Kino Lober is releasing a number of value-priced Blu-ray double features with similarly-themed films. Among them is the combo of "Betsy's Wedding" and "Holy Matrimony". The first movie is a 1990 release starring and directed by Alan Alda, who had directed three previous feature films. Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding knows that the old adage "The more the merrier!" rings hollow. In fact, the logistics of planning a wedding can become increasingly complicated and frustrating in direct correlation with the number of well-meaning people who decide to involve themselves. There's always the risk that the betrothed couple will be overwhelmed by logistics and that the wedding plans are catered to please everyone but them. Such is the case in "Betsy's Wedding". Alda is cast as Eddie Hopper, a successful real estate speculator who invests money in building homes that he hopes to sell for a quick profit. Lately, however, his instincts have been troublesome and his latest venture is proving to be a white elephant that is draining his savings. At the same time, his youngest daughter Betsy (Molly Ringwald) and her boyfriend Jake (Dylan Walsh) announce they intend to get married. Both are left-wing progressives who are also social activists who disdain blatant displays of wealth. They want a low-key civil ceremony with only a handful of guests. However, Eddie and his wife Lola (Madeline Kahn) argue that a much grander, traditional wedding is called for so as not to offend family members. Their resistance worn down, Betsy and Jake reluctant concede, which opens a Pandora's Box of bad luck for all involved. Eddie can't afford to put on the wedding he has lobbied for so he turns to his brother-in-law Oscar (Joe Pesci), a slimy business "tycoon" who, in reality, is also short of cash. Since he can't find the money to lend Eddie for the wedding, he introduces him to a local mob boss, Georgie (Burt Young), who puts up the funds but then integrates himself into Eddie's life and plans for the wedding. A parallel story line centers on Eddie and Lola's other daughter Connie (Ally Sheedy), a New York City police officer who is stuck in a perpetual mode of depression, shying away from people and bruised by the fact that her younger sister will marry before she does. She is elevated from the blues by Georgie's bodyguard Stevie Dee (Anthony Lapaglia), a slick mobster who sounds like Rocky Balboa on steroids but who curiously speaks to everyone with excessive politeness. Has is obsessed with Connie and slowly but surely succeeds in wooing her into coming out of her shell. As the wedding date nears, the pressure mounts on everyone. Eddie's business dealings with George almost get him assassinated in an attempted mob hit, Betsy and Jake are barely on speaking terms and on the wedding day and a torrential rain storm threatens to collapse the large tent structure the reception is being held in. Eddie receives solace from imaginary conversations with his dear, departed father (Joey Bishop).
"Besty's Wedding" was not well-received by critics or audiences back in the day and proved to be the final feature film to date directed by Alan Alda. Yet, I found it to be consistently funny and Alda excels as both actor and director, milking maximum laughs from an inspired cast. The scene-stealer is Lapaglia, one of the few cast members to receive kudos from reviewers. His sensitive tough guy routine is both amusing and endearing. The film isn't hilarious at any point but it's never less than entertaining, as you might imagine any movie that teams Joe Pesci and Burt Young would be.
"Holy Matrimony" was unceremoniously dumped by Disney into a handful of theaters in 1994 before being relegated to home video. It's total theatrical gross in North America was about $700,000. As with "Betsy's Wedding", it was directed by a popular actor, in this case Leonard Nimoy. Ironically, just as "Betsy's Wedding" represented Alda's last direction (to date) of a feature film, so too did "Holy Matrimony" mark Nimoy's last directorial effort on the big screen. The premise is hardly original, centering on a protagonist who seeks shelter in a religious community to evade pursuers. This plot device dates back to the 1940s with John Wayne in "Angel and the Badman" and its unacknowledged 1984 remake "Witness". Here we find Patricia Arquette as Havana, a sultry young woman from the other side of the tracks who is fed up with being exploited by performing provocative routines at a carnival tent located in a fairgrounds. She is paid a miserly wage by the owner who she comes to resent. She and her equally impoverished boyfriend Peter (Tate Donovan) rob the owner and flee in their car, but not before being identified. With the police searching for them, they cross into Canada and take refuge in an Amish-like religious colony where Peter was raised before leaving for the outside world. They pretend to want to immerse themselves in the rustic lifestyle but Havana's coarse nature and foul mouth make the elders suspicious of their motives. Peter hides the cache of stolen loot but before he can divulge its location to Havana, he is killed in an automobile accident. The colony elders view this as a way to get rid of Havana by informing her that customs dictate that she must marry Peter's brother, in this case twelve year-old Ezekiel (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, Havana- who needs to stay until she can locate the stash of hidden money- agrees to the arrangement, much to the shock of all involved- especially young Ezekiel who is appalled at having to be married at such a young age. The film deftly handles the possible distasteful elements of this reverse "Lolita" situation by making it clear that both husband and wife sleep in separate rooms. The one funny sex gag involves Ezekiel trying to impress his friends that he is satisfying his new wife only to have the scenario backfire much to his embarrassment when it is revealed he is actually in the bedroom alone.
