By the 1920s there was already a fear that the age of great adventure and adventurers was rapidly coming to a close. Flight had been conquered and lands that seemed mythical were rapidly being explored by white men. The great white whale that had remained unconquered was the summit of the world's tallest mountain, Everest. Today, the mountain is scaled almost routinely but it still is underestimated by climbers who lose their lives it their quest to ascend it. As late as the 1920s, many considered it be an impossible quest to reach the summit. However, courageous (or foolhardy) souls are often drawn to such seemingly quixotic goals, and so it was that in 1924 a major British expedition was formed with the intent of achieving what many felt was the last great challenge: to reach the summit of the fabled mountain. The expedition was headed by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Typical of the Brits, the venture was undertaken on a grand scale with a small army of participants, including Tibetan sherpas. Captain John Noel asked if he could accommodate the expedition so that he could document it on film. Mallory and Irvine were reluctant to do so, reminding Noel that they were motivated by scientific exploration, not becoming Hollywood stars. Nevertheless, Noel was given permission to join them- on the proviso that he minimize filming of the people involved and concentrate on the landscapes. Thus, Noel- armed with an amazing array of state-of-the-art film cameras of varying sizes- did indeed spend most of his energies shooting the spectacular scenery. Although there are only fleeting glimpses of the British members of the expedition, Noel did have the foresight to realize how exotic images of the local Tibetan culture would be for Westerners. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to film tribal members and their customs, thus providing the most complete depiction of Tibetan life seen by the outside world.
One of the most impressive aspects of the documentary is Noel's seemingly superhuman ability to keep cameras steady in dangerous situations. The vast regions of ice and sky look just as beautiful and intimidating today as they must have when he filmed them. The movie has an almost mystical quality to it that sets it uniquely apart from any other documentary I have seen. Noel captures the mundane and boring aspects of the expedition as well as its most majestic moments- all leading up to a failed quest and a tragic loss of life. The final images of doomed men setting of to reach to the summit was captured on film by Noel, who kept shooting them even as they faded into figures in a landscape, never to be seen again and whose precise fate remains unknown to this day. Noel successfully marketed his film to appreciative worldwide audiences, but upon his death the elements were allowed to deteriorate. The British Film Institute was given the raw materials by Noel's daughter Sandra and a major restoration project was undertaken that saw the movie returned to its original glory, including some very impressive color tinting. The newly-commissioned score has been brilliantly realized by Simon Fisher; it is both beautiful and occasionally eerie and foreboding. Kino Lorber has imported the BFI restored print for the American Blu-ray release. Extras include interviews with Sandra Noel and other scholars and featurettes about the restoration of the film and the scoring process.
"The Epic of Everest" is a landmark film that has retained all of its emotional power thanks to a brilliant restoration.
by Universal in 1967, “Tobruk” opens with the feel of a 1960s spy thriller. Rock
Hudson is Major Donald Craig, a Canadian prisoner of war on board a German
transport ship anchored somewhere off the North Africa coast in late 1942. A
group of frogmen surface near the ship and sneak on board with silencers fixed
to their guns in order to capture Craig. The frogmen are led by Captain Bergman
(George Peppard) who reveal themselves to be part of a team of German commandos.
commandos take Craig to a German airfield and fly him to a desert landing
strip. They’re unexpectedly greeted by a group of British soldiers led by Colonel
Harker (Nigel Green). It’s revealed that Bergman is the leader of a
German-Jewish commando unit attached to a group of British commandos operating
in North Africa. They secured the rescue of Craig due to his expertise as a map
maker needing his expertise in navigating a mine field and access to the German
occupied port at Tobruk, Libya, so they can destroy it in time for a British
movie is based on an actual, although unsuccessful, attack on Tobruk in
September of 1942 which did include German-Jewish soldiers and fake British
POWs. Just like the actual events, the British commandos in the movie pretend
to be POWs in order to get to their ultimate destination undetected... or at
least in an inconspicuous way that will arouse little attention. During the
journey through the Sahara, the group encounters the German and Italian Army as
well as local horseman seeking money for captured British hostages and aerial
staffing from British aircraft.
by Arthur Hiller, the movie appears at first glance to be an unusual choice for
the director who would be synonymous with message movies and romantic comedies.
However, interspersed between the usual action and military battle scenes, the
British and German-Jewish commando team deal with serious issues of bigotry and
anti-Semitism with Hudson caught between the two camps as the outsider caught in
the middle as they make their way across the desert.
is very good in “Tobruk” and broke away from being stereotyped as a leading man
of about a half dozen very popular romantic comedies to star in more serious
films including heroic military parts in “Tobruk,” “Ice Station Zebra,” “The
Undefeated” and “Hornet’s Nest.” In the 1970s he settled into a hybrid role
which combined elements of his romantic comedies and the heroic leading man as San
Francisco police commissioner in the popular TV series “McMillan & Wife” which
ran from 1971 to 1977.
no stranger to tough guy roles, plays a German soldier for the second time in
“Tobruk” following his performance as aviator Bruno Stachel in the WWI classic
“The Blue Max.” Prior to this he appeared in the WWII adventure “Operation
Crossbow” which was preceded by a string of high profile big budget movies.
Like Hudson, Peppard found success in television with the TV series “Banacek”
which ran from 1972-1974. His acting career was hit or miss in the late 1960s until
he landed the lead in “Banacek” and faltered again in the 1970s until he found
success in the popular TV series, “The A-Team,” which ran from 1983-1987.
Green is a standout as Col. Harker, the leader of the commando unit. One of the
great character actors of British cinema, Green is memorable in just about
everything he appeared in a career cut short by an accidental overdose of
sleeping pills. He played a similar character in another North Africa set WWII
movie, “Play Dirty,” as Col. Masters.
features a cast filled with many of the great British character actors including
Jack Watson, Percy Herbert, Norman Rossington and Leo Gordon as well as
American Guy Stockwell and Irishman Liam Redmond included in the mix. Gordon
did double duty in “Tobruk” as screenwriter as well as a rare good guy role.
early in 1967, “Tobruk” is overshadowed by the blockbuster success and
popularity of “The Dirty Dozen” which premiered that summer. “Tobruk,” like
“The Dirty Dozen,” falls into the genre of “Men on an Impossible Mission,” but
doesn’t pack quite the same punch as movies like “The Dirty Dozen” and “Where
Eagles Dare.” The movie comes close with a satisfying plot, terrific
performances and plenty of action. It is violent, to be sure, including an abundance of graphic deaths via
flame thrower which become more a convenient distraction to move the story
is made-to-order via Universal’s Vault Series and has a run time of 110
minutes. The DVD offers no extras, but the movie sounds and looks very nice
preserving the Techniscope widescreen image. The movie is a welcome addition for
fans of 60s war movies.
Perhaps it is only fitting that area meteorologists would
forewarn ominously that the Mahoning Drive-in Theater’s “Christopher Lee
Tribute” might take place on a cold and dark and stormy night. After all, it was the villainous film legacy
of the actor – who passed away at age 93 on June 7th of this year – to have frightened
generations of moviegoers in such a bleakly nightmarish rain-soaked setting. As it happened, while the shivery autumnal
chill on Saturday night was undeniable, there was – happily - nary a sprinkle
of precipitation to obscure one’s windshield view of the drive-in’s massive
The Mahoning Drive-in, located amidst the Pocono Mountains
surrounding Lehighton, Pennsylvania, is – quite frankly – an anomaly amongst the
anomalies of surviving drive-in theaters. Whilst most remaining drive-ins have been forced to move cautiously and expensively
to digital projection systems or else suffer their screens going dark, the
Mahoning has survived this past year through a series of weekend-only 35mm
retro-film screenings. The Mahoning has
undoubtedly provided some great repertory movie-going fun this past summer; only
time will tell if the theater’s unorthodox business model is sustainable.
I was pleased to learn that the Mahoning had set aside
a night’s programming to commemorate the legacy of the great Christopher Lee,
the saturnine and elegant British actor who appeared in innumerable films over
a career lasting near seven-decades. I
admit to some bafflement when first seeing the handbill advertising the evening’s
selection of films: “Hercules in the
Haunted World,””Horror Express,” and “Psycho Circus.” It was an odd sort of tribute program as it
would not feature a single popularly acclaimed classic from the honoree’s deep back
catalog. Instead, the program was
seemingly drawn from a triad of second (and perhaps third) tier-efforts celebrated
only among the cognoscenti. I made my peace
with the program when I recognized two of the three films scheduled would likely
rarely – if ever – be presented from original 35mm elements anywhere in the world
in the year 2015.
In any event, the more celebrated legacy of Christopher
Lee was amply exemplified throughout the evening with a series of vintage
trailers. The crew at the Mahoning
promised a cavalcade of Lee-related trailers between features and they
delivered handsomely. There were the
requisite Hammer trailers, of course: “Horror of Dracula,” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,” “Scream of
Fear,” “Rasputin, the Mad Monk,” “The Devil-Ship Pirates,” and “She,” as well
as such combo-bill late-night drive-in madness as “Dracula: Prince of Darkness/”Plague of the
Zombies” and “Scars of Dracula/Horror of Frankenstein.” Lee’s non-Hammer horror film work was
represented with a pair of trailers featuring Tigon’s “The Creeping Flesh” and
A.I.P’’s “The Oblong Box.” Perhaps more
enjoyable, if only as a kitschy reminder that there were some mind-numbing
clunkers as well, were the trailers for “The Return of Captain Invincible”
(1983) and “Arabian Adventure” (1979).
The night’s features kicked off with a gorgeous 35mm Technicolor
print of Mario Bava’s handsomely mounted “Hercules in the Haunted World.” Originally released in Italy in 1961 as
“Ercole al Centro Della Terra,” the film was belatedly marketed to
English-speaking countries as “Hercules against the Vampires” or under other similar
but variant titles. This opportunistic marketing
strategy – no matter how false – was designed, no doubt, to ride the gold
sovereign lined coattail pockets of Lee’s mid-60s popularity as the reigning
Count Dracula of the Hammer film series. In a tacked-on preamble to the U.S. version of the film (released in 1963),
Lee’s character, King Lycos, is even described on the film’s soundtrack as a
“diabolical vampire” which he, most certainly is not… or, at least, not in the
more accepted use of the term.
The storyline itself is essentially a paint-by-numbers swords-and-sandals
epic with the usual mythological trappings and supernatural overtones, but is
rescued from the ordinary by Bava’s eerie visualization of the subterranean
underworld. Hercules (played by the
British bodybuilder Reg Park) must travel to Hades, the God Pluto’s grim
“Kingdom of the Dead,” to rescue his true love, the Princess Deianira. Bava’s ghastly underworld is soberly realized
with blue-green tinted labyrinth passageways of swirling mists, of knotty limbs
and thorny vines that hang spookily from dead trees, and of subterranean lakes
of fiery lava. Lee strikes a suitably menacing
figure as the scheming and sadistic King Lycos, though his performance is partly
handicapped by the fact that the actor’s voice is dubbed throughout. One cannot help but mourn the absence of the villainous
gravitas of Lee’s inflected speaking voice. (Click here to order this film from Amazon)
The night’s second feature, “Horror Express (1972)” was
the anchor to the evening’s triptych program. Likely the film most familiar to U.S.
enthusiasts due to it being in near constant rotation on “Chiller Theater” type-programming
in the 1970s and 1980s, this soon-to-be-neglected Spanish-British co-production
eventually fell into public domain status and became a staple of every
low-budget VHS and DVD collector’s set.
Following several minutes of exposition in the
snow-capped mountains of Manchuria’s Hangchow Province, the remainder of the
film is set in the claustrophobic confines of the Trans-Siberian Express. Lee plays Professor Alexander Saxton, a stern
and humorless – but nonetheless prominent – anthropologist who believes he’s
discovered the “remarkable fossil” of the proverbial Missing Link. Things take a turn for the worse when a
curious fellow scientist (Peter Cushing), intrigued by his rival colleague’s secretiveness,
bribes an ill-fated coachman to take a peek inside the heavily chained and padlocked
crate. This proves to be unfortunate as
the fossil, which proves to be not as extinct as one might wish, is released. The creature proceeds to lumber freely around
the train carriage, terrifying and absorbing the brains of his fellow
passengers. (Click here to order this film from Amazon).
The evening’s final film was “Psycho Circus” (alternate
British title “Circus of Fear”) one of a number of Anglo-German co-productions ministered
by Harry Alan Towers which featured Lee as the marquee star in the years
1965-1970. Tower and Lee enjoyed a
measure of box-office success bringing Sax Rohmer’s notorious (and extremely
politically incorrect) super-villain “Fu Manchu” to the big screen. Though Towers’s series of “Fu Manchu” films
with Lee, admittedly, varied widely in quality, they remain enjoyable popcorn
programmers to this very day. For this
film they looked to the novelist Edgar Wallace for inspiration. There were two versions of Wallace’s “Circus
of Fear” (the original 1966 British title): a longer color German version
directed by Werner Jacobs and an English version helmed by John Moxey of “City
of the Dead” and “The Night Stalker” fame.
One of the great strategic blunders of the Cold War was the Western powers' decision to not militarily challenge the building of the Berlin Wall. Under the post-WWII treaty, Berlin was divided into four sectors with each one governed by a different nation : the Soviet Union, America, England and France. The terms of the treaty called for the former Allies to have free and unfettered access to each other's section of the city. Although Berlin was located inside Communist East Germany, it remained a symbol of freedom and liberty. This was a poke in the eye to the Soviets, who were determined to resolve the situation by simply building an imposing wall that blocked off East Berlin from the other sectors controlled by Western democracies. The world was outraged but in the end, no action was taken beyond exchanging some heated telegrams and phone calls. Thus, in a matter of days, Khrushchev's gamble had paid off. He would later confess in his memoirs that even he was skeptical he would get away with it. Suddenly, the entire population of East Germany was sealed off from other parts of the city. In many cases, families were now divided and would not see relatives for decades until the Wall finally fell in 1989. The building of the Wall was a particular blow to the new American president, John F. Kennedy, who was widely seen as having mishandled the situation. With the additional bungling of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba that failed to topple Castro, JFK was increasingly being seen by the Soviets as a push-over, which is probably why Kennedy was willing to risk nuclear war to prevent a third Soviet triumph by not allowing their missiles to be based in Cuba. The Berlin Wall did backfire in one sense, however. It came to symbolize the repressive nature of the Soviet regime that was being imposed even on their puppet states. No amount of propaganda could negate what people could see with their own eyes: valiant and desperate East Berliners risking their lives to find ways to get past the heavily fortified wall into the safety of West Berlin. Countless people lost their lives in the process but many others managed to escape. Occasionally, an East Berlin border guard would defect in plain sight. The Wall also provided a backdrop for countless Cold War novels and movies, most notably John Le Carre's classic "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold". Most famously, the Wall allowed another American President to win some propaganda points for the West when Ronald Reagan stood atop it and demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!".
The first film to deal with the Berlin Wall crisis was "Escape From East Berlin" (aka "Tunnel 28"), an MGM production that was rushed into production to take advantage of a story that had made international headlines: the escape of 28 people who dug a tunnel directly underneath the Wall. The effort was led by a daring young man whose effort resulted in freedom for his family and friends. Although this clearly is an exploitation movie in one sense, we should not diminish its considerable merits. The film is tightly scripted and, considering its limited budget, highly engaging and suspenseful, thanks in no small part to the admirable direction of Robert Siodmak, who had brought to the screen two suspense classics: the original versions of "The Killers" and "The Spiral Staircase". Shot in B&W in West Berlin, the only "big budget" aspect to the production was the construction of a section of the Wall that plays such a pivotal role in the story.
Erika and Kurt pose as lovers to deceive border guards who are hunting for her.
The movie opens with a harrowing scene of a young man who tries to drive a truck through a barrier at the Wall in a desperate attempt to get to West Berlin. His effort almost succeeds but he dies in a hail of bullets. The next day, his concerned sister Erika (Christina Kaufmann) searches for him near the Wall. She assumes his quest has been successful and begins an attempt to cross over. She is stopped by Kurt (Don Murray), a young man who lives with his mother, younger brother and uncle in the shadow of the Wall itself. Kurt, who worked with Erika's brother, tries to inform her that he has been killed but he cannot bring himself to do so. She is deluded by the notion that he has escaped and is determined to join him. Meanwhile, border guards are relentlessly searching for Erika because of her attempt to get into West Berlin. She is now confined to hiding in Kurt's home indefinitely, with the family living in fear that the next house check might result in them all being arrested. Kurt's family is also routinely visited by a young mother with a baby who relentlessly tries to convince the family to attempt to escape. Her motive is understandable: when the Wall went up, she was isolated from her husband, who is in West Berlin. Reluctantly, Kurt agrees to begin an escape attempt by tunneling underneath the wall, which is only a few dozen yards from the family basement. In doing so, the family must cope with the logistical problem of finding supplies as well as storing the immense amount of dirt from the digging operation. Additionally, there is the constant presence of border guards outside their window, snooping neighbors who might inform and the unexpected arrival of another man, Brunner (Werner Klemperer) who claims to be a participant in the dig but who may have other motives. The film does manage to present how an authoritarian regime can affect even the most mundane of daily activities, as people must consider the consequences of everything they do and say.
