled lifestyle may be compromising her potential. Christina objects and two part company under a strain, but it becomes clear that her father's words have resonated with her and that it might be time to develop plans for a more productive career path.
All of that changes when she has a chance encounter with Walter Beddoes (Stanley Baker), a hard-drinking international newspaper journalist. They enjoy a torrid affair and fall in love but, alas, fate rears its ugly head once again when Walter's requirements to travel extensively takes him away from Christina for months at a time. He confesses to her that, while abroad "I don't live like a monk". Christina says she accepts that he will have other lovers but makes it clear that she will, too. Such behavior from a young couple was rarely depicted so honestly on screen in 1963, an era in which sexually assertive women were generally painted as floozies. By the time Walter returns from a three month stint in Africa, he finds Christina has a new boyfriend, an American doctor from San Francisco (James Leo Herlihy), who she says she intends to marry. She has a civilized lunch with both men, as Walter tries to persuade her to resume her affair with him. She confesses that she has seen her share of former lovers ultimately drop her to marry the girl of her dreams, a status she somehow never attains in their eyes. This climactic sequence left me a bit disappointed because in the end, Christina- that most liberated of young women- decides to throw in the towel to become a doctor's wife and live in San Francisco. However, director Parrish does afford us the nagging possibility that she knows she is selling out by doing so.
In the French Style is a very worthwhile experience. The Parisian locations add immeasurably to its pleasures and the crisp B&W cinematography Michel Kelber is impressive, as is the Joseph Kosma's atmospheric score. Not much happens dramatically in the film. You keep waiting for some earth-shaking development to emerge but it never does. However, that's part of the movie's charm. It recalls an era in which studios routinely backed small films with fine actors (they are all wonderful here) and gave them intelligent dialogue and direction.
Twilight Time has issued an impressive limited edition (3,000) Blu-ray edition that does justice to the fine B&W cinematography. The bonus extras include an isolated score track, informative commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, a theatrical trailer and a collector's booklet with liner notes by Kirgo.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER TWILIGHT TIME BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION
CLICK HERE TO ORDER SONY BASIC DVD EDITION FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
Some of the best private eye thrillers tend to be complex and sometimes incomprehensible affairs. Howard Hawks' "The Big Sleep", for example, had a plot that could not be comprehended even by the people who made the film, but it ranks as one of the great movies in the crime genre. Similarly, director Arthur Penn's 1975 mystery "Night Moves" (the title is- appropriately enough- a metaphor) sat on a shelf for over a year before it went into general release, only to be greeted by an apathetic public. There were some prescient critics like Roger Ebert who foresaw the film's enduring qualities but, for the most part, "Night Moves" didn't get much attention in a year in which the likes of great films like "Jaws", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Barry Lyndon" were in release. The movie began to gain steam over the decades with the critical establishment and is now considered to be a classic by many, thus its arrival on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive is much appreciated by retro movie lovers.
The film reunited Gene Hackman with Arthur Penn after their triumphant work on "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967). Hackman was a supporting character in that film but received an Oscar nomination. In "Night Moves" he is the front-and-center star, in almost every scene and he dominates the movie with a superb, laid-back performance that is so natural that it reminds us of how Hackman's genius was to make you think you are watching a real-life person. He plays Harry Moseby, an L.A. private eye who isn't down-and-out like most of his cinematic counterparts, but is not setting the world on fire, either. He's a complex man haunted by bad childhood memories and he's got some contemporary problems, as well. His wife Ellen (Susan Clark) is bored and frustrated that Harry is too remote and spends far too much of his time on low-paying cases. He catches her having an affair but it's clear her lover (Harris Yulin) is more of a distraction than a passion. While Harry is trying to reconcile with Ellen, he's hired by Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward), a one-time minor starlet with a knack for marrying rich men. She wants Harry to find her wayward, runaway 16 year-old daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith), with whom she has a terrible relationship. Seems Arlene is dependent upon the funds from a trust that her late husband set up for Delly. As long as Arlene lives with the girl, she can continue residing in a mansion and enjoy a lavish lifestyle. However, once Delly turns 25, the spigot is turned off and Delly gets control of her fortune. The case leads Harry to the Florida Keys where Delly's stepfather, Tom Iverson (John Crawford) (divorced from Arlene) runs a charting plane service. He's surrounded by plenty of unsavory types, some of whom are employed as stuntmen in the movie business. At least two of them- Marv Ellman (Anthony Costello) and Quentin (James Woods)- have had sexual flings with the free-spirited Delly. Harry discovers Delly living openly with Tom Iverson and she resents having to be brought back to L.A. by Harry. She tells him her mother only views her as a source of income. While at Tom's place, Harry also becomes involved with another female with a troubled past, Paula (Jennifer Warren), who had once been both a stripper and a hooker before latching onto Tom and helping him with the plane charter business.She speaks in riddles and her dialogue with Harry is marvelously coy. (When she asks him where he was when Kennedy was assassinated, he replies "Which Kennedy"?).
Alan Sharp's terrific screenplay is witty and complex and chances are that when some of the mysteries are resolved, you'll end up scratching your head wondering what it all meant. "Night Moves" is a film that requires a few viewings before it all makes sense but that's part of the delight in seeing it for the first time. The dialogue crackles with bon mots and there are numerous intriguing sub-plots that sometimes overshadow Harry's primary mission, which, it turns out is explained in part by a MacGuffin. Hackman is superb, as is Arthur Penn's direction. The film has a moody, menacing atmosphere throughout, aided considerably by Bruce Surtees' typically dark cinematography. The supporting cast is letter-perfect with Jennifer Warren outstanding in an early screen role (she should have become a much bigger star, though she has found success as a director.) Also seen in an early role, James Woods impresses substantially in his limited screen time. Susan Clark (long underrated as an actress) is very good indeed, as is veteran character actor Edward Binns and Janet Ward. Young Melanie Griffith also impresses, though, ironically she played essentially the same role in another gumshoe flick that same year, "The Drowning Pool". I also admired the jazzy score by Michael Small. The finale of the film is most memorable. It's not only suspenseful and exciting but also intriguingly ambiguous with Harry on a boat literally spinning in circles, as the viewer may well be in terms of comprehending what has just occurred.
Because the original film elements of "Night Moves" were in decline, the Warner Archive spent a good time of time and money to restore the movie to its initial grandeur. The results paid off with an excellent transfer that does justice to Penn's artistic vision. Kudos to all involved. There are also some bonus extras: an original trailer and a vintage featurette, "The Day of the Director" that provides some very good behind-the-scenes footage of the movie in production. However, the Blu-ray cries out for an audio commentary to allow analysis of the film's many complex aspects. Perhaps a future release will include one. For now, this is a "must-have" for your video library.
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Nancy Sinatra and Aron Kincaid are menaced by George Barrows.
