Stone’s “Talk Radio” (1988) has been released by Twilight Time in a Blu-ray
limited edition of 3,000 copies.In a
short supplemental feature ported over to the Blu-ray from a previous Universal
Home Video DVD edition, Stone comments that he was intrigued by the “new
phenomenon” of confrontational call-in programming that began to dominate
commercial radio in the late 1980s.Stone’s protagonist, Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian), hosts a popular
late-night talk show in Dallas.From his
perch, Barry relentlessly provokes, cajoles, and insults the lonely misfits,
troubled neurotics, and dangerous neo-Nazis who compulsively phone in to his
telephone feed.When an executive from a
big radio network turns up at the station one night, Champlain learns that his
manager Dan has brokered a deal for national syndication without his
knowledge.(Dan is played by Alec
Baldwin.See if your kids or your
younger siblings realize that he’s the same Alec Baldwin who now lampoons
Donald Trump on SNL.)The contract
negotiated by Dan promises big money and a nationwide audience for Barry, but
the broadcaster worries that if he signs, he’ll put himself under the thumb of
network bosses who are likely, sooner or later, to demand he rein in his
abrasive style.The stress from this
career dilemma is compounded by personal problems as his ex-wife Ellen (Ellen
Greene) seeks a reconciliation, while his producer and girlfriend Laura (Leslie
Hope) begins to resist his domineering, dismissive attitude toward her in both
aspects of their relationship.Meanwhile, veiled and not-so-veiled threats begin to come in from white
supremacists whom he baits on his broadcast.
and Bogosian wrote the screenplay based on two sources -- Bogosian’s
off-Broadway play “Talk Radio,” and Stephen Singular’s non-fiction book “Talked
to Death:The Life and Murder of Alan
Berg.”Singular’s book chronicled the
murder of Alan Berg, a liberal Denver talk-show host, in 1984.The fit between the two sources is seamless,
and plenty goes on in the story, as the partial synopsis above suggests.But none of it is very spellbinding.Champlain is such a flat character that we
never care much about his romantic problems, which cover overly familiar
ground, or about his equally hoary fears of selling out.We should all have such vexations.Stone mostly tries to convey Barry’s
intensity with close-ups of the host smiling nervously and sweating over his
console as he berates his callers, but the conceit wears thin because Bogosian
never succeeds in radiating the sort of innate, wise-guy viciousness that we
usually associate with the real-life broadcasters in Barry’s line of
business.Stone has had more than his
share of misfires in his career, but at least his other under-performers like
“The Doors” (1991), “Natural Born Killers” (1994), “U-Turn” (1997), and
“Alexander” (2004) had moments of manic energy that compensated a little for
fatal shortcomings in conception and execution.“Talk Radio” is neither compelling social commentary nor engaging
cinema, and more than thirty years on, its landscape seems more quaint than
alarming. The impact of once-notorious “shock jocks”
like Howard Stern, Don Imus, Opie & Anthony, and Doug “The Greaseman”
Tracht, has come and gone.Even in
their heyday, if they offended you with crude, sexist, racist, and demeaning
routines, it was usually for only four or five hours a day in drive-time or
late-night, and you could shut them up by changing the channel.In today’s world of 24/7 social media, blogs,
and cable news, it isn’t so easy to escape a constant barrage of offensive,
tawdry, and divisive Tweets, YouTube videos, and Facebook “likes” that reach a
larger, more dangerously malleable audience than any 1980s radio host ever
addition to the 20-minute supplemental feature “Filming Rage,” the Twilight
Time BRD includes an isolated music track, the original theatrical trailer, and
thoughtful liner notes by Julie Kirgo.The 1.85:1 image in 1080p high definition looks fine, with sharp
contrasts between light and shadow in the studio scenes that comprise most of
the movie.The Twilight Time
limited-edition Blu-ray can be ordered HERE.
What most people know about Frank Hamer, the legendary Texas lawman who
tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde, has probably been derived from
Denver Pyle's memorable portrayal in the classic 1967 film. There,
Hamer was presented as a tough, stalwart agent of the law who doggedly
pursues the outlaw couple and sets up the fatal ambush that costs them
their lives. More recently, the Netflix show "The Highwaymen" presents a
more accurate (though still somewhat fictionalized) depiction of Hamer
through Kevin Costner's portrayal. For the real story, however, listen
to the episode of the Washington Post's Retropod podcast that is devoted
to Frank Hamer. It's a fascinating, though not very pretty picture. The
only difference between Hamer and the killers he hunted is that he wore
a badge. He was shot many times in the course of duty but more than
balanced the scales by killing a couple of dozen suspects. He was a
complex man and the podcast is worth a listen. Click here.
Here's an ultra rare image from the Cinema Retro archives: young Steve McQueen visiting the set of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" in 1960. He is seen chatting with stars Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. McQueen was currently starring in the TV series "Wanted: Dead or Alive". The year 1960 would be a pivotal one for McQueen, as it saw the release of "The Magnificent Seven", which boosted him to leading man status on the big screen.
If you love old movie photos and rare poster art, subscribe to Cinema Retro. Every issue is a feast for a movie lover's eyes.
The 1955 film adaptation of Helga Moray's bestselling novel "Untamed" took five years to get off the ground before it was brought to the screen as a CinemaScope production. In that particular era, studios were terrified about the rapid expansion of television into people's homes and feared it would diminish enthusiasm for patronizing movie theaters. Fox pioneered the CinemaScope process to provide opulent films in a widescreen format that television couldn't hope to compete with. The gamble worked but it did mandate that studios spend a lot more on major films. In the case of "Untamed", the budget was $3.5 million, a fairly considerable amount for 1955 considering this wasn't being marketed as a prestigious "roadshow" production. The story, set in 1847, opens in Ireland and centers on a young heroine, Katie O'Neill (Susan Hayward in a role that Maureen O'Hara seemed born to play), a lovely Irish lass who lives a life of privilege on the family farm. When we first see her, she is smitten by a foreign visitor, Paul Van Riebeck (Tyrone Power), a Dutchman living in South Africa who has come to Ireland to purchase horses from Katie's father. (Since there is no shortage of the beasts in South Africa, this plot point seems like an unconvincing device to simply have the two main characters meet.) Paul and Katie have a short love affair before he returns home. Prior to leaving, he explains to Katie that it is unlikely he will pay a return visit because he is the leader of a Boer paramilitary group that is trying to establish a Dutch free state in South Africa and must devote his time to that cause. In the blink of an eye, we're told that the devastation of the potato famine has cost Katie's father his life and the family its fortune. She's now married to Shawn Kildare (John Justin) and they have two young sons. At Katie's suggestion, they immigrate to South Africa to start a new life, though the choice of locations is hardly coincidental, as Katie hopes to meet with Paul once again. The Kildares join a wagon train that is embarking for unchartered country where the land is plentiful and free to claim. However, they must first pass through the hostile Zulu nation. A highlight of the film is the massive attack on the wagon train by Zulu warriors, an epic scene that clearly inspired director Cy Endfield's 1964 classic "Zulu". During the thrilling battle sequence, which could easily have been transferred to a Wild West setting, Shawn is conveniently killed just as Paul and his troops arrive to save the day.
With the lovers reunited, they lay claim to rich farmland and build a modest home with the intention of becoming increasingly prosperous. However, Paul's allegiance to his military cause leads him to leave the farm, thus causing a furious rift with Katie, who vows to never forgive him. With only her loyal maid Aggie (Agnes Moorehead) and some field workers as an adult companions, Katie realizes she needs help to make the farm succeed. She cozies up to the hot-tempered Kurt Hout (Richard Egan), who has been trying to seduce her for months. She manipulates Kurt into helping her to perform the back-breaking work of sowing the crops but his sexual demands now border on outright rape. In the kind of dramatic occurrence that only old Hollywood could portray, at the precise moment she is about to fall victim to his demands, a lightning bolt destroys the tree they are under, leaving Kurt severely wounded. Without medical assistance, a household servant must perform a life-saving amputation of Kurt's leg. The furious storm that follows destroys the crops and any hope for the farm to succeed. However, in yet another Hollywood coincidence, the impoverished Katie comes into possession of a huge diamond that allows her to move to Capetown where she purchases a mansion that happens to be Paul's childhood home. The two lovers are reunited and Katie uses her political clout to assist Paul in getting a Boer appointed to the South African congress. However, their bliss is short-lived when once again when Paul discovers that a child Katie had born while in South Africa is actually his son (but is it?). Infuriated, Paul leaves Katie's life once again, angry that he was never told. We then see Katie suddenly impoverished once again (without much explanation), thus leading to additional melodramatic developments and, predictably, yet another reunion with Paul.
Diana Rigg and Patrick MacNee in the classic series "The Avengers".
Diana Rigg has, by all counts, enjoyed a very successful career. She's conquered television, film and stage and has been accorded the honor of being officially known as "Dame Diana Rigg". However, as she discusses in this interview with Variety, in the early days of her career she came up against the policies and prejudices that saw so many women in the entertainment industry be exploited and underpaid. She discovered that despite being a major star on "The Avengers" television series, she was making less of a salary than the male cameraman. Click here to read her comments about the challenges of coping long before there was a #MeToo movement.
Doris Day recently celebrated her 97th birthday and granted a rare interview to the Hollywood Reporter. Ms. Day is one of the few living legends from Hollywood's Golden Age. She was frequently derided in her prime for playing over-aged virginal characters, but that was inaccurate. In many of her films, Ms. Day was simply ahead of her time, choosing her suitors based on her own values. In many films she played a married woman. So the old quip "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin!" may have been amusing but not true. At times she could play a vamp with conviction. She was not only a world-class singer but a very good actress, as well. In the interview, she reflects on her career and her well-known devotion to animal rights. Best of all, she represents class and dignity: she completes entire sentences without using expletives. Click here to read.
Sean Connery's James Bond is distracted by Nadja Regin as would-be assassin Alf Joint approaches in "Goldfinger".
Actress Nadja Regin has passed away at age 87. She became famous for two small roles in early James Bond films. In the second entry in the series, From Russia with Love in 1963, Regin played the sultry mistress of Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), the head of local Turkish intelligence in Istanbul. In the film, she chronically demands that Bey make love to her only to have their encounter interrupted by a bomb explosion. The following year she appeared in the memorable pre-credits sequence in Goldfinger playing Bonita, a sexy but deceitful belly dancer who uses seduction as a way to distract Sean Connery's 007 as an assassin sneaks up on him. Bond sees his reflection in Bonita's eye and twirls her around in time for her to take a blackjack to the head that was intended for him. Serbian by birth, Regin had a relatively brief career in films and television. She appeared opposite Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man (aka Secret Agent) and Roger Moore in The Saint. She later worked behind the scenes in the movie industry vetting scripts and eventually became a novelist. For more click here.
A year after the release of “Tarzan Goes to India (1962),
producer Sy Weintraub sent director Robert Day (“Tarzan the Magnificent,” 1961),
with stars Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode to Thailand to film “Tarzan’s Three
Challenges.” With all of the exotic locations used, and a pretty decent script,
it turned out to be a very good Tarzan flick, but it nearly cost Mahoney his
The screenplay by Berne Giler (“Tarzan’s Greatest
Adventure”) and Day, has Tarzan traveling to an unnamed Asian Kingdom, played
by Thailand, at the request of a dying monarch (Woody Strode), who wants to
ensure that his son Kashi (Ricky Der) becomes the rightful ruler of the
kingdom. The problem is the king has a brother, Khan (Woody Strode with a
moustache), who plans to challenge his nephew’s ascension and place his own son
on the throne.