"Escape From East Berlin" is a consistently suspenseful tale that is extremely well-acted, with Murray particularly good in the kind of role that somehow eluded Horst Bucholz, who seemed to have a lock on every part that required a handsome young German back in the day. Murray even provides a convincing accent. Christine Kaufmann is largely wasted, however, in a part that is pure window dressing. Fortunately, the screenplay doesn't saddle her character with having the anticipated romance with Kurt, although they do pose as lovers to escape the scrutiny of border guards. Even the smallest roles are expertly filled with Werner Klemperer as impressive as always as the mystery man. The film builds to a nail-biting conclusion as the plot is revealed by an informer and there is a race against time to get across the border as authorities break into Kurt's family home.
The Warner Archive release boasts a fine transfer and an original trailer that is played for pure sensationalism. Highly recommended.
It's rare that a feature included as a bonus in a Blu-ray release of a classic movie would rate having us provide a separate review. However, director Richard Shepard's acclaimed documentary "I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazle" merits exceptional treatment. The 2009 movie gained considerable praise when first released but suffered the fate of most documentaries in that it was not widely seen outside of the art house circuit and a DVD release the following year. Fortunately, Warner Home Video had the good instincts to include it in their 40th anniversary Blu-ray release of "Dog Day Afternoon" (click here for review) , a film in which Cazale stole the show despite sharing the screen with some of the most talented actors on the planet. The documentary packs a great deal into it's all-too-brief 40 minute running time and sheds much light on the career of Cazale, perhaps the least-heralded main cast member of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II". The "Godfather" saga saw the resurrection of Marlon Brando's career and made top stars of Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton. Not so with Cazale, who in many ways played the most interesting character in the story lines. As Fredo, the much-beloved underachiever of the Corleone crime family, Cazale gave performances for the ages. This is especially true in "The Godfather Part II", my personal choice for the best American movie of the sound era. It was here that the brilliant screenplay gave the character - and Cazale- the opportunity to dominate key scenes. The results need not be described here if you are a classic movie lover. Yet, Cazale never achieved fame except among film historians and trivia experts. His chameleon-like qualities enabled him to bring remarkable characters and performances to the screen but also resulted in his remaining anonymous to the public. In many cases, movie- goers failed to realize that the edgy and dumb bank robber of "Dog Day Afternoon" was the same actor who had played Fredo. To prove the point, director Richard Shepard stops people on the street and shows them a photo of cast members from "The Godfather": Brando, Pacino, Caan and Cazale. No one can identify Cazale's real name, although most realize he was the actor who portrayed Fredo. (One person assertively insists that "Fredo" was not only the name of the character but the actor who portrayed him, which for a method actor like Cazale might be considered a compliment.)
Shepard became fascinated by Cazale after seeing him in a reissue of "The Godfather". Despite all the enormously talented actors on screen, it was Cazale's non-glam, hangdog look that resonated with him. After becoming a successful director in his own right, Shepard was disturbed that, while the characters he portrayed were still very much a part of pop culture, Cazale's name had virtually vanished from the landscape. Determined to put him back in the spotlight, he and his producing partner Stacey Reiss decided to film a feature length documentary about Cazale- a man who only made five movies, each of which either won or was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: "The Conversation", the first two "Godfather" films, "Dog Day Afternoon" and "The Deer Hunter". Cazale died in March, 1978 at age 42, having barely been able to complete the latter film due to his battle with lung cancer. Like most great actors who died young, Cazale's image is frozen in time. Unlike most of those who shared his fate, however, his name never became legendary. In his audio commentary for "I Knew It Was You" (a pivotal line of dialogue from "The Godfather Part II" spoken by Michael Corleone to Fredo in regards to his ultimate betrayal of Corleone family loyalty), Shepard relates the almost insurmountable challenge of finding financing for the documentary. Everyone thought it was a great idea but, in true Hollywood fashion, no one was willing to put up any money. Ultimately, producer/director Brett Ratner backed the project and succeeded in getting funding from HBO. The only downside was that HBO insisted on limiting the running time to 40 minutes, thus dashing Shepard's original plan to make a feature length film. Nonetheless, he was grateful to the network for financing the project at all and he set to work lining up possible interviews with those who knew or admired Cazale. He succeeded admirably. The documentary boasts an impressive line-up of talent who pay tribute to Cazale and acknowledge his influence. Chief among them is Al Pacino, who knew Cazale during their days as struggling actors in New York City. They both would run into each other occasionally and went on to work in several plays together before being reunited for "The Godfather" and "Dog Day Afternoon". Pacino's affection for Cazale is such that he admits he idolized him. He and others express the belief that Cazale was one of the most intelligent- if eccentric- people they ever knew. Cazale's appeal was that he was no matinee idol. He looked like the guy next door (assuming you lived in a blue collar area of the Bronx or New Jersey.) Others who extol his value as an actor and human being are Richard Dreyfuss, producer Fred Roos, Olympia Dukakis, Sam Rockwell, Francis Ford Coppola (who directed Cazale in three of his five films), Carol Kane, Steve Buscemi, John Savage and playwright Israel Horowitz, who worked with Cazale on ten plays in the 1960s. Shepard even managed to get interviews with such press-shy titans as Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, who discusses her intense love affair with Cazale on camera for the first time. There are also moving comments from Cazale's brother Steve, who relates a sobering story about how he found out that his brother was suffering from lung cancer. There also interviews with two other show business legends who themselves have now left us: Sidney Lumet and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The entire film is filled with sincere, sentimental tales about Cazale that are both touching and humorous.
The "Dog Day Afternoon" edition of "I Knew It Was You" features some excellent extras pertaining to the documentary. Richard Shepard's audio commentary is truly fascinating, as he relates the trials and tribulations of bringing the project to the screen and how he had to shame the rights holders to Cazale's movies into allowing him to use extensive film clips for virtually no fees. There are also extensive outtakes of the interviews with Al Pacino and Israel Horowitz that contain some of the most interesting revelations and stories. A pity they couldn't have been included in the final cut of the movie itself. In one sequence, Pacino is overcome with emotion discussing his friendship with Cazale and comes close to breaking down. He also expresses frustration that Cazale was never even nominated for an Oscar. Horowitz ends his segment in a most unforgettable fashion by reading verbatim the beautiful eulogy he wrote in praise of Cazale for The Village Voice. The extras also contain two short early career films that Cazale was involved with. "The American Way" is a zany, Monty Python-like comedy made in 1962 in which Cazale is seen as an inept anarchist. Cazale doesn't appear at all in the 1969 film "The Box", but served as the credited cinematographer. The comedy involves a guy who finds that his new television set seems to be possessed and determined to drive him insane through playing practical jokes on him.
The fact that "Dog Day Afternoon" is itself a classic of American cinema is reason enough to add this anniversary Blu-ray edition to your library. However, the addition of "I Knew It Was You" would merit the purchase alone.
one night after the world had enjoyed the astronomical spectacle of a real
Blood Moon, Cinema Retro were invited to attend the cast and crew screening of
a new British-made western about the mythical Skinwalkers, native Americans
with the power to shape-shift during this rare lunar activity. A stagecoach
full of passengers, a mysterious gunslinger and two outlaw brothers find
themselves trapped in a ghost town and under attack from an eight feet tall
werewolf. The screening, held at the glorious Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel,
was packed out and everyone was having a great time. It was, of course, the
first time this writer has seen an entire audience stay in their seats until
the end of the credits.
Blood Moon is set in Colorado, but was
actually shot in the "real" western town of Laredo, built by western
enthusiasts in a field in Kent, England, and has the muddy, lived-in look of
spaghetti-westerns like Django (1966). This is the director Jeremy
Wooding's third feature film, and he has years of experience in television
comedy and drama. The screenplay was written by Alan Wightman, who we've been told is a regular Cinema Retro reader, which explains his affection for classic film genres. His affection for Hammer horror and
westerns is very clear, with the lead character Calhoun, played brilliantly by
Shaun Dooley, coming across as a hybrid of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name
and Horst Janson's Captain Kronos.
film has now been released on DVD and digital download by Studio Canal, and is
available in the United States and the UK with loads of extra features. Blood
Moon is a loud and joyous celebration of the western genre, and one can
only hope that we get to see the further adventures of Calhoun as he heads west
in search of demons, vampires and other beasts to vanquish.
For those of us who lived through the era when AIDS first reared its head with devastating impact on the world, it's hard to believe that 30 years has transpired since Rock Hudson became the first celebrity casualty of the disease. In those days, ignorance about AIDS brought about panic and prejudices. Hudson, however, was a beloved and iconic screen legend and his death went a long way to humanizing victims of AIDS. If this beloved idol of millions could fall victim to this scourge, then perhaps it wasn't just people thought to engage in deviant lifestyles and behaviors. Rock Hudson never wanted to be the face of the Gay Rights Movement. He became a star during an era in which even the hint of being homosexual would have been the death knell on his career. However, one would like to think that his untimely death at age 59 resulted in progress toward a more compassionate view regarding AIDS and HIV victims. For more on Hudson's death click here.
Jerry Lewis and Martin Scorsese collaborated on the classic film "The King of Comedy". Now Scorsese will moderate an evening with Lewis at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens on Tuesday, October 6. Here is the official description:
With Martin Scorsese and Jerry
Lewis in person Co-presented with the Comedy Hall of Fame
A true Renaissance man, well recognized as one of the greatest comedians
in the history of the field, Jerry Lewis helped define so much of comedy’s
vast language as a stand-up performer, actor, producer and writer. Perhaps
his greatest innovation was as a filmmaker. Taken together, movies such asThe Bellboy, The Ladies Man, The
Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, The Patsy,and The Family Jewels form a breathtaking virtual dictionary of every aspect of what is
important and essential to the language of comedic film. His films would
help forge the cradle of modern comedies as a separate movement in film, and
his seminal book,The
Total Film-maker(culled from almost 500 hours
of lectures) offers an essential primer for the fledging comedic filmmaker.
This unforgettable evening will be moderated by Martin Scorsese and will
include clips from Jerry Lewis's films.
The name may not resonate with
the same sort of pop culture familiarity as Shaft (1971) or Super Fly
(1972), but Slaughter (1972)looms large as a striking film
in the annals of Blaxploitation cinema. As his theme song proclaims (yes, he
too has a theme song, courtesy of Billy Preston), Slaughter is "big, bad,
black and bold," every bit as much as the protagonists of these more iconic
titles, perhaps even more so. If Slaughter embodies the no-nonsense toughness
seen in characters like Shaft, Priest from SuperFly, Goldie from
TheMack (1973), and Tommy Gibbs from BlackCaesar
(1973), as well as their canny suavity and bravado, his next closest filmic kin
might be Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite
(1975). With this outlandish character, Slaughter shares a penchant for
exaggerated movements and posturing, and as such, he is as unsubtle as
Dolemite, though he and the film in general are far more serious. Or, at least
it takes itself more serious.
Available now on a bare-bones
Blu-ray from Olive Films, Slaughter was released in 1972 by American
International Pictures and was produced by the legendarily eclectic Samuel Z.
Arkoff, who in the months immediately to follow would continue in the
Blaxploitation vein, with Blacula (1972), Coffy (1973), Hell
Up in Harlem (1973), and the Slaughter sequel, Slaughter's Big
Rip-Off (1973). Penning the script was Mark Hanna, the scribe behind 1957's
The Amazing Colossal Man and 1958's Attack
of the 50 Foot Woman, along with Don Williams, whose sole credits include
this film, its sequel, and Blood, Black and White (1973), all three of
which he had a hand in producing. Slaughter was also the fifth feature
film directed by Jack Starrett, who would compile quite the roster of titles as
director and actor, in both film and television. But the star of the show, of
course, is Jim Brown, the great NFL fullback (Cleveland Browns, 1957-1965), in this,
his twelfth film role, just a year after his induction into the Pro Football
Hall of Fame.
As the film gets started,
former Green Beret Captain Slaughter seeks to uncover the mystery of who
ordered a recent hit on his father. Given that the senior Slaughter had
questionable underworld connections, the investigation inevitably leads to some
unsavory associations and the suggestion that his fate was, in a sense,
unavoidable. When Slaughter seeks information from family friend and apparently
shady acquaintance Jenny (Marion Brash), before she is likewise violently
dispatched, she barely consuls him with, "It comes with the
business." Slaughter then takes matters into his own hands, hunting down
the probable mastermind, crashing a stolen car into the villain's taxiing
plane, and coming out of the wreckage guns blazing. The attack is only partly
successful, though, and the hitman, Dominic Hoffo (Rip Torn), manages to
escape. What is more, Treasury Department officials who were also after the
same man call Slaughter for interference. Since he interrupted their operation,
Slaughter is recruited to assist the feds in order to avoid prison time. He
agrees, and it's off to South America.
There he wastes no time landing
smack in the middle of a preexisting power struggle between the bizarrely
captivating Mario Felice (Norman Alfe—his lone acting credit), who reigns
supreme in the regional drug enterprise, and up-and-coming underling Dominic,
who has resentfully had enough of playing second fiddle. First, the two men
enlist arm-candy Ann (Stella Stevens) to sway the meddlesome stranger, but
Slaughter promptly beds the beauty, compounding the animosity and stealing the
girl for good. More drastic measures thus become necessary.
Warner Home Video has a nasty Halloween treat for all: the release of the Horror Classics Vol. 1 boxed Blu-ray set. The titles are smartly bound in a hardcover book format, complete with some cool graphics. Each of the films contains the original theatrical trailer as well. Here is the official press release:
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will scare the heck out
of fans when Taste the Blood of Dracula; Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed; and The Mummy are released October 6 in the new
Blu-ray Horror Classics Vol. 1 Collection, just in time for Halloween
celebrations. All films in the collection are newly re-mastered in 1080p HD and
packaged in elegant rigid pocketbook style ($54.96 SRP).
The quartet of classic horror films, featuring cinema
monsters Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, represent classic examples from
Hammer Film Productions. Founded in 1934, the British company became best known
for a series of gothic horror films and a leader among English filmmakers that
dominated the international horror film market from the mid-1950s through the
ABOUT THE FILMS
THE MUMMY (1959) In this vivid Technicolor®
reincarnation of The Mummy, screen horror icon Christopher Lee wraps on the
moldy gauze bandages and emerges as the tormented Kharis, an avenger stalking
the hills and bogs of Victorian England to track down archaeologist John
Banning (Peter Cushing) and other desecrators of his beloved Princess Ananka’s
Egyptian tomb. “Lee looks tremendous, smashing his way through doorways and
erupting from green, dreamlike quagmires in really awe-inspiring fashion”
(David Pirie, Time Out Film Guide). Awe-inspiring, too, was the box-office
success of this third Hammer reinvigoration – after The Curse of Frankenstein
and Horror of Dracula – of a classic screen monster.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) In his third
incarnation as Bram Stoker’s infamous vampire, horror great and 55-year movie
veteran Christopher Lee goes fang to cross with the forces of good in this
atmospheric Hammer Studios film directed with stylish menace by two-time
Academy Award ® -winning cinematographer Freddie Francis.
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED! (1969) Baron
Frankenstein’s (Peter Cushing) experiment went wrong, dead wrong. Thus, another
victim lies in a makeshift grave. Suddenly, a water main bursts, forcing the
dead man’s arm to the surface. Next, the torrent heaves the body upward.
Frankenstein’s panicked accomplice tries to conceal the body… but corpses can
be so unwieldy. This creepy scene is a
highlight of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, horror great Peter Cushing’s fifth
Hammer Studios Frankenstein saga. Other cast members of note include
film-debuting Simon Ward (Young Winston) and Freddie Jones (The Elephant Man)
as the scientist’s pitiable new creation.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)Taste the Blood of Dracula, the fourth film
in Hammer Studios’ cycle of’ hemogobbling’ Victorianera horror, is a showcase
of why Hammer became the name in Gothic terror. The solid cast and rich
production design raise goosebumps of real-life fear and otherworld dread. And
Christopher Lee dons his red-lined cape again to become Evil Incarnate. He’s
Count Dracula, a being neither dead nor alive...but his movies are livelier
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
"Film historian Bruce Crawford has announced the film to be
presented at his 37th Tribute to Classic Films will be the science fiction
masterpiece, "Forbidden Planet”.
The film will be screened on Friday, October 23th. 2015 at the beautiful
Joslyn Art Museum 2200 Dodge St. Omaha, Nebraska.
Often considered one of the greatest science fiction films of
all time, it inspired several films and television series such as Star Trek.
“Forbidden Planet” stars Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis. But the
character that became one of the most successful in the film was Robby the
Robot who is still today one of the most recognizable robot creations in film
history. The evening's special guest
will be actor, author and producer Robert Dix who portrayed crewman Grey in the
film. Dix is also the son of legendary silent era star Richard Dix. Also, as with other Classic Film Tributes,
artist Nicolosi will design a commemorative United States Postal Envelope
honoring the film. The artwork will be
unveiled prior to the screening.
