(The following pertains to the UK, Region 2 releases)
Walt Disney before him, Gerry Anderson's name became a brand identifier in
itself, a mark of quality. It is impossible to hear his name without automatically
thinking of puppets on strings, whizzing spaceships and secret island hideouts.
In tribute to Anderson, who sadly passed away two years ago before the
completion of this documentary, Filmed in Supermarionation presents a
brilliantly detailed history of his working life. The film is full of archival
material detailing just how difficult it was bringing life to those puppets,
along with interviews with many of those who worked alongside Anderson, most
notably his wife and long-standing collaborator Sylvia who also provided the
voice of Lady Penelope.
documentary revisits some of the original studios that Anderson and his crew
used and new footage is shot in Supermarionation (Gerry Anderson's term to
describe his use of marionettes) to demonstrate the filmmaking process. Some of
it is surprisingly low-tech but always ingenious. Alongside Gerry Anderson's
son Jamie, Lady Penelope and her chauffeur Parker themselves act as presenters
for the film, and whole sets are rebuilt and then blown up in slow motion. The
documentary also reveals some of the tensions between Gerry Anderson and Lew
Grade, the ITC producer who first bought their shows and then the whole company
itself. It was under Grade that they made the move into colour and produced
their most popular and well-loved show, Thunderbirds. Following the
relative failure of the Thunderbirds Are GO movie in 1966 Anderson went
slightly darker with his follow-up TV show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Even another Thunderbirds movie two years later did not do well, perhaps
because potential audiences felt they had seen it already on television.
continued to improve the process and develop technology that made his shows of
such a high quality, including early use of video assist, which meant that his
puppeteers could view the action live on monitors instead of just looking down
at the puppets heads. Thankfully, unlike a lot of television production at the
time which was shot on primitive video tape, Anderson's shows were shot on
film, meaning they have been preserved and all look great today.
often claiming to hate the puppets (he reveals that early on he hoped to become
a director like Steven Spielberg) Gerry Anderson nevertheless worked with them
throughout the 1960s before finally having the opportunity to work with real
actors; first producing the theatrical film Journey to the Far Side of the
Sun, and then the successful TV series' UFO and Space: 1999.
Staying within science fiction, all of these shows still made extensive use of
miniatures and the effects that he had developed in his earlier puppet shows.
Distributing have produced this documentary and are releasing it in both DVD
and Blu-ray formats. For
real fans and collectors there is a limited edition box set featuring books,
comics and bonus original Gerry Anderson episodes of early shows like Four
Feathers Fall, Fireball XL5 and Supercar, all restored and in
HD. (This can be ordered by clicking here.)
Steven Awalt –
author interviewed by Todd Garbarini
it’s about time, Charlie!”
Weaver utters these words in my favorite Steven Spielberg film, Duel, a production that was originally
commissioned by Universal Pictures as an MOW, industry shorthand for “movie of
the week”, which aired on Saturday, November 13, 1971. The reviews were glowing; the film’s admirers
greatly outweighed its detractors and it put Mr. Spielberg, arguably the most
phenomenally successful director in the history of the medium, on a path to a
career that would make any contemporary director green with envy. Followed by a spate of contractually obligated
television outings, Duel would prove
to be the springboard that would catapult Mr. Spielberg into the realm that he
was shooting for since his youth: that of feature film directing. Duel would also land him in the court of
Hollywood producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck and get him his first
theatrical film under his belt, 1974’s The
Sugarland Express. It would be the
1975 blockbuster smash success of his second film, Jaws, similar in theme to Duel
in that a seemingly unstoppable monster is eventually put down following an
inexorable chase of cat-and-mouse, which would make him a household name. Yes, Charlie, it is about time that this phenomenal film got its own book, one that
is dedicated to the story’s origin and creation. Painstakingly researched by
Spielberg scholar Steven Awalt,
the aptly-titled Steven Spielberg and DUEL: The Making of a Film Careeris an excellent book now
available in hardcover, paperback and for the Kindle from Rowman &
volume starts at the beginning with Duel’s
author, the late Richard Matheson, the man responsible for some of the most
interesting, frightening, and best short stories of the genre and some of the
most memorable episodes of television’s The
Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) such as Third
from the Sun, Nick of Time, The
Invaders, Little Girl Lost, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and Night Call. Author Awalt expertly describes
the terrifying, dangerous and death-defying real-life incident that compelled
Mr. Matheson to pen the story, and the fascinating journey it took until it was
published in the April 1971 issue of Playboy Magazine which made its way into
the hands of Steven Spielberg’s secretary. Through interviews with the remaining crew members who worked on Duel, Mr. Awalt covers every aspect of
the film’s inception, creation (actual filming and subsequent editing into
answer print form) and ultimate presentation. What is interesting to note is that although Duel originated as a TV-movie, the film’s success in the form of
excellent critical reception and high Nielsen ratings resulted in the director
being given additional capital to increase it from its standard 74-minute
running time to the more acceptable 90-minute length it required for release in
movie theaters, and it played briefly in select markets in the spring of
1983. It is this 90-minute version of
the film that is known the world over.
with publicity shots and storyboards created by the director, Steven Spielberg and DUEL is the last word on this terrific thriller that the director originally
wanted to make without any dialogue (interestingly, the Twilight Zone episode The
Invaders was originally conceived this way). Everything you ever wanted to know about how
the film came about is covered in this exhaustively researched book. Best of all, Universal is releasing the Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection
on Blu-ray, and one of the titles included in this collection is Duel.
I recently spoke with Mr. Awalt about his
book and genuine love for all things Spielberg.
Garbarini: Based on what I have read about you, it is my understanding that you
became a fan of Steven Spielberg after your first viewing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Please tell me about that, as that is exactly
the same way that I became familiar with his work.
Awalt: Yes, that is correct. My family
and I saw it in the early winter of 1978. I was five years-old at the time, and
my parents had earlier taken me to see Star
Wars in a drive-in during the summer before. So between those two films, they really had a
huge impact on me. I was also familiar with the Walt Disney films, as well as
Jim Henson's work, but Steven Spielberg was the first director who I saw as a real
filmmaker. The story of the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind is
the one book that I really, really want to write.
I had the exact same reaction you did. I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977, not at a drive-in but at a
two-screen movie theater. Five months
later for my birthday my parents took me to see it again and this time the
trailer for Close Encounters was
presented before the film. I remember being frightened and finding certain
images from the film to be very intense, like the interrogation scene between
Richard Dreyfus, Francois Truffaut and Bob Balaban. Like you, I had been used to seeing the Walt
Disney cartoons. In a way, this was my
introduction to more mature, adult filmmaking. I knew about Jaws in the summer of 1975 and knew some
kids who had seen it. When it came to Close Encounters, I was just blown away
by that film. It's one of the great cinematic experiences of my childhood. I almost feel that after having seen Star Wars and Close Encounters, I was kind of spoiled because I was expecting to
see all the other directors making movies just as great as those films,
especially when you consider that on the heels of that you had The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. is actually my personal favorite
Spielberg film. I have a really deep personal connection to the film.
I can certainly understand that. He captures children in a way that I've never
seen from anyone else, except maybe for Truffaut.
Yes, I can't think of any other filmmakers who are as real and as honest with
children. I think that Steven has always been that way, even if you look at Hook you see the way the children relate
to each other.
Garbarini: I first heard of Duel when
Steven Spielberg appeared on The Dick
Cavett Show in June 1981 while doing publicity for Raiders of the Lost Ark. He
talked about Duel and a man being
chased down by a large truck, and I wondered how I never heard of the film, not
knowing that it was a TV-movie. About a
year later, I was in my 7th grade English class and we were required
to read short story collections and write compositions on them. A collection caught my eye, and Duel was one of the stories. I read it and was hooked on Richard
Matheson’s writing. In 1983 I begged my
father to take me to New York to see Duel
during a brief theatrical exhibition following the worldwide success of E.T. but it didn’t last long enough for
us to get to see it. I finally saw it on
VHS in 1988 and loved it. How did you
come to see Duel and what was your
reaction to it?
I saw it on television with my dad, but I don't remember it to the extent that
I remembered seeing Close Encounters in
the theater. I saw Raiders of the Lost
Ark, of course, and Poltergeist was
also a big film for me. However, I don't recall what it was like seeing it for
the first time. My father and I watched Raiders
of the Lost Ark many times together. He introduced me to a lot of great
movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jaws was also a movie that I saw on
television, I think that was first on in 1980 on ABC, or was it NBC?
It was on ABC, it premiered in November 1979. That took a full four years to come to network television.
Oh, wow. Yeah, that was how our generation saw movies in the days before VHS.
I know, remember that? When a big movie was premiering on television, it was an
event that my friends and I really looked forward to. It didn't matter that it
had commercials, because none of my friends, except for one, had cable
television. Now, forget about it. You don't even have to own the movie; you can simply go to YouTube and watch almost
anything that you want. I found Amblin (1968) on there. When The Warriors was released in 1979, there
was a lot of controversy surrounding it, stories of gangs fighting in movie
theaters. When it came to ABC in 1981, that is how I first saw it. I didn't see
it on cable or on home video, I saw it on network television. I think that’s
how a lot of us saw movies from the 1970s. The networks would sometimes air movies with alternate titles. That’s how I saw Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970), which aired as War Games and Escape to Athena (1979), which aired as The Golden Raiders, and Ffolkes
(1979) which aired as Assault Force.
Yeah, that's how I first saw 1941
(1979). I have a soft spot in my heart for that film. It's a bit of a mess, but
it has really great work in it. The miniatures are really beautiful in that
movie. Yeah, it was a whole different era. Young audiences today almost don't
know what it's like to go see a movie like Star
Wars in the drive-in. For people like you and I, you'd see a movie in the
theaters, and that it would come to network television and would really be
something to look forward to. Then there was the dawn of home video in the form
of VHS in the late 70s and early 80s. I think that the first movie I saw on VHS
was The Muppet Movie, that might've
been in 1981. Then in 1982 I saw Time Bandits.
What a different era it was back then, having time to watch those movies over
and over again!
I saw both of those films in the theater, but the first home video format that
my family owned was the RCA Select-A-Vision Capacitance Electronic Disc
CED for short, which necessitated purchasing movies. The Muppet Movie and Time
Bandits were two titles that I owned. Star
Wars and Poltergeist with the
first two movies I ever purchased and they were in that format. I just watched
them over and over and over again, on a 13” color TV, no less. Most people don't even remember that system,
they tend to confuse it with Pioneer’s laserdisc format. It's interesting, Jaws was the first movie released on laserdisc;
it was through MCA's DiscoVision line. The movie was spread out the five sides!
Can you imagine?
Yeah, I actually have the letterboxed laserdisc special edition of Jaws, that thing cost $150.
My favorite action film is The Road
Warrior. The stunts and camerawork
are groundbreaking, but there are a few shots where it almost looks like a Mack
Sennett comedy in that the cameras were undercranked and the action moves too
quickly. I never noticed that in Duel.
To your knowledge, was Duel shot
without any undercranking?
There was one shot where that happens, but it actually helps. The frame rate
was actually increased and the camera was overcranked. It's a long shot where
the vantage point is that of Dennis Weaver's character, David Mann, and the
truck is just plowing around the corner coming towards him.
Was there any behind-the-scenes footage shot on this movie, or was it done on
such a low-budget that that wasn't even a consideration?
Yeah, it was very low-budget, even the amount of stills that were taken is very
small. They didn't really have a dedicated on-the-set photographer.
What is the biggest difference between the theatrical cut and the television
The biggest and most obvious difference between the two is the opening. The
first few minutes where the camera begins in the garage, pulls back and drives
through downtown traffic was all added later so that it could be released
Yes, I remember when first saw it I thought, You mean to tell me that they let him do this for a television movie?
I was astonished. But I was completely
Yeah, exactly. The television cut begins with Dennis Weaver's car driving from
left to right in the frame as he is on his way to his business appointment. Of course, the scenes with him on the phone talking
to his wife and his run-in with the school bus were also added later.
Most of those streets look the same today. The last time I was in Los Angeles
was November 2008 and I drove along most of those same roads. I made it a point
to go to Milky Way, the restaurant owned and run by Leah Adler (Steven
Spielberg's mother). She was there that day, and I sat and talked with her for a
while about how much her son’s movies changed my life. It was great walking to
the bathroom as the hallway is flanked with movie posters of his films. When
did you first meet Mr. Spielberg?
In 2006. I originally ran a website dedicated to his movies from 2001 until
2009. So, I had been writing for the website for a while. In February 2006, I
received a FedEx package from DreamWorks. I figured it was stills from his films
or something to that effect, because I had never even broached the subject of
interviewing him. It turned out to be a letter from Steven Spielberg, and he told
me how much he enjoyed my writing and really like the website. Eight months
later he was being given a lifetime achievement award at the Chicago Film
Festival and I met him on the red carpet and we talked for a while. I did a
sort of mini-interview with him. The highlight of the evening, in addition to
meeting him of course, was when he introduced me to Roy Scheider.
I am experiencing major jealousy
pangs right now! (laughs)
God, Roy Scheider. I would've loved to have met and spoken with both of them. The French Connection is my favorite
Oh, my God, I loveThe French Connection.
I was fortunate enough to meet most of the cast members of the film, such as
Gene Hackman, Tony LoBianco, and even Sonny Grosso. The icing on the cake was
meeting William Friedkin. I also met Chris Newman, who recorded the sound on the
film. One of my biggest regrets, however, has not being able to meet Roy
Yeah, All That Jazz is a great film.
Yes, in fact the Criterion Collection released that on Blu-ray. He was great in
Marathon Man, Sorcerer, and The Seven-Ups
from 1973, which is a film that a lot of people don't even know about.
Yes, meeting Roy Scheider was a great life moment for me. And then I guess
around 2011 I pitched the idea of the Duel
book to Steven Spielberg's people and he said yes right away, he thought it was
a great idea. He even invited me out to interview him before I even had a
chance to ask him if I could interview him. I cannot say enough about him, he's
just such a nice man and is so genuine. You hear the story all the time that
when you're in conversation with him, and you think about all the things that
he has going on in his life, he's just right there and he's 100% completely
focused on what you're talking about as he's talking to you. Even in conversations, he's a really great storyteller, which really
isn’t surprising! When I was out in L.A. interviewing him, he showed me a photo
of himself standing next to Federico Fellini and he was talking about this
memory that he had of meeting him in 1973 and there was such excitement in his
voice about this memory that was nearly 40 years-old. He's got such a deep
appreciation of film history and such excitement about it, and he's also one of
the pinnacles of it!
Well, he's just like us. He is first and foremost a movie fanatic. I could
literally spend hours talking to him about not only his experiences on the sets
of his own movies, and I would love to hear some stories that he has to tell
about what went on behind the scenes of his films and so forth, but also his
impressions of other directors and other movies that he has seen growing up and
even the new films that are out now and what's still inspires him. He isn't
just some hack who is out there trying to make money, he honestly and truly
loves this stuff. Were you able to see his early work? I know that he's not a
fan of Amblin, a film that I really
like very much, especially the main theme song. Did you get to see Firelightor any of the short films that he did
as a teenager?
I've seen everything he's done with the exception of his episode of Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, nor
could I find his two episodes of The
Psychiatrist. I spoke to Sid
Sheinberg about it, and he remarked that one of the episodes, called Par for the Course, was one of the most
moving pieces of work he had ever seen. Spielberg was in his early twenties when he did it. The episode is about
death, friendship, and losing a friend. But, like I said, that's one that I
haven't been able to locate and I'm really interested in seeing it. You look at
the The Sugarland Express, for
example, and it's frustrating for me to look back now on even some of the good
critical notices the film got. For
example, Pauline Kael said that Spielberg was very good at moving the cars
around. But, when you look at the movies, whether they involve cars, sharks,
spaceships or whatever, even though those are brilliant and exciting cinematic
creations, and even going back to his early television work pre-Duel, he was always about the
characters. Their personalities and the situations that they get caught up in are
always first and foremost the most important aspects of the story. I've always
felt that he's been an incredibly humanistic director and I think that
unfortunately that aspect of his career has been totally lost on a lot of
critics. Getting back to Sugarland, I don't believe that the cars
are the main focus or the main aspect of that story. The characters are really
special, and the fact that a lot of the leading critics didn't see that at the
time is almost mind-boggling. Still to this day he carries that reputation with
him. It's really amazing to me that when people talk about his work, and I
don't know if this is attributed to jealousy or snobbery or whatever, they just
don't give him the credit that he deserves. I also think that a lot of the
times the critics were comparing him to highly established directors who were
in their fifties and sixties at the time. You have to look at it in
perspective. Spielberg was a guy in his twenties. How many people have that
kind of perspective into the human condition in their twenties? But for him to
have that human angle even in a film like Duel
is amazing. The intercutting between the car and truck - the film is ultimately
about a man and his paranoia. So he has enormous insight into the psychology of
the Dennis Weaver character. What an amazing young filmmaker to be able pull
off something like that at his age.
Would you say that his experience on Duel
prepared him for the desert truck chase sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark?
SA: No, I wouldn't say that because the truck
chase was done during principal photography and was shot by Mickey Moore. Steven
conceived and storyboarded it, but Mickey Moore shot it with the second unit
crew. I remember when I read that and thought,
I really thought that Steven had been out
there shooting that whole thing. But,
despite the fact that he didn't, it works brilliantly in the film and actually
got a lot of subsequent work for Mickey Moore. This is always a tough thing
because I do believe…I don’t want to say auteur
theory necessarily, as I think that's become a denigrated term now, but to deny
authorship I think is ludicrous. Everything
in a film is funneled through either a director’s filter or a very strong producer’s
filter, so obviously when you look at a filmography like Steven’s or any other
dominant and very personal director obviously authorship is something that
should definitely be considered. I still think his fingerprints are all over
it. Don't get me started on Poltergeist,
by the way!
(laughs) I saw that movie the weekend
that it opened. My friend and I sat through it twice. It played next door to Kill Squad.
Oh, I love Poltergeist, even to this
day. The first time that I saw it was when I was playing with some friends and
neighbors. The adults were inside
watching it on television and I basically saw it through the screen door. I
couldn’t hear it well at all, but I was so excited to see it.
I have seen Poltergeist many, many
times. It's one of my favorite movies ever. Thinking along those lines, and
this kind of thing started for me with Star
Wars, it was only in 1977 that I would go back to see a favorite movie
multiple times. Prior seeing to seeing Star
Wars, I don't ever remember doing that. There weren't any films that I had
seen that made me want to go see them more than once, although I did sit
through two screenings of Peter Pan
during a 1976 rerelease in the summertime. Superman
the Movie was another pivotal film for me. For one thing, these movies
stayed in theaters for a very long time, and if friends of mine and I loved it,
which we invariably did, we would always go see them on our birthdays. Our
parents would wonder why in the world we would want to see the same movies over
and over again instead of new movies. John Williams’ music, without taking
anything away from the writers, producers, directors, and actors, the overall
cast and crew of all of these films, I really believe is what makes those films
what they are.
SA: I completely agree and I don't think that the
filmmakers would disagree with that statement at all. I think that they would
be right there with you.
I've read that Mr. Spielberg even cuts to Mr. Williams’ music. The two of them
have gone on to such an amazing collaboration, far more so than the one between
Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann which, as you well know, was
argumentative and often combative. However, Herrmann clearly enhanced
Hitchcock's movies immeasurably. Imagine Psycho
without those strings?
SA: I know!
Billy Goldenberg wrote excellent music for Duel,
in addition to several other shows directed by Mr. Spielberg. I have always felt that his music has been
woefully underrepresented on soundtrack albums. Do you know if there are any plans to release his music from these
Spielberg projects on CD?
Not to my knowledge, no. He is very
underrepresented on disc, it’s a real shame. A lot of the soundtrack album companies are doing a really terrific job
in getting a lot of the scores out there in terms of getting them out of the
vault. However, there really is still so much work to do for scores from that
era. I really think that Billy’s scores need a release. And even John Williams’s
score to Sugarland, this is the only
score from his collaboration with Spielberg that has never been released. Now
this is like the missing link. I have heard from soundtrack producers at
Universal, at least previously anyway, they were very tight with what they
allowed to come out of their vaults. I would love to see a score for Sugarland released, and also for Duel obviously.
Well, with your excellent book on Duel
and the new Blu-ray release of the film in the Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection, let’s hope that this leads
to a soundtrack release.
Sounds good to me!
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "STEVEN SPIELBERG AND DUEL: THE MAKING OF A FILM CAREER" FROM AMAZON
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "STEVEN SPIELBERG: THE DIRECTOR'S COLLECTION" ON BLU-RAY FROM AMAZON
CLICK HERE TO ORDER "DUEL" DVD COLLECTOR'S EDITION FROM AMAZON
by the late 1970s Richard Burton's reputation was based more on his
hard-drinking and turbulent marriages, he was still capable of demonstrating
his powers as a dangerous and magnetic performer. Arguably by this time he had
lost some of his former box-office draw and was taking roles in horror films
like Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and The Medusa Touchto pay the bills, yet he was still a
mesmerising screen presence and in this film can even command the attention of
the audience whilst lying on a hospital bed in a coma.
The Medusa Touch is set in London
and begins with a murder. In the opening scene we see renowned author John
Morlar (Richard Burton) watching news of a space shuttle disaster on TV. Within
seconds he is being bludgeoned to death by a blunt instrument. It is something
of a shock to see the lead actor of a movie being killed before the credits
have even rolled, however, all is not lost. When the police arrive, led by
Inspector Brunel (Lino Ventura), a French detective on some kind of exchange
visit to Scotland Yard, they realise that he is still alive. Just. He is
whisked to hospital where he is put under the charge of Dr. Johnson (Gordon
Jackson) and wired up to several monitors and machines in an effort to keep him
alive. It is then up to Brunel to find out who tried to kill him and why.
despite initially appearing that Burton is merely in this film as a cameo role,
he does actually show up in several lengthy flashbacks as Brunel tries to track
down anyone who knew him. One person who may be able to help is his
psychiatrist, played by Lee Remick. She discloses that Morlar believed he had
the power to cause disasters by willing them in his mind; the so-called
"Medusa Touch". Initially believing this to be a curse, he gradually
comes to the realisation that he can use this power to change the world.
The Medusa Touch features some
spectacular special effects as Morlar's disasters grow and grow in scale and
magnitude, from a horrific plane crash into a large apartment building to an a
royal assassination attempt by demolishing a major London landmark. It does not
take Brunel long to turn from being sceptical of these powers to being in a
race against time to stop Morlar in his diabolical quest.
directed by Jack Gold, The Medusa Touch is pure entertainment throughout
and plays like a cross between The Omen (1976) and an episode of Columbo.
This new Blu-ray features an excellent transfer and some fascinating behind the
scenes footage of the film's climax in Westminster Abbey. Jack Gold is
accompanied on a commentary track by genre authorities Kim Newman (who has also
written a booklet for this release) and Stephen Jones, where Gold is enthusiastic
and full of praise for all those who worked on the film.
Click here to order and view original trailer. (This is for the UK, region 2 release.)
(This review pertains to the British Blu-ray release by Network)
BY ADRIAN SMITH
A mysterious Englishman with mystical
powers, a sexy wife, a game of cricket and an insane asylum. In different hands
these elements could have been combined to make an Amicus portmanteau film in
the style of Tales From the Crypt or Asylum. In the hands of I,
Claudius author Robert Graves and Palme d'Or-winning Polish director Jerzy
Skolimowski it becomes a strange, hypnotic and fragmented tale that unsettles
and confuses in equal measure.
Alan Bates, who could give Richard Burton a
run for his money in the "brooding intensity" stakes, plays Crossley,
a disheveled yet charismatic wanderer who bursts uninvited into the lives of
Anthony and Rachel with devastating consequences. Anthony (John Hurt) is a
Radiophonic Workshop-style musician who spends most of his time recording
unusual noises and manipulating tape decks. Despite his apparent affair with
the wife of the village cobbler, he is happily married, if somewhat distracted
from her needs by his own sound obsessions. Rachel (Susannah York) is initially
upset by the presence of Crossley, who invited himself in for Sunday lunch
whilst Anthony was too polite to say no. Crossley claims to have spent the last
eighteen years in the Australian outback married to an aboriginal woman, where
he legally killed his children. He explains to Anthony that he also learned
shamanic abilities, including a form of shout that when uttered can kill anyone
and anything within earshot. Anthony is sceptical, yet with his interests in
sound, he cannot resist a demonstration.
This plot setup could lead to a
conventional thriller or horror film, but Skolimowski has created something
entirely unconventional. Crossley is relating this tale to a young Tim Curry at
a novelty cricket match being played between inmates and local villagers, which
in itself seems a highly unlikely scenario. The Shout uses collage-style
editing and an increasingly schizophrenic narrative until we are not entirely
sure what is going on or whose version of events to believe.
The soundtrack is particularly inventive
and unusual, making the most of the opportunity it was given in 1978 of being
one of the first films distributed in Dolby Stereo. When Alan Bates does shout
the audience must have all felt close to death. The cinematography is also
spectacular, making the Devon landscape look both beautiful and dangerous. The
Shout features a terrific cast who really embrace the concept without
hamming it up, something which could easily have happened if a "killer
shout" movie was being directed by anyone else. And if you have ever
wanted to see Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent strip almost naked and smear himself
in excrement then look no further.
This new Blu-ray features a new HD transfer
from the original film elements, an interview with the film's producer Jeremy
Thomas, an audio commentary from Stephen Jones and Kim Newman and a booklet
featuring new writing from Newman and Karen Oughton.
you’re too young to remember it, you’ll recall that Twin Peaks was a short-lived phenomenon on television in the year
1990. The frenzy lasted into 1991 but sadly fizzled out quickly due to the
network’s (ABC) futzing around with time slots, days-of-the-week for airing,
and unexplained hiatuses. What began as the number one show on television for
several months somehow derailed during its underrated second season and lost
its viewership. The program was cancelled, leaving the fans of the series with
an unresolved cliffhanger that haunts us to this day.