Much of what follows is predictable. As with all movie plots in which the male and female protagonists start off hating each other, there is no doubt that Havana and Ezekiel will grow to respect and like each other, with Havana acting more like a big sister than a wife. Once the money is located, Havana is told to accompany Ezekiel back to the States to return the loot to its rightful owner. What follows is a road trip in which the two share plenty of personal thoughts and have to avoid a corrupt FBI agent (John Schuck), who is hot on their trail, determined to steal the money for himself. The story climaxes back at the state fair where Havana originally worked. She's now determined to return the stolen money, all the while trying to evade the police and the FBI guy who are hot on her trail. Director Nimoy capably blends both sentiment and comedy during the course of the film, though the movie's main attributes are the performances by Arquette and especially young Gordon-Levitt who shows star power even at this early stage of his career. There is also a very fine performance by Armin-Mueller Stahl as the elder of the religious community. Refreshingly, the film doesn't mock or humiliate the members of the religious colony. Rather, it is "fish-out-of-water" Havana who bears the brunt of most of the humor. While "Holy Matrimony" is nothing very special, it does seem to have suffered an undeserved fate by being released to only a small number of theaters. It is certainly on par with most mid-range comedies but apparently Disney felt it had very little boxoffice appeal.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray combo features very fine transfers of both films and includes their original trailers. Recommended.
Film historian Douglas Dunning has informed Cinema Retro that Laemmle’s
Playhouse 7 and Ahrya Fine Arts will be presenting the 50th
anniversary screening of Sam Peckinpah’s influential 1969 film The Wild Bunch and special guests are
scheduled to appear at both locations. The film stars William Holden, Ernest
Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmund O’Brien, Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, Jaime Sanchez,
Bo Hopkins, Strother Martin, Albert Decker, Emilio Fernandez, and Alfonso Arau
and runs 145 minutes.
Screening #2 is at
the Ahrya Fine Arts on March 2nd at 7:30 pm. Mr. Stratton is also
scheduled to be on hand. In addition, screenwriter Walon Green is scheduled to
appear. He won an Academy Award in 1971 for directing the documentary, The Hellstrom Chronicle. He went on to
write such films as Sorcerer and The Brinks Job for director William
Friedkin and The Border for Tony
Actor L.Q. Jones is
on the list, too. He worked on several other Peckinpah movies, beginning with Ride the High Country, along with Major Dundee, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, and Pat
Garrett and Billy the Kid. He co-starred in Hang ‘Em High, Hell Is For Heroes, and Martin Scorsese’s Casino.
Actor Bo Hopkins is
also scheduled to appear. He co-starred in Peckinpah’s The Getaway and The Killer
Elite, and he also appeared in such films as The Day of the Locust, American
Graffiti, Midnight Express, and The Newton Boys.
From the press
The Wild Bunch
of our Anniversary Classics series. For details, visit: laemmle.com/ac.
THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary
Classics Series celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the iconic and groundbreaking
movies of the '60s, Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. This graphically violent
and poetic film exploded the very concept of the traditional Western by
focusing on a brutal group of outlaws trying to survive at the dawn of the 20th
century. Featuring four Oscar-winning actors—William Holden, Ernest Borgnine,
Ben Johnson, and Edmond O’Brien—along with a startling supporting cast, the
film clearly established Peckinpah as one of the top directors of the era.
The director’s classic 1962 Western Ride
the High Country had demonstrated his talent, but he ran into conflicts with
producers on subsequent projects in the '60s. The Wild Bunch marked his
triumphant return to filmmaking. He wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay with
Walon Green, from a story by Green and Roy N. Sickner. It is set in 1913, on
the eve of World War I and in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. A botched
robbery in the opening sequence leads the outlaws to seek refuge in Mexico,
where they continue to be pursued by a group of bounty hunters hired by the
railroad company they have robbed. Robert Ryan, cast as a former friend of
Holden’s character, leads the pursuers.
The supporting cast includes Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, Jaime Sanchez, Bo
Hopkins, Strother Martin, Albert Decker, Emilio Fernandez, and Alfonso Arau.
Lucien Ballard provided the rich cinematography, and Jerry Fielding wrote the
Oscar-nominated score. But perhaps the most crucial creative collaborator was
editor Lou Lombardo, who worked closely with the director to perfect an
innovative editing style that incorporated quick, almost subliminal cuts
masterfully interspersed with slow motion shots.
The film’s violence was shocking to
many viewers at the time, and some critics denounced the film. Others, however,
saw the violence as reflecting the disruptions in American society, along with
the chaos of the Vietnam War. Life magazine’s Richard Schickel called the film
“one of the most important records of the mood of our times and one of the most
important American films of the era.” The New York Times’ Vincent Canby hailed
the film as “very beautiful and the first truly interesting American-made Westerns
in years.” When cuts that had been made shortly after the film’s release were
finally restored for a 1995 reissue, critics were even more ecstatic. Writing
in The Baltimore Sun, Michael Sragow declared, “What Citizen Kane was to movie
lovers in 1941, The Wild Bunch was to cineastes in 1969.” The film was added to
the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1999.
Playhouse 7 is at 673 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101.l
The phone number is (310) 478 – 3836.
Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre is located at 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA
90211. The phone number is (310) 478 – 3836.
The YouTube page "A Word on Entertainment" features host Rob Word's interview with actress Rosemary Forsyth, who recalls filming the under-rated 1965 film "The War Lord" starring Charlton Heston and Richard Boone.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST ARTICLES FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Sony has released the 1955 crime drama 5 Against the House as a burn-to-order DVD. The little-remembered film is interesting on a number of levels and boasts an impressive, eclectic cast. The low-budget flick depicts four young ex-G.I.s who fought in Korea who return to the States and enroll in college. Al (Guy Madison) is a straight-as-an-arrow type who is engaged to sultry nightclub singer Kay (Kim Novak). Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews) is a brainy upstart with delusions of grandeur and a superiority complex. Roy (Alvy Moore) is an affable joker who is very much a follower, not a leader. Brick (Brian Keith) is the most troubled of the group. He bares psychological problems from his combat experience and has a hair-trigger temper. The guys' only vices are taking an occasional trip to Reno, Nevada and engaging in some minor gambling and womanizing. However, Ronnie concocts an audacious plan to prove he can outwit the authorities and rob a casino. He suggest that the plan be put into operation with the intention of returning the money to the casino after the fact. Ronnie wants to build his ego, not his bank account. Roy and Brick sign on to the plan, but when Al balks, Brick's anger comes through. He threatens his friends with a gun and forces them to pull off the incredible scheme. The film, deftly directed by Phil Karlson, makes effective use of on location shooting in Reno at a place called Harold's Casino. The movie works best as a character study and the performances are all first-rate, with the exception of Madison, who is a bit of a stiff in the lead role. Novak is her usual sexy self and Keith, long-underrated for his dramatic capabilities, gives a powerful performance. The film is one of the earliest to take a sympathetic look at the emotional toll war takes on returning veterans. 5 Against the House is engaging throughout and although it is unremarkable in the long run, it represents the kind of overlooked gems that the burn-to-order DVD format is rescuing from complete obscurity.
An original trailer is included.
Click here to order from the Cinema Retro Movie Store.
If you’ve ever read one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan
novels, you know that there has always been a big difference between Tarzan as
he is in the movies versus Tarzan in the books. For some reason Hollywood has
never really been able to get the character exactly right. As much fun as the
Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker Tarzan movies are, for example, they really
didn’t get close to Burroughs’ concept of the ape man. The real Tarzan didn’t
speak Pidgin English for one thing. He actually spoke fluent English and French.
He was as at home in an English Tea Room as the son of a British Lord, as he
was in the prehistoric land of Pal-ul-don. While the movies showed Tarzan as
protector of the animals, and friends with cute chimpanzees, in the books
Burroughs present a world where death usually came on four feet, although man
was often the most treacherous enemy. It was a jungle out there, and it was
survival of the fittest, baby.
In 2016, Warner Bros. attempted to restart the Tarzan
series with the $180 million “The Legend of Tarzan.” The film made double its
budget at the box office worldwide, but it didn’t excite audiences or studio
heads enough to continue with a sequel. So it looks like Tarzan will be on
sabbatical for a while. Part of the reason for the film’s failure was the
script’s presentation of Tarzan. They got the outer dimensions of the character
right, but included too many politically correct ideas that weakened the
Burroughs concept. For one thing, Tarzan lost too many fights, with both humans
and apes. You don’t get to be King of the Jungle by losing fights. But I think
it was the total reliance on CGI to create Tarzan’s Africa that was the main
reason for the film’s failure. Except for the occasional aerial footage shot
over the jungles of Gabon, the entire film was shot on sound stages in England.
The movie lacked the reality that a fantasy like Tarzan needs to be believable.
Which brings me to the subject of this review. In the
opinion of most true Tarzan fans there has only ever been one Tarzan film that
really captures what Tarzan is all about. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably
the closest they’ll ever get. In 1959, producer Sy Weintraub took over the
Tarzan franchise from Sol Lesser after it was moved to Paramount Pictures.
Weintraub injected the series with new energy and new ideas. He wanted to make
an “adult” Tarzan flick and he wanted to shoot on location in Kikuyu, Kenya.
He hired a top flight cast of British actors to play the
villains in the piece. Anthony Quayle, whose acting experience ranged from
potboilers to Shakespeare, was cast as the main villain, Slade, an escaped con
and old enemy of Tarzan. Next up, none other than 007 himself, Sean Connery, in
an early role as O’Bannion, a tough Irish gunman, who, being too young for the
Irish Rebellion, decides there are no causes worth fighting for because “They
don’t pay well.” Next is Nial MacGiniss as Kruger, a German diamond expert who
doesn’t want to be reminded of the old days of the Third Reich. Al Muloch plays
Dino, captain of the boat the gang is riding up river, who has a strange
attachment to a locket he wears around his neck. And finally, Italian actress
Scilla Gabel as Toni, Slade’s girl. There’s plenty of internal conflict and
tension among these five on board a small jungle boat as it makes its way up
river to a diamond mine.
The film starts with the theft of explosives from a
compound run by a doctor friend of Tarzan’s. The gang needs the gelignite to
excavate a diamond mine located upriver, just north of Tarzan’s tree house. It’s
interesting to note that the script by Berne Giler is based on a story written
by Les Crutchfield, a veteran writer who wrote 81 Gunsmoke radio scripts, and
was himself an explosives expert and a mining engineer before he started
writing. Explosives figure prominently in the plot.