Tickets for the event, which will begin at 7:00 p.m., are
$24.00 and can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area
HyVee food stores. Tickets go on sale on
Wednesday, September 30th. 2015. Proceeds will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association. For more information call (402) 932-7200 or
What would happen if Travis Bickle’s cringe-inducing
date from “Taxi Driver” was stretched out over an entire weekend in the North
of Italy? Thanks to “The Visitor” (“La Visita”, 1963), we have our answer.
Pina (Sandra Milo) is an independent businesswoman
living in rural Italy. But she’s unwed and approaching 40-years-old, and
longing for a change in her life. She places a personal ad in the newspaper
(readers under 40: think Match.com, but with ink, paper and more desperation)
stating her desire to find a man and marry. Of the potential suitors who reply,
Adolfo di Palma (François Périer), an older bookseller in
Rome, seems the most promising. The story begins as he arrives in northern
Italy to meet Pina in person.
Many have witnessed those godawful first dates in which
every subtle hint goes unread and signs are horribly misinterpreted. Adolfo, it
is safe to say, is the undisputed champion of these first-date nightmares. After
the train he arrives on pulls safely out of the station, the real train wreck
unfolds slowly. Adolfo drinks too much grappa, allows his eyes to wander to a
16-year-old neighbor, loudly proclaims how much he detests Pina’s surroundings
and is a cheap date in every sense of the word.
As Pina grasps at straws to salvage the budding
relationship, Adolfo clumsily grasps at just about everything else. Credit
director Antonio Petrangeli with turning what could be nothing short of a
cringefest into a compelling film that is at once funny and pathetic,
mysterious and revealing. The possible couple are not stock characters who are
aging and lonely, searching for love against all odds. We see their regrets and
secrets in flashbacks and a surprise confrontation toward the end. And it’s in
the final act that the film hits its stride, as Adolfo and Pina finally say
what they’ve been politely skirting around throughout the visit.
tale of regret and redemption is filled with surprising amounts of both heart
and laughs, making it a compelling watch from the early exposition to the
The film has been released on DVD from the Raro Video label and is presented as a special edition with a wealth of extras including an interview with director Ettore Scola, who discusses Pietrangeli's work; an interview with Piertrangeli's son Paolo (who is a director, too) and an interview with the film's composer Armando Trovajoli. There is also a 16 page illustrated booklet that provides analysis of the film as well as vintage interview comments from the director. In all, an impressive package for a worthy film.
The Warner Archive has re-issued a special DVD edition of director Philip Kaufman's The White Dawn as a burn-to-order title. The previous version had been released by Paramount Home Video in 2004 to commemorate the film's 30th anniversary. Fortunately, this reissue carries over the special bonus features from that release. The movie was not well received by either critics or the public at the time of its initial release and vanished rather quickly. Although the production boasts three well-respected actors in the lead roles, none of them were considered "box office" and Kaufman himself had only one modestly received movie to his credit (The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid). It is appropriate that The White Dawn has been re-examined in recent years. This isn't some undervalued classic, but it is an interesting film with many merits. The story is based on a novel by James Houston that, in turn, was inspired by true events. The film opens in 1896 with the three leading men seen as crew members of a whaling ship that is trolling the ice-packed waters off of remote Baffin Island in Canada, just below the Arctic Circle. They manage to harpoon a whale from their long boat but in their relentless pursuit of the creature, they end up being shipwrecked on an ice flow and given up for dead by their fellow crew members. They are saved from certain death by Inuit (Eskimo) people who take them to their village and nurse them back to health. With no immediate hope of returning to their own world, the three men- Billy (Warren Oates), Daggett (Timothy Bottoms) and Portagee (Lou Gossett)- acclimate themselves as best they can in the igloo village they must now call home. The transition is not an easy one. The language barrier presents the most obvious obstacle but there is also the harsh landscape that requires a constant battle to survive. The people are perpetually threatened by severe weather, dangerous polar bears and starvation. They lead a nomadic lifestyle, having to relocate every time the food supply becomes meager. Despite these obstacles, over the course of a one year period, the three men adjust to life among the Inuit, who treat them warmly and respectfully. Before long, they are accepted as "family" by their saviors, who are amused by the cultural differences the men bring to the village. The Inuit elders follow tradition and willingly share their wives as sex partners for the men. To Kaufman's credit, these scenes are handled with a playful innocence and are never distasteful. With sex just about the only enjoyable past time in this frozen wasteland, the Inuit regard it with a laissez faire attitude- much to the delight of their "guests". Although Daggett and Portagee are respectful of their hosts and acclimate themselves to the environment, Billy is a hot-tempered, self-centered man who mocks the Inuit behind their backs and regards them as savages. Eager to make a mad gamble to find another whaling ship that will rescue them, he manages to exert influence over his two companions and thus sets in motion a series of events that leads to the film's tragic conclusion. Billy's attempts to con his hosts at games of chance in order to make claim to their women is the first indication that the situation is going awry. The Inuit prove not to be the gullible, childlike people Billy thinks they are. They are quite aware of attempts to manipulate them. Billy also orchestrates the trio's ill-fated attempt to steal precious food and a boat in order to flee to "civilization". The men fail spectacularly and are faced with the humiliation of having to be rescued once again by the very people whose trust they have abused. However, it is the introduction of Billy's home-made liquor to these innocent people that ultimately leads to the final tragedy.
It's unclear to what degree the incidents portrayed on film reflect what happened in real life. The history has been passed down among the Inuit, so one must assume there has been some alteration or embellishment of the facts, as will inevitably happen over time with any oral history. What impresses most about the film is Michael Chapman's stark cinematography in this frozen wasteland. You literally wonder how any living creature can survive in such an environment, let alone thrive. On the DVD, Kaufman, who provides an audio commentary as well as a filmed introduction, relates the seemingly impossible obstacles that had to be overcome in order to shoot the film. Environmental factors were only part of the challenge. He also had to coach his cast of Inuit people, none of whom had probably ever seen a movie before, let alone acted. In that regard, he pulls off what may be the film's signature achievement, because these non-professional thespians turn in remarkably convincing performances. Henry Mancini provides a wonderful score (one of his personal favorites) that was inspired by an impromptu song that was created by an Inuit woman.
The problem with the film from a dramatic standpoint is that it is never as emotionally moving as it should be. We certainly cringe when we see the rescued whaler's abuse of their savior's hospitality but we never learn anything about their backgrounds and they remain superficial protagonists. With Daggett and Portagee clearly level-headed, decent men, it is never theorized why they continue to follow the bull-headed Billy's advice, even when it would seem to inevitably lead to disaster. The performances of Oates, Bottoms and Gossett- fine actors all- never rise above the level of being merely competent, primarily because, at heart, this is really the story of the Inuit people and how these "aliens" have abused their trust and generosity.
The DVD contains an excellent, restored transfer of the feature film, a brief filmed introduction by Philip Kaufman as well as his commentary track and a historical look at life among the Inuit people. Kaufman also appears in Welcoming the Dawn, an interesting featurette in which he largely focuses on the technical and logistical problems of bringing the story to the screen. He is particularly determined to stress that the slaying of a polar bear in one of the film's most harrowing sequences, did not result in injury to the animal, as incredible as that may seem after viewing the scene. Whatever you think of the end result, after hearing about these obstacles, you'll have to admire the sheer grit and determination of Kaufman and his crew for working amid some of the harshest conditions on the planet. As director, Kaufman has made a number of fine, off-beat films that don't fit easily into any one mold. The White Dawn is certainly one of them. It's a flawed film, to be sure, but one that does have elements that will haunt you long after you've seen it.
DK publishers will release "Blood, Sweat and Bond", a behind the scenes compilation of remarkable photos from the forthcoming 007 flick "SPECTRE" starring Daniel Craig. Click here to pre-order from Amazon.
The Warner Archive has released two sets of DVDs each showcasing 1970s television series starring James Stewart: "The Jimmy Stewart Show" and "Hawkins" (which was actually a series of TV movies that aired in the 1973-74 season.)
Here is the press release for "The Jimmy Stewart Show":
James Stewart made a rare sojourn into the world of
Situation Comedy on NBC at the dawn of the Seventies. His gift for comedy, on
grand cinema display since the dawn of his career, made him a congenial fit for
the familial world of episodic comedy. Stewart plays Professor James Howard, an
anthropologist struggling to make sense of the generation gap with his college
students and just plain struggling to make sense of his own family. Jim and
wife Martha are busy raising an eight-year-old, as is their
twenty-nine-year-old first born, Peter (James Daly) and his wife, Wendy (Ellen
Geer). And "Uncle Teddy" (Dennis Larson) is sure to demand "the
proper respect" from his five-day-older nephew, Jake (Kirby Furlong). It's
a good thing Jim has a Nobel Prize-winning best friend, chemistry professor Dr.
Luther Quince (John McGiver) to help make sense of the chaos, especially after
a house fire forces Peter's family to move in with Jim's!
A decade before TV saw another silver-haired,
slow-drawling Southern shyster with a knack for sleuthing out the truth, M-G-M
welcomed back two titanic talents, TV producer Norman Felton and screen legend
Jimmy Stewart, for Hawkins. Stewart played Billy Jim Hawkins in rotation with
the Shaft TV movies (Talk about Country Mouse and City Mouse!), solving crimes
alongside his cousin RJ (Strother Martin) and a bevy of sensational costars.
Bonnie Bedelia plays a troubled young woman accused of familicide, Cameron
Mitchell plays a tinseltown spouse facing murder charges, Julie Harris plays an
accused mercy killer, William Windom plays a parent with a vendetta, Lew Ayres
and James Best play folk caught up in a deadly Civil War re-enactment, James
Luisi plays a football pro caught up in foul play, Teresa Wright plays an
ex-amour of Bill Jim’s, and Paul Burke and Pernell Roberts play a senator and
aide caught up in a slaying.
Fox is celebrating the 40th anniversary release of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with special edition Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD releases. Here are the details from the official press release.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary –
the ultimate midnight movie – comes home on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD
September 22 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Featuring an
all-star cast, including: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meat
Loaf, The Rocky Horror Picture Show quickly became a pop cultural
phenomenon passed down from generation to generation. Now, after four decades,
it’s back stronger than ever with an all-new Ultimate Collector’s Edition,
featuring limited edition packaging, exclusive collectible pink surgical
gloves, fishnet stockings and a soundtrack for its army of die-hard fans!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary edition is packed
with featurettes highlighting past celebrations and midnight screenings,
deleted musical scenes, 11 outtakes, alternate endings, commentaries by Richard
O’Brien and Patricia Quinn (Magenta), photo galleries and more! Bring the
midnight screening home to share with friends and family with Rocky-oke: Sing
It! – which includes 18 show-stopping musical numbers from the hugely popular
soundtrack: “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “The Time Warp”
and more! The Blu-ray also features incredible HD featurettes, as well as a
photo gallery from Rock ‘N’ Roll’s seminal photographer Mick Rock, which dives
deeper into Rock’s experience capturing the moment on-set and behind-the-scenes
of the 1975 film. In “Mick Rock's Picture Show (A Gallery)” fans can take a
peek at more than 70 high-resolution images from his archives.
A Lou Adler/Michael White Production directed by Jim Sharman, this cinematic
classic follows sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) as
they are stuck with a flat tire during a storm and discover the eerie mansion
of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a sweet transvestite scientist. As
their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters,
including a rocking biker (Meat Loaf) and a creepy butler (Richard O'Brien).
Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest
creation: a muscular man named "Rocky."
Since its 1975 release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show quickly made
its mark as the most-beloved cult film of all time. Today, this iconic cult
classic film is the longest running theatrical release of all-time and
currently plays at weekly midnight showings in over 300 theaters across the
U.S. and even more around the world. Moreover, the film’s cultural exposure and
acclaim has extended far beyond the theatrical release, as the original “Rocky
Horror” stage show continues to delight audiences worldwide.
Blu-ray Special Features:
Includes both the U.S. and U.K. Versions of the Film
Rocky-oke: Sing It!
Commentary By Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn (Magenta)
Don’t Dream It, Be It: The Search for the
35th Anniversary Shadowcast, Part I
An-tic-i-pation: The Search for the 35th Anniversary
Shadowcast, Part II
Mick Rock (A Photographer)
Mick Rock's Picture Show (A Gallery)
A Few From The Vault
Deleted Musical Scenes
1: ”Once In A While”
2: ”Super Heroes”
Alternate B&W Opening
Alternate Credit & Misprint Ending
"Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show" (1995)
Beacon Theater, New York City (10th Anniversary)
Time Warp Music Video
The Midnight Experience
Pressbook & Poster Gallery….And More!
DVD Special Features:
Includes both the U.S. and U.K. Versions of the Film
Commentary By Richard O'Brien and Quinn (Magenta)
The Theatrical Experience
Prompter: “When do I squirt my water pistol and when do I
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from ITV:
To commemorate ITV’s diamond anniversary, independent
distributor Network will release a 12-disc boxset featuring 60 episodes from
classic TV series including The Sweeney, The Avengersand Upstairs
Downstairs, as well as previously unreleased episodes from the broadcaster. ITV60 (15)
will be released on DVD on 26 October 2015, RRP £79.99 exclusively through
networkonair.com, and is available to pre-buy** now. Terms and conditions
ITV60 will be available from selected retailers
from 23 November 2015.
A mixture of timeless classics, forgotten gems and once
thought lost shows, this set contains exceptional rarities from the Associated
Rediffusion archive: No Hiding Place, Mystery Bag,Crane and Our
Man at St. Mark’s, together with previously unreleased episodes of Crossroads, Rainbow, Tiswas, Coronation
Street, World in Action, The Bill and a classic Whicker’s
Worldaboard the Orient Express.
Since the summer of 1955, the ITV network has
entertained the nation with some of the most memorable programming ever created
for British television. This collection celebrates those six decades with an
outstanding, specially selected collection of superb dramas, hilarious comedies
and thought-provoking documentaries – some of which haven’t been seen since
their original transmission.
With each disc themed to provide an “evening’s
entertainment”, this dip into the archives provides a trip down Memory Lane as
well as a timely reminder of some of the best television of the last 60 years.
Since its launch in 1997,
Network has released over 1,000 programmes on DVD and Blu-ray
from the ITV library.
to be mistaken for the cannibal monstrosity from Umberto Lenzi with which it
shares its title, Eaten Alive is a
1976 tale of terror set in the Louisiana swamps and was directed by Tobe Hooper
in the wake of his phenomenal success with The
Texas Chain Saw Massacre two years earlier. From the outset Eaten Alive shares its predecessor's
mien of ill ease (though not to such stomach-tightening effect), but little of
its wicked humour. Indeed it's an all-round far crueller film and positively bubbles
over with bloodshed.
Mardi Rustam – who also wrote the story with colleague Alvin L Fast, TCSM's Kim Henkel then adapting it for
the screen – was aiming to ride the tidal wave of Jaws' success; what the results lacked in quality (certainly if
Rustam felt truly inspired by
Spielberg’s film) was voraciously compensated for with lashings of cheap
thrills and squalid chills.
story kicks off with a very fresh-faced Robert Englund attempting to abuse 'the
new girl' in a grimy brothel. Immediately deciding that prostitution isn't for
her, the young lass packs her bags and sets off on foot into the night. But
it's very much a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ when she
stumbles across the remote Starlight Hotel and its creepy proprietor Judd
(Neville Brand); after attempting to assault her, he prongs her to death on the
tines of a pitchfork and feeds her corpse to the huge crocodile he keeps in an
enclosure in the back yard. It’s a brutal and extremely graphic sequence but
one via which Hooper adeptly alerts the audience that he's upped the ante to
deliver something rather more visceral then he did with TCSM (which for all its notoriety is a largely bloodless affair,
functioning primarily on a psychological level). The rest of the movie’s
runtime pivots on Judd serving up hotel guests as crocodile chow for no
discernible reason beyond the fact he's mad as...well, as a box of baby crocs.
the unbridled success of Hooper's earlier film, it's no surprise that Eaten Alive is often given short shrift
and indeed it is inferior, mainly due
to sluggish pacing and the fact it was shot in its entirety on a soundstage;
although the hotel exteriors –wreathed in swirling mist and bathed in a
quease-inducing red glow – have an appealingly stylised look, it's also
painfully obvious one is looking at a studio-bound set, replete with the tell-tale
hollow sound resulting when interiors feebly posture as exteriors. However, if you
can look past this handicap, and claustrophobic dread coupled with sleaze by
the bucketful float your boat, then there's plenty on offer here to keep you
cast alone is worth tuning in for. Complementing Brand's frenetic turn as the
maniac hotel manager there are fun appearances from legends Mel Ferrer (whose
career had certainly seen better days) and Addams
Family icon Carolyn Jones (almost unrecognisable as the decrepit Madam of a
brothel). Also on hand are Stuart Whitman as a local sheriff oblivious to the
carnage being perpetrated on his patch and TCSM's leading lady Marilyn Burns, who fortuitously discards her
frightful wig early on but still ends up bound and gagged by our resident psychopath...
the poor girl didn't have a lot of luck in Hooper's films, did she? There's
also a bizarre turn from William Finley as a disgustingly sweaty guest with a
penchant for barking like a dog, giving Brand strong competition in the most deranged
lurking under titles such as Horror Hotel,
Starlight Slaughter and Legend of the Bayou, when Eaten Alive was issued in the UK on VHS
in the early 80s under the moniker Death
Trap it immediately drew unfortunate attention that earned it a place among
the infamous 'video nasties' and it was withdrawn from circulation. Previous DVD
releases have reportedly been pretty much substandard across the board (although
I haven't seen any of them to be able to comment fairly). But one thing's for
sure: Arrow's new uncut Blu-ray/DVD combination package is anything but substandard, in fact it's absolutely
terrific, doing Robert Caramico's stylish cinematography more fitting a service
than one could have ever imagined possible.
if such a superior, uncut presentation of the film alone doesn't make this one a
worthwhile purchase, Arrow has bundled in an impressive collection of
sweeteners. There are new interviews with Tobe Hooper (who also appears in a
blink-and-you'll-miss-it introduction tagged onto the start of the movie), supporting
actress Janus Blythe and make-up artist Craig Reardon, as well as older ones
with Hooper, Robert Englund and Marilyn Burns. Mardi Rustam provides an
informative commentary and there's also a 20-something minute featurette that
delves into the life of the Texas bar owner upon who the film is loosely based,
as well as a healthy selection of trailers, radio and TV spots, plus a gallery
of poster art and lurid lobby cards. A final gem appears in the form of a
gallery of original 'comment cards', collected from attendees at a preview
screening of the film back in 1976, with the incentive for filling them out being
a reward for the best 'new title' suggestion. Most of the remarks are pretty
uncharitable, with an amusing standout being the one on which the viewer
sarcastically requests to be informed of any subsequent title change so that
he/she doesn't inadvertently go to see it again!