Lynch and Mark Frost were the men behind Twin
Peaks. At the time, in the late 80s, Lynch was just coming off the success
of his 1986 feature film, Blue Velvet,
when he teamed up with TV veteran Frost to create a PG-rated show that explored
many of the same themes as Velvet—only
for a television audience. The fictional town of Twin Peaks, in Washington
state, is gorgeous (those beautiful Douglas firs!), has a diner that serves the
best pies in the world, and a seemingly “normal” population of families and
mill workers. However, like in Blue
Velvet, a dark underbelly exists beneath the safe exterior, one that is
supernatural and evil.
thrust of the show’s first season and half of the second season was solving
the mystery of “who killed Laura Palmer?” Once that storyline was resolved, it
was clear that the writers and creators weren’t sure where to go from there.
The episodes did falter a bit mid-second-season,
but for my money, they found their footing in the last quarter with the new
storyline involving master criminal Windom Earle. The show was just building to
a new dramatic peak (no pun intended) when the axe fell.
bounced back quickly, though, and made a feature film, released in 1992,
entitled Twin Peaks—Fire Walk With Me.
Not many people liked it, including the die-hard fans of the show (who had, in Star Trek fashion, begun letter-writing
campaigns to the network with pleas to renew the show). What was wrong with the
feature film? It lacked the quirky humor and most of the eccentric characters
from the TV show and instead focused on the very sordid and tragic story of
Laura Palmer’s final week of life before her murder. It also didn’t address the
cliffhanger ending of the series—or did it? At any rate, the movie failed, and the Twin Peaks phenomenon was over.
the aforementioned die-hard fans formed fan clubs, an annual pilgrimage to the
show’s locations in Washington state, and the cult grew over the last twenty-four
years. It is now generally recognized that Twin
Peaks was way ahead of its time and that it was the catalyst for the
“episodic” television dramas that came after it—Northern Exposure, The
X-Files, and pretty much everything else we watch today on cable channels. Twin Peaks showed the networks that
audiences would stick with a storyline that developed over many episodes. It
was a new way of doing things on television. The show was also groundbreaking
in that it dared to take viewers into surrealistic territory—something that
hadn’t been done since, say, 1968’s mini-series of The Prisoner. Twin Peaks also
began the cult of water-cooler discussions the next day at work. “What did that
mean?” “Who was that dancing dwarf?” “I think so-and-so killed Laura.” “No, I
think whozit did.” And so on.
the years went by, several releases of the show on VHS and later DVD exacerbated
the confusion because the two-hour pilot episode (1:34 without commercials) was
owned by a different company and was never issued in America. People were
buying the two seasons without seeing the all-important, foundation-laying
pilot (and still the best “episode” of the entire story). This was rectified in
2007 with the “Definitive Gold Box” DVD release that contained both complete
seasons, remastered with bonus material (but not Fire Walk With Me). Additionally, over the years, it was learned
that Lynch’s initial cut of Fire Walk
With Me was nearly four hours long and it did contain scenes with the other characters from the town. The
director had been forced to cut the movie down to a manageable 2:15 by
contract, so he decided to just focus on Laura’s story. Fans have been howling
for these “missing pieces” to be released, but the rights were tied up in legal
and financial complexities.
we now have it all. These “missing pieces” have been assembled, remastered, and
edited by Lynch himself to create a somewhat “new” Twin Peaks movie (called, of course, “The Missing Pieces”). This
Holy Grail for Peaks fans, along with
the gorgeously restored and digitally remastered Fire Walk With Me (first Blu-ray release in the USA) and the two
television seasons with pilot, now comprise Twin
Peaks—The Entire Mystery, a lavish box set that begs to be devoured with
several slices of pie and some of that “damned good coffee.”
“The Missing Pieces” emphasizes how much better Fire Walk With Me would have been had Lynch been allowed to release
the longer version. It would have felt more like the television series. There
are sequences that help explain a lot about the ending of the show, too. While
Lynch elected to remain vague about FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’s fate in the
Black Lodge and his earthly body’s possession by BOB the Killer, there are
clues in the “Missing Pieces” that at the very least address the situation.
theatrical cut of Fire Walk With Me needs
to be critically reassessed as well, now that we’ve seen many more David Lynch
films of its ilk (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire). It works best if you think of the picture as a
horror film—which it is—and a very disturbing one at that. Sheryl Lee delivers
a courageous and brilliant performance as Laura, far surpassing anything she
did on the television series.
for the two seasons of the show, Kyle MacLachlan is a revelation as Agent
Cooper—this was the role the actor was born to play. Other standouts in the
cast are Michael Ontkean, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn
Fenn, James Marshall, Dana Ashbrook, Madchen Amick, Eric Da Re, Everett McGill,
and Jack Nance.
extras in the box set include new video interviews between Lynch and the Palmer
family (Leland, Sarah, and Laura), and then the actors who portrayed them
(Wise, Zabriskie, and Lee). Very effective stuff. There is a new Fire Walk With Me making-of documentary,
a couple of documentaries ported over from the 2007 Gold box, the Blu-ray
version of the “international” pilot, and some new collages of “atmospheres”
from the show that combine imagery and music into short, themed vignettes.
twenty-five years later, Twin Peaks—The
Entire Mystery serves as a reminder that Lynch and Frost’s show was even
more brilliant than it was first suggested, and that it needs to be
rediscovered and re-evaluated. There is much to savor.
you ever wondered what M*A*S*H would have been like if, instead of
rebelling in a Korean field hospital and taking a satirical swipe at the
Vietnam war, Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland had actually been CIA
operatives in contemporary Paris? Probably not, but somebody in 1974 did and commissioned
a film that would be marketed solely on the chemistry of its two leads. Sadly
no one else involved with movie seemed to think it worthwhile to write a decent
script or throw any money into the project. This film looks so cheap that,
during a scene where Sutherland is washing up, you suspect that he was doing
this between takes as well.
and Sutherland play agents Griff and Bruland, who are both working separately
in Paris until an accidental assassination attempt by their own agency brings them
together. Incidentally this bombing takes place in a pissoire (urinal), which
gives an early indication of how grubby this film will get. Martinson, played
by British actor Joss Ackland, is the Chief of the Paris branch of the CIA, and
to make amends for nearly killing them, he puts them together on a new case.
Their task is to smuggle a defector from the Russian Olympic team back to New
York. However, when rival British agents get involved, it all goes horribly
wrong, and once again Griff and Bruland narrowly escape a CIA bomb. So now they
are rogue ex-agents out to survive attempts on their lives whilst earning money
through shady deals involving French revolutionaries, the Russian ambassador
and the Chinese secret service. Much farce ensues.
film, shot in the UK and on location in Paris, plays more like a Bob Hope and
Bing Crosby Road to... movie, or, with the heavy British influence, the
Morecambe and Wise film The Magnificent Two. Ackland is like a poor
man's Herbert Lom from the Pink Panther films, and Sutherland and Gould
play the film like they used to have fun together a few years ago, but not so
much any more. A lot of the film feels like the director is time filling. A
return trip from Paris to London serves no other purpose than to allow for
stock travel footage. This is perhaps a surprise when you learn that the
director is none other than Irvin Kershner, who started out in film noir but is
best known for saving the Star Wars
franchise with The Empire Strikes Back. S*P*Y*S represents
something of a low in his CV.
reasons most likely forgotten, the film had a score by Jerry Goldsmith on its
US release, but in Europe a new score was recorded by John Scott, a jazz
musician whose career now spans more than fifty years, covering everything from
horror and sexploitation to TV themes and epics. His score for S*P*Y*S,
found on this new DVD release, is fairly conventional, and in all likelihood
the audience will be too busy straining to hear anything funny from the cast to
point of interest here is that the film offers an appearance of Zouzou, who
plays a sexy revolutionary. In the 1960s, through her involvement with Brian
Jones of The Rolling Stones, she became a celebrity and French icon before
trying singing and acting. Addicted to heroin she dropped out of acting shortly
after S*P*Y*S, presumably because she watched it.
of Elliott Gould or Donald Sutherland will no doubt want to pick this up, but
for everyone else it is a less than essential release. With a plot that can be
found in countless Euro-spy and Bond rip-offs, and unable to compensate for
this with sparkling wit or charm, S*P*Y*S has little to offer. Watch M*A*S*H
new DVD release from Network Releasing features a decent print. The colours are
rather drab, but one suspects that is how the film has always looked. As
mentioned, the soundtrack features the European rather than the original Jerry
Goldsmith score. The only extras are a rather brief stills gallery and the
original theatrical trailer, which really hammers home just how great it will
be to see Gould and Sutherland do their thing again. If only it proved to be true...
1982, Meryl Streep had already made a big splash in the motion picture
industry, having won a Supporting Actress Oscar for 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer, and securing a Supporting Actress nomination
prior to that for 1978’s The Deer Hunter and
a Best Actress nomination for 1981’s The
French Lieutenant’s Woman. With Sophie’s
Choice, the actress snapped up the Best Actress Oscar pretty much without a
contest—everyone knew that if she didn’t win, then a terrible crime had been
committed by the Academy. In short, in this reviewer’s opinion, Streep’s
performance in Sophie’s Choice is one
of the greatest pieces of acting ever presented on the silver screen. Period. Since
then, Streep has gone on to prove, over and over, that she is arguably the most
talented actress in the history of cinema, but Sophie remains her masterpiece.
a damned good movie, too, and it should have at the very least secured
nominations that year for Best Picture and Best Director. It’s faithfully
adapted from William Styron’s best-selling novel and it’s beautifully made. And
while Streep dominates the film with her bravura characterization of a tortured
Polish Holocaust survivor, her two co-stars, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol,
are also very good (in fact it was Kline’s film debut as Nathan, Sophie’s
bi-polar lover). Pakula’s direction is sensitive and intimate, although it’s a big story that encompasses three
distinct personalities amidst a backdrop of post-war ennui.
you’ve never seen it, you’re probably thinking, Oh, a Holocaust movie, what a downer, who wants to see that? Well,
there are Holocaust films and then there is Sophie’s
Choice (actually only a small portion of the film reveals Holocaust scenes
in flashback). Primarily it’s a love story, albeit a tragic one. It will move
you and shake you, and you will come away from the experience a different
person. Seriously. This is Alan J. Pakula’s best motion picture, All the President’s Men notwithstanding.
best thing about the new Shout Factory Blu-ray release of the film is the fact
that it’s anamorphic widescreen—which the only other U.S. DVD edition wasn’t.
The disc is worth buying for that alone; however, the 1080p high-definition
presentation looks very good. The soft focus used throughout the picture by DP
Nestor Almendros is perhaps a detriment to the overall appearance of the image,
but still—it’s much better than what we had before. The audio commentary is by
the late director himself.
only extra is a long, recent roundtable discussion between Streep, Kline,
Pakula’s widow, William Styron’s widow, and two of Pakula’s colleagues. The
group goes through the film’s casting and production, revealing many
interesting gems about the business.
Choice is one of the best films of
the 80s. Experience it on Blu-ray today
Author and Cinema Retro columnist Raymond Benson has collaborated with bestselling author Jeffery Deaver on "Ice Cold: Tales of Mystery and Intrigue From the Cold War", a new book that presents a topic both men know well: espionage. In addition to stories by Benson and Deaver, there are contributions from many other talented writers who specialize in thrillers. The book is winning rave advance reviews (click here). Both Deaver and Benson have won acclaim for writing original James Bond novels.
Benson and Deaver, along with other noted authors, will be in New York City for a book launch event at the famed Mysterious Bookshop on April 29 at 6:00 PM. The store is located at 58 Warren Street in Tribeca.
Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer, who will be at the event, said, "We're very excited by Raymond's new project. He's been with Cinema Retro since our first issue ten years ago and his regular column in which he discusses the "Ten Best Films" of a specific year has become an integral part of our magazine. Additionally, his insightful, on-line DVD reviews have helped www.cinemaretro.com enjoy significant growth in readership over the years. Like all of his other admirers, I'm looking forward to delving into "Ice Cold" and I encourage all of our readers in the New York City area to attend the event, which should make for a fun-filled evening."
"Ice Cold" is available in many different formats from Amazon. Click below to order paperback and Kindle editions.
in the west knows the name – Gaddafi.For over 40 years he was an international
riddle, visiting world capitals yet sleeping in a bulletproof tent; a statesman
who surrounded himself with female bodyguards and, of course, a pariah scorned
by the west for acts of international terror…
Mad Dog: Inside The Secret World of
Muammar Gaddafi , a remarkable Showtime documentary premiering April 11th,
director Christopher Olgiati and his team went deep inside the late despot’s
hidden world. The resulting portrait is
chilling, horrifying and impossible not to watch.
film’s Executive Producer, Roy Ackerman spoke with Cinema Retro about putting together
this daunting and dangerous project. “Chris (Olgiati) and I had worked together before… and he came to me
about doing a film on the Lockerbie Crash and we spent a lot of time developing
that but for various reasons we came to focus on Gaddafi.”
film took three years to research and shoot in ten countries around the globe –
from the United States to the Marshall Islands. (Try even finding them on a
map!) Along the way the dictator’s
finely honed image as a Nationalist Statesman completely unravels, revealing a
desperate and perverse man who preyed on his own people.
any movie is all about challenges, but shooting inside Libya was in a whole
other league – “It was very, very dangerous.” Roy remembers, “we went in three times and there were bombs going off
and car bombs, one time we had to just leave because it was too unstable.”
Libyan footage they did get is apocalyptic and stunning – a Mad Max moonscape
of ruined buildings and burnt out interiors. They also interviewed several people who did business with the regime, including
international fugitive Frank Terpil who supplied Gaddafi’s military with
weapons. Another notable interview was
former CIA officer Valerie Plame who provides perspective on Gaddafi’s dramatic
hunt for nuclear weapons. The producers
left no biographical stone unturned, even interviewing Gaddafi’s plastic
surgeon who told a surreal tale of late night operations in an underground
bunker, the dictator refusing general anesthesia for fear of assassination.
rare archival footage, we see a dashing young Gaddafi as an army officer with a
killer smile, eager to bring his country out of its Colonial past. Gradually he becomes corrupted by his immense
power and oil wealth (one billion dollars PER WEEK), which stripped away everything
but a desire to stay in power at any cost. Outwardly a “family man”, in reality he
indulged an array of dark and repulsive desires that the documentary illustrates
in haunting detail.
final chapter of Gaddafi’s tale is ironic and tragic – Western powers were
willing to turn the page on Gaddafi’s notorious past due to the great equalizer
- oil. Only the Arab Spring, which
ripped through many countries, including Libya prevented reengagement and
ultimately cost him his life. But the
film’s Roy Ackerman felt that if there’s any lesson to be learned from Gaddafi,
it’s proceed with caution – “You do deals with these people, they’re not
stupid, they’ll get a price for it.”
Mad Dog: Inside The
Secret World of Muammar Gaddafi premieres Friday, April 11 on Showtime.
Hustle, one of the
best Martin Scorsese films not directed by Martin Scorsese (James Toback’s Fingers (1978) is another film that
falls into this camp), opens with an amusing sequence in a hotel room wherein
con artist Irving Rosenfeld (a nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale) is
attempting to hide his male pattern baldness. It is April 1978 and confederates Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who is
presenting herself as an English aristocrat named Lady Edith Greensly and Richard
DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) are in the midst of trying to sting Carmen Polito
(Jeremy Renner), the Mayor of Camden, NJ. Irving has to get it together and be
convincing (what we don’t know at this point of the film is how conflicted he
is about what he is doing regarding the mayor). He comes to blows with Richard, who eggs him on and ruffles his hair in
a hilarious moment of awkwardness and discomfort, and we wonder if Irving will
blow a gasket and go Joe Pesci on Richard or if he will simply attend to his
ridiculous comb-over. The question of
why they want to sting the mayor is eventually revealed as the story flashes
back to when Irving and Sydney first meet and bond over their love and
admiration of Duke Ellington. They
realize they are kindred souls and their attraction to one another intensifies. As we come to learn, however, nothing is
quite as it seems because as David Mamet showed us in both House of Games (1987) and The
Spanish Prisoner (1997), everyone is potentially a mark and each mark is
played for someone else’s gain. Irving is
married and has a son but like professional thief Neil Mccauley (Robert De Niro)
in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) he is
good at what he does, and in this case he knows how to not only conduct loan
scams but forge fake paintings even when hiding behind a legitimate business of
being a dry cleaner for tax purposes. Unfortunately, he and Sydney attempt to con Richard,
who turns out to be an FBI agent who cuts them a deal: he forces them into aiding
him entrap some other targets and promises that if their help results in four
good arrests, they will both end up with tabula
rasas, effectively avoiding jail time.
Hustle, which opened
theatrically in December 2013, is set within the framework of the Abscam scandal
of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, which also provided the backdrop for the
Al Pacino/Johnny Depp vehicle Donnie
Brasco (1997). It was the first time
in history that undercover FBI agents videotaped the taking of bribes by
politicians. This factors into the film, which was directed by David O. Russell
who also directed Flirting with Disaster
(1996), I Heart Huckabees (2004), and
Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Mr. Russell has meticulously recreated the
1970s to such a degree that you cannot help but marvel at all of the details,
looking carefully to try and spot any obvious anachronisms. Amy Adams stars opposite Mr. Bale (who
followed in Mr. De Niro’s thespian footsteps and gained some 40 pounds to play
the role) and she gives a multi-layered performance as Sydney, impersonating a
refined British woman. It becomes a game
between Irving and Richard trying to tell which person they are talking to, Sydney
or Lady Greensly. Jennifer Lawrence
portrays Irving’s wife, Rosalyn, and proves why she is one of the best
actresses working today. Rosalyn is a
loose cannon. Like Sharon Stone’s impetuous
Ginger McKenna in Casino, she has a
big mouth and messes with dangerous people when she isn’t starting fires by microwaving
metal or vacuuming her house while belting out the famous songs of the day. She hates Sydney and lets her know it, and
underneath the hardened and tough veneer is a woman who is hurt by her
Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) are obvious stylistic influences here, ranging from
effective use of period music to the inclusion of an uncredited Robert De Niro
as a mobster, Victor Tellegio, who actually speaks Arabic! The scene where he attempt to communicate
with a supposedly wealthy Arab sheikh (in reality a fraud who speaks Spanish
and English) is both tense and funny. Jeremy
Renner is his usual brilliant self as the Mayor of Camden, based upon Angelo J.
Errichetti who in reality served three years in prison for his role in the
Abscam scandal (in the film, which is highly fictionalized, he serves 18
months). Mr. Errichetti passed away
seven months prior to the release of American
Hustle at the age of 84.
The use of voiceover is also effective,
a device that Mr. Scorsese also employed to great effect in his aforementioned
gangster epics. The film runs a quick 138
minutes, but I have seen 90-minute movies much longer than this.
The Blu-ray is the way to go for this
release as it comes with a DVD and digital copy. The extras are slim, which is unfortunate
considering the high number of Oscar nominations and accolades the film
received. They consist of a behind-the-scenes
look at the making of the film which runs 16 minutes, and an extended deleted
scenes section that runs 22 minutes. The
requisite theatrical trailer is also included. I would have loved a running commentary from the director as the film
was obviously a labor of love. That
being said, its exclusion should not detract from your enjoyment of watching
this highly watchable recreation of a specific moment in time in New York and
New Jersey’s history.
of the term "cult film" has been around for some time now, but it
still seems difficult to ascertain a true definition. Cult, it would seem, is
in the eye of the beholder; it is not easily described, but you know a cult
film when you see it. This series of slim volumes (around 100 pages each) from
Wallflower Press sees a variety of writers and academics wrestle their own
personal cult film demons as they give analysis, behind-the-scenes tidbits and
biographical details of all the major players concerned.
of their latest books are on Frankenstein (1931) and Faster,
Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Robert Horton successfully argues that
although the original Frankenstein was such a mainstream hit that one
may not consider that it qualifies as part of a cult series, it has become a
cult in the manner of a religion, through its hundreds of sequels and the
iconography that has arisen. The face of Frankenstein's monster, as played by
Boris Karloff, is one of the most recognisable images of the twentieth century.
From model kits to sweets dispensers, thanks to endless sequels and the repeats
of Universal horrors on TV throughout the fifties and sixties, Frankenstein
provided the monster that kids most empathised with. Boris Karloff became an
elder statesman of horror and was hugely loved and respected in the sixties,
because despite his many other roles over the years, it was the monster
stitched from reclaimed corpses that people remembered with the most fondness.
manages to avoid this book simply being a rehash of the same old material we
have read elsewhere, and he points out in great detail Frankenstein's
ability to still shock today, thanks not only to Karloff's performance but also
to James Whale's inventive and mischievous direction. The film may be over
eighty years old but this does not mean it cannot still be frightening.
Horton is tackling a series of films, and as he argues, a "cult" in
itself, Dean De Fino is taking on what could initially seem an easier task: one
single film by noted smut-peddler Russ Meyer. However Faster Pussycat! Kill!
Kill! is no ordinary film. Made relatively early in Meyer's career, it
marks his move away from "nudie-cuties" and "roughies" into
something new. Although the film borrows freely from other genres (beach party,
biker flick, drag race, juvenile delinquent), he seems to create something
entirely different. From the jazz-infused opening sequence to the improbably
large bosoms of his female cast, Meyer's film is a fever dream that grind-house
fans and art-house enthusiasts can both appreciate.
book is again a mixture of biographical information, behind-the-scenes gossip
and analysis, and each element is equally fascinating to read. Using such
sources as Russ Meyer's own autobiography and other reminiscences the story
behind the making of the scene makes for as entertaining a tale as what ended
up on the screen. He allegedly allowed for no fraternisation between cast and
crew members in order to ensure that all the sexual tension was up on screen (this
was later used as a plot device in Meyer-fan John Waters' Cecil B. DeMented
(2000)). Russ Meyer allegedly allowed this rule to be broken only once in his
entire career, and that was to allow Tura Satana secret trysts with a crew
member. Even he could not say no to her. Satana plays Varla, the leader of a
vicious gang of go-go dancers, and her performance is terrifying. Men are not
safe when she is around. Tura Satana's own history is incredible, and sadly her
recent death has left her memoirs so far unpublished. According to De Fino she
was gang-raped and sent to reform school at 10 and married off to a 17-year old
at 13. She ran away and was posing nude for Harold Lloyd and working as a
stripper by the age of 15, and by 25 she was teaching Shirley MacLaine
burlesque and had slept with Elvis. And then she met Russ Meyer. If ever two
people were destined to work together and form a life-long friendship, it was
Fino makes connections from the film to the cultural and political unrest in
1965. He posits that Meyer was playing out issues from the civil rights and
sexual revolution right there in the dust Mojave Desert. This interpretation
backs up the argument that Meyer infused his films with political relevance,
and explains why his films have survived to be hailed as worthy of serious
attention whilst many of his erotic contemporaries have been forgotten.
books on other cult titles such as This is Spinal Tap (1984), Bring
Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and Quadraphenia (1979), the
Cultographies series is an excellent way to become conversant in the cult film
of your choice.
Gail Gerber passed away on
March 2, 2014 due to complications from lung cancer. Gerber was born on October
4, 1937 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and began studying ballet at age seven. Extremely
talented, at fifteen she became the youngest member of Les Grandes Ballets
Canadiennes in Montreal. Quitting the ballet troupe in the late 1950s and
abandoning a husband who was a jazz musician, she moved to Toronto to work as
an actress. She appeared on stage and in many live CBC television dramas. As
part of the act of legendary vaudeville entertainers Smith and Dale (who were
the basis for The Sunshine Boys), she
appeared on The Wayne and Schuster Show
and The Ed Sullivan Show. Moving to
Hollywood in 1963, the talented blonde with a flair for comedy quickly snagged
the lead role in the play Under the Yum
Yum Tree and appeared on such popular TV series as My Three Sons, Perry Mason,
and Wagon Train. She made her film
debut in The Girls on the Beach
(1965) co-starring The Beach Boys before her agent suggested she change her
name and, as Gail Gilmore, she went on to appear opposite Elvis Presley in Girl Happy (1965) and Harum Scarum (1965). She then returned
to the sands of Malibu to co-star with Edd “Kookie” Byrnes in Beach Ball (1965) before growing to
gigantic proportions along with five other delinquent teenagers, including Beau
Bridges and Tisha Sterling, who terrorize a town in Village of the Giants (1965). Gerber had a minor role as a cosmetician
in The Loved One, directed by Academy
Award winner Tony Richardson, and that is where she met its screenwriter Terry
Southern who was riding high due to the success of his satirical
novels Candy and The Magic Christian and the movie Dr. Strangelove for which he co-wrote the script. The two hit it
off immediately and, despite their marriages to others, became inseparable. Gail
even abandoned her acting career in 1966 to live with him in New York then
Connecticut where she remained his longtime companion until his death thirty
years later. During that time she taught
ballet for over twenty five years.
Gail Gerber and Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti at the Independent Publishers Book Award ceremonies in 2011.
After Southern’s death in
1995, Gail spent most of her time living in New York City. During the last
twenty years of her life, she was the secretary of the Terry Southern Trust and
returned to acting playing a dotty old woman in the independent film Lucky Days (2008) directed, written, and
starring her friend Angelica Page Torn; and played a Wake Guest in avant-garde
filmmaker Matthew Barney’s just completed film River of Fundament (2014). She also, with myself, wrote her memoir,
Trippin’ with Terry Southern: What I
Think I Remember (from publisher McFarland and Company, Inc.) where she
detailed what life was like with “the hippest guy on the planet,” as they
traveled from LA to New York to Europe and back again. Gerber revealed
what went on behind the scenes of her movies and Southern’s including The Cincinnati Kid, End of the Road,
and, most infamously, Easy Rider. And
she relived the “highs” hanging out with The Rolling Stones, Peter Sellers,
Lenny Bruce, Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda, William Burroughs, Rip Torn and
Geraldine Page, George Segal, Ringo Starr to the lows barely scraping by on a
Berkshires farm during the 1970s & 1980s. The book received a Independent
Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Best Autobiography/Memoir of 2011.
Scream Factory continues their winning
streak of releasing horror film favorites with their double feature Blu-ray release
of 1988’s Bad Dreams and 1982’s Visiting Hours. They originally released these films together
on DVD in September 2011.