When Tarzan arrives by parachute, the king has died. The
monk-like guys who are holding down the fort are reluctant to tell where the
young prince is hiding from his uncle, for fear Tarzan isn’t who he says he is.
So they put the ape man to a series of tests. One involves archery, another is
a test of strength with Tarzan stretched between two water buffalo. Reportedly
Mahoney actually let himself be pulled in two directions by the buffalo, and
the stress on his body resulted in his having to be spoon fed for two days because
he couldn’t lift his hands up to his face. The third test is a test of wisdom
in the form of a question. “If you meet a stranger who has traveled a thousand
miles to kill you, of what would you first make sure?” Sorry. No spoilers here.
Tarzan passes the tests and is given a guide who will
take him by boat and through the jungle to the temple were Kashi is hiding.
Things go wrong right away, not only for Tarzan, but really wrong for Mahoney
himself. He’s taken by boat through the Bangkok floating market out to the
Klong River, at the time notorious for its pollution from human sewage. The
boat is attacked by pirates working for Khan. The scene called for Tarzan to
fall into the river, where the pirates are to run him down with their motor
boat. Strode warned him not to do it, but according to “Jock Mahoney: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Stuntman,” by Gene
Freese, Jocko, as he was known off-screen, didn’t want to endanger a stunt man
and said he’d do it himself. Big mistake.
At first he seemed okay afterward, but days later, as
filming went on, he came down with dysentery, dengue fever, malaria and eventually
pneumonia. The film was shot in sequence and you can literally see Mahoney in
scene after scene slowly shedding 40 pounds off his muscular frame. Despite his
sickness Mahoney did his job,performing some tough stunts, including the usual
vine swinging, performing the first and last 30 feet of a 120-foot bungee jump
off Begor bridge, running through aforest fire, engaging in several fist fights, and matching scimitars
with Strode on a rope-net suspended over boiling cauldrons. After completing
some of the action scenes, Mahoney passed out and had to be revived with
oxygen. Filming would wait until he was ready to go on.
Ridley Scott's "Alien" in its 1979 engagement in L.A. at the Egyptian Theatre. This photo is from the web site 2 Warps to Neptune on a page that includes other movie theater marquees from initial showings of the film along with some lobby displays. Click here to view.
The concept of the "Road" movie comedies proved to be a gold mine for Paramount. In all, seven of the films were made starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Happily, Kino Lorber has a number of them in Blu-ray release including the second film in the series, "Road to Zanzibar". The film was developed for Fred MacMurray and George Burns but when those plans fell through, Paramount decided to adapt the script to be a sequel to the highly successful "Road to Singapore", the first production in what would evolve as a series. To ensure a sense of continuity, Paramount had Victor Schertzinger back in the director's chair after he had guided "Singapore" to great success. This time around, our hapless and hopeless heroes are Chuck Reardon (Crosby) and Fearless Frazier (Hope), the latter so named because he makes his living as a daredevil in their traveling carnival act. Audiences pay to see Fearless shot from a cannon and turn into a blazing fireball in the sky. However, the whole stunt is a sham and Fearless is actually afraid of his own shadow. The film opens in South Africa where their latest con goes awry and burns down the entire carnival. Now wanted men, the two escape on a boat to exotic Zanzibar, where the con men find themselves being conned. They encounter a victim of white slavery, American girl Donna Latour (Lamour) who is being sold on an auction block. The men pay their last dollars to rescue her only to learn that she and the "slave trader" are in cahoots, along with Donna's other partner-in-crime, Julia Quimby (Una Merkel). Despite being snookered, Chuck and Fearless are starry-eyed over Donna and allow themselves to be brought into another con that finds the foursome treading on a safari into the heart of darkness. Along the way there are threats from nature and cannibals but it doesn't deter Der Bingle from finding quiet spots to croon love songs to Lamour. (In one particularly amusing scene, they joke about how orchestra music arises out of nowhere in romantic movie scenes, only to have said music arise out of nowhere.) The main joy is relishing the chemistry between the three stars and Hope and Crosby's constant quips. An amusing plot device is how all of the major and minor characters are constantly trying to con each other.
"Road to Zanzibar" was a major critical and financial success with Crosby improbably winning the Best Actor award from the National Board of Review when, in fact, HE just plays his usually charming self. At the time of the film's release, the world was in upheaval with Europe at war and, unbeknownst to audiences, America about to follow. Laughs were in short supply so audience enthusiasm for the antics found in the "Road" movies were understandable. What is surprising is how cheaply this film was made. It's all confined to rather small studio sets replicating the jungle and the only exterior shots are from stock footage. If you took out the trio of big stars, "Zanzibar" would be dismissed as a "Poverty Row" production. But Paramount had a good thing going. Why spend more on a film than they had to? Although dated in many aspects (white guys blacked up to play natives), the film's modest pleasures still elicit some laughs.
The Kino Lorber transfer is satisfactory but the original elements were probably nothing to get excited about. The film's cheap look and graininess is apparent but this probably the best it's ever looked on home video. There are some welcome bonus extras including a documentary about Bob Hope and the "Road" movies and a WWII era short that depicts Hope hosting big stars to make a radio recording that was sent to armed forces around the globe. There is also a trailer gallery of other "Road" films available from the company.
After making six Tarzan films, the last two,“Tarzan’s
Greatest Adventure” (1959) and “Tarzan the Magnificent” (1960), considered
among the best ever made, actor Gordon Scott hung up the loin cloth to star in
movies in Italy. Producer Sy Weintraub, who had taken Tarzan out of the back
lots of Hollywood and filmed on location in Africa, wanted to continue the
series and put the ape man in even more exotic locations. He had India in mind
for the next Tarzan adventure, but now suddenly he had to find a new Lord of
the Jungle. He didn’t have to look very far. “Tarzan the Magnificent” had
featured stunt man turned actor, Jock Mahoney as villain Coy Banton, in a
performance that was every bit as physically demanding as it was for Scott.
Even at age 41, when “Magnificent” was made, Mahoney was in
incredible shape. At six foot four, he weighed about 220 pounds and had a long,
lean body that actually resembled some of the early illustrations of Tarzan in
the original novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Born with the grace of a
jungle cat himself, there wasn’t a stunt he couldn’t perform.
Mahoney first gained fame in the 1950s as “The Range
Rider,” a TV series produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. The series
was famous for the amazing stunts on and off horseback that Mahoney did. At the
peak of the series popularity, Mahoney and his co-star Dick Jones toured the country
with a travelling rodeo and Wild West show that packed stadiums and sports
arenas around the country.
After “Range Rider,” Mahoney starred in a very cool show
called “Yancy Derringer,” in which he played a kind of a Southern dandy who hung
out in New Orleans with a mute Pawnee Indian named Pahoo-Ka-Ti-Wa (Wolf Who
Walks on Water). The show was a hit and Mahoney would have been set for life if
Derringer had had a good run. But, according to “Jock Mahoney: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Stuntman,” by Gene
Freese, CBS President Jim Aubrey canceled the show after one season when its
producers refused his demand that he be given a quarter interest in the show.
Mahoney had to move his wife, actress Maggie Field, and her daughter Sally, and
her brother, out of the big mansion he’d just bought. Luckily he landed the bad
guy part in “Tarzan the Magnificent.”
When Weintraub offered Mahoney the title role in “Tarzan
Goes to India” (1962), he was elated. The only question was, at his age, would
he be up to the physical challenges of the role? After consulting with his
physician and getting a clean bill of health, he decided he was. And besides,
he needed the dough.
“Tarzan Goes to India” is an excellent Tarzan film, although
less intense than the last two movies in the series, which had a more “adult”
approach to the character. With the presence of a young Indian mahout and his
pet elephant in the cast, Weintraub seemed to be aiming the movie more at a
family audience. It was the first Tarzan flick filmed in CinemaScope and
Directed by John Guillerman (“Tarzan’s Greatest
Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno”), who co-wrote the screenplay with Robert
Hardy Andrews, it’s a story that couldn’t be much simpler. Tarzan is called to
India by a dying maharaja who wants Tarzan to save a herd of 300 elephants in
danger of being drowned in a flood that will be caused by the building of a new
dam. Tarzan learns that the elephants could escape their doom if they could be
led out of the valley through a narrow pass. But two obstacles stand in the
way. One is that the elephant herd is being led by a killer rogue elephant who
isn’t going to let anybody lead them anywhere. But even more problematic, dam
engineer Ohara (Mark Dana) is building a wall to block the pass and they must
do it before the monsoon season begins. Ohara’s position is that when it’s a
choice between saving elephants and progress, progress wins. His chief engineer
Bryce (Leo Gordon) only cares about making sure he gets the job done so he can
get paid. But Tarzan knows Bryce from an encounter with him back in Africa as a
man who enjoys killing elephants for fun and profit. Tarzan tells the men he intends to lead the
herd through the pass, no matter what.
Marlon Brando and Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now.
Director Frances Ford Coppola became disenchanted with filmmaking on a large scale many years ago. Battling studio executives and worrying about cost over-runs on his ambitious projects convinced him to concentrate on his other business ventures, primarily his wine and real estate companies. But Coppola, now aged 80 and look fit, has announced that he intends to return to his goal of bringing his big-budget sci-fi epic "Megaopolis" to the screen and hopes to start shooting this year. Coppola wrote the film in the 1980s but a series of obstacles prevented him from putting the movie into production. Coppola also speaks at length to Deadline about the inspiration for his latest revisions to "Apocalypse Now". The 1979 blockbuster will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 28 with Coppola present for its unveiling under the title "Apocalypse Now: Final Cut". Click here to read.
Robert De Niro doesn't give many interviews but, in conjunction with his Tribeca Film Festival, he spoke to Indiewire about a range of subjects including similarities to his Rupert Pupkin character from "The King of Comedy" to the Joker in the eagerly-anticipated superhero flick. De Niro also discusses the controversial "de-aging" process used in Martin Scorsese's forthcoming crime film "The Irishman" that allows the major characters to be seen as their younger selves. Click here to read.
Horror films have always been a staple of the movie industry but in recent years they have been making big comeback with younger viewers. But these aren't your parent's versions of horror flicks.As writer Elahe Izadi of Washington Post points out, today's horror movies differ greatly from the era in which people wanted to see Boris Karloff or Vincent Price providing a few relatively tame chills for mainstream audiences. Today's interpretation of the genre includes films that often contain social messages and greater truths, at least in the opinions of the people who create them. They are also more graphic, although one must acknowledge that "slasher" movies have existed for decades. Yet, this was always seen as primarily as sub-genre. Click here to read the article.