UPDATE: Looks like we were correct to term this story from the German magazine Bild as "too good to be true". Doris Day has denied published reports that she will come out of retirement to appear in a film directed by Clint Eastwood. Click here to read more.
File this in the "Seems Too Good To Be True" section. The Guardian reports that Clint Eastwood is trying to lure Doris Day out of retirement for a role in one of his forthcoming films. The 91 year-old screen legend retired from making feature films in 1968 and has resisted all offers to resume her career. However, she is said to be open to working with Eastwood on the project, of which nothing is known at this time. Eastwood was said to have delivered a script to her and that she made only two demands: to film her scenes in Carmel, California and to ensure that her long time charity that benefits animals will see a percentage of the profits. There have been rumors over the years regarding Day's imminent return to the screen. All have proven to be unfounded. For more click here.
I have been a fan of the Italian giallo subgenre for 30 years since my
initiation into it was precipitated by my first viewing of Creepers (1985), the severely cut version of Dario Argento’s Phenomena, my personal favorite film of
his. Subsequent viewings of films by
both Mr. Argento and his mentor, Mario Bava, as well as Lucio Fulci, Lamberto
Bava, Luigi Cozzi, and Michele Soavi solidified a love for the putrid and the
fantastic, and anyone who has seen these movies knows how delightfully
entertaining they are: off-kilter camera angles, ludicrous dialogue, and what
writer Todd French referred to as “a maddening narrative looseness” are present
in these films in a way that they are absent in other genres. There is just nothing like an Italian giallo film. With all of the mock horror films that have
been made going back to 1981’s Student
Bodies and the later, more contemporary and successful Scary Movie parodies, it was only a matter of time before someone
took on the giallo. Quite honestly I am surprised that it took as
long as it did.
Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks, who looks a lot
like Franco Nero in 1977’s Hitch-Hike
and also co-wrote and co-directed the film) is a film editor who actually cuts
movies on celluloid. Once a great editor
who worked with top-level directors, he suffered a tragic accident which cost
him four fingers and has been relegated to cutting movies with wooden
substitutes that look like they might be sound-designed by Jack Terry (John
Travolta) in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out
(1981). In fact, The Editor, which was shot in the summer of 2013, starts out much
the same way that Blow Out does, with
a movie-within-a-movie concerning a stripper who is accosted on her way home
from work (a nod to 1982’s Tenebre
when Ania Pieroni is attacked by a vagrant). There is a lot of blood as you can well imagine, and when the action
moves to the editor, we see a sad and decrepit man whose young, attractive female
assistant has the hots for him for some reason. His wife is a former actress who is beyond her prime and takes out her
frustration on him. If all of this
sounds depressing, it’s not, as the film is actually quite humorous in that
it’s a send-up of giallo films. If you are a fan of these movies to the same
extent that I am, you will recognize the obvious tips of the hat (or strokes of
the blade) to Mr. Argento’s Inferno
(1980) and Mr. Fulci’s New York Ripper
(1981). There are also myriad instances of silly dubbing (another staple of giallo), gratuitous nudity, and the
sound of the actors and actresses voices coming off as too theatrical and
forced. This is all deliberate as a
tongue-in-cheek salute to these movies that we love so much.
Now, unfortunately for Rey, someone is
killing people off all around him. Naturally he is the prime suspect, and a rookie detective (played by
Matthew Kennedy, who looks like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, who also co-wrote and co-directed
the film – do you see a pattern here?) is after him almost every second just
trying to pin the crimes on him. And
what would a giallo send-up be
without Udo Kier?
There is a conscious effort on the part
of the filmmakers to pay homage to the cinematography of this once great,
bygone era. The movie-within-the-movie
possesses a color palette that would do Luciano Tovoli and Romano Albani proud
as it harkens back to 1977’s Suspiria
and 1980’s Inferno respectively. The film is beautiful to look at in every
respect. Even the poster art is
gorgeous! It comes with a reversible
cover and I prefer the image on the inside which just screams “the 80’s”.
There are an abundance of extras in
this collection, and I appreciate the fact that Shout! Factory has done a
DVD/Blu-ray combo on this title. I
highly recommend The Editor for those
with a love for these films. The extras
Movies Used to Be Fun
(51:03) is a funny and entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Editor and reveals that most of the
people in front of the camera are also some of the people behind the
camera. Conor Sweeney, like the
aforementioned Brooks and Kennedy, contributed to the script.
(7:11) sits with Norman Orenstein and Trevor Tuminski in a comedic look at
their musical contribution to the film.
Parson Poster Video
(5:35) chronicles the agony that the poster artist endured trying to create the
film’s poster. Oh, the humanity!
Film Festival Introduction (1:57) is an annoying piece better left unviewed.
collection of several scenes cut from the film.
audio commentary with Adam Brooks, Connor Sweeney and Matt Kennedy. I would advise you to watch the film first as
this contains many spoilers. It is also
a lot of fun to listen to.
The good news is that Timeless Video is releasing multiple films in one DVD package. The bad news is that one of these releases, although featuring two highly-watchable leading men, presents two stinkers. Love and Bullets is a 1979 Charles Bronson starrer that Roger Ebert appropriately described at the time as "an assemblyline potboiler". The film initially showed promise. Originally titled Love and Bullets, Charlie, the movie had John Huston as its director. However, Huston left after "creative differences" about the concept of the story and its execution on screen. The absurdity of losing a director as esteemed as Huston might have been understandable if the resulting flick wasn't such a mess. However, one suspects that, whatever the conceptual vision Huston had for the movie may have been, it must have been superior to what ultimately emerged. Stuart Rosenberg, the competent director of Cool Hand Luke took over but was unable to create anything more than a sub-par action movie. The plot finds Bronson as a Phoenix cop who is reluctantly sent to Switzerland on an undercover assignment. The local prosecutor has been doggedly trying to convict a local mob kingpin (Rod Steiger) for years. Now it appears that his moll girlfriend (Jill Ireland) might be a viable witness in terms of spilling the beans about his operations. Thus, Steiger has stashed her abroad and is keeping her under constant watch. Bronson's job is to pretend he is also a mob guy and convince Ireland to return with him to Phoenix to testify against her lover. The movie seems to exist for one reason only: the main participants desired a paid working vacation in Switzerland. This concept is nothing new. The Rat Pack squeezed in filming Oceans Eleven almost as an afterthought while they were performing nightly in Las Vegas at the Sands casino. In the twilight of his years, John Ford famously got his stock company together for a jaunt to Hawaii and released the result as a big boxoffice hit called Donovan's Reef, which still must retain the status of being the most expensive home movie ever made.
Love and Bullets is such a lazy effort you have to believe it must have taken a great deal of effort for the cast to meander to the set every day. The film also illustrates the danger of love-struck leading men force-feeding the lady in their lives into virtually every movie they make. Clint Eastwood shoe-horned Sondra Locke into a string of his films in the 1970s and 1980s and while some of them were artistic and commercial successes, I always greeted their next team with a sense of bored inevitability. (Locke is also a prime perpetrator in the creation of the worst movie of Eastwood's career, The Gauntlet.) In this case, Ireland had been Mrs. Bronson for over a decade following her divorce from David McCallum. She was always a competent enough actress but the couple obviously envisioned themselves as a new William Powell/Myrna Loy teaming. Not quite. Bronson is on full automatic pilot, registering almost no emotion. Ireland overplays the role of bubble-headed moll to an embarrassing level, as though she is a character in a sitcom sketch. She is saddled with intentionally laughable fright wigs but the real joke comes when she decides to discard them for her natural hair style, which proves to be even less flattering. Absurdity piles upon absurdity as the film becomes one long, extended chase sequence with Bronson and Ireland squabbling like Ralph and Alice Kramden, if you can imagine The Honeymooners being pursued by assassins. Steiger is in full scenery-chewing mode and an impressive array of supporting actors (Val Avery, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva and Strother Martin) are pretty much wasted along the way. I'm generally undemanding when it comes to the pleasures of watching an unpretentious Charles Bronson action movie but Love and Bullets represents the latter period of his career where he rarely even tried to elevate his films beyond being vehicles for an easy pay check.
Russian Roulette (originally titled Kill Kosygin!) starts out promisingly enough but ultimately ends up being as unsatisfying as Love and Bullets. Produced by Elliott Kastner, an old hand at making good, populist entertainment, the production was shot entirely in Vancouver. George Segal plays a renegade cop (were there any other kind in the 1970s?) who has been suspended from the local police force for various infractions. Suddenly, he is recruited by Canadian secret intelligence to help thwart a reputed plot to assassinate Soviet Premier Kosygin, who is due to arrive in a matter of days for a high profile conference. Segal learns that he is being set up in an elaborate and confusing plot that involves traitorous KGB agents who want to kill their own premier in order to prevent him from initiating an era of detente with the West. Their plan involves kidnapping a local dissident (Val Avery), drugging him and using him as a human bomb who will be dropped on Kosygin's limousine from a helicopter! (I'm not making this up.) Along the way, Segal finds he's being set up as a dupe and is framed for murder. The entire tired affair ends in a race against time with Segal going mano-a-mano with a KGB killer on the roof of a landmark hotel that Kosygin is en route to (the only sequence that affords the slightest hint of suspense). Absurdly, Kosygin's motorcade is permitted to continue racing to the hotel despite the fact that hundreds of people are watching a running gun battle taking place on the roof. The film was directed by Lou Lombardo, who made a name for himself as an editor of great talent after supervising the cutting of The Wild Bunch. As director, he keeps the action flowing but the plot absurdities soon distract from some otherwise interesting angles and performances. The fine supporting cast includes Gordon Jackson, Denholm Elliott, Nigel Stock and Louise Fletcher, but their characters are rather boring. The film also throws in Christina Raines for sex appeal but she comes across as the dullest leading lady in memory, barely registering much emotion even when finding a dead body in her bathroom. (Although most of us would find such a development a bit disturbing, Lombardo cuts to a scene of Segal and Raines enjoying a spot of breakfast tea- while the man's body remains on the bathroom floor.) Segal is always enjoyable to watch and his wiseguy persona is in full bloom here, but the production is amateurish on all levels considering the talent involved. Maybe, as with Love and Bullets, everyone involved just wanted a paid getaway and had a desire to visit Vancouver. (It should be mentioned that director Lombardo was said to be battling drinking problems during production and that the finale of the film - the only truly effective scene- was directed by Anthony Squire, who did not receive screen credit.)
Both transfers are adequate though not overly impressive. Love and Bullets was shot in widescreen but is presented here in full screen ratio. Russian Roulette is presented in letterboxed format. There are no extras.
Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards and Chuck Connors, “The Hired Gun”
arrives via the Warner Archive Collection. The 1957 western was part of a
production deal between Calhoun and Victor Orsatti, known as Rorvic Productions,
which resulted in this, “The Domino Kid” and “Apache Territory.”
Beldon (Francis) is about to be hanged in Texas for the murder of her husband.
Judd Farrow (Connors), pretending to be a minister, helps her break out of jail
by hiding a Derringer pistol inside a Bible. They ride off to the safety of her
uncle’s ranch across the order in New Mexico. Gunslinger Gil McCord (Calhoun) is
hired by Ellen’s father in-law, Mace Belon (John Litel), to extradite Ellen and
return her to Texas so she can be hanged. He accepts the $5,000 bounty and sets
gets hired as a ranch hand and captures Ellen. On their return trip to Texas,
Ellen fills Gil in on the truth behind the murder. They are pursued by Judd and
Kell Beldon, her brother-in-law. Attacked by Indians and surviving a gunfight
with Judd and Kell, they eventually make their return to Texas. The truth behind
the murder is revealed and the movie concludes with another gunfight followed
by our hero and his gal riding off together.
was a diverse actor and minor leading man who appeared in westerns, musicals
and comedies throughout the forties and fifties including “How to Marry a
Millionaire” and “River of No Return” with Marilyn Monroe. I’ve been an Anne
Francis fan due in part as a result of repeat viewings of “Forbidden Planet”
and the TV series “Honey West.” Chuck Connors’ credentials go without saying,
but he is relegated to a supporting role.
came to this movie with no expectations and while this is not a great western,
it is an enjoyable minor entry in the genre. It feels more like an episode of a
TV series and uses a lot of second unit rear projection shots in many scenes. Released
by MGM in 1957, the black and white transfer looks very nice in this
burn-to-order release with a very short run time of just 64 minutes. The DVD
preserves the CinemaScope widescreen image and includes the theatrical release trailer.
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London will display likenesses of all six James Bond actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig this October to coincide with the opening of the new 007 film "SPECTRE". The display opens to the public on 17 October for a limited time. For more click here.
Warner Home Entertainment is commemorating the 40th anniversary of director Sidney Lumet's classic film "Dog Day Afternoon" with a special Blu-ray edition. Also included is the remarkable documentary "I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale"". Here is the official press release.
Calif., June 16, 2015 – On September 21, the actual 40th anniversary of when it was
released in theaters, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will celebrate director
Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon,
the explosive drama starring Al Pacino, with a new 40th Anniversary
Blu-ray ($24.98 SRP). This unique thriller, filled with sardonic comedy and
based on a real-life incident, earned six Academy Awardnominations1 (including
Best Picture) and won an Oscarfor Frank Pierson’s
streetwise screenplay. John Cazale, Charles Durning (Golden Globe®-nominated
for their roles) and James Broderickco-star.
Pacino and Lumet (collaborators on Serpico) reteam for the drama which
currently has a 97% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes® Score. Pacino plays mastermind Sonny
and John Cazale is his partner Sal -- two optimistic nobodies who set out to
rob a bank, and unexpectedly create a media circus and a completedisaster.
The 2-disc release includes a DVD bonus
disc of I Knew It
Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, a documentary produced by Brett Ratner
for RatPac Documentary Films, which debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
“Both touching and an informative look at the actor’s craft, director Richard
Shepard’s documentary talks to a who’s-who of Cazale’s contemporaries as well
as younger actors who revere him. Before it’s done, he’ll break your heart all
over again,” noted Variety’s Brian
Lowry. Shepard talks with Cazale’s co-stars, friends, and admirers in a tribute
to talent taken too soon.The two-disc set also includes commentary by
Sidney Lumet along with four vintage special features: two extended interviews and two short films featuring Cazale in
front of and behind thecamera.Cazale’s short six-year acting career included only four other films
besides Dog Day Afternoon – The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, The Conversation and The Deer Hunter. In 1978, just after
wrapping the latter, Cazale died tragically at age 42 and cinema was robbed of
one of its brightest talents.
Dog Day Afternoon(1975)
On a hot Brooklyn afternoon, two optimistic
nobodies set out to rob a bank. Sonny (Al Pacino) is the mastermind, Sal (John
Cazale) is the follower, and disaster is the result. Because the cops, crowds,
TV cameras and even the pizza man havearrived.
