Connery in the blockbuster 1965 film version of "Thunderball".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
James Bond scholars and purists are well-versed in the muck and mire pertaining to Ian Fleming's ill-fated partnership with producer Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham. But for those who aren't as consumed with Bondian history, the BBC's Nicholas Barber summarizes the contrivances that occurred when the business relationship between the three men broke up, thus resulting in a high profile lawsuit against Fleming and complications pertaining to the screen rights to the film version of Fleming's novel "Thunderball". In the mid-1970s, McClory began to exercise his rights to remake the film and enlisted noted novelist Len Deighton, author of the Harry Palmer spy books and Sean Connery as screenwriters for a planned film titled "Warhead" (though Connery never committed to star in the film). When Eon Productions, the company that had made the traditional Bond films, decided to fight McClory in the courts, the project faded away. Connery would return as Bond in McClory's 1983 remake of "Thunderball" titled "Never Say Never Again", marking his last performance as 007. However, that film bore virtually no resemblance to the one that screenwriters Connery and Deighton had cooked up for "Warhead" involving a battle atop the Statue of Liberty. Click here to read.
Curly Howard is considered today to be an icon of American comedy thanks to the eternal popularity of The Three Stooges. However, as this mini-biography shows, Curly's real life dilemmas were anything but funny. He was stricken with numerous debilitating strokes while only in his forties and his final days found the comedy legend struggling unsuccessfully to recuperate and lead a normal life.
The web site www.in70mm.com reports that Warner Bros will be screening Stanley Kubrick's classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" in the IMAX format for the first time at 350 North American theaters for one week only, commencing August 24. Four key theaters will be showing the film in IMAX 70mm, thus making this the ultmate viewing experience for fans of the landmark film. Click here for more details.
Glenn is a down on his luck American boxer who gets caught in the middle of a
blood feud between Japanese brothers in “The Challenge” available on Blu-ray
and DVD. Glenn’s character Rick accepts a job smuggling a valuable sword into Japan
and is quickly swept up in intrigue as rival brothers seek ownership of the
sword which was taken from Japan at the end of WWII. Hideo (Atsuo Nakamura) is
a powerful businessman and convinces Rick to train under his brother, Yoshida
(Toshiro Mifune). This close proximity should enable him to steal the sword in
Yoshida’s possession and deliver it to Hideo. This is not a civil family feud,
as a half dozen people are murdered within an hour of Rick’s arrival in Japan.
honors the traditional samurai traditions and runs a school for practitioners
of these teachings. Rick is a reluctant participant in the deadly feud and his
loyalties are challenged as he is attracted to Yoshida’s daughter, Akiko (Donna
Kei Ben), as well as to the traditional samurai philosophy and her father’s
cause. Rick is skeptical of the training, but goes through the standard ordeals
we’ve come to expect from this genre such as eating exotic foods including live
lobsters and octopi with tentacles slithering on plates. He’s also reduced to performing
seemingly mundane tasks like sweeping floors and cleaning up only to discover it
was a test of his commitment and resolve.
one point, Rick spends days buried up to his neck in a pit as ants and bugs
crawl on his face while being denied food and water. He complains throughout
the training, backing out and returning several times, and even steals the
sword at one point, only to return it and learning this too was a test. He
finally pledges his obedience to the samurai order under Yoshida and completes
his training. Sound familiar? Yes, but it’s all part of the central trope of
this genre and it works very well to further the story.
by John Frankenheimer, the film is exciting with plenty of action and the
climactic sword fight in the office complex is very well staged. While not
quite a martial arts movie, the film offers a veritable buffet of combat techniques
with fists, samurai swords, bow & arrows and knives. The location shooting
in Japan and the action scenes kept my interest and the film culminates in a
battle at Hideo’s office headquarters as Rick, Yoshida and Akiko sneak in and fight
their way to Hideo and the inevitable confrontation between him and Yoshida.
movie features familiar American television character actors Calvin Jung, Clyde
Kusatsu and Sab Shimono in supporting roles and was the first starring vehicle
for Glenn with a script by John Sayles and Richard Maxwell. Sayles was brought
to Japan to make changes to the story which was radically altered after Glenn
accepted the role. Disappointed, Glenn was persuaded by Mifune to take it in
stride and enjoy the experience. This was the final of three collaborations
between Frankenheimer and Jerry Goldsmith who provides a terrific score. Steven
Segal also worked as a technical advisor and stunt coordinator for the movie. I
enjoyed the movie a great deal and so should fans of action and martial arts
in July 1982 by CBS Theatrical Films, the movie was a modest success for
Frankenheimer and it has grown in status over the years with a solid fan base
due to broadcast television and home video release. The movie clocks in at 110
minutes with a great looking transfer and sound quality. Bonus features on the German
Blu-ray/DVD two disc set release by Explosive Media include the theatrical
trailer, TV trailers, a poster gallery and the cropped TV version on the DVD.