Enjoy the original trailer for the so-bad-it's-fun 1966 horror movie spoof "The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini" that somehow boasts an eclectic cast consisting of esteemed movie greats along with cult film favorites. It's painful to see such fine, legendary actors as Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone so discarded by the major studios that they had to appear in celluloid dreck such as this. There were some brighter horizons for some of those involved: Nancy Sinatra would go on to star in "The Wild Angels" and "Speedway" (opposite Elvis Presley). Karloff would still get to appear in two genuinely good films - "The Venetian Affair" and Bogdanovich's classic "Targets", but poor Rathbone only had one more film on his horizon: the equally abysmal "Hillbillies in a Haunted House".
Two years before "Bonnie and Clyde" revolutionized the American crime movie genre a far more modest production centered on a star-crossed pair of lovers who were young, in love and killed people. "Young Dillinger" starred Nick Adams in the titular role, playing notorious gangster John Dillinger who was among the "Most Wanted" criminals of the Depression era. Although the real Dillinger had a hardscrabble life and a dramatic death (ambushed by police when benignly exiting a movie theater), any resemblance to the historic figure and the character portrayed by Adams on screen is purely coincidental. The film was distributed by Allied Artists, which would go on to release some top-shelf hits in the 1970s including "Cabaret", "Papillon", "The Man Who Would be King" and "The Wild Geese". However, in 1965 Allied was strictly a Poverty Row studio that churned out low-budget movies for undiscriminating audiences in hopes of making a quick, modest profit. Shot in B&W, "Young Dillinger" opens with "Johnny" and his girlfriend Elaine (former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley) necking in a car and bemoaning the fact that they are too broke to get married. Elaine must still live at home under the rules set by her mother and father, an inconvenience that intrudes on her not-inconsiderable sex drive. She spontaneously comes up with a plan of action: they can break into her father's office and steal a load of cash that he keeps in the safe. Dillinger is all in immediately but the plan goes awry when they are spotted by a watchman. Still, they get the loot and head off on a cross-country spending spree, indulging in expensive meals, liquor, gambling and hotel rooms. It all comes to an end when the cops track them down and arrest them. Dillinger makes a deal: he will plead guilty if Elaine is not charged. Consequently, he is sent to jail for several years, an experience that leaves him even more cynical and disillusioned. Sure enough, Elaine is waiting for him when he emerges and they immediately take to crime again. Dillinger is hired by professional gangsters to carry out an audacious plan to spring 'Pretty Boy' Floyd (Robert Conrad) and 'Baby Face' Nelson (John Ashley) from a prison farm. When he succeeds in carrying out the plan, Floyd invites him to join him and 'Baby Face' in their newly-formed gang. With Elaine along for the ride, the group terrorizes the Midwest through small-time robberies that eventually lead to daring bank jobs. Before long, Dillinger is on the F.B.I's "Most Wanted" list.
Directed by Terry O. Morse, who was primarily known as an editor, the movie breezes along at a brisk pace even if the style is quite unimpressive and pedestrian. In fact, the film looks like a standard TV episode of "The Untouchables" in terms of production values. Even a fleeting glimpse at Dillinger's biography will make it immediately apparent that story is almost entirely fictionalized. The performances are adequate, nothing more. Adams, who was a seasoned actor, tries to bring some intensity to the role but the script presents Dillinger as a superficial gangster type with no effort expended to provide some of the more interesting aspects of his background. Similarly, we know nothing about Elaine aside from the fact that this "girl next door" type can turn into a hardened criminal on a whim. Why? We never learn anything about her background, either. The supporting actors don't fare much better. Robert Conrad, who would soon find stardom with the hit TV series "The Wild, Wild West" is given little to work with as 'Pretty Boy' Floyd and is mostly seen shooting at the cops. One exception is the inimitable and delightful Victor Buono, who makes a couple of cameos as "The Professor", an eccentric mastermind who provides the gang with operational plans for bank jobs. Equally good is John Hoyt as a mob doctor who Dillinger hires to undergo some plastic surgery (a rare instance of the film depicting an actual event). The doctor botches the surgery but while Dillinger is lying helpless in bed in terrible pain and his face wrapped up like The Mummy, the surgeon takes advantage of the situation by trying to rape Elaine. She has to keep him at bay with a loaded gun while not alerting Dillinger to the crisis when he's helpless to assist her. It's the best scene in the film and the only one that provides a bit of suspense. It also allows Mary Ann Mobley to display her acting chops instead of being presented as Gidget as opposed to a Depression-era gun moll.
Stan Lee, the man who transformed Marvel Comics into an entertainment phenomenon, has passed away at age 95. Lee, along with superb artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, introduced a line of super hero characters that were the antithesis of the popular heroes in rival D.C. Comics. Lee's characters, such as Spiderman, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four, were somewhat grounded in reality. They protagonists had plenty of human flaws, insecurities and resentments. In his WWII comic book "Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos" (the main character of which is better known today as Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D), Lee broke new ground by making the commando squad integrated with a black soldier as well as a Jewish member of the unit. The series dealt realistically with matters of racial intolerance and also featured the unthinkable: the deaths of beloved characters. Over the decades, Lee became a guiding force that saw screen adaptations of Marvel characters evolve from low-budget, cheesy productions to major studio blockbusters. Click here for more.
The film must have seemed to have the makings of a classic. Director Vincente Minnelli reuniting with Kirk Douglas for the first time since their triumphant The Bad and the Beautiful a decade earlier. Edward G. Robinson co-starring and a supporting cast that included Cyd Charrise, Claire Trevor, James Gregory, George MacReady, George Hamilton and lovely up-and-coming actresses Rosanna Schiaffino and Daliah Lavi. Add to this exotic Rome locations during the era when La Dolce Vita was all the rage plus a source novel by Irwin Shaw -- this had to be a project that couldn't miss. Alas, it did indeed go off-target, but the fact that the 1962 screen version of 2 Weeks in Another Town falls short of its potential doesn't mean it isn't a gloriously trashy spectacle to behold.
Douglas plays Jack Andrus, a washed up, one-time screen legend who is
driven to the brink of insanity by the philandering nature of his
Italian wife (Charisse), who ended up having an affair with Douglas'
friend and collaborator, screen director Maurice Kruger (Robinson).
Years later, Andrus is contacted by Kruger, whose career is also in
decline, to reunite for a Rome-based major film that could revive their
reputations and popularity. When Andrus gets to Italy, he discovers
there is no part for him in the picture, but Kruger felt it would be
therapeutic to have him assist in the dubbing of the film. Before long,
the love/hate relationship between the two men sparks jealous and anger,
with Kruger's Lady MacBeth-like wife (Trevor) constantly finding ways
to cause friction. Adding to the soap opera aspects of the story is the
presence of an Italian screen diva (Schiaffino), whose temper tantrums
have everyone on edge. Andrus does find solace in the arms of a young
lovely (Lavi) but before long is embroiled in enough personal intrigue
and frustration to once again threaten his sanity.