I have to admit that I hadn't a clue as to what Intruder in the Dust was about until I viewed the DVD released through the Warner Archive. The film is a powerful indictment of the horrors of racism, filmed by MGM during a period when the American Civil Rights Movement was just beginning to heat up. We have a tendency to accuse Hollywood studios of relegating African-American actors to being mere window dressing in films of this era, or worse, casting them as comic relief in often degrading ways. However, this 1949 achievement should be much higher on the radar of retro movie lovers. While most studio productions steered clear of the problem of racism in the American South during the period when segregation was still law, this excellent film addresses the issue head-on. There were some talented people who brought the story to the screen in 1949. Esteemed director Clarence Brown was behind the camera and the screenplay was written by the great Ben Maddow, based on a novel by William Faulkner.
The film was shot on location in Oxford, Mississippi and centers on
the murder of a local white businessman who was shot in the back. The
prime suspect is Lucas (Juano Hernandez), a middle-aged black farmer who
has incurred the wrath of local bigots because he is proud and
independent and fails to take on the subserviant persona of the "good
Negro". Causing more resentment is the fact that Lucas owns his own
farm, a prime piece of land that invokes jealousy from less successful
local whites. Lucas maintains his calm demeanor even when he is jailed
and is awaiting the inevitable murder at the hands of a mob. His one
white friend comes to his aid: a teenager named Chick Mallison (Claude
Jarman Jr.). Chick convinces his uncle, lawyer John Stevens (David
Brian) to defend him. Stevens agrees because he doesn't want a murder
committed, but even he believes Lucas is guilty. He tells the seemingly
doomed man that he can't get a fair trial, that he doesn't believe he is
innocent and that he should have shown proper deference to the bigots
at all times. This attitude is what passed for enlightened thinking
during this period. Ultimately, Stevens becomes convinced that his
client is being framed and the plot turns to to who-dunnit as an oddball
group of progressives fights against time to find the real murderer
before Lucas is lynched or burned alive. The only whites in town who
will assist Stevens and Chick are an elderly woman (Elizabeth Patterson)
and the local sheriff (Will Geer), who has a condescending attitude
towards blacks but is courageous enough to stand up to the worst
elements of the population.
The first issue of Cinema Retro's 15th season (#43) has now been mailed to subscribers around the globe. Thanks to our loyal readers, the world's most unique film magazine is entering another exciting year with every issue packed with the kind of coverage of classic cinema that you've come to expect. (Issue #44 will ship in April/May and issue #45 ships in September/October.) Our kickoff issue for the new season features the following:
Tribute to the 50th anniversary of the James Bond classic "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" starring George Lazenby: a five-page photo feature packed with rare images, some never published before.
"Mackenna's Gold"- a look back fifty years on at the much-hyped big budget fiasco that has a fascinating back story.. This major article by Dave Worrall and Lee Pfeiffer is the most comprehensive ever written about the troubled production that starred Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif,Telly Savalas and an all star cast.
Cai Ross provides an exclusive interview with director Peter Medak, who recalls the little-seen Peter Sellers pirate comedy "Ghost in the Noonday Sun" and relates the maddening experience of working with the volatile comedy genius.
Dawn Dabell covers the 1966 British coming-of-age comedy "The Family Way", which allowed Hayley Mills her first adult role in a scathing comedy about coming of age during the sexual revolution.
Brian Davdison looks back on the controversial "Assault", which is regarded as Britain's only true giallo.
Nick Anez analyzes director Robert Aldrich's bizarre-but-gripping Depression era crime drama "The Grissom Gang".
Gareth Owen examines the clues in the making of "Sleuth" starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine at Pinewood Studios
Brian Davidson pays tribute to actress Virginia Maskell, whose career and life were tragically short, but very impressive.
John V. Watson takes a nightmarish journey back to 1971 to examine the release of numerous high profile films that were extremely violent. Among them: "A Clockwork Orange", "Get Carter", "Villain", "Dirty Harry", "Straw Dogs" and "The Devils".
Plus Raymond Benson's "Cinema 101" column, Darren Allison's news about the latest soundtrack releases and our extensive reviews of new Blu-ray and DVD releases.
Help keep the dream of celebrating the greatest period in film history alive andin print format by subscribing or renewing today!
Finney with Audrey Hepburn in Stanley Donen's "Two for the Road".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Albert Finney, who rose to fame and acclaim as one of Britain's generation of actors known as "Angry Young Men", has died at age 82. A chest infection was cited as cause of death. Finney was among an exciting new generation of British actors who burst upon the scene in the 1950s and 1960s, reaping critical praise for their realistic portrayals often of troubled men who were being constrained by socio-economic conditions that afflicted the lower income class in post-War Britain. His star-making role came in director Karl Reisz's "kitchen sink" classic, the 1960 film "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" which reflected the frustrations of the working class. Finney called upon his real life experiences growing up in Northwest England under somewhat spartan living conditions.