The set also includes a photo-filled 24-page booklet featuring poster art,
lobby cards and an essay by Andreas Volkert of All About Movies Bayreuth.
(Note: this region-free title is available through Amazon Germany. However, Explosive Media titles often surface through third party dealers on other Amazon and eBay sites.)
Hard to believe it's been 25 years since the big screen version of the classic TV series "The Fugitive" hit theaters and became a sensation, marking one of the best small-to-big screen adaptations ever. Writing in the Atlantic, Soraya Roberts reflects on what made the film so special and why today's action movies are largely lacking in the same qualities.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of
the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo
and Juliet. The movie was a sensation when it came out in 1968, spurring
ticket sales in the millions and becoming one of the top-grossing features of
the decade. One reason the film made so much money was due to the number of
people who returned for a second or even fifth viewing. It seemed audiences
just couldn’t get enough of the story about those two star-crossed adolescent
lovers from old Verona. The movie’s memorable music score, composed by Nino
Rota, also became a best seller. The album quickly went gold and was later
repackaged in a beautiful deluxe box set that included the entire movie
soundtrack, along with two handsomely produced companion booklets.
was something about the film, for all its shortcomings, that many found almost hypnotic.
I’ll fess up and admit I was one of these people. I didn’t actually see it
until the 1970s when it was still being trotted out in theaters in order to
squeeze out extra profits for the studio. I was a teenager at the time and was
more into flicks like Billy Jack and
the Bond films than stories about people who lived hundreds of years ago and
spoke in rhyming couplets. The only Shakespeare I had read was in class, the
substance of which I found nearly indigestible.I did know something about the movie since one my English teachers had
once played a portion of the soundtrack for us in class. However, apparently
not having much else to do that summer evening, I decided to take a stroll down
the street to our local movie palace and buy a ticket.
The first thing I noticed about the film was
how rich in color it was. From the very beginning, following the smoky prologue
spoken by Laurence Olivier, everything is drenched in bright primary colors.
Things got off to a rousing start with the scene of the bloody brawl in the Verona
marketplace between those two wild and crazy families, the Montagues and the
Capulets. (I hadn’t realized until then that it was possible to be a real badass
and still wear red and yellow striped tights with pointy soft leather shoes.) Soon
the cops arrive (the prince and his soldiers) to break up the fracas and issue
a stern warning to all those who would disturb the civil peace in the future. Immediately
following this we get our first look at Romeo (Leonard Whiting), a handsome
love-sick youth with a shaggy haircut. He talks dreamily of some girl he’s got
a crush on, but then comes to his senses at seeing one of the wounded being
carried away. Meanwhile, back at the Capulet palace, Juliet’s father (Paul Hardwick) is coyly negotiating the
marriage of his daughter to a young man named Count Paris (Roberto Bisacco). The first time we see
Juliet (Olivia Hussey) she’s running through the house like a kid at play.
All this is interspersed between scenes of
Juliet and her bawdy, fun-loving nurse (Pat Heywood) talking to the girl’s mother
Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry)
about marriage and things, immediately followed by a night scene of Romeo and
his friends on a soliquious pub crawl through the deserted streets of Verona.
Later that same evening Romeo and his mates crash the Capulet masquerade ball. The ball scene is among the highlights of the film. It is here
Zeffirellireally shows his stuff,
combining visual pageantry with an almost obsessive attention to detail.
Everything about this sequence is highly choreographed, from the beautifully
composed dance scenes (“the moresca!”) right down to the fastidious arrangement
of the candles and platters of fruit (Zeffirelli had studied art and architecture in his student days). Absolutely nothing is left to chance. In the hands of a less gifted
visual director, and Zeffirelli was nothing if he wasn’t visual, all of this might
have come off as too showy and distracting. However, here the effect is just
the opposite. The viewer almost feels as if he or she is present in the scene,
seductively pulled in as we are by the sensuous whirl of warm colors, voices
and melodious music. All of it lovingly captured by the gifted eye of cinematographer
Pasqualino De Santi who was awarded an Oscar for his efforts on the project.
