The Criterion Channel will launch on April 8, allowing classic movie lovers to stream 1,000 feature films as well as thousands of shorts and supplementary features derived from Criterion's video releases.Click here to read all the details of the channel's premiere line-up of films.
Kino Lorber has released the documentary "The Last Resort" as a DVD special edition. It's yet another worthy niche market film that the company is helping to find an audience. The movie, impressively directed by Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, at first seems to be a lighthearted, sentimental and amusing look at the elderly Jewish community that settled in Miami Beach, specifically the South Beach section, in the 1950s-1970s. Florida destinations for tourists and transplants from the northern states did not occur until the advent of air conditioning and its widespread use, which mitigated the humidity and allowed elderly people in particular to visit or move there in droves. Jews were not particularly welcome, however, as many of the more desirable apartment complexes, hotels, clubs and restaurants blatantly forbade them from entering. Yes, folks this was after the U.S. waged war against Adolf Hitler and his genocidal hoards. When new laws stopped such discriminatory practices, Jewish communities thrived and at one point, South Beach's population was 75% Jewish. Many of the elderly people who settled there were Holocaust survivors who relished the opportunity to finally find some peace and solace among others of their faith. Here they could freely practice and celebrate ancient religious and cultural rituals without interference. Miami Beach also became a haven for celebrities, a kind of southern Las Vegas. When Jackie Gleason decided to film his weekly variety show there, it inspired millions to visit the state. On every show, Miami Beach was referred to as "The sun and fun capitol of the world!" Even James Bond gave his endorsement, with the opening sequence of "Goldfinger" set the Fontainebleau Hotel, the ultimate symbol of Miami Beach's upscale status.
"The Last Resort" centers on the unique efforts of Gary Monroe and Andy Sweet, two college students and amateur photographers, who made it their mission to document what they correctly perceived would be a temporary oasis for the elderly Jewish residents of South Beach. In the pre-digital age, their commitment to this cause cost them time and money in an era in which film still had to be purchased and developed. Still, they persevered and took many thousands of wonderful shots, Monroe working in B&W and Sweet in color. Through their photographs a joyous community was brought to life and we relish the sight of elderly people attired in the garish styles of the day singing, dancing, taking in the surf and just sitting around making small talk. Their contentment is quite apparent. But the film takes a darker turn when it chronicles the rapid demise of Miami and South Beach. This occurred when the U.S. government negotiated a deal with Fidel Castro to allow for vast numbers of Cubans to immigrate to the United States through the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980. Although the majority of the immigrants were simply seeking freedom from a totalitarian state, Castro shrewdly through a twist into the plan by secretly freeing the most dangerous criminals from his jails and placing them on the boats. When many of these convicts settled in and around South Beach, the area declined virtually overnight and Miami Beach became the U.S. city with the highest murder rate. (This dark period is the setting for Brian De Palma's "Scarface".) The elderly Jewish population had already dwindled substantially due to attrition and the crime rate discouraged anyone else from wanting to settle there. Time magazine documented the deterioration with a cover that read "Paradise Lost". The film provides interviews with Monroe and his friends and colleagues who discuss how the older people were now often living along and terrified in neighborhoods that only a few years previously had been their salvation. As the area further deteriorated, Andy Sweet began to associate with the wrong crowd. He was brutally murdered in his own apartment in 1982, not yet 30 years of age. (The details of the crime are left strangely murky despite the fact that a man was tried and convicted of his murder.) As the city managed to ultimately reduce the social problems and lower the crime rate, South Beach became a haven for the hip, young party crowd. Prices soared and the area's signature art deco buildings were converted into expensive business venues and luxury apartments. Andy Sweet's friends mounted an organized campaign to showcase his life's work, the collection of many thousands of photos. Their trials and tribulations in doing so is a testament to their devotion to him and the result is this film.