As a newly-minted star, he screen tested for director David Lean for the title role of "Lawrence of Arabia" but Finney didn't want to sign a five picture deal with the film's producer Sam Speigel. Peter O'Toole took the role and became a major name in international cinema. Finney was somewhat opaque compared to other young actors that emerged in the UK in the 1960s. He wasn't the publicity seeker that Richard Burton was, nor was he the hard-drinking, towel snapping joker Richard Harris was. He was thought by some critics to have not achieved his full promise on stage or screen, despite having been nominated for five Oscars and thirteen BAFTAs. (He won two of the latter.) Finney was a remote figure in a publicity-hungry industry. He rarely gave interviews and was often cynical about the shallowness of fame. He refused to attend any of the ceremonies at which he was nominated. Perhaps his best-loved role was in "Tom Jones", the 1963 screen adaptation of Henry Fielding's bawdy comedic novel. Yet, Finney's work on the big screen was spotty. He didn't work very frequently and sometimes chose projects that were not especially successful at the boxoffice. His more prominent films include "Murder on the Orient Express", "Erin Brockovich", "Two for the Road", "The Victors", "Scrooge", "Wolfen", "Shoot the Moon", "Annie", "Traffic", "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Bourne Legacy". He was off screen for a number of years while he waged a successful battle against cancer. His final role was a memorable one: as Kincade, the grumpy old farmer and boyhood friend of James Bond in the 2012 blockbuster "Skyfall". For more click here.
In the Hollywood Reporter, David Weiner interviews director Philip Kaufman about his brilliant, 1978 re-imagined interpretation of Don Siegel's classic 1956 sci-fi film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Kaufman's version was every bit the equal to the original, although the films are substantially different. Kaufman reflects back on the making of the movie and its sad significance in today's society. Click here to read.
Ian Fleming’s rise from newspaper journalist to worldwide
best-selling author was not all jet-setting glamor. In the early 1960s,
with the Bond literary series well underway, Fleming was involved in a grueling
legal battle regarding his novel, Thunderball – which later became the
record-breaking 1965 EON film. The strain of the trial may well have
contributed to Fleming’s death the following year at the relatively young age
Now the daughter of the original screenwriter, Jack Whittingham, has compiled a
unique chronology of the entire episode titled, appropriately enough, "The Thunderball Story". Sylvan Mason, an accomplished
writer and photographer in her own right, has produced a spiral-bound, limited
edition booklet of the behind-the-scenes battle that played out in British
courts in 1963 and gave producer Kevin McClory the right to remake the story,
eventually resulting in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.
Ms. Mason’s book reproduces a number of key documents and photographs,
including letters, a UK premiere ticket and headlines from newspapers of the
day. There is also a highly detailed timeline from 1959 to 2003,
encompassing all facets of the Thunderball story. All in all, it is a fascinating
look at one of the more obscure, but important aspects of the James Bond
Phenomenon – and given its limited edition status, once they’re gone, they’re
If you are a Bond collector, you can order a copy here:
In my review of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of the 1979 disaster film "Meteor", I observed that the disaster movie genre had peaked with the release of Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno" in 1974. Yet, that didn't stop studios from beating a dead horse in an attempt to squeeze some more juice out of the tried-and-true formula of gathering an all-star cast, then figuring out ways to drown, bury or incinerate the characters portrayed on screen. One of the more obscure attempts to keep the disaster film cycle relevant was "Avalanche", a movie produced by Roger Corman and directed and scripted by one of his proteges, Corey Allen, who would go on to establish a respectable career as a director of major television shows. When you approach a Corman production, you tend to give some special dispensation for certain cinematic sins that you wouldn't accord more mainstream productions. Corman, who happily embraces his legendary status as a man who made major profits from films with minor budgets, knew how to stretch the soup in the cinematic sense. Rarely armed with ample production funds, Corman cut corners whenever possible but still managed to retain a certain elegance to his productions. In 1978, he jumped on the fading disaster movie bandwagon with "Avalanche". He hired Rock Hudson as the leading man because Hudson, at this point in his career, realized that he was no longer a hot commodity as a boxoffice draw in feature films (although he did successfully transition to a popular presence on television.) Corman also cast Mia Farrow and respected supporting actor Robert Forster for additional name recognition. He secured permission to film at a major ski resort in Durango, Colorado and out-sourced the special effects work to a company called Excelsior!