We have all heard of "Hollywood accounting": the practice by which films and TV shows that generate huge amounts of income for studios somehow never show a profit on paper, thus denying those with profit participation deals their share of considerable amounts of income. The smash hit 1970s TV series "Columbo" starring Peter Falk was produced by Universal. The show's creators Richard Levinson and William Link never saw their percentage of the profits until 2016 when Universal finally paid them $5 million, far short of what they estimated they were owed. Universal argued that it took that long for the show to make a profit despite the fact that it was estimated to have grossed over $600 million. Link and the estate of the now-deceased Levinson recently won a key victory in court despite Universal stating that their suit was past the statute of limitations. They were awarded another $21 million but the case is still on-going with the plaintiffs now seeking another $135 in damages. Click here for Hollywood Reporter coverage.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
Americana With Bite
By Raymond Benson
Altman enjoyed a successful and critically-acclaimed run as a director in the
1970s, and for my money, Nashville is
the pinnacle, the quintessential Altman Film. Along with M*A*S*H, and later works like A
Wedding and Short Cuts, Nashville is a large ensemble picture
with numerous characters coincidentally crisscrossing throughout the story, creating
a style and structure that Altman made his own (it’s a safe bet that he was
assuredly influenced by Jean Renoir’s 1939 classic, The Rules of the Game, which also displays a canvas of quirky
characters interacting at a gathering). The “plot,” as it were, concerns the
preparation and execution of a political campaign benefit concert—and the
camera follows twenty-four eccentric souls around as it happens.
citizens of Nashville, Tennessee, where the picture was shot on location, were
very upset by Altman’s film. They felt it made fun of them and the country
music industry. On the contrary, Nashville
is not really about the country music business—that only serves as the
conduit for Altman’s real message. This is a movie about America, from not only a pop culture point-of-view, but definitely
a political one. Nashville, the city, becomes a metaphor for the country, and
the music is the paint with which the world is colored.
released in 1975, Nashville is satire
at its best. Altman-esque black humor oozes through every scene, and each one
feels spontaneous and improvised (most of them were!). The picture is a
smorgasbord of sights and sounds—all fascinating and compelling. Thematically,
there are examinations of relationships, greed, exploitation, fame, ambition,
and disappointment... as well as a sudden and surprising final statement on
violence. With its depiction of the assassination of a pop singer, in hindsight
Nashville eerily forecasts the murder
of John Lennon, which occurred five years later.
usual, Altman employs many from his so-called “stock company” of actors—Lily
Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, Michael Murphy, Shelley Duvall,
Geraldine Chaplin—as well as folks like Ronee Blakely, Jeff Goldblum, Karen
Black, Keenan Wynn, and Ned Beatty. Carradine, Tomlin, and Blakely are
standouts, but for me it’s Gibson who steals the picture. His characterization
of a rhinestone country singer is spot-on and often hilarious. Nashville deservedly earned Best
Picture, Best Director, and two Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations, and
yet it won only Best Song—Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy” (many of the actors
wrote their own songs they performed in the movie).
new 2k digital film restoration looks wonderful on Blu-ray, of course, and the 5.1
surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack elevates to sublimity Altman’s utilization
of overlapping dialogue. You really can decipher
everything that’s said! The new documentary on the making of the film, which
features interviews with Carradine, Blakley, Tomlin, Murphy, Allan Nicholls,
writer Joan Tewkesbury, and A.D. Alan Rudolph, is informative but perhaps a
little rambling after fifty minutes. It was interesting to hear how Carradine
was unhappy with his performance during the shoot and “felt uncomfortable”—it
was after he saw the completed film that he realized it was his unhappy character that had upset him; Tom was a
guy who didn’t like himself, and the actor felt it internally without understanding
it at the time. There are three archival interviews with Altman, who is always
articulate and entertaining. Also included is some behind-the-scenes footage
and a demo of Carradine performing his songs from the film. Critic Molly
Haskell provides the essay in the thick booklet.
Nashville is a feast for the
eyes and ears. More of an experience than a narrative film, it is one for the
Tania Mallet, who played one of the ill-fated Masterson sisters in the 1964 James Bond blockbuster "Goldfinger", has passed away at age 77. Mallet was the cousin of Helen Mirren and began her modeling career as a teenager. She auditioned for the female lead in the second Bond film "From Russia with Love". Although the role went to Daniela Bianchi, the producers cast Mallet in the pivotal role of Tilly Masterson in "Goldfinger". In the part, Mallet played a young woman obsessed with avenging the murder of her sister Jill (Shirley Eaton) by the villain Auric Goldfinger. She has a tense, chance encounter with Sean Connery's James Bond, who is also on the trail of Goldfinger. Tragically, Tilly dies at the hands of Goldfinger's murderous man servant Oddjob (Harold Sakata).
Despite the success of the film and the attention paid to her role, Mallet had no desire to pursue a career in acting, preferring to return to modeling, and appeared on screen only once more in a 1976 TV episode of "The New Avengers". No details regarding cause of death have been released at this time. For more click here.
"SUPPOSE THEY MADE A COMEDY AND NOBODY WENT TO SEE IT?"
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H" was released in 1970, a year in which the Vietnam War protests were in full swing. Altman's irreverent, ground-breaking film was set in the Korean War but everyone knew it was an obvious stand-in for Vietnam. The film's impact overshadowed what would appear to be another anti-war comedy, "Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?" which was coincidentally released the same year. Because both movies were in production at the same time, "Suppose" can't be said to have been a low-grade rip-off of the Altman classic, though it met an entirely different fate. Whereas "M*A*S*H" was a bold, cynical comedy about military mishaps, "Suppose" simply borrows a slogan that was used by protesters and masquerades as a socially significant comedy. I don't really know what it is, but clearly it does not emerge as anti-war except in terms of its title. It's one of the most disjointed, badly-edited films of the era despite being directed by the usually capable Hy Averback, who assembled an admittedly impressive cast. The story is set in an unnamed small southern community that adjoins a U.S. Army base. In real life, communities become dependent upon proximity to such bases and fight tooth-and-nail to keep them open and operating because they provide the primary economic engine for the town. In this scenario, however, there is a fractious relationship between townspeople and the soldiers. The local sheriff, Harve (Ernest Borgnine), is an ill-tempered abuser of civil rights who sees himself as a benevolent dictator who has the weak political leaders in his pocket. Harve abhors the military presence and has turned the local population against the base because of the drunkenness displayed by some unruly soldiers when they come to town. The base commander, Col. Flanders (Don Ameche) is aggressively moving to improve community relations. He appoints Nace (Brian Keith), a career Army officer, to take on the task of spearheading a drive to show the favorable aspects of having a military base in proximity of the town. Nace is a cynic and accepts the responsibility reluctantly. However, his attempt to calm nerves by inviting locals to a dance on the base has disastrous consequences. The film has more sub-plots than an octopus has tentacles and we see Nace interacting with two enlisted men with whom he is friendly: Shannon Gambroni (Tony Curtis) and Sgt. Jones (Ivan Dixon), both of whom are obsessed with restoring an old tank on the base in the belief they can turn it into a profitable venture, though I can't recall if it's ever explained how they intend to do so with government-owned property. Another sub-plot finds the womanizing Shannon's dogged pursuit of local barmaid Ramona (Suzanne Pleshette), a streetwise, hard-bitten woman who plays coy with him and lets it be known she isn't going to fall for a "love-'em-and-leave-'em" guy. Oh, yes, there is another subplot involving Sgt. Jones attempting to get a bank loan to invest in a gas station only to be turned down by the bank for the obvious reason that he is an African-American. Then there is the sub-plot involving Billy Joe Davis (Tom Ewell), a local political power player who not-so-secretly heads up a white supremacist paramilitary organization complete with a helicopter. Then there's the dilemma of dilettante army officer Capt. Myerson (Bradford Dillman), who is viewed as a lightweight by Nance and who hopes to prove his equality by accepting a drunken, late night obstacle course challenge. Wait for it- there's at least one more story line involving Sheriff Harve's hatred for Shannon because he is also trying to woo Ramona.
If you're wondering how all of these stories mesh coherently, keep wondering because they don't. Some plot devices are dropped entirely and others aren't even developed. For example, the scene that plays out over the film's opening credits follows a young draftee named Alturi (Christopher Mitchum) as he walks through the town en route to report for duty on the army base. Once the credits end, so does our exposure to this character who is barely glimpsed during the rest of the film. So why have us acquaint ourselves with his presence during the opening credits? Similarly, Ramona shares an intimate conversation with Shannon as they both get drunk in car and the scene seems to be leading to a poignant conclusion. It cuts out abruptly and we don't see Ramona again for the rest of the movie. (Shades of Peter Sellers in Casino Royale!) What is most surprising about "Suppose..." is that the script seems to have no specific point-of-view. Despite the Vietnam War raging and the protest movement in high gear, the conflict is barely mentioned. There are some allusions to racial tensions in the effective scene in which Sgt. Jones experiences being turned down for a loan despite having sufficient collateral but this, too, is never exploited effectively. The movie lumbers to a bizarre conclusion in which the Borgnine character takes on the persona of ol' Ernie's star-making role of jailer "Fatso" Judson in "From Here to Eternity". He arrests Shannon and roughs him up, thus leading Nance and Jones to operate that old tank and drive it to town in the hopes of freeing Shannon from jail. Along the way, Billy Joe Davis mistakes them for communist invaders and orders an attack by his inept militia in a scene that exists to satisfy people who pay money to go to monster truck rallies and see a lot of vehicles wrecked. If that's your idea of entertainment, you'll love the climax of this movie.
The plot is filled with holes the size of football fields. How is an insubordinate like Shannon able to stay in the Army when he is in a constant state of drunkenness and insubordination? He seems to have no official duties to attend to. Why would respected career Army men like Nance and Jones throw their careers out the window by utilizing a tank to destroy the jail knowing they will be held to account? What happened to Ramona? Despite all these flaws, some of the scenarios and dialogue are quite amusing with crusty Keith in especially fine mode. It's also nice to see Ivan Dixon, a good actor and future director, in a sizable role. Curtis overplays the aging rebel routine and the other cast members are largely wasted. (They include such top-notch second bananas as Arthur O'Connell, John Fielder and Robert Emhardt). The movie was promoted alternately as an anti-war film (it isn't) and a daring sex comedy (there is no sex.) It bombed with critics and at the boxoffice, though one suspects it could have amounted to much more. The jerky editing process makes it clear that a lot of footage was cut for the final release print and undoubtedly it would have helped the flow of the story had it been kept intact. The film ends with a bizarre song by composer Jerry Fielding, of whom it can be said that this wasn't his finest hour, as he already had "The Wild Bunch" to his credit.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray features a commentary track by film historians Dr. Eloise Ross and Dr. Dean Brandum, who offer a very low-key, leisurely-paced analysis of the movie that addresses some of the criticisms presented here and provide some insightful observations. There is also a trailer gallery of other K/L releases, though, curiously "Suppose..." isn't among them.
It must have been difficult being Lord Laurence Olivier. As the man regarded by many as the greatest living actor, he had a lot to live up to. At the 1979 Oscar awards, he rose to the occasion, delivering what must be one of the most beautiful and heartfelt speeches to ever grace the Academy's stage in acceptance of an Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. Olivier was in frail health at the time but looked handsome and fit on the big night. Making the evening even more memorable was a rare public appearance by his old friend, the seemingly ageless Cary Grant, who presented the honor to him. At the completion of Olivier's speech, watch the reaction of Jon Voight and keep in mind that the presentation of these awards, once a highlight of the broadcast, are now relegated to a separate event with only a few seconds shown on the actual Oscar broadcast. It's time to restore the Honorary Oscar presentations to their place on the main event that is telecast internationally. - Lee Pfeiffer
(Actor Shane Rimmer has died at age 89. Cinema Retro's Gareth Owen provides this tribute.)