Blu-ray Disc 1 – Includes the film and
previously released specialfeatures:
by director SidneyLumet
Featurette - The Making of Dog Day
Afternoon: 4-part documentary exploring the actual events that inspired the
movie, casting, filming andaftermath
Featurette - Lumet: FilmMaker
DVD Disc 2 –
Includes John Cazale documentary and previously released specialfeatures:
Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale -Documentary
oAl Pacino – extendedinterview
oIsrael Horovitz – extendedinterview
oThe American Way (1962,
producer/director Marvin Starkman, screenwriter Bob Feinberg) – A rare, offbeat
short film tweaking American institutions and starring a young JohnCazale
oThe Box (1969, director
Marvin Starkman) – Cazale, who had an interest in photography, is featured
behind the camera as director of photography in this early shortfilm
The ninth annual Drive-in Super Monster Rama was staged
– as is traditional - on the weekend following Labor Day at the Riverside
Drive-in, Vandergrift, Pennsylvania.Inaugurated in 2007, this fiendish gathering of monster-movie insomniacs
is tailored to those who cherish the classic horror films of the 1960s and
1970s.It’s a thoughtfully programmed and
purposely retro affair; fans get to experience (or re-experience) their
favorites as they might have when the movies were new – in the witching hour setting
of an authentic neighborhood drive-in theater.
With each passing year the Monster Rama grows steadily
in attendance and flourishes in reputation.In 2013 the annual gathering spawned a mid-spring sister event, the
April Ghoul’s Drive-in Monster Rama.Co-sponsored from inception by George Reis (of the preeminent cult/horror/exploitation
film review website DVD Drive-in) and
Todd Ament, the proprietor and projectionist of the Riverside, both weekend
events feature eight full-length feature films (almost exclusively from 35mm
elements) as well as a dizzying array of vintage trailers, cartoons, shorts,
and refreshment stand advertisements.
The September event is proudly the more old-school of
the two and this year’s offerings might have been the best yet.On Friday night, September 11, with the
weather as near-perfect as one could expect for the season, there was a four-film
celebration of American International Picture’s Edgar Allan Poe-film cycle.From 1960 through 1964, director-producer
Roger Corman filmed no fewer than eight adaptations of Poe’s work, a remarkable
series of visionary and literate motion pictures that brought together such on-screen
talent as Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Ray Milland, Barbara Steele, Jack
Nicholson, Hazel Court and Basil Rathbone.Of course, it’s without argument that the uncontested big-ticket star of
the enterprise was the legendary Vincent Price.The elegant actor with the menacing but sonorous voice would feature in no
fewer than seven of the eight Poe films.
Though it’s been nearly twenty-two years since his
passing, Vincent Price remains an obvious favorite amongst Monster Rama
attendees. The films of this master of the macabre have been well represented
at the September event; Price remains the only actor to have at least one – and
often several – back catalog films screened at every gathering since launch.So it was to everyone’s delight - and no
one’s surprise - that Price would be the featured player in all four of
Friday’s films: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Masque of the Read Death (1963), Tomb of Ligeia (1964), and
The Haunted Palace (1963).
Roger Corman’s celebrated cycle of Poe adaptations are,
well… exactly that, adaptations.The films are only occasionally literal
re-creations of the original source material; mostly they’re brilliant cinematic
re-imaginings inspired by the author’s body of macabre work.As a child seeing the films for the first
time - in ten minute intervals sandwiched between drain-cleaner commercials on
the 4:30 movie - I was disappointed in them.Surely these were costume melodramas and not genuine horror films.Where were
Today, as an adult with a half-century’s accumulation
of weariness and wisdom, I’ve come to understand that Corman, in the best tradition
of Poe, identified the wellspring of terror as something internal.The short stories, novelettes, and poetry that
ebbed from the pen of this vanguard of American mystery writing is imbued with
a grotesquery that is almost always more psychological than spectral.Corman’s great directorial gift was his canny
ability to visually convey the crippling psychological inner-torment of both
victim and protagonist.
Milner as Officer Pete Malloy of the Los Angeles Police Department in the TV series "Adam-12" which ran between 1968-1975.
Actor Martin Milner passed away on September 6 at the age of 83. Milner had many TV series and feature film credits (including "Sweet Smell of Success", "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and "Valley of the Dolls"). However, he is primarily remembered for starring in two iconic television series of the 1960s: "Route 66" and "Adam-12". Novelist and Cinema Retro contributing writer John M. Whalen provides some reflections on Milner's career. Click here to read and make sure you follow the link to his 2001 interview with Milner for the Outre web site.
Apple Records has announced that the company will release a set of 27 #1 hits by the group with rare accompanying videos. Titled "Beatles +1", the set will be available on DVD and Blu-ray and contain over 200 minutes of video materials compiled from various sources. The set will be released November 1. For more click here.
Anderson’s marvelous 2012 comedy, Moonrise
Kingdom, was previously released on Blu-ray and DVD, but The Criterion
Collection has seen fit to issue an edition that blows the old one away. With
an abundance of fun, entertaining supplements and packaged ephemera—Criterion’s
disc is in keeping with the other fine releases the company has done for the
Moonrise Kingdom is the first Wes
Anderson movie I truly fell in love with. While I liked and appreciated his
earlier pictures, Moonrise is a
flawless masterpiece of style and wit—as is Anderson’s following film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. For my money,
these are two slam-bang pieces of comic brilliance.
setting is a small fictional New England island, during one summer in the Sixties.
A Boy Scout troop camps out there. Some families live on the island, others
visit for the season. Twelve-year-old Suzy (wonderfully played with a mature
sense of irony by Kara Hayward) falls for one of the scouts, Sam (Jared Gilman,
in another highly accomplished performance). They’re both intelligent, curious,
and have wicked senses of humor. They make plans to run away together, and when
they do, the adults (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are Suzy’s parents,
Edward Norton is the scoutmaster, and Bruce Willis is the chief of police on
the island) go nuts. The whole island gets involved in searching for the
precocious lovebirds, including the entire scout troop. Add in an approaching
hurricane and you’ve got a wacky romantic farce with suspense.
you’re familiar with Anderson’s work, you’ll know to expect a good degree of
quirkiness—every frame of this delightful picture oozes with eccentricity.
Oddballs abound. The overall tone is light and whimsical, and yet the handling
of the subject of young love is powerfully poignant and painfully real. How
many of you remember what it was like?—that first, young love, the infatuation
with another person at such a tender, yet blossoming, age. Anderson captures it
all with a good deal of laughs and a lot of heart.
director and his team also managed to build an entire universe around this
little island—the detail is remarkable, all the way from hand-knitted
decorations to the invented library books Suzy has stolen to read over the
summer. The sense of community the picture conveys is palpable—and it’s no
wonder, since the entire cast and crew (and, of course, others from Anderson’s
stock company pop up—Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey
Keitel) lived together for a couple of months while making the movie. As
emphasized repeatedly in the supplemental documentaries, the cast and crew
became a family.
the restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by Anderson, is the kind of
picture one would use to demonstrate the joys of Blu-ray to a novice. It is a
colorful, vibrant picture with an imaginative look and feel, thanks to the
Production Design, Art Direction, and Set Decoration by, respectively, Adam
Stockhausen, Gerald Sullivan, and Kris Moran. The new audio commentary features
Anderson, Bill Murray, Edward Norton (who literally phones it in), Jason
Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and others—and it’s all entertaining stuff.
supplements include special shorts that were used to promote the film, some of
which were previously released, such as the Bob Balaban-narrated overview of
the six library books Suzy is reading throughout the film, and Bill Murray’s
guided tour of the set. There’s a new behind-the-scenes documentary,
selected-scene storyboard “animatics,” audition footage of the child actors,
and interviews with many of the cast and crew. Edward Norton presents a
selection of short videos he shot with an iPhone, and there is a bit on
miniatures and props used in the film.
the packaging includes a few souvenir goodies—a “postcard” of the cast and a
map of fictional New Penzance Island. The enclosed booklet contains pictures of
merit badges, the library book covers and some illustrations, and an essay by
critic Geoffrey O’Brien.
back at 2012, it’s a shame that the picture’s only Oscar nomination was for its
Original Screenplay (by Anderson and Roman Coppola). It was my favorite picture
of the year, and Criterion did it proud.
For fans of Sixties retro TV, DC Comics is providing news that will have them pinching themselves. The legendary comic company has announced a major new project titled "Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E.". The two-issue adventure will be released this December and if this teaser artwork is any indication, we might see comic incarnations of Adam West, Burt Ward, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, all of whom are alive, well and working. The only icing on the cake we can hope for is if DC gets them all together for a promotional event. Meanwhile, the emphasis on U.N.C.L.E. might lend some steam to on-going grass roots efforts to get Warner Brothers to commit to a sequel to director Guy Ritchie's recent big screen reboot, which under-performed at the boxoffice but has built a loyal following of fans. For more click here.
There must be as many incarnations of toy James Bond Aston Martin DB5 cars as there are grains of sand in the Sahara Desert. For die-hard collectors, however, the world is not enough when it comes amassing 007 memorabilia so click here if you want to order (from Amazon) the Hot Wheels 1/64 scale "Goldfinger" Aston Martin DB5. It's rather small, of course, so we suggest using flea circus performers for the ejector seat.
in the north-German countryside is a POW camp for Naval officers and assorted
other servicemen. The camp kommandant claims that it is completely escape
proof, but this does not deter the camp escape committee, lead by Captain
Maddox (Jack Warner, best remembered as the titular copper in Dixon of Dock
Green). They've tried tunnelling and going over the wire, but they always get
caught, or worse luck the tunnel collapses. Thankfully the kommandant is a
reasonable man who understands their duty to try to escape, unlike the sadistic
guard Captain Schultz (Anton Diffring, an actor who escaped Nazi Germany
himself in 1939, only to be typecast as Nazi thugs for most of his forty-year
career), who would happily shoot prisoners if he could get away with it.
Ainsworth (Anthony Steel) has an ingenious idea. An accomplished artist, he
creates a papier-mâché head which can be assembled into a convincing dummy that
the men refer to as Albert. This way someone can escape whilst the prisoners
are being escorted outside the camp to the shower block, and when a headcount
is taken, the German guards will not notice that anyone is missing. This is a
plan so daring, and frankly quite bonkers, that it can only be based on a true
story, which it is. Albert was built by John Worsley in the camp Marlag O, and
it was used twice to allow men to escape. It is an amazing story and Albert
R.N. belongs alongside other true POW escape films like The Colditz
Story (1955) or The Great Escape (1963).
film was directed by Lewis Gilbert, who was responsible for an incredible
forty-one films between 1944 and 2002. In 1953 alone he was working on Johnny
on the Run (for the Children's Film Foundation), Albert R.N. and The
Sea Shall Not Have Them, which may explain why this particular film does
not get mentioned in his recent autobiography "All My Flashbacks: Sixty
Years a Film Director". There were just too many films to cover. Gilbert
is one of the most prolific yet largely-ignored British film directors, with
most perhaps mainly remembering his 1966 hit Alfie and contributions to the James Bond canon; You Only Live
Twice (1966), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker
Albert R.N. has recently been
restored for this new DVD release from Renown Pictures. It both looks and
sounds superb. Sadly there are no other extras included. A commentary track
from Lewis Gilbert would have been fantastic, or failing that a historian who
can give details of the actual true story would have given the package some
more weight. Despite this Albert R.N. comes highly recommended. The kind
of black-and-white movie which you used to find on TV on a rainy afternoon, its
depictions of wartime heroism, sacrifice, honour and above all, the stiff upper
lip, will make you proud to be British.
The Mahoning Drive-in Theatre in Leighton, Pennsylvania will present a triple feature tribute to the late Sir Christopher Lee. Best of all, the films being presented are rarely shown on the big screen: "Horror Express" (with Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas), Mario Bava's "Hercules in the Haunted World" and "Psycho Circus" (aka "Circus of Fear"). For web site, click here.
When the “hardware widow” (Allyn Ann McClerie) asks
Monte Walsh (Lee Marvin) if he’d gotten used to the idea of his long-time
partner Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) and her being married, Monte says: “I never
had so many things to get used to in my whole life, as now.” That line of
dialogue in the middle of William Fraker’s “Monte Walsh” (1970) pretty much
sums up this first and best film adaptation of Jack Schaeffer’s novel about the
end of the Old West in general and the cowboy life in particular. It’s a true classic and even though it
features two of the toughest tough guy actors of the sixties and seventies,
it’s not a melodramatic shoot-em-up, full of violence, sound and fury. Rather it’s
an elegiac portrait of the way it must have really happened, presented in a style
as realistic as the Frederick Remington paintings shown under the opening
At the start of the story, Monte and Chet are two
cowboys riding back to Harmony, Montana, and the ranch where they work, only to
find that everything is gone. The winter was so severe the local ranchers gave
up and sold out to Consolidated Cattle, an Eastern syndicate “run by accountants,”
according to foreman Cal Brennan (Jim Davis). Brennan is managing the only
spread left by Consolidated and offers them jobs. The film’s first act
introduces the basic situation and most of the main characters which include
Shorty (Mitchell Ryan), a bronc buster full of mischief and braggadocio, and
Martine (Jeanne Moreau), a prostitute who Monte calls The Countess because of
her French accent and is in love with in his own way. There’s a bunkhouse full
of familiar actors you’ve seen before, including Bo Hopkins, Michael Conrad,
and J.D. Spradlin.
Once the mise en
scene is established, screen writers Lucas Heller and David Zelag Goodman
prepare us for the trouble lying ahead by introducing the character of Fightin’
Joe Hooker (John McLiam), an old, deranged Civil War veteran who rides fence
and keeps muttering, “I had a good life.” Chet and Monte remark to themselves that it appears Fightin’ Joe’s life
is about over. Riding fence is the lowest job a cowboy can have. Soon after,
when all the hands are out on the prairie, gathered around the chuck wagon,
they see Fightin’ Joe on his horse whooping and galloping in a suicide charge straight
off a cliff.
When they return to the ranch Brennan informs them that
Consolidated has ordered four layoffs and Shorty is one of those given his
walking papers. Monte gives him some money, knowing there just aren’t any
cowboy jobs available anymore. Chet meanwhile has had his eye on the widow who
owns the hardware store. In one scene, he asks Monte if he remembered how many
cowboys there were when they first got there. “There’s a hell of a lot fewer
now,” he says without waiting for an answer. He tells Monte he’s going to marry
the “hardware widow.” Too make matters worse for Monte, Martine is moving to a
town 40 miles away. There aren’t enough men left in Harmony for her to make a
After Chet’s wedding, Monte rides to see Martine and proposes
marriage. Only trouble is neither one had any money. He says he’ll come back
after he finds a job. Back in Harmony that night he walks down the dirt street
of the sleeping town and the bleak look on his face shows he’s finally aware of
how bad his situation has become. He discovers the grey bronc that Shorty had
never been able to break penned up in a corral belonging to the owner of a Wild
West show. Monte saddles up and rides the bronc, destroying half the buildings
in town in the process. The scene conveys Monte’s sense of growing frustration
as civilization has been taking away all the things and people he knew. The
destruction of the buildings may be only coincidental to Monte doing what he
does best perhaps for the last time, but it’s also meant to show a displaced
cowboy wreaking some revenge on the progress that is making him obsolete. The
Wild West Show operator offers him a job playing a fictitious outlaw. Monte
needs the money but he thinks about it and turns it down, saying. “I’m not
going to spit on my whole life.”
There have been many films about the ending of The Old
West. Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Pat Garrett
and Billy the Kid” and “The Ballad of Cable Hogue” immediately come to mind, as does Tom Gries’s
“Will Penny,” with Charlton Heston. These are great films, but “Monte Walsh” is
more like “Will Penny” and “Cable Hogue” in the sense that Peckinpah’s action films
have plots revolving around violence and revenge, while “Monte Walsh” has very
little, if any, plot. There are shootings and fist fights, but are shown merely
as part of the everyday life of a cowboy. Instead of the heavy blood-letting found
in the “The Wild Bunch” most of the action in “Monte Walsh” is rather
good-natured and usually ends in laughter and a drink. These scenes are made
all the more poignant as we watch the impersonal and far more lethal forces moving
into the west, slowly killing the kind of life these people knew.
The times soon become so desperate economically the
characters are forced to change. Lack of employment and the possibility that
there will soon be no place for them, drives them to desperate acts. The
gradual erosion of the situation the cowboys and Monte’s lover face is
portrayed so subtly and realistically that it comes almost as a surprise when
things do suddenly take a violent turn.
“Monte Walsh” was remade in 2002 with Tom Selleck. Unlike
that version, the original film does not present the Eastern syndicate and the
railroad as evil villains. Fraker and his writers instead merely show the
inevitability of progress and how civilization’s forward expansion necessarily
makes some things and people extinct. It’s unfortunate but it’s just the way
Not enough can be said about the understated,
thoughtful performances by the three leads. Marvin reveals a sensitivity that
only a truly tough man can risk showing. His quiet, low key portrayal and his
gradual understanding of what is happening around him slowly builds to a truly
sad and tragic scene near the end of the film. Palance again reminded us of
what a great actor he was in the days when he played Mountain Rivera in Rod
Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” on Playhouse 90. And Jeanne Moreau moves
us deeply as she accepts Monte’s proposal, and later, when he can’t find a job,
tells him “It’s okay.” She wasn’t expecting a wedding right away, knowing in
all likelihood there never would be one.