The year was 1947. Hattie McDaniel was a popular and familiar face on the big screen especially since winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her immortal portrayal of Mammy in "Gone With the Wind" in 1939. Still, McDaniel not only had to deal with a glass ceiling in terms of prejudice in Hollywood and society itself, but she also had to fend off African-American critics who faulted her for often playing maids and other domestic types in the films she made. McDaniel responded in an extraordinary essay published in The Hollywood Reporter in which she refutes the notion that the roles she played diminished the dignity of black people, pointing out that Arthur Treacher usually played British butlers but no one expected him to carry his screen persona over into real life. More impressively, McDaniel cited progress being made on screen by black actors who were increasingly getting roles of mature, dignified characters. With this essay, Hattie McDaniel proved not only to be a talented actress but also an outstanding writer. Click here to read.
Boys will be boys. Clint Eastwood takes time out from directing and starring in "High Plains Drifter" to retrieve his son Kyle's toy airplane from atop a roof. Kyle would appear as Clint's on-screen son in two features he would direct, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976) and "Honkytonk Man" (1982). Kyle Eastwood is now a world-acclaimed jazz musician.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City:
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now will celebrate its
40th Anniversary at the Festival with a screening of a new, never-before-seen
restored version of the film, entitled Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. Remastered
from the original negative in 4K Ultra HD, the film will be brought to life
with Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmos®, delivering spectacular colors and
highlights that are up to 40 times brighter and blacks that are 10 times
darker, and Dolby Atmos, producing moving audio that flows all around you with
breathtaking realism. The Beacon Theatre will also be outfitted for this
exclusive occasion with Meyer Sound VLFC (Very Low Frequency Control), a
ground-breaking loudspeaker system engineered to output audio frequencies below
the limits of human hearing, giving the audience a truly visceral experience.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards®, Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning vision of
the heart of darkness in all of us remains a classic and compelling Vietnam War
epic. Martin Sheen stars as Army Captain Willard, a troubled man sent on a
dangerous and mesmerizing odyssey into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade
American Colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors
of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost.
After the Screening: An evening with Francis Ford Coppola who will reflect on
the film and discuss its elaborate restoration. Drama, Special
About the Director(s)
Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most acclaimed
filmmakers of our time; a five-time Academy Award-winning director, writer, and
producer of such films as Patton, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II,
American Graffiti, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
As the founder of American Zoetrope, he initiated and nourished the careers of
talents such as George Lucas, Carroll Ballard, John Milius, Sofia Coppola, and
actors Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, James Caan, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus,
Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon, and Diane Lane.
As a writer, director, producer, and technological pioneer, Francis Coppola has
created a body of work that has helped to shape contemporary American cinema.
The 6th Socially Relevant Film
Festival kicked off at the Cinema Village theater on 12th Street in New York
City last Monday night in fine fashion. Literally. "The Merger" is a
wonderfully sweet and ultimately moralistic comedy from Down Under that centers
around the sport of Australian Rules Football, or "Footy."
It's set in the fictional, rural
village of Bodgy Creek Australia - a town in trouble. A population decrease,
caused by the "greenie-led" closure of the timber mill, has left the
footy team short handed. so much so that their only choices are to either merge
with another team or fold.
"What's a merger?" asks
young Neil Barlow (played by the charismatic 11 year-old (Rafferty Grierson),
grandson to the club manager "Bull" Barlow."That's where one shit team joins with
another shit team to make a slightly less shit team," a player responds.
The Bodgy Creek Roosters are a shit team right now.
When town pariah, former AFL star
Troy Carrington (played by writer Damian Callinan) comes up with a solution to
raise funds, save the team and rebuild the clubhouse - he becomes head of the
team. His problems are two-fold: he's unpopular and referred to as "Town
Killer" for having led the "greenie" protest and it requires the
assistance of the town's refugee population. This is where the film's humanity
and morality come to the forefront.
Originally a one-man theatre show
by Damian Callinan that snowballed throughout Australia from the rural areas to
the big cities that held a mirror up to society's foibles, frailties and
contradictions, not just in Australia but everywhere it seems in these times.