BY GARETH OWEN
Screen hero, friend and client - Shane Rimmer
was all three to me. Along with being an accomplished actor in over 100 films,
he was a talented screenwriter, author, singer, dancer, presenter and
voice-over artiste, and his death this week, aged 89, comes as a great sadness.
Shane was born in Canada in 1929, but
emigrated to the UK in the late 1950s after performing as a cabaret singer and
actor, and one of his first UK films was for director Stanley Kubrick in Dr
Strangelove (1964). He became part of the small group of 'American actors for
hire' and duly popped up in scores of TV productions and movies in small but
memorable roles. Shows such as Compact, The Saint, Dr Who and a low budget
children's series called Thunderbirds were amongst them.
Shane in fact became a mainstay of Gerry
Anderson's many productions and along with voicing Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds,
he lent his voice talents to Captain Scarlett and Joe 90, along with appearing
in front of the camera in UFO, Space 1999, Space Police and The Protectors (for
which he also wrote two episodes).
Shane also had the rare distinction of
appearing in three James Bond films: You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever
and The Spy Who Loved Me.
Shane Rimmer with Roger Moore in "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977).
His film and TV appearances were balanced by
a healthy stage career, but it was for his roles in big blockbuster series such
as Superman, Star Wars, Bond, and Batman Begins that made Shane a familiar and
favourite face, leading him to appear at many conventions and fan events all
over the world where he became a firm fan favourite. His warm, sunny
personality and ability to tell fascinating stories of working on cult
favourites made him a hugely popular guest.
For the last twelve years or so I had the
honour, with Andy Boyle, of being Shane's talent agent. We were delighted when
Tim Burton cast him in Dark Shadows - without the need for auditioning - and
when Shane was able to return to the world of cartoon voice-over in the Cartoon
Network series The Amazing World Of Gumball over four series as Grandpa Louie.
Shane was often called for auditions and interviews with casting directors and
never once did he think he was 'above' going through the process of reading
lines or self-taping scenes; he relished every opportunity to head into London
and meet potential employers, often at short notice and often with complicated
dialogue to learn. He was, in every sense, a true professional.
He used to laugh when people asked if he was
the actor in such-and-such a show, and would say 'Probably - I've done so much
I can't honestly remember'.
I last met Shane a few weeks before his
death, at a tribute event for the late director Lewis Gilbert at BAFTA. A bout
of ill health before Christmas had taken a visible toll on him, but he remained
upbeat and full of fun. I'm so pleased my last meeting with Shane ended with
bidding him, and his smiling face, a cheery farewell - that's how I'll always
remember him, smiling.
Here is the original Hollywood Reporter review written in 1941 by a sadly uncredited staff member. It suitably proclaims the film's greatness and the triumphant achievement of young Orson Welles- but it commits the ultimate faux pas by revealing the meaning of "Rosebud"! Perhaps it's best that history has kept the reviewer's name anonymous.Click here to read.
Judy Garland became a major child star but there was a downside to fame and fortune. The Hollywood legend soon learned that, despite her tender years, she was considered to be fair game by predatory influential men of power in the film industry. In the Washington Post's Retropod series, host Mike Rosenwald explores how Garland fought a brave defense to maintain her dignity against men who could have crushed her career.
The 1980 comedy sensation "Airplane!" is generally thought of as a generic spoof of the disaster movie craze that packed movie theaters in the 1970s. However, Matt Novak, a self-professed scholar of the movie writes on the web site Paleofuture that the film is actually primarily a spoof of the 1957 airline thriller "Zero Hour!" and that the producers of "Airplane!" actually bought the rights to the earlier film to avoid being sued for the similarities in both plots. Click here to read and view a video that compares the two.
Larry Cohen, the multi-talented director/producer/screenwriter who created some legendary TV programs and cult movies, has died at age 82. Cohen wrote scripts for classic TV series such as "The Defenders", "Columbo" and "The Invaders". He also created the 1960s TV series "Branded" with Chuck Connors, "Coronet Blue" and "Blue Light", an espionage series set in WWII starring Robert Goulet. He moved into feature films where his quirky movies earned a loyal fan following that extended over decades, including the horror favorite "It's Alive". Collaborating with actor Michael Moriarty, the two produced other hits including "Q" and "The Stuff". He also wrote the 2002 film "Phone Booth" which became his biggest boxoffice success. He also wrote the screenplays for "Return of the Seven", "El Condor" and wrote and directed the Blaxploitation classics "Hell Up in Harlem" and "Black Caesar". Cohen was much beloved by retro movie fans and was the subject of documentaries. His work also was cited by numerous younger filmmakers as an inspiration for their own movies. Cohen lived to see his films appreciated anew by both fans and critics. Click here to read the Variety obituary.
With Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox (now known as 21st Century Fox), the house that Walt built will absorb the historic film and television studio to become the most influential player in the American entertainment industry. What will it mean on a go-forward basis? No one knows at this moment. Disney has indicated that certain key executives and teams will remain in place while others will be replaced. It is expected that some of the biggest action movie franchises will be transferred directly to the Disney operation. One thing is clear: Fox's days as one of the most powerful film studios in history are now over. The shots will largely be called by Disney executives, though Fox's divisions that produce upscale and more niche market fare will probably exercise more independence. The Los Angeles Times provides a valuable look at what it has been like working at the studio through oral histories with people in various professions at Fox, from the top executive offices to producers and actors as well as people who worked 9-to-5 jobs on the lot. It's the ultimate sentimental journey. Click here to read.
Vocalion continue to carve out a very healthy reputation
for their SACD Hybrid releases. Their past releases have been exceptional, and
I’m pleased to report that their latest continues to maintain that very high
level of quality. The CD release (CDSML8553) is an addition to the label's SACD Hybrid Multi-channel series.
The label has again coupled up two original Mancini
albums, both of which were released in Quadraphonic pressings back in the ‘70s.
Henry Mancini ?–
Hangin' Out (RCA Victor ?– APD1-0672) was released in
the U.S. in 1974. There is some nice material contained on this album, included
Mancini’s The Girl from Petrovka,
which was the composer’s latest scoring assignment at the time and to this day
remains unreleased as a standalone soundtrack. There is also an alternative funky
arrangement of The Thief Who Came to
Dinner (1973) which will appeal to Mancini collectors. There’s a whole lot
more of course, including music from 99
and 44/100% dead! (1974). Overall, it’s a splendid compilation.
The second Mancini album contained on this CD is Theme from Z and other film music (1970)
and presents a selection of popular film music of the time by various
composers. The CD opens with Z (1969), the title music from the Oscar-winning
political thriller. The playlist also contains two tracks from the Sean Connery
/ Richard Harris mining movie, The Molly
Maguires (1970) – and another fine opportunity for Mancini to promote one
of his latest scores. There’s a particularly wide selection of music on this
album, all of which allows Mancini to demonstrate his versatility in arranging.
Everything is here, from standard love themes such as Airport (1970), high action pieces such as The Adventures (1970) and even the Spaghetti western, in the shape
of Stelvio Cipriani’s A Man, a Horse, a
The whole CD has been remastered beautifully in the usual
fashion by Michael J. Dutton. This latest release contains both the original
stereo and quadrophonic mixes and contains full and informative liner notes
provided by Oliver Lomax. A handsomely produced package and a standard that we
have come to expect from Dutton Vocalion. www.duttonvocalion.co.uk
The Criterion Channel will launch on April 8, allowing classic movie lovers to stream 1,000 feature films as well as thousands of shorts and supplementary features derived from Criterion's video releases.Click here to read all the details of the channel's premiere line-up of films.
Kino Lorber has released the documentary "The Last Resort" as a DVD special edition. It's yet another worthy niche market film that the company is helping to find an audience. The movie, impressively directed by Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, at first seems to be a lighthearted, sentimental and amusing look at the elderly Jewish community that settled in Miami Beach, specifically the South Beach section, in the 1950s-1970s. Florida destinations for tourists and transplants from the northern states did not occur until the advent of air conditioning and its widespread use, which mitigated the humidity and allowed elderly people in particular to visit or move there in droves. Jews were not particularly welcome, however, as many of the more desirable apartment complexes, hotels, clubs and restaurants blatantly forbade them from entering. Yes, folks this was after the U.S. waged war against Adolf Hitler and his genocidal hoards. When new laws stopped such discriminatory practices, Jewish communities thrived and at one point, South Beach's population was 75% Jewish. Many of the elderly people who settled there were Holocaust survivors who relished the opportunity to finally find some peace and solace among others of their faith. Here they could freely practice and celebrate ancient religious and cultural rituals without interference. Miami Beach also became a haven for celebrities, a kind of southern Las Vegas. When Jackie Gleason decided to film his weekly variety show there, it inspired millions to visit the state. On every show, Miami Beach was referred to as "The sun and fun capitol of the world!" Even James Bond gave his endorsement, with the opening sequence of "Goldfinger" set the Fontainebleau Hotel, the ultimate symbol of Miami Beach's upscale status.
"The Last Resort" centers on the unique efforts of Gary Monroe and Andy Sweet, two college students and amateur photographers, who made it their mission to document what they correctly perceived would be a temporary oasis for the elderly Jewish residents of South Beach. In the pre-digital age, their commitment to this cause cost them time and money in an era in which film still had to be purchased and developed. Still, they persevered and took many thousands of wonderful shots, Monroe working in B&W and Sweet in color. Through their photographs a joyous community was brought to life and we relish the sight of elderly people attired in the garish styles of the day singing, dancing, taking in the surf and just sitting around making small talk. Their contentment is quite apparent. But the film takes a darker turn when it chronicles the rapid demise of Miami and South Beach. This occurred when the U.S. government negotiated a deal with Fidel Castro to allow for vast numbers of Cubans to immigrate to the United States through the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980. Although the majority of the immigrants were simply seeking freedom from a totalitarian state, Castro shrewdly through a twist into the plan by secretly freeing the most dangerous criminals from his jails and placing them on the boats. When many of these convicts settled in and around South Beach, the area declined virtually overnight and Miami Beach became the U.S. city with the highest murder rate. (This dark period is the setting for Brian De Palma's "Scarface".) The elderly Jewish population had already dwindled substantially due to attrition and the crime rate discouraged anyone else from wanting to settle there. Time magazine documented the deterioration with a cover that read "Paradise Lost". The film provides interviews with Monroe and his friends and colleagues who discuss how the older people were now often living along and terrified in neighborhoods that only a few years previously had been their salvation. As the area further deteriorated, Andy Sweet began to associate with the wrong crowd. He was brutally murdered in his own apartment in 1982, not yet 30 years of age. (The details of the crime are left strangely murky despite the fact that a man was tried and convicted of his murder.) As the city managed to ultimately reduce the social problems and lower the crime rate, South Beach became a haven for the hip, young party crowd. Prices soared and the area's signature art deco buildings were converted into expensive business venues and luxury apartments. Andy Sweet's friends mounted an organized campaign to showcase his life's work, the collection of many thousands of photos. Their trials and tribulations in doing so is a testament to their devotion to him and the result is this film.