“Monte Walsh” was Fraker’s first directorial effort. He
is better known as a cinematographer who worked on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s
Nest” and “The Professionals,” also with Lee Marvin. His only other notable
directing job was “The Legend of the Lone Ranger.” On “Monte Walsh” he turned
the lensing over to David M. Walsh who captured some nice images of the area
around Tucson, subbing for Montana.
The music score was by John Barry with a tune “Good
Times Are Coming” sung by Mama Cass. Barry’s score has been highly praised, but
I found it too reminiscent of some of the Bond films he’d done, and for that
reason somewhat distracting. The Mama Cass vocal was another discordant
element, definitely a product of the time the film was made—the peace and love
music of the
Seventies “Flower Power” generation. However, the
ironic tone of the lyrics perfectly fit the movie’s theme.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray give us “Monte Walsh” in full
2.41:1 aspect ratio, as it
was filmed. Earlier VHS versions cropped the film to 1.85:1 . Color and picture are excellent. Sound is monaural and a
bit bright, making Barry’s score shrill at times. However the dialog is clear,
with the music never overpowering the actors’ words. Unfortunately there are no
extras on this Blu-ray other than the original theatrical trailer.
“Monte Walsh,” especially on this Kino Lorber disc is
highly recommended to all lovers of the western and to those who enjoy films that
try to attain the status of a work of art simply by telling the truth.
(John M. Whalen is the author of "Hunting Monsters is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories" . Click here to order the book from Amazon)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
years of Tremors celebrated with first ever book on the cult horror phenomenon
brand new Kevin Bacon interview
October 2015’s Tremors 5: Bloodlines
paperback and ebook 23 July 2015
all the questions you never knew you had about the Tremors series’
White, The Projection Booth podcast
years after cult horror comedy, Tremors, flopped at the box office before becoming
a hit on home video, new book Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to
Tremors is set to shed light on the film’s rocky road to the big screen with
fresh insight from more than 55 cast and crew, including star Kevin Bacon.
first exploded onto cinema screens in 1990, detailing events in the small town
of Perfection, Nevada that had come under attack from giant underground
creatures, dubbed Graboids. Starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two handymen
trying to save the townsfolk, plus Michael Gross as survivalist Burt Gummer, the
film was a modest success on its initial release, going on to become a smash on
VHS and spawning four sequels and a short-lived TV series.
Film journalist Jonathan Melville has spent two years interviewing Tremors’ cast
and crew, including stars Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire,
director Ron Underwood and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, perhaps best
known to modern audiences as the executive producer of The Walking Dead. The
book also looks at each of the sequels and the 13-episode TV series.
addition, the book charts the 10-year journey from script to screen of October
2015’s Tremors 5: Bloodlines, the controversial sequel which sees the return of
Michael Gross as monster hunter, Burt Gummer, minus the creators of the
book also includes:
discovered and previously unpublished photos from the set of Tremors
uncovered sketches from the original poster designs
reprints from the Tremors storyboards, including deleted scenes
information on Jonathan Melville, author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial
Guide to Perfection can be found at www.tremorsguide.com.
ISBN 978-0-9933215-0-4 – 304pp, B&W, RRP £14.99 / $22.99
ISBN 978-0-9933215-1-1 – RRP £5.99 / $6.99
Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Perfection features interviews with more
than 55 people involved in Tremors (1990), Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996),
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors: The Series (2003), Tremors 4:
The Legend Continues and Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015).
include Tremors co-creators/writers/producers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, director
Ron Underwood, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, producer Jim Jacks, actors
Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Ariana Richards, Charlotte Stewart,
Tony Genaro and Robert Jayne.
book also includes interviews with cast and crew from Tremors 2: Aftershocks,
including actors Helen Shaver and Christopher Gartin; Tremors 3: Back to
Perfection, including actors Shawn Christian and Susan Chuang; Tremors 4: The
Legend Continues, including actors Lela Lee and unit production manager Jon
Kuyper; and Tremors: The Series, including actors Victor Browne, Marcia
Strassman and Gladise Jiminez.
De Palma’s crime thriller/horror flick, Dressed
to Kill, was a controversial release in 1980 for its depiction of violence
against women and its sexual content— nevertheless, it was a successful entry in
the director’s oeuvre during the most
fruitful period of his long career. The film was released in America with an
“R” rating—but only after De Palma, under protest, compromised with the ratings
board and agreed to cut some footage, re-edit a couple of sequences, and change
some lines of dialogue.
Palma’s preferred unrated version of the film was released on home video not
too long ago, but The Criterion Collection has seen fit to issue a new, 4K
digital restoration, supervised by the director, of what might have been an
“X”-rated picture back in the day. The results are gorgeous. De Palma’s
thrillers from the mid-seventies and early eighties tended to be shot with a soft
focus that emulated some of Hitchcock’s late work of the sixties and seventies.
This was intentional. De Palma himself admits in a new interview in the disc
supplements that he was in a “Hitchcock period.” The director on numerous
occasions paid homage to the master of suspense in more ways than just the
photographic style alone. For example, Dressed
to Kill contains cool blondes, kinky sex, shower scenes, cross-dressing
killers, the bumping off a protagonist early in the story, and a lush
orchestral score reminiscent of the way Hitch used Bernard Herrmann’s musical lyricism
to heighten tension.
story begins with Kate, a sexually frustrated Manhattan housewife (played by
Angie Dickinson), who is seeing therapist Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) about her
marriage. Early in the picture there is a brilliantly-choreographed extended
sequence, set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which Kate plays
cat-and-mouse with and allows herself to be picked up by a strange man. Then
she gets into serious trouble inside an elevator. A blonde woman in a hat and sunglasses
(resembling Karen Black in Hitchcock’s Family
Plot) slashes her to death with a straight razor. We then learn that one of
Elliott’s patients—a disturbed transsexual—stole the razor from the doctor’s
amateur sleuths Peter, Dickinson’s science-nerd son (played by Keith Gordon)
and Liz, a high class hooker who witnessed the murder (portrayed by Nancy Allen).
They team up to find the killer since the police (represented by a young Dennis
Franz) are having little success with the investigation. The movie then becomes
Allen’s picture. As related by the actress herself in a new interview in the
supplements, De Palma wrote the role for her—after all, she was married to the
director at the time. Allen delivers a performance that got nominated for a
Golden Globe for “Best New Star,” but also for a Razzie (Raspberry Awards) for
outcome of the story is no surprise, but that probably doesn’t matter. Dressed to Kill is all about an exercise
in style. De Palma is the real star
of the movie, and his presence is felt throughout. His signature close-ups,
tracking shots, soft focus, and carefully orchestrated techniques for
generating suspense, scream to the viewer that an auteur is at work. Maybe a little too loudly. But that doesn’t mean
Dressed to Kill isn’t entertaining.
It is. It’s just that it feels like we’ve seen it all before. Perhaps in a
supplements on the disc are extensive. New 2015 interviews include the
previously mentioned ones with De Palma (who is in discussion with
writer/director Noah Baumbach) and Allen, but also producer George Litto,
composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double (and Penthouse Pet of the Year at the time) Victoria Lynn Johnson, and
poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian. Also new to the release is a
profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring director Michael Apted.
Previously released extras include a 2001 documentary, The Making of Dressed to Kill, a 2001 interview with actor Keith
Gordon, and more than one feature about the different versions of the film and the
battle with the ratings board. There’s also a gallery of some of De Palma’s
storyboards. The booklet includes an essay by critic Michael Koresky.
Dressed to Kill is not De Palma’s
best work by a long shot, but it is representative of the director’s superb craftsmanship
at a time when he was at the height of his powers. If you’re looking for
something sexy, provocative, and gloriously violent to serve with your popcorn,
Kill will fit the bill.
late Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski often dramatized
the theme of one’s destiny—whether it be determined by fate or by random
coincidences. His most well known work, the Three
Colors trilogy (Blue, White, and Red), certainly deals with the subject of chance, as do several
episodes of his celebrated television miniseries, The Decalogue.
in 1981 during the Solidarity movement and a time of political upheaval in
Soviet-occupied Poland, Blind Chance explores
the question of “what if?” If you did something as insignificant as bumping
into another person, would that change the course of your life?
film offers three alternate “lives” of a medical student named Witek (superbly played
by Boguslaw Linda). The first five minutes provide us with brief glances of
Witek as a child, a teenager, and then a young adult. After the death of his
father, Witek decides to drop out of medical school and travel to Warsaw to visit
his aunt. He is late to the station and must run through a crowd of people to
catch the train. What happens on the platform is the pivotal catalyst for the
rest of the story. He almost collides with a drunk—but doesn’t touch him—giving
Witek that extra second or two that allows him to catch the train. While
onboard, he meets an elderly Party-line Communist who takes a fancy to Witek
and offers him a job in the city. So, in this lifeline, Witek becomes a
Communist and works in opposition to the young people of his age group who are
protesting the government.
an alternate scenario, though, Witek actually collides with the drunk, but the man
with the beer remains standing. This causes Witek enough of a delay that he
misses the train. He then gets into a scuffle on the platform with a police
officer and is arrested. Once Witek is back on the street, he is forever prejudiced
against the Communist government. Thus, in this life he becomes an anti-Soviet activist
and a practicing Catholic.
in a third possibility, which may be what really happened, Witek accidentally knocks
down the drunk—delaying the young man a few seconds longer—so that Witek not only
misses the train, but he avoids the policeman on the platform. Instead, he runs
into a female medical student colleague. She persuades him to stay and return
to his studies. Witek marries the girl, has children, becomes a successful
doctor, and remains apolitical. Witek lives a happy life—until Kieślowski
pulls the rug out from under us and delivers a knife wound of an ending.
picture might remind viewers of Peter Howitt’s 1998 British film Sliding Doors, which also examined
alternate life paths—but only two. Blind
Chance does it with three, and the movie was made more than fifteen years
task of editing such a story is, of course, challenging, and editor Elzbieta
Kurkowska deserves special praise for keeping the complex narrative comprehensible.
In a 2003 interview, filmmaker and Kieślowski associate
Agnieszka Holland explains that she had seen the first cut of the film, which was
initially too confusing and didn’t work. Kieślowski made a
thorough assessment of what had gone wrong and completely recut the picture
with Kurkowska—resulting in the brilliant piece of work presented here.
you can get past the heavy political discourse that is an integral part of the
story, you will find Blind Chance to
be a fascinating and intelligent scrutiny of the way life rolls the dice for us
film was banned by the Polish government prior to its release, due to inherent criticisms
of the government. The picture was finally released in Poland in 1987 with some
cuts dictated by the censor board. It wasn’t until the fall of Communism in
Europe in 1989 that the complete works of Krzysztof Kieślowski
(who had been making movies since the 70s) emerged from behind the Iron Curtain
so that the rest of the world could discover him.
Criterion Collection has reassembled Blind
Chance to its 1981 version—with the exception of an audio-only portion of a
few seconds of a police beating that, for some reason, “couldn’t be restored.”
The 4K digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Krzysztof Pakulski, is
clean and sharp, providing the viewer with the best possible edition of this important
work. The soundtrack is in uncompressed stereo.
include the Holland interview; a new interview with Polish film critic Tadeusz
Sobolewski; and demonstrations of the nine pieces of the film that were
censored in 1987. The booklet contains an essay by film critic Dennis Lim and a
1993 interview with Kieslowski.
Blind Chance is recommended for
discerning cinema enthusiasts looking for a little European history,
intelligence, and artful filmmaking. A truly gifted auteur, Kieślowski departed this plane of existence way
too early (in 1996 at the age of fifty-four). Perhaps he is now living his own
REMEMBER! YOU CAN HELP CINEMA RETRO KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE BY SIMPLY ORDERING ALL YOUR AMAZON GOODS BY CLICKING ON ANY LINK TO THEM FROM OUR WEB SITE! THE COMMISSIONS EARNED HELP US ENSURE THAT WE KEEP ADVERTISING TO A MINIMUM.
In 1968 Carne made the cover of the Saturday Evening Post along with her "Laugh-In" co-stars Goldie Hawn and Chelsea Brown.
Actress Judy Carne passed away last week at age 76. Her once promising career took off in the late 1960s as the "Sock It To Me!" girl who gyrated in a bikini and was routinely doused with water on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In". However, as her aptly-titled autobiography was titled ("Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside: The Bittersweet Saga of the 'Sock It To Me' Girl"), Carne's life and career veered wildly off course after she left the hit NBC program. Broken marriages, drug problems and high profile arrests ensured that she would never see the kind of stardom that other "Laugh-In" women such as Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin attained. Writing in the Washington Post, Justin Wm. Moyer explores the tragic life and career of a very talented artist whose penchant for self-destruction could not be overcome.
The following is a press release from Sony and Eon Productions:
LONDON, September 8, 2015 – Albert R. Broccoli’s EON
Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment today
confirmed that Sam Smith has recorded “Writing’s On The Wall,” the theme song
to SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond adventure. SPECTRE will be
released in the UK on October 26 and in the US on November 6. The song,
released by Capitol Records, will debut and be available to purchase and stream
on September 25.
Multi-platinum selling artist Sam Smith has co-written
the title song, “Writing’s On The Wall,” with fellow GRAMMY® Award winner Jimmy
Napes. It is the first James Bond theme song recorded by a British male
solo artist since 1965. Smith’s debut album In The Lonely Hour launched
at No. 1 in the UK and bowed in at No. 2 in the US, and has since earned five
No.1 UK singles, four GRAMMY® Awards, three Brit Awards, six MOBO Awards, Q and
Commenting on the announcement, Michael G. Wilson and
Barbara Broccoli, the producers of SPECTRE, said, “Sam and Jimmy have written
the most inspirational song for Spectre and with Sam’s extraordinary
vocal performance, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ will surely be considered one of the
greatest Bond songs of all time.”
Smith said: “This is one of the highlights of my
career. I am honoured to finally announce that I will be singing the next Bond
theme song. I am so excited to be a part of this iconic British legacy and join
an incredible line up of some of my biggest musical inspirations. I hope
you all enjoy the song as much as I enjoyed making it.”
The 23 previous James Bond theme songs make up some of
the most memorable movie music of all time. The previous Bond theme song,
“Skyfall,” was performed by Adele, and was honored with the Academy Award® and
Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, the Brit Award for British Single of
the Year, and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond
(Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he
meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an
infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the
existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE.
Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott),
the new head of the Centre for National Security, questions Bond’s actions and
challenges the relevance of MI6, led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly
enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out
Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper
Christensen), who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the
daughter of an assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot.
As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he
learns of a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks, played
by Christoph Waltz.
Sam Mendes returns to direct SPECTRE, with Daniel
Craig reprising his role as 007 for the fourth time. SPECTRE is
produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. The screenplay is by
John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth, with a story
by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.
SPECTRE is set for release in the UK on October
26, 2015, and in the US on November 6, 2015.
The mid-to-late 1960s saw such sweeping and rapid changes in politics, sexual mores and popular culture that the mind still reels when thinking about it. Hollywood studios, ever opportunistic, desperately tried to tap into the dramatically changing youth culture. A few years earlier, sanitized Elvis Presley musicals and lame beach comedies satiated younger movie goers. By 1967, Frankie and Annette had been abruptly made irrelevant by Bonnie and Clyde. Suddenly aging studio executives were throwing money at virtually any project that would prove they had their fingers on the pulse of the increasingly important demographic that represented the future of the film industry. In 1969 alone there was a sea change in the types of films that were bringing in big boxoffice. Wife swapping was played for laughs ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"), drug dealers were presented as tragic heroes ("Easy Rider") and an X-rated film would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar ("Midnight Cowboy"). Even the main staple of the traditional studio release- the Western- was often rendered unrecognizable as veteran stars engaged in unprecedented blood-letting in Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" and the anti-Establishment tone of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Fox, like other studios, grappled to stay relevant. There was still plenty of business for old-fashioned studio fare that was deemed non-threatening, but the wind was clearly in the sails of those movies that pushed the envelope in terms of making social statements. And so it was that an ill-fated project titled "Che!" went into production at the studio.
"Che!" was very much a "Ripped From Today's Headlines!" film. Ernesto "Che" Guevara had only been killed two years previously and had already become an iconic symbol in international revolutionary movements. The proud communist was born in Argentina but had joined up with Fidel Castro's movement in 1956 that was dedicated to toppling the seemingly indestructible dictatorship of corrupt Cuban president Fulgencio Batista, who was widely deemed to be a bought-and-paid for puppet for American mobsters who had widespread financial interests in the island nation. Che, who started as a lowly medic for Castro's 82 man guerilla movement, quickly rose in stature following a massacre that found the group reduced to only 12 fighters. Incredibly, within a relatively short period of time, Castro's ragtag band regrouped and won almost fanatical support among the general population. In a stunning turn of events, Batista was abruptly forced to resign and flee the country. Castro triumphantly entered Havana and the rest is history.
