(back row) Carol Cleveland, Caroline Munro, (front) Martine Beswick, Madeline Smith, Caron Gardner, Vera Day, Renee Glynn.
13th - 14th July 2012
impressive array of stars and an eclectic lineup of Hammer films at the Phoenix
Square cinema in Leicester marked the launch of a brand new innovative
collaboration between Hammer and the De Montfort University. Their Cinema and
Television History (CATH) Research Centre have become custodians of the Hammer
script archive, meaning they will curate and catalogue the collection and make
them available for research purposes. They have also received a collection of
Jimmy Sangster items donated by his widow Mary Peach, including written
materials and photographs covering not only his time with Hammer but as a
successful independent writer and director.
order to celebrate this new relationship the university hosted a two day Hammer
festival attended by fans and academics keen to explore the history and
fascinating output of this uniquely British film company. Hammer were in
production for fifty years and are now making an impressive comeback with films
such as Let Me In (2010) and The Woman in Black (2012). Of
particular interest was the section devoted to the early days of Hammer hosted
by official studio archivist Robert J. E. Simpson. Renée Glynne, now
impressively spry at 86, was interviewed onstage about her work as a script
supervisor. She joined Hammer in 1948 and worked on many important early
productions including The Quatermass Xperiment (1955). She spoke about
her great friendship with American actor Dane Clark and parties with Eva Bartok
during the making of Spaceways (1953) in the manor house at Bray
Studios. Accompanying this was a rare screening of crime thriller River
Patrol (1948), a delightfully quaint police procedural about the problems
with silk nylon smuggling in ration-era London. For those who thought Hammer
started with fangs and Kensington Gore, this helped to put the studio’s
development into a wider context.
Day was also interviewed on her roles in Quatermass II (1957) and the
comedy short A Clean Sweep (1958), both of which she also introduced.
She recalled that in those days all the filmmakers and producers were after the
girls, but luckily she had an aggressively protective boyfriend. She had fond
memories of the much maligned Brian Donlevy, whose performance as Professor
Quatermass is often dismissed as bullish and inappropriate. According to Day he
had a very dry sense of humour and was fun to work with.
The Cabin in the Woods takes its
inspiration from the endless number of horror movies that begin with the killings
of unsuspecting teenagers at summer camps, lakeside log cabins and other remote
locations. Joss Whedon is a writer, director and producer who will be familiar
to any fans of genre television from the last twenty years, having been
responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly and most
recently the box office smash Avengers Assemble. Whedon and his
co-writer Drew Goddard (who also directed the film) identified the main tropes
of the genre; teenagers go to cabin to take drugs and get laid, get killed off
by psychos, demons or zombies until one lone survivor (usually female) fights
back and destroys the evil forces. Whedon and Goddard questioned just why
audiences keep going back to this over and over again. What possible pleasure
do we get from seeing teenagers being butchered in ever more inventive and
outlandish ways? Are the films reactionary, punishing the kids for their
immoral behaviour? Thankfully Whedon and Goddard don't necessarily set out to
answer these questions. The Cabin in the Woods is not a treatise on the
evils of horror films, like that delivered by Michael Haneke in Funny Games
(1997). What they have done is to create a film which follows these conventions
whilst simultaneously presenting their own version of the truth behind why it
is all happening. To say any more at this point would be to give too much away.
This is a film best enjoyed when you know as little about it as possible.
Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion' is a book that you should
only look at once you have seen the film, as no twist or turn is left
unspoiled. The book contains the complete original screenplay illustrated with
dozens of stills from the movie and also includes scenes that were not shot for
budgetary reasons. What the book does best, however, is cover the writing and
filming process in detail through an extensive interview with Whedon and
Goddard, accompanied by plenty of behind the scenes photos and design sketches.
They discuss the problems of trying to shoot a summer movie in Canada during
the winter (snow!) and how they divided up the writing between them, providing
fascinating insight for any budding screenwriters. A large section of the book
is given over to the design of the film, with interviews from key players and
hundreds of photos, models, sketches and on-set photographs. The filmmakers
insisted on using physical effects over CGI wherever possible, meaning that
almost one hundred craftsmen and technicians were involved in putting the film
together on a relatively low budget and tight schedule.
The Cabin in the Woods was completed in
2010 but sat gathering dust on a shelf owing to the financial problems of MGM,
and was finally distributed by Lionsgate earlier this year. It really is a must
see not only for horror film fans, but for anyone interested in genuinely
intelligent and original filmmaking. 'The Cabin in the Woods: The Official
Visual Companion' is an excellent opportunity to pour over the intricate design
process and enjoy every last detail that may have been missed in the breathless
rush towards the film's conclusion. Just don't look at the book first.
(This review pertains to the British Blu-ray release)
With a career spanning over fifty years,
from early British silent film to glossy Hollywood studio fare,Alfred Hitchcock
rarely faltered in presenting audiences with glamour, wit, excitement, scares
and thrills. To celebrate his achievements, the British Film Institute is
holding a four month long celebration in 2012 entitled The Genius of Hitchcock,
with screenings, events and major restorations of his early work. Eureka’s
release of the restored print of Lifeboat
is well timed.
One of Hitchcock’s more unusual film
experiments, Lifeboat was an attempt
to shoot an entire feature in one location, in this case a ragbag of survivors
adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Their ocean liner, bound for
England, is torpedoed. Luckily, before it went down, they fired back and sank the
enemy vessel alongside their own. Newspaper reporter Connie Porter (Tallulah
Bankhead) is in the only remaining lifeboat, and is soon joined by several
other survivors, including crew members, a woman still clutching her drowned
baby, and in a shocking twist, a German, the only survivor from the Nazi U-Boat.
Tensions soon rise as they squabble over what to do with him, and how they are
going to survive as their food and water slowly runs out and they don’t know
which way to navigate to dry land.
The film is a technical triumph and deals
with Hitchcock’s familiar themes of mistrust, vengeance, betrayal and murder,
whilst still providing entertainment and moments of wry humour (including his
ingenious cameo appearance on the front of a newspaper). Bankhead is delightful as the socialite
reporter who desperately attempts to remain glamorous despite the hostile
conditions she is subjected to. At many points she is the voice of reason,
particularly as she is the only passenger able to speak to their captured Nazi
in his native tongue.
Imaginatively shot in Academy ratio 1:37:1,
Hitchcock explores every inch of the lifeboat from every conceivable angle, and
despite the close physical proximity of the passengers, he still demonstrates
the gulfs that lie between them, whether through class, politics, race or, in
the case of the Nazi, mistrust. The film features moments of humour to help
relieve the tension, something that Hitchcock was gifted at doing in all of his
films. Lifeboat is a tremendously
entertaining and exciting piece of filmmaking as it communicates the ultimate
futility of the conflict and the devastating effect it has on those who are
left behind. This new Blu-ray release includes two short films that Hitchcock
also directed, which may viewer may be unfamiliar with.. Bon Voyage and Aventure
Malgache were both shot in Elstree Studios in the UK in 1944 and deal
primarily with the French resistance. They can be seen as interesting
propaganda pieces and whilst not as timeless as Hitchcock’s more familiar work,
they are fascinating nonetheless and make terrific extras. The Blu-ray also
comes with a booklet featuring analytical essays for each of the three films.
many people, having to do your college work is a chore. Assignments are dull
and all you really want is to be out partying with your friends. Not John
Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon. Their assignment was to make a movie, using
equipment provided by the University of Southern California film school, and
dragging their friends and fellow classmates in for good measure. The result
was a science fiction classic that would launch both of them into fully-fledged
Hollywood careers. The original movie ran a little short to qualify as a
feature, so a wily distributor encouraged them to shoot a further ten minutes.