The year was 1947. Hattie McDaniel was a popular and familiar face on the big screen especially since winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her immortal portrayal of Mammy in "Gone With the Wind" in 1939. Still, McDaniel not only had to deal with a glass ceiling in terms of prejudice in Hollywood and society itself, but she also had to fend off African-American critics who faulted her for often playing maids and other domestic types in the films she made. McDaniel responded in an extraordinary essay published in The Hollywood Reporter in which she refutes the notion that the roles she played diminished the dignity of black people, pointing out that Arthur Treacher usually played British butlers but no one expected him to carry his screen persona over into real life. More impressively, McDaniel cited progress being made on screen by black actors who were increasingly getting roles of mature, dignified characters. With this essay, Hattie McDaniel proved not only to be a talented actress but also an outstanding writer. Click here to read.
Boys will be boys. Clint Eastwood takes time out from directing and starring in "High Plains Drifter" to retrieve his son Kyle's toy airplane from atop a roof. Kyle would appear as Clint's on-screen son in two features he would direct, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976) and "Honkytonk Man" (1982). Kyle Eastwood is now a world-acclaimed jazz musician.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City:
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now will celebrate its
40th Anniversary at the Festival with a screening of a new, never-before-seen
restored version of the film, entitled Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. Remastered
from the original negative in 4K Ultra HD, the film will be brought to life
with Dolby Vision? and Dolby Atmos?, delivering spectacular colors and
highlights that are up to 40 times brighter and blacks that are 10 times
darker, and Dolby Atmos, producing moving audio that flows all around you with
breathtaking realism. The Beacon Theatre will also be outfitted for this
exclusive occasion with Meyer Sound VLFC (Very Low Frequency Control), a
ground-breaking loudspeaker system engineered to output audio frequencies below
the limits of human hearing, giving the audience a truly visceral experience.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards?, Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning vision of
the heart of darkness in all of us remains a classic and compelling Vietnam War
epic. Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a
dangerous and mesmerizing odyssey into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade
American Colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors
of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost.
After the Screening: An evening with Francis Ford Coppola who will reflect on
the film and discuss its elaborate restoration. Drama, Special
About the Director(s)
Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most acclaimed
filmmakers of our time; a five-time Academy Award-winning director, writer, and
producer of such films as Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II,
American Graffiti, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
As the founder of American Zoetrope, he initiated and nourished the careers of
talents such as George Lucas, Carroll Ballard, John Milius, Sofia Coppola, and
actors Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, James Caan, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus,
Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon, and Diane Lane.
As a writer, director, producer, and technological pioneer, Francis Coppola has
created a body of work that has helped to shape contemporary American cinema.
The 6th Socially Relevant Film
Festival kicked off at the Cinema Village theater on 12th Street in New York
City last Monday night in fine fashion. Literally. "The Merger" is a
wonderfully sweet and ultimately moralistic comedy from Down Under that centers
around the sport of Australian Rules Football, or "Footy."
It's set in the fictional, rural
village of Bodgy Creek Australia - a town in trouble. A population decrease,
caused by the "greenie-led" closure of the timber mill, has left the
footy team short handed. so much so that their only choices are to either merge
with another team or fold.
"What's a merger?" asks
young Neil Barlow (played by the charismatic 11 year-old (Rafferty Grierson),
grandson to the club manager "Bull" Barlow."That's where one shit team joins with
another shit team to make a slightly less shit team," a player responds.
The Bodgy Creek Roosters are a shit team right now.
When town pariah, former AFL star
Troy Carrington (played by writer Damian Callinan) comes up with a solution to
raise funds, save the team and rebuild the clubhouse - he becomes head of the
team. His problems are two-fold: he's unpopular and referred to as "Town
Killer" for having led the "greenie" protest and it requires the
assistance of the town's refugee population. This is where the film's humanity
and morality come to the forefront.
Originally a one-man theatre show
by Damian Callinan that snowballed throughout Australia from the rural areas to
the big cities that held a mirror up to society's foibles, frailties and
contradictions, not just in Australia but everywhere it seems in these times.
Eventually, film director Mark Grentell saw the show. Having worked with Callinan
on "Backyard Ashes" the two got together to
put together this gem of a film. It's a bit of a rough gem. Then again, so is
Fayssal Bazzi's portrayal of the Syrian
refugee, Sayyid, is standout. I cried so much, I laughed. Kate Mulvany, as
widowed daughter-in-law of Bull Barlow and mother of Neil is another gleaming
facet of this rough gem - and if you're interested in podcasts;
Callinhan has been making them about the Bodgy Creek Roosters since 2016:
Popular Mechanics has assembled the stories behind what have become the most sought-after and expensive "Star Wars" collectibles in the world. If they keep going up in value, we suspect their combined worth will exceed the budget of the original film! Click here to read.
Nicholas Ray’s “The True Story of Jesse James” (1957), now
available on a Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray, is one of those movies
that really depresses me whenever I see it. It’s a reminder how life sometimes
just seems to go out of its way to be unfair... and it’s got nothing to do with
Jesse James at all. It’s about James
Ray had just finished directing Dean in “Rebel Without a
Cause,” and the word is that if Dean hadn’t wiped himself out in a Porsche
Spyder down in Bakersfield, Ray would have cast him in “True Story’s” title
role. It would have been perfect casting. Dean, an actor who could reach down
into the cauldron of seething emotion that smoldered deep inside him, would
have electrified the screen with a Jesse James that nobody’d ever forget.
Instead, what we got was a bland, lifeless performance by Robert Wagner as
Jesse, aided and abetted by Jeffrey Hunter, another fifties pretty boy, as
Jesse’s brother Frank. Hunter at least was capable of an occasional angry scowl,
but Wagner’s magazine cover good looks never changes expression once during the
entire 92 minutes of the film. “The True Story of Jesse James,” is an
opportunity lost, a muffed chance at what could have been a classic American
That’s not to say it’s not an interesting movie. Nicholas
Ray never made an uninteresting film. Ray’s approach to the outlaw’s story is
definitely his own. The script by Walter Newman (“The Man with the Golden Arm”
1955) is a rewrite of the screenplay written by Nunnally Johnson for the
earlier “Jesse James” (1939) film, which was directed by Henry King and starred
Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as Frank. Johnson’s script made the
argument that it was the encroachment of the railroad and the way it grabbed
the land of Missouri farmers that caused the James boys to turn outlaw. The
story shows how the James’ fight with the railroad escalated, with the powerful
railroad executives, crooked lawyers and corrupt judges pushing Jesse and his
friends into a corner, forcing them to turn to violence. The James brothers and
their pals, the Youngers, the Fords, and the Millers, moved up from robbing
trains to banks, culminating in the disastrous robbery of the Northfield,
Minnesota National Bank, which basically ended the outlaws’ careers.
“The True Story of Jesse James,” tells a different story,
and tells it in a different way. In Ray’s version it wasn’t the railroad that
was responsible, it was the fact that the James boys fought for the Confederacy
but lived in an area of Missouri surrounded by Yankee sympathizers. Their
neighbors hated them for riding with Quantrill’s Raiders, and persecuted them,
siding with Union soldiers when they came to arrest Frank. Arkew (Chubby
Johnson), one of the neighbors, whips Jesse with his belt to make him tell
where Frank is hiding. Jesse refuses to tell and promises him “someday” he’ll
settle the score. It’s a pretty bland threat coming from Wagner, and it almost
forces you to imagine how Dean would have played it. Later in the story, it is
a crucial plot element, when just on the eve of being granted amnesty by the
governor, Jess runs into Arkew, and kills him, ruining the chance for a
peaceful outcome. That scene would have been colossal in Dean’s hands, but lacks
the impact it should have had.
Newman’s screenplay doesn’t stop at blaming the war for
Jesse’s activities, it tries to go deeper. A newspaper editor refuses to write
up an obituary in advance because he says first he has to know what made Jesse
the man he was. Preacher Jethro Bailey (John Carradine, who played Bob Ford in
the earlier film) blames the devil for what he became. But Zee, Jesse’s wife
(Hope Lange) disagrees, saying he was a “sweet, gentle boy” who was pushed into
outlawry by the haters all around him and his family.
Not only are the causes of Jesse’s behavior explained
differently, the way Jesse’s life is examined is different as well. In the
earlier film, the story is told chronologically. But “The True Story of Jesse
James” begins at the end with the Northfield bank robbery and tries to put the
puzzle of James’s personality together through flashbacks. This
socio/psychoanalytical approach is one that Ray could have used successfully
with Dean in the title role, portraying Jesse as another one of his rebel-without-a-cause
characters. But Wagner lacked the depth to be able to come to grips with the
demands the part called for, and it appears that Ray simply gave up trying to
get more out of him. The film lacks the energy of most of Ray’s other films, with
many scenes consisting of stretches of dialogue that go on far too long. And,
for whatever reason, Ray actually re-used footage from the earlier movie. The
train robbery with the silhouetted figure of Jesse running over the top of the
cars, and the scene during the Northfield raid where Jesse and Frank ride their
horses through a storefront window were both clipped from the earlier film. Had
Ray lost enthusiasm for the movie by the time it came to shoot those scenes? We
may never know.
Twilight Time presents “The True Story of Jesse James,”
in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio in a very sharp 1080 p high
definition transfer. The film was shot with Twentieth Century Fox’s Color by De
Luxe and looks great. All of Fox’s Cinemascope films had terrific stereo
soundtracks, and Twilight Time has transferred it in optional 5.1 DTS HD, or
2.0 DTS. The 3,000 unit limited edition comes with a separate audio track for
Leigh Harline’s music score. There’s also some Fox Movietone newsreel footage as
well as the theatrical trailer. Twilight Times’ Julie Kirgo provides an
informative essay along with some stills in an 8-page booklet.
Sometimes life is unfair. We didn’t get to see James Dean
in what could have been one of his greatest roles, but at least we have
Twilight Time preserving the kind of films that remind of us of when we were
young and what it was like to be a rebel.
One of those "guilty pleasure" James Bond spoofs from the 1960s was "Salt & Pepper" starring one-time Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford in a London-based "mod" adventure. The film was awful but you had to admire the Jack Davis artwork used on the soundtrack album with score by John Dankworth.
The success of Larry Cohen’s 1973 Blaxploitation classic,
Black Caesar, was so immediately
evident that producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, then head of American International
Pictures, put the sequel wheels in motion almost instantly. The follow-up, Hell Up in Harlem, was released just 10
months later, still in 1973. Such a hasty turnaround certainly makes its mark
on the completed picture, with a frenetic tempo, chaotic storyline, and haphazard
construction that all seems to mirror its own pace of production. Yet even in
the face of this slapdash development, the film itself is thoroughly
entertaining, if not quite living up to its predecessor.