Clearly, the ocular accoutrements of this particular production are as
essential to its success as the words of Shakespeare himself.
Real-life husband and wife Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland made numerous films together. Among them: "Breakout", a 1975 film that was shot quickly in order to capitalize on Bronson's soaring popularity with "Death Wish". The crime thriller was lambasted by critics but performed very well indeed at the boxoffice. Click here for review.
Twilight Time has released the 1965 action adventure film "Genghis Khan" as a limited edition (3,000) Blu-ray. The film was released almost ten years after Howard Hughes produced the notorious clinker "The Conqueror" starring John Wayne as the legendary Mongol leader. A decade later, producer Irving Allen ensured he did not make the mistake of laughably miscasting the leading man. Omar Sharif, then a red-hot up-and-coming star, was cast in the title role, and while an Egyptian actor might not seem to be an obvious choice, Sharif possessed an exotic international appeal that saw him convincingly play characters of many different ethnic backgrounds. Ironically, while Allen had successfully hired a leading man, his judgment did not extend to the key supporting roles. If you want to enjoy "Genghis Khan", there are many positive aspects to the film- but you will have to overlook some jaw-dropping casting errors. That feat is a bit like trying to calmly peruse a newspaper in your living room while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla who is sitting across from you, but more about that later.
The film opens with a brutal raid on the tribal home of the young Mongol Temujin and his family. The raid is led by a rival Mongol tribe headed by the merciless Jamuga (Stephen Boyd), who murders Temujin's father and enslaves the women of the tribe. The story then jumps ahead a number of years and we find Temujin (Omar Sharif) has now grown to manhood and is still a captive of Jamuga. He's forced to wear a giant wooden yoke around his neck as a reminder of his humiliation. Ultimately, Temujin escapes captivity with the help of holy man Geen (Michael Hordern) and a mute Mongol warrior named Sengal (Woody Strode.), much to the chagrin of the infuriated Jamuga. Temujin vows to bring the warring Mongol tribes together so that they can form an unstoppable army capable of conquering the known world. How he achieves this is never shown but before long we see he has indeed amassed a devoted army intent on uniting the remaining Mongol tribes, one of which is headed by Jamuga.One of Temujin's obsessions is to humiliate Jamuga, which he does by kidnapping his woman, Bortei (Francoise Dorleac), who he then makes his own wife. As played by the gorgeous but ill-fated Dorleac (she died in a car crash in 1967), Bortei sports a modern hair style and the latest trends in makeup. She's a Mongol by way of the emerging mod scene on Carnaby Street. Dorleac is miscast but at least her performance isn't embarrassing. The same cannot be said of some of her otherwise revered cast members.
Since the film is designed to entertain, not enlighten, we are presented with a truncated historical record of Temujin's conquests. In short order, he and his army become feared as they relentlessly conquer seemingly any land they want to occupy, either by having the inhabitants willingly accede to their demands or face defeat in battle. The script boils down these tumultuous events into a Cliff Notes adaptation of a Classics Illustrated comic book. Temujin next sets his sights on the legendary land of China, and are admitted entrance through the Great Wall. Here they are guided by Kam Ling, a wise man who serves as chief adviser to the Emperor. The role is played by James Mason and if you thought, as I did, that this great talent was incapable of presenting a bad performance, be prepared to be enlightened. Mason sports a sem- Fu Manchu mustache and seems to be foreshadowing those now cringe-inducing Chinese detectives that would be played by Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov. But wait! Mason's performance seems positively inspired compared to that of Robert Morley as the Emperor. Yes, that Robert Morley, the rotund and usually delightful British character actor who played every role in precisely the same manner. Thus, we have the Emperor of China depicted as a prissy, comical figure. (Presumably, Paul Lynde was not available for the role.) The miscasting of these two pivotal roles makes it difficult to concentrate on the otherwise compelling script by Clarke Reynolds and Beverly Cross. Fortunately, events move quickly. The Emperor treats Temujin and his army with great reverence and respect- and Temujin is even giving the honorary title of Genghis Khan ("Great Conqueror"). But Temujin correctly suspects that they are being held as captives in a gilded cage. Seems the Emperor realizes that Temujin suspects that the Chinese military is a paper tiger and that he would be tempted to gather an even bigger army and take the nation by force. In a creatively-staged scene, the Mongols use the Chinese fascination with fireworks as an elaborate method to affect a daring escape. Armed with the advanced military technology they have secured from China, the Mongols' ever-growing armies continue to sweep through kingdoms far and wide. Jamuga, who had been held captive by Temujin but managed to escape, refuses an offer to join Temujin's forces- and even insults him by implying that Temujin's young son had been fathered by him. This results in a "Mongol Duel" in which both men go mano-a-mano, with the surviving winner taking control of the armies. The sight of two sweaty, hunky shirtless men grappling with each does have an unintended and amusing homo-erotic aspect but the scene is quite suspenseful.