Both versions of the film, the original and extended editions, are available
Dark Star borrows heavily from such space-set
classics as 2001 and Solaris in its presentation of space as a
working environment. This is not the space of heroes like Buck Rodgers or Flash
Gordon. It is a place of work, where astronauts are just ordinary guys just
doing their jobs and counting the days, or years, until they can go home. Their
mission,which appears to have lasted some three years, involves identifying and
then destroying unstable planets with massive thermo-nuclear talking bombs. No
particular reason is given as to why they are unstable, or indeed why they need
to be destroyed, but it is something to do with the possible colonization of
space. When problems develop with one particularly stubborn bomb, the crew are
forced to take desperate measures if they want to survive.
and O'Bannon wrote the screenplay together, and O'Bannon ended up taking a
starring role as Sgt. Pinback, a member of the crew whose sole function appears
to be to annoy everyone else on board. The rest of the cast are made up of friends
from the film school, and they all sport impressive amounts of facial hair.
Given its incredibly low-budget origins, Dark Star stands up remarkably
well, thanks mostly to the wit of the script and the imaginative camera work.
Yes the miniatures look like miniatures, and the sets look like cardboard, but
the story and the performances are so enjoyably goofy and genuine that this
simply does not matter.
Blu-ray restoration gives the film a fresh look and the colours are remarkably
vivid. The film has looked rather murky in previous DVD releases, and this is a
significant improvement. The main extra available here is a new feature length
documentary Let There Be Light: The
Odyssey ofDark Star. It provides some fascinating background on the
movie, and features interviews with some of the cast including an interview
with Dan O'Bannon shot shortly before he died. Sadly the involvement of John
Carpenter is minimal. He appears to have been interviewed over the phone, on a
line so muffled that subtitles have to be displayed (including some spelling
mistakes which are unforgivable!). However, this small gripe aside, it is a
documentary with plenty to offer fans of the movie, and is probably the main
reason for picking up this new release.
A sequel to The Wicker Man was first proposed in the mid-1980s by Anthony
Schaffer, writer of the original. Titled “The Loathsome Lambton Worm”, it began
as soon as the first film ended, as Sergeant Howie is rescued from his fiery
fate by police from the mainland. He seeks justice and revenge and goes back to
Summerisle, ostensibly to arrest those responsible for his near martyrdom, but
instead becomes embroiled in a series of challenges, pitting the old gods
against his own Christian faith. The film was to end with Howie fighting a fire-breathing
dragon and then plunging willingly to his death from a cliff whilst tied to two
large eagles. It would have been terrible.
However that film, with its witches on
broomsticks and reliance on magical special effects, would have probably been far
better than this extremely belated follow-up. Thirty-nine years is a long time
to wait for a sequel, in which time Anthony Schaffer has died and Christopher
Lee has aged beyond the point of being able to take a major starring role in a
movie. Robin Hardy, director of The
Wicker Man, proposed his own sequel several years ago, originally titled
“The Riding of the Laddie”. Unable to find funding he wrote it into a novel,
retitled “Cowboys for Christ”. In 2008 a press release announced the imminent
filming of this official The Wicker Man
sequel, starring Christopher Lee and Joan Collins as leaders of a sinister
cult. Funding collapsed a mere two weeks before shooting began. Two years and
one major casting change later (due to Sir Christopher’s ill health and advanced
years), The Wicker Tree finally went
into production. It has taken a further two years for the film to find
distribution, which is always a worrying sign. Although Sir Christopher is
somewhat frail, he does play an unidentified old man who pops in for one flashback
scene to intone something about old religions. His reason for being there makes
no narrative sense, and is clearly just meant as a nod to fans of the first
The plot follows the “Cowboys for Christ”
novel fairly closely. A former US country pop star has seen the light and
become converted to evangelical Christianity. Along with her reformed gambler
boyfriend, she decides that the most effective way to spread the good news is
to spend two years knocking on the doors
of disinterested Scots. I would have thought it more likely that she would have
recorded gospel albums and performed to sell out gigs. In some convoluted way
that is never fully explained, the two of them end up as the guests of Sir
Lachlan Morrison (a possible relation to Rowan Morrison, the missing girl from
the original film?), in the distant Scottish village of Tressock. He runs his
own nuclear power station, and apparently an accident ten years previously has
rendered all the men in the village infertile. For this reason Morrison has
encouraged the villagers to get into paganism in a big way, with the main focus
being May Day, where they have a Laddie and a May Queen. He uses his vast
wealth to search the world for suitably virginal candidates, and it doesn’t
take a genius to guess the intended fate for his Texan guests. Why he doesn’t
just spend some money on fertility treatment I don’t know. It would be much
Cinema Retro London columnist Adrian Smith recently took part in a Vincent Price tribute and contributed to a major discussion of Price's horror classic from 1971, The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Click here to listen - if you dare! (The tribute runs longer than the film!)
(For Caroline Munro's memories of working with Price on the Phibes movies, see Cinema Retro issue #2)
2012, UK (This review pertains to the Region 2 DVD format)
Ken Russell passed away last November, he died with the knowledge that his most
infamous film was finally going to be unleashed to the public after laying
almost dormant for over forty years. Russell often described The Devils
as his only political film, and it features magnificent sets and costumes,
theatrical performances, dizzying camerawork and masterful use of music. And of
course, dozens of hysterical nuns.
The Devils is based on the true account
researched by Aldous Huxley of the trial and execution of Father Grandier
(Oliver Reed) in the French town of Loudun in 1634, following accusations of
possession and witchcraft involving a Mother Superior (Vanessa Redgrave) and
the nuns of her convent. It is a powerful depiction of what can happen when
Church and State become powerful and corrupt. Reed was never better than in
this film. He is masterful and perfectly in control as the lunacy around him
descends from farce to true horror. Vanessa Redgrave is incredible as the
twitchy, hunchbacked Sister Jeanne whose lustful repressed desires for Father
Grandier provide the catalyst for Cardinal Richelieu to move in with his
inquisitors and seize control of the town. In the process the nuns are
encouraged to act as if possessed by demons, leading to shocking scenes of
debauchery which are provided for the amusement of tourists, and even the King
insisted that everything in the film was based on historic fact, indeed Huxley
noted some things the nuns did that even he felt would be going too far.
Despite its claim tohistorical accuracy, and the quality of the performances,
the sets, the score and the direction, Warner Bros. were appalled by the
finished film. Russell expected some difficulties with the BBFC and other
censorship bodies around the world, but the studio demanded more cuts than the
censors did. The version that was released in the UK still retained a lot of
shocking material, but the US release
was so butchered that it barely made any sense. Russell was outraged by the way
his film was treated, but fortunately it did not prevent him from continuing to
make great films throughout the decade.
The bizarre and graphic sequences in Russell's original cut resulted in the film being heavily censored.
2004 with the assistance of film critic Mark Kermode some of the missing
material from The Devils was located and restored by the British Film
Institute. The most notable section has become known as “The Rape of Christ”,
and depicts several naked nuns writhing on a massive crucifix in Loudun
Cathedral, in their eyes committing the ultimate blasphemy. It is powerful and
memorably disturbing. Warner Bros. have finally allowed the BFI to finally
release The Devils on DVD, but also withholding this previously missing
footage. The new DVD features the 1971 UK X-rated cut, which is the longest and
most complete version of the film released anywhere in the world. It is hoped
that at some point in the future Warner Bros. will finally allow the full
version to be released. This 1971 version is still an incredibly piece of
filmmaking, and the DVD restoration team have performed an amazing job. The
picture quality is phenomenal, and Derek Jarman's sets have never looked so
stark and foreboding.
are some excellent extras provided in this two disc set, including a new
commentary with Ken Russell and Mark Kermode, the 2002 documentary “Hell on
Earth”, a contemporary making of documentary, some on-set home-movie footage,
and a restoration of one of Russell's first films, Amelia and the Angel
(1958), which has similar themes of religion and redemption.
The Devils is a film with
notoriety, and this BFI release allows us at long last to see it and make up
our own minds. It is an astonishing piece of work on every level, and this
release will rightfully cement Ken Russell's reputation as a true visionary and
one of the finest directors the United Kingdom ever produced.