Reprising his role as Tommy Gibbs, the shrewd criminal
entrepreneur who worked his way up through the underworld ranks in Black Caesar, Fred Williamson starts off
the sequel in dire straits. As seen in the earlier film, Tommy had proudly
flaunted an aggressive charm, with a sly sense of humor that worked in tandem
with his brazen confidence. He knew where he wanted to go in life and was assuredly
willing to do whatever it took to get there, be it learning Italian so as to
ingratiate, impress, and ultimately usurp the more ethnically traditional
mobsters in the city, or simply to do the dirty deeds necessary to establish
his prominence—if there was territory he wanted, his fierce ambition secured
it. Before long, Tommy assumed a swaggering spot center stage on the streets,
branching out from low-level misdemeanors to criminal enterprises with broad
ramifications. Needless to say, he also made more than a few enemies in the
process, and his brutal track record catches up with him. As Black Caesar ends, Tommy has been shot,
mugged, and left for dead outside the dilapidated apartment building he used to
These final minutes are recapped during the opening
credits of Hell Up in Harlem, now
available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. We also see that Tommy’s nascent archenemy,
District Attorney DiAngelo (Gerald Gordon), had set up the hit, with a little
help from Tommy’s scorned ex, Helen, played by Gloria Hendry. In this manic
opening, with its looming threat of death, Tommy appears slightly more
vulnerable than he had in Black Caesar,
or would again in Hell Up in Harlem (after
Arkoff saw the instant potential of Black
Caesar, he recalled and quickly altered certain prints of the film,
adjusting what was supposed to have been Tommy’s fatal dénouement). It gives
him a tinge of fallibility, but there is little doubt he will be back on top in
no time. The depleted hero still has a few friends left, and most importantly,
he is still in possession of vital ledgers detailing the rampant misdeeds of
several high-ranking city officials. Aside from using this information to
essentially erase the transgressions and conflicts of Black Caesar, holding the books as leverage to set things right, Tommy
plans to crack down on the city’s drug trade and, with Jennifer (Margaret
Avery), his generally inconsequential new love interest, he hopes to move into
a life of legitimacy. All of this is easier said than done, of course, and Tommy
is soon embroiled in police conspiracy and in-house treachery: his
overly-ambitious enforcer, Zach (Tony King), has been scheming since the
beginning, and is none too pleased when Tommy’s father re-enters the picture to
assume a more prominent role.
There are many ways to approach reviewing a movie like
“Crazy Six.” You could join all the disgusted and angry user reviews on IMDb
and call it the worst freaking movie you’ve ever seen. It’s got an incoherent
script, if there was any at all. The art nouveau cinematography only further
distracts from any sense the story might have made. There’s no continuity, with
scenes following each other without any narrative logic and actors all seeming
confused and dazed (as opposed to dazed and confused), standing around on the
set as if they weren’t sure where to stand, and even less certain what their
Or you could discuss the career of the film’s director,
Albert Pyun, a B-movie director who has been called today’s Ed Wood, and who is
most famous for using the sets and costumes from a Spiderman movie that never
got made and a canceled “Masters of the Universe” movie, to cobble together the
hit sci-fi film “Cyborg,” (1989) which made Jean Claude Van Damme a superstar. He
is considered in some circles a creative, edgy director with films like “The
Sword and the Sorcerer” (1982), and “Radioactive Dreams” (1985). He also
directed a pretty decent “Captain America” (1990), with Matt Salinger, J.D.s
kid. (BTW where are all those books J.D wrote but were never published?) But Pyun eventually wound up as one of those
guys making movies for the direct-to-video market. By 1997, he was directing
schlock like “Crazy Six.”
Another way to review “Crazy Six” would be to focus on the
cast. With names like T, Lowe, van Peebles, and Reynolds appearing on the
poster for the film, you might expect one or two good performances, at least.
Unfortunately, the actors look as though they were shipped out to Prague or
wherever in Eastern Europe this was filmed, and shoved off the bus onto the
grimy streets of “Crimeland,” (which is what the written out prologue calls the
place at the start of the movie), looking like they just escaped from a way-off
Broadway production of Pirandello’s Four
Characters in Search of a Better Agent.
After the fall of communism, the prologue explains, rival
gangs took over this part of Eastern Europe now known as “Crimeland.” Ice-T is
the head of one of the gangs, Mario is head of another, and Rob Lowe another
(although his character is stoned out of his mind most of the film.) By the
way, Lowe’s character is called “Crazy Six,” he says, because he was the sixth
child in his family and he’s, well, nuts, I guess. Crazy has a sexy blonde
girlfriend (Ivana Milicivic), who sings in a nightclub and, I swear, every shot
she’s in, all through the picture, she’s smoking a cigarette. There are
literally dozens of close ups of her sucking on a ciggie, smoke lit up
dramatically all around her, as if they were shooting a bootleg Marlboro
commercial. It’s the first movie that ever made me feel like I was having an
Van Peebles plays Dirty Mao. He and his gang all wear
wide-brimmed black fedoras and black suits. Dirty Mao carries a Chihuahua, and
talks with a fake French accent. Ice T is Raul, a Spanish gangster, who has
little dialogue. Maybe T didn’t want to fake a Spanish accent. He mostly stands
leaning against walls, with a really pissed off (more than usual) look on his
face, as though he’s contemplating walking off the set any second.
The local Crimeland
police are at a loss battling these laughable crime lords, but lucky for them
they have the help of an expatriate American detective on the force named
Dakota, played by Burt Reynolds, wearing what looks like the same cowboy hat he
wore in “Hooper,” along with a trench coat. While Van Peebles and Ice-T seemed
to have no clue that they were actually in a movie, and Lowe played a character
stoned on drugs in every scene, only Reynolds actually attempts to play a
character. Of course, he’s playing himself, as he always did, but he at least
gets some laughs out of it. At the end of the film he ends up with Dirty Mao’s
Chihuahua. Somebody asks him whose dog is that? He says. “Meet my new partner,
Actually, there really is no way to review “Crazy Six,”
because there’s nothing there to review. This movie is strictly for Pyun fans
who want a complete collection of his work, or fans of Burt Reynold, for the
same reason. While everybody looks miserable in “Crazy Six”— and it certainly
is without a doubt the nadir of Reynolds’ career— don’t feel too bad for him.
He probably got a good check and a trip to Europe out of it. Hollywood. It’s a
tough town. Everything’s a gamble and you never know when you’ll hit the
jackpot. The same year he made this turkey, he made “Boogie Nights,” and found
his career suddenly revived.
“Crazy Six” has been released on Blu-ray by the MVD Marquis
Collection.Picture and sound are
excellent. A 2.40:1 aspect ratio was used and the sound is PCM Stereo. The only
extras are some trailers for other MVD releases. Unless you’re a masochist, or
a true Burt Reynolds fan, don’t waste your money. Maybe it’ll show up on cable.
Criterion Collection has released its fourth entry in a group of Harold Lloyd
silent classics, titles considered to be his very best work—and The Kid Brother could very well be at
the top of the heap as the definitive Lloyd feature film. While Safety Last! (1923) contains the iconic
sequence of Lloyd ascending a skyscraper and hanging on to the arm of a giant
clock, there is much to be said about The
Kid Brother’s storytelling, the depth of its characters, and Lloyd’s
ability to make us laugh at peril. This time, instead of great heights or
speeding cars, the threat comes from villains who want nothing more than to
break poor Harold’s neck.
setting is a rural town at the cusp of the changeover between “western times”
and the modern age. Cars exist, but most people are still riding horses. Sheriff
Hickory is a masculine and hearty leader in the town, and he has two strapping,
tough sons who help him in all endeavors. And then there is Harold, his
youngest, who is the more “sensitive,” one, the guy who wears glasses (the trademark
Harold Lloyd “Glasses” character). The boys’ mother is no longer on the scene,
so Dad and the two eldest sons do most of the “manly” stuff, while it’s up to
Harold to be the Mom (laundry, cooking, etc.).
a traveling medicine show on a wagon, the star of which is the dancer, Mary
(Jobyna Ralston). Harold and Mary become smitten with each other, but there are
several forces out to prevent the couple from being together. First, the
strongman (a superb bad guy played by Constantine Romanoff) and the show’s
proprietor have some dastardly plans that will affect the whole town. Secondly,
Harold’s childhood nemesis, the town bully, is constantly a thorn in his side.
Finally, our protagonist’s own family is a roadblock, as Harold strives to not
only defeat the odds against him but also prove to his father that he is as
good a son as his brothers.
short, Harold the Milquetoast must become Harold the Hero. How he does this forms
an extremely satisfying silent movie experience full of inventive sight gags,
colorful characters, and a suspenseful climax involving the ingenious
cat-and-mouse battle with the strongman aboard a derelict freighter.
new 4K digital restoration looks amazing; it’s as if the 92-year-old picture
had been shot recently. There are two musical scores from which to choose while
viewing—a 1989 orchestral score by Carl Davis, or an alternate Wurlitzer organ
score performed by Gaylord Carter that approximates the type of accompaniment
that would have been done in 1927. (One can easily toggle between the scores
with your remote’s audio button in order to choose the one you like best!)
There is also an optional audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker and
Lloyd archivist Richard Correll, film historian Annette D’Agostino Lloyd (no
relation), and Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd.
The Kid Brother release contains many
more supplements than did Criterion’s other Lloyd titles. The highlight is the
new conversation between Suzanne Lloyd and author Cari Beauchamp about Lloyd’s
three main leading ladies—Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis (who became Lloyd’s wife,
Suzanne’s grandmother), and Jobyna Ralston. A new video essay examines the
“Anatomy of a Gag” by focusing on the sequence aboard the derelict fighter, and
especially spotlighting the talented little monkey, Josephine, who has the
distinction of appearing in films with not only Lloyd, but Chaplin, Keaton, and
Laurel and Hardy as well! An interesting video essay covers the film’s
locations around L.A. and Hollywood and what those places are like today. Lloyd
himself appears in a Dutch TV interview from 1962—he always comes off as
charming and friendly. Suzanne Lloyd also gives us a tour of Greenacres, the
Lloyd estate. Two rare Lloyd shorts are restored and presented—Over the Fence (1917), the first
“Glasses” picture, and That’s Him
(1918), along with features on the restorations and the creation of the musical
scores on the Wurlitzer organ, engagingly tutored by composer Nathan Barr and
organist Mark Herman. There’s a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and an essay
by critic Carrie Rickey in the package booklet.
The Kid Brother is a first-class
release from Criterion, and a must-have by fans of Harold Lloyd and/or silent
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the character of Batman, director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy ("Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises") will be shown in a marathon session in Los Angeles on March 30 with Nolan participating in a Q&A. The interview session will be filmed and shown with the trilogy at select theaters across North America on April 13 and 20. All screenings will be in IMAX 70mm. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 13 at 9:00 AM EST. Click here for details.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" web site presents contemporary film editor Mark Goldblatt's tribute to the 1969 James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Goldblatt provides an insightful and very appreciative analysis of the film and correctly points out that, contrary to popular belief, George Lazenby's only Bond film was indeed a boxoffice success.
From a 1935 edition of The Hollywood Reporter comes this advice column from Laurel and Hardy about how one can go about becoming a successful comedian. As you might suspect, their advice is of fairly limited practical value! Click here to read.