Dreams opened on
Friday, April 8, 1988 and is, in hindsight, eerily prescient of David Koresh,
the leader of the Branch Davidian religious sect who met a horrific end when
the FBI closed in on him and his compound ignited into a conflagration on April
19, 1993 in Waco, TX. Jim Jones and the Jonestown
deaths in 1978 also come to mind. In
this film, the late Richard Lynch plays a cult leader named Harris who
convinces a group of people that love and unity are the only ways to live, and
he shows that love by dousing them all in gasoline and lighting them on
fire. Jennifer Rubin plays Cynthia, a
confused and reluctant holdout who knows that what he is doing is wrong and
attempts to escape, barely getting out with her life. This presumably takes place in 1975 as she
spends thirteen years in a coma and when she comes out of it, those around her try
to get her up to speed on all things that are the Eighties. One of the women who attempts to befriend her
is played by E.G. Daily whom genre fans will recall as the short, plump
sorority sister from Tom McLoughlin’s One
Dark Night (1982). I almost feel as
though her role was cut short as she seems to be a much better drawn character
than others around her who have more screen time. Naturally, Harris keeps appearing to Cynthia,
both as the person she remembers and also in a horribly burned state. Genre fans will be able to figure out the
plot fairly early on, and one cannot help but see more than a passing resemblance
to Wes Craven’s masterful A Nightmare on
Elm Street (1984) and its protagonist, Fred Krueger, and his history of
being burned and invading people’s dreams. Mr. Lynch is a familiar villain to audiences. He was the bad guy opposite Bill Hickman in The Seven-Ups (1973); he tried to rape
Al Pacino in Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow
(1973); and he was part of the team headed by Peter Fonda that hunted people in
Peter Collinson’s Open Season
(1974). Here he is creepy as he terrorizes
Ms. Rubin who, interestingly, made her film debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors (1987), playing a
similar role as a woman terrorized and forced to sit with others in a group
therapy session trying to come to grips with her situation. The references to the aforementioned Elm Street films cannot be overlooked given
the inclusion of actor Charles Fleischer, who also appeared in Mr. Craven’s
While the film elicits a creepy plot,
the mood and texture fail to arouse the type of suspense that is needed for
this type of story. This is an admirable
attempt, but the film cannot help feel derivative as though it has borrowed
from other similar movies in the hopes of riding the more successful outings’
coattails. Another film that dealt with
the subject of a religious cult, albeit in a strictly dramatic way, is Ted
Kotcheff’s 1982 film Split Image,
which featured Peter Fonda as the man who shows everyone the way to
The extras include a feature-length
commentary by the director; a featurette called Dream Cast; a look at the make-up effects; behind the scenes shots;
the original ending; a promo; a trailer; and a photo gallery.
The second feature, Visiting Hours, was released on Friday,
May 28, 1982. I recall the television
spot for the film which was very effective and clever: it depicted a hospital
building at night wherein all the lights in the rooms begin to go out until the
only remaining illuminated rooms form the image of a skull. Unfortunately, the film itself is nowhere
near as clever, as it resorts to textbook horror film clichés which may have
seemed original and frightening 32 years ago, but to today’s jaded horror
viewer eyes they are simply tired, despite a few truly jolting jumps.
Lee Grant, who won an Oscar for her
portrayal of Felicia in Hal Ashby’s 1975 comedy Shampoo, turns up here as Deborah Ballin, an activist who is also
an opinionated feminist who speaks her mind on a television talk show. She unwittingly arouses the rage of Colt
Hawker (Michael Ironside) who sees her on TV; he is just a few sandwiches short
of a picnic and has his own set of baggage that rears its head with flashbacks of
a violent past. Hawker stalks and
eventually attacks Ballin, who is rushed to the hospital and is tended to by a
nurse, Shelia (Linda Purl), who is on the same page as Ballin when it comes to
women’s rights. Hawker makes his way to
the hospital and murders an older patient and a nurse. While eavesdropping on Shelia, Hawker decides
to stalk her and her children, following her home and making his way
inside. On his off-hours, he finds time
to hit up a young blonde named Lisa (Lenore Zann) who is into him until he
becomes rough and angry, eventually taunting her with a knife and raping
her. He then spends the rest of the film
trying to get to Deborah through a series of creepy episodes.
Hours is a missed
opportunity and that is part of what makes it so frustrating to watch. Beset by an almost complete lack of cinematic
style and suspense, the film is obviously following in the footsteps of previous
trend-setting films like Halloween
(1978) and Friday the 13th
Hours is not the only slasher film to utilize sexual politics and women’s
rights as a backdrop for misogyny and mayhem. Dario Argento’s Tenebre
(1982), which was being filmed at the time that Visiting Hours was released, does a much better job of exploring
the troubled landscape of male-female relationships, sexual desire, and revenge.
It’s also highly cinematic, which should
come as no surprise as its style was inspired by Andrzej Zulawski’s emotional
rollercoaster ride Possession (1981),
one of Mr. Argento’s favorite films. The
film also sports character actor Michael Ironside in the role of a brutal
killer who is after Ms. Grant. Mr.
Ironside is excellent, as usual, and really deserves a better showcase. William
Shatner of all people plays Ms. Grant’s boss – the film was released a week before
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!
Even though I am not a fan of the film,
I would have appreciated the inclusion of a commentary track with the director. However, the extras that are here are fairly
in-depth and enlightening. First up is
an interview with writer Brian Taggert who speaks quite eloquently about his
past and how he came to write the film. Next
is an interview with Pierre David who has worked with fellow producer Victor
Solnicki on David Cronenberg’s best work, including The Brood (1979), Scanners
(1981), and Videodrome (1983). The last interview consists of a visit with actress
Lenore Zann who is unrecognizable today. The blonde perm she wore in the film is now straight, dark brown and
short. The rest of the extras contain
the radio spots, the TV spots, a photo gallery and trailers for other Scream
If you are a fan of these films,
Blu-ray is the way to go.
Who The F**K Is Arthur Fogel? I had no f**kin’ idea, but being a longtime music fan,
I was happy to accept the invitation for Cinema Retro to cover the LA premiere of the new EPIX documentary about rock’s
enigmatic mystery man.
Arthur Fogel (currently Live Nation's Chairman of Global Music
and CEO of Global Touring) is one
of the most powerful people in entertainment today. He’s responsible for the mega concert tours
that now sweep the globe, Hoovering up hundreds of millions of dollars in
ticket and merchandise sales and revolutionizing the way people view live music. If you’ve ever ponied up to see The Rolling
Stones, The Police, Madonna, U2, David Bowie or Lady Gaga in the last decade, then
you’ve seen Fogel’s work.
Deftly written and directed
by Ron Chapman, the film takes the viewer where fans never go, deep inside the
concert industry. What could have been a
dry exposition – after all, music is a business so it’s all about money – is in
fact a highly visual and entertaining experience. Chapman and his crew spent several years
roaming the world, interviewing the top of music’s pyramid - U2’s Bono, The
Edge and Adam Clayton, plus their legendary manager, Paul McGuinness. Fogel was a guiding hand behind the tour
everyone said could never happen – The Police’s long awaited 2007 reunion, so
Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist Andy Summers were also on camera. In fact two thirds of the iconic band showed
up for the premiere. (More on that later…)
Since Fogel is Canadian, the
documentary also interviews Geddy Lee, the seemingly ageless frontman of that
country’s most enduring musical export, RUSH. But the real star of the show is, undeniably, Fogel. In a series of interviews, the low key,
spotlight-avoiding mogul talks about his background, starting out as a rock
drummer then working his way up in a true dog-eat-dog business. Fogel did it
the hard way – by paying his dues and learning, one act at a time. Other talent managers like Guy Oseary
(Madonna) and Ray Daniels (Rush) along with other insiders weigh in on Fogel’s
long string of industry hits and his rare misses like Guns & Roses aborted
2002 tour when the first show was cancelled before the doors even opened,
sparking a riot.
Helping the narrative is
stunning concert footage, mainly from U2’s ground-breaking 360 Tour (Fogel
helped the band achieve their vision of performing in the round), but also of
The Stones, Rush, the Police and lesser know groups like Canadian New Wave pioneers
Martha And the Muffins. Never been backstage? No worries, interspersed throughout is footage of bands going on stage,
heading off stage, rehearsing – even bowing their heads for pre-show
prayers! As if to cement Fogel’s insider
status, none other than Madonna asks him to lead them in their prayer right
before she goes on.
The movie also covers the
tricky issue of digital downloading – how what could have been a huge new
revenue stream became a juggernaut that crippled the entire industry. Again, this could have been another tired retelling
of a story we’ve all heard, but here it’s given a fresh spin by snappy editing
and illuminating interviews with executives who were there. The main takeaway from this very interesting
documentary is that even though the concert field – and the entire music
industry - has changed radically, there are more exciting times ahead. The film closed with a wonderful sequence
showing Fogel returning to his drumming roots by walking onto U2’s massive
stage and playing Larry Mullen Jr.’s drums in an empty stadium. Now, nobody but him could have pulled THAT
After the screening, Epix
laid down a slick party at LA’s storied Chateau Marmont. As expected, LA’s music scene turned out in
force to toast the man himself, and Fogel held court in the VIP section. Concert phenomenon Lady Gaga attended both
the screening and the after party. Used
to seeing her in lavish, often bizarre stage costumes (Remember her jaw
dropping meat dress?), tonight she wore an elegant gown and looked gorgeous –
even if her bodyguards kept most people at arms length. The evening’s only sour note occurred when I
dared approach Police drummer Stewart Copeland for a comment on the movie he
had just been featured in. I had barely
posed a question when he mumbled “Sure, sure…” and made a beeline for the door.
Unfortunately it was Don’t Stand So Close To Me, for real.
Life imitating art?
Ron Chapman is expanding his original documentary “Who The F**K Is Arthur Fogel?”
to include new concert footage and an exclusive, never-before-seen interview
with Lady Gaga.It’s a perfect fit
because Fogel helped elevate her onto the global concert stage where she sells
out consistently. The documentary’s new premiere date is Wednesday, March 19th
have to admit I was not familiar with Lust in the Dust, but as soon as I
saw the names Paul Bartel and Divine on the box, I knew I was in safe hands.
film begins with Rosie Velez (Divine) struggling through the desert on the
world's smallest donkey. About to die from thirst and exhaustion, she is saved
by the timely appearance of a waterhole. The audience is then treated to a
glimpse of his/ her naked behind whilst she bathes, which appears to have a
very unusual birthmark. Also taking in this unsavoury view is Tab Hunter as
Abel Wood, a cowboy of very few words. He is headed for Chili Verde and
reluctantly agrees for Rosie to tag along. When he arrives at this tiny, clichéd
western town he discovers that they don't take too kindly to strangers. Rosie
gets manages to get a job in the bar, which is also a brothel, and Abel learns
that there is a legend regarding hidden gold somewhere in the town. Being the
strong silent type he soon attracts the affections of Marguerita (Lainie
Kazan), bar owner and chief whore, and soon a jealous rivalry erupts between
her and Rosie. Throw into the mix Cesar Romero as the local priest and Geoffrey
Lewis and Henry Silva as bad guys and you have all the makings of a fast-paced,
mischievous comedy western. The plot is nothing new, but it is the
juxtaposition of Divine's constant chatter against Hunter's quiet, thoughtful
delivery that makes this so enjoyable. This is not the first film to use the
"secret clues tattooed on women's behinds" gag, but who cares when it
is this funny? Many of the jokes are borderline offensive, and certainly
tasteless. One would expect nothing less from the director of Eating Raoul
(1982), a dark comedy about cannibalism, and let's not forget that in Pink
Flamingoes (1972), Divine eats real dog faeces on camera.
Hunter had plenty of previous experience in westerns, and had also starred with
Divine before in Polyester (1981) and was able to use his influence in
Hollywood to get Lust in the Dust made, acting as one of the film's
producers. His character is part Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name and part
Franco Nero's Django and as such he has terrific screen presence. All of the
cast are excellent and Paul Bartel manages to hold together what could have
been a mess in the wrong hands.
new DVD release is on Arrow's Arrowdrome label, which presents cult film titles
at low prices but with a minimum of extras. It does feature the original
trailer, a reversible DVD sleeve and a booklet with more information on the
film. Lust in the Dust is hugely entertaining and deserves to become a
new favourite film for anyone who likes their entertainment a little
Poppins (1964) was a
first for me in two ways: one of the earliest movies I can remember seeing in a
theater (I was five years old when it was reissued in 1973 and the Rialto
Cinema in Westfield, New Jersey, the theater where I saw it, is actually one of
the few remaining theaters from that era that is still in business) and one of
the first movies I saw played back on a VCR (in 1980). I could hardly believe my eyes at age 5 and
wondered just how in the world Mary Poppins (she is never, ever to be called
just “Mary”), the chimney sweeper, and her two young charges managed to make
their way into the sidewalk paintings with all of the colorful characters. 40 years later, I could pretty much figure it
out for myself having seen many behind-the-scenes documentaries. And yet even
though the man behind the curtain has been exposed, it still does not detract
from the sheer magic that is this now 50-year-old film, and certainly one of
the longest Disney outings at two hours and nineteen minutes. The songs are pure magic and there is not a
dull one in the entire film, another rarity.
Julie Andrews is positively radiant as
the titular heroine who comes to save the day when Jane and Michael Banks (Karen
Dotrice and Matthew Garber respectively, of course), the young children of the
too-busy-for-children parents George Banks (David Tomlinson) and Winifred Banks
(Glynis Johns), want a new nanny after they drive off their last one (Elsa
Lanchester) in a fit of aggravation. Their
ripped-up-by-their-father classified ad makes its way to Mary Poppins who appears
to be just what the children ordered. She
takes them on several adventures, the most colorful of which involves the
aforementioned jaunt into the colorful sidewalk chalk drawings. Animation and live action match in this
sequence to produce some truly remarkable sequences. The music is infectious and you cannot help
but find yourself humming along with the characters.
Alas, all good things must come to an
end, and the long and short of it is that Mary Poppins, who successfully brings
the children together with their parents, must leave after a job
well-done. While it becomes apparent
that the children now no longer need Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins indeed has
needed the children…and it shows as she flies off.
The film is a great showcase for the
considerable talents of Julie Andrews who was 28 when she made the film and
also won an Oscar for Best Actress. Dick
Van Dyke is a complete joy, bouncing around with reckless abandon. Karen Dotrice and the late Matthew Garber are
very good as the children.
The sesquipedalian jawbreaker Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is
perhaps the film’s most well-known song simply because of its ability to
challenge even the most seasoned logophile. A Spoonful of Sugar and the Oscar-winning Chim Chim Cher-ee are additional delights.
Pamela Lyndon Travers, the author of
the original Mary Poppins stories upon which this film is based, reportedly
gave Walt Disney a hard time as he attempted to buy the book rights from her – he
spent over roughly 20 years courting her. This story has come to light and is featured in the new Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks, and it is receiving a
lot of publicity as it stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary
Poppins has been
released on DVD for its 40th and its 45th anniversaries. The new release features a combination
DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy and ports over all the previous extras (which are
considerable, though they are only presented in standard definition) and adds
two new ones in high definition: a 14-minute piece called Becoming
Mr. Sherman which features Richard Sherman, one of the writers of
the film’s music, speaking with actor Jason
Schwartzman (who actually portrays Richard Sherman in the
aforementioned Saving Mr.
Banks)talking about the making of the film. The other extra is a Karaoke supplement.
The film looks gorgeous and sounds
terrific on Blu-ray and is a must for Disney aficionados.
Over the years, Friday the 13thhas been called many things. Upon its
release in May of 1980, critics who reviewed the low budget, independent wonder
called it everything from a blatant Halloween
clone (which director Sean Cunningham never denied it was) to an overly
violent dead teenager movie made with no apparent talent or intelligence.
Gene Siskel was so outraged by the film
that he called Cunningham “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest
the movie business.” Siskel even went so far as to publish the home address of
actress Betsy Palmer (who gives a magnificent performance in the film) and he
encouraged fans to write to her and express their disappointment in her taking
a role in such a ghastly film.
Why did this creepy little horror film
strike such a negative chord in critics all over the country? To answer that
question, we must go back to 1978. The Alfred Hitchcock/Italian giallo-inspired
Halloween was released that year and
was not only loved by the movie-going public, but the near perfect film was
universally praised by critics including Roger Ebert, who rightfully called it “A
film so terrifying that I would compare it to Psycho.”
Critics and audiences alike were in awe of
the way director John Carpenter masterfully built suspense and the amazing film
became an instant classic as well as a box office phenomenon.
Fast forward to 1980; Director Sean
Cunningham decides to make a horror film and very wisely comes up with the idea
to combine two of the most current and successful scary movies: Halloween and George A. Romero’s classic
1979 zombie epic, Dawn of the Dead.
Cunningham would use Halloween’s structure (he would also borrow from Mario Bava’s
groundbreaking 1971 giallo film, A Bay of
Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve)
while adding Dawn’s amazingly graphic
and realistic gore effects. He would even engage the talents of the man
responsible for Dawn’s innovative gore,
special FX maestro Tom Savini.
This is primarily what outraged critics of
the time. In their eyes, Cunningham could not match Carpenter in masterfully
building terror and suspense (and there is much truth to that), so, instead,
the filmmaker would rely solely on realistic and bloody effects in order to
scare his target audience. The film was also accused of equating
sex/drugs/alcohol with death as well as being both misogynistic and illogical.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that when it
comes to the art of filmmaking, Friday
the 13thcannot hold a candle to Halloween, but I refuse to agree with anyone who calls Friday worthless, misogynistic and
illogical junk whose only talent can be found in its gore content.
Yes, the blood flows and Savini’s effects
are still as astonishing now as they were 33 years ago, but the entertaining
film works for many other reasons which I’ll list right now.
First of all, just like Halloween, the film has a
documentary-like feel to it. Cunningham simply shows us a likeable group of teenage
counselors (one of whom is a young Kevin Bacon) who are hard at work fixing up
Camp Crystal Lake a few weeks before the noisy children are due to arrive. The
characters have no Hollywood-esque dramatic motivations or conflicts. They are
just a very normal, happy and realistic group going about their daily business.
As viewers, we almost feel as if we’re eavesdropping on their lives.
This technique is greatly aided by the more
than competent writing of Victor Miller who wisely avoids stereotypes such as “the
jock” or “the bitch” and creates a pleasant group of normal and realistic kids.
The wonderfully natural acting of the kids themselves also helps. We like this
group and when the killer’s POV shots interrupt these normal, quiet scenes, it
really has an impact.
Next up is Sean Cunningham’s directorial
style. (For those who have said this film is little more than a gore-fest,
listen up.) Cunningham uses tried and true techniques such as showing us early
on the horror that the killer is capable of, then showing us exactly where the
killer is and, finally, having his likeable characters enter the killer’s space
one at a time. Naturally, this technique produces a fair amount of tension,
suspense and scares.
I won’t reveal the killer’s identity, but I
will say that it’s not our hockey masked pal, Jason. (Jason’s reign of terror
begins in part 2 and he doesn’t don his iconic mask until part 3.) However, once
you know who the killer is and learn the motivation behind the murders, you
will be petrified by the killer’s terrifying personality. Not only that, but upon
repeat viewings of the quieter, early scenes, knowledge of the killer’s
personality creates even more eerie, goose bump-like scares.
Cunningham also creates a nice moody
atmosphere by having half of the film take place during a nighttime thunderstorm.
Combine that with the quiet, isolated camp location and a moving POV camera
which suggests a creepy, violent and vengeful presence always lurking nearby
and you have not only a very scary little film, but a real feeling of almost
I can’t go on about the film’s scare factor
without mentioning the frightening musical score by the great Harry Manfredini.
His instantly recognizable “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” has become a part of horror
music history and now stands tall alongside other immortal horror themes such
as Bernard Hermann’s magnificent score for Psycho,
John Williams’ often imitated, but never duplicated score for Jaws and John Carpenter’s iconic and
terrifying Halloween theme.
Last, but certainly not least, is the final
scare of the film. Without giving away too much, I have to say that it is one
of the most shocking and unexpected scares in horror movie history and second
only to the brilliant ending of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976). It’s a magnificently crafted scene that can be
credited to Sean Cunningham’s solid direction, Victor Miller’s imaginative
writing, Adrienne King’s subtle and naturalistic acting, Tom Savini’s
magnificent makeup work and Harry Manfredini’s frightening music all working as
one to give audiences the fright of their lives.
Australian release poster.
And that’s just the final scene. All those
elements work together throughout the entire film and help to create a fun,
scary rollercoaster ride. The gore effects work more as a punctuation mark at
the end of a sentence. It usually caps off a tense and frightening scene. It is
not the only technique at work here. As a matter of fact, take the very minimal
amount of gore out of the film and you still have an extremely eerie,
claustrophobic and terrifying film.
As far as being misogynistic, equating
sex/alcohol/drugs with death and being illogical goes, critics couldn’t have
been more off base.
Let’s start with misogyny. First of all,
there is an equal amount of male and female deaths, and Kevin Bacon’s death is
probably the best and most graphic death scene in the film. Second of all, and
don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film, the killer is female. So, if the
filmmakers hated women, the killer would’ve been a man. Saying that this film hates
women is ridiculous.
Next up is the idea that the kids were
punished by death for engaging in sex, drinking and smoking pot. Well, if that
were the case, then why does the final girl survive? Midway through the film she
indulges in both beer and marijuana. It is also revealed that she was in a
relationship with the head of the camp and, although it isn’t shown that they
had sex, the dialogue strongly suggests it. Much like Halloween (the female survivor of that film also smokes pot and
clearly wants to be in a relationship with a boy), this idea of
sex/drugs/alcohol being punishable by violent death is not a part of Friday the 13th, but would be
misinterpreted by future slasher filmmakers thereby beginning that slasher
Lastly is the ridiculous idea that all of
the characters in this film do completely illogical things before getting
killed. This never happens. First of all, the characters are silently killed
off one by one in a Ten Little Indians manner.
The remaining characters have no idea that there is a killer among them, so it
makes sense that they would go about their business as if everything is normal.
Also, once the last two characters sense that something is wrong, they both do
completely logical things. Unfortunately, they are thwarted by the intelligent
killer who is always one step ahead of them.
For example, when they can’t find anyone,
they try to call for help, but, unbeknownst to them, the line has been cut.
(They believe that it’s just out of order due to the storm.) Next, they find a
bloody axe in one of the cabins and immediately decide to leave, but their car
has been sabotaged. Their last idea is to just hike the ten miles to
civilization and get help, but it’s pitch black outside and a thunderstorm is
With the exception of the heroine knocking
out the killer a few times and then either not continuing to pummel her or
throwing the weapon aside, the characters all act logically/intelligently in
every situation, but still get killed which is one of the reasons why the film
is so scary.
So, is it a masterful piece of cinema like Halloween or Psycho? Certainly not. However, it’s far from worthless junk and it
totally works without the effects which, by the way, take up less than sixty seconds
of the film’s 95 minute running time. At the time, those amazing gore effects
were the only things that were new in this type of film, so that’s what critics
mainly became fixated on. Unfortunately, they missed much of the wonderful
craftsmanship that went into the rest of the film.
Friday the 13th may be a dead
teenager movie, but it’s one of the best of its type. While not in the same
league as its predecessors, it’s a much better film than it’s been given credit
for. It’s also an important film in that, along with Halloween, it created a very successful subgenre/formula of the
horror film and, due to being released by Paramount Pictures and becoming a
huge financial success, it gave up and coming filmmakers a chance to break into
the Hollywood system by producing their own low budget slasher films which
utilized the same structure and similar techniques.
To date, the film has spawned ten sequels,
one remake, countless imitations and the character of Jason has become an icon
of fright. Entire books have been written about the series and at least one
book was wholly devoted to the groundbreaking first film. There have also been Friday the 13thcomic books,
novelizations, video games, action figures and conventions. Not bad for a little
movie that has been wrongfully dismissed as an illogical, misogynistic, incompetent
spectacle of gore.
Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) is one of the greatest American films ever made.
It is also one of the most disturbing,
and it is astonishing to look back and see that a major studio (Columbia
Pictures) released it as is. Although nominated
for Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie
Foster), and Best Original Score (Bernard Herrmann, who also was nominated in
the same year for his impressive score to Brian DePalma’s Obsession, albeit posthumously) by the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences, it won none. The top
honor instead went to John Avildsen’s Rocky,
the story of a streetwise debt collector in Philadelphia who gets the chance to
become a boxing world superstar. Mr.
Alvidsen also walked away with the statue for Best Director, and the fact that
Mr. Scorsese was not even nominated in this category has long been considered
to be one of the most, if not the
most, egregious Oscar snub(s) in the Academy’s history, something the organization
appears to have attempted to smooth over with what is generally considered to
be his consolation prize - his Oscar for The
Departed (2006), a good film but not in the same league as his greatest work
(he lost out on directing Oscars for Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), and The
Aviator (2004). )
Robert De Niro gives one of his
greatest screen performances as Travis Bickle, a lonely cabdriver who deliberately
works long hours because he cannot sleep. He befriends Iris (Jodie Foster), a
12-year-old prostitute whose pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel) raffles off a menu of
shocking sex acts (even by today’s barely-there standards) not heard outside of
a porno film or a sound bite by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that she and Travis can engage
in for a price. Instead of taking up the
offer, Travis uses his time with Iris to try and convince her to leave the
profession that she is a part of. When
she refuses, he arms himself to the teeth and kills her pimp, her John, and the
lowlife who stands in the hall and collects the money in what was at that point
in American cinema one of the most shocking and bloody sequences ever
filmed. Today, you could probably show
it on network television with few cuts, if any.