Cinema Retro issue #21 for John Exshaw's detailed exploration of The Devils)
Audrey Hepburn is iconic. Her image has
perhaps eclipsed her performances in the many movies she starred in before her
early retirement to focus on UNICEF. This new collection from Taschen
(previously available only in a limited art edition) demonstrates just why this
happened. The camera simply loved Audrey Hepburn. These photographs, taken by
Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby, show that whether she was relaxing at
home, posing for stills or working on set, she was a radiant, mesmerising
presence. After first meeting at Paramount Studios in 1953 to promote Roman
Holiday, Willoughby and Hepburn became close friends. The way she was able
to relax in his presence clearly comes through in so many of these fabulous
Although the book does serve to reinforce Hepburn's visual impact, it
also reminds one that first and foremost she was an actress. Plenty of
commentary is provided on the films covered here; Green Mansions, The
Children's Hour, Paris When It Sizzles, My Fair Lady and Two
For the Road. One fascinating collection of pictures shows how Hepburn
developed a close relationship with Ip, a fawn that was to co-star with her in Green
Mansions. Ip lived with her for three months before shooting started. Mel
Ferrer, Hepburn's husband and director of Green Mansions, commented that
Ip treated her like it's mother, and professional animal trainers were amazed
at how it followed her around, even going shopping!
Some of the best photos show Audrey off
guard, showing her true character rather than posing for a publicity still. She
plays with her children, she exercises, in one touching photo she appears to be
upset and is being calmed down by Anthony Perkins. This is another beautifully
high-quality book from Taschen and any reader will want to spend hours
examining the detail in these photos before seeking out all of these movies
Orson Welles liked to relate the tale
of how one evening he headed home after a long day directing Touch of Evil,
whilst also playing corrupt cop Hank Quinlan, to find his wife was throwing a
dinner party. Still in his full costume and make-up, looking bloated, haggard
and on the point of collapse, guests who had not seen Welles for some time
remarked, “Orson, it's great to see you looking so well!” Hank Quinlan does not look like a
well man. He's an American trying to solve a bombing in a small Mexican border
town. He seems to be tired of police work. He just wants to get the job done,
and he is not above manipulating the truth or faking evidence. After all, the
guy is probably guilty anyway. Reluctantly he is aided in his investigation by
Mexican super-cop Mike Vargas, played by Charlton Heston, who knows that even
the police aren't above the law. He's taken down some of the worst gangsters
and mobsters in town, and now he has Quinlan firmly set in his sights. Throw in
a new bride (Janet Leigh) and a mysterious gypsy woman (the enigmatic Marlene
Deitrich), and you have the makings of one of the best thrillers ever made.
This is arguably Welles' finest film since Citizen Kane, and it was also
the last he made in Hollywood. He was cast as Quinlan before Charlton Heston
suggested to the studio that he ought to direct the picture too. Welles cast
aside the potboiler crime plot and focused on the corruption of the man at the
centre of the film. Who committed the bombing is not interesting or important.
The heart of the story is one style of policing against another, old versus
new, corrupt versus clean, and perhaps most shockingly for its time, American
The treatment of the film by a
confused Universal Studios is now legendary. Unhappy with the way Welles edited
the film they waited until he was out of the country (raising funds for his
next project, the unfilmed Don Quixote) before re-cutting and
re-shooting whole sections of the movie. In their eyes they made it easier for audiences to
understand. Universal wanted a simple crime story, not a treatise on the fall
of man. When Welles finally saw this new version, he was distraught. He
produced a lengthy memo detailing everything that needed to be changed, which
was duly ignored. When the film was released in 1958 it was a huge hit despite
Universal's butchery, and Welles went to Europe, unhappy but unable to do
anything about it. Sadly he died before the film was revisited with more
sympathetic eyes. In 1998 his memo was studied and followed as closely as possible
with the remaining film elements. The result was a film far closer to his
original vision and proved that he had been right all along. This new version
was a truly great experience, confirming Welles' status as one of the best
directors of all time.
This new Blu-ray release from Eureka
gives audiences the opportunity to see the film in its 1958 version, the 1998
“restoration” edit and a 1957 preview version, which is longer and contains
some differences from both other versions. The picture quality for each is
stunning. The option is also available to watch the film in either 1.85:1 or 1.37.1.
There is still some debate, as explained in the fifty-six page booklet, as to
which was Welles' preferred aspect ratio. Each version is accompanied by a
separate commentary track, featuring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, a collection
of Welles scholars and the producer of the restoration edit. Also available are
documentaries on the making of the film and the restoration, which shed some
light on how Welles worked, and how challenging it was bringing the film back
to his vision (these documentaries have previously been screened on television,
and are not new productions). The booklet contains essays from Welles alongside
Francoise Truffaut and film theorist Andre Bazin. The most fascinating extra of
all is available to
the end of The Saint, Roger Moore was paired with an American playboy to
solve a mysterious crime in an exotic location. It was felt that this could
potentially spin off into another show, and so the end of The Saint became
an unofficial pilot for what was to become The Persuaders. The team-up
was so successful that Lew Grade, executive producer, sold the concept of the
new show in the US before he even had confirmation from Roger Moore that he
would do it. At the time Moore was planning to leave television behind
completely to work in films. Unable to say no to Grade, he postponed his plans,
whilst the producers began scouting for an actor suitable to play opposite him.
Originally they hoped for Rock Hudson, but it was felt he looked too much like
Roger Moore. Eventually Tony Curtis was courted and signed, and the adventure
The Persuaders was shot in 1970
and only lasted for one series of 24 episodes,as Moore was then off for the
role he was born to play in Live and let Die. Originally titled The Friendly Persuaders, the story
revolved around two rival millionaires holidaying on the French Riviera, where
they meet a retired judge who for some reason thinks they can put their skills
in wine, women, wisecracks and fast cars to use as crime fighters. In some
ways, the show could have been more accurately titled The Persuaded. It was an unlikely assumption on the part of the
judge, yet somehow they rose to the challenge, and each week saw them in and
around a variety of European locations mainly helping attractive women in
distress. The Persuaders had a playful and comedic air, yet did not shy
away from occasional genuine danger and excitement. Shot on 35mm the show has
the feel of the Euro-crime and espionage thrillers that were so popular at that
time, ironically due to the influence of the James Bond films. The on-screen
relationship between the two leads was playfully antagonistic and appeared to
show the blossoming of a genuine friendship. The Persuaders represents a
different time and a different world, most probably one that never actually
existed outside of ITC's adventure series. What also makes the show really
stand out is the incredible roster of writers involved, including Brian Clemens
(The Avengers) and Terry Nation (Doctor Who), working alongside
such well-known film directors as Val Guest, Roy Ward Baker, Sidney Hayers,
Leslie Norman and Basil Dearden. Roger Moore himself also took on some
directing duties, just as he had in The Saint.
previously available on DVD, the show has been meticulously restored in high
definition by Network DVD, one of the UK's finest exponents of both classic and
obscure television shows. Each episode looks brighter and clearer than it would
probably have looked on most television sets in 1970, and one can even see each
little detail on the suits that Roger Moore designed for himself. What will be
of even greater interest to fans and collectors is the extensive set of extras,
beginning with a 156 page book of viewing notes (unavailable for review, but is
written by Andrew Pixley who wrote the incredibly detailed book which
accompanied Network DVD's blu ray release of The Prisoner). Recently
discovered alternate title sequences, commentaries and unseen images can also
be found for most episodes. The hour-long documentary on the making of the
programme which was used on the previous DVD release is here as well, and is
fascinating. There is some very frank discussion on the relationship Tony
Curtis had with both Moore and the production team. Curtis is interviewed
extensively and was both unapologetic and frank about his shortcomings, including
the time he called Joan Collins a word we prefer not to print here at Cinema
Retro, and his arrest for marijuana possession when he first arrived in the UK.
He was clearly a difficult person to work with, which is totally at odds with
his character in the show itself.
The web site B Movie Cast features a discussion of the Hammer Films version of One Million Years B.C. that made Raquel Welch a household name- and her prehistoric bikini an iconic part of movie lore. Click here to download to listen to the discussion that features Cinema Retro columnist Adrian Smith.
the inevitable rollout of classic (and not so classic) movies to the latest
home video format, Fox Studios have released Conan the Barbarian as a
region-free Blu-ray in the UK, just in time to help stir up interest in the
forthcoming remake in September (although that film is being distributed by
rival studios Lionsgate).
is hard to imagine now, given Schwarzenegger's legendary status in the film
industry, that in 1982 he was a relatively unknown actor. As a former Mr
Olympia he had achieved some level of fame through the body-building
documentary Pumping Iron in 1977, where he infamously smoked marijuana.