"The High Cost of Loving" is yet another worthy film that has been plucked from obscurity by the Warner Archive. The 1958 comedy offered a rare starring role to Jose Ferrer as well as an opportunity for him to direct a feature film. Ferrer plays Jim Fry, a 15 year veteran of working diligently in the purchasing department for a mid-size company. He is frustrated with the corporate red tape that inhibits productivity but is overall happy in his work as well as with his home life. Why not? He's in his late 40's and his wife Ginny (Gena Rowlands in her big screen debut) is a ravishing blonde beauty twenty years younger than him (though the poster for the film simply ignores this and refers to them as the "young couple".) The film opens on an amusing note that will be familiar to many working couples. We see Jim and Ginny go through their morning workday rituals in an almost robotic fashion, barely saying a word to each other as they each perform their unspoken duties. He gets breakfast ready, she serves him orange juice in the shower. They both sit silently at the table, each taking a quick read of sections from the newspaper. They both climb into their vehicles and pull out of the garage in tandem before, each en route to their jobs. Ginny, against the fashion of the day, has her own career working at a small company. Jim still considers himself a rising star in his own company, a conceit that is reinforced by the news that his employer is being taken over by a much larger corporation. Warned that this often results in layoffs, Jim feels he is immune. He also isn't sympathetic to those who might lose their jobs, attributing it to social Darwinism and "the law of the jungle".
Jim's smug attitude goes into a nosedive when he discovers that virtually all of his fellow executives have been summoned to a forthcoming luncheon as a get-acquainted meeting with the new brass. The problem is that he didn't receive the invitation. Assuming it must have been a mistake, he pretends he did receive it and joins in all the backslapping among his colleagues who view this as a way to make a good impression on the new bosses and rise the corporate ladder. As the days pass, it becomes apparent an invitation isn't in the cards for him. His concern turns to paranoia as he tries to analyze why all his years of devoted service have resulted in him being bypassed. He becomes obsessed to the point that he barely acknowledges Ginny's news that she is pregnant, something that both have been hoping for quite some time. (Although the film hints at sexual activity, the prudish norms of the time in the film industry relegates both husband and wife to separate beds.) To bolster his spirits, Jim's best friend from the office, Steve Heyward (Bobby Troupe) arranges for he and his wife Syd (Joanne Gilbert) to go to dinner with Jim and Ginny. However, the evening is ruined by Syd's incessant chatter about the importance of the corporate luncheon, which she doesn't realize Jim has not been invited to. The script plays out predictably with Jim interpreting every action (or inaction) of his new bosses as a sign that he is about to be fired. He looks up an old business contact in hopes of getting a new job but not only are there none open, but he is warned that in terms of his age, he might be considered "over the hill" in the corporate world. Now enraged, Jim plans to have a showdown with the brass and tell him what he thinks of them, unaware that his snub from the luncheon was due to a bureaucratic mistake that they intend to rectify.
"The High Cost of Loving" is a modest production shot in B&W on a fairly low budget (most of the scenes are studio interiors). However, the movie signifies that paranoia about one's place in their jobs is not a new phenomenon and that discrimination based on age in the corporate world is also a long-standing concern. There is also plenty of sexism that never gets addressed. When she announces she is pregnant, Jim orders Ginny to quit her job ASAP. The corporate world is made up entirely of men in management positions and bosses refer to keeping an eye out for good "men" they can promote. All of the women in the office are clearly in secretarial positions. Ferrer gives a wonderful performance (did he ever not?) and has a deft hand at the comedic elements of the script. He never allows the characters to depend on slapstick or one-liners to get a quick laugh. They all talk the way real people would in the circumstances. There is also a great deal of pathos involved as Jim comes to a life lesson that no one should define the worth of their character on the basis of a specific job. The film boasts a wonderful supporting cast with Rowlands displaying the star qualities that would serve her well in the years to come. There are also some fun appearances by TV sitcom stars of the future including Jim Backus ("Gilligan's Island"), Werner Klemperer ("Hogan's Heroes"), Edward Platt ("Get Smart") and uncredited appearances by Nancy Kulp ("The Beverly Hillbillies") and Richard Deacon ("The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the only character in the film allowed to go a bit over the top.)
The film is not only delightful but unexpectedly poignant. The DVD includes the original trailer.
“The Revolt of the Slaves” (1960), now available on a
spectacular-looking Blu-ray from Kino-Lorber, tells the familiar story of a
beautiful Roman woman of high birth (Rhonda Fleming), who falls in love with a Christian
slave (Lang Jeffries) during the period when Emperor Maximian (Dario Moreno)
was busy feeding said Christians to the lions.It’s based on a 19th Century novel by Nicholas Patrick
Wiseman called “Fabiola,” and, although the liner notes say Fleming plays
Fabiola, in the English language version of the movie, which was written by Hollywood
veteran Daniel Mainwaring (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), they call her
Claudia. Maybe Mainwaring just didn’t like a weird name like Fabiola (or maybe
Fleming didn’t think it was sexy enough). Who knows? But the fact is, the whole movie is pretty weird that way.
It’s an Italian-Spanish-German production done in a style that is a crazy mix of
a Steve Reeves sword and sandal peplum (minus
Hercules), and the religious spectacles of the early 1950s, like “Quo Vadis,” “The
Robe” and “Demetrius and the Gladiators.” Director Nunzio Malasomma (“15
Scaffolds for a Murderer,” The White Devil”) has a real flair for juggling the
two styles—for example cutting from the reverential tone of a scene depicting
faithful Christians down in the catacombs praying, to a shocking close-up of a Christian
getting an arrow right in the bread basket. In a bizarre touch, the arrow is
fired by an African mercenary clad in over-the-shoulder leopard skins—one of
the emperor’s private security force hired because he doesn't trust the Roman Praetorian
Guard. “I’m not going to be done in by my own men, like Nero was,” he says. It
may or may not be historically accurate, but it’s a nice touch.
The plot of “The Revolt
of the Slaves” is pretty simple. The idea seemed to be to hustle the cast and
fifty or sixty extras around from one set to another for 104 minutes until they
all finally end up in the arena where they will face various means of
execution. The movie seems to have been influenced mainly by 20th
Century Fox’s “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” which starred Victor Mature and
Susan Hayward and featured a stand-out performance by Jay Robinson as Caligula.
(Remember Robinson standing over the dead Christian he had just killed, holding
the Robe he believed had magical powers, commanding him to rise? “Rise
Christian! Rise! Why won’t he rise?”) “Revolt” suffers quite a bit in comparison with
“Demetrius,” however. Rhonda Fleming,
who did a good job as Claudia/Fabiola, never became as big a star as Susan
Hayward, and Lang Jeffries as Vibio, her love interest in the film (and in real
life), was definitely no Victor Mature. But there is one performer in “Revolt”
who stand out almost as much as Robinson did in “Demetrius.” Serge Gainsbourg
plays Corvino, head of the emperor’s secret police. Physically, he resembles
Robinson, and plays Corvino as a hawk-nosed, sniveling, nasty little cutthroat
who keeps a pit of hungry dogs in his house and he’s always throwing somebody
or other into it. The unknown actor who dubbed his English dialogue almost
seems to be channeling Robinson’s nasal speaking voice. Director Malasomma
gives us our first glimpse of Corvino in a characteristically eccentric scene
with Corvino tied down on a torture rack, writhing and screaming “Stop! Stop!
It hurts!” as a big guy turns the crank. The torturer guy stops and says: “You
wanted to see if it worked.” “It works,” Corvino says, getting up, rubbing the
soreness out of his limbs. “I can’t understand why he didn’t talk.” “He’s a
Christian. The more you make a Christian suffer, the better they like it.”
It’s Corvino who sets the wheels of the plot in motion
when he spies on Claudia/Fabiola’s cousin, Agnese (Wandissa Guida) at a secret
meeting of Christians in the catacombs and reports it to the emperor. Corvino lies
and tells the emperor that Claudia and her whole family are Christians and
Claudia soon finds herself locked up with Vibio and Agnese in the emperor’s
dungeon and learns her father’s been killed. Vibio chisels out a stone in the wall of the dungeon to
let water from the sewer on the other side pour into the dungeon. There’s a
trap door in the ceiling and when the water rises they’ll float up and climb
out through the trap door. A nice clean getaway. Once they’re out, they’re on
the run. However, Claudia/Fabiola goes back to the emperor and denounces
Christianity. She’s freed, but when she finds out the emperor has gone bonkers
and is sending every Christian in Rome to the arena and that Vibio has gone there
to rescue them, she tries to help but ends up in the arena herself.
Woven into the story are a couple of real-life martyrs of
the early church, St. Sebastian (Ettore Manni) and St. Agnes of Rome.
Sebastian’s death was particularly gruesome and this film version is historically
accurate. The emperor ordered him to be tied to a tree and shot with arrows in
every part of his body except his heart, so that he would suffer great
long-lasting pain. He lives through it briefly, as a human pin cushion, but is
killed later in the emperor’s palace, when he goes to plead mercy for the
Christians. Agnese, Claudia/Fabiola’s niece, is actually a fictionalized
version of St. Agnes. In the movie she was in love with Sebastian, but in
reality the two never met. It wouldn’t have mattered if they did, since Agnes
was 12 years old when she was martyred. In the movie she dies in the arena by a
spear tossed by one of the African mercenaries.
Like most Italian epics there is action and spectacle
aplenty in “The Revolt of the Slaves”, especially during the final 20 minutes when
all the Christian extras are herded into the arena and dozens of Roman extras
up in the cheap seats start screaming for their blood. The film could have
redeemed itself with a decent ending even halfway close to reality, but instead
Malasomma went for a totally make-believe finish that you can’t help laughing out
“The Revolt of the Slaves” is a colorful spectacle that comes
pretty close to matching the size and splendor of those earlier Christian
persecution movies. The costumes and sets (especially the throne room of the emperor’s
palace) are large scale, a visual treat in high def. Kino-Lorber’s 1080 p
transfer of the 2.40:1 image brings it all to vibrant life. The original trailer is included along with trailers for other Kino Lorber releases: "The Vikings", "David and Bathsheba", "Kings of the Sun" and "Those Redheads from Seattle". Even if it leaves a
lot to be desired in the script department, the movie is fun to watch, partly
for the way it looks, but mainly for Gainsbourg doing his Jay Robinson impression.
If you enjoy weird spectacle and colorful action, “The Revolt of the Slaves” is for
Jan-Michael Vincent, the one-time heart throb star of films and television in the 1970s and 1980s, has passed away at age 74. He was born in Denver but had the look of a hunky surfer dude. In the late 1960s he began to get noticed in Hollywood, landing supporting roles in films such as "The Undefeated" opposite John Wayne and Rock Hudson. It was his starring role in the acclaimed 1970 TV movie "Tribes" that won him enthusiastic critical notices as a young recruit in conflict with his drill instructor. Soon, Vincent was a major star with top billing in films like "Buster and Billie" , "The World's Greatest Athlete", "Baby Blue Marine", "Vigilante Force" and "White Line Fever". He also co-starred with Burt Reynolds in the 1978 hit "Hooper". Other prominent roles include his memorable performance opposite Charles Bronson in the 1972 crime thriller "The Mechanic" and an all-star cast in Richard Brooks' 1975 western "Bite the Bullet". He won acclaim for his role in John Milius's 1978 surfer drama "Big Wednesday." In the early 1980s, his TV show "Airwolf" was a hit and Vincent became the highest paid actor on television. However, his personal demons got the better of him. His addiction to alcohol and drugs soon made his reputation decline. Deemed to be unreliable and arrogant, Vincent was relegated to brief roles in forgettable films. His health deteriorated and he suffered from the aftereffects of two serious car crashes. In 2012 he had a leg amputated. In recent years he had lived in relative seclusion with his third wife as he attempted to deal with his health problems. For more click here.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" is bottled in Bond again with director Brian Trenchard-Smith analyzing the second 007 blockbuster, "From Russia with Love" and providing some interesting anecdotes within a very abbreviated time frame. By the way, are we the only ones who ever noticed a major curiosity about the "FRWL" trailer? Every major participant is credited by name on screen except for the film's star, Sean Connery. That wasn't the only blooper associated with the film: actress Martine Beswick was a victim of a careless mistake in the opening credits and was listed as "Martin Beswick". Director Terence Young felt badly about the error and made it up to Beswick by providing her with a far bigger role in the fourth Bond film, "Thunderball".