What makes Taxi Driver so memorable is the way that it captures New York City
in the summer of 1975 when it was filmed. The city was a terribly depressing and dangerous place to be at that
time, and cinematographer Michael Chapman manages to capture the Big Apple in a
way that few cameramen have - Owen Roizman’s work on The French Connection (1971) and The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) being two obvious exceptions. In the midst of all of this, photographer Steve
Schapiro took innumerable publicity shots on the set of the film and captured
the cast in their moments during camera set-ups, prior to and after shooting,
and while taking a break. The images are
a fascinating look at the ideas that both Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul
Schrader had about the city and the central character, the aforementioned
Bickle, and how they wanted to get those ideas across to the audience. The city itself is also a character in Taxi Driver and this fact comes out quite
strikingly in Mr. Schapiro’s on-set photographs which are now available for aficionados
of this great film in the form of a new book by Taschen, the glorious publisher of such mammoth
tomes on cinema greats like Kubrick, Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, and
Simply titled Taxi Driver, this stunning, oversized book is a collection of
beautiful photographs taken by Mr. Shapiro that depict much of the action of
the film and candid, behind-the-scenes shots. It begins with a foreward by director Scorsese, written in 2010 while he
was shooting Hugo (2011) in London,
and it follows with an introduction which is a reprinting of Richard Thompson’s
interview with Mr. Schrader from the March/April 1976 issue of cinema
cognoscenti magazine fave Film Comment;
Paul Garner’s “It’s Dilemma, It’s Delimit, It’s De Niro” essay from New York magazine from May 16, 1977;
Norma McLain Stoop’s essay “In the Middle of the Street in the Middle of the
Night” from After Dark, May 1976; Judy
Klemesrud’s essay “Jodie Foster’s Rise From Disney to Depravity” from the New
York Times on March 7, 1976; Lawrence Grobel’s Playboy Interview with Robert De
Niro from Playboy in January 1989; Richard
Goldstein and Mark Jacobson’s interview “Martin Scorsese Tells All: Blood and
Guts Turn Me On!” from The Village Voice,
April 5, 1976; and Mr. Schrader’s interview with Mr. Scorsese from January 29,
1982, published in Cahiers du Cinema,
during the editing of the eerily prescient The
King of Comedy, its relation to Taxi
Driver as a companion piece included for obvious reasons. The rest of the text is German and French
translations of the aforementioned essays.
The most unsettling images are not of
the film’s bloodshed at the end, though they are quite graphic and colorful and
which friend Father Francis Principe told the director was a little too much “Good
Friday” and not enough “Easter Sunday” when he viewed it at a private screening
in 1976, but of the slow dancing sequence between Sport and Iris, depicted in
the this book. Here is a twelve year-old
girl being told by a man who uses her nascent sexuality for his own method of
making money, that she’s his woman. It’s
really quite revolting, and probably goes on today with all the multiple cases
of sex trafficking in the world. Taxi Driver doubles as a cautionary
tale, its religious themes also present.
When Taxi Driver was released to theaters in 1976, the ending was so
bloody that in order to avoid receiving an X rating from the MPAA, the director
was faced with cutting down the scenes, something he did not want to do. He opted instead to de-saturate, or lessen
the amount of color, in the sequence so it would not look as graphic. This action was incorporated into the film artistically
to represent what the murder scene might have looked like in the tabloids. On the
film’s 35th anniversary in 2011, the film was released on
Blu-ray. Since times have changed, there
was an effort afoot to re-saturate the film and make it look the way that it
was intended to look prior to the color reduction process. Unfortunately, that color negative could not
be located, and there is talk that it might not have survived. Mr. Shapiro’s photographs of this brutally
violent sequence, replicated in this book, might be all that visually remains of
this controversial sequence.
Driver is a stunning
achievement from Tashen, and I personally want to thank Mr. Schapiro for having
taken such amazing photographs of this incredible film. A must for any serious fan of American
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CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE FILM, TAXI DRIVER, MASTERED
IN 4K BLU-RAY DISCOUNTED FROM AMAZON.COM.
Heard was nineteen when she played the title character in Jonathan Levine's
slasher film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane;
she can at least get away with playing a seventeen year-old. Mandy
Lane, which debuts this month on Blu-ray, is better known for its
reputation of having been shelved for seven years following its debut at the
2006 Toronto Film Festival for reasons best served by another article. Up to this point, Ms. Heard was already a
veteran of four films and several television appearances; this is her first
real starring role, as the film rests on her shoulders. She gives quite a remarkably natural
performance and having seen her work since this 2005-lensed outing, I would
attribute her onscreen “nervousness” as the object of affection by
testosterone-driven wolves in her midst to her skill as a serious dramatic
actress than to an inability to relax and just “be”.
Lane represents the epitome of the adolescent female sexual ideal, The Perfect High
School Girl - the girl all the boys vie for; the girl all the girls want to be
or want to destroy. The tone is set in
the film’s opening shot as the camera focuses on Mandy Lane’s breasts,
revealing the dumbfounded stares of the average-looking boys and girls in the
hallway, and conveys their longing cinematically without being
exploitative. She is friends with Emmett
(Michael Welch), a nerdish boy whose desire for Mandy is as strong as all the
other guys, but he tries to hide it. He
just knows that she is out of his league. In some ways, the film seems like it plays like a modern day “horny
teenager” flick, but that would be a cursory dismissal. While the 1980s will probably be remembered
as the birth of the horny teenager horror film, which started in 1978 when
Michael Myers bludgeoned his sister to death after “the sex act” in John
Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), the
films of the 2000s will no doubt be looked upon as the remake era, or most
certainly the “influenced by” era. Sean
Cunningham made Friday the 13th
a superstitious day to be reckoned with, and premarital sex was forever labeled
as a crime punishable by death by deranged killers. Still, young men with
sex on their minds did all they could to get the girls of their dreams into
bed. He Knows You’re Alone
(1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981), The Burning (1981), The Boogens (1981), Halloween
II (1981), and countless other stalk-and-slash films repeated this formula
with much less panache and cinematic style than Mr. Carpenter did in his
watershed film, even prompting a send-up of horror films in the form of Student Bodies (1981), a comedy that
ridiculed death as the inevitable outcome to teenage sex.
Wes Craven's Scream (1996) reignited
interest in horror in 1996 and proved that it was once again viable box office,
so has there been resurgence in the teenage sex and death flick. Unlike
the gawky and under-confident teenagers of a quarter century ago who had to
borrow their parents’ oversized cars to get some action, today's teens are
muscular and sexy model types who seem to have stepped off of the pages of GQ
and Playboy magazines. Most of them appear to have money and their own
set of wheels. In Mandy Lane,
director Jonathan Levine manages to take a very overdone and tired horror
subgenre and make it different and interesting. The obnoxious jock Dylan
(Adam Powell) and his posse of over-stimulated friends, all expertly portrayed
by Whitney Able (Chloe), Luke Grimes (Jake), Melissa Price (Marlin), Edwin
Hodge (Bird), and Aaron Himelstein (Red), invite Mandy Lane to a party at his
house. Mandy agrees, and elects to bring her awkward friend Emmet along,
much to Dylan's chagrin. Once there, Dylan puts the moves on Mandy who nervously
brushes off his advances. This disgusts Emmet who tricks Dylan into a
maneuver designed to impress Mandy but that effectively takes Dylan out of the
game completely. Nine months after Dylan's untimely demise, Red
rounds up Chloe, Jake, Marlin, and Bird for a weekend at his father's mansion
in Bastrop, TX. The locales should look
familiar to Tobe Hooper fans.
caretaker in the form of a much older Garth (Anson Mount) who lives in a shed
in the back is there to oversee the teens and protect them, complete with a
firearm at his side. Mandy, whose parents died when she was young and is
now being raised by her aunt, is invited and decides to go along. Once
there, the guys all descend upon The Perfect Blonde, making no bones about how
much they want to jump hers. Jake is especially aggressive and looks a
bit like Robert Pattinson from the Twilight
films. Mandy is made the most uncomfortable by him, which makes one ponder
why she would agree to spend the weekend with a group of people who all want
the one thing from her that she is not willing to surrender. That
question is answered near the end in an interesting twist.
begin to go wrong rather quickly and it does not take the high schoolers long
to learn that there is a murderer in their midst. Director Levine reveals
the killer’s identity early on and yet despite that, the film remains
interesting enough for the audience to want to see it through to the end.
He directs the film with a restrained hand, which is refreshing when most films
like this tend to hit the audience over the head with quick cuts, loud music
and sound effects in a desperate effort to be suspenseful. The middle of
the film drags a bit but not by too much, and perhaps Mandy Lane would benefit by some tighter editing.
females in the film are snotty and bitchy but not in an overly hateful
fashion. Unlike the shallow vamps in the Black Christmas remake in 2006 and many others of its ilk, Chloe
and Marlin, just like the guys who are all pining after Mandy, are all real
people. Credit must go to the performers in this film. They all
talk and sound like real teenagers who are looking to find their place in the world,
and are concerned with how others perceive them and are the types to surrender
to peer pressure. The script by Jacob Forman is, no pun intended, a cut
above standard fare, providing archetypes that are familiar yet different.
film also possesses a good use of existing music - try to watch the racetrack
scene set to the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” without smirking at the subtle
irony. The score by Mark Schultz is also
The Anchor Bay Blu-ray, which provides a terrific visual and aural transfer, has a
feature-length commentary with director Levine and judging from his comments it
was recorded this year. Mr. Levine
provides an interesting, engaging and very funny commentary seen from the
standpoint of a director who made his first film some eight years ago (he has
since directed three films since Mandy
Lane). At times he complains that he
wishes he had done a certain shot differently, but that is inevitable through
the benefit of time and hindsight. The
standard DVD also contains this commentary.
in all, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
is an above-average slasher film.
NOTE: If you have a region-free DVD or Blu-ray
player, the French DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film both have a 28-minute
interview with Ms. Heard, shot circa 2006, wherein she talks about the
film. A 14-minute interview with the
director can also be found on this edition. However, there is no running commentary on these versions, which also
possess English-language soundtracks.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE ANCHOR BAY BLU-RAY FROM AMAZON
William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), based upon the novel of the same name by
William Peter Blatty, is one of the greatest and most powerful American motion
pictures ever made. With an impressive
cast that includes Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb,
Jack MacGowran and newcomer Linda Blair, The
Exorcist had its origins in a 1949 case involving the purported demonic
possession of a young Evangelical Lutheran boy in Cottage City, MD who is still
alive to this day, is retired from NASA, and claims to have no memory of the
events that he experienced. Mr. Blatty, who
read about the events at the time, thought about the story for years until he
wrote the book circa 1969, some 20 years later, in the house of his ex-wife in
Coming on the heels of my all-time
favorite film, 1971’s Oscar-winning The French
Connection, Mr. Friedkin never thought of The Exorcist as a horror film but rather as the serious exploration
of the nature of faith and desperately wanted to direct the film. While watching The Exorcist, what is most striking about it is its unique ability
to present the material as something that seemingly could absolutely
happen. The idea of demonic possession
has arguably never been so deftly handled and depicted as it is in this film. Other attempts by filmmakers to create
convincing film explorations of the subject, mostly in the wake of this
enormously successful venture, have largely been ineffective. With the release of the film on Blu-ray in
2010, the film was given a much-needed high definition upgrade and you can read
Lee Pfeiffer’s review of that Blu-ray here. The new 40th anniversary release is identical to the 2010
release in that all the material from discs one and two of the 2010 Blu-ray
appears to be ported over on to one disc for the new release. A second Blu-ray includes a new documentary called
Beyond Comprehension: William Peter
Blatty’s The Exorcist (27:49) wherein Mr. Blatty revisits the Encino, CA house
that he wrote the book in for the first time in over 40 years (now it a guest house
that belongs to actress Angela Lansbury - do you think she knows that?). Mr. Blatty discusses his two aborted attempts
to write the novel and that he was originally a comedy writer(!). Father Karras (the Jason Miller character in
the film) is Mr. Blatty’s alter-ego, and like Karras, Blatty’s mother lived in
a nursing home and passed away there. Perhaps
the saddest revelation is the fact that he lost a son six years ago at the age
of 19 due to heart inflammation.
The second documentary on the second
Blu-ray is an interview with Father Eugene Gallagher (19:47) who was part of
the Philodemic Debating Team and had a professional relationship with Mr.
Blatty and discusses his experiences while Mr. Blatty was writing the novel.
Also included with this 40th
anniversary package is a small hardcover excerpt of the excellent autobiography
by William Friedkin called The Friedkin
Connection and it contains his passages about the making of The Exorcist which is truly a
If you already have the original
Blu-ray from 2010, there is probably little reason to upgrade; get yourself The Friedkin Connection if you have not
(This book was recently reviewed by Lee Pfeiffer. Here is columnist Adrian Smith's take on this volume.)
Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B
Chris Nashawaty Introduction by John Landis
part of the Gothic season at the British Film Institute recently, Roger Corman
sat and signed autographs for well over an hour as the line of fans and
admirers snaked its way around the building. At least 50% of those fans were
clutching copies of this new coffee-table book, a visual delight from Chris
Nashawaty, writer for Entertainment Weekly.
books have been published on the Corman phenomenon, most notably his own
autobiography How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a
Dime. Since that was published in 1990 he has made at least a hundred more.
Until he gets around to updating that volume, which given his continuing
workload in film production seems unlikely, we are lucky that so many other
writers and filmmakers are constantly willing dive into his career.
not as revealing or personal as Bevery Gray's excellent Roger Corman: An
Unauthorised Life, Nashawaty's book is a real joy. He has selected over 150
images, many of which are previously unpublished. Artwork, photos and movie
stills are presented in full colour alongside an oral history of the life and
career of Roger Corman, from his childhood right up to the present day.
Corman's contribution to the movie business is immense, and, as covered in the
book, his honorary Academy Award in 2009 was well deserved. Those lined up to
congratulate him on that night included Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Jack
Nicholson and Peter Bogdanovich. The list of those filmmakers who have
graduated from the "Corman School" is almost endless, and the fact
that he is still making films today means that yet another generation are
learning from the master.
evidenced by a photograph of him on the Hawaiian set of Piranhaconda
(2012), Corman is very much a hands-on producer. He has an almost preternatural
sense of what is going to become the next big thing in the business; providing
teenage movies for the drive-ins in the 1950s, using VHS before the major
studios in the late 1970s or bringing monster mash-up movies to the Syfy
channel (as well as Piranhaconda, Corman has been responsible for Sharktopus
(2010), Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010) and Dinoshark (2010), the
latter as both producer and star).
well as dozens of new interviews, the book also critically examines some of the
key titles from Corman's back-catalogue, either as director or producer. Attack
of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The
Intruder (1962), The Big Doll House (1971), Boxcar Bertha
(1972, an early film from Martin Scorsese) and even The Slumber Party
Massacre (1982) are all touched on, amongst many more. One can use Nashawaty's
selections as a list for beginners keen to gain an understanding of Corman as a
Christmas just around the corner, this book is well worth considering sending
to the movie lover in your life. It makes the perfect introduction to Roger
Corman and his work, and contains new stories and anecdotes as well as a few
that will be familiar to aficionados. And as he is showing no sign of slowing
down, the Corman story is not over yet.
Note: This review pertains to the Region 2 (PAL) format UK release.
Cinema Retro writer would love to be able to explain to you in detail what just
what The Final Programme is
about, but I have absolutely no idea. The plot revolves around Jerry
Cornelius (Jon Finch), a swaggering millionaire scientist who seems to think he
is the second coming in this futuristic, possibly post-WWIII Britain. His
father, also a scientist, died when he was on the brink of some kind of amazing
discovery, and it is up to Cornelius to find out what it was. Along the way he
meets a variety of bizarre characters who drift in and out of the plot with
nothing particular to contribute. Amongst these are many familiar faces from
film and TV, such as George Coulouris, Sterling Hayden, Patrick Magee and
Graham Crowden, the latter seemingly channelling Quentin Crisp. The film has
flashes of visual inspiration spread throughout its running time, including
colourful filters and multiple layers, but these alone do not make up for a
story that makes no sense whatsoever. At one point Cornelius finds himself in a
nightclub which is built like a giant pinball machine, complete with
scantily-clad go-go dancers in giant hamster balls. It's colourful and exciting,
and you can almost imagine this film taking place in the same Britain as A
Clockwork Orange (1971).
Fuest is probably best known for directing the Vincent Price camp comedy-horror
classics The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again
(1972), films with plenty of visual style to compensate for the slightly flimsy
plots, themselves a derivation from the much-imitated Agatha Christie story And
Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians). The film is
based on a much-respected science fiction novel by prolific author Michael
Moorcock. He has not been particularly complimentary about the film in the
past, and neither have ardent fans of the book, who have complained that too
much was removed from the story. This may help explain why the film makes no
sense, with Jerry moving from unusual experience to unusual experience for no
reason. It is a movie that is less than the sum of its parts, which is a pity
as individual parts are intriguing and entertaining, and suggest that there could
have been something very special here. Instead it is like trying to watch a
film through the fog of a room full of stoners. Originally an X certificate in
the UK, the film is now rated 15 for the occasional swearing, drug-taking and
nudity, all very much of its time.
is a film which has been greatly anticipated on UK DVD, and it is a pity that
Network did not take the opportunity to create materials that may help the
audience to put the film in some sort of context. Sadly both Robert Fuest and
Jon Finch died last year, too late to have their final reflections on the film
recorded. Michael Moorcock is still around but would not necessarily want to
contribute, but some kind of short documentary or commentary track from a
historian would definitely help if you are new to the film. As it is you get a
couple of trailers and the choice to watch the opening titles in Italian. Not
exactly mind-blowing extras, which are precisely what this DVD release needs.
Martine Beswick (One Million Years B.C., Slave Girls and Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos and Dracula A.D.72), Kate O'Mara (Horror of Frankenstein and The Vampire Lovers) and Maddie Smith (Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein and the and Monster from Hell). (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston, all rights reserved.)
9th November 2013
by Adrian Smith
Saturday in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, amidst the power-hungry elite of
Whitehall and Downing Street, gathered an even more sinister and corrupting
influence. Darth Vader rubbed shoulders with evil twins, corrupted children,
vampires, zombies and even Jack the Ripper. Overseeing this evil conclave were
directors whose films were so depraved that sometimes sick bags were supplied
to the audience.
film buffs were of course overjoyed at the fantastic selection of stars at this
Hammer and Horror Film event. Representing the Bond girls were Caroline Munro,
Caron Gardner, Martine Beswick and Madeline Smith. They were alongside horror
queens Barbara Shelley, Kate O'Mara, Judy Matheson, Janina Faye and Emily
Booth. Barbara Shelley sat with some of the alien children from her classic
British sci-fi Village of the Damned, Teri and Lesley Scoble and Martin
Stephens (also star of The Innocents). David Warner (Tron), Dave Prowse (Star Wars) and John Carson (Plague
of the Zombies) were all very friendly and accommodating of the multitude
of demanding fans, and writer-directors Michael Armstong (Mark of the Devil),
Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) and Brian Clemens (The Avengers)
were also there discussing their work and meeting old friends.
Kate O'Mara, Dave Prowse (Horror of Frankenstein) and Madeline Smith. (Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved.)
focus of the day was the recent restoration of Hammer's Twins of Evil. To
celebrate the director John Hough met up with Damien Thomas, who played Count
Karnstein, Judy Matheson, burnt at the stake by Peter Cushing, and good twin
Mary Collinson, who had travelled to the event from Milan. Sir Christopher
Frayling, one of the UK’s leading authorities on vampire fiction, lead the
onstage discussion. He provided a fascinating history of the Karnstein story
from its origins in the work of Sheridan Le Fanu to Hammer’s lesbian vampire
trilogy. They all clearly enjoyed the reunion, and Hough did his best to
convince the audience that the Collinson girls' voices were not dubbed, despite
what all the film history books say. Mary explained that they both received
elocution lessons, as neither of them were trained actors. Twins of Evil was
to be their last film, released when they were only nineteen, and they returned
guests were also interviewed throughout the day. Brian Clemens, Caroline Munro
and John Carson got together to discuss the magnificent Captain Kronos:
Vampire Hunter, agreed by one and all to be the last good film Hammer made
in the 1970s. Norman J. Warren described the difficulties of making Satan's
Slave with money raised by your producer re-mortgaging his house. They had
such small funds that star Michael Gough had to supply his own wardrobe and
sleep on a friend's sofa for three weeks, all for the grand sum of £300.
Warner was especially mischievous during his interview, reacting with horror
every time a clip was shown from his extensive back-catalogue (including Tom
Jones, The Omen, Time
After Time and Star Trek). He had the room in gales of
laughter and explained that as an actor without any ambition he is very happy
to have never been a star, something that many in the room disagreed with.
Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith with Mary Collinson (Twins of Evil).
(Photo: copyright Mark Mawston. All rights reserved).
makes one of these conventions so enjoyable is that alongside the guests are
dozens of stalls weighed down with rare DVDs, obscure film posters, original
James Bond toys, vinyl, novelisations; virtually every kind of film memorabilia
and ephemera that you can think of (and many you can't) from all over the
world. From Thai Evil Dead posters to original Hammer Quads it was a
collectors dream, even though you may also need to re-mortgage your home
yourself in order to pay for everything you want. Cinema Retro came home laden with
press books, lobby cards, old magazines, books and rare Spanish 1960s superhero
movies, and could easily have gone around the hall several more times.
Lesleh Donaldson with Cinema Retro columnist Todd Garbarini.
By Todd Garbarini
Richard Ciupka’s unfairly maligned 1983
horror film Curtains was screened
recently as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies 7 exhibition that also included screenings of Lucky
McKee’s new film All Cheerleaders Die,
Michele Soavi’s highly regarded Cemetery
Man (1994), Eli Roth’s new film The
Green Inferno, John D. Hancock’s ultra creepy Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), the New York premiere of Clive
Barker’s 1990 film Nightbreed - the Cabal
Cut, and Peter Carter’s brilliant Rituals
(1977), better known as The Creeper,
which stars Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane in a film that is clearly influenced
by John Boorman’s Deliverance (1971) but
easily stands on its own as a strong piece of independent filmmaking.
Appearing in person at the Curtains screening was actress Lesleh
Donaldson who played Christie Burns, the ice skater in the film. Ms. Donaldson, who made her film debut as
Michael Douglas’ teenage daughter in Steven H. Stern’s 1979 film Running, introduced the film and spoke
at length following the screening with a question-and-answer session. Also at the screening were longtime Curtains aficionados Bryan Norton (he
teaches filmmaking at the New York Film Academy and is the director of Penny Dreadful with Betsy Palmer and Jack Attack with Helen Rogers), actor
Joe Zaso, film directors Bart Mastronardi, Alan Rowe Kelly, Howard Simon, and
yours truly representing Cinema Retro.
Exhibited from a rare 35mm print, Curtains is one of the most under-appreciated
thrillers of the early 1980s. The Canadian production went before the cameras
in November of 1980 and was beset by a multitude of problems which stretched
over several years and included but were not limited to: creative differences
between director Ciupka and the film’s producer, the late Peter R. Simpson, who
directed much of the film; a last-minute change in casting of one of the
supporting characters; and issues of money for the budget. This
tale of director Jonathan Stryker (played by the late John Vernon) and his
desire to bring the story of a woman, Audra, to the screen also features
veteran actress Samantha Eggar as actress Samantha Sherwood having herself
committed to a sanitarium to study mentally disturbed individuals only to find
that Stryker, for reasons never explained, has secretly decided to leave her
there and recast the film by auditioning other actresses at his house. Once she gets out, all hell breaks loose…
“Richard and Peter did not get along
and they both had their own views of what this movie was going to be about,” Ms.
Donaldson said after the screening. “Richard
(Ciupka) was a cinematographer who had a very artistic view of what the film
should look like. On the other hand, Peter Simpson, having done Prom Night prior to this, knew what
worked. He just wanted your typical slasher movie. So, they were constantly
battling and eventually Richard just left the project. They cast Celine Lomez in the Linda Thorson
role (of Brooke Parsons) originally. I
am not sure what happened, if she got another role or whatever, but she left.” When asked if she still has her fake head
that appears in a toilet during a gruesome discovery, she admits that it was an
artificial makeshift toilet and they used her real head for the scene. “The dinner scene and the bedroom scenes were
all done by Richard,” Ms. Donaldson continued. “The ice skating rink scene and the chase through the prop house, that
was all Peter. The other actresses and
myself, we all got along fine. There were no fights of any sort. I liked all of the women, they were all really
great. I didn't get to know Samantha Eggar very much but to be honest I think
she kept herself away from everybody because that’s what the character called
for. I became really good friends with
Lynne Griffin (who played Patti O’Connor and also starred in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas) and she was very
excited that they were screening the movie tonight. She couldn’t be here, unfortunately, but she
really wanted to. Anne Ditchburn was
also a very good friend as well. I did
actually practice a skating routine and she helped me. I didn’t actually get to
do my routine because I had practiced
skating in an arena. When it came time to shoot my ice-skating scene in the
movie, I literally took one glide out on to the icy pond and hit a bump. I fell face-first on to the ice. Looking at it on the big screen I can see the
cut on my chin. Of course, I did it
right behind Peter and Gerry Arbeid (production manager)! Gerry turned to Peter and said, ‘Didn’t we
pay for her training?’ So, they had to
use a double for my ice skating.”
Ms. Donaldson was nominated for a Genie
Award for her performance in the 1980 horror film Funeral Home but lost out to Margot Kidder in Donald Shebib’s Heartaches (1981). Her other horror film outings include Happy Birthday to Me (1981) and Deadly Eyes (1982).
Released on VHS in 1983 and on DVD in
2007, Curtains is currently
undergoing a long overdue digital film restoration from an interpositive under
the auspices of Don May, Jr.’s company Synapse Films with a Blu-ray scheduled
for release in 2014.
Does the world really need another documentary
about George A. Romero’s watershed 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead? After
having watched a new documentary directed by Rob Kuhns called Birth of the Living Dead, the answer is
a resounding “Yes!” Horror films have
arguably never been more popular than they are now. The Internet and compact
digital devices such as iPads and cell phones have permitted people who
normally would not be able to afford the type of equipment necessary to make a
film the ability to do so. Consequently,
“found footage” films and zombie epics like 28
Days Later (2002) prosper. Digital
video and the explosion of computers and digital editing capability have become
a filmmaker's best friend. This is a far cry from the conditions under which
Mr. Romero and company made Night.
What Birth of the Living Dead does so well is pinpoint that exact moment
in history, in this case October 1968, when Mr. Romero’s seminal film was
unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Prior to this, Mr. Romero, who was born
in the Bronx prior to moving to Pittsburgh, cut his teeth five years earlier by
creating a company called the Latent Image and produced hundreds, if not
thousands, of commercials. Sir Ridley
Scott similarly produced some 3000 commercials prior to his film debut, 1977’s The
Duelists. Mr. Romero comically
mentions having shot footage for Mister
Rogers’ Neighborhood and maintains even that wound up being frightening!
There are many ways in which film can
be ruined and when shooting on celluloid, invariably footage can end up over or
under exposed. In the case of some of
the commercials that Mr. Romero worked on, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went
into shooting footage that would end up plagued by mistakes made in the lab.