Several years before that, his first film role had seen him take the lead,under the name Arnold Strong, in Hercules
in New York (1969). One of the funniest bad movies of all time, it did
little for his career at the time, and until Conan the Barbarian, other
film and TV roles mainly consisted of bit parts, playing heavies and body
was his starring role in Pumping Iron that brought Schwarzenegger to the
attention of Hollywood, and a property was sought out that would suit his
particular screen presence, ideally a role that needed an imposing physique and
little in the way of dialogue. The Conan Marvel comic book series, based on the
fantasy novels by Robert E. Howard, with its highly stylish depictions of this
towering, muscle-bound hero, provided the inspiration and a script was
developed. That process took four years, and included a major rewrite by Oliver
story, evidently based on Viking culture and mythology, depicts the evils
committed by a snake cult lead by the messianic Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).
He makes the mistake of killing everyone in young Conan's village, including
his parents. Conan and the other children are put into a life of back-breaking
slavery. Young Conan grows up to be the hugely over-developed Arnold
Schwarzenegger. His muscles do not go unnoticed, as he's soon put to work as a
gladiator, stabbing, gouging and pummelling those brave or unlucky enough to be
put into the ring with him. Eventually he manages to secure his freedom, and
goes on a quest to find the cult that killed his parents. Along the way he has
sex with a witch, makes friends with foxy warrior Valeria (former dancer
Sandahl Bergman, who performed all her own stunts) and thief Subotai, and
learns that Thulsa Doom has taken the King's daughter. With the King financing
his quest, he sets off into the desert (Almeria, Spain, a location seen in
hundreds of films, but perhaps best known for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)
to confront Doom and his bloodthirsty minions.
On the 28th May 2011 Vanessa Redgrave CBE and Franco Nero were both awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Brunel University in recognition of their outstanding services to the arts. The event was held at the Italian Cultural Institute in London and was attended by friends, family, fans and colleagues, including the controversial Italian director Ruggero Deodato, with whom Nero has worked several times.
Redgrave was once called "the greatest actress of our time" by Tennessee Williams, and has been nominated and won many awards for both her film and theatre work since she began her career in the 1950s, where she co-starred with her father Sir Michael Redgrave in the play A Touch of the Sun.
The Italian Franco Nero is probably best known for one of his first films, the vastly entertaining and influential Spaghetti Western Django in 1966. He has appeared in over 150 films and is also involved in numerous charitable and humanitarian projects. Quentin Tarantino cites Nero as a big influence, and has recently announced that his next film will be a western, titled Django Unchained. Nero was unable to confirm or deny rumours that he has been cast in this film.
Redgrave and Nero were married in 2006, despite first meeting on the set of Camelot in 1967. They were together for a short while then, and have one son Carlo, but it took almost forty years for them to finally get back together. This story was played out recently in the film Letters to Juliet, in which they played a couple reunited after many years. They were both clearly touched to be awarded in this way by the university and gave moving words of thanks. The ceremony was followed by an onstage interview, in which they discussed the beginnings of their relationship whilst making Camelot in London. According to Nero Vanessa Redgrave asked him to give a friend a lift to the airport. Whilst they were there, she then suggested they jump on the next plane anywhere. Several hours later they found themselves driving a hired car around the streets of San Francisco! The evening was rounded off with a packed rare screening of the Italian film A Quiet Place in the Country from 1969, in which they both starred.
Franco Nero was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Cine Excess, the International cult film conference which was being held by Brunel University during that weekend. He also attended the launch of a new book published by FAB Press, Any Gun Can Play: The Essential Guide to Euro Westerns, for which he has written the foreword. The book is available now, and Cinema Retro will review this shortly, but on first appearances this looks like an essential purchase.
BFI Flipside range have brought some interesting and occasionally downright
bizarre lost British films to a wider public audience since it's inception in
2009. Private Road is a followup, and in some sense a spiritual sequel,
to a previous Flipside relase, Bronco Bullfrog. That film was
Platts-Mills' debut as a feature director, and was notable for its performances
from non-professional actors. Private Road follows some of the themes
first explored in that film, and the naturalistic story-tellingl also comes
through, although Private Road is clearly more tightly constructed and
story follows Bruce Robinson (best known for writing and directing Withnail
and I) as a “gifted” young writer who seems to enjoy the boho lifestyle of
a London in the last thralls of the Swinging Sixties. We're told he's
brilliant, although he very rarely touches his typewriter. He gets together
with a young secretary played by Susan Penhaligon. They fall in love and start
a life together, but his old life can't quite let him go. Private Road
tackles the problems of growing up, of responsibility, of the divide between
generations. The drug-fueled hippy of the decade may have some of the answers,
but not all of them.
film seems both dated and totally fresh at the same time. It feels like a late
1960s piece, with its references to Vietnam and Maoist revolution. Bruce
Robinson is a dead ringer for Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and the soundtrack
consists mainly of Nick Drake-style whimsical acoustic guitar numbers. Yet the
film deals very frankly with issues such as heroin, abortion and relationships.
Susan Penhaligon is a revelation in this film. Her character is sometimes
naïve, sometimes outspoken and adult. Her performance feels truthful, in part
because of the improvised feel of the dialogue.
Private Road is a terrific film
which sheds further light on Barney Platts-Mills, a director whose work is all but
forgotten. The BFI have put together another great package. Alongside the film
itself are two short films. One is a moving documentary by Platts-Mills on a
school for children with special needs. The second is The Last Chapter,
a short film starring Susan Penhaligon alongside that stalwart British
character actor, Denholm Elliott, based on a story by the novelist John Fowles.
He plays a successful author of badly-written but popular thrillers (he appears
to be a spoof of Ian Fleming), who is interrupted in his work by a young
schoolgirl who claims to want an interview for her school magazine. Initially
reluctant, Elliott eventually agrees, but things take an interesting and uneasy
turn when her motivations begin to seem suspect. Does she want to seduce him or
ruin him? It's a great little film and a superb extra to be included here.
BFI Flipside range are available in a dual-format package, meaning you can have
it on DVD and if you upgrade to Blu-ray later, you'll already have one to put
in your new machine. This is a great idea and should help encourage people to
try it out. The extras are the same on both discs.
Click here to order from Amazon UK (This is a Region 2 disc)
Epics, Spectacles and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History by Sheldon Hall and Steve Neale
Published by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2010
Review by Adrian Smith
It is often assumed in popular film history that the craze amongst movie studios for the Hollywood blockbuster began with the success of Jaws in 1975, and was cemented by George Lucas with Star Wars in 1977. Hall and Neale, in this fascinating new book, demonstrate that the blockbuster has actually been around since the days of silent movies. And it is not just the epic spectacle of huge sets and casts of thousands that set these out as blockbusters, but also the way studios handled their directors and stars, production budgets, marketing and release patterns. Some films would become roadshow pictures, meaning they would have an extended run (sometimes for over a year) in a limited number of cinemas before being rolled out across the country. It was treated like a theatrical production, where people booked seats in advance. During the 1960s, inspired in part by the successes of independent companies like AIP with their mass drive-in products, studios began to adopt a showcase strategy, where the film would show in some key cities and first-run theatres whilst simultaneously opening on a regional-saturation basis. The book explains in great detail both the highs and lows that studios and producers went through. They have uncovered a lot of financial information which makes this book an excellent resource for anyone conducting their own research into Hollywood history. It also provides some perceptive insight into the cinema-going habits of filmgoers fifty years ago. Before Alfred Hitchcock insisted that latecomers not be allowed in to screenings of Psycho (1960), it was common practice for movie theatres to not have specific show times. People would just turn up, and if the movie was halfway through, they would just remain in their seats and wait for the film to start again. When All About Eve (1950) was released scheduled performances were attempted, but the idea was abandoned after four days because of poor business and the reluctance of exhibitors to adopt it. It took another ten years before the idea really took hold with Psycho, and thanks to the success of that film (over $9 million domestic rental, more than ten times its production cost), it became more commonplace.