For decades Bob Hope was one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. In the 1940s and 1950s, his films were regarded as sure-fire moneymakers. Studios loved Hope productions. They were generally filmed on modest budgets and returned major profits. By the late 1960s, Hope was still very much in-demand on American television. His TV specials for NBC always topped the ratings and Hope was a ubiquitous presence on TV chat shows. He even had a semi-permanent gig as the most beloved of all hosts for the annual Oscars broadcast. However, his status in the motion picture industry had diminished substantially. Hope's style of old-fashioned family films was becoming outdated in an era that saw new freedoms in on-screen sex and violence. When biker movies were depicting gang bangs and Bob and Carol were under the same sheets with Ted and Alice, Hope's sitcom-like comedies seemed as though they were from distant past. One of his more promising feature films was the 1969 production, "How to Commit Marriage", one of many sex-oriented comedies that were all the rage in the mid-to-late 1960s. (i.e. "The Secret Life of an American Wife", Divorce American Style", "A Guide for the Married Man", "The Tiger Makes Out", "How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life)", "Marriage on the Rocks".) In an attempt to remain relevant to modern audiences, this was the most adult-themed of Hope's big screen comedies.
Hope plays Frank Benson, a wealthy L.A. real estate agent who seems to have an idyllic life with his wife of many years, Elaine (Jane Wyman). However, their relationship is fracturing and the two spend most of their time together griping about the other and trading cruel insults. They agree to get a divorce and file the necessary paperwork. However, before they can be officially divorced, they receive a surprise visit from their teenage daughter Nancy (JoAnna Cameron), who returns from college with her new boyfriend David (Tim Matheson). He's a clean-cut type who is studying classical music and Nancy announces they intend to marry, largely because she has been so inspired by her parent's loving relationship. Frank and Elaine don't want Nancy to become disillusioned and decide to withhold the news about their pending divorce until after Nancy and David marry. However, there is a complication: David is the estranged son of Oliver Poe (Jackie Gleason), a rich promoter of rock 'n roll bands who resents Frank for selling him a Malibu mansion that was in a mudslide zone, thus resulting in Oliver losing his entire investment. He's an obnoxious boor and braggart with a sexy mistress (Tina Louise) and when he discovers the Bensons are secretly planning to divorce, he cruelly informs Nancy and David. Heartbroken and disillusioned, the young couple decides to eschew marriage and simply live together (still a shocking concept for a "nice" girl in 1969). Making matter worse, Oliver convinces the couple to quit college and join his latest band, The Comfortable Armchair, which is becoming all the rage. Distraught by the developments, Frank and Elaine begin to live in separate houses. Frank takes up with Lois Gray (Maureen Arthur), a voluptuous widow while Elaine begins dating Phil Fletcher (Leslie Nielsen), a suave rival of Frank's in the real estate trade. When both couples accidentally end up sitting beside each other at a Comfortable Armchair nightclub concert, they notice that Nancy is very obviously pregnant. They also discover that she and David have become disciples of a con-man posing as a guru named The Baba Ziba (Professor Irwin Corey). Oliver has bribed Baba Ziba to convince Nancy and David that it is in their spiritual interests to put their baby up for adoption. In reality, Oliver is motivated by his desire that the couple stay with the successful rock band and not become traditional parents.
John Payne was one of those “meat and potatoes” kind of
actors. Nothing fancy. No complicated method acting style. He just gave good,
solid, straight off-the-page performances in dozens of films and television
shows over a span of nearly 40 years. I think of him primarily as the guy trapped
and fighting for survival in old black and white film noirs of the 1950s--
films like “Kansas City Confidential,” “99 River Street,” and perhaps one of
the best noirs ever—“The Crooked Way.”
He made a number of interesting westerns however, including
“El Paso” (1949), the first of a several he made for the Pine-Thomas Productions
B-movie unit of Paramount. It was notable for the fact that it was the first
Pine-Thomas movie to have a decent budget-- $1 million. It was filmed partly in
El Paso, but mostly on the Iverson Ranch, which, film historian Toby Roan
explains in the audio commentary, was basically a western town built for the
studios to use for outdoor location shooting.
Another notable fact about “El Paso” is that it was
filmed in Cinecolor, a two strip process that was used by some studios because
it was cheaper than Technicolor. It wasn’t a very good process. Cinecolor
movies look mostly orange, with some dark blue and green. Kino Lorber transferred
“El Paso” to Blu-ray disc using a “brand new HD Master from a 4K scan of the 35
mm original 2-color negative and positive separations.” I have no idea what
that means, but that’s what is says on the box. Toby Roan swears that the image
you see on your TV is exactly the way Cinecolor movies looked back in the day.
“El Paso” was written and directed by Lewis R. Foster,
based on a story by J. Robert Bren and Gladys Atwater. It’s set just after the
Civil War, and Payne plays Clay Fletcher a Confederate Army Captain and a lawyer
who comes home to Charleston but isn’t quite ready to settle down yet. His
grandfather, a Judge (played by the saintly H. B. Warner, who played Jesus in
Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings”) learns that his friend Judge Henry Jeffers
(Henry “Werewolf of London” Hull) is in some kind of trouble down in the El
Paso settlement. Clay jumps at the chance to go see what the problem is. Not
too unbelievable when we have already seen him fondly remembering that the
judge has a fine-looking daughter (Gail Russell) who he had a relationship with
before the war.
So Clay arrives in El Paso and finds the town is run by
land developer Bert Donner (Sterling Hayden) who is slowly gobbling up all the
land owned by ranchers and farmers. His number one henchman is Sheriff La Farge
(Dick Foran), who is busy either scaring or killing off any land owner who
won’t sell. In El Paso the law is whatever Donner and LaFarge say it is,
because Judge Henry has become a broken down drunk, probably driven to alcohol
by his sense of impotence at doing anything to stop the bad guys. But now Clay
Fletcher has arrived and sparked by his interest in Susan, the Judge’s
daughter, he intends to bring law and order to El Paso, not by taking them on
at gunpoint, but by using the law.
Although Orson Welles is arguably the most analyzed
motion picture legend, public fascination with his legend and mystique
continues to thrive. This has only been enhanced by the recent release of The Other Side of the Wind, on which
Welles labored for fifteen years and which was ultimately completed by his
protégé, Peter Bogdanovich. We all know Welles was a larger-than-life figure,
both literally and figuratively as well as a man of great contradictions. He
could be charming and insulting, self-indulgent and generous and always lived
above his means even while scrounging for funding for his next film project. Welles was a moody genius who did not learn to play nice with studio executives. His insistence on bringing worthy but not particularly commercially viable films to the screen led to decades of artistic frustrations. To stay afloat and find financing for his projects, he appeared in many films simply because of the need of a paycheck. He later became known to many as more of a raconteur than as a working actor and director, though true cinema buffs never tire of analyzing his genius.
Among Welles's many skills was a talent for drawing. This remarkable book from Titan presents this rarely seen or examined side of him. He studied art briefly as a teenager and enough of what he learned
stayed with him over the course of his life. The book provides fascinating
sketches, doodles and paintings made by Welles, sometimes for professional use
(i.e costume designs) and others for personal pleasure.
The book has a minimum
of text and top production values, typical of a Titan title. There is also an
informative interview with his daughter Beatrice. Perhaps our favorite section
of the book is the chapter that presents Welles’s designs for Christmas cards
sent to friends and family. They are whimsical and intriguing, much like the
Cinema Retro has released the following press release pertaining to the Region 2 UK edition:
Steven Spielberg is
one of the greatest and most influential directors of our time, his CV spanning
an incredible array of iconic and unforgettable films such as Jaws, Jurassic
Park and Schindler’s List to name but a few. To celebrate the 25th anniversary edition of
Schindler’s List, which is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on
February 25th, we’re taking a look back at the history of Steven
Spielberg’s legendary cinematic work.
Dun Dun. Dun Dun. Dun
Dun Dun Dun Dun… JAWS. Spielberg’s first ever blockbuster movie released in the
summer of 1975 became one of the first ever movies to gross over $100 million.
Additionally, it was also one of the first movies to use animatronics
extensively and although to the modern eye it might appear robotic and fake, it
traumatised the audience of its time. Spielberg’s demands whilst directing Jaws
was that it had to be shot in the sea rather than a tank. In an interview he
stated “had we shot on the tank I don’t think Jaws would have been very
successful, because it would look really phony”. Although this did bring many
problems whilst shooting – to the point that Spielberg was almost fired because
he went over-schedule and budget – producers were so confident in his work that
they carried on and made one of the most famous films of our time.
E.T. phone home... a
story of a gentle alien stranded on earth and befriends a young boy called
Elliot. But where did this idea and vision come from? Spielberg expressed
whilst talking about E.T. that it didn’t just come to him in a flash, it was
several experiences from watching Peter Pan to witnessing meteor showers when
he was six. Spielberg explains that when shooting E.T. he aimed for reality;
although the narrative was a fantasy he believed that shots should appear as
realistic as possible. In the hope that everybody who saw the film would
believe that E.T could come into their lives. His technique and drive paid off,
as E.T. grossed $619 million worldwide.
Jurassic Park is one
of largest film franchises; it made over $50 million on its opening weekend and
became one of the biggest grosser of all time. Unlike Jaws, Jurassic Park was
ahead of schedule whilst filming as Spielberg’s creative process was more
organised and visual. He states in an interview "Every single action
sequence on this movie was storyboarded almost two years before we ever shot
scenes”. Additionally, the dinosaurs themselves were a massive element in the
success of Jurassic Park. Most of the dinosaurs were shot life size with cabled
eyes, mouth and limbs including a 20ft T-Rex, as Spielberg wanted to shoot the
action sequences live.
A more mature and
serious directing role for Spielberg was Schindler’s List, which he earned
nothing from as he used his earnings to set up the USC Shoah Foundation in
memory of those in the holocaust. Set during World War II the narrative follows
businessman Oskar Schindler who arranges to have his workers protected from the
SS so his factory doesn’t close down, but intern releases he is saving innocent
people’s lives. Schindler’s List had been on Spielberg’s desk for over a decade
before anything started moving, it was one of Spielberg’s favourite projects due
to its importance. Filming only lasted for 72 days with a small budget of $22
million which was roughly a third of the cost of Jurassic Park. Spielberg
excelled his directing ability during this project, as whilst recreating the
terror of Kraków-P?aszów concentration camp Spielberg was also over-seeing the
special effects for Jurassic Park. Schindler’s List made over $96million and 25
years on is still one of Spielberg’s most significant films.
LIST 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION IS AVAILABLE ON 4K ULRA HD, BLU-RAY
AND DVD ON FEBRUARY 25 2019