This is simply a fact of life and similar problems of shooting digitally are
rife with issues that plague filmmakers even today. USB devices get lost, hard
drives crash, digital videotape is accidentally erased, etc. Mr. Romero has seen it all.
The average filmgoer probably believes
that Night was Mr. Romero’s very
first film. While this is true in terms of having a film released, he actually
attempted to make an Ingmar Bergman-like drama prior to it. With money obtained
and saved through making commercials, he purchased a 35mm Arriflex film camera
and began work on a film entitled Whine
of the Fawn, sort of a variation on Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (which, ironically enough, influenced Wes Craven’s
notorious Last House on the Left in
1972). The film proved to be difficult to make and seemed pretentious and was
mercifully abandoned. While reading the novel I Am Legend by famed author Richard Matheson, Mr. Romero wrote his
own story and screenplay about a zombie outbreak. It went before the cameras
under the title of Night of the Flesh
Eaters. This was 1967, the era of
Vietnam, racism, civil rights movements, anger, and rioting. The country was
exploding as a result of class differences and racial injustice. Mr. Romero’s film was seminal
in that there was a new revolution at hand: the dead were coming back to life en masse. Rechristening the Latent Image as Image Ten, Night of the Flesh Eaters became Night of the Living Dead - without a
copyright trademark which was left off due to an oversight, resulting in
unknown amounts of money lost as the film became public domain. Mr. Romero shot and edited the film himself. The budget was so small that the cast and crew of Night pulled double duty behind and in front of the camera. This
film is really the very definition of a team effort and at this time
independent cinema was fairly new. In New York Martin Scorsese was just starting out; in Toronto,
David Cronenberg was shooting his short films Transfer and From the Drain;
John Carpenter was in film school at the University of Southern California; Wes
Craven was teaching and trying to get his film career off the ground; Dario
Argento was writing film criticism for a newspaper in Rome and preparing to shoot
his first movie. It was an exciting era.
It is hard for contemporary audiences
to imagine what it must have been like to see a film like Night in 1968. Birth gives us a graphic insight to
those troubled times. Mr. Romero admits
in Birth that most people on the crew
didn’t even believe that the film would get finished. Birth offers the opinions of a whole host of people in the industry
about their experiences having seen Night.
One of them is Gale Anne Hurd, the
producer of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, and who is now an executive producer on AMC’s extremely
popular and successful series The Walking
Dead. It is amazing to see that 45
years after the release of Night, it
is obvious that Mr. Romero is responsible for the zombie genre.
Birth also very carefully examines the
casting of the late African American actor Duane Jones as Ben, the hero of the
film. Most people thought that Mr.
Romero was making a statement about white and black relations by casting Mr.
Jones. The truth is, he was the best person to audition for the role. Just
as simple as that. There is no mention in Night
nor is there any sort of reference to Ben’s color. It's basically a non-issue.
It is also interesting to point out
that film criticism at the time wholeheartedly embraced Night. Many well-regarded
publications such as Positif analyzed
the film under a microscope and interpreted it from the standpoint of serious
film theory. This gave the movie an air of prestige never imagined.
Overall, this is an excellent and
insightful look at the effect that this low-budget American film had on the motion picture industry. Even if you are not a fan
of horror or of Night, I would
recommend that you see it to appreciate and be familiar with Night’s cultural significance. An excellent companion piece to this film is
Ben Harvey’s BFI Film Classics book on Night
which can be purchased here from Amazon.com.
of the Living Dead
begins its theatrical engagement at New York’s Independent Film Center (IFC) at
323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street on November 6, 2013. Fitting, as the IFC is the former Waverly
Theater where Night premiered in 1968.
the 1980s and 1990s I became disillusioned with television shows in general. Most of the series airing at the time seemed
derivative and predictable with little regard for the audience and more for the
commercial breaks. All of that changed
in 2001 when I began watching HBO’s The
Sopranos on a free HBO weekend, the first show that I can confess to binge-viewing
(the act of watching numerous episodes back to back with no break) and easily
the best television series that I have seen thus far. What was remarkable about it was the ability
of the writers to take their time and develop not only characters but
significant plot points, all without the annoying constraints of network
television and the need to get to the next conflict. This is not to infer that network television
is completely without merit as that
would be a gross and unfair oversimplification. Fox Network's 24, a show that
I initially was at first reluctant to watch, sucked me in when its first season
debuted on DVD. I have never been so
addicted to a storyline before and could not wait for the next episode and then
the next season. I have watched all eight
seasons at least three times.
Fox network has a sister network, Fox Extended or FX for short, and like most
other cable networks it has its fair share of exclusive programming (and
commercials, sigh), a maneuver that
appears to be the norm for networks if they are to survive. Even Netflix has learned this with their highly
acclaimed series House of Cards. FX’s most successful show, Sons of Anarchy, is now airing its
penultimate and sixth season. The series
has been heavily criticized for its use of brutality and profane language, though
I’m not sure that a motorcycle gang would speak any other way (as of this
writing you cannot drop “F” bombs, at least not yet, on this network). Despite
these complaints, however, SOA, as it
is known to its most zealous adherents, remains a rich dissection of the human
condition and how people deal with problems and try to solve them. They aren’t necessarily people you would want
to live next door to, but nefarious characters are infinitely more interesting than
real life. For one thing, they make us
think about how we would act if we found ourselves in their circumstances. In Breaking
Bad, Vince Gilligan's brilliant AMC series about high school science
teacher Walter White (played stupendously by Bryan Cranston) who becomes a manufacturer
of methamphetamine after he is diagnosed with lung cancer, people who normally
otherwise would not resort to violence or murder end up making those choices
when pushed to the brink and see no other options. In SOA,
murder seems to be a way of life and there is the Shakespearean element at work,
though it is covert; critics have cited Hamlet
as an obvious influence. Each season of
the show consists of 13 episodes, and season five is now newly available on DVD
the fictional town of Charming, CA, the Teller-Morrow family heads up the
original and founding chapter of the Sons of Anarchy Motorycle Club, Redwood
Original (aka SAMCRO for short). At the
end of season four, Jackson Teller (Charlie Hunnam) has become the president of
the club, with his future wife Tara (Maggie Siff) at his side. Season five opens with the introduction of
the father of a young woman accidentally killed by the recklessness of Tig (Kim
Coates), one of the Sons’s members. Unfortunately for Tig, his victim’s father is a drug lord and the most
dangerous gangster in Oakland, CA, who catches up with Tig and enacts the old “an
eye for an eye” principle against one of Tig’s two daughters in one of the most
harrowing and upsetting sequences in the show’s history. This action propels forward a plotline that
ends up with Clay (former president of SAMCRO, played by Ron Perlman) in jail
for a murder he didn’t commit in the final episode. Along the way, a major character dies in a
brutal way, and the show follows the axiom that no one is safe when it comes to
violent storylines. Jackson constantly
has to make difficult choices for the sake of his family and the club he
presides over while trying to placate his vice president Bobby (Mark Boone
Junior). In some ways, he is like 24’s Jack Bauer as he is sucked into
danger and has to use his wits to extricate himself and his club members. More often than not he is trying to convince his
mother and Tara that things are going to be different and that everything will
be all right; though noble, it doesn’t appear to be realistic.
and executive producer Kurt Sutter, who pulls double duty playing “Big Otto”
Delaney, has amassed a phenomenal cast. The performances are universally
excellent. My personal favorite is Mr.
Sutter’s real-life wife, Katey Sagal, who won a well-deserved Golden Globe Award
in 2011 for her brilliant portrayal of Gemma, Jackson’s mom. I always liked Mrs. Sagal as Peg on Married…with Children, and her banter
with Ed O'Neill, her slovenly husband Al. I never would have thought of her as a choice to play a character like
Gemma, however she has blown me away with the depth of her characterization of
this woman who will stop at nothing to keep her family intact.
Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition and the sound is crystal
clear. If you pump it through a stereo,
be prepared to mistake some of the sound effects for real-life sounds: several
times I thought my phone was ringing–
and my phone vibrates, I don’t even use a ringtone!
are also some nice extras to go around. Some of the episodes have some extended
scenes. There are also deleted scenes
and a few commentaries on select episodes. The best feature, in my humble opinion, is the ability to run the
episodes continuously without having to go to the main menu and select the next
one if you decide to watch more than one in a row. It actually encourages binge viewing!
winning release for fans of this terrific show.
Julian Richards’s Shiver opens at a Cadillac Jack’s diner in Sunland, CA (in reality,
location is part
of a movie set that includes an adjacent Pink Motel situated at 9457
San Fernando Road in Sun Valley, CA) amid electrical towers and pylons. A nerdish middle-aged man named Franklin Rood,
played expertly by Aussie John Jarratt whom genre fans will remember from 2005’s
stomach-turning Wolf Creek and its
forthcoming sequel, stumbles nervously to the counter and cannot help but
notice the waitress, Kathy (Nikita Sesco), who is clearly half his age. He fantasizes about having his way with her
and shortly storms out after she quickly declines his offer to take her to a
movie. His adolescent-minded feelings
are shattered, and he doles out a head bashing in the parking lot after she
locks up the diner for the night, leaving her dead.
Twelve years later in Portland, Oregon,
the city is on edge due to a serial killer being on the loose. Wendy Alden (scream
queen Danielle Harris) is pestered by her mother (Valerie Harper) to ask her
boss for a raise since she can no longer help support her daughter. He friend Jeffrey (Shane Applegate) has more
than a platonic interest in her and she doesn’t exactly push him away, either. It would be foolish of her to, considering someone
is out there murdering young women. When
Jeffrey takes the initially reluctant Wendy out to dinner and offers that she
stay with him that night, she attempts to assure him that she will be fine. Any
seasoned horror film fan will know right away that she is about to receive a visit
from lunatic Franklin. When Franklin
arrives in her home and surprises her, he reconsiders killing Wendy as she
begins to behave in a way that he is not used to. She evinces a disposition
that is different from all of the young women he has killed up to this point.
Like most serial killers, Franklin suffered bullying and humiliation during his
childhood and blames others for his failures. But Wendy seems different to him, and through
his own delusional method of thinking, he believes that he can persuade her to
love him. The rest of the film consists
of the police and their failure to adequately protect Wendy (it features two of
the dumbest police officers in recent movie memory, who are both mercifully offed
by Franklin within a minute of each other; Casper Van Diem (from Starship Troopers) is the lead detective
and Rae Dawn Chong appears as his partner, though she is given very little to
do). In the midst of Wendy’s attempts to
escape Franklin’s clutches he hatches a hair-brained scheme to get her to play
house with him.
While I would not consider the film to
be anywhere near as suspenseful as the ads would lead you to believe, it is always
interesting, though were it not for the central performance by Mr. Jarratt as
Franklin, it would have been no different than the recent horror outings such
as Choose (2010) and ATM (2012). Shiver is a step above these films and keeps you focused until the
final frame. There are moments that make
you want to scream and reach through the screen to choke the characters in
frustration over their actions, but for the most part the film succeeds in its
quest to entertain. It does require a
suspension of disbelief to succeed. Mr.
Jarratt has a unique ability to play unrepentant psychopaths. His turn as Mick Taylor in Greg McClean’s
aforementioned Wolf Creek brought to
life one of the most frightening and vicious psychos that the cinema has seen
in quite some time. Here he is also
mean, but for different reasons. In Wolf Creek, he seemed bent on inflicting
pain on others for his own pleasure. Here, his Franklin is a rejected and unhappy soul trying to connect with
someone and goes about it in a terrible and bizarre fashion. Valerie Harper gives a feisty performance as Wendy’s
mother, although she only appears in two scenes. I almost see her as a divorced Karen Hollis
from Blame It on Rio (1984) some 30
years later, nagging her daughter. Danielle
Harris is also quite good and proves a great nemesis for Franklin. The score is by Richard Band, brother of
Charles Band and veteran of over 80 films. At times, the music is oddly reminiscent of Philip Glass’s score to Errol
Morris’s The Thin Blue Line (1989),
but it is effective for the most part. The
location filming in Portland, Oregon is a nice change of pace and showcases Southeast
Milwaukee Avenue, home to Franklin’s day job as a jeweler and the common denominator
between all of his victims that the detectives notice and set them on his trail. The Moreland Theatre several doors down reads
simply Harry Potter, as though they
didn’t receive permission from Warner Brothers to put a full title on it.
The DVD itself is bare-bones and
contains trailers for Aberration and The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
I would have liked some interviews and a commentary with Ms. Harris who
is always so fun and bubbly when talking about her career and the onscreen
action. All in all, definitely worth
seeing for Mr. Jarratt and Ms. Harris completists.
"A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT: A LOST CASSAVETES CLASSIC"
Cinema Retro columnist Dean Brierly examines a buried treasure from the early career of John Cassavetes
Too Late Blues (1962) Directed by: John Cassavetes Written by: Richard Carr, John Cassavetes Starring: Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Everett Chambers
Fade In There are lost films and then there are films so far gone it’s as if they never existed. At best, they make stealth appearances on late-night TV about as often as sightings of Halley’s Comet. Too Late Blues is such a film. This celluloid bastard child was born from the unlikely coupling of Paramount Pictures (i.e., the Hollywood establishment) and the anti-Hollywood actor/writer/director John Cassavetes. Yet while both parents swiftly disowned their jointly produced offspring, the film has tenaciously clung to a marginal life in the shadows of film history.
Nearly without exception, critics savaged Too Late Blues upon its release, labeling it mawkish, overwrought and ridiculous. At times, it is all of these things, yet its stylistic daring and the emotional depth charges set off by its lead actors transcend the film’s limitations. Indeed, its very awkwardness serves to underscore the instability of its ambitious yet emotionally stunted characters. The few souls lucky enough to have witnessed the minor miracle that is Too Late Blues find that it lodges in the memory with the persistence of a jilted lover.
(The following review pertains to the UK-Region 2 DVD release)
This film is a true oddity, and one
that will most likely escaped the attention of even the most avid Orson Welles
fans. Three Cases of Murder is an anthology film featuring three short
stories, each by a different director, linked by British television personality
Eamon Andrews, who appears to have just got home from a night at the theatre.
The only loose connection is that each is about, well, murder, and each segment
also features Alan Badel. a British character actor who was better known at the
time for his theatre work, but is superb here.
"The Picture" is set in an
art gallery, where the glass over a painting has been mysteriously smashed, and
several items have been stolen. Despite these nefarious goings on no culprit
has ever been caught. The museum tour guide meets an oddly dressed gentleman
(Badel) who engages him in conversation about this painting, a large portrait
of a gothic, fog-enshrouded manor house. Before he knows quite what has
happened to him, our tour guide finds himself actually inside the house itself.
This strange man reveals himself to have been the artist who painted the
picture. He had died before it was completed. It transpires that all the
pictures in the gallery act as a form of afterlife limbo, where the dead are
forced to live inside the paintings, stealing whatever they can from the
gallery. Also living in the house are a sinister, attractive young woman and a
truculent old taxidermist, obsessed with collecting butterflies.
This first story is by far the best of
the bunch, and plays out like a missing Twilight Zone episode, with its
stark lighting, fantastical story, weird camera angles and sickening twist
ending. Of particular interest is that
this segment was directed by Wendy Toye, who was that most rarest of people: a
female director in the 1950s British film industry. She had begun her career as
a dancer and actress, before moving into theatre and then film direction. At that
time there was only one other female director in the country, Muriel Box,
showing just what a difficult industry it was for women to rise beyond the
traditional production jobs on offer; script girl, wardrobe or makeup. The fact
that "The Picture" is the best, most inventive part of Three Cases
of Murder is testament to what a great talent she had, a talent that was
greatly underused in British cinema.
The second story, "You Killed
Elizabeth", is a mini-Hitchcock thriller regarding two best friends who
fall out over a girl. Murder and drink-fuelled amnesia lead to another surprise
twist where we learn the true cost of betrayal. Compared to the inventiveness
of the first segment, this story comes across a little flat. It was directed by
David Eady, his first contribution to a feature film. He went on to have a
minor directing career in British television and B pictures.
The final story is "Lord
Mountdrago", and casts Orson Welles as a pompous foreign secretary in the
old boys network of British politics. Although the story was directed by George
More O'Ferrall, who had a long career in television, it is claimed Welles
himself took over most of the directing. This is only a rumour, but it is not
hard to believe given his reputation.
Welles plays the titular Lord
Mountdrago, who after publicly humiliating a rival politician (Alan Badel
again) begins to suffer from nightmares, where he is himself repeatedly
humiliated by this same politician. After receiving psychiatric counselling he
refuses to acknowledge that a simple apology to the man he had wronged would
solve the problem. Instead he begins to believe that murder is the only way to
restore his sanity.
This story shares a similar Twilight
Zone feel to "The Picture", but is largely played for laughs. Welles,
who was appearing here whilst working in theatre, throws himself into the role
with gusto, unafraid of making Lord Mountdrago look increasingly ridiculous,
including an appearance at a party where he has forgotten to put on his
Three Cases of Murder is an odd little film, but is
certainly worth revisiting in this new release. It deserves to be given some
attention, and serves a reminder of just how creative even low budget B films
could be. This DVD from Odeon Entertainment includes a booklet which mostly
focuses on Orson Welles. The most significant extra is the inclusion of the
short film Return to Glennascaul, an Irish ghost story also featuring
Welles which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. It is a creepy warning
on the perils of picking up hitchhikers, and is worth the purchase of this DVD
You can order Three Cases of Muder from Odeon
Entertainment by clicking here
Marc Hall (Israel Broussard) is a shy,
introverted teenager who is transferred to Indian Hills High School in Calabasas,
CA because he played hooky too many times at his previous school and needs to
be set on the straight and narrow. After
shuffling awkwardly from class to class, he becomes friends with Rebecca Ahn
(Katie Chang), a peer who dresses well, pays him attention, and is obsessed
with celebrities and who loves to party. When they aren't in school, Marc accompanies
Rebecca as she looks through unlocked vehicles for cash and anything valuable that
she can resell. Mark later happens to mention in passing that a friend of his
is currently out of town; naturally, he and Rebecca gain entrance to the friend’s
house and search through the belongings. Mark is visibly nervous and wants to leave.
Rebecca pilfers the keys to a Porsche and they go joyriding.Her attitude towards this behavior is
troubling in the carefree and apathetic way that she conducts herself.She seems to have absolutely no problem
taking other people’s property, even in broad daylight, and using it for how
own amusement and gain.Rebecca begins
to get restless and more daring, and while she and her friends are out
socializing at a famous club also attended by Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst, she
gets the idea to rob Ms. Hilton's home. Using all social media and mapping
websites to her advantage, she locates the real home addresses of her favorite
celebrities and, with Marc and several friends in tow (one of whom is Nicki,
played by Emma Watson), goes on a massive five-finger discount that includes
purses, expensive shoes, jewelry, Rolex watches, and thousands of dollars in
cash.What is all the more amazing is
that despite Marc’s hesitance and obvious reluctance, no one even thinks for a
minute that they are being watched by closed-circuit security cameras.
If this story sounds familiar, it
should. Based upon Nancy Jo Sales’s article The
Suspects Wore Louboutins
that was published in the March 2010 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, The
Bling Ring (2013) is director Sophia Coppola’s fifth feature film (a made-for-Lifetime movie of the same name and about the same subject aired in 2011). Loosely based upon the true story of a pack
of young celebrity gawkers who go to extreme lengths to emulate the style and
fashion sense of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miranda Kerr and anybody else
they deem worthy of adulation and emulation was highly publicized some years
back. As depicted in the film, these
young adults don't appear to be inherently bad
people. They are simply caught up in the
excitement of the 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week celebrity reporting that is
constantly aflutter on the Internet; they give in to their temptation to break
the law. Why they do what they do is not so apparent. They seem to want to be famous, just like the
people they look up to. Several of them foolishly take photos of themselves at
the scenes of the crimes and post them on their walls on their Facebook pages. It never occurs to them that what they are
doing is wrong. They all seem to have the idea that the people’s houses they are
burglarizing are so rich that they won’t even notice that most of these lavish
items are missing. By the end film,
however, the house of cards comes crashing down when the police get involved and
they are all arrested and given prison sentences.
ways, The Bling Ring is the flip side
of Mrs. Coppola’s previous film, 2010’s Somewhere,
which was an introspective look at the life of a very famous actor miserable in
his existence of fame and fortune. Somewhere, and 2003’s Lost in Translation, both were eloquent studies
in loneliness (the former in one’s own surroundings and the latter in a foreign
environment) and a case can be made for Marc in The Bling Ring. He’s a
teenager who feels like an outcast; he’s a nobody
desperately trying to be a somebody.
Coppola imbues the film with humor, too. The character of Nicki and her home life is not a fabrication. She is based upon Alexis Neiers, a young
model and actress wannabe who was the subject of the “reality” series Pretty Wild, which lasted nine episodes
and depicted her home life and relationship with her sisters and mother. Alexis’s
mom, one-time Playboy model Andrea Arlington, does her best under the
circumstances trying to raise these young women, however she seems to rely on
Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret a little
too much in scenes that induce interior smiles. Her mom During the course
of filming the show, Alexis was arrested for her participation in the
Coppola continues to bifurcate audiences into the love it or hate it
camps. Unlike Somewhere (my vote for her best film so far), which illustrates the
director’s love of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, The Bling Ring is a far more audience-friendly film.
The extras, all in high definition, on
the disc contain:
The Bling Ring: On Set with Sofia, the Cast and Crew featurette (22:51) is exactly what the
title entails. The filmmakers talk about
how the project came about (Mrs. Coppola read the Vanity Fair article on a plane and assumed that it was already
optioned for a film), how the film was cast (the ringleader was the most
difficult to cast), and some of the actors weigh in with their views of the
the Real Bling Ring (23:46)
is a very interesting featurette that discusses the actual case and the real
names of those involved in the 2008/2009 events.
of the Crime with Paris Hilton
(10:37) Ms. Hilton gives us a tour of her house where the film was shot and
bemoans the fact that most of her stolen jewelry consisted of irreplaceable pieces
handed down throughout the years in her family. A humorous bit includes a mini tour of her mini doghouse for her seven
The theatrical trailer is also included
and runs just shy of two minutes.
My only complaint is the lack of an
audio commentary, something that Mrs. Coppola perhaps does not have an interest
in doing, a trend that I hope she reverses.
Not too long after The Little Mermaid was released on Friday, November 14, 1989,
I saw it at the Guild Theater (aka the Guild 50th) next door to
Radio City Music Hall in New York.It
was a decent-sized theater that showed films from 1938 until 1999 when it was
gutted and replaced with a Nautica store (The
Little Mermaid’s Ariel would have felt at home here), and it is now an Anthropologie
branch for women.Thinking about the
Guild Theater made me miss the single screen showcases of New York such as the
Biograph, the Festival, the Carnegie Hall Cinema, the 8th Street
Playhouse, The Beekman, the Cinema I and Cinema II, and the 68th
Street Playhouse to name a few (the Paris on 57th Street is one of
the few remaining such theaters).They
were decent-size auditoriums and you had a very good chance of seeing something
special there in limited release.
The Little Mermaid is
one such film. It had been years since I
had seen a Disney film exhibited theatrically and, like most of us, had very little
inkling that the studio would be releasing a whole new slate of inspired and financially
successful animated features in the years to come (especially The Lion King, which I originally saw in
the form of an unfinished workprint at the Walter Reade Theater in New York in
early 1994). Originally published as Den lille havfrue (The Little Sea Lady) by Hans Christian Anderson on April 7, 1837 in
Fairy Tales Told for Children, The Little Mermaid tells the story of
Ariel, a sixteen year-old mermaid who, like human females of that age, becomes
restless living under the watchful eye of her father, King Triton, who only has
her best interests at heart. Ariel is cautioned
about humans and sternly told not to mingle with them. Of course, this only compels her to seek them
out. Along with her friends Flounder and Scuttle the Seagull, she surfaces and
sees a handsome man named Prince Eric on a ship that enters a dangerous storm. She is instantly smitten, and saves Eric’s
life, singing to him and disappearing just before he awakens. Having heard her voice, Eric wants to find
Ariel who, in turn, wants to be a part of the human world.
King Triton is suspicious of Ariel and
he drills Sebastian (the most memorable character in the film, though it is up
for debate if he is a crab or a lobster) for information about his daughter’s
sudden change in behavior. When it comes
out that she is in love with a human, her father reacts in rage and loses his
mind. At the urging of two eels (Flotsam
and Jetsam), Ariel goes to see a sea witch named Ursula to find out how she can
be with Eric. Ursula is not out to help
Ariel out of kindness, mind you. She
wants Ariel’s voice, and convinces Ariel to allow her to make her human for
three days in exchange for her voice. The
plan is to get Eric to kiss Ariel before the designated time runs out, or else
she will become a mermaid again and have to answer to Ursula (notions of
Cinderella spring to mind!).
All of this action is set to some truly
enjoyable songs, the most recognizable and popular of which are arguably “Part
of Your World”, “Under the Sea”, and “Kiss the Girl”. It’s hardly a surprise that “Under the Sea”
won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, while the film also won
both awards for Best Original Score. These
are the kinds of songs that are very memorable, even to people who have just
heard them and have not seen the film. Twenty-five
years later, The Little Mermaid is
one of the most well-known of the Walt Disney cartoons, gaining in popularity
among young children thanks in no small part to its availability on home video. New generations of fans who were born years
after the release of the film have sprung up and still dress up as the
characters for Halloween, with Ariel and Sebastian being top favorites.
The new Blu-ray is comprised of an
all-new, digitally restored picture. The
image is a marked improvement over previous versions and just pops off the
screen at you; this is clearly the best the film has looked on home video (I
remember seeing it on VHS and most of the image’s detail was completely lost). While The
Little Mermaid has been available on DVD in 1999 in a movie-only edition
and in 2006 in a 2-disc Platinum Edition with a wealth of extras, those extras
have been ported over to the Blu-ray in a special section called Classic DVD Bonus Features. In addition, the Blu-ray contains brand-new,
exclusive extras shot in high definition and they are comprised of:
Part of Your World
music video featuring Carly Rae Jepsen (3:39)
(10:45), a nice look at some of the many faces who have been working for years
at Disney, such as John Musker and Ron Clements, in addition to more recently
employed animators who were inspired by The
Little Mermaid to follow animation as their career path. This is one featurette I would have liked to
have seen last at least half an hour or more as I love hearing about what
motivates these artists.