The film follows the general formula of the disaster film genre in that the victims-to-be are gathered for a major social occasion, unaware that nature is working overtime to thwart their fun. Rock Hudson plays David Shelby, an arrogant developer who has invested his life savings to build a vacation paradise in the Rocky Mountains. He has disdain for local environmentalists who have warned him that his destruction of an an abundance of trees on his massive property has removed a natural barrier to the inevitable avalanches that will occur. Shelby is preoccupied with his grand opening festivities and is simultaneously trying to woo back his ex-wife Caroline (Mia Farrow), who is attending as his guest. He's also busy trying to entertain his sassy, wise-cracking mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), who is being shepherded around the resort by David's major domo Henry McDade (Steve Franken in a rare dramatic role.) Meanwhile, local environmental activist and nature photographer Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) becomes increasingly concerned about the massive buildup of snow on the mountain peaks that are directly in line with the resort. He attempts to alleviate some of the danger by strategically using a snow cannon to set off controlled mini avalanches. Intermingled with all of this are the expected subplots involving minor characters who are set up to be inevitable victims. Barry Primus is a TV sports announcer who is broadcasting from the grand opening and who must contend with the fact that his estranged wife Tina (Cathey Paine) is on premises and rubbing his nose in it by blatantly carrying on an affair with egotistical super star skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses). Scott, in turn, is rubbing Tina's nose in it by blatantly sleeping with another woman, thus causing Tina to go ballistic and consider suicide. Meanwhile, David Shelby finds time to unwind by spending some quality time in a hot tub with with his naked secretary (thus allowing Roger Corman to slip in a bit of T&A). Although the story seems set up to have the disastrous avalanche occur during the opening night festivities, screenwriter Allen throws the audience a curve ball by avoiding that cliche and saving the action for the following afternoon when, amid a particularly vicious snow mobile race, a small plane piloted by one of Shelby's employees encounters bad weather and slams into a nearby mountain, thus triggering the avalanche. This is where the movie progresses beyond cliches and becomes unexpectedly enjoyable. All of the standard disaster movie shtick is present, as both lovable and loathsome characters meet predictable fates, but the film's limited production resources somehow work in its favor. We're well aware that we're watching a Corman production but somehow the inventiveness that is required to carry it all off is quite admirable. Certain plot points are introduced and inexplicably abandoned including an insinuation that Shelby has bribed local political officials to overlook his clear violation of environmental protection rules in order to build his resort. This was one of Rock Hudson's final films as an "above the title" leading man. He's grayer and a bit paunchier than we'd seen him during his heyday, but he still had star power to spare and made for a dashing leading man, whether its skinny dipping in the hot tub or personally leading rescue parties in acts of derring doo to extricate victims of the tragedy. The film's showpiece sequence is a climactic scene in which Shelby must rescue Caroline, who is dangling from wrecked bridge above a ravine. It's well-directed and genuinely suspenseful.
It' easy to pick apart a film like "Avalanche", as it squarely fits into the "guilty pleasure" category. However, the film does a lot with very little as opposed to other misfires in this genre that did very little with a lot (aka "The Swarm"). The Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition features the original trailer and a "making of" featurette in which Roger Corman extols the virtues of the film. He admits the effects were rather shoddy and recalls his outrage when he discovered the SFX company had added "red snow". Corman hit the roof and it was changed to a bluish substance that he admits still looks pretty phony. Robert Forster recalls that the "snow" was actually little pieces of plastic that were strewn by the hundreds of thousands over the scenic landscape. He remembers his dismay at the realization that none of these bits were biodegradable and many must still be contaminating the landscape of the Durango ski resort where the movie was filmed. Corman makes the claim that the film was actually a major financial success. He says his budget was only $1.7 million and that a TV sale for $2 million netted him an immediate $300,000 profit. The tale sounds a bit fanciful because it seems hard to believe that even in 1978 you could make a movie like this with three relatively big names for only $1.7 million. (Other sources give unsubstantiated estimates of the budget at around $6 million, which seems more plausible.) "Avalanche" is not near the top of the heap of disaster movies but it certainly doesn't rank at the bottom of the pack, either. The Kino Lorber release has an impressive transfer and the inclusion of those bonus extras make this title highly recommended for fans of this genre.
This ad appeared in Boxoffice magazine in April 1968 extolling the longevity of Fox's three big roadshow presentations. For the unenlightened, "roadshow" films were big budget productions that played in grand movie palaces in select cities. It could often be many months before these films came to neighborhood theaters nationwide. What is remarkable about this ad is that it illustrates that even after such films went "wide" to hundreds of other theaters, people still paid top dollar to enjoy seeing them in the roadshow presentations. Consider that "The Sound of Music" opened in 1965 and "The Sand Pebbles" and "The Bible" both opened in 1966. Yet, years later, the roadshow venues were still showing these films. Today, even blockbuster movies aren't in theaters very long because so much of the profit comes from a quick turnaround onto video and streaming services. However, in those days when movie theaters provided the only forum in which to see favorite blockbusters, fans would patronize theaters to see them repeatedly. This afforded them the opportunity to see the movies in their original versions, as studios often cut considerable footage when releasing them to local theaters.
Click here to order Cinema Retro's Movie Classics edition devoted to Roadshow movies of the 1960s.
Samuel Fuller's 1959 crime thriller "The Crimson Kimono" has been released as a Twilight Time limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. The film finds Fuller in full "triple threat" mode as director, producer and screenwriter. It's also fits comfortably into Fuller's oeuvre in that it's an off-beat story with quirky, well-defined characters and relationships. Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with the shocking cold-blooded murder of a popular stripper by an unseen assassin. As with the works of Hitchcock, Fuller dismisses the notion that there is safety in numbers, as the victim is killed while fleeing her pursuer through crowded streets. The killer gets away and the story introduces us to the detectives assigned to the case. They are Det. Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and his partner Det. Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta), two Korean War veterans who served together in combat and who are now chummy enough to share a fashionable bachelor pad. They discover that a local artist, Chris Downs (Victoria Shaw), had some interaction with the stripper and is aware of a suspicious man she associated with. When Chris's sketch of the suspect ends up on the front pages, she finds herself the target of a failed assassination attempt. Charlie and Joe suggest that she can be safely hidden away in their apartment. Naturally, sparks begin to fly considering the three principal characters are extremely attractive. Charlie finds himself falling hard for Chris, but she is unaware of his feelings. Meanwhile, she expresses her desires for Joe, who clearly wants to reciprocate but is hesitant to humiliate the love-struck Charlie. If all this sounds like a high school romance it must be said that under Fuller' assured direction, it is anything but. The scene in which Chris and Joe slowly and almost reluctantly admit to their mutual attraction is superbly written and enacted by Shaw and Shigeta and brims with sexual tension.