The Fox production of "Che!" primarily resonates a bit today only because Cuba is back in the news. Castro, who has been on his "death bed" seemingly for twenty years, is still stirring controversy with the recent decision by the Obama administration to loosen restrictions on Cuba. Though widely supported by public polls, the policy is taking a hit in some quarters because of Castro's predictable penchant for tossing insults at the USA during the most sensitive period. He claims that America owes Cuba many millions of dollars in reparations for damage inflicted on the nation through the 55 year embargo. The seeds of all these issues are addressed in "Che!" but only in the most superficial manner. The film presented the titular firebrand, played by Omar Sharif, as the brains behind Castro's successes. Castro, played by Jack Palance, is seen as a relatively benign figure here; a man who becomes almost completely dependent on the political and military advice offered by his younger protege. Upon taking power, however, rifts come between the two "comrades". Castro installs himself as a ruthless dictator in much the manner that Batista was. Che opposes his cozy relationship with the Soviet Union that saw Cuba become the mistress of the Russians, accepting the placement of nuclear missiles in return for the easy financial supplements that Castro became increasingly dependent on. The Bay of Pigs invasion is mentioned almost in passing and the Cuban Missile Crisis is covered almost entirely through some brief newsreel footage of Adlai Stevenson publicly challenging the Soviets to admit the presence of the missiles during a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting that became infamous. The long-term implications of such momentous events are swept aside. Instead, we see the perpetually brooding Che as a man who is impossible to please. While Castro is content to have won power in Cuba, Che is restless to spread the revolution to other nations. While Che is critical of Castro's abuse of power, he falls victim to his own demons as well, justifying mass murders of former government and military officials on the basis that doing so will satiate the public, which is demanding retribution for years of oppression under Batista. All of this is powerful fodder for a dramatic screenplay, but "Che!" is schizophrenic in its structure. It waivers between being a psychological study of a complex man and being an overview of important political events that were still relatively recent at the time of the movie's release. In the end, the film is unsatisfactory on all levels. Worse, it has a rushed look to it and, despite some fleeting atmospheric scenes shot in Puerto Rico (doubling for Havana). Many of the other sequences were all too apparently shot at the famed Fox Ranch set in Malibu. The movie, which fortunately is at least never dull, begins with Che already dead, having been killed in a gun battle in Bolivia, where he made the ill-fated decision to try to launch a revolution in a country that was not demanding one. His story is then told through flashbacks by the normal competent director Richard Fleischer, who uses the awkward device of having friends, colleagues and enemies of Che relate anecdotes by breaking the "the fourth wall" and addressing the viewer directly. It's a hokey tactic that more than once elicits some unintentional giggles.
When the film opened, it was universally panned and helped derail Omar Sharif's status as a bankable leading man. He had made some major hits over the years: "Lawrence of Arabia", "Doctor Zhivago" and, more recently, "Funny Girl". But there were the high profile bombs "Mayerling" and "Mackenna's Gold". With "Che!", both Sharif and Jack Palance found themselves ridiculed by critics who savaged their performances. Ironically, it is only their performances that seem to have withstood the test of time. Not only do they both bear remarkable physical resemblances to the historical figures they are playing, both also give quite credible performances. Sharif is appropriately a brooding, humorless figure and Palance, who was known to chew the scenery, is quite restrained and content to chew some fine Cuban cigars instead. Director Fleischer had assembled an impressive cast of character actors including Cesare Danova, Robert Loggia and Barbara Luna but gave them nothing of any consequence to do. They serve primarily as window dressing. Even the great Woody Strode is bizarrely cast in an almost wordless role that sees him reduced to marching through the jungle and firing machine guns. The screenplay never digs beneath the surface to examine either Che or Castro's motives for their actions. The abuse of the Cuban people by Batista is all but ignored, for example, and the film takes an agnostic attitude towards the actions of Che and Castro, probably because passing judgment one way or the other might well have alienated the intended audience. The strategy didn't work. "Che!" became a notorious bomb at the time of its release and its reputation remains tarnished though it's attributes are probably more apparent today than they were back in the day. This makes the new Twilight Time limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray release all the more welcome. In viewing the movie in retrospect, it still resonates as a misfire but doesn't seem nearly as awful as critics made it out to be in 1969. The transfer looks great and there are some bonus features: an interesting vintage "making of" featurette, a TV spot and the original trailer. There are also the usual excellent liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo, who points out the irony in the fact that to today's generation, Che is primarily known as an anonymous image on bestselling T shirts that have made a fortune for capitalist hucksters. One hopes that the company might reissue this title some day and include commentary tracks by political historians in order to separate fact from fiction.
Last week actor Dean Jones passed away at age 84. Jones was the affable star of many Disney live action films in the 1960s and 1970s including "That Darn Cat!", "The Love Bug", "The Ugly Dachshund" and "Monkeys, Go Home!" among numerous others. Jones was given a lifetime achievement award by the Disney company in recognition of his many contributions to major films produced by the studio. Jones became increasingly adamant that he would only appear in family-oriented films. However, early in his career he had supporting roles in such mainstream adult fare as "Tea and Sympathy", "Torpedo Run", "Never So Few", "Ten Thousand Bedroom"s", "Ash Wednesday" and starred in the 1965 cult horror film "Two On a Guillotine". Jones was also a proficient stage actor and received great acclaim for his starring role in Stephen Sondheim's "Company" in 1970. However, he was tormented by the divorce he was going through and ended up leaving the production after only two weeks. Larry Kert took over the plum role and received a Tony nomination. In later years, Jones, a devout Christian, became increasingly involved in faith-based projects and founded the Christian Rescue Committee, a charitable organization. For more click here.
Throughout most of the 1980s, prolific
filmmaker Charles Band ran the (sadly) now defunct distribution company Empire
Pictures. Empire, whose fun movies had their own unique style and humor, released
a plethora of enjoyable, low-budget action/sci-fi/horror/fantasy titles the
likes of Walking the Edge (1985), Crawlspace (1986), From Beyond (1986), Troll (1986), Dolls (1987) andCellar Dweller (1988).
The company, however, is probably best known for the amazing cult classic Re-Animator (1985) as well as the
popular Ghoulies and Trancers series. If, like me, you’re a
fan of Empire Pictures’ entertaining output (as well as a fan of Band’s later
company, Full Moon Pictures, which is best known for the iconic Puppet Master series), you can rejoice
as their much-sought-after cult favorite, Zone
Troopers, has finally been released on Blu-ray.
Solidly directed by Danny Bilson (The Rocketeer) who also co-wrote with
his long-time friend Paul De Meo (Arena),
Zone Troopers tells the enthralling
tale of a small group of American soldiers who, while battling the Nazis in
Italy in 1944, stumble across a crashed spaceship from another galaxy. Led by
tough-as-nails Sergeant Stone (Tim Thomerson from Trancers), the soldiers not only do everything in their power to
stay alive, but also to ensure that the aliens and their advanced technology do
not find its way into the hands of the evil Nazi horde.
Zone Troopers is a unique and
extremely fun combo of old-time war films and B-movie science fiction fantasy.
The highly enjoyable movie also boasts an amazing cast. Timothy Van Patten (Class of 1984, The White Shadow) is
dead-on as young, New Jersey soldier Joey Verona. Van Patten goes all out
delivering the innocence and patriotism (as well as the requisite East Coast
accent) necessary to bring this wonderfully clichéd role to life. Art La Fleur
(1988’s The Blob) is terrific as
tough, but loveable Corporal Mittinsky aka Mittens, and Tim Thomerson, who
conveys quite a bit of info through very subtle facial expressions, is
excellent as the indestructible Iron Sarge. Rounding out the group of stalwart
heroes is Biff Manard (Trancers II)
who makes his character of writer/reporter Dolan more than likeable. The
lighthearted film is filled with action, adventure, camaraderie and humor, and,
at times, feels like a 1940s comic book. It also benefits from a fun musical
score by talented composer (and brother of Charles) Richard Band (Re-Animator, The House on Sorority Row),
wonderful special alien effects by legendary makeup artist John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New
Blood); not to mentiontop-notch
cinematography and editing by long-time Charles Band associates Mac Ahlberg (Prison) and Ted Nicolaou (Subspecies) respectively. Filmed in both Italy and the US, the
well-paced film also contains intentionally dated and, therefore, intentionally
corny and priceless dialogue (mostly from Van Patten) as well as a bunch of
1940s references which makes the war section of Zone Troopers feel entirely authentic.
Zone Troopers has been released
on a region one Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The high definition transfer looks
fantastic and the movie is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Special features include the original theatrical trailer, an interesting
onscreen interview with the great Tim Thomerson, and an amusing and informative
audio commentary by director Danny Bilson and writer Paul De Meo who both seem
to enjoy revisiting their cult film (and rightly so). Whether you’re a lover of
war movies, retro science fiction, or you’re just looking for something fun and
different, Zone Troopers is
definitely the Blu-ray for you.
At 07:00 UK time on Monday 7th September, the box-office for
SPECTRE will open across the UK and Ireland, giving cinema audiences the
opportunity to book their tickets in advance to see Albert R. Broccoli’s EON
Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s
first time ever, the film will open to the public on the same night as the
World Premiere in London, giving audiences the opportunity to be the first in
the world to see the hugely-anticipated 24th film in the James Bond franchise.
the World Premiere and release in the UK and Ireland on 26th October, SPECTRE
will begin its rollout in territories around the world. The film will release
in the US on November 6, 2015.
Although I was barely ten years-old, I
remember feeling terrified while watching horror master Wes Craven’s 1978 made-for-TV
thriller Summer of Fear (under its
alternate title Stranger in Our House)
as well as thoroughly enjoying his adaptation of the comic book Swamp Thing four years later, but it
wasn’t until November of 1984, while viewing the trailer for some new horror
flick called A Nightmare on Elm Street,
that I recall hearing and remembering the name Wes Craven. After being thrilled
by this masterpiece which, in my opinion, is Craven’s greatest work, I certainly
wanted to learn more about this extremely talented filmmaker. After doing a bit
of research, I quickly discovered that I had already seen Craven’s original and
very interesting Deadly Blessing (1981)
and, also, his other masterpiece (in my opinion): 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Whenever someone mentions Wes Craven, I
immediately think of Nightmare and Hills, so, due to hearing the very sad
news of his passing, I’d like to focus this article on those two masterworks
because if any movies from his amazing filmography show Wes as a
writer/director to be reckoned with, they are, without a doubt, The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Craven’s first movie as writer/director
(and editor) was 1972’s controversial, but important The Last House on the Left. The disturbing film, which was inspired
by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960)
and produced by Sean Cunningham (Friday
the 13th), was made during the height of the Vietnam War and
seemed to be Craven’s outcry against the rise of violence in the United States
at the time. It also rightly depicted that violence as brutal and horrific
instead of glamorizing or sanitizing it. Lensed in New York and Connecticut for
only $87,000, the film’s poster featured the immortal tagline ‘To avoid
fainting, keep repeating, it’s only a movie…only a movie…only a movie…’, dealt
with revenge, booby traps and a civilized family vs. an uncivilized one. The
last two would show up again in Craven’s next film.
Five long years later, Craven would write
and direct again and it was definitely worth the wait. On July, 22nd,
1977, The Hills Have Eyes was
released upon an unsuspecting public. The $230,000 budgeted film dealt with the
Carters; an average, middle-class family whose car breaks down near a deserted
bomb range in the Nevada desert while driving cross-country. Once stranded,
night falls and the Carters are repeatedly attacked by an uncivilized,
cannibalistic, mutant family who live in the hills and have been surviving in
the desert for years by feeding off of anyone foolish enough to cross their
path. The cannibals, who go by names such as Mars, Mercury, Pluto and Papa
Jupiter, brutally murder Mr. and Mrs. Carter, their oldest daughter Lynne, and
Beauty, one of their two dogs. The deranged mutants also kidnap Lynne’s infant
daughter, Katie, leaving only Lynne’s younger siblings, Bobby and Brenda, along
with Lynne’s husband, Doug, and their second dog, Beast, to face the crazed
family, hopefully rescue little Katie and survive.
Although still a hardcore piece of horror
cinema, The Hills Have Eyes is a more
enjoyable experience than The Last House
on the Left. Where Last House went
for and achieved stark realism, Hills
deftly balances realistic, identifiable, likeable characters with somewhat
over-the-top/comic bookish, but still terrifying, villains (who Craven based on
the supposedly real-life, 16th century, cannibalistic Sawney Bean
family). The film chillingly shows that in a life and death situation, an
intelligent, passive, civilized person may have to become just as uncivilized
as his or her attackers. The film’s memorable tagline, “A nice American family.
They didn’t want to kill. But they didn’t want to die.”, pretty much sums up
the entire movie.
The cutting edge, low-budget film, which
introduced the world to future horror movie icons Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) and Michael Berryman
(Deadly Blessing, The Devil’s Rejects),
went on to gross $25 million and quickly became a cult classic, further
solidifying Craven’s name as a major and original talent in the world of horror
Over the next seven years, Craven would
work in both film and television and, with the exception of the aforementioned Swamp Thing, would always direct films
in the horror genre. Immediately following Swamp
Thing, Craven completed an original horror screenplay which he
shopped all over Hollywood. Every studio
felt that the script didn’t have potential and passed on it. With almost no
money to his name and just about ready to give up on the project, Craven
finally saw a glimmer of hope as a tiny, independent company called New Line
Cinema gave the film a green light. New Line head Robert Shaye, whose company
dealt mostly in distribution, but had recently moved into production by making
a few low-budget films including an underrated 1982 horror called Alone in the Dark, believed in Craven’s
script and production immediately began with Wes once again in the director’s
chair. The screenplay’s title was A
Nightmare on Elm Street.
The frightening film tells the tale of a
group of four teens who all begin having nightmares about the same creepy,
burnt-faced man who skulks in the bowels of an old boiler room and wears a
dirty red and green sweater, a beat-up, old fedora and a self-made glove of
sharp “finger-knives.” When her friends begin dying one by one, intelligent
teen Nancy deduces that if this mysterious figure kills you in your sleep, then
you die for real. After getting almost no help from the adults around her,
Nancy does some digging and finds out that the murderer’s name is Fred Krueger
and that his motive is to kill the Elm Street kids as an act of revenge in
order to punish their parents who burned him alive ten years earlier due to him
being a filthy child murderer. Armed with only her wits and a few self-made
booby traps, Nancy prepares to face Krueger in a desperate battle for survival.
Made for under $2 million dollars, the
expertly crafted film was released on November 9, 1984 and, little by little,
gained momentum as horror fans slowly began to discover what an unexpected gem
it was. After all, the trailer made it seem as if it was just another in a
seemingly endless cycle of formulaic dead teenager flicks still being released
due to the massive success of both Halloween
(1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).
Nightmare on Elm Street was different. It was something special. More of a
psychological thriller than a by-the-numbers slasher film, Elm Street’s extremely original story, much like The Hills Have Eyes, was partly
influenced by real-life events. Wes Craven read a series of articles in the L.A. Times which detailed several young
men who were afraid to go to sleep and tried everything in their power to stay
awake. When they inevitably nodded off, they died. Craven immediately thought
“What if a person, like a boogeyman, was killing them in their dreams?” With
the story now in place, Wes then began to construct his soon-to-be iconic
villain. Craven based him on a scary childhood incident where, one night, while
little Wes was looking out his bedroom window into the alley below, a creepy
man wearing an old hat continued to stare up at him with a look of evil. Craven
then took the name Fred Krueger from a school bully who constantly tormented
him (he did the same thing twelve years earlier with The Last House on the Left; naming one character Fred and the other
Krug) and decided on Elm Street because it was a street close to the school
where he used to work as an English teacher as well as being the name of the
street where JFK was, unfortunately, assassinated on. Wes said that he wanted a
name/place that evoked pure Americana. Craven then chose the razor-sharp glove
because he was thinking of what early man may have feared and thought of the
claws of a bear. He also wanted Freddy to be a painful, optical effect, so he
decided on red and green for Freddy’s sweater after learning that they were the
two colors which were the most difficult for the eye to see side by side.
Lastly, Craven decided that Freddy would be very different from the plethora of
mute, masked, cinematic psycho killers which were inundating theaters at the
time. Freddy would talk (including a few darkly humorous lines of dialogue)
and, although covered in burnt scar tissue, remain unmasked. The chilling
monster would also take great pleasure in terrifying his victims-to-be.