Epics, Spectacle and Blockbusters is primarily an academic book, with rather a plain cover and only a limited number of black and white illustrations, but it does contain a great deal of absorbing information and detail which is simply unavailable elsewhere. It should be compulsory reading for all heads of Hollywood studios today, in the hope that they may learn to avoid making some of the mistakes of their predecessors.
With only a short time to go until Christmas, some of you may still be looking for ideas for the perfect gift. Well look no further. Here is a small list of suggested goodies from our own Christmas list, and any of these will bring a smile to the face of your classic movie lover when they find them under the tree.
Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition
It is difficult to believe that this film is now fifty years old. Seen here in a pristine transfer, it seems just as fresh, original and shocking as it must have been to those first cinema audiences in 1960. Much has been written about Psycho, not least within the pages of this magazine, so there is no need for me to sing its praises here. This is one of the best Blu-ray releases of 2010 and should be in every home. Alongside the film itself you can enjoy a huge amount of extra features, many of which are exclusive to this release and include a feature-length documentary, archive material, a full commentary and 20 page booklet.
Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot Commemorative Book with DVD
Alison Castle, Dan Auiler
Hardcover + DVD, 36 x 22.5 cm (14.2 x 8.9 in.), 384 pages
Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest comedy films ever made, and this book serves as a celebration and tribute to the stars and Billy Wilder himself. You'll find the original first draft of the script with annotations and photos, as well as in-depth interviews and archival material. There are some excellent candid photos and the truth of Marilyn Monroe's problems on and off set are laid bare. The book even comes with a DVD of the movie, so you can imagine that you bought the film and got the best DVD extra ever.
Entertainment are continuing their quest to bring a mixture of sought after and
totally obscure titles to DVD with generous extras here in the UK.
Goodbye Gemini (1970) stars
Martin Potter and Judy Geeson as twins in a complicated and suspiciously
incestuous relationship. They are 20 years old but they roam and play in their
large Chelsea townhouse like children, and what begins as childish pranks
escalate into something seriously disturbed. At that time Potter was fresh from
his success in Fellini’s Satyricon (1969)
whilst Geeson had made a big impression as a promiscuous schoolgirl in To Sir With Love (1967), and in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968),
espousing free love whilst skinny-dipping in a lake. Goodbye Gemini was directed by Alan Gibson shortly before he made
two Dracula films for Hammer. With his name attached, along with a supporting
cast including former Frankenstein’s monster Freddie Jones one might expect the
film to be a horror, but it’s not as easy to pigeonhole as that. The film could
more accurately be described as a psychological thriller, set in the tail-end
of the 1960s where post-Altamont and Charles Manson, the hippy dream has well
and truly gone sour. It’s a fascinating and terrifying film that crosses sexual
boundaries and pushes relationships over the edge. When we spoke to Martin
Potter he remembered the film well: “As an actor I was trained to tell truth. In
Goodbye Gemini there was this awful
scene where I was about to gas myself, having done something truly awful. There
was Hammer horror, where as an audience you didn’t expect Christopher Lee or
anyone else to explain what they were doing. It was just a genre of film. But I
do recall with Goodbye Gemini trying,
probably incredibly naively, to explain what this person was doing. I took it
all terribly seriously. I was trying to make it real for me. Whereas the
director was doing the film to pay off his mortgage!”
Goodbye Gemini is
based on the 1964 novel Ask Agamemnon and features a great period soundtrack by
first time composer Christopher Gunning, who would go on to score dozens of TV
series and films, including the recent Oscar-winning La Vie En Rose (2007). There would appear to be very little
commercial appeal in this story of a brother and sister who love and kill
together, but thankfully this was a time of risk-taking and experimentation in
the British industry. They were even able to bring Sir Michael Redgrave on
board in a significant role as a politician who spends his evenings attending
the wrong kind of parties.
The Thirties: An
Intimate History by Juliet Gardiner
Harper Press 2010
Review by Adrian
December 1929 over 1000 children, unaccompanied by adults, packed into The Glen
Cinema in Paisley, Scotland to watch a short Tom Mix western, some cartoons and
The Crowd, an epic silent movie
directed by King Vidor. Shortly after the programme started, and the natural
rowdiness and noise began to die down, some of the children noticed smoke
coming from the projection booth. The scream of “Fire!” caused major panic, and
as the auditorium filled with both smoke and carbon monoxide there was a rush
to the exits. Unfortunately the main exit had been firmly locked by the owners
to prevent children from letting their friends in without paying. When the
rescue operation was finally over 71 children were dead and many more ill or
injured. This was the worst kind of tragedy to befall a small community, and it
happened in a cinema.
story is used by Gardiner to open her fascinating new book on the social
history of Britain as it went from prosperity to recession and into an
inescapable World War. Although this book falls somewhat outside the main focus
of Cinema Retro, it contains an insightful chapter on the development of film
exhibition throughout the decade, and the growth of the “Picture Palaces” or
“Dreamlands” across the country. She quotes some unbelievable statistics that
would make any studio executive today weep with envy: in 1934 903 million cinema tickets were sold in Britain, and this had risen to over
990 million by 1939. This was an average of almost 20
million every single week. Compare that to the UK box office figures for 2009 -
a mere 173.5 million. By 1938 there were nearly 5000 cinemas with some towns
having over 100 each. There are some wonderful descriptions which put our
modern multiplexes to shame. She notes the Astoria in Brixton which was built
like an indoor fantasy of trailing vines, antique statues and a ceiling which
changed like the sky from dawn to dusk, to starry night. As if that wasn’t
enough they scented the auditorium with Yardley’s Lavender perfume. Others were
designed to look like Egyptian pyramids, Baronial halls or mermaid’s palaces.
To top it off, when the audience took their seats they were first entertained
by a man in a white suit rising from the well of the cinema playing popular
tunes on a translucent, flashing, multi-coloured electric organ.
(Photo copyright Adrian Smith. All rights reserved)
Harryhausen: Myths and Legends
the 29th June one of the world’s most legendary filmmakers
celebrated his 90th birthday. To coincide with this, the London Film
Museum is hosting a brand new exhibition devoted to the great man himself.
Cinema Retro was fortunate enough to attend the event and join in the birthday
celebrations, alongside such notable guests as John Landis, Terry Gilliam,
Peter Jackson and special effects guru Rick Baker.
Rick Baker and John Landis get uncomfortably close to a sword-wielding skeleton. (Photo copyright Adrian Smith. All rights reserved.)
was very clear at to why he was in attendance. “I’ve been a fan, like most
people, especially my generation I think, because we grew up with his monsters,
his creatures, his Greek mythology even. What I love about him is his handiwork.
It’s not digital, with teams of people doing it. It’s Ray giving life to these
things. That’s why I think this stuff works. It’s a performance. There’s
something about that kind of handiwork that I just find extraordinary. It’s not
real, and it seems to trigger off all sorts of childhood fantasies. You see
something that’s clearly not real, but totally believable at the same time. We
know that stuff is clay and rubber and stuff, and suddenly it’s given life.
It’s magic!” So with all that said, will Gilliam be using stop motion in his
next project, the much-anticipated The
Man Who Killed Don Quixote? “No, I’m using computers! I need things done
quickly and cheaply!”
Ray had cut the ribbon in front of a wall of cameras we went into the
exhibition itself. The first thing you see is a recreation of King Kong atop
the Empire State Building. Although Ray Harryhausen is the main focus of this
exhibition, he was keen to ensure that it presented a history of the animation
art form as well. After all he has recently co-written a hugely informative
book on the subject, A Century of Model
Animation. Ray happily posed for photos, alongside his wife Diana and
daughter Vanessa. At one point a spontaneous singalong of Happy Birthday broke
the last thirty years Taschen have consistently produced some of the most
lavish and eye-catching photography books ever published. This latest book, Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by Jim Heimann and Kevin Starr,
covers the history of L.A in photos, from the first known picture taken
in 1862 through to the present day. Whilst those first few chapters of photos
and maps are interesting, particularly to historians, for movie fans the real
gold comes later on. There are photos reproduced here from a variety of
collections, from personal archives to news media. There are even pictures
taken by the actors themselves, such as this one that Dennis Hopper took in his
car in 1961.