The murder mystery is clearly the MacGuffin here. It's mostly a catalyst to bring this love triangle to life. Fuller places most of the action in L.A.'s Little Tokyo community and the film concentrates on the character's interactions with the Japanese-American population. The most interesting character is Joe, who is Japanese-American. When we first see him he is confident, witty and charismatic, all traits that are shared by Charlie. The Butch and Sundance-like relationship goes into a nosedive after Joe confesses his love for Chris. Although clearly heartbroken, Charlie keeps his reaction restrained, only to have the guilt-ridden Joe accuse him of latent racism. He's wrong but can't be convinced otherwise. A lifetime of battling to be socially accepted in a predominantly white society has brought out his own paranoia and reverse racism. It all leads to a tension-packed conclusion that mingles the strained relationship between the three characters and a chase for the killer through an exotic parade celebrating Japanese culture that plays out in similar style to the Junkanoo sequence in "Thunderball".
There is much to commend about this film, which- like most Fuller productions- was shot on a modest budget in B&W with actual locations favored over studio sets. Perhaps Fuller didn't have the funds to rely heavily on sets and thus filmed on location. In any event, this tactic adds immeasurable grit and realism to his movies. Glenn Corbett is likable and fine in an understated performance, Victoria Shaw is excellent as the woman who innocently becomes the instrument that divides two good friends and James Shigeta, who along with Corbett made his screen debut with this film, shows the skills that would quickly elevate him to international stardom. Anna Lee is outstanding as "Mac", an aging artist with a gruff personality who swizzles hard liquor and smokes stogies while churning out comments like "A man is just a man, but a good cigar is a smoke!"
W. Murnau was one of the leading filmmakers of the German Expressionist
movement of the 1920s, most well-known for the first adaptation of Bram
Stoker’s Dracula—Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922). He also spent a little time
in Hollywood in the late silent era, responsible for one of Tinsel Town’s great
silent pictures, Sunrise: A Song of Two
Humans (1927), which won the only Academy Award ever given for “Unique and
Expressionism is mostly defined by a stylized visual conceit that distorts
reality for an emotional effect. Highly-contrasted light and shadow play large
roles in the mode, as well as sharp, angular lines of design. The works of,
say, Tim Burton, could be said to be influenced by the school of German Expressionism.
Most of the films noir made in
Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s also harked back to the movement.
Video has released a double feature Blu-ray containing two lesser-known
pictures made by Murnau in Germany—The
Haunted Castle from 1921, which is more of a whodunnit melodrama than
anything resembling the paranormal or supernatural, and The Finances of the Grand Duke from 1924, a light comedy with some
espionage mixed in. The first concerns a revenge tale with some secret
identities and guilt-ridden angst. The second contains a plot that might be too
complicated for its own good, dealing with a likable dictator who wants to save
a tiny country from its creditors.
film is anything to write home about—they are both rather staid, slow, and,
is astonishing, though, is Kino Video’s miraculous restoration in 1920x1080p,
which presents the movies in such a pristine and gorgeous transfer that it’s
difficult to believe these pictures were made nearly a hundred years ago. Unfortunately,
there are no supplements or audio commentaries on the disk.
silent film and Murnau enthusiasts may very well find something here to savor. Studying
old movies embodies a little bit of time travel. There are good lessons
contained within that inform us of the manners, social sensibilities, and artistic
trends of the day. So little of this period’s work survives, and Kino should be
applauded for making it available.
When Olive Films released its highly impressive new special Blu-ray edition of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the initial run sold out before we even got around to promoting it. Due to overwhelming demand, however, Olive has made the title available again. Here are the details from Olive Films:
“They’re already here! You’re next!” With these chilling words, Invasion of
the BodySnatchers sounded a clarion call to the dangers of
conformity, paranoia, and mass hysteria at the heart of 1950s American life.
Considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, Invasion of
the Body Snatchers stars Kevin McCarthy (Academy Award® nominee, Best
Supporting Actor, Death of A Salesman – 1952) as Miles Bennell, a doctor
in a small California town whose patients are becoming increasingly
overwrought, accusing their loved ones of being emotionless imposters. They’re
right! Plant-like aliens have invaded Earth, taking possession of humans as
they sleep and replicating them in giant seed pods. Convinced that a
catastrophic epidemic is imminent, Bennell, in a terrifying race for his life,
must warn the world of this deadly invasion of the pod people before it’s too
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by the accomplished Don Siegel
(Dirty Harry, The Shootist) and co-starring Dana Wynter (Airport),
Carolyn Jones (A Holein the Head), Larry Gates (The Sand
Pebbles) and King Donovan (The Enforcer), was photographed by
Academy Award nominee Ellsworth Fredericks (Best Cinematography, Sayonara
– 1958) with production design by Academy Award winner Ted Haworth (Best Art
Direction, Sayonara – 1958).