The film is certainly not high art. Douglas dominates the landscape
with the type of eye-popping antics that made him a favorite of
impressionists during the era. Robinson is far more understated and it's
great fun to watch the two conflicting acting styles in the same
scenes. The film benefits from some good location scenery including rare
glimpses of fabled Cinecitta Studios during its heyday, but Minnelli
relies far too often on cheesy rear-screen projection shots that
distract from the byplay among the actors. The story is often overly
melodramatic and somewhat confusing, with the vast number of characters
intertwined in each other's scandals. However, it never reaches the
so-bad-it's-good status the similarly- themed The Oscar, which is
somewhat of a mixed blessing. With a few more "over-the-top" elements,
Minnelli could have created a trash classic. As it stands, 2 Weeks in Another Town is
too campy to be called a truly good film, and not campy enough to
emerge as a cult movie. Still, with all the powerhouse talent involved,
it never commits the cardinal sin of being dull.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray features a very good transfer and includes the original theatrical trailer.
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If you're among the many Cinema Retro readers who have read our Movie Classics special issue devoted to epic films of the 1960s, you'll know that the story behind producer Samuel Bronston's ill-fated 1964 epic "The Fall of the Roman Empire" played out like a Greek tragedy (with apologies to the Romans.) Director Joe Dante's addictive "Trailers from Hell" web site presents another esteemed director, John Landis, analyzing the film through its original trailer. While we don't agree with his conclusion that it is a "terrible movie", we did laugh out loud at some of his observations: especially the bizarre tag lines used on screen during the trailer that promise the film displays not just a few emotions, but ALL emotions! In fact, the trailer appears to have put together by someone for whom English was a fourth language.
Retro movie lover Steven Thompson has put together a marvelous web site that pays tribute to his favorite year: 1966. It's hard to argue with his logic, especially if you were growing up then. The Beatles, James Bond, Batman, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., British invasion rock, great comic books, and so much more all at your fingertips. The site features vintage ads for movies, TV shows and products of the day, as well as vintage comic strips and film clips. Click here to view
It doesn't get any better than this: closing out the year with the release of "The Mule", directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, who made his last acting appearance in "Trouble with the Curve" in 2012. In "The Mule", Eastwood, who is going on 90 years old, plays a man with a troubled past who gets caught up in the drug-smuggling trade. If the film plays as well as the trailer, it may prove to be a real gem.
I've long had admiration for the work of actor Robert Shaw ever since he impressed me at age 8 with his chilling interpretation of the SPECTRE psychotic killer Red Grant in "From Russia With Love". Shaw could always be counted on to deliver a fine performance even if the material he chose was sometimes underwhelming. Shaw was also a talented writer and playwright, having won acclaim for his play "The Man in the Glass Booth", which was inspired by the war criminal trial of Adolf Eichmann. Shaw, like many actors, participated in many questionable films in order to enable his real passion, which was to bring avante garde movie projects to fruition, even if they only appealed to the art cinema crowd. One of Shaw's most interesting vehicles is one of his least seen. "Figures in a Landscape" was his 1970 adaptation of an allegorical novel by Barry England that abounded with reference to the (then) on-going Vietnam war. Shaw dispensed with that aspect of the novel and instead played up its more opaque aspects, particularly those that concern the two protagonists in what is basically a two-character adventure. The film opens with Shaw and co-star Malcolm McDowell on the run in an unnamed country being pursued by unnamed forces (presumably the police and/or military) for unspecified crimes. One senses they are political prisoners in a totalitarian state but this is never addressed directly. Shaw is MacConnachie ("Mac"), a middle-aged man with a colorful past that often found him on the opposite side of the law. McDowell is Ansell, a twenty-something free spirited type from London whose social values are the polar opposite of Mac's old fashioned values. When we first see the men, they are running at a high rate of speed and have to contend with the major obstacle of having their hands bound behind their backs. We never learn how they effected their escape and from whom but these are just several key questions that Shaw's screenplay goes to lengths in terms of not filling in the audience on the details. The two men, bound by their mutual need for one another, bicker and bark at each other like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones" with Mac channeling his future performance as Quint in "Jaws" by constantly attacking the younger man for being the product of a soft generation. As these types of films generally play out, Mac and Ansell are able to win some small victories through mutual efforts and begin to develop a grudging but sincere admiration for each other. (In one of the script's few instances of humor, we learn that Mac is somewhat of a prude by the way he chastises the younger generation for the sexual promiscuity afforded by "The Pill".) They finally figure out a way to free their bonds and obtain food, water and arms. However, they find themselves relentlessly pursued by a helicopter piloted by faceless, nameless men who coordinate a widespread army of pursuers on the ground The image of the helicopter haunts Mac and Ansell throughout their desperate race across a harsh landscape that contains both deserts and high, snow-covered mountains. Throughout their ordeal, the men come to know each other better though Shaw's screenplay, perhaps not coincidentally, gives his character far meatier material than McDowell gets to work with. Shaw is at his best in the quiet sequences, reminiscing about his beloved wife who waits for his return home.
The film falls short of its Kafkaesque pretensions but is never less than engaging, thanks in no small part to the skill of director Joseph Losey in keeping the bizarre aspects of the scripts from becoming too alienating for the audience. There is also superb cinematography that does justice to the magnificent, if sometimes foreboding, Spanish landscapes and a fine score by the estimable Richard Rodney Bennett. It's unclear what Shaw was trying to say in this sometimes puzzling film that at times evokes aspects of Patrick McGoohan's classic TV series "The Prisoner". This jumbled aspect of the story robs the film of some of its potential dramatic payoffs but there is real satisfaction in watching Shaw and McDowell in parts that are this meaty. We only learn enough about each character to tantalize us even further regarding how they ended up in this dilemma and it's probably best that Shaw never provides any easy answers. However, some of the men's actions and interactions cry out for a bit more clarification especially in the exciting climax when Mac is motivated to take on downing the hated helicopter even at an unnecessary risk to his own life.
"Figures in a Landscape" has been released by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray. As with most of the company's titles, this one boasts a superb transfer that does justice to the impressive filming locations. Unfortunately, no extras are included. A pity because this film cries out for a commentary track that could have covered not only the movie itself but also Shaw's remarkable career, one that never completely fulfilled its potential because of his own personal demons.
Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) returns in The Night Strangler (1973), a follow-up
TV-movie to the previous year’s unexpectedly successful The Night Stalker. Kolchak has been booted out of Las Vegas and
settles in Seattle and teams up with his old boss Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland)
just as a string of suspicious murders begin to plague the metropolis. It comes
to his attention that the victims, young female exotic dancers, are turning up
dead after having had their necks crushed, drained
of a small amount of blood, and most disturbingly all had instances of rotting
flesh on their necks. The murders occur over a period of 18 days.
a researcher, Carl learns that a nearly identical series of killings took place
in 1952 (21 years earlier) for the same duration, and then 21 years prior to
that, all the way back to at least 1889 (this notion was exploited to horrific
effect in Stephen King’s masterful 1986 novel, It, wherein a malevolent creature appears every 27 years under the
guise of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and goes on a murder spree to remain alive).