Watch the original U.S. TV spot for Milos Forman's superb (but underrated) 1981 drama "Ragtime", the adaptation of E.L. Doctprow's bestselling novel. The film brilliantly interweaves the sagas of disparate characters in a grand, lushly produced production that marked the final feature film appearance of James Cagney, who was lured out of retirement after twenty years. If you've never seen "Ragtime", make sure you do. (By the way, the DVD is out of print in America and has never been issued on Blu-ray. Are you listening, Paramount?)
"Lawrence of Arabia". "The Godfather". "Gone with the Wind". "Casablanca". Is it time for "Ant-Man and the Wasp" to also enjoy Oscar gold?
BY LEE PFEIFFER, Cinema Retro Editor-in- Chief
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced changes to its annual Oscars broadcast. The event will be confined to three hours and certain awards will not be seen live on the broadcast. Instead, they will be given out during commercial broadcasts then edited into a segment that will be shown later in the telecast. After all, who wants to see some science-obsessed geek get honored for inventing something that enhanced the film industry when, instead, we can all enjoy some innovative ads for erectile dysfunction? Additionally, in an admitted attempt to gin up ratings, AMPAS will introduce a new awards category for outstanding achievement in popular film. That's right, movie lovers...you might live to see the day when the producers of a "Transformers" movie stroll on stage to be honored in the manner in which the greatest filmmakers of all time were. In fact, "popular" movies have long been recipients of major nominations. Films such as "Jaws" , "Star Wars" and "The Towering Inferno" were nominated for Best Picture, while a little flick from 1997 named "Titanic" won the coveted award. Exactly how the Academy will distinguish which "popular film" releases should be relegated to the new category is not known. What if the "popular film" that is honored happens to also gain a Best Picture nomination- or will the categories be mutually exclusive? AMPAS isn't saying.
AMPAS has been grappling with sagging ratings for the Oscars for years. Unless there is a major blockbuster to liven up the proceedings, audiences tend to drift away from the broadcast. Not helping matters is that the Golden Age of great Hollywood stars is also long over. That isn't anyone's fault but the lack of legends on any given broadcast only serves to diminish the special quality of the evening, as does the fact that there are now so many movie awards shows that ol' Oscar is struggling to remain relevant. The producers of the show are undermining the very people the ceremony was designed to honor. This is nothing new. AMPAS decided years ago that it was too boring to broadcast honorary awards to older people in the industry, thus these have now been consigned to a couple of snippets from an earlier ceremony. Ditto with the geniuses who are honored with technical awards. Under the current scenario, Charles Chaplin's acceptance of an honorary Oscar in 1972 (one of the great moments in Hollywood history) would now be deemed unworthy of being telecast. Instead, the broadcast has morphed into a quasi-comedy special hosted by late night hosts who replicate inane (and often embarrassing) extended skits that seem to drone on forever. It's the height of irony that there is plenty of time to allocate to such nonsense but it comes at the expense of the true artists who are supposed to be the focus of the show. As we point out every year in our review of the ceremony, even the tastefully creative tribute to talents who passed away in the last year has become contentious. Rather than simply extend the segment for a few additional minutes to include more qualified artists, the truncated tribute now not only excludes legendary personalities but even famed artists who were once nominated for an Oscar.