L.A. from the vantage point of Dennis Hopper's lens.
book you can see Edward G. Robinson in reflective mood as he sits surrounded by
memorabilia in his office, or a bikini-clad Jayne Mansfield reclining in a pool
with dozens of floating toy replicas. We can even be present at the first
Academy Award ceremony in 1929. Some photos depict film making in its early
silent days. It’s incredible to see the elaborate indoor/ outdoor sets built to
ensure they captured as much light as possible, and it demonstrates that even
then, like modern-day movie sets, there are always plenty of people standing
around with no evident job role. There are also on set photos from some Busby
Berkeley musicals, demonstrating the amazing set design and vast camera cranes
needed to capture the choreographed action.
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith with Hammer actress Vera Day.
By Adrian Smith
If you’re in
London during the next two weeks, be sure to check out this fabulous new
festival and exhibition based on Hammer’s legendary horror films.
The event was
launched on the 27th October at the Idea Generation gallery in
Shoreditch, to which Cinema Retro was invited. We were told it was a private
view of this exhibition of previously unseen photos and artwork, along with
more well known stills and publicity photos. However, it was the most public
“private view” we have ever seen. This could have been down to a resurgence in
the popularity of Hammer, tied in with new film production, or it could have
been the endless bottles of free cider.
Hammer-related guests were in attendance, including Paul Cole, John Hough, Lois
Dane, Madeline Smith, Vera Day and Valerie Leon. The latter were also there to
help promote the new book Hammer Glamour by Marcus Hearn. Hearn has co-curated
the exhibition, which is well worth a look. Also in attendance was the CEO of
the new Hammer, Simon Oakes.
Sadly, by the time
Cinema Retro found the venue, hidden down some of the scariest back streets in
East London, most of these guests had moved on to a secret party somewhere, but
we did manage to catch up with the still glamorous Vera Day. She is best known
for her starring roles in Quatermass II
and some of the Hammer comedies. It was also fun to chat with Paul Cole, who
enjoyed telling us about his appearance in Carry
on Teacher, before moving into television production.
the name Norman J. Warren may not be familiar to some of you, in the UK,
amongst cult horror aficionados, his name is synonymous with horror and
exploitation. Mostly working in the 1970s, he produced such dubious classics as
Satan’s Slave and the Stephanie
Music are a new independent British music label working to release some great
lost film music, and have produced a lavish CD, and limited edition vinyl LP,
featuring the soundtracks to two of Warren’s best loved movies; Terror (1978) and Prey (1977).
composer was the classically-trained composer Ivor Slaney, who at the time was
best known for creating orchestral music. He worked with Warren on both films to
create an unusual, experimental sound using mostly electronic instruments. They
also mixed sound effects into the music track on Terror, creating an odd, slightly discomforting experience. This
means that some tracks on the CD contain screams, wind effects, moaning, and
even dialogue. Along with the helpful track names, such as Carol Runs for Her
Life, Blood is Leaking From the Upstairs Room and Orgasmic Stripper, you can
really follow the plot even if you have never seen the film.
Prey, notorious for its
explicit lesbian sex scenes and cannibalism, is a somewhat neglected film, and
so this soundtrack release is very welcome. The music helps recreate the
claustrophobic atmosphere of the film, which essentially revolves around three
people; two lesbians and the alien invader. What begins as a possible love
triangle soon escalates to something altogether more sinister.
is a highly recommended release, both for the curious and those fans of 1970s
British horror. I am also reliably informed that Moscovitch are next planning a
release of film score music from the prolific jazz musician and composer John
Scott, which is eagerly anticipated. You can find the CD and vinyl edition on www.moviegrooves.com, click here for the specific page to order from.
Our London correspondent Adrian Smith meets film director and former Python Terry Gilliam. Gilliam was appearing at the BFI to discuss his career and his upcoming release The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus... Cinema Retro has seen footage and the film looks breath-taking. We can't say we're unhappy about the specific magazine that Terry chose to hold for the photo. He's obviously a man of good taste, as evidenced by his reading habits.
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith gives us an advance view of the new Tarantino film.
By Adrian Smith
Back in 1995, I
thought Quentin Tarantino could do no wrong. After the quadruple whammy of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance
and Natural Born Killers, it seemed
as though he was just about the coolest man on the planet. He even polished the
Crimson Tide script, causing Denzel
Washington to wax lyrical about the Silver Surfer.
However, I managed
to miss Jackie Brown and had no
interest at all in the Kill Bills.
Earlier this year I finally tried Death
Proof, but gave up after half an hour out of sheer boredom. Perhaps I’d
outgrown Tarantino. His constant recycling of older, better movies and juvenile
glee in violence just weren’t for me any more.
Or so I thought.
This evening I
attended a preview of Inglourious
Basterds, as part of the Empire Movie-Con II, held at the BFI in London. No
doubt many of you are aware that there also exists an Italian war film from
1978 of the same name. QT has stated that he only used the title and basic idea
(essentially a re-working of The Dirty
Dozen), and the script was all original. The plot follows the exploits of a
group of American Jewish soldiers in Nazi-occupied France. As you are no doubt
expecting, in true QT style there is a lot of talk. A LOT of talk. The opening
scene is a conversation between two people which lasts twenty minutes. There is
a barroom scene featuring Nazi drinking games which easily lasts half an hour.
QT certainly likes his characters to chat. It was this propensity which I felt
killed Death Proof before it even got
going. Here however these scenes work brilliantly. This has to be down to the
fantastic performances, most notably from Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo “the
Apache” Raine, and Christoph Waltz as his nemesis, the Colonel Hans Landa,
known as “The Jew Hunter”. Waltz in particular is a mesmerising actor. He
manages to turn what could have been a cardboard movie villain into a complex,
nuanced, basically human character, and also provides much of the film’s
humour. Did I mention it’s a comedy? There are scenes of action and violence,
but there is also a lot of comedy in this film. This is essentially an
irreverent take on the WWII film, and it is easy to see why it will upset many
people. It is another example of Hollywood
re-writing history to show that the American’s won the war. However I would
argue not to take it so seriously. The film begins with the caption “Once upon
a time…”, and if you treat it as a fairy tale, albeit a gruesome, often
sadistic one, with more twists and turns than a roller coaster, you will find
yourself going with it.
Inglourious Basterds has certainly restored my faith in Tarantino as a
filmmaker. His personal video introduction this evening reminded me that he is
still quite twitchy and irritating, but he does deserve for this film to be a
success. In his version of events it is cinema itself that triumphs over evil,
and the closing line of the film is “I think this could be my masterpiece.” He
could be right.
1964 the BBC, as part of their regular “Wednesday Play” series, produced a 90-
minute drama based on the assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944. John Carson
played Col. Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, now best known for being
played by Tom Cruise in Valkyrie. I’ve not seen that, so I can’t compare
them, although I imagine there are a vast number of differences. As a TV play,
as opposed to a filmed drama, this is quite stagey, with a limited number of
studio sets, and some filmed inserts. There is also an awful lot of talking.
However, it is still an excellent production, which benefitted not only from
some outstanding performances, but also a talented director in the German
Rudolph Cartier. He was incredibly experienced in British television, having shot
a number of well known shows including the original live The Quatermass
Experiment a decade earlier.
is being screened at the BFI in two weeks as part of its “Missing, Believed
Wiped” segment. I was fortunate enough to be at a screening two weeks ago as
part of a John Carson tribute at the Cine Lumiere in London. John himself was
in attendance, and it was exciting to think that nobody, including him, had
seen it for over 40 years.
surprisingly, during the opening credits we follow von Stauffenberg and his
briefcase containing the bomb through the various levels of security until he
places it besides Hitler. We follow the action immediately afterwards, as his
co-conspirators wait for confirmation of Hitler’s death and begin to roll out
their plans for the takeover of the military and the police. It is tense stuff,
despite the fact that we know Hitler was no more than scratched, due to someone
else in the room moving the bomb behind a table leg. It is so frustrating to
think that this really happened. If this was a Hollywood movie the plot would
have worked and the war would have been over. The play rather poignantly
reminds the audience of how many more people died in that final year of the war
after von Stauffenberg and his comrades are caught and executed. It’s a
sobering thought, and leaves you feeling some of the frustration they no doubt
felt when they realised it was all over.