The police want Kolchak to cease his own investigation and temporarily arrest
him so that he won’t print anything that will alarm the public.
later uncovers information that leads him to a surgeon who was stationed on the
Union Army side of the Civil War and the “Underground City” of Seattle figures
into this surprising revelation of the identity of the man who is attempting to
remain immortal over the millennia. It’s a really cool idea in theory, although
in practice the sequence drags on a bit longer than it should.
The Night Strangler, shot in July of 1972 and aired on
January 16, 1973, follows Kolchak and his aggravated boss as they bicker, yell,
and disagree on what the facts are. The producers of the original film figured
that if the public liked the original so much, they may as well give them
something similar the second time around, and that’s just what they got. Robert
Cobert returns to provide a spooky and playful score and Richard Matheson is on
board again helming the teleplay. Sitting in the director’s chair this time
around is Dan Curtis, the creator of Dark
Shadows, the long-running TV horror series as well as its two theatrical
films from the early 1970s. He went on to direct what is widely considered to
be one of the scariest TV movies of all-time, Trilogy of Terror (1975), and the theatrical film of Robert Marasco’s
Burnt Offerings (1976), an equally
frightening thriller. He does a fine job building suspense and keeping the
streets of Seattle lit like a film noir,
although the film suffers a bit from its extended running time with sequences wherein
Kolchak enlists the help of a lady friend (JoAnne Pflug) walking the streets in
the middle of the night to entrap the killer, or later when he roams the
streets of the “Underground City” searching for the killer. Why is it that
whenever women start being killed off, others feel the need to walk home alone
on deserted streets?
Lorber has released the film in a 4K restoration and the film looks like it was
just shot. In addition to this, there are some great new extras:
commentary with Tim Lucas – Mr. Lucas provided the wonderful commentary on this
film’s predecessor and he does the same here. He has been writing about movies
for well over 35 years. I first read his articles in Video Times Magazine in
the mid-1980’s and published Video Watchdog magazine from 1990 to 2018. He has
done some terrific commentaries in the past for Mario Bava’s work among many
others, and he does the same here. One thing viewers will notice is that this
second Kolchak outing runs 90 minutes as opposed to the first film’s 74 minutes.
This is due to the fact that the original TV version, which also ran 74
minutes, is considered lost, and this 90-minute cut is actually the theatrical
version that was released in Europe, something that was also done with Steven
Spielberg’s 1971 TV-movie Duel. That
telecast also received a theatrical release here in the States in April 1983
and it’s the 90-minute cut of that film that audiences know today.
is also a high definition, ten-minute 2018 interview with music composer Robert
Cobert who is an absolute delight to listen to. This is the same interview that
appears on the Blu-ray of The Night
Stalker. At nearly 94 years of age he describes how he comes up with music
as he watches the rough cut and also discusses the stressful deadlines he was
handed to compose and conduct the score simply because he was the last person
brought in on the project. I have loved his music since I saw Burnt Offerings on television in 1981
and he has a signature sound. If you can find it, this CD has some of his best work.
is a standard definition interview with producer Dan Curtis that was shot
around 2003/2004 (he passed away in 2006) that runs seven and-a-half minutes
wherein he talks about how wonderful and fun it was to make these films, and I
really got a sense from him that he meant what he said when he reminisced about
the good old days.
is also a trailer for Burnt Offerings
(1976); a limited edition booklet essay by film critic and author Simon Abrams;
and beautiful new artwork by artist Sean Phillips.
also nice to have subtitles for a change and I’m happy to report that Kino
Lorber has provided those on this release, too. Let’s hope that they continue
this practice I with their future releases.
filmmaker and stage director Ingmar Bergman famously said that he was “married
to the theatre,” but that “film was his mistress.” In a vintage interview in
Margarethe von Trotta’s new documentary on Bergman, the Swedish artist is asked
to define “film director.” Bergman’s brow wrinkles and he is lost in thought
for a moment… and then he replies that being a film director is “someone who has
so many problems to deal with he doesn’t have time to think.”
then, is a cruel mistress, indeed.
official selection of the New York Film Festival and released to U.S. theaters in
November in time to help celebrate Bergman’s centenary, Searching for Ingmar Bergman is a welcome and lovingly-made
examination of the filmmaker’s life and work. Director von Trotta, one of the
major figures of the New German Cinema movement of the 70s and 80s, shines a
light on this somewhat enigmatic and complicated man through a succession of
film clips from Bergman’s oeuvre,
interviews with various actors, crew, family, and other filmmakers, and scenic
tours of what was Bergman’s physical world.
with the help of author Stig Björkman (Bergman on Bergman), von Trotta traces
Bergman’s movements in Stockholm, Farö Island, and Munich
(where Bergman spent his voluntary banishment from Sweden after he was falsely
accused of tax evasion in the mid-70s). The portion of the documentary that
deals with the “German period” is enlightening and not typically recorded.
Bergman’s repertory company, Liv Ullmann is of course a top-billed
interviewee—a documentary on Bergman would not be complete without her. Gunnel
Lindblom, Rita Russek, and Julia Dufvenius also make appearances, but,
curiously, Max von Sydow and Harriet Andersson are missing. Sadly, most of the
actors associated with Bergman’s films—Erland Josephson, Gunnar Björnstrand,
Ingrid Thulin—are no longer with us, and Bibi Andersson is tragically incapacitated
by a stroke.
Ruben Östlund (The
Square), Olivier Assayas (Personal
Shopper, Clouds of Sils Maria),
Mia Hansen-Løve (Maya,
Things to Come), and Carlos Saura (Carmen, Tango), screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière
(The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie),
and Bergman’s “script girl” for thirty years, Katinka Faragó,
all deliver poignant and insightful analyses of Bergman’s style and the themes
that run through his work.
interesting are the comments from Bergman’s sons, Daniel and Ingmar Jr., and
grandson Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel. Bergman was
married five times and had numerous love affairs. He fathered nine children,
but according to Daniel and Ingmar Jr., Bergman wasn’t close to his children.
One gets the impression that he loved his actors more than his immediate family,
and that he was only truly at “home” when he was in the theatre or on a film
set. At one point, an anecdote is told of how Bergman, sitting with some of his
grown children, once complained that he “missed his actors.” One of the
children snapped back, “What about your children?” Bergman shrugged and
replied, “I don’t miss you.”
Bergman may not have been the best father or family-man, but his dedication to
his art, his perception of the human condition, and especially his presentation of liberated women in his films, place
the filmmaker on any serious cinephile’s Greatest Directors list.
testament to Bergman’s standing in the world of cinema is the upcoming Blu-ray
39-film box set that will be released by The Criterion Collection on November
20. In the meantime, a good introductory course for Bergman-beginners might be
von Trotta’s new documentary. Search for it at an art-house near you.
(The impressive and Gothic Oakley Court, star of many horror pics.)