The reaction in the industry over these proposed changes has been universally negative, leading us to think this is the worst marketing "improvement" plan since the introduction of New Coke in the 1080s. Hopefully, the backlash with cause those who make the decisions at AMPAS to rethink their position- otherwise we're likely to soon see the creation of the Steven Seagal Lifetime Achievement Award.
sharks give you the willies?Does the
sight of a 12-foot Great White on the Discovery Channel make your heart skip
some beats?Then imagine a 75-foot super
shark, looking like a freight train with gills! Meet the villain of the new
Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller, The Meg
starring Jason Statham and Chinese star, Li Bingbing.
story concerns a Chinese-American exploration team penetrating the deepest
reaches of the Pacific, cut off beneath a thermal layer.The operation’s backer, a snarky billionaire
played by Rainn Wilson (TV’s The Office)
is hoping to exploit the sea bottom’s mineral wealth. Unfortunately this
untouched region is inhabited by a Megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark that
makes “Bruce” (the shark from Jaws)
look like a sardine.It can bend
submarines and implode research pods with ease… but it meets its match in a “washed
up but still heroic” rescue diver played by Jason Statham.
by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure)
and made with (lots of) Chinese money, there is an obvious Chinese influence
running throughout - with Chinese talent in key roles and the climax unfolding at
an exotic Chinese beach resort.(There,
several scenes such as a frantic mother searching for her child during the shark’s
attack, or the giant shark dragging swimming platforms like flotsam are truly
reminiscent of Jaws.)
the movie drags on the surface, it picks up speed underwater and the visual
effects of the enormous shark trashing whatever technology mankind throws at it
are superb.While Statham turns in his
usual rugged performance (and at 51, his physique remains a work of art), Li
Bingbing is lovely but a bit wooden. The dialogue tells us they’re inching
towards romance but their interaction has an odd formality, with nary a kiss to
be seen. Instead it falls to her
precocious daughter (the wonderful Sophia Cai) to tell Statham, “My mom likes
you.” As if an action movie icon like
Statham needs a romantic assist from an 8 year-old!
be fair, any shark movie made after 1975 will always be compared to the mother
of all summer tentpoles, Jaws, and
while The Meg does provide some
thrills, it’s not better… it’s just bigger. But maybe for the “global audience”
this movie is going after, that might be enough.
The Meg opens nationwide on
August 10th from Warner Bros.
Does this screen grab show an innocuous image of an unidentified extra in "Jaws"- or does it depict a young woman who would be murdered shortly thereafter?
In the summer of 1974 Steven Spielberg was filming his soon-to-be legendary blockbuster "Jaws" on Martha's Vineyard. One hundred miles away in Provincetown, Mass, a badly decomposed and mutilated body of a woman was discovered near a beach area. Police have doggedly tried to solve the crime ever since and the victim has become known as "The Lady in the Dunes". Enter writer Joe Hillstrom King, who writes novels under the nom-de-plume of Joe Hill. King, the eldest song of legendary horror writer Stephen King, became intrigued by the case after reading about it in a book about amateur sleuths attempting to solve cold cases. Shortly thereafter, King happened to attend a retro movie screening of "Jaws". At the 54 minute and 2 second mark, there is a scene in the film showing masses of tourists arriving at the fictitious town of Amity (in reality Martha's Vineyard). King immediately took note of a fleeting glimpse of a female extra who appears at this precise moment in the film. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash haunted him because he felt the extra bore a remarkable resemblance to police artist's conceptions of the murder victim. King recently revisited his theory, which was not dismissed by the police out of hand, on a podcast he hosts relating to the movie "Jaws". King doesn't claim he knows that the film extra and murder victim are one-and-the-same but he is still sufficiently intrigued to find out for sure. Someone out there knows who the woman in the film is...perhaps a Cinema Retro reader can shed light on the mystery?
EVE GOLDBERG looks back on a "can't miss" film production that fell short of expectations:
Blues could have been a hit.It could have been a game-changer.It could have become a classic.Starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musicians,
this 1961 movie was filmed in Paris, directed by Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma
Rae,) and written by Walter Bernstein (The
Front).All the ingredients for a
compelling, top-notch entertainment were in place.
But the movie misses.Despite strong performances, a fascinating
milieu, meaty subject matter, gorgeous cinematography, several unforgettable
set pieces, and a score by Duke Ellington, the whole is distinctly less than
the sum of its parts.
So, what went wrong?
The problem is the
script.How the script falters, and why, is perhaps the most intriguing aspect
of the film.