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith with John Carson, star of The July Plot
can book tickets to see The July Plot
for yourself at the BFI Southbank in London on the 22nd August by clicking here.It’s highly recommended, and it can only be
hoped that following its rediscovery and restoration the BBC will make this
important piece of work available on DVD.
That's Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith (center) with the crazy lads who comprise The League of Gentlemen.
Ten years ago a
show appeared on British TV that was so strange, so grotesque, so dark, yet so
utterly hilarious that it quickly developed a cult following and a number of
popular catchphrases. It ran to three series and eventually a feature film.
This was the League of Gentlemen, a weird combination of sketch show and sitcom
which clearly took inspiration from old horror movies, detective dramas, sexploitation
comedies, to name but a few. I took the opportunity to pin down the gents in
order to unravel just what their influences were. The conversation immediately
turns to Take an Easy Ride, described
by Mark as almost being a snuff film. This leads to my first question:
snuff films been an influence on you?
Just that one!
Is it available
No, its illegal. You risk prosecution! (Although a quick search later uncovers
copies available on Ebay and YouTube)
It purports to be an information film. It’s really a rape exploitation film. It
starts like ‘Charley Says’ then it
just gets ridiculous! It’s horrible.
You realise you are getting old when you talk about these things. I was doing
some work with We Are Klang (UK comedy outfit) and they started talking about ‘Two girls, 1 cup’ and I genuinely hadn’t
heard of it! Imagine that!
Neither have I! A
couple of years ago most of you did a commentary for Blood on Satan’s Claw. How did they know you were fans?
I think we’d mentioned it in one of our commentaries.
We tried to get the claw in a toybox for Daisy Haggard (in their new TV show Psychoville). Her Dad Piers Haggard directed
Someone sent me a copy of The Frozen Dead.
It only worked once, it was such a bad copy. You know that one with the frozen
Nazis? It virtually doesn’t exist. It was a huge thing. In the horror film
books of the seventies there were these huge colour plates from this film no
one ever saw. It was terrible.
Someone gave me on video a copy of It!,
which was also in those books.
With the golem??
That’s just come
out on DVD now with The Shuttered Room.
I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but it’s terrible. It’s got Oliver Reed in
I always think of Beast in the Cellar.
It’s a similar
thing except it’s in an attic.
Dame Aileen Atkins told me she was in an Exorcist
rip-off I said “I Don’t Want to be Born?”
She said “You’ve seen it’? “ Of course I have!” Joan Collins raped by a dwarf?
Brilliant! She couldn’t believe I’d seen it.
Aileen Atkins. That’s how she got the part in Cranford.
That’s how she got a Dame-hood.
I love that film,
especially where the baby pushes the nanny into the lake.
It’s a horrible thing, that creature.
You had the devil’s child in Crooked
House (recent portmanteau horror film screened on UK TV over Christmas,
written by and starring Mark Gatiss) didn’t you?
Yes, The Devil’s Hand.
You often included
references in your shows to old films, such as the episode Royston Vasey and the Monster from Hell (a reference to Hammer
horror Frankenstein and the Monster From
Hell). Was it to see if people would notice, or to make each other laugh?
We just needed to think of a title.
Do you remember? We actually watched that Frankenstein film, and from that we
thought we should do something with torches. So we said ‘let’s burn the shop
down’. So that storyline came from the film directly.
It’s a good title though isn’t it?
Oh it’s brilliant. It
shouldn’t work but it does! You’ve also worked with people like Freddie Jones
(in the Christmas Special) who of course once played Frankenstein’s monster.
We remembered him more from Children of
And Elephant Man.
We’ve always had that kind of affinity with those films, and getting to work
with various people over the years is sort of like repaying a debt.
David Warner for example. On the film (The
League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse), I couldn’t believe every day there was
David Warner from every film I loved growing up.
One of the strange lessons of that is that he has no affinity with fantasy. You
would think that as a viewer he must love those films. But he just did those
films because that’s what people asked him to do. He’s become a complete genre
There was such a
dearth of filmmaking in the seventies that a lot of actors had to do whatever
they could to get by.
Except the films were better then!
I was talking to someone the other day, who said that one day he’s going to
corner George Baker and talk about a scene in a grim sexploitation film where
he goes through his collection of vibrators. A long way from Wexford! It’s like when you see people
like John Pertwee turning up in Val Guest rude sex comedies.
Like Au Pair Girls.
Those semi-porn films always had amazing casts.
Speaking of which I
noticed you’ve got Christopher Biggins in Psychoville?
We do, yes.
One of my favourite
films of his was Eskimo Nell.
I’ve not seen that one.
That’s one of those mucky films.
It’s a classic!
It’s a really clever film. It’s not just about sex, honest! It’s about a guy
trying to make a film, and it ends up being a porn film by mistake.
Biggins is in it, he’s brilliant!
Was he cast in Psychoville because of I:Claudius?
Porridge? Or chiefly Watch This Space?
We tried to fill it with references to Watch
When is Psychoville
going to be on?
We don’t know. It’s still being edited.
You’re pleased with
We’re just coming to the end of editing episode 5 which is looking very good.
Do you think people
will see it as a sequel to The League of Gentlemen?
I think it’s inevitable. We had a marketing meeting today. They wanted to say
‘From the team who brought you The League
of Gentlemen and we said ‘well not quite’.
Half! But aren’t
people always going to put you all together?
We’re very proud of it!
We owe everything to it. It would be churlish not to.
Inevitably people are going to want to have a peg to hang us on.
Presumably you took
you name from the film ‘The League of Gentlemen’?
A favourite or just
a good name?
I think I’d seen it quite recently and it was just a good name.
It is a great film. Very seedy.
Can I ask you about
Sherlock? (It has recently been announced that Mark Gatiss is currently working
on a new series of Sherlock Holmes TV dramas for the BBC.)
Is this going to be
in competition with Guy Ritchie?
It’s a coincidence. It always happens. There are always three Robin Hood films
coming out at the same time. The character is still here because he’s been the
most filmed character in all of fiction. There’ll be several more by next year!
There’s no fight involved. Unless Harry Hill does it! This Holmes will be in
the style of the 1940s Sherlock films where he fights the Nazis. We’ve tried to
bring Holmes into the present day.
Sitting in the plush Screen 1 at the new
BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre) in London on Monday evening, I was in retro
heaven. Not only were we going to hear from Sir Roger Moore discussing his
often overlooked TV career, but we were being treated with an episode each of The Saint and The Persuaders. Whilst waiting for the lights to go down they
played such TV themes as The Prisoner,
The Avengers and The Champions, and I couldn’t have wiped the child-like grin off my
face if my life depended on it.
First up was “The Miracle Tea Party”, an
episode of The Saint directed by
Moore himself, featuring such cold-war staples as Soviet spies, nuclear
submarine bases and ingenious assassinations. Oh, and Nanette Newman. It
featured many locations including Waterloo
station, which I had just come through on the way to the event, making the
story seem even more real and exciting. Moore
handled both roles well in what was, as he later revealed, his directorial
debut. He went on to direct several more and also acted as co-producer towards
the end of the shows’ run.
Next we were treated with “The Time and the
Place”, a The Persuaders episode Moore also directed. Not
only featuring himself and Tony Curtis it also had a main role for Ian Hendry
as Lord Croxley, plotting to overthrow the government from within the walls of
The Constitution Club, the most exclusive in London. I am sure I don’t need to tell you
the outcome, but suffice to say Moore and Curtis are heroic when they find
themselves caught up in the dangerous scheme. And there are girls. There is
also a great scene where Curtis pretends to be an Inspector from Scotland Yard
and reprises his cod-English accent from Some
Like It Hot.