BY MARK MAWSTON
Cinema Retro’s Mark
Mawston was invited to cover a rather special event being held at the wonderful
Oakley Court near Windsor, just across the river and virtually facing Hammers old
studios at Bray. Oakley, the setting for many a Hammer and Amicus film, was
utilized for its Gothic look and proximity from Bray, starting way back in 1949
when Hammer were still under their Exclusive Films moniker. Film fans will
immediately recognize Oakley as the home of Tim Curry’s Dr. Frankenfurter in the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so a more apt
location for a memorabilia fair would be hard to find. The timing was also
perfect as it was held just before Halloween. Collectors and dealers from
all over the country (and further afield) met to exchange stories as well as merchandise
at the event which was expertly organized by Harry Malcolm and Mark Hochman of
Vintage Movie posters.
(Organizers Harry Malcolm and Mark Hockman.)
(Mark & Harry at the Hotel entrance which featured in the movie shown later that day, Brides Of Dracula. It seemed unchanged.)
Hopefully this will be the first of many such events, as
those gathered, including legendary poster artist Graham Humphreys and Bond optical effects designer Alan Church, all agreed that this was a resounding success and
the perfect venue in which to celebrate classic film at this spookiest time of
year. The day was rounded off by a Venture Films screening of the 1960 Hammer classic Brides
Of Dracula starring Peter Cushing, just one of the many classics filmed at
Oakley, the entrance of which featured several times in the film. The spot hasn't changed since filming and the imposing towers were inspiration on the DVD releases of
the Hammer House of Horror series. All
in all, this was a wonderful day for all as the fans and indeed the fangs were
out in force. Though no one offered to recreate The Time Warp, this was a
celebration of one of UK cinema’s most creative periods when Hammer films were
as Gothic as Oakley.
(All photos copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
"Saturday Night Live" spawned many a memorable comic character, some of whom were exploited in feature films. While "The Coneheads" proved to be popular on the big screen, other TV-to-cinema transfers of iconic "SNL" pop culture figures proved to be duds. Al Franken's memorable incarnation of Stuart Smalley was the subject of "Stuart Saves His Family", a 1995 production directed by Harold Ramis that received some surprisingly favorable reviews but ended up with a North American boxoffice gross of less than $1 million. That ranks as a major success compared to "It's Pat: The Movie", released the prior year and starring Julia Sweeney as the androgynous character that proved to be a popular staple of "SNL" during this period. Pat was a visually unattractive figure with an obnoxious manner of speaking that repulsed his/her coworkers, who were constantly striving to discover whether Pat was a male or female. Inevitably, Pat would provide unintentionally ambiguous answers to leading questions that would only heighten the mystery and thwart those who were seeking to unveil Pat's genetic makeup. As the subject of five-minute comedy sketches the concept worked great and Sweeney's Pat became a popular staple of the show. Then Hollywood came knocking. Fox approached Sweeney to turn the concept into a feature film. Sweeney admitted she couldn't envision how Pat could remain interesting to viewers in any format other than TV skits. After putting some development money into the film, Fox agreed and backed off only to have Disney's Touchstone Pictures ride to the rescue and give the production the green light. The result was a disaster. The film was given some sporadic openings only to be pulled within a week due to complete rejection by audiences. The movie's boxoffice gross in North America stands at $61,000. Although modestly-budgeted, the movie still had cost more than $10 million to make. Time has not been kind to dear Pat, as it boasts a Rotten Tomatoes score of 0%. Now those brave souls at Kino Lorber have released a Blu-ray of "Pat: The Movie" and, consequently, it's time to revisit the film.
The plot (such as it is) opens with Pat alienating everyone in his/her orbit with obnoxious behavior. A local store owner gives Pat items for free just to expedite his/her departure. Pat tries various career moves but inevitably loses every job due to ineptness. Just when things seem hopeless, Pat finds love with Chris (Dave Foley in a role originated by Dana Carvey on "SNL"), another androgynous individual. The two set up house together and live as a normal couple, though both seem blissfully unaware that their sexuality is a mystery to those around them. Are they a straight couple? A gay couple? Two men? Two women? A subplot is introduced in which a hunky new neighbor, Kyle (Charles Rocket) and his wife Stacy (Julie Hayden) find their lives disrupted by Kyle's increasing obsession with Pat. He is sexually attracted to him/her, much to the alarm of Stacy, and that attraction turns into a psychological mania that finds Kyle dressing like Pat and even stroking a doll that resembles him/her. Meanwhile, the hapless Pat blunders into some successful career steps by making an appearance with a rock band that leads to him/ her becoming a media sensation. When he/she drops by a radio station to visit a friend, Kathy (Kathy Griffin), who hosts a popular romantic advice show, Pat unintentionally upstages her and gets the hosting gig. Pat's success has alienated Chris, who breaks up the relationship and decides to move abroad. The finale finds Pat coming to grips with his/her faults and making a mad dash to a cruise ship line to prevent Chris from leaving the country.
"THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS IN THE
BY EVE GOLDBERG
The Night of the Iguana, Tennessee Williams’s last great
play, was turned into a 1964 movie which, in its day, was as famous for its
behind-the-scenes spectacle as for what actually appeared on screen.
Today, Iguana is rarely mentioned alongside the other
classic Tennessee Williams film adaptations: Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof, and Suddenly, Last Summer. Despite a tremendously talented cast,
compelling characters, and a can’t-look-away examination of our anguished,
redeemable humanity, Iguana is often neglected.
So, it’s high time for a fresh look at this movie — with
a focus on its journey from stage to screen.
"Shannon!" shouts Maxine Faulk from the veranda
of her run-down hotel on the coast of Mexico. Thus opens Tennessee Williams’
1961 play. The setting is 1940. Recently widowed Maxine greets her old friend,
Reverend Shannon, a disgraced minister who has been reduced to leading low-rent
bus tours. He is currently shepherding a group of middle-aged Baptist women
through Mexico. Shannon is in crisis. He has become sexually involved with
Charlotte, a 17-year-old girl on the tour, whose jealous, closeted chaperone,
Miss Fellows, is determined to get him fired. Already locked out of his church
for having an affair with a young Sunday School teacher, Shannon is at the end
of his rope. In a desperate attempt to stop Miss Fellows from phoning the
States and exposing him, he pockets the ignition key and strands his charges at
Maxine’s secluded hotel.
Vacationing at the hotel is a pro-Nazi German family who
stay glued to the radio throughout the play, gleefully reporting on Hitler’s
progress. Soon, another unexpected visitor arrives: the beautiful spinster artist,
Hannah Jelkes, escorting her 97-year-old grandfather, “the world’s oldest
practicing poet.” To eek out a living, Hannah sketches and her grandfather
recites poetry as they wander the globe. Right now they are broke. Shannon
convinces Maxine to let the pair spend the night at her hotel.