High-Definition digital restoration
Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe
Stranger in Your Lover's Eyes" – A two-part visual essay with actor
and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his
father's book A Siegel Film
Fear is Real" – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film's
No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger" – Film scholar
and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film's
No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited" –
Never-before-seen appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin
McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and
fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon" –
Never-before-seen interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along
with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discussing
the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
to Santa Mira" – An exploration of the film's locations
In a Name?" – On the film's title
of rare documents detailing aspects of the film's production including the
never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude, which has been released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. Unlike
Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the
political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the
story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her
career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is
determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the
plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of
consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to
contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize
her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout
from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company
moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her
rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and
reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott)
to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive
relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything
other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's
father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying
to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago.
Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are
her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on
the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a
courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and
using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from
the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would
only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western
comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today.
The thin story line isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined
talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that
add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine
experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and
Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but
charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed
most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including
cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an
Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry
Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the
The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray release boasts the expected excellent transfer, an informative collector's booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, an isolated score track and a commentary track by this writer and fellow film historian Paul Scrabo. This release is limited to 3,000 units.
magnificent Robert Altman whodunnit (or, as Altman and team called it, “who
cares whodunnit?”), Gosford Park, has
received a top-class Blu-ray restoration and re-issue from Arrow Academy, and
it is a gem.
released in 2001, Gosford Park took
its cue from the immensely popular BBC television series, Upstairs, Downstairs—about the dramas that exist in a stately
British manor between the “upstairs” folk—the wealthy upper-class family that
owns the property, and the “downstairs” people—the servants and staff who run the household. Throw in a dash of
Agatha Christie, and a heaping helping of Robert Altman’s ensemble improvisatory
magic, and you have the director’s only full-fledged British production.
Interestingly, the screenwriter, Julian Fellowes (who won the Oscar for Original
Screenplay) went on to create and write the next immensely popular BBC television
series, Downton Abbey, which
resembles Gosford Park in many ways.
historians will certainly recognize the homage Altman makes in his direction of
the piece to Jean Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece, The Rules of the Game, a similar masters/servants ensemble work
that Altman was known to admire. The tone and broad canvas with many characters
and their subtle ribald and clandestine liaisons was surely a blueprint on how
to do Gosford.
work began when actor/writer/producer Bob Balaban suggested a collaboration on
a film, and the idea to do an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery became the
desired goal (Balaban co-produced the picture and has a prominent role as one
of two Americans in the nearly all-British cast). And while the murder mystery
is at the core of the film, it’s really not that important. After all, this is
an Altman film. It’s more about the characters, the relationships, and the
exploration of what the British class system was like in the early 1930s when
the U.K. was holding on to centuries-old mores and values that would soon slip
story concerns wealthy businessman Sir William (Michael Gambon), who is married
to younger Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose sisters are married to men
struggling to stay in or begin business with Sir William. One weekend, all the
relations and a few guests are invited to have a “hunting party” (much like in The Rules of the Game), so the house if
full of people and the servants are very busy.But nobody likes Sir William. After all, he has a history of
impregnating servant girls and forcing them to either give up their babies to
orphanages or leave their employment. (The picture has an added layer of
meaning in today’s #MeToo climate!) So, when he’s found dead—apparently stabbed
with a kitchen knife—no one is very surprised. In the last act of the story, we
learn the secrets and lies of several characters, and how these all played into
cast is impressive. Maggie Smith (as a wickedly opinionated older relation who
depends on an allowance from Sir William) was nominated for Supporting Actress,
as was Helen Mirren (who plays the head housekeeper). Also on hand are Alan
Bates, Emily Watson, Charles Dance, Clive Owen, Tom Hollander, Ryan Phillippe,
Eileen Atkins, Derek Jacobi, Richard E. Grant, and many other familiar faces of
British TV and film. Jeremy Northam portrays the real silent-film actor Ivor
Novello, and Stephen Fry appears as a bumbling police inspector.
brilliant cast and wonderful script aside, Gosford
Park is assuredly Altman’s film. His style of overlapping dialogue, moving
cameras throughout the house and picking up bits of business and dialogue here
and there, and presenting a tapestry of words and images in which the viewer
must piece together, is in full force. It works beautifully. In fact, Gosford was Altman’s second-highest
grossing picture (after M*A*S*H), and
it was nominated for the Oscar Best Picture and Director.
brand new 2K restoration from a 4K scan, approved by director of photography
Andrew Dunn, looks marvelous. There are three audio commentaries—one with
Altman, production designer Stephen Altman, and producer David Levy, and a
second one with writer Fellowes. A third one is new to the release, featuring
critics Geoff Andrew and David Thompson. Supplements include a new introduction
to the film by Geoff Andrew, brand new cast and crew interviews, and port-overs
from the previous DVD release: featurettes on the making of the film, deleted
scenes with Altman commentary, and more. The package comes with a reversible
sleeve containing the original poster art backed with new artwork by Matthew
Griffin. In the first pressing of the product only, a collector’s booklet
featuring new writing on the film by critic Sheila O’Malley and an archival
interview with Altman is included.
Gosford Park was perhaps Altman’s
last great picture, one that stands proudly alongside his other classics like M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville,
The Player, and Short Cuts. Pick it up!