It was an enjoyable experience to see these
shows up on a big screen with an appreciative audience. Before Sir Roger
himself made an appearance we were also shown a short clip from Ivanhoe, the popular TV series that
helped cement Moore’s
TV reputation in the late 1950s. Moore himself was incredibly self-deprecating
when he came on stage, describing the series as little more than a lot of
horse-riding and bad acting. Having only seen that clip as an example of Ivanhoe I’m inclined to agree! However
it proved to be very popular in America
and enabled him to get starring roles in such shows as The Alaskans and Maverick.
Sir Roger was joined on stage by Cinema
Retro’s own Gareth Owen and they spent almost two hours discussing his
television career and answering questions from the audience. Owen did a great
job of deflecting such inane questions as “Who would win in a fight – The Saint
or James Bond?” Sir Roger clearly has an excellent memory, although I imagine
his recent visits down memory lane whilst writing his autobiography have
probably helped. There were several people in the audience who have worked with
him during his career, and he occasionally turned to them to hear their
opinions and ask questions. Amongst the guests were the actresses Vera Day and
Sylvia Syms, producer Johhny Goodman and film director John Hough.
Sir Roger also told some hilarious stories
about his experiences and demonstrated his talents as an impressionist, with
spot-on portrayals of both Noel Coward and Lew Grade, amongst others. He
discussed the highs and lows of both his television and stage career, and did
occasionally touch on Bond, naming his favourite leading lady as Maude Adams, and
Grace Jones as his least favourite! If Sir Roger ever decides to retire, which
seems unlikely, he could find a second career as an after-dinner speaker and
Finally I was honoured to be invited to
meet him once the event was over and was able to present him with an early
birthday present (Sir Roger turned 81 the following day): an original copy of
Picturegoer from 1955 featuring an interview with a new up and coming star
making a film in Paris
for MGM. Who was this fresh-faced young British actor? Well according to the
interviewer there were indications he could become a star. And fifty three
years later, he’s one of the biggest.
Happy Birthday Sir Roger Moore, and thanks
for a wonderfully entertaining career!
Cinema Retro London correspondent Adrian Smith brings us the inside story of the recent reunion of Captain Kronos cast members.
Brian Clemens, Horst Janon, Caroline Munro, Lois Dane and John Cater . (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
eighteen months has seen an impressive array of Hammer-related film events here
in the UK,
most organised by filmmaker and cult-film champion Don Fearney. Saturday, 29 March saw perhaps the most intriguing and popular event so far occur at the Cine
Lumiere in London.
Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a long forgotten film which was virtually ignored
at the time of its release, even by Hammer themselves. However it has developed
a strong following since becoming available on home video and DVD, and many see
it as one of the strongest entries in the latter end of the Hammer canon,
falling between weaker efforts such as Twins
of Evil and The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
was created and directed by Brian Clemens, best known for his work on TVs The Avengers, and he had also recently
scripted Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde
for Hammer. He has sadly never been asked to direct a film since which is in no
way a reflection of his abilities!
Horst Janson and John Cater (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
reunion Don Fearney managed to gather the surviving principle actors, including
a rare visit from the star Horst Janson, who is kept very busy on German
television. Fans were delighted to meet Janson along with Brian Clemens,
Caroline Munro, John Cater, William Hobbs, Lois Dane and Lisa Collings. The
queues for autographs lasted well over two hours and circled the lobby of the
Cine Lumiere. The film was screened to rapturous applause, along with Vampire Circus, another favourite with
fans, and Fearney’s new documentary on the Hammer vampire films.
event, Cinema Retro was lucky enough to catch up with Janson, who is still
incredibly handsome after all these years! How did he feel about being at the
Lois Dane and Horst Janson (Photo copyright Matt Gemmell)
“Well I haven’t
seen the film for a long time. It was great to see the film again on a big
screen. It is great especially to see Brian Clemens again, because he is not
the youngest any more! I enjoyed it very much to see all these people again and
to remember the work. We had great fun you know!”
a very busy actor for many years now, Janson was unaware of how popular the
film had become. “It was never released in Germany, so the only thing I saw
was when I was dubbing it into German (for the DVD release). I had no idea how
popular it was over here in Britain.
We can only follow these things on the internet. I know how many people are on
my page and mention Captain Kronos!”
(Read writer Willliam Gagliani's tribute to Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter in issue #9 of Cinema Retro)
A major new book about the history of Hammer films has just been published. One of Cinema Retro's London correspondents, Adrian Smith, was at the star-studded London book launch and brings you the inside story.
On the 27th October 2007 a crowd of Hammer
film fans gathered at the Cine Lumiere in South Kensington,
a stone’s throw from The Natural History Museum and the V&A. The occasion
was the launch of The Hammer Story by
film historians Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes, and to celebrate a number of
Hammer alumni were gathered to meet fans and sign autographs, along with the
screening of three films rarely shown and not available commercially: A Case for P.C. 49 (1951), The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll (1960)
and Never take Sweets From a Stranger
Hammer documentary maker Don Fearney (left) talks with legendary screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. (Photo copyright Adrian Smith)
Amongst the guests was Jimmy Sangster, who not only
directed and produced some films but also wrote several of those considered
classics, including The Curse of Frankenstein,
The Mummy and Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula). The latter film is
currently being screened theatrically all around the UK following a restoration by the
British Film Institute. Sangster has been kept busy with interviews for the
last couple of weeks with the likes of Jonathon Ross and The Today Programme,
but still found time to talk to Cinema Retro:
“I’m amazed (about the re-release of Dracula)! It’s a film we made fifty
years ago. When we were making it it was just another movie. I’m very pleased! I
don’t think Hammer are still going though are they? I haven’t seen the new film
(Beyond the Rave). Why didn’t they
ask me to write it? They should give me a call!”
Also attending was Janina Faye, who was especially
pleased that Never take Sweets From a Stranger
was being screened. Faye starred in this controversial child abuse drama
when she was only ten, having already taken smaller roles with Hammer in Dracula and The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll. Its depiction of a small town
protecting a known paedophile was too shocking for audiences at the time, and
it was given an X certificate, despite having support from various national
agencies such as The National council of Women, who said “it should be seen by
all parents”. It did not do well commercially, and was banned in several
countries, including France
When asked about the film, Faye enthused,
“It was such a huge change from what Hammer used to
do. They had tremendous problems from the BBFC whilst shooting the film. In the
courtroom scene we had to change the dialogue because they weren’t allowed to
say rape. To keep the drama within the cast the director (documentary maker
Cyril Frankel) didn’t tell us what was going on, or what happened to any of us.
I wasn’t allowed to see the film, and didn’t see it until they showed it at the
Barbican (in 2004). I think it’s still an incredible film. It’s so powerful.”
Lovely Janine Faye adds some glamor to the event. (Photo copyright Adrian Smith)
Cinema Retro agrees wholeheartedly, and wishes the
film were available on DVD. DD Home Entertainment have announced an R2 release
in late 2007, but this is currently looking unlikely due to financial
difficulties. We remain hopeful!
Former James Bond girls and Hammer stars Caroline Munro and Martine Beswicke reunited at Bray Studios
If you couldn't be at Bray Studios' historic Hammer Horror reunion last weekend, Cinema Retro's man on the scene Adrian Smith gives you the low-down:
On August 4, over 150 fans and many Hammer stars and
personnel gathered at Bray Studios on the banks of the River Thames to
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of The Curse of Frankenstein.Amongst the guests were writer-director Jimmy
Sangster, director John Hough, Margaret Robinson, the widow of art director
Bernard Robinson, and actors Virginia Wetherell, Madeline Smith, Ingrid Pitt,
Janina Faye, Vera Day, Caroline Munro, Martine Beswicke, Carol Marsh, Yvonne
Monlaur, Valerie Leon, Douglas Wilmer, Damien Thomas, John Cater and Edward de
It was the first time for many of the fans in
attendance that they had been able to visit Bray, the spiritual home of Hammer
films. Between 1951 and 1966 Hammer shot around eighty films there before
relocating to MGM-Elstree Studios in Borehamwood. Amongst these are many of
those considered to be THE Hammer classics, including Dracula (US title Horror of Dracula), The Mummy,
The Curse of the Werewolf, The Quatermass Experiment, Hound of the Baskervilles and of course,
The Curse of Frankenstein.