Deleted Character - Harold Merman (2:05) is a quick look at a character that was cut from the
film. This segment is presented in sketch
Under the Scene - The Art of Live Action Reference (13:13) is a look at how the animators use real-life
stand-ins who go through the motions of the main characters in the film, and
then draw the movements of the performers to get the nuances of the animated characters. Animators John Musker and Ron Clements spoke
to actress Kathryn Beaumont about her experiences acting out Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan to get an idea of how to draw
the characters in The Little Mermaid. Ruben Aquino, the directing animator, talks
about the challenges of making moving images into living and breathing
characters that exude emotion. They also
interview the real-life performers who acted out the lead animated roles for
Eric and Ariel in footage shot in 1988.
Howard’s Lecture (16:27)
is a look at the late Howard Ashman and his contribution to the film.
Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (4:45) smacks a little of self-promotion, but it offers up
an exuberant Jodi Benson taking us through Disney’s New Fantasyland which
showcases many of the later Disney characters.
Crab-e-oke Sing-Along is
a cleverly-titled section that allows you to sing along with a handful of the
film’s best-known songs.
The aforementioned Classic DVD Bonus Features (in standard definition) is here, too
and it includes: deleted scenes; backstage Disney; music and more; an audio
commentary with John Musker, Ron Clements, and composer Alan Menken; Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea; Behind the Ride That Almost Wasn’t; and Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride
Inspired by Disney Imagineers.
This 2-disc diamond edition contains a
standard DVD of the film and a digital copy. The bonus features included are: Part
of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland, classic deleted
scenes, an alternate version of “Fathoms Below,” and a Fight with Ursula/alternate
All in all, this is a great package of
a now classic film, making the upgrade to Blu-ray well worth it. A great idea for Christmas!
film fans tend to have very memorable impressions of when they saw a thriller
that impacted them strongly. On Friday,
May 9, 1980, I watched the John Guillermin
version of King Kong on a rerun on
NBC-TV and eagerly discussed it the following day with my Boy Scout troupe on
our way into New York to visit the United Nations building. Walking through the New York streets was
quite an education in many ways, not the least of which was our journey through
the theater district along 42nd Street. On
the way, we saw movie marquee displays for pornographic movies (yikes!!) and
comedies such as Don Adams’ The Nude Bomb.
the 13th had just opened up the previous day, and a theater displayed lobby
cards depicting images from the film. One of them contained an image of a woman
screaming at a man who had been impaled on a wall with arrows. This was the first time I had seen such a graphic
image and it really made me wonder what the rest of the movie consisted of. I remember being really disturbed by it. It would be another seven years before I
would see Friday the 13th
on a local television station airing and I must admit that I found the film to
be mediocre at best. John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), which I had seen five
years earlier, was more my cup of tea. I
found that film to be truly gripping
and tense. Years later I caught up with
the DVD release of Friday the 13th, however,
my reaction was still the same. I
suppose if I had seen the film when I was considerably younger it quite
possibly would have terrified me. One person it did terrify was author David Grove, one of the world’s foremost
authorities on this watershed horror film. He was just nine years-old when he caught a local television airing of
the film. He hasn't been the same since!
On Location in
Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th is the excellent new
book by Mr. Grove which should delight fans of the first in this now (in)famous
horror film franchise. Illustrated with nearly
300 black and white photos and written with the cooperation of people both in
front of and behind the camera, the book is an in-depth look at the making of a
film that made horror fans out of young kids. What is remarkable is that they (like Yours Truly) are still horror film fans to this day. It appears to be a life-long love that
doesn’t waver. If you have read the
excellent behind-the-scenes look at Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) in JAWS: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, this book is the
product of the same labor of love.
well researched, the book takes the reader through the film's humble beginnings
in 1979, from getting the cast and crew together, the script revisions to the
final draft, to the start of filming the day after Labor Day in September. The author draws parallels between the film
and the aforementioned predecessor, Halloween,
and also points out the differences between the two.
bulk of the book takes the reader to the actual physical locations where the
film was shot. As a traveler who loves
to go to the locations where my favorite horror movies were made, I only
discovered roughly five years ago that this film had been shot in my home state
of New Jersey! Yes, the Internet is a
wonderful tool. Armed with screenshots from
the film and directions from Google Maps, a friend of mine and I sought out as
many of the locations that are covered in this book, with the exception of Camp
NoBeBoSco, better known in the film as Camp Crystal Lake. Camp NoBeBoSco, where the bulk of the story
takes place, is actually a Boy Scout camp, and I only got as far as the
entrance. I have read about and heard
from friends that the inhabitants of this camp do not appreciate outsiders
trying to sneak in and have a look around, despite the film’s popularity. You
would think that they would set it up so that people could pay to stay there; I
would think that they would make a killing (pun most definitely intended). Then again, the camp would require an
enormous amount of upkeep as a result of the inevitable visitors who would try
to dismantle and take pieces of the remaining cabins as souvenirs!
makeup effects artist Tom Savini created what remains of Jason Voorhees, the
poor soul who drowned at the hands of distracted camp sitters. He speaks at length of his experiences on the
film. The book also nicely discusses where the cast ended up following the
film’s wrap and subsequent release.
may not be a fan of Friday the 13th,
but I have to acknowledge its place in the history of the horror genre and give
kudos to Mr. Grove for having written such an interesting, in-depth look at the
making of this film. As a result of his
tremendous efforts, I am going to revisit the film with a different point of
view. My appreciation for Friday the 13th and director
Sean Cunningham’s inexorable quest to get it made has grown as a result of this
must-have for Friday the 13th
completists and horror film fans alike.
George A. Romero's Day of the Dead
premiered on Friday, July 19, 1985, it was released in the same fashion that
his Dawn of the Dead was distributed seven
years earlier, which is to say without an MPAA rating.The poster sported the caveat (or allure,
depending on your point of view): “Due to scenes of violence, which may be
considered shocking, no one under 17 admitted.”Widely considered as an independent maverick in the film industry, Mr.
Romero once again decided not to submit his film to the ratings board knowing
full well that they would demand extensive cuts, leaving most of Tom Savini and
Greg Nicotero’s best work on the cutting room floor.One of the major problems with releasing a
film unrated is that the perception is that it is, in fact, a self-imposed
X-rating. An “X” generally means death
at the box office, unless you’re Marlon Brando doing the tango in Paris. Also, most major newspapers refuse to carry
ads for such fare.In addition, the film
opened two weeks after Robert Zemeckis’s wildly successful Back to the Future, which was still doing incredibly well at the
box office.As a horror fan four months
shy of my 17th birthday, I was unable to see it theatrically. Like most of my contemporaries, I caught up
with it on home video some years later. Having already seen Night of the Living Dead (1968) and it’s
(in)famous sequel which takes place in a shopping mall, the aforementioned Dawn, I didn’t know what to expect from Day.
some ways, it’s difficult to accept the fact that Dawn is sandwiched between Night
and Day. Night, which was shot in black and white and tells the story from
the lead character’s point of view by giving the characters information slowly
just as the audience is taking in all of the dreadful occurrences that are
happening to them, can also be viewed as a much more macabre version of an
episode of The Twilight Zone. However, there is a grimness to Night that makes it one of the scariest
movies ever made. Dawn, on the other hand, takes this same scenario of the zombies
out for human flesh and adds a very humorous stance to it. There is even a sequence where a motorcycle
gang throws pies in the faces of the slowly stumbling zombies. Day,
on the other hand, is much more serious in tone and is clearly the most depressing
of the three films. I must admit that at
the time that I saw this film, I never would have guessed that over 20 years
later The Walking Dead, a television
series based upon a graphic novel wherein a select group of strangers band
together against an unnamed contagion outbreak and are forced to fend for
themselves, would go on to become one of television’s most gripping, entertaining,
violent and popular shows. Audiences’s
appetite for this type of horrific material only seems to be on the
loved Day when I first saw it, and it
is my second favorite after the classic Night. Most people choose Dawn as their favorite, however, probably because they saw it when
they weren’t supposed to! Day introduces us to a completely
different set of characters and actors. It begins with a brilliant sequence that jolts the audience out of
complacency and puts them on edge for the rest of the film. Sarah (Lori Cardille), John (Terry
Alexander), McDermott (Jarlath Conroy), and Miguel (Anthony Dileo Jr.) are part
of an underground army compound in the Florida Everglades trying desperately to
understand how to cure the contagion outbreak. They have limited resources and are being watched by Captain Henry
Rhodes (Joe Pilato, in a performace that Siskel and Ebert labeled as shameless
overacting, but he’s actually really terrific and has some of the most quotable
dialogue in the film) and his lackeys Steele (Gary Howard Klar) and Rickels (Ralph
Marrero). Meanwhile, Dr. Logan (the late
Richard Liberty) is experimenting with live and dead zombies in an effort to understand
them and control them so that they can become obedient. Dr. Fisher (John Amplas) is a scientist who also
attempts to mediate between Dr. Logan and Capt. Rhodes, however communication
between these parties begins to break down and supplies start to slowly run out. Mistakes are made, and Miguel is bitten by a
zombie, leaving Sarah to amputate his arm and burn the wound to inhibit the
spread of infection.
Logan continues his experiments, this time on a restrained zombie named “Bub” whose
child-like behavior suggests that his memory works, at least partially. Sarah is disgusted to find that he is using
body parts as food to reward Bub for correctly performing tasks; she plans to
escape with her loyal confederates but is stopped by Capt. Rhodes who freaks
out and kills Dr. Logan. All hell breaks
loose and chaos ensues, resulting in some truly amazing makeup work by Tom
Savini and Greg Nicotero.
Day of the Dead has been released in
many different formats. The latest is a Blu-ray release this month from the fine
folks at Scream Factory who never cease to amaze me with their tireless efforts
on countless new Blu-rays of old horror favorites. Their transfer of the film in high definition
is the best that Day has ever looked
on home video. If you own the 2003
Divimax two-disc set from Anchor Bay, hold on to it because two of the extras
from that fine set have not been carried over to the Blu-ray: the audio interview
with Richard Liberty and the 39-minute original documentary The Many Days of Day of the Dead.
exclusive and new cover art by artist Nathan Thomas Wilner and a flip-over
cover which has the original one-sheet poster art.
World’s End: The
Legacy of Day of the Dead (85:26), a brand-new high definition documentary that
discusses the making of the film in Pennsylvania. Many of the people involved in the film’s
production are interviewed here.
commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, Cletus Anderson (production
designer) and Lori Cardille
is ported over from the Anchor Bay disc)
commentary with film director Roger Avary, an admitted fan of the film (this is
ported over from the Anchor Bay disc)
Day of the Dead:
Behind the Scenes
(30:42) – This is Tom Savini’s production footage that details his extensive
makeup effects used during filming in late 1984 (this is ported over from the
Anchor Bay disc, however the beginning is a little different). Shot in standard definition on either VHS,
VHS-C or 8mm video.
(08:12) is ported over from the Anchor Bay disc and was called Gateway Commerce
Center Promo on that edition. It takes
viewers on a tour of the underground location where Day was filmed. Presented in
Underground: The Day
of the Dead Mines
(07:37) – Hosted by Ed Demko of Cult Magazine, this new, high definition look
into the mines where Day was filmed
makes one wonder how the cast and crew fared while shooting. Skip Docchio, a facility tech who worked in
the mines for 32 years, was on hand during shooting and recounts his
memories. Mr. Demko humorously recites
some of the film’s dialogue.
trailers (05:55) – There are four trailers provided here, and several of them
seem like promotional items at film festivals.
Spots (01:35) – There are three spots here, all making a point to emphasize
that the film has not been rated.
Gallery – this consists of behind the scenes shots, locations where the film
was shot, posters/lobby cards (remember when they made those?), and a
miscellaneous section that includes images of past video releases.
disc is highly recommended. It would be
wonderful if Scream Factory could get their hands on Mr. Romero’s Creepshow. I have the Region 2 two-disc special edition DVD
and the documentary is almost as long as the film itself. Creepshow
needs a Blu-ray release and Scream Factory is the company to do it!
Horror:Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen
Lorna Jowett and Stacey Abbott
can easily be dismissed as being an unsuitable medium for the horror genre,
having to please the moral majority and unable to be as red in tooth and claw
as those horrific offerings on the silver screen. Jowett and Abbott's new book
does its best to prove this argument wrong, demonstrating that in many ways
television has been able to explore the darker recesses of horror in far more
depth than can be done in a single two hour movie. Shows such as The
Twilight Zone and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have embraced the
limitations of the small screen to present some truly chilling, unsettling moments.
Long-running shows like The X-Files were able to have story arcs that
lasted several seasons, building complex characters and even more complicated
and Abbott draw on examples from both American and British television, looking
at the grotesque excesses of comedy shows like The League of Gentlemen
and Psychoville, both of which draw heavily on a tradition of film
horror. We seem to be in something of a golden age of television horror right
now, from the gothic influences evident in Doctor Who to the extreme
violence and gore of Dexter or Hemlock Grove. The authors are
able to identify a recent shift in production practise which has to some extent
fragmented audiences, such as the advent of cable television production in the
States, or internet streaming services like Netflix who now produce original
programming. This means that more shows can be available, but are perhaps seen
by smaller numbers of people.
the tone is a little dry, the book is a fascinating and indepth look at TV horror,
a genre often considered inferior to it's cinematic older sibling in most
writing, and it has been fairly neglected in academic evaluation until now.
Some of the examples here will bring joy to fans of television as well as
chilling reminders of some of the more difficult and nostalgic shows, with Dark
Shadows, Twin Peaks, Stephen King's It, Kingdom Hospital,
The Outer Limits, Boris Karloff's Thriller, Night Gallery,
The Quatermass Experiment and Blood Ties all getting a thorough
books such as this offer the reader two things: an insight into the minds of
the authors, and an attempt to tell us something about the audiences who
consume all this material. Unless it is an encyclopedia, a single investigation
into TV horror is not going to cover everything. As such TV Horror:
Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen could potentially leave
some readers disappointed that their favourite show does not get a mention, but
Jowett and Abbott have covered considerable ground here, proving that the genre
is ready for reassessment. The small screen has offered up some seriously scary
programmes over the last sixty years, putting the forbidden and the frightening
right in your living room as an assault on all that we hold dear. This book
will help to explain why we need it there.
are certain movies that you see on substandard formats such as VHS and you
enjoy the film and think nothing of the technical prowess that went into making
it.When you see that same film given
the proper respect of being telecined, color-corrected from the original camera
negative, properly framed in the original aspect ratio and displayed on a 1080P
monitor/television, the difference is mind-boggling and literally makes you
wonder how you managed to suffer through such mediocre viewings in years past.James Munro’s Street Trash (1987) is a colorful, vile, over-the-top contraption
featuring dirty and reprehensible characters in Brooklyn, NY who dwell in an automobile
graveyard and have fashioned stacks of tires, empty vehicles, and just about
anything else that they can get their hands on into shelter and a way of life.They commit petty crimes, steal from one
another, and in short do anything to ensure their own survival. To what end, it
remains a mystery, however judging from their behavior their miserable
existences are probably more preferable to them than the unknown of what lies
in the great beyond.As the film opens,
a bespectacled local liquor store owner, who looks a lot like the bespectacled
bad guy chasing Louis DeFunes through much of Gerard Oury’s The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob
(1973), finds a case of “Tenafly Viper” (presumably whiskey or bourbon) in his
basement long after the concoction’s expiration date has passed and elects to sell
it in his store for a dollar a bottle.The
results are disastrous for those who consume the poisonous drink as they begin
to slowly turn into defragmented, messy, colorful blobs that would make Rob
Bottin, the effects master on John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), cringe.Fred
(Mick Lackey, who also did special make-up effects on the film) owes money here
and there and will steal from anyone to get it.Bronson (Vic Noto) is an imposing individual who appears to hold sway
over everyone who lives in the junkyard and demands money (probably rent) from
them.Shot in the Greenpoint section of
Brooklyn, NY in 1986 long before gentrification of the neighborhood, the
opening of the film sports a schizophrenic sequence of fast-moving Steadicam
shots of Fred out-witting other bums for money.Names like Vandervoort Avenue, Meserole Avenue, Moultrie Street, Norman
Avenue, and Humbolt Street populate the screen.Fred takes to the steps of the abandoned and graffiti-covered Greenpoint
Hospital Outpatient Department on Maspeth Avenue (now the fully functioning
Greenpoint Renaissance Center), and another bum, Paulie, bemoans the fact that
his son is wasting his life on computers!If only he had a crystal ball…
David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977), Street Trash virtually defies
description. That is part of the film’s charm,
if a film like this can possess charm! There
are some wildly hilarious moments, particularly in the opening scenes involving
Fred and flatulence. Another scene
involves a group of squeegee men (people who wash car windshields at red lights
and demand payment under the threat of vandalism). Bronson takes this bit of
intimidation to the extreme by extricating a stereotypically-dressed nerd, with
glasses and bowtie, from his car and throwing him headfirst into the windshield
as his girlfriend screams in horror. Bronson
is unhinged from the get-go and it comes to light that he once fought in
Vietnam. This point is driven home in a sequence
wherein he has a flashback and is attacked by the Vietcong. Bronson no doubt inspired the character of Wynyard,
the drug-addicted frog in Peter Jackson’s hilarious 1989 Muppets send-up Meet the Feebles (years ago, Anchor Bay
promised a deluxe DVD of the Feebles,
however it soon disappeared from their “future” list. It has been no doubt delayed due to Mr.
Jackson’s involvement in getting his Tolkien fantasies shot, but this would be a perfect film for Synapse
to release). Another funny sequence
takes place in a supermarket wherein a panhandler stuffs nearly a quarter of
the store’s inventory down his pants and is offended when the store manager
calls him out on it. The film's
craziest sequence, however, involves the removal of a bum’s private part as
others use it to play a game of catch, tossing it amongst themselves. It looks like it’s paying homage to the
tossed bone in the air in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey (1968). It’s
humorous but it goes on a little too long. One fellow reviewer referred to this film as “the greatest movie Troma never made,” and he’s absolutely right. In fact, Troma has been making so many crazy, off-the-wall parodies of other
movies for nearly four decades that I initially thought that films like Street Trash and Peter Jackson’s wildly
entertaining Bad Taste (1986) were
made by them. The pacing of the film is
a bit off, and it might have worked better as an 80-minute film rather than its
full 101 feature-length running time. The timing of the
film’s release following Larry Cohen’s The
Stuff (1985), about a company that packages industrial waste into the form
of a snack, is either deliberate or entirely coincidental, as that film
concerns people who, after ingesting The Stuff, have awful things happen to
you are a fan of Street Trash, this
new Blu-ray from Don May, Jr.’s excellent Synapse Films is a no-brainer. The
transfer is absolutely gorgeous.
film has been released many times before on VHS and laserdisc (both here and in
Japan). Synapse Films released it in the
US in 2005 as a single DVD disc, then in 2006 as a special edition two-disc set
the following year. It is that set that
is replicated on the single Blu-ray with the following extras:
The Meltdown Memoirs (2:04:00) I love when
DVDs and Blu-rays offer documentaries that are occasionally longer than the feature film that they
are discussing. Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary
on Steve Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) is a
case in point. The documentary on Peter
Jackson’s The Frighteners (1995) runs
roughly four hours long, as does the one on the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Never Sleep Again. The same
is true of the documentary on Rob Zombie's Halloween
(2007) on Blu-ray. While some people may
find this excessive, true diehard fans, including yours truly, love these added
values. The Meltdown Memoirs is no exception. It runs just over two hours
in length and is everything that a film documentary should be: entertaining, informative,
and comprehensive. Just about everybody
who appears in the film can be seen here as well. There is plenty of
behind-the-scenes footage, discussions about the cast and financing the film,
discussions about special effects, illustrations of conceptual art, the
gloriously colorful cinematography and production design, etc. In short, this is just about everything that
you need to know about this movie. The original cut of Street Trash ran nearly three hours (gulp!).
number one with writer/producer Roy Frumkes. It is a real pleasure to listen to Roy as he
discusses many facets about the making of the film. Usually, special editions
offer commentaries as well as interviews which tend to contain the exact same
information just packaged differently. The idea behind this, I assume, is to
give fans who like watching short interviews but do not like to listen to
full-length commentaries the same information, however in truncated form. There is very little repetition in the way of
what is mentioned in the audio commentary on this disc, as opposed to the
documentary. This is really designed with the hardcore fan in mind, the person
who’s going to watch and listen to every extra that the disc boasts.
Audio commentary number two with director James Munro. Director Munro
speaks about this film from a technical standpoint which is helpful to people
who work behind the camera. If you have already watched the two-hour documentary
and listen to Mr. Frumkes, you can probably skip this track and not miss out
too much. However, if you’re a completist, there are interesting anecdotes to
The original Street Trash
16mm short that inspired the feature-length film. This short runs
approximately fifteen minutes in length and is interesting to see in contrast
to the feature-length film.
The original Street Trash
Deleted scenes and outtakes. Seven minutes of short
scenes are featured here in a sequence that is exclusive to the Blu-ray.
Jane Arakawa interview. A nine-minute interview with one of the
actresses from the film that is also exclusive to this Blu-ray.
the plot of Walt Disney’s animated film Oliver
and Company (1988) feels or sounds familiar, it should. It is loosely based upon Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist but this titular character
is not a beggar sent to London. This
time around, he’s a cute little kitten set about the busy streets of New York
City and tries his best to fit in and survive.
He is “befriended” by Dodger, an older dog who is streetwise and gets
Oliver to aid him in scoring food while keeping the goods for himself. Oliver is understandably miffed by this, but
these are the mean streets of New York, after all. He learns a valuable lesson about trusting
others who appear to want to help him. Dodger
is owned by Fagin and is part of a gang comprised of Tito (a Chihuahua), Francis (a Bulldog), Einstein (a Great
Dane), and Rita (a Saluki). Fagin owes
money to Sykes, a loan shark who intimidates him with two Doberman Pinschers to
keep him in line, and is given three days to pay back the money he borrowed (which
he certainly didn’t spend on accoutrements).
In an effort to score some quick cash to help Fagin, Oliver and Tito
attempt to burglarize a limousine, only to be caught by a very young girl,
Jenny Foxworth, and Winston her Butler. Jenny
epitomizes the Disney “lonely child” (think of Penny from “The Rescuers”) and
takes Oliver home. Jenny is the victim
of rich parents who simply don’t have time for, as they are too busy
gallivanting the world. She also has a poodle, Georgette, who truly is a
stuck-up bitch and becomes extremely jealous of Oliver. She wants him out of the house, and is only
too happy to oblige when Dodger and his friends come to “rescue” Oliver who
confesses that he was actually happy living with Penny and the comforts her
home afforded him. Shocked and disappointed at this revelation, Dodger shrugs
off Oliver and tells him to leave. This,
of course, leaves us with Fagin who gets wind of the fact that Oliver was with
a rich family. His wheels begin to turn and he schemes to put out a ransom for
Oliver in an effort to reimburse Sykes. This
sets up a series of misadventures and misunderstandings that culminate in the
usual Disney happy ending.
on Friday, November 18, 1988, Oliver and Company
was met with a lukewarm response. I must
admit to being taken aback by some of the lackluster critical notices towards
this film. A lot have carped of the
predictable nature of the story and that the songs don't measure up to previous
Disney outings. While I will admit that
the style of animation is much different than the Disney masterpieces (the
reputable Nine Old Men who were responsible for the most well-known Disney
cartoons of all-time were by this time retired), this is the first Disney
cartoon to utilize computers for the background animation designs. If the movie seems predictable, it is due to
the fact that it's based upon a well-known piece of literature that has been
read and studied for decades. Besides,
the film is geared towards children who are probably are at an age where they
are completely unfamiliar with the story’s literary origins. It cannot help but feel familiar to adults
and it should not be cast aside due to this fact. Most of the animals are appealing, and there
is a humorous shot early on in the film where familiar dogs from past Disney
cartoons, specifically Lady and the Tramp
(1955), are seen on the streets of New York. Disney enthusiasts will pick this up right
of the characters are nicely drawn. Children will love the interaction between
animals. Georgia is an interesting creation, and her disposition mirrors that
of the female dog in Friz Freleng’s 1942 cartoon Ding Dog Daddy who sarcastically shrugs off a goofy dog who asks
her out, turning her nose up at him and walking off.
film also sports a handful of musical numbers by Billy Joel, Bette Midler, and
Oliver and Company is now available in
a DVD and Blu-ray combo. Needless to say, it looks splendid in high definition. The discs include trailers for the upcoming
DVD and Blu-ray combo of The Little
Mermaid which will be released in October 2013 in addition to an admonition
against the smoking effects of secondhand smoke.
discs are very light on the bonus features and they include:
The Making of Oliver
a vintage featurette that runs 5:31 and is presented in standard definition. It
spends much of its time discussing not only the cast involved in the creation
of the characters and songs (such as Cheech Marin, Billy Joel and Bette Midler),
but also takes a very interesting look at what was then state-of-the-art
computerized animation. This is not animation in the original sense of the
word, but rather using a computer to make changes in perspective within the
confines of animation cells in the film frame. The hardware was very big and
bulky at the time and the software looks extremely archaic to our eyes 25 years
hence, but it got the job done.
Disney's Animated Animals runs 89 seconds in
length and is a quick overview of the anthropomorphized animals that are
featured in the film.
Lend a Paw is an animated short
produced by Disney released theatrically by RKO Radio Pictures on October 3,
1941. It runs 8:08 and is included due to the fact that it is thematically
similar to Oliver and Company.
Puss Café is a Disney cartoon
that was released theatrically on June 9, 1950 and runs 7:11. It concerns similar themes in that Pluto is
up against a group of cats who are attempting to steal food.
discs also include both the television and theatrical trailers.
Cinema Retro welcomes our latest columnist, Ernie Magnotta, who will turn his attention to under-rated cinematic gems and guilty pleasures!
By Ernie Magnotta
“If a movie makes you happy, for whatever
reason, then it’s a good movie.”
There are good
movies and there are bad movies. There are also movies that some people say are
so bad that they're good. I hear that all the time. I've heard it since I was a
kid. I think what they actually mean is that they're not good in the way most
people might normally watch and judge a film; Excellent writing, incredible
acting, masterful direction, etc.