Blues is based on a 1957 same-titled novel by Harold
Flender.The book tells the story of
Eddie Cook, an African American jazz musician living and working in Paris in
The author draws on the
historical reality that throughout much of the 20th century, many
African American artists, writers, and musicians emigrated to Paris, where they
found the personal and creative freedom denied them back home.James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Josephine
Baker, Sidney Bechet, Lester Young, and Bud Powell all found refuge from racism
in the City of Light.In addition, jazz
musicians discovered that their artistry was more highly valued and appreciated
in Europe than in the United States.Miles Davis said that his time living and working in Paris was
life-altering.“It changed the way I
looked at things forever.Paris was
where I noticed that not all white people were prejudiced.”
The novel Paris Blues re-creates this vibrant
world of smoky clubs, outdoor cafes, and a creative community where the
“mixing” of everyone is the norm.In
terms of plot, saxophonist Eddie falls for an African American school teacher,
Connie, who is touring Europe with a group of educators.Eddie is torn between going back to the
racist United States with Connie or forgoing their love and staying in Paris
where he feels respected as a man and musician.
In a comedic sub-plot,
Connie’s 60-year-old white roommate, Lillian, and Eddie’s middle-aged Jewish
band mate, Benny, are thrown together for a booze-filled night on the town,
during which Lillian experiences the wild side of Paris and begins to question
her uptight, chaste lifestyle.
Some of the chapters are
written from Eddie’s point of view, others from Connie’s, so we get a nuanced
and in-depth look into both individuals.The author successfully creates a set of appealing characters with
complex emotions and conflicts.While
the novel goes flaccid in the last third — its themes have been exhausted and
now it’s a forced slog to the end of a thin plot — just the fact that a 1957
novel by a white American writer features two fully-developed black
protagonists who are dealing with important, real-life issues, is an
achievement in itself.
Then, somewhere between page
and screen, things happened.
First and most significant,
in the film version of Paris Blues,
Eddie and Connie, the book’s central characters, are relegated to the
B-story.They now take a backseat to a
pair of white folks.
In the film, Benny, who in
the book is Eddie’s middle-aged, paunchy, Jewish sidekick, has been transformed
into hunky trombonist, Paul “Ram Bowen” Newman.Ram is handsome, sexy, charming, and brooding.He yearns to be a serious composer, but fears
he may not have the chops.He is the
undisputed leader of the band and the central character of the movie, with
saxophonist Eddie now playing the lesser role of “best friend.”
In a parallel revision,
Connie’s old-maid roommate Lillian is converted into a young, attractive,
divorced mother who is amazingly uninhibited when it comes to sex.She is played by Paul Newman’s real-life
wife, Joanne Woodward.
Near the beginning of the
film, we get a taste of what this movie might have been.Ram is at the train station, waiting to greet
the famous jazz trumpeter, Wild Man Moore (played with gusto by Louis
Armstrong).While at the station, Ram
accidentally meets Connie (Diahann Carroll).He flirts with Connie who tells him she’s waiting for her traveling
“Is your girlfriend as pretty as you are?”
(pause)“She’s a white girl.”
“Might be hard to find.All you white
girls look alike.”
Connie shoots Ram a “Huh?”
look.She’s clearly taken aback that
this white guy is flirting with her….and what does he mean by that strange
comment?The audience, and Connie, know
that we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Although there is no
interracial romance among the main characters in the original novel, the
filmmakers seem to be flirting with creating one in the movie.But apparently, the powers that be in
Hollywood decided America wasn’t ready for an on-screen interracial romance —
that moment would come several years later with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? — so Ram predictably pairs off with
white Lillian, as Eddie and Connie fall in love.
Poitier later stated, “Cold
feet maneuvered to have it twisted around — lining up the colored guy with the
name Sergio Martino will strike a chord with anyone who has even a passing
interest in Italian exploitation pictures of the 70s and 80s. Once seen, who
can forget The Great Alligator or The Island of Fishmen – both of which are
favourites of this writer in their showcasing of Barbara Bach at her most
radiant – or premium Suzy Kendall giallo Torso, or for that matter once ‘video
nasty’ and Ursula Andress headliner The Mountain of the Cannibal God? Marking Martino’s
second giallo, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (o.t. La coda della scorpione),
was released in 1971, sandwiched between a couple of his most highly regarded
titles, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. Scorpion’s
Tail isn’t quite on a par with either of those, but it’s still a respectable
entry in the sub-genre.