If there is such thing as a family-oriented sex farce, the 1969 hit "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell" fits the description. The delightful concoction stars Gina Lollobrigida as Carla Campbell, a vivacious woman of relative wealth who lives in a modest Italian village. She is known for her rather upscale lifestyle that includes a live-in maid, Rosa (Naomi Stevens) and the fact that she can afford to send her 18 year-old daughter to a fancy American university in Switzerland. Life is very pleasing for Carla, who is known for using her money for charitable purposes. She has told everyone that she came by her wealth when her husband, an American officer named Captain Campbell died in action during WWII. She tells a moving tale about how she married him when he took shelter at her house when she was only 16 years old. They fell in love, married and had only a few days together before he was shipped out and killed in battle. During their brief marriage, she became pregnant with their daughter Gia (Janet Margolin), who is now far more American than Italian in her speech and mannerisms. Carla claims that her financial security comes from her late husband's family in America, which has been kind enough to send ample checks every month to provide for her and Gia. Carla also has her own boy toy, hunky Vittorio (Philippe Leroy in a very amusing performance), who oversees her small wine business. As with most Italian lovers depicted in comedies of this period, the two spend a good deal of time verbally sparring with each other but every time one of them threatens to leave, the other uses sex as lure to get her/him back.
A crisis erupts one fine morning when Carla discovers the town is preparing to host a reunion of American airmen who were stationed there during the war. Turns out she has been living a lie. She confides to Rosa and Vittorio that there had never been a "Captain Campbell" who she married. In fact, she created him out of thin air to cover the fact she was pregnant and took the name from a can of Campbell's soup! In reality, three different airmen had been housed with her family during the same week. As one moved out, another moved in...and she had relations with each of them. At the war's end, she was not certain which of them was the real father of her baby so she wrote to each man and told him he was the father. The three men all believed that he was her only lover and dutifully and secretly sent checks to Carla over a period of twenty years, continuing the practice even after they married and had kids of their own. Now the three ex-G.I.'s are coming to town and will expect to slip away from their spouses and see Carla. Making matters worse, Gia has heard about the reunion and has made a surprise return from school in order to meet the men of her father's fighting unit. All the set pieces are now firmly in place for a traditional Italian farce. There is a script flaw in that the film should be taking place some years earlier, as the age of some of the characters doesn't add up. Also, as the movie was released in 1968, why are the Americans visiting Italy to celebrate their 20th anniversary reunion? That would mean they were in the country three years after the war ended.
Japanese release of the Golden Globe-nominated title song.
The three men who think they are Gia's father are a diverse lot. Justin Young (Peter Lawford) is an aristocratic playboy who is accompanied by his long-suffering wife Lauren (Marian Moses), who can barely endure his constant womanizing. She correctly assumes that he intends to hook up with another girl while in Italy for the reunion, though she doesn't know that he believes he will be seeing the mother of his daughter. Walter Braddock (Telly Savalas) also has an abrasive relationship with his wife Fritzie (Lee Grant), who constantly throws painful insults at him because the couple can't have children. (Walter doesn't believe the medical diagnosis because he feels he fathered Gia). Then there's Phil Newman (Phil Silvers) and his loyal wife Shirley (Shelly Winters in full Shelly Winters mode). The couple has their young sons along for the trip and Phil finds that every time he concocts a way to meet up with Carla, family responsibilities intrude. Finally, each man manages to contact her and Carla finds herself in the unenviable position of having them all make secret visits to her villa at the same time. This results in the predictable madcap scene in which she tries to hide them from each other. Director Melvin Frank (who co-wrote the script) demonstrates an ability to make such ancient comedy scenarios work, thanks in no small part to the presence of those great male second bananas, each of whom gets plenty of screen time. (Only Lawford seems miscast. He looks too much like a dapper movie star and no one attempts to explain why an American airman has a British accent.) Carla's complex situation becomes increasingly troublesome as pace becomes frantic, resulting in car chases, lovers quarrels, the unveiling of long-kept secrets and a very moving and sentimental finale.
Lollobrigida gives one of her best performances in this film and was nominated for a Golden Globe. The sheer amount of talent on display makes us point out once again that in days of old, such marvelous actors were taken for granted. Today, there is a dearth of great character actors and the film industry is not better off because of it. The film zips along at a brisk pace, accompanied by Riz Ortalani's inspired score, topped off by the infectious title tune which is crooned by Jimmy Rosell, which was also nominated for a Golden Globe.
The Kino Lorber release has an excellent transfer and features the original trailer.
Boy in the Striped Pajamas” isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense, but
does depict a real life monster masquerading as a soldier, husband and father.
Told from eight-year-old Bruno’s point-of-view, the story takes place in Nazi Germany
during WWII and is a deeply moving portrayal of the horror of the Holocaust.
The movie opens with Bruno playing with his friends and returning home to learn
his family is moving. His father, a high ranking officer with the Nazi SS, has
been given orders for a new assignment far away from their home in the city.
to a home in the country located next to what Bruno believes is a farm, he wants
to find a friend, but is told to not venture beyond the locked garden gate. For
most boys that’s just a challenge and he finds a way beyond the garden. After
walking through the woods, he meets a boy names Shmuel who wears striped
pajamas and lives at “the farm” located just beyond the barbed wire electrified
fence. They shake hands through the fence and become best friends and meet there
new house has a different type of staff. They’re dressed and behave differently
than the staff at the old house. Bruno talks to an old man working in the
kitchen, but he’s told not to engage him. Bruno’s mother is uncomfortable with
their move, her husband’s work and the new staff. Father is busy and his older
sister becomes infatuated with a young SS officer as well as indoctrinated into
the German Nazi cause. Bruno’s sister posts magazine and newspaper clippings
about Nazis on the wall near her bed like they were movie stars.
of the most moving and fascinating scenes in the movie happens as Bruno is
watching a Nazi propaganda movie made about the death camp which he thinks is a
type of farm. While the camp is never directly identified in the movie, it is a
fictionalized version of the notorious Auschwitz death camp. The propaganda
video depicts a happy existence for the Jews on “the farm” as they stop at the
café for coffee, participate in sporting events and go about their work singing
and happy. The movie within the movie was recreated by the filmmakers and is
based on actual Nazi propaganda created during this period. Bruno embraces his
father, convinced he is making a good life for the those living on “the farm.”
movie is brutal at times and the brutality at the house comes at the hands of
the young SS officer. The man working in the kitchen is terribly mistreated and
suddenly disappears. Bruno’s friend, Shmuel, appears in the house to help set
up a party. After eating some food given to him by Bruno, Shmuel is caught
eating the food by the young SS officer. Bruno denies giving Shmuel the food
and Shmuel is taken away. We see the beating Shmuel received after he and Bruno
meet at the fence days later. Bruno apologizes and they dig a hole under the
fence so they can play together. Shmuel tells Bruno that his father has
disappeared. Bruno offers to help search for Shmuel’s father on “the farm” and
the next day Shmuel brings and extra set of striped pajamas for Bruno to wear.
Their search leads to the devastating conclusion of “The Boy in the Striped
movie is a believable and outstanding depiction of the innocence of childhood
in the midst of real life horror. Bruno is brilliantly played by Asa Butterfield in one of the most believable kid roles
in any movie. Following this movie he gave equally good performances as the
title characters in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and in the sci-fi drama “Ender’s
mother and father are known to the viewer as “mother” and “father.” David
Thewlis is convincing and understated as Bruno’s father. He runs an
extermination camp by day and comes home for dinner with his family. Monsters
don’t get any more real than that. I loved Thewlis’ performance in this movie,
playing an almost dual role as father and mass murderer trying to keep his
family together. He’s also one of the best character actors working in movies
today. Vera Farmiga plays Bruno’s mother, a woman who comes to realize she is
married to a monster, but who also is trying to pretend they are a normal
family. Farmiga is very good here and currently plays another mother in the hit
TV series “Bates Motel,” where she plays Norma Bates, the queen mother of monster
mothers. Jack Scanlon plays Shmuel, the boy in the striped pajamas. Or, maybe
both Shmuel and Bruno are the title character because in the end they both wear
striped pajamas and share the same fate. All of Shmuel’s scenes are with Bruno
and the two boys connect on screen in believable and poignant performances. The
scenes with the boys are difficult to watch and filled with sadness because we
know that Shmuel is living in a sort of Hell on Earth. The two young actors
carry their scenes beautifully.
Boy in the Striped Pajamas” was released to theaters in the fall of 2008 and is
based on the 2006 book by Jon Boyne who co-wrote the screenplay with director
Mark Herman. Herman directed two of the best comedy-dramas of the 1990s,
“Brassed Off” and “Little Voice.” The Miramax Blu-ray contains an insightful audio commentary
with Herman and Boyne, deleted scenes with optional commentary by the director
and a featurette about the production with interviews of the cast and crew. The
location shots, period costumes and performances are done with great care and
attention to detail. The movie is worthy viewing during this 70th anniversary
of the end of World War II.
the 1982 cult film “Videodrome”, James Woods plays a low life television
programmer named Max Renn. His
television station, Civix TV, Channel 83, televises adult programmes such as
softcore pornography over the airwaves. Alongside
his partner, a satellite pirate named Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), Renn scans the
airwaves for decidedly dodgy shows to broadcast on his station. Harlan discovers a noise-shrouded broadcast lasting
less than a minute that takes place in a sordid room. The footage contains convincingly
realistic sadomasochism and possibly a murder. Renn is drawn to the material and immediately starts to investigate in
order to secure the broadcasting of this edgy program called Videodrome. It is during this time that Renn attends a TV
debate on a talk show, where he meets fellow guest and radio personality Nicki
Brand (Deborah Harry). The couple date and Renn soon discovers that Brand is
something of a sadomasochist and is further more turned on by the idea of
Videodrome. Renn however, is growing more frustrated in
locating the source of the programme and is eventually advised by his agent to drop
the project. Additional clips are
located by Harlan that continues to feed more into Renn’s growing curiosity. He
continues to search for the people behind Videodrome until his path leads him
to an encounter with a curious personality known as Brian O’Blivion (Jack
Creley). From here on, David
Cronenberg’s intriguing film takes a very psychological and disturbing turn. Soon
after, Renn begins experiencing headaches and strange hallucinating effects
that are the result of Videodrome’s hidden signal.
the bio-horror elements of his earlier films whilst anticipating the
technological themes of his later work, “Videodrome” exemplifies Cronenberg’s
extraordinary talent for making both visceral and cerebral cinema. Cronenberg has been hailed by contemporaries
such as John Carpenter, who insists “he’s better than all of us combined” and
Martin Scorsese as a genius. “Videodrome” was Cronenberg’s most mature work to
date and is still regarded as a cult classic.
Woods shines in his role of Max Renn, and Debbie Harry turns in a convincing
and confident performance, almost as if she had a point to prove. Whilst the
story shows it age in terms of technology (with Betamax tapes and 4:3 TV’s all
over the place), it also provides a dark and disturbingly accurate account of
what was also to come.
fans of “Videodrome” will be delighted with Arrow’s new presentation. Its
previous release (by Universal) was largely disappointing, not only because of
picture issues (it was also a cut version), but also because of its failure to
deliver in terms of bonus material, which was zero. This time around Arrow have
used the same Criterion master (approved by director David Cronenberg and
cinematographer Mark Irwin) as its source and in the process, the picture is
vastly better. There is no longer evidence of an over sharpened image and as a
result there is a much smoother, pure, high definition presentation. This
master also offers a correct frame ratio and colour definition is much more
vivid, yet stable. Universal’s previous Blu-ray release suffered considerably
from the reproduction of reds and blues in particular. Strong, deep blacks have
also helped to improve some of the darker scenes without compromising any of
the film’s finer details. The film also benefits from just the right amount of
grain and never looks overly defined.
audio consists of one standard track (in English LPCM 1.0.) but the clarity
remains sharp throughout and really brings to the fore Howard Shore's wonderfully
I find it hard to perceive how anything can possibly topple this defining
collection. It is by far, the finest transfer (I have yet to see) of what some
fans describe as Cronenberg’s finest hour.
By the late 1950s, the late French novelist Jules Verne was considered good boxoffice, with smash hits such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days having been adapted from his books to the screen. Fox wanted to jump on the bandwagon and made plans to film one of Verne's most popular novels, Journey to the Center of the Earth. The studio had allocated a substantial budget, most of which went into production design and special effects. The project began with Clifton Webb attached at the star, but James Mason ultimately took over the key role of Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, as esteemed Scottish scientist who receives tantalizing evidence that one of his legendary peers, who disappeared two hundred years earlier, may have found a way to explore the deepest regions of the earth's nether regions. Obsessed with replicating this quest, Lindenbrook takes along Alec McKuen (Pat Boone), one of his most promising students. The expedition arrives in Iceland, where Lindenbrook also enlists the aid of Hans (Peter Ronson), a strapping young local man whose physical strength will prove to be useful in the ordeals to come. Unexpectedly, Lindenbrook finds himself having to rely on the support of Carla Goteborg (Arlene Dahl), the widow of a rival scientist who Lindnebrook had mistakenly confided in, only to find the man was trying to use the information to make the historic journey himself. The team is well-equipped for the dangerous mission, but once inside the bowels of the earth, they discover that yet another rival, Count Saknussem (Thayer David), is also competing to race them to the actual center of the planet- and he is willing to use deadly force to ensure he gains all the glory. The film is utterly delightful throughout, thanks in large part to the winning cast. Mason is perfect as the cranky, eccentric professor whose obsession for the mission inspires him to lead the team into the most dire circumstances. Most surprising is the performance of Pat Boone, who Scottish accent comes and goes on a whim, but who exudes genuine appeal on the big screen. (Boone also produced the movie, an investment that still pays him substantial dividends.) At the time, casting singing teenage idols in major film roles was a gimmick that often didn't work and proved to be a distraction. However, Boone acquits himself well throughout and limits his crooning to only one romantic number early in the film. Dahl is the ultimate liberated woman, insisting on holding her own amid some vile threats and Thayer David exudes icy menace as the cold-hearted explorer willing to murder for glory. Young Diane Baker plays Alec's fiancee, who spends most of the film back in Edinburgh worrying about the fate of her betrothed. (Although a few scenes were shot in Scotland, the principal actors never left the United States. Much of the footage was shoot at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, as well as Lone Pine, California). Veteran director Henry Levin proved to be an inspired choice to helm the production, as he is equally adept with the human elements of the story as he is with the spectacle.
Twilight Time had previously released the film in 2012. However, this "new, improved" edition features new cover art, isolated score track of Bernard Herrmann's bombastic, impressive score and an audio commentary by Diane Baker and film historians Steven C. Smith and Nick Redman. There is also an original trailer and the usual informative collector's booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. The limited edition (5,000 units) Blu-ray that does justice to the amazing set designs and special effects. While these aspects of the movie may seem quaint and retro in the age of CGI, they will amaze more sophisticated viewers who realize that they represent the work of true craftsmen who labored to come up with the incomparable look of the film. The climactic attack by an army of super-sized, flesh-eating lizards is especially impressive and downright chilling. This is one exotic Journey that is worth the investment.
sulla città contaminate / Nightmare City 1980 Directed by Umberto Lenzi,
Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Maria Rosaria Omaggio and Mel Ferrer. Arrow Blu-Ray /
DVD dual format.
Reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is assigned to the airport to interview an
arriving scientist. The airport personnel are left confused when an
unidentified Hercules lands without communicating with flight control. The emergency
services are deployed to meet the incoming plane but as the doors open, all
carnage breaks loose as an array of varying mutant maniacs spill out onto the
runway. Among them is the scientist that Miller was sent to meet. There is an
immediate onslaught. With the mutants seemingly impervious to bullets, they
proceed to attack and devour anyone who stands in their way.
course, it’s a wonderful opening idea and Umberto Lenzi wastes little time in
getting to the action. Forget the phrase ‘slow burner’, Lenzi doesn’t believe
in it. However, examining his film too intently will reveal certain narrative
flaws. Who was flying the plane? How did Miller know the scientist was going to
be on that unidentified plane? These are the sort of questions that simply need
in the true style of Lenzi, let’s cut straight to the chase. These mutants are
most certainly zombies. It is also not a film to be taken seriously; it’s a
‘romp’ as filmmaker and Fangoria editor Chris Alexander so fondly describes it
in his superb commentary. Lenzi’s zombies have often been described as ‘Pizza
faced’, but think of a ‘burnt meat feast’ Pizza and you’ll be pretty close to
the genuine article. You can even (to a certain extent) forget the story in general,
it’s a pretty poor one and very little of it. We soon come to realise that
these zombies are in fact, plague infested zombies and their bite contaminates
their victims. Gore fans can also revel in the fact that these zombies can only
be destroyed by a shot to the head…
bottom line is to just enjoy Nightmare City; it’s a perfect beer and pizza
festivity. I suggest simply soaking up the action, (and it is non-stop action).
Forget the stupid script, the lousy acting and the terrible post production
dubbing. Instead, smile at the pure carnage, the fun of those typical Italian
set ups, the eye gouging, the head splattering and of course, the completely
outdated approach of exposing women’s breasts at every given opportunity.
Accept the film on that basis, and I’m sure you will enjoy this seminal cult
classic. The film also contains a wonderful, minimalistic score from Stelvio
Cipriani, and in a style that would later be adapted by the likes of John
Carpenter and his contemporaries. The film has however, often been criticised
for its ending, but it is an interesting concept to say the least. Depending on
your perspective, some might even suggest it is an imaginative and fascinating
ending. For first time viewers and without revealing any more information, I
will let you decide for yourself.