Earthy, sensual Maxine wants Shannon to stay on at the
hotel and fill her late husband’s shoes. Persistent Charlotte wants to seduce
him. Vengeful Miss Fellows wants to get him fired. Shannon wants some peace of
mind. As he fights against his own desires for both Charlotte and alcohol, he
becomes increasingly distraught and emotionally unstable. He finally falls to
pieces after the bus driver wrests the ignition key away from him and leaves
with the women to continue their tour. To prevent Shannon from running down to
the beach to take that “long swim to China,” Maxine ties him up in a hammock on
the verandah. During a stormy night of soul-searching (while strapped to the
hammock), Shannon connects deeply with the serene and understanding Hannah. He
admits to his “spooks,” she to her “blue devils.” Hannah, who has never had
sexual relations, describes to Shannon what she calls her “love experience”
with an underwear salesman. When Shannon asks whether she was disgusted by the
man’s request to hold a piece of her clothing, Hannah replies with the most
famous line of the play: “Nothing human disgusts me, unless it’s unkind,
As a result of the profound communication and connection
Shannon experiences with Hannah, his torment subsides. He frees himself from
the hammock. Then, at Hannah’s request, he cuts loose the iguana which is being
held captive under the verandah by Maxine’s houseboys. At the end of the play,
Hannah’s grandfather finishes his final poem and dies; Hannah leaves to travel
alone; and Shannon reluctantly agrees to stay on with Maxine and help her run
Night of the Iguana opened on Broadway with legendary
Bette Davis in the role of Maxine. The play was well-received, and ran for 361
performances. It won the New York Drama Critic’s Circle award for Best Play,
and was nominated for a Tony for Best Play. However, unhappy with the
production and her role, Davis left the show after a few months. According to
the actress, “There was no camaraderie, no sense of kinship, no attitude of
pulling together to make the play work.” According to Tennessee Williams, “If
she had ever truly had a command of her talent on the stage, she had lost it by
that time.” Davis was replaced by Shelley Winters. Still, Davis hoped to play
Maxine on screen. It was not to be.
When producer Ray Stark brought a screenplay for Night of
the Iguana to John Huston, the director was immediately interested in making
the movie. “I was a great admirer of Tennessee Williams,” said Huston. “I had
seen the play and liked it, with reservations.”
At that time, Huston was at the peak of a long and
illustrious career. His prior films included such popular and critical hits as
The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and The
Asphalt Jungle. In the sexist vernacular of the day, Huston was known as a
“man’s man” — he was a former boxer, unrepentant boozer, and lover of women,
danger, and adventure — who enjoyed making his films in exotic, challenging
locations. He was also one of the most literate of American filmmakers. He had
been a contract writer at Warner Brothers, penning adaptations of great novels
including Moby Dick and Red Badge of Courage. In Iguana, he saw an opportunity
to explore Tennessee Williams’s meaty theme of “loose, random souls trying to
account for themselves and finally being able to do so through love.”
Huston hoped to cast his movie with big-time stars:
Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue Lyon.
Richard Burton was just coming off mega-movie Cleopatra,
where he met, co-starred, and began a torrid affair with Elizabeth Taylor. The
stunningly beautiful Taylor was the top female box office attraction in the
world. Burton, an acclaimed Shakespearean actor, had become a screen sensation
with starring roles in Look Back In Anger and Becket. Both Burton and Taylor
were married to others when they began their affair — Taylor to crooner Eddie
Fisher whom she infamously “stole” from girl-next-door actress Debbie Reynolds.
At a time in American culture when divorce, much less extra-marital affairs,
was still semi-taboo, the public couldn't get enough of "Liz and
Dick." Their scandalous relationship and glamorous lifestyle captivated
millions. Their photos and personal lives were constant fan mag fodder — solid
gold for the Hollywood publicity machine.
If anybody could rival Liz Taylor in both the beauty and
scandal departments it was Ava Gardner. Brought to Hollywood more for her looks
and legs than her acting ability — which, according to the actress herself, was
close to zilch — Gardner signed a contract with MGM at age 19. She then
progressed from pin-up girl, to small roles in B movies, to femme fatale icon.
She exuded a magnetic, sultry sex appeal. And she was gorgeous. According to Humphrey
Bogart, "Whatever it is, whether you're born with it, or catch it from a
public drinking cup, she's got it."
Gardner gained additional fame for three high-profile
marriages to three high-profile celebrities: actor Mickey Rooney, band leader
Artie Shaw, and no-introduction-needed Frank Sinatra. The tumultuous
Frank-and-Ava marriage was chronicled in the press as avidly as the
Liz-and-Dick affair. After six years of a passionately volatile relationship,
Gardner and Sinatra divorced in 1957. By the time Iguana came around, Ava
Gardner was 44 years old and living in Spain where she hung out with Ernest
Hemingway and a bevy of bullfighters. Huston decided that her unique blend of
beauty, maturity, and lusty sensuality made her ideally suited for the role of
hotel owner Maxine.
As for Bette Davis, who openly coveted the role she had
pioneered on Broadway, Huston decided she wasn’t right for the part. He felt
she came across as “too threatening” for the kind of Maxine he had in mind.
When 18-year-old Sue Lyon was cast in Iguana as seductive
teenager Charlotte, she had exactly one film credit to her name: the title role
in Lolita. 'Nuf said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Deborah Kerr already
had 42 films under her belt. She had played a troubled nun in Black Narcissus;
a neglected military wife in From Here to Eternity (iconic beach make-out scene
with Burt Lancaster!); a widowed school teacher in The King and I; and the
tragically romantic heroine in An Affair to Remember. She had been nominated for
an Academy Award as Best Actress six times. On screen and off, Kerr had gained
a reputation as a class act. Huston thought she'd be perfect as the chaste
"We went to see them, one after another" Huston
wrote in his memoir, Open Book. "Richard, in Switzerland, promptly
accepted; likewise Deborah in London. That took us to Madrid and Ava
Gardner." According to Huston, Gardner was unsure whether she had the
ability to do the part. However, after the requisite wooing, she agreed to be
in the film.
Now the stars were set. The press closed in. The fun was
about to begin.
"We've got more reporters up here than
iguanas." -- producer Ray Stark.
In 1964, when Iguana's cast and crew descended upon it,
Puerto Vallarta was still a small fishing town with a few hotels; 24-hour
electrical service had only recently arrived. Eight miles up the coast,
accessible only by boat, was an isolated rain forest peninsula called
Mismaloya. High atop the cliff at this lush, mosquito-infested spot is where Huston
decided to film Night of the Iguana. A strong believer in location shooting, he
thought the wild, sweaty atmosphere of Mismaloya would visually reflect the
inner tumult of the movie's characters. He also hoped that the challenging
environment would force the actors out of their comfort zones and enhance their
Up on this jungle mountaintop, a construction crew built
the movie's weathered hotel set. They also erected 40 bungalows to house the
125 cast and crew members who would live there for the entire 72-day shoot. In
addition to living quarters, the crew built an editing room; a large kitchen,
bar and restaurant; water tanks and an electrical plant; plus various paths and
roads. All materials and supplies had to be carried up 134 earthen steps from
the beach to the cliff-top location. It took 280 men and 80 burros to complete
As construction of the miniature city proceeded, Huston
and his co-writer, Anthony Veiller, worked on the script.