her husband is killed in a plane accident on a business trip to Greece, his
unfaithful wife (Evelyn Stewart) is informed she’s beneficiary to a $1 million
inheritance, with the one caveat that she has to travel to Athens to finalise
her claim. However, there are a number of people intent on getting their hands
on the not insubstantial sum, and at least one of them will remorselessly
resort to murder to do so. A turn of events results in the arrival of an
insurance investigator (George Hilton), who hooks up with a reporter (Anita
Strindberg) to check out some irregularities, and they inadvertently set
themselves up as targets for the killer.
enjoyable enough, if not particularly remarkable giallo then, touting a
convoluted plot loaded with sufficient a measure of misdirection to keep things
unpredictable. Opening in a very clean looking London and moving on to various
Greek locales, the travelogue location work certainly functions in the film’s
favour, lending it production value that eclipses the slightly ponderous
narrative of the screenplay (a collaborative affair from Eduardo Manzanos,
Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini). Most of – if not quite all – the
standard giallo trappings come into play, primarily there are a number of
graphic murders perpetrated by a fedora-wearing, razor-wielding maniac attired
in black (who’s not averse to donning a scuba wetsuit when the moment is
propitious). Some of them are pretty nasty too, including a startling– if not
particularly realistic – moment of eye-violence (squeamish viewers be warned!).
However, there’s a conspicuous dearth of nudity, in fact it’s about as coy as
they come that department; of course, nudity is seldom (if ever) pertinent, but
it’s standard enough a constituent within this sub-genre as to be noticeable
when it’s missing. The showdown on a forebodingly rocky stretch of desolate
Grecian coastline is fantastic, combining vertiginous camera angles and
suspenseful POV to maximum dramatic effect.
up a strong cast – which includes Alberto De Mendoza, Ida Galli (aka Evelyn
Stewart), Janine Reynaud and Luigi Pistilli – are George Hilton and Anita
Strindberg. Hilton also starred for Martino in the aforementioned pair, The
Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. His rugged good
looks found him top billing in a slew of spaghetti westerns – he was a one-spin
Sartana – as well as a run of crime and gialli pictures such as The Case of the
Bloody Iris, My Dear Killer and The Two Faces of Fear... though 1965’s spoof
Bond caper Due mafiosi contro Goldginger (in which he played Agente 007) can
probably be safely disregarded! He’s on top form here and rubs along well with
the very lovely Anita Strindberg. This writer first became aware of her in Who
Saw Her Die?, in which she appeared alongside George Lazenby and Adolfo Celi.
She didn’t enjoy as prodigious a career as Hilton, but she did score a lead
role in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key for Martino, as well
as featuring in such renowned fare as Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Women in
Cell Block 7. Her performance in Scorpion’s Tail is among her finest and there’s
no denying that the scene she spends clad in a sheer, clingy wet shirt affords the
audience a prurient bonus treat.
The annual Monster-Rama Drive-In horror movie festival will take place at the Rivrside Drive-In in Vandergrift, PA on the evenings of September 7-8, 2018. This year's programs includes restored DCP presentations of 8 classic Hammer horror flicks, some featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Raquel Welch. Click here for details.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The LOS ANGELES COMIC BOOK
AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION features Author SUSAN E. KESLER, who will be
signing THE WILD WILD WEST, THE SERIES, a new book on the popular 1965-1969
CBS-TV Series. Robert Conrad stars as James West and Ross Martin as master of
disguise Artemus Gordon, Secret Service Agents during the 1870’s. Featuring
Science Fiction and Horror themed storylines, spy gadgets, kung fu and
steampunk, Wild Wild West was conceived as James Bond on horseback. Wild Wild
West is known for it’s many distinctive villains such as Dr. Miguelito
Loveless, a brilliant megalomaniacal dwarf, played by Michael Dunn, and Count
Manzeppi played by Victor Buono. Every episode had a title with the word Night
such as: The Night of the Puppeteer, The Night of the Inferno and The Night of
the Steel Assassin. Find out more in The Wild Wild West, The Series, a 250 page
Behind the Scenes Book.Wild Wild West,
The Series, first published in 1988, is now updated with more photos and information,
and is considered the definitive history of this unique series.