The way I see it,
there's more than one way to enjoy a film. Every movie doesn't have to be a
five-star masterpiece like Gone with the Wind. You do not have to judge a film
the way you would judge a mainstream Hollywood movie and every movie that doesn't
follow the Hollywood style of moviemaking isn't necessarily a bad film.
There are plenty of
films that follow all the rules of proper writing, directing, etc. and are just
awful. And there are just as many inept, low budget B-films that are excruciating
Like I said, there
are many different ways to enjoy a film. You can love a film just for the
nostalgia alone. It can take you back to a simpler, happier time in your life.
You can enjoy it for a certain actor or actors, wacky dialogue, quirky
characters, fun setting, wild plot and, although inept in many ways, the film
could have a certain charm and, most of all, be fun.
With my ongoing
reviews, I’d like to explain why I love these films so much, why they’ve gotten
such a bed rep over the years and, also, to prove my statement that there’s
more than one way to watch a movie.
*******WARNING: REVIEWS CONTAIN
“Put your weight on it! Put your weight on
it! PUT YOUR WEIGHT ON IT!”
These words are instantly recognizable to
anyone who has seen the insanely fun and quite unique1979 Blaxploitation
classic, Disco Godfather. The
entertaining film stars Dolemite himself; legendary comedian/musician Rudy Ray
Moore in the title role of former cop turned super cool DJ, Tucker Williams aka
the Disco Godfather. While happily spinning records at local disco Club
Blueberry Hill, Tucker’s world is turned upside down when he finds out that his
nephew Bucky (Julius J. Carry III), a promising athlete, has almost OD’d on angel
dust aka “The Wack”. Tucker also learns that Bucky isn’t the first person from
the neighborhood to suffer from the evil drug. When Dr. Mathis (Jerry Jones)
takes him on a horrific tour of a local rehab center, Tucker witnesses firsthand
what The Wack can do. It turns out that drug dealer Stinger Ray (James H.
Hawthorne) is pushing the stuff all over town and Tucker ain’t havin’ it.
With the help of the courageous Noel (Carol
Speed), the Godfather sets out to “attack the wack.” Of course, this won’t be
easy because once Stinger Ray finds out, he sends his army of goons out after
Tucker and, before you can say Carl Douglas, everybody starts kung fu fighting.
When the smoke clears, The Godfather not only emerges victorious, but manages
to locate the
angel dust factory as well. Once there, however, he is overpowered and forced
to take the dreaded drug himself. High beyond belief, the completely out of
control Tucker grabs hold of Stinger Ray and begins choking the life out of
him. In an ironic twist, the now rehabilitated Bucky arrives on the scene just in
time to see his beloved godfather, who is having horrifying drug induced visions,
completely freak out.
Prior to becoming a major star in Blaxploitation films, Rudy Ray Moore was a popular comedian known for his hit risque adult humor albums.
The eclectic film, co-written (with Cliff
Roquemore) and directed by J. Robert Wagoner, and produced by Rudy Ray and
Theodore Toney, is a strangely mesmerizing combination of comedy, drama, action
and horror, peppered with disco music and a few dance numbers. (I told you it
was unique.) And it’s not hard to figure out how the title was created. The
disco craze was in full force at the time and Francis Ford Coppola’s magnificent
The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II were two of the
most popular films of the 70s. I first saw this movie in the late 80s
under the title Avenging Disco Godfather and
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it ever since. I always smile whenever anyone mentions
it or recites one of the many quotable lines (which I’ll be listing shortly);
especially the aforementioned “Put your weight on it.” The film definitely capitalizes on many popular
exploitation elements of the time such as drug use, violence and martial arts,
but it distinguishes itself from other run of the mill exploitation films by
carrying a very positive and important message.
This is a film with an anti-drug message
and you can clearly see that Rudy Ray Moore and the rest of the cast and crew
were genuinely concerned about the junk that was polluting their neighborhoods.
I believe that, amidst all the off-the-wall insanity in this movie, the
filmmakers intentionally included this heartfelt message in the hopes of
inspiring change. In that way, it more meaningful than many of the soulless, multi-million
dollar Hollywood blockbusters we’ve been subjected to over the years. This
movie has heart. Now, having said that, is it a good movie in the classic
filmmaking tradition? Hell no! Many viewers will find it difficult to watch and
that’s totally understandable. Nevertheless, it manages to be thoroughly entertaining.
Most of the credit for this must go to the charismatic Rudy Ray Moore, who had
to use creativity to overcome a shortfall of production funds. In many interviews, Rudy Ray explained how he
had very little to no money to work with and, instead, used his imagination.
The movie is definitely imaginative. In
fact, it’s downright original in spots; especially in the frightening scenes
where we see the goings-on through the eyes of an angel dust user. Even the
more ineptly done aspects of the film (including some unintentionally hilarious
scenes) add to its appeal.
A company called Fast Custom Shirts has immortalized the film on a T shirt. Click here to order.
always say that there’s more than one way to watch and enjoy a movie and that
definitely applies to this film. Here are just some funkalicious reasons to
check out Disco Godfather:
1.A cool and fun
2.Decent disco and
roller disco scenes.
electrifying first appearance is a sight to behold. Rudy Ray shows up shaking his groove thing on the dance floor
in a skin tight, silver studded, turquoise jumpsuit with matching choker
necklace and platform shoes. I went blind for a full two minutes.
girlfriend frantically tells Tucker that his nephew is on drugs, Rudy Ray
delivers the immortal line “Where is Bucky, and what has he had?”
pronounced “am-ba-lance.” Can you dig it?
6.When Bucky gets
high in the disco, he thinks he’s in the middle of a basketball game.
7.Abby herself, the always welcome Carol Speed,
is spunky and cute in her brief role as Noel. She looks good in a showgirl
8.Under the influence
of angel dust, Bucky has terrifying hallucinations that include a severed hand, demons, witches with machetes
and Rudy Ray turning into a skeleton.
9.There’s a character
10.One of the addicts
at the rehab center thinks he’s an unborn caterpillar.
11.E.C.T. stands for
Electro Shock Treatment. (?)
12.At the angel dust
rally, one woman’s afro is freakin’ ginormous!
13.With its funky
fashions, automobiles, slang and décor, the movie is like a 1970s time capsule.
14.35 minutes in: The
dancing Godfather jiggles and gyrates as only he can.
15.37 minutes in: I
can’t even describe this outfit, but it shows off the Godfather’s man-boobs
16.The Godfather has
more amazing lines such as “I want you to put a little slide in your glide!”,
“She don't weigh but 90 pounds, baby, but she's got her weight on it!" and
the classic “I’m the Godfather and my name is Tucker. Everybody knows that I’m
a bad mutha…”
17.Tucker is able to
read a crooked cop’s badge number from across the darkened dance floor.
18.Lady Reed, Queen
Bee from the Dolemite series, is
great as a sorrowful mother who keeps her faith in God and never leaves her
drug addicted daughter’s side.
19.Keith David (John Carpenter’s The Thing, There’s
Something About Mary) is uncredited as a club patron. See if you can spot
him. I couldn’t.
20.At Sweetmeat’s party,
people snort cocaine off of a Saturday
Night Fever album cover.
21.Some dude in karate
pants and a Fu Manchu moustache acts like Bruce Lee.
22.At one point,
Tucker is attacked in an urban alley by a bullwhip wielding cowboy. For a
second, I thought I was the one who was on angel dust.
23.Tucker fights a
24.During his trip, Tucker
hallucinates and has visions of his dead mother and another woman who I’m assuming is his aunt
Betty. The reason I came to this conclusion is because five seconds after he
sees her, Tucker screams at the top of his lungs “I hate you, Aunt Betty!”
25.Mama becomes a
cartoon while a giant snake head bursts out of her stomach and Aunt Betty just
laughs at Tucker while boozing it up.
Tucker, whacked out of his skull from the angel dust he’d been forced to take,
mistakes Stinger Ray for a demon and strangles the drug dealer to death.
27.The movie ends with
Tucker still trippin’ balls and screaming in terror.
immediately cuts to the inappropriately upbeat end credits music.
Tell me you don’t wanna see this movie now.
I dare ya.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a wild,
different and hysterical time, then this is the movie for you. But don’t take
my word for it. After all, who am I to tell you what to watch? Here’s what The
Godfather himself had to say:
“I am your tower of power; the man of the
hour; too sweet to be sour. I’m fine, divine and guaranteed to blow your mind.
It’s now Godfather time.”
How can you resist that? You can’t, so just
grab yourself a copy of Disco Godfather,
relax and have a fun, crazy time.
Do it for Rudy Ray, and while you’re doing
it, don’t you ever forget to put your weight on it.
I’d like to dedicate this review to the
memory of Mr. Rudy Ray Moore. Rest in peace, Dolemite.
Disney’s The Sword in the Stone,
which opened on Wednesday, December 25, 1963, may not be all that familiar to
young viewers unless they grew up seeing it on VHS in the 1990s or on its
maiden DVD release five years ago.I first saw it in January 1973 during a
re-release and again in elementary school in the all-purpose room on 16mm in 1975,
which was a real treat as it was rare to see a feature-length film in school
(the obvious exception being Charlotte’s
Web (1973) which was de rigueur
for elementary school students.) Having
just viewed the new 50th anniversary Blu-ray, I was shocked to
realize just how little of the film I had remembered other than the jousting
Based upon the 1938 novel by Terence
Hanbury White, who passed away some 24 days after the film’s release, The Sword in the Stone
concerns the death of King Pendragon, a British ruler whose demise has left his
country reeling due to the lack of a successor. In London, the titular sword is
buried partially in stone. Upon the
sword is an inscription which states that whoever manages to remove the sword
from the stone will be ordained the new king of England. Naturally, many overgrown brutes try their
hand at it and fail to budge it. Sometime
later, a young orphan by the name of Arthur (who is also referred to as Wart) joins
his foster brother Kay on a hunting trip. Through a misadventure, he ends up in the home of a magician by the name
of Merlin who takes Arthur under his cape, so to speak. When Arthur returns to his foster father, Sir
Ector, he introduces him to Merlin. Sir
Ector is more concerned with the upcoming annual jousting tournament which is to
be held, conveniently enough, in London. Kay will be trained for the event and young Arthur will be his squire.
takes Arthur through a series of transformations in the hopes of giving the
young lad an education. They temporarily become fish in a sequence that
predates Finding Nemo by 40 years,
and also become squirrels to comprehend the finer aspects of gravity and
romantic love in a cute sequence. At
this point, Archimedes, Merlin's owl, enters the picture. He is gruff and full
of wisdom and takes a “tough love” attitude towards Arthur. The sequence where Merlin begins to wash
dishes with his magic will delight children who have seen the Harry Potter films.
then learns how to fly by being turned into a sparrow and studies under Archimedes’
tutelage. Arthur makes his way down the
chimney, the roof of the house shaped just like a witch’s hat – Harry Potter references again – and
finds himself in the house of Madam Mim, who ends up in a duel with Merlin, the latter
of whom stops the former by transforming himself into a germ and infecting her.
It is now time for the tournament and
Sir Ector, Kay, Arthur, and Archimedes go to London. Naturally, Arthur has forgotten Kay's sword
at the inn which turns out to be closed and he just happens to notice the sword
in the stone. He extricate said with
minimal effort and brings it to his father who was stunned when he reads the
inscription on. Needing to see his son remove the sword from the stone with his
very eyes, he replaces the sword in the stone. When Arthur removes it, it is
obvious that he is the chosen King of England.
The Sword in the
Stone contains a handful of entertaining songs and the lyrics are
enough to baffle both Willy Wonka and Dr. Seuss: “Higitus Figitus” is a tongue-twister. The score was written by the Sherman
Brothers, the most prolific songwriting team in the history of film. The
film received an Oscar nomination for Best Score - Adaptation or Treatment in
1963, but lost out to Irma La Douce.
The new Blu-ray, which also contains a
standard definition DVD and a digital copy, is a revelation to behold. The picture can only be described as gorgeous
and does not give a hint as to being over fifty years-old thanks to digital restoration. Colors are bright and sharp and look sterling
on a large high definition display.
The extras on the disc consist of:
Opening - Where Wart Meets Merlin
(4:02) – this is a look at how the film was originally going to open as seen
through storyboards and voiceover.
Magic: The Sherman Brothers
is an eight-minute featurette on the gentlemen who wrote the music. While is it interesting to watch, I would
have liked to have seen much more of them!
(Excerpt) – (7:19) is a neat feature in black and white of Walt Disney
performing magic tricks. Some are obvious
(like the “levitating” table that is being hoisted by strings) and some are a sight
Knight for a Day (7:06)
is a color cartoon featuring Goofy which was released on March 8, 1946 and
makes its appearance on this disc thanks to the jousting theme. There is a fair amount of dot crawl on the characters
in certain shots as the cartoon has not been restored and appears to be
transferred from a theatrical print.
(9:01) is a color cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse that is set during the Middle
Ages. It was released on September 29,
1938. Like A Knight for a Day, there is some dot crawl on the characters in
certain shots as the cartoon has not been restored and also appears to be
transferred from a theatrical print.
Swamp Thing (1982)
is a peculiar entry in the Wes Craven canon.
For a director who cut his teeth in porn (most directors began their
careers as editors in this field in the early 1970s) and directed such fare as The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Swamp Thing is a much gentler film. One of the few PG-rated entries to his credit,
it was made just a few years prior to his very own A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), the movie that turned the horror film
industry on its ear with the introduction of Fred Krueger and which spawned one
of the most successful franchises in the genre.
Released on Friday, February 19, 1982 by the
late Joseph E. Levine’s long-defunct Embassy Pictures, Swamp Thing is a film version of the DC Comic that was created by
Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Set in
the swamps of Louisiana (though filmed in South Carolina), brother and sister
scientists Alec and Linda Holland (Ray Wise and Nannette Brown) are hard at
work on an experiment that is designed to create a plant and animal hybrid that
can withstand the extreme temperatures of various environments. Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) works for the
government and makes a trip to the lab to see how things are coming along. Just as it appears that the government has
spent its money well, the henchmen of one sinister Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis
Jourdan), headed by the late cinema baddy David Hess, attempt to steal the written
magic formula and the serum from the clutches of its rightful owner. Linda is killed, and Alec gets doused with
the new concoction, ends up on fire (yes, that is stunt man Anthony Cecere running
outside engulfed in flames, a feat he
would repeat in A Nightmare on Elm Street)
and jumps into the swamp, reemerging as the titular creature who is henceforth
played by Dick Durock. Dr. Arcane believes that this serum will make him
immortal and he will therefore stop at nothing to make sure that he gets his
hands on the complete formula. Alice
begins to fall for Alec/Swamp Thing as she is eluding Dr. Arcane's machine gun-toting
minions. Mr. Hess, who appeared in the
aforementioned Last House, plays the
usual crazy, bullying nut job that he did so well in Hitch Hike (1977) and House
on the Edge of the Park (1980), and the supporting cast that surrounds him
are a terrific group of menaces. Reggie Batts nearly steals the film in his
turn as Judd, a young store proprietor who does everything he can to help Alice
avoid capture. There are various animated wipes, dissolves, and visual
transitions/segues that take you from one piece of action to the next in an
effort to emulate the look of a comic book. For the most part, the film succeeds.
Swamp Thing was
originally available on home video on capacitance electronic disc (CED),
laserdisc (LD), and the ubiquitous VHS cassette. Although it made its DVD debut in 2000, the
discs were pulled from the shelves when it was discovered that the DVD was
sourced from the international print which ran 93 minutes in length and contained
an additional two minutes of nudity that was not seen in the original 91-minute
PG-rated 1982 domestic theatrical exhibition. Bowing to some consumer complaints, MGM reissued the movie on DVD in
2005 in its original version, minus the nudity. It is this version that appears
on both the new DVD and Blu-ray. It would have been nice if the missing footage
had been included as an extra (if it is here as an Easter egg, kudos to those
of you who can find it!).
The transfer of the film is excellent; there
are a few spots and very small scratches here and there but nothing to distract
from your pleasure of watching the image. Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout! Factory, is to be commended for
continually putting out our favorite genre films in these new versions with
top-notch extras. Best of all, this is a
DVD/Blu-ray combo. I don't know what the criteria is (or who the decision maker
is) when it comes to deciding to release a title in separate formats or as a
combo, but I sincerely wish that all of Scream Factory's titles were sold as
combos forthwith. That being said, both
formats boast excellent transfers, with Blu-ray obviously being the sharper and
clearer of the two.
There are some really nice extras on the
discs (which are presented equally on both formats). The movie contains two
separate full-length commentaries. The first is with writer/director Wes Craven
and it is moderated by Sean Clark of Horrors Hallowed
Clark is a walking/talking encyclopedia and asks Mr. Craven lots of interesting
and intelligent questions about the production and the people involved.
The second commentary is with makeup effects
artist William Munns, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. This track is an absolute joy to listen to as
Mr. Munns remembers a great deal about the making of the film. Growing up in Studio City, CA, he speaks quite
eloquently about his experience in the film business prior to Swamp Thing, in addition to the issues
that began to flourish when the film was green-lighted. He recalls having to wait a long time as the
financing was secured, and even went to work on a film initially called Witch (later released as Superstition) in
the interim. Since the sex of the Swamp
Thing was an issue, he had to work around the anatomically correct creature and
his recollections are humorous in how this was handled (he says that the film
needed a PG-13 rating, however Swamp
Thing was shot in the summer of 1981 and this rating was not used until 1984
with the release of John Milius’ Red Dawn). He talks about fitting the suit, discusses
how the makeup crew became the scapegoat when filming came to a crawl due to
the other departments that were behind, the dangers of wearing the Swamp Thing
suit, the stunts that needed to be done, and how he took over as Swamp Thing
when Mr. Durock could no longer perform.
The bonus features consist of:
Tales from the Swamp is an
interview with Adrienne Barbeau. The
segment runs 16:56 and Ms. Barbeau is a delight to listen to. Jovial and funny,
she recalls the time that she spent on the film and talks about the bacteria
and parasites in the water, the long hours on the set while they were in South Carolina,
and the challenging elements around them. The original script that was given to
her by Wes Craven was far more audacious than what ended up on screen.
Unfortunately, just as the film went before the cameras, the production company
began to chip away the film's budget, necessitating constant rewriting during
the course of shooting and many concessions needed to be made. Ms. Barbeau is
rather candid and pulls no punches in explaining her disappointment with the
final product at the time, however she has developed an appreciation of the
film in the years since its release.
Hey, Jude is
the name of the second segment, and this is a fun and entertaining interview
with actor Reggie Batts who plays Jude (hence the name!). It runs 14:30. Mr. Batts explains how he got the role in the
film and was a fan of DC comics. Following
the release of Swamp Thing, he also appeared
in the North and South (1985) miniseries
The last segment is titled That Swamp Thing, and it’s a look back
with creator Len Wein who explains how he came up with the name for the
creature and how he got his start as an animator. The segment runs 13:19.
The original theatrical trailer is also
included, and this is in excellent condition, not the usual scratch-ridden mess
that we’re used to seeing.
The photo galleries consist of posters and lobby
cards; photos from the film; William Munn’s behind-the-scenes photos; and behind-the-scenes
photos by Geoffrey Rayle.
As an added bonus, the DVD/Blu-ray sleeve is
reversible and has the French poster artwork under the title of La Creature Du Marais, which translates
to “The Creature of the Swamp”.
From the first frame of Amir Shervan's
1989 film Samurai Cop, you know that
you're in for a treat. Cheesy 1980s artificial
pop music that sounds like it was generated by a Casio keyboard, courtesy of
Alen Dermarderossian, with white credits set against a black background (a surefire
indicator that you're watching a low-budget film) give way to Okamura (Gerald
Okamura) complaining that they are not an established gang, and as such, they
should be very cautious to make friends with the Chinese and Japanese gangs. He
grunts and groans and makes exclamations that aren't always decipherable. Former porn star Krista Lane, who is part of
the gang, says things like, “Here comes the boss!” or “The boss is
coming.” Robert Z’Dar, best known for
the Maniac Cop films, is an imposing
figure who does the boss’s dirty work. Needless
to say, they get into a fight with a gang they want to do business with after
being rebuffed and several people are killed.
Enter black and white cop team Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe
Marshall (Matt Hanon), the poor man’s answer to Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs
from Lethal Weapon (1987). Washington looks like Michael Winslow from
the Police Academy series and Marshall
is a samurai expert(?!) who looks like former model Fabio. They spout some of the most quotable, ludicrously
awful dialogue I’ve heard in a long time.
When they go out on assignment in a beaten up Chevrolet Caprice Classic,
one of them says, “His boss was killed by the Katana Gang. There’s the blue van over there.” The other asks, “So, the van belongs to the
Katana Gang?” He must've been at the
head of his graduating class. They
enlist the help of another cop, Peggy (Melissa Moore of 1990’s Sorority House Massacre II), in
following the culprits and later on Marshall beds her in one of the genre’s
most boring sex scenes.
The cops have run-ins with the Katana Gang in a laugh-out-loud sequence in
a restaurant where they threaten the boss and Marshall swoons over Jennifer,
the young attractive owner of the joint. There’s a completely unnecessary scene involving a ridiculously
effeminate waiter who looks like he fell out of an early Dario Argento
The film is a time capsule of music, wardrobe, and hairstyles from nearly a
quarter-century ago. There is full
frontal female nudity, three attempts at sex scenes, and one of the funniest,
phoniest car chases I have ever seen (it makes you pine away for William
Friedkin’s touch.) The late Dale
Cummings plays their vociferous police captain, constantly yelling at the cops
to bring him results. One of the
funniest scenes takes place in his office (I won’t spoil it) as he threatens to
send Marshall back to where he came from.
The film has absolutely no cinematic style despite the best efforts of
cinematographer Peter Palian, who shoots much of the action in masters. There
is very little intercutting and therefore no excitement is generated. Unbelievably, all of these drawbacks add
considerably to the film's overall charm. I wish that the bulk of movies made today were one-tenth as entertaining
Samurai Cop turns out to be.
The film has been transferred from the original 35mm film negative and the
image is crystal clear. Some of the color timing appears to be off a little
bit, however this is a minor quibble. This is unquestionably the best the film
was ever going to look.
The extras that the disc comes with include:
An interview with actor Robert Z’Dar conducted over Skype which runs 25
minutes. The image quality is poor,
however Douglas Dunning, the interviewer, and the actor are both
understandable. Mr. Z’Dar talks about
how he got into the business and came to meet the late director Amir Shervan
with whom he made three films (Hollywood
Cop (1987) and Killing American Style
(1990) in addition to this one). Director Amir Shervan intended Samurai Cop to be a straightforward
action film. It took three weeks to
shoot on a budget of approximately $800,000.00.
An interview with actor and fight co-ordinator Gerald Okamura that runs 20
minutes. He discusses his time working
with David Carradine on Kung-Fu and
with John Carpenter on Big Trouble in
Little China (1986) and Escape From
L.A. (1996), in addition to Samurai
An interview with cinematographer Peter Palian who talks extensively about
his career in the business runs 27 minutes.
There are also stills galleries and an amusing fan trailer for the
Victor Lundin, best known to film fans for his portrayal of Friday in Byron
Haskin’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964),
passed away on June 29, 2013 at age 83 after an undisclosed
illness. News of his passing first came
to Cinema Retro via Cinema Epoch’s Director of Acquisitions Douglas Dunning,
who was a personal friend of Mr. Lundin’s.
It was also confirmed by John Sempre, Jr.’s Facebook page (Mr. Sempre interviewed
Mr. Lundin and this audio interview can be heard in part one and part two on Vimeo) as well as
Zachary Lundin’s Facebook page (Victor’s son).
addition to this film, Mr. Lundin appeared in the 1966 film version of Beau Geste, and appeared on television in
episodes on some of our favorite shows from the 1960’s, including The Time Tunnel, Get Smart, Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Mannix, and Batman.
to Mr. Sempre, Jr., one of Mr. Lundin’s last screen appearances will be in the
former’s upcoming web miniseries, Creeporia,
wherein he provided a brief cameo voice for an animated character (an evil
wizard) in the first episode. Creeporia will be released via streaming
video in October 2013. For more
information, click on Creeporia’s
and Creeporia’s Facebook page.
Dunning the actor, producer, film authority, and Director of Acquisitions at
Cinema Epoch, has just acquired the rights to the following titles for future
release on DVD:
The Witch Who Came from the Sea
(1976) with Millie Perkins and directed by Matt Cimber
Butterfly (1982) with Pia Zadora, Stacy
Keach and Orson Wells and directed by Matt Cimber
previously reported, Mr. Dunning is the host of Prodigy Media Network’s “How Do You
View”, an Internet radio show produced by Cinema Epoch president Gregory
Hatanaka.The show is available for
listening daily at 1:00
am, 5:30 am, 11:00 am & 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time (4:00 am, 8:30 am,
2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm New York
time).Click here to listen to “How Do You
View” at the respective times.
Dunning is keeping busy.He is also
currently co-starring in the film Barry
Price, which is loosely based upon John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1977).The film is being directed by Chris Boggs
and it stars film legend John Wayne’s grandson, Brandon Wayne, in his first
starring role.Mr. Dunning is also
appearing in Master of the Grind,
which is being directed by Jason Rutherford.
recently being promoted to Head of Production at Cinema Epoch, Mr. Dunning will
be producing the following new films, all to be directed by the aforementioned
Hunter, a thriller due to begin filming on
July 1, 2013
The Alpha Experiment, a sci-fi
thriller due to start shooting in August 2013
Darling Nikki, a reimagining of
tuned to Cinema Retro.com for future updates!