Finally, Iguana's cast arrived in Puerto Vallarta. As did
more than 100 members of the press and paparazzi. Fascinated by the
high-wattage gathering of filmdom glitterati, reporters expected plenty of
behind-the-scenes fireworks. Especially because Burton was accompanied by his
lover, Elizabeth Taylor. With sexy co-stars Ava Gardner and Sue Lyon roaming
the set, the press assumed that Taylor wanted to keep an eye on Burton. "I
trust Richard completely," she told reporters. "It's just that I
don't trust Fate. After all, Fate threw us together on Cleopatra."
And there was plenty more to feed the gossip-hungry
public: Burton brought along his publicist, Michael Wilding, who had been Liz
Taylor's second husband. Teenager Sue Lyon was visited on location by her
25-year-old fiancé, actor Hampton Fancher III. And Ava Gardner took up with
several hunky beach boys. Director Huston, married at the time, was accompanied
by his mistress, Zoe Sallis. Deborah Kerr brought along her husband, writer
Peter Viertel, who had once been Ava Gardner's lover. Viertel was the author of
White Hunter, Black Heart — a novel based on the making of The African Queen —
which featured an unflattering portrait of a Huston-like movie director.
Before filming began, Huston assembled his stars, plus
Taylor and Stark, and presented each one with a velvet-lined box. Inside the
box was a derringer pistol and five gold-plated bullets. Each bullet was
engraved with the name of one of the others. A photo from that moment shows the
assembled group examining their pistols and sharing a hearty laugh. The
atmosphere was loose and fun — regardless of what the press hoped for.
While most of the cast and crew lived at the Mismaloya
mini-city for the duration of the shoot, top stars Burton, Kerr, Gardner, and
Lyon stayed in Puerto Vallarta.
Wrote Kerr about their accommodations in town:
"Never have there been such raucous donkeys, such snuffling and screeching
pigs, such shrill and insistent roosters and babbling turkeys. Top this off
with a thick sauce of mariachi music, plus phonographs and radios at full
blast, season with firecrackers and rockets at all hours of the night, and you
have a fairly tasty idea of what the sleeping conditions are like in this
Early each morning, the stars boarded motor boats to make
the 25-minute ride to Mismaloya. Documentary footage shows Deborah Kerr being
carried by a crew member, who is waist-deep in the surf, and being placed in a
Lines were drawn on the first day of shooting when Kerr
and Lyon announced that they expected the set to be "dry." Burton, a
devout alcoholic, said this was "preposterous." He ordered a bar to
be set up at each end of the crude staircase which connected beach to
cliff-top. Huston and Gardner, both committed drinkers, did not object. Thus,
beer and tequila flowed freely during the shoot. Burton took his first drink
early each morning before the cameras rolled. Gardner had a personal icebox
stocked with her favorite Mexican beer. For her part, Elizabeth Taylor ordered
gourmet hamburgers imported daily from the U.S. and brought up to the set.
Despite prodigious alcohol consumption, filming
progressed fairly smoothly. While the press anticipated juicy sex scandal and
interpersonal catastrophe, the most serious mishap of the production was
actually due to the sub-standard materials used to construct the housing at
Mismaloya. One night, assistant director Tom Shaw was standing on his balcony
when it collapsed. Shaw broke his back and had to be flown back to the U.S. for
surgery. Fortunately, his injuries healed and he would work with Huston again.
The State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, launched their Broadway season for 2018. The theatre has long been regarded as a historic venue where outstanding productions have been presented, from theatrical performances to legendary rock stars, classic film shows and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in concert. Last year, the State initiated a bold new program: a full season of Broadway hits. The results exceeded expectations and today marked the second season's debut with a production of the zany, Tony-nominated "Something's Rotten". The comedy musical is set in the 1590s and incorporates such diverse topics as William Shakespeare and his works, women's liberation, "Les Miserables" and Nazis (don't ask!). It's Monty Python by way of Mel Brooks, with a bit of Woody Allen tossed in. As with the previous season's presentations, this was a first-class, expensive production that could be moved intact back to Broadway. The cast is uniformly first-rate and the packed house howled with laughter throughout. You'll have to move quickly if you want to see it at the State, however, as the show moves on to a national tour after the performances on Sunday, November 3. Broadway fans need not despair, however, because there are some other gems forthcoming in the theater's new season: "The King and I", "Finding Neverland", "Rent", "Stomp" and "Chicago: The Musical". The theatre's proximity to Manhattan ensures an abundance of talent is available and many of the performers are seasoned Broadway veterans. Click here for more information about the Broadway series. Click here for future play dates for the "Something Rotten" national tour.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Get ready for a laugh in the cult-classic comedy that has
captured everyone’s hearts when The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited
Edition debuts for the first time ever on 4K Ultra Combo Pack that also
includes Blu-ray™ and Digital via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on
October 16, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Fans can relive
the hilariously freewheeling plot of one of the most beloved films of all-time
with the twisted crime-comedy starring Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, True Grit),
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Argo), Julianne Moore (The Hours, Still
Alice), Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Ghost World), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master,
Capote) and John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo). The Big Lebowski 20th
Anniversary Limited Edition is the perfect gift for any fan and the exclusive
set includes a collectible bag, bowling ball pencil holder, polishing cloth and
sweater packaging offering an experience like no other to look back on the
cultural phenomenon of The Dude in the “#1 cult film of all time” (The Boston
With unforgettable scenes and outrageous humor, The Big
Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition showcases hours of bonus features including
retrospective documentaries, an interactive map, an in-depth look at the
phenomenon known as the Lebowski Fest taking audiences deeper than ever before
into the upside down world of “The Dude.”
From the Academy Award®-winning Coen brothers, The Big
Lebowski is a hilariously quirky comedy about bowling, a severed toe, White
Russians and a guy named…The Dude. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski doesn’t want any
drama in his life…heck, he can’t even be bothered with a job. But, he must
embark on a quest with his bowling buddies after his rug is destroyed in a
twisted case of mistaken identity.
· The Dude’s
Life: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and John
Turturro take a look back at their performances and how their delivery of the
Coen brothers’ dialog became classic movie lines.
· The Dude
Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later: A conversation with the cast about
the film’s decade-long reign as a cult classic.
· Making of The
· The Lebowski
Fest: An Achiever’s Story: An in-depth look at the annual Lebowski Fest, a
celebration of The Dude and his world, attended by thousands each year.
Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude: A look at some
of the Dude’s trippiest fantasies so fans can learn for the first time how
these innovative scenes were created.
Map: Take a tour of the locations of The Big Lebowski, then and now.
· Jeff Bridges
Photo Book: For more than 30 years, Jeff Bridges has been snapping pictures on
movie sets. The accomplished photographer presents a portfolio of shots taken
on the set of The Big Lebowski.