Actor and Stuntman BOB
HERRON starred as KAHLESS, the first Klingon Emperor, in the Classic STAR TREK
episode THE SAVAGE CURTAIN. Bob appeared in 46 episodes of the Wild Wild West
Television series, doubling Ross Martin, also playing various henchmen and
other characters.Bob appeared in
episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Green Hornet, The Invaders, Voyage to
the Bottom of the Sea, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, Logan’s Run and
many others.Bob starred as one of the
Mole People in the Classic 1956 Science Fiction Movie, The Mole People, did
stunts in Diamonds Are Forever, Disney’s The Black Hole (Stunt double for
Ernest Borgnine), The Goonies, Soylent Green, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and
Frankenweenie.Bob is only 93 years old
and rarely attends autograph shows, so this is a great opportunity to acquire a
Also appearing, TOM WELLING
and MICHAEL ROSENBAUM for a SMALLVILLE REUNION, and POM KLEMENTIEFF, who stars
as Mantis in the Marvel Movies AVENGERS INFINITY WARS and GUARDIANS OF THE
GALAXY VOL. 2.
The LOS ANGELES COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE
FICTION CONVENTION will take place SUNDAY, AUGUST 12,
2018 at THE REEF, 1933 South Broadway, in Los Angeles, a mile
north of USC College. Show Hours are 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M. Regular
Admission is only $13.00, five years and under are free. Early Admission
is $15.00. The Dealers Room features over one hundred tables full
of Old and New Comic Books, Toys, Action Figures, Funko Pop, Trading
Cards, Trade Paperbacks, Graphic Novels, DVDs, Movie
Memorabilia and many other collectibles! Check www.comicbookscifi.com
Flashback: 1972. Dustin Hoffman drops by the set to visit director Bob Fosse and star Liza Minnelli, who were filming "Cabaret". Hoffman would star in Fosse's next film, "Lenny", the biopic of Lenny Bruce.
Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site has once again done yeoman work by rounding up a panel of James Bond scholars (including Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer) to reflect on the 45th anniversary of Roger Moore's first James Bond film, "Live and Let Die".
Born in 1896, as a teenager Barbara La
Marr, then Reatha Watson, lead something of an adventurous life. Her father
worked in the newspaper business, and the family moved home constantly, almost
inevitably contributing towards the turbulence and seeming inability to settle
down that plagued her life. At the age of sixteen, now living in California,
her elder sister and her husband kidnapped Reatha, causing a minor scandal,
with some accounts stating that Reatha had helped plot the kidnaping herself in
a desire to flee her oppressive parents. Reatha was already an incredibly
luminous and attractive young woman, and she was regularly spotted in the
nightclubs of Los Angeles dancing, drinking, and generally behaving in such a
way that soon brought the wrong kind of attention. For her own protection a
court declared that she was “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city and
was ordered to leave Los Angeles.
This did nothing to assuage her
ambitions however, and she attempted to turn this publicity into a Hollywood
career. Having had stage experience as a child, she appeared as an extra in
several films within the still developing Hollywood studio system. Being
somewhat disappointed by her perceived lack of success, she went on to develop
a career as a dancer, and performed in nightclubs around the country, attracting
men wherever she went, until the strain on her health proved too great and she
headed back home to California. Reatha Watson was incessantly creative and
decided to try her hand as a writer. Her first attempt at a novel found its way
into the right hands, and in 1920 the Fox Film Corporation produced The Mother of His Children (Edward J. Le
Saint), the success of which lead to her becoming a staff writer for Fox.
Aware of the negative publicity
attached to Reatha Watson, it was around this time that she changed her name to
Barbara La Marr, and she was overjoyed to back in Hollywood, even if it was on
the other side of the camera. However, that state of affairs did not last long,
and she was soon invited to screen test and began appearing in small roles again.
Her friendships with A-list stars soon lead to bigger roles, and within just
three years she was playing major roles in The
Three Musketeers (1921, Fred Niblo) alongside Douglas Fairbanks, in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922, Rex Ingram)
with her good friend Ramon Novarro, and in Hollywood satire Souls for Sale (1923, Rupert Hughes),
the cast-list of which reads like a Who’s
Who of the silent era. La Marr often found herself cast as a ‘vamp,’ a Hollywood
type popular in the pre-code films, and as such she was often dressed in
amazing jewelled costumes and over-the-top headwear whilst tempting men to
their fate, often being punished for such licentiousness by the end of the
film. Despite being kind, overly generous and unselfish towards everyone she
knew in her real life, this Hollywood ‘vamp’ image began to follow her wherever
she went, and the Hollywood gossip press loved to tell tales of her somewhat
scandalous personal life, the truth of which is laid out in this meticulously
researched biography by Sherri Snyder.