British Cinema's Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems
by Julian Upton
so often a book comes my way that I wish I had written. 'Offbeat' is one such
title, the byline of which succinctly describes a large proportion of my film
viewing since childhood. The book is a collection of film reviews, with titles
ranging from 1954 (the animated adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm) to 1985 (sci-fi dud Lifeforce). With a cover illustration
taken from Kenneth Rowles' infamous hitchhiking shocker Take an Easy Ride (1977), the book is clearly aiming for cult
credentials, which may explain why the hundreds of forgotten gems before 1954
have been totally ignored. To be fair to the editor, a book which attempted to
cover the entirety of Britain's lost and maligned movies would be the length of
several encyclopaedias. Indeed, this book does not claim to be definitive. In
many ways it perhaps tells us more about the predilections of the various contributors
than it does about the decades it covers.
does raise one fairly depressing point, which is that although there are
literally thousands of films at our fingertips these days, there are still
titles which are tantalisingly out of reach. Whole swathes of homegrown movies
have been shoved to the back of dusty shelves in forgotten archives never to be
seen again except in grainy, third generation VHS copies dating from the one
terrestrial broadcast thirty years ago. It's a pity that so many of the films
in here suffer from a lack of availability, as I guarantee that you will be
reading this book in one hand whilst browsing online for DVDs with the other.
the book contains dozens of fascinating, occasionally outlandish titles, if you
have any experience in the obscurities of British cinema you will still be able
to argue about the final selection. Donovan Winter is notable by his absence,
and having given the world incestuous lesbian twins in Some Like It Sexy (1969), he surely deserves a nod. There is
perhaps the inevitable focus on Hammer, who get several mentions and one begins
to wonder whether anyone else was actually making films in the 1960s. There are
however plenty of titles in here which even I, a seasoned British cinema fan,
was not familiar with. The director whose name seems to arise the most often is
Val Guest, one of the unsung heroes of British cinema. Perhaps the time is now
right for a full reevaluation of his work. In a career covering sci-fi, horror,
social realism and sex comedies, his filmography IS the British film industry
from the mid-1950s through to the 1970s in microcosm.
the reviews are scattered several essays covering various aspects of British
cinema, including the swashbuckler, the pop musical, underage sex and the
demise of the industry in the 1970s; as scattershot an approach to film history
as one could hope for, with the emphasis firmly placed on the psychotronic.
Amongst the film titles jostling for attention are classics such as Horrors From the Black Museum (1959), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), The Birthday Party (1968), a rare
excursion into British filmmaking from The
Exorcist's William Friedkin, and Eskimo
Nell (1975), the finest sex comedy this country has ever produced. The
BFI's current Flipside range of DVDs and blu rays gets good coverage also, with
Herostratus, Privilege (both 1967), Permissive,
Bronco Bullfrog, Deep End, (all 1970) and The
Black Panther (1977) all coming highly recommended. At least some of the
films discussed in 'Offbeat' are not as obscure as they once were.
with all recent Headpress books the imagery is reproduced in black and white,
which is a pity as so many of these films feature wildly colourful, bordering
on psychedelic, imagery. The poster art for long-forgotten musical mega-flop Toomorrow (1970) is far more exciting
than the film itself! This complaint is quickly forgiven once you discover that
'Offbeat' has a thorough index, something often ignored in similar books. This
means you can use this as a great reference book, and each film title includes
production details and credits alongside a thorough analysis and review. One
may not agree with every opinion shared (Sarah Morgan's dismissal of Hammer's Captain Clegg as "a decent
potboiler" is woefully off the mark), but the book does serve its purpose
which is to encourage the reader to discover the hidden gems of British cinema.
If you can find them that is.
has been a gradual yet inevitable demise of analogue formats over the last
decade or so, with wax cylinders, eight track and the chrome cassette tape all
now relegated to the scrap heap. Yet vinyl is making a comeback. Despite the
supposed superiority of the CD and the mp3, there is nothing as satisfying as
sliding your 12” LP out of it's card sleeve, carefully placing it on the
turntable, and the slight crackle when the needle first makes contact. And many
argue that the sound quality remains superior to digital reproduction,
particularly when listening to older recordings that were made using analogue
equipment in the first place.
company to truly embrace the vinyl collector culture is Death Waltz Records,
founded by Spencer Hickman of Rough Trade in London. They produce exclusive
vinyl reproductions of a massive array of cult film soundtracks and accompany
them with sleeve notes, newly commissioned artwork and coloured vinyl, and most
come with screen prints and posters too. They have recently put out the bizarre
electronic scores of Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the
Witch, both limited to 300 copies. This release coincides nicely with the
recent rerelease of both films on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout Factory.
Halloween III in particular has
been much maligned over the years, thanks in no small part to screenwriter
Nigel Kneale's much publicised dislike of the film. However you feel about it,
the soundtrack is superb. Both of these Halloween releases have
splendidly eerie scores which should on no account be listened to in the dark.
Both were composed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth and build on the tones
and style that Carpenter developed on the first Halloween movie. Halloween
II also delivers a surprise when The Chordettes burst through the
synthesised shivers with “Mr Sandman”, an incongruity which fits well with the
ending of the movie. Halloween III contains the horrifyingly catchy
“Silver Shamrock” jingle, reminding children to make sure they are wearing
their new Halloween masks when the 'Horrorthon' starts later that night. Of
course, if you have seen the film you will know those are no ordinary Halloween
masks, and it is a night that will not end well.
you are a collector who wants everything in mint condition, the dilemma as to
whether you can actually play your vinyl once it arrives is a difficult one.
Even if you decide not to play it, each Death Waltz release makes a unique
piece of memorabilia.
recent development at Death Waltz Records will be of particular interest to
fans of British horror. They have gone into partnership with Hammer Films and
are intending to release several soundtracks on vinyl, some of which have never
been released before. Amongst the first will be Twins of Evil (1971) and
The Devil Rides Out (1968), Hammer's most successful Dennis Wheatley adaptation. The latter will
feature extensive sleeve-notes by James Bernard and all new exclusive
artwork. The package will come as a limited edition coloured vinyl with an A2
poster and 12 x 12 lithograph print . It will also contain a download link for
an interview with Christopher Lee and two unreleased cues. If you are a vinyl
collector, or a fan of Hammer horror, you had better start saving up now!
Rarely has distributor exploitation been as blatant as in the
case of Simon Wincer’s The Day After
Halloween (1980), a ludicrously-named Australian outing originally optioned
under the name of Centerfold, then
changed to Snapshot after the
producers were unable to secure that title, and was eventually released as One More Minute. It appeared on video shelves here in the U.S.
on VHS both in 1983 from Catalina Home Video under the title of The Day After Halloween and in 1985 as The Night After Halloween on Magnum Home
Entertainment. The film came on the
heels of the John Carpenter-scripted Eyes
of Laura Mars (1978) which was set against the milieu of the fashion
industry. Filmed in 1978 and released in
Australia the following year, The Day
After Halloween has absolutely nothing to do with John Carpenter’s seminal holiday
suspense yarn, and isn’t even a slasher film. It isn’t even a thriller. At
best, it can be considered a mystery that concerns a young woman named Angela (Sigrid
Thornton) who lives with her wretched, belittling mother and is trying to fend
off the unwanted affections of her obsessed and emotionally unstable ex-boyfriend
Daryl (Vincent Gil) who drives an ice cream truck (think Phantasm!). She’s late for
work which earns her the condemnation of her hairstylist boss but garners the
affections of Madeline (Chantal Contouri), a sophisticate who dresses like Joan
Collins who encourages Angela to parlay her natural good looks into a modeling
career which lands her topless in Cleo, the Australian equivalent of
Cosmopolitan Magazine, in an ad for Bermuda Cool cologne. The ad proves lucrative but also draws the unsolicited
attention of lots of tongue-wagging men twice her age in an effort to score
with her. A photographer sets up a
meeting with her and uses an innocent photo session as a ruse to get her drunk
and undressed, but she bails, which leads to a frightening confrontation later
Given the cookie-cutter nature of films
from this era, it isn’t difficult to realize who really idolizes Angela and
wants her the most. The Bermuda Cool
photographing sequence goes on much longer than it should (remember that long,
wordless sequence in Play Misty for Me
set to a Roberta Flack song? That was
shorter!). Lacking a cinematic style,
the film for the most part is shot in masters and throws lots of red herrings
at the audience, but it makes for an entertaining film. The acting is impressive for this sort of story. The score is by the late Australian composer Brian
May whose music to George Miller’s The
Road Warrior (1981) is one of the best action film scores ever. Prior to this, Mr. May scored Patrick (1978) which was produced by Anthony
Ginnane who also acts as producer on this film as well (if you have seen the
Italian cut of Patrick, Mr. May’s
score was replaced by Goblin’s). Director
Wincer has gone on to director more notable and successful films: Phar Lap (1983), D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), Quigley
Down Under (1990), Free Willy
(1993), and The Phantom (1996).
The film has been released on Scorpion
Releasing’s Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, hosted by Katarina Leigh Waters.
Ms. Waters proves to be a charming and
knowledgeable emcee and provides an amusing introduction to the film. She
points out that this is the first time the film is being presented on home
video in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision aspect ratio. The film is transferred from a theatrical
print, but it is free of dirt and scratches. The sound is in mono and is passable.
The DVD contains the entire, uncut
version of the film with Snapshot on
the title card, however there is an extra that contains a portion of the
opening credits with The Day After
Halloween as the title (the fuzziness of the image and overall lack of quality
appears to be sourced from VHS). There
is also an extremely informative running commentary with producer Anthony Ginnane
moderated by Ms. Waters. A veteran of
over fifty films, Mr. Ginnane is a fountain of knowledge and remembers quite a
bit about the making of this film which had a very tight production schedule on
the order of three weeks shooting time. The
DVD cover replicates the original American one-sheet which is a nicely-designed
image but is completely misleading – it is simply the wrong cover for this
On his web blog Sixties Cinema, Cinema Retro columnist Tom Lisanti pays tribute to schlock producer Bert Gordon's 1965 teenbopper exploitation flick Village of the Giants, featuring such cult stars as Tisha Sterling, Joy Harmon, Vicki London and Tony Basil. Click here for the story behind the film as well as original TV ads.
On Saturday, April 23, 1988, I attended
the Official Starlog Festival at the then-Penta Hotel in midtown Manhattan on
Seventh Avenue. It was my first time meeting makeup artist Tom Savini and several
cast members of Star Trek were also
on hand. Film producer Frank Marshall,
whom cineastes will know from The Warriors
(1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981), Poltergeist (1982), Back to the
Future (1985), and most recently The
Borne Legacy (2012), also showed up for a few hours to debut footage that director
Robert Zemeckis shot for a new upcoming film entitled Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which was based upon the 1981 novel by
Gary K. Wolf, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?The footage that we saw consisted of Bob
Hoskins interacting with Roger and other animated characters and it looked pretty
seemless.When the film opened two
months later, I was delighted to see my favorite cartoon characters appear in
The premise is fairly straight forward
and owes a huge debt to the film noirs
of the Thirties and Forties and there is more than a passing wink at Roman
Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) as Eddie
Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired by R.K. Maroon (the head of Maroon Cartoons) to
investigate allegations that Jessica Rabbit, the wife of cartoon star Roger
Rabbit (both of whom live in Toontown with other cartoon characters who act in
movies for real people producers and directors), is having an affair. Eddie hates toons because his brother, Teddy,
was killed by one some years earlier. Eddie
shows Roger pictures that he took of Roger’s wife, Jessica, playing patty-cake
with Marvin Acme. Roger interprets this
as his wife cheating on him, and when Acme is killed the next day by a fallen
piano, Roger moves to the head of the suspect list. Since toons are pretty much indestructible
(they have to be in order for them to be “killed” in their cartoons!), an evil
man named Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who presides over Toontown, knows
that the only way to kill a toon should one of them step out of line is to
submerge them into a vat of acid he calls “The Dip”. His minions are sent out to find Roger and
bring him back for the murder of Marvin Acme. This leads to a series of action-packed misadventures that are executed
in the tradition of most of the beloved Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoons.
This is the film’s first foray on to
Blu-ray, and its third go-round on DVD. It
comes in a 2-disc set with one Blu-ray and one DVD. The Blu-ray contains the following extras:
running commentary (runs in tandem with the film)
Roger Rabbit Shorts: Tummy Trouble, Roller
Coaster Rabbit & Trail Mix-Up
Who Made Roger Rabbit (10:55)
Scene: The Pig Head Sequence (5:30)
and After (3:07)
Behind the Ears documentary (36:37)
On Set! behind-the-scenes (4:50)
The DVD contains these additional extras:
Toontown Confidential, a feature that
can be enabled while watching the film which has facts and trivia
What is missing, and this is something
I have never seen on any home video release of the film be it VHS, laserdisc
(does anyone remember the controversy surrounding this release?), or
previous editions DVDs, is the CBS-TV special Roger Rabbit & the Secrets of Toon Town which aired on Tuesday,
September 13, 1988. Its exclusion might
be attributed to a rights issue. Fortunately, it can be seen here
on Youtube. The quality is not stellar,
however it is better than not having access to it at all.
All in all, this Blu-ray is a worthy
upgrade to a fun film that has earned its place in movie history.
Pasha Roberts is the director of the
new film Silver
Circle. He obtained his masters in financial
engineering, which he describes as “hedge fund math,” roughly ten years ago. His interest was in financial digitalization
and how to apply modern computer graphics to high finance. His thesis subject
consisted of applying a game-like graphics engine to doing equity trading in
finance so that a reasonably intelligent 13-year-old gamer could use it to learn
this type of trading. Upon doing this,
he realized that what was missing from financial communications was a way of
describing complicated concepts from a Ph.D level and bringing it down to a
Masters level, essentially reducing the complexity and making it accessible; he
did this by working with banks, corporations and think tanks.
Beginning around 2006, he began moving towards
more economic-type concepts, and felt that it was important to describe things
on more of an economic level rather than a financial level. When the housing and financial crash occurred
in 2008, he decided that Silver Circle
should really be about a crash and the intrigue around that crash.
Todd Garbarini: Your animation company,
Two Lanterns Media, produced a series entitled Save Sonny which concerns a young adult entering the workforce who
becomes perturbed to find that some of his paycheck is being deducted by a
mysterious entity known as FICA (laughs). Does Sonny personify the average young
American in your mind?
Pasha Roberts: At that point, we kind
of did that, yeah. That was kind of a South
Park-level of humor, there are some farts jokes in there as well. The goal at
the time was to take the subject and make it interesting and acceptable for
somebody who, when they get their first job, suddenly realizes that they don't
get all of their money. They want to know where it goes to, specifically FICA,
and why. That was a whole, completely
different other style and was not as serious as (our new film) Silver Circle, but kind of
tongue-in-cheek and somewhat educational.
TG: The series reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock which endeavored to educate children
on science, economics, history, etc. Do
you see yourself as an educator for social change and personal financial
responsibility through animation?
PR: Yeah, you could say it that way. We
were focusing on the story first and therefore tried to make it fun and
interesting without trying to be too pedantic about it. That's why Silver Circle isn't full of speeches, although it has one or two
that are kind of mixed in. We were interested in working with people who wanted
to make a movie with a backbone and a spine and ideas in it. The audience can
certainly enjoy it on an intellectual level in that regard, but otherwise they
can also enjoy themselves from the movie perspective as we do have some action
sequences and a car chase.
Circle posits the financial collapse of the United States economic system
roughly six years from now. It is
animated in the style of a contemporary video game. Was this your decision from the get-go?
PR: We were actually looking at A Scanner Darkly, actually we did use Maya,
we didn't really use cel shading
for this but we did look a lot at that. We really wanted to make the characters
look less realistic and keep them from looking kind of spooky, and even so I
think we could have done more with that. It's kind of a crossover thing, you don't see
a lot of animated movies that are not comedies or fantasies, so people aren’t
used to seeing this type of animation with something serious.
TG: How long did the process of making the film take, from conception to
PR: Four years. We basically started
brainstorming about it the day after Lehman Brothers went down because it was
such a big dramatic moment, and I thought this could be a real interesting theme.
The screenwriting itself took about a year as there was a completely different
concept at first and it took a little while to burn through a couple of
screenwriters until we finally settled on Stephen (Schwartz). Then we spent three years on production. The overall
budget was roughly $2M. One of the really interesting things about the movie is
that the end credits contain the names of about ten core people who really
worked on it, compared to an army of animators.
TG: In the film, the Federal Reserve
has been tasked with stabilizing the economy, but all attempts have failed and
the Rebels illegally mint silver coins hoping to stabilize the financial health
of the country. How do you feel this
mirrors the current economic situation in the U.S. today?
PR: I think that we are currently heading in the direction that is depicted
in the film, although I don't think that it will be as bad. There were a couple of things that are in the
movie and were even in the script but hadn't happened yet but actually came
true as we progressed through making the movie. For example, there is a guy by the name of Bernard von Nothaus who is currently in prison for making money out of silver,
and that’s his crime. His sentencing
judge basically called him a domestic terrorist for trying to make money out of
silver. So, that was not going on. Then,
the Federal Reserve was actually talking about taking over neighborhoods and
basically calling them “land banks,” which is of course essential part of Silver Circle’s plot. So, there are
angles going on in that direction already and I do believe that marijuana is on
its way to being legalized, and this also occurs in the movie. I hope that the
movie obviously isn't prescient in terms of being completely true. We looked at a lot of the history of
Argentina and Zimbabwe and what happens when a currency begins to die and how
people behave as a result of that.
TG: What do you hope audiences will
take away from the film?
PR: First off, I hope that they enjoy
the story. Obviously, I want them to have a great time. I want it to be a fun,
good story for the audience. After that, I hope that people are not only
entertained, and but there are also a lot of embedded things in the movie for
the so-called armchair economists and conspiracy theorists. I really do hope
that it gets people to start to think about money and know that there is this
thing out there called the Federal Reserve that is very real and they are not murderous
bastards (laughs). I want the
audience to not take the concepts of money for granted. Most other countries
understand that and the changing of European currency and so on and so forth -
things abroad do not appear to be as well-established or as stable as things
appear to be here. So, hopefully the
audience will think about that. The angle that we're taking is that we really
can make an animated movie with a spine of ideas that people will actually
appreciate instead of just offering up a whitewashed movie.
Room 237 is the title
of the excellent new documentary by director Rodney Ascher that takes the
points of view of five off-screen individuals who do their best to unmask the
purported hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s initially disappointing yet
subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen King’s The Shining. In doing so,
they are keeping in line with a motif derived straight from the novel in a
sequence wherein Horace Derwent, a former owner of the Overlook Hotel, urges
his costumed party-goers to unmask at a lavish celebration, thereby revealing
their identities. The human face as a
mask is also a common theme throughout all of Mr. Kubrick’s filmography, so it
is only fitting that Room 237 takes the approach of removing layers to reveal
what might be hidden beneath the surface in order to get at The Shining’s essence.
As a fan of
Mr. Kubrick’s film for the past thirty years, I can honestly say that even
though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props,
visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out
(granted this was difficult to do on archaic home video systems such as CED or VHS due to their significantly reduced image quality,
to say nothing of the substandard televisions they were played back on,
although the technically superior Blu-ray is a much better medium due to its high definition
quality and lends itself ideal for this examination). Nor did I see the various continuity errors,
judged as deliberate by Mr. Kubrick from the narrators’ perspectives, such as
the carpet that changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall
disappearing during Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after
his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) interrupts his writing. An argument can be made that Room 237 is less about the hidden
meanings in The Shining than it is an
explanation of five different people’s interpretations and experiences of
seeing The Shining. There were times wherein the person speaking
discussed in great length the strange layout of the Overlook Hotel and I must
admit I could not see what they were getting at, however this is just one point
that is made and there are numerous theories to go around on other subtexts of
the film: the purported significance of the number 42; the architectural
impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman’s office; the ludicrous sexual
reference in Mr. Ullman’s first handshake with Jack (this is a bit of a stretch
– no pun intended, of course!); the Minotaur motif; the strange layout itself
of the Overlook Hotel; the references to the genocide of Native Americans and
even the Holocaust, the subject of which Mr. Kubrick later attempted to make a
film about but eventually abandoned as he felt he could not do justice to the
horror of this bleak period in history.
Ascher makes the interesting choice of not showing the faces of the narrators,
and this maneuver works to the film’s advantage since so much of it is about
pointing out what the narrators see. Cross-cutting between the narrators and the points they want to make
would have either reduced the film’s running time (102 minutes, roughly the
same as The French Connection (1970),
my favorite film) or would have left most of the cogent points on the cutting
room floor. I can only hope that the
forthcoming DVD will offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes. I am certain that there must have been some
discussion about the significance of Jack telling Mr. Ullman that Wendy is a
“confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,” yet her artistic escapes
consist of reading The Catcher in the Rye
and watching Summer of ’42 (there’s
that number again!), two classics about the coming-of-age of a young male.
liked Room 237’s framing device of
using Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985)
and Demons 2: The Nightmare Continues
(1986) as footage of an audience viewing The
Shining in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain
points. Ideally, The Shining should be viewed in a movie theater, although
realistically that is unfortunately not an option for most of us. The home video revolution saved many a film
from inevitable obscurity and this is where the majority of Shining enthusiasts (myself included)
had the opportunity to see it and thrill to it to our heart’s content.
prerequisites for enjoying Room 237
include more than a passing interest in The
Shining (it certainly helps to be a rabid fan of the film, thus having
tremendous familiarity of it), patience, and certainly a sense of humor. Room
237 succeeds in imparting to the audience just how compelling and
frightening The Shining can be to a
first-time viewer. It is also a
testament to the notion that film viewing is a solitary experience as no two
people will see any one film with the same set of eyes. Perhaps, as is the case with The Shining, and many other Kubrick
films, multiple viewings of Room 237
will clear up and even reveal more of what the narrators say they see. Whether you consider the film to be
completely true or complete bollocks, one thing that can be said is that Room 237 is entertaining,
thought-provoking, fascinating and enlightening. It’s my choice for Best Documentary at the
Horror films are a hot commodity. Some of the most well-known slasher films of
the 1980’s have been re-issued on DVD and Blu-ray by companies looking to
cash-in on audiences’ seemingly insatiable appetite for murder and mayhem while
also introducing them to a whole new generation of fans with disposable income. Two titles that fans want on DVD and Blu-ray
in the way of special editions are Paul Lynch’s Prom Night (1980) and Richard Ciupka’s Curtains (1983), both Canadian productions through Simcom, the
former having fared far better on home video than the latter.
Night was originally
released theatrically by Avco Embassy Pictures in July 1980. It was distributed on VHS by MCA Home Video in
1981 and again by Virgin Vision, Inc. in 1988. MCA also released a laserdisc pan-and-scan version on their laser
rot-prone DiscoVision line in 1981 (curiously, the film bypassed the RCA
Select-A-Vision Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) stylus-based format of the
early 1980’s, the direct competitor to laserdisc). The film fared better when a widescreen
laserdisc sourced from a 35mm interpositive followed in 1997 courtesy of Elite
Entertainment. In February 1998, Anchor
Bay Entertainment released a widescreen DVD that included the original
theatrical trailer (1.85:1 presentation is a must for this title as a boom mike
is clearly visible in several shots in the full frame format). After the rights lapsed the film was picked
up by Echo Bridge Entertainment and reissued in October 2007, this time
dispensing with said trailer. Overall, Prom Night has been released on home
video in three different formats no less than six times in the United States
alone, not counting the international, non-Region 1 releases around the globe. All of these U.S. versions contain only the
film without any additional extras that are practically a requirement to home
video now: running commentaries, on-set interviews, behind-the-scenes footage,
isolated musical scores, comments from contemporaries, stills galleries,
Curtains, on the other hand, is a thriller that
has suffered indignities far too numerous to list. Plagued from the outset by a problematic
production, the financing ran out and put the cast and crew on hiatus for over
one year. Much of the crew was replaced,
and despite having been released theatrically in April 1983 to many respectable
movie theaters by the long-defunct Jensen Farley Pictures, Curtains has only appeared on home video twice in the United States:
in December 1983 Vestron Video released it on VHS, and in October 2010 Echo
Bridge Entertainment released it as part of The
Midnight Horror Collection: Bloody Slashers set which also includes Hoboken Hollow (2006), Secrets of the Clown (2007), and Room 33 (2009). In a maneuver regarded as perfunctory by
those not in the know, Curtains
appears to be lumped in with these three contemporary tales for no better
reason than to “round out” the other titles – the original ad slick for Curtains was jettisoned and replaced
with an image of a hand parting a curtain.
Curtains was also released in April 2007 on
Region 2 DVD in the UK by Black Horse Entertainment. As with the Echo Bridge Entertainment release,
the original poster artwork was not used. Again, an uninspired makeshift cover image that fails to represent the
film in any way adorns the case. Curtains can be found at horror film
conventions on DVD-R sporting its beautiful and atmospheric original one-sheet
artwork, but the DVD transfer is sourced from the Vestron VHS cassette and is
therefore in dire need of color correction; a 2K/4K high definition upgrade is
Night has a creepy
score by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer (he scored a handful of films for Bob
Clark, including the classic 1974 film Black
Christmas and was also a musical consultant on “Act II” of Curtains). Mr. Zaza also scored Curtains, which might have been a rejected score for Prom Night as several cues that appear
in Prom Night also made their way
into Curtains. Director Ciupka’s name was also removed from
the credits to Curtains; whether or
not this has any bearing on the lack of a DVD release is a mystery.
Fans can ponder why these titles are
not available in full-blown special editions, and there are probably many
legitimate reasons why the current DVDs turn up in Walmart discount bins. The original 35mm film negatives to each
respective film may not be available as the whereabouts may be in question, or
they may no longer even exist; management might feel that an insufficient
number of fans willing to pay for the films exists and there is a fear of
losing money on these titles; both films were made as Canadian tax shelter projects and this may also pose a problem. With the glut of far lesser quality horror
thrillers available in beautifully designed special editions, the mind reels as
to why these two films in particular have been marginalized and seem to be
anathema to the royal treatment.
Echo Bridge Entertainment, a DVD
company that uses the slogan “The Entertainment Alternative for What the World Wants to
See” (not sure where that came from or what it is based upon), is now being approached
by fans on an online petition website respectfully asking them
to release the rights for these two films to Scream Factory, the Shout! Factory
subsidiary that is making a name for itself with beautiful deluxe versions of
genre favorites Terror Train (1980), The Funhouse (1981), Halloween II (1981), Halloween
III: Season of the Witch (1982), and the upcoming Deadly Blessing (1981) to name a few. This company would be an ideal organization
to release these films as their work thus far has proven that they will spend
the time and provide just the proper amount of TLC that these films
of this writing, the petition has 300 signatures and is looking for a total of
1200, which is not an impossible number to reach. Click here to sign the petition
on Petition Buzz requesting licensing of Prom
Night and Curtains.