· Photo Gallery
· And Much
The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Edition will be
available on 4K Ultra HD combo pack which includes Blu-rayTM and Digital, and
4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K
Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper
picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with
immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the
best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD,
exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite
devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
Movies Anywhere is the digital app that simplifies and
enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing
consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased
or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem
digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from
participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere.
MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States. For more information,
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.
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 then 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.
13 Hilarious Discs, Lovers of the Three Stooges Will Find Over
Incredible Hours of Content, Including All of the Columbia Pictures
(1934-1945), Four Feature Films, Vintage Animated Cartoons,
9-Part Documentary Series "Hey Moe! Hey Dad!," a Collectible,
Memory Book and More!
Nyuk Nyuk...Why I Oughta..."
over 50 years, The Three Stooges presented a brand of pie-throwing, eye-poking
and head-bonking routines that cracked up multiple generations. They were the
masters of mirth, merriment and mayhem, turning slapstick comedy into an art
form. And, with a body of work including over 300 films, television, stage
shows, cartoons and more - they're forever ingrained in popular culture. Now,
one of the greatest comedy troupes of all time is here to poke, smack, slap and
bonk their way onto your screens with THE BEST OF THE THREE STOOGES!
this riotous DVD set, Time Life has brought together the Stooges greatest hits
in one exclusive collection, priced at $99.95 and available only at
ThreeStoogesDVDs.com. Across 13 uproarious discs, viewers will yuk it up with
over 45 hours of knee-slapping content brought together for the very first
THE BEST OF THE
THREE STOOGES: COLUMBIA PICTURES SHORTS 1934-1945 -- These two
volumes feature 87 hilarious short films from 1934 to 1945. Witness the
rise of these comedy icons in this high-spirited collection containing the
first of the iconic Columbia Pictures Shorts. Watch as the Stooges hit
their stride and began to settle into their definitive roles- Moe as boss,
Larry the middleman, and Curly as their foil -- and experience what has
become regarded as the high point in the Three Stooges career - the Golden
Age! (8 Discs; 1496 mins)
THE BEST OF THE
THREE STOOGES: SHORTS, CARTOONS, & FEATURE FILMS -- From
feature-length films to rare cartoons and vintage shorts - this
collection is sure to leave a smile on your face and a bump on
the back of your noggin! It includes Shemp Howard Comedy Shorts (14
classics from the '30s & '40s); Joe Besser Comedy Shorts (10
side-splitters from the '40s & '50s), Joe DeRita Comedy
Shorts (4 smackers from the '40s), Feature Films (The
Three Stooges (2000, biopic); Have Rocket, Will Travel; The Outlaws Is
Coming and Rockin' in the Rockies; The Three Stooges Cartoons,
inludingBon Bon Parade (1935), Merry Mutineers (1936), A Hollywood Detour
(1942), as well as the bonus 9-part documentary series "Hey Moe! Hey
Dad!," which takes fans behind the scenes with the family of The
Three Stooges as they share never-before-seen footage and photos. (5
discs; 1309 mins)
Life is one of the world's pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique
music and video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media
collections that evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and
can be enjoyed for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered
trademarks of Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by
Direct Holdings Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or
Sissy Spacek rose to stardom with her Oscar-nominated performance in the 1976 film version of Stephen King's supernatural bestseller "Carrie"- but the actress reveals how the odds were against her getting the role. Among the obstacles: a previous strained relationship with the film's director Brian De Palma and the fact that studio executives were lobbying for De Palma to cast another actress in the role. Spacek was still determined to land the role and her strategy was to go to the audition looking as "disgusting" as possible. Click here to read.
Writer Ernie Magnotta has released a new book "Halloween: The Changing Shape of an Iconic Series" that explores the origins of John Carpenter's classic chiller as well as evaluations of the entire "Halloween" series. The book is 380 pages and has 200 color photos. For full details and to order, click here.
was three years-old when John Llewellyn Moxey’s The Night Stalker premiered on the ABC Movie of the Week on January
11, 1972 and it took me nearly twenty years to catch up with it on a late night
rerun on a local ABC-TV affiliate. Featuring the terrific late character actor
Darren McGavin in the role of Carl Kolchak, an intrepid reporter who wants to
print the truth regardless of what his editor says after finding himself in the
midst of several murders, The Night
Stalker, penned by the great Richard Matheson based on an unpublished
novel, is a delightful slice of early 1970s spooky entertainment fare that is
most definitely a product of a time that was populated by groovy music on the
radio, TV dinners, and little kids getting tossed around in the backs of mammoth
station wagons. The Las Vegas of 1971 when this movie was shot is much
different from the Las Vegas of 2018. For one thing, the bulk of filming takes
place in what is in present day known as the Fremont Street area. Much of Vega$, the television series starring
Robert Urich that ran from 1978 to 1981, was also filmed in this location as
well, so it will no doubt look familiar to viewers.
is like a cross between photographer Arthur (Usher) Fellig, better known as
Weegee, and Jeff Daniels’s Will Macavoy on HBO’s The Newsroom. He wants the scoop but he wants to tell it the way it
is: truthfully. We are introduced to him after the events have occurred and the
action is told in flashback as Kolchak, unshaven and nearly impecunious in a
run-down motel, is writing a book about the events that have happened. Someone,
or something, is stalking the
residents of Las Vegas and draining them of a portion of their blood. The
authorities (Kent Smith and Claude Akins) are keeping a tight rein on Kolchak
so as to avoid public embarrassment and panic. The suspect is Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater), a
creepy-looking man who bears a resemblance to Jonathan Frid of Dark Shadows fame.
gets into frequent and boisterous arguments with his editor Tony Vincenzo
(Simon Oakland, forever known as the deus
ex machina psychiatrist at the end of 1960’s Psycho) about letting people know the truth, especially if they are
in danger of dying at the hands of Skorzeny,
who appears to be a vampire following failed attempts to shoot him dead after
his break-in of a blood bank at a local hospital. Vincenzo wants to keep the
newspaper’s reputation clean and urges Kolchak not to print such events for
fear of frightening the public. Far from being the first television series to
deal with vampires, it exercises restraint in the depiction of violence against
women, though the results do not shy away from showing some blood – this was,
after all, the era of the televised Vietnam War. One of the earlier victims is
a young woman whose mother is played by actress Virginia Gregg, who provided
the voice of Mother in Psycho and Psycho II. Carol Lynley plays a
prostitute, though her profession is only alluded to in her introductory scenes.
She is a lady friend of Kolchak’s, with modern parlance applying the moniker of
“friends with benefits” to their relationship; she’s twenty years Kolchak’s
junior and urges him to read up on vampires. Kolchak eventually makes his way
to Skorzeny’s lair in an effort to
get the story on his own and uses standard items from his Anti -Vampire Kit
such as a crucifix and the sun through broken glass in an effort to kill him
(or it). A twist has Kolchak leaving
Vegas with his tail between his legs at the urging of the authorities, his
determination to tell the truth at its strongest when he ends up at the motel that
we saw him at the start.