Eventually, film director Mark Grentell saw the show. Having worked with Callinan
on "Backyard Ashes" the two got together to
put together this gem of a film. It's a bit of a rough gem. Then again, so is
Fayssal Bazzi's portrayal of the Syrian
refugee, Sayyid, is standout. I cried so much, I laughed. Kate Mulvany, as
widowed daughter-in-law of Bull Barlow and mother of Neil is another gleaming
facet of this rough gem - and if you're interested in podcasts;
Callinhan has been making them about the Bodgy Creek Roosters since 2016:
Popular Mechanics has assembled the stories behind what have become the most sought-after and expensive "Star Wars" collectibles in the world. If they keep going up in value, we suspect their combined worth will exceed the budget of the original film! Click here to read.
Nicholas Ray’s “The True Story of Jesse James” (1957), now
available on a Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray, is one of those movies
that really depresses me whenever I see it. It’s a reminder how life sometimes
just seems to go out of its way to be unfair... and it’s got nothing to do with
Jesse James at all. It’s about James
Ray had just finished directing Dean in “Rebel Without a
Cause,” and the word is that if Dean hadn’t wiped himself out in a Porsche
Spyder down in Bakersfield, Ray would have cast him in “True Story’s” title
role. It would have been perfect casting. Dean, an actor who could reach down
into the cauldron of seething emotion that smoldered deep inside him, would
have electrified the screen with a Jesse James that nobody’d ever forget.
Instead, what we got was a bland, lifeless performance by Robert Wagner as
Jesse, aided and abetted by Jeffrey Hunter, another fifties pretty boy, as
Jesse’s brother Frank. Hunter at least was capable of an occasional angry scowl,
but Wagner’s magazine cover good looks never changes expression once during the
entire 92 minutes of the film. “The True Story of Jesse James,” is an
opportunity lost, a muffed chance at what could have been a classic American
That’s not to say it’s not an interesting movie. Nicholas
Ray never made an uninteresting film. Ray’s approach to the outlaw’s story is
definitely his own. The script by Walter Newman (“The Man with the Golden Arm”
1955) is a rewrite of the screenplay written by Nunnally Johnson for the
earlier “Jesse James” (1939) film, which was directed by Henry King and starred
Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as Frank. Johnson’s script made the
argument that it was the encroachment of the railroad and the way it grabbed
the land of Missouri farmers that caused the James boys to turn outlaw. The
story shows how the James’ fight with the railroad escalated, with the powerful
railroad executives, crooked lawyers and corrupt judges pushing Jesse and his
friends into a corner, forcing them to turn to violence. The James brothers and
their pals, the Youngers, the Fords, and the Millers, moved up from robbing
trains to banks, culminating in the disastrous robbery of the Northfield,
Minnesota National Bank, which basically ended the outlaws’ careers.
“The True Story of Jesse James,” tells a different story,
and tells it in a different way. In Ray’s version it wasn’t the railroad that
was responsible, it was the fact that the James boys fought for the Confederacy
but lived in an area of Missouri surrounded by Yankee sympathizers. Their
neighbors hated them for riding with Quantrill’s Raiders, and persecuted them,
siding with Union soldiers when they came to arrest Frank. Arkew (Chubby
Johnson), one of the neighbors, whips Jesse with his belt to make him tell
where Frank is hiding. Jesse refuses to tell and promises him “someday” he’ll
settle the score. It’s a pretty bland threat coming from Wagner, and it almost
forces you to imagine how Dean would have played it. Later in the story, it is
a crucial plot element, when just on the eve of being granted amnesty by the
governor, Jess runs into Arkew, and kills him, ruining the chance for a
peaceful outcome. That scene would have been colossal in Dean’s hands, but lacks
the impact it should have had.
Newman’s screenplay doesn’t stop at blaming the war for
Jesse’s activities, it tries to go deeper. A newspaper editor refuses to write
up an obituary in advance because he says first he has to know what made Jesse
the man he was. Preacher Jethro Bailey (John Carradine, who played Bob Ford in
the earlier film) blames the devil for what he became. But Zee, Jesse’s wife
(Hope Lange) disagrees, saying he was a “sweet, gentle boy” who was pushed into
outlawry by the haters all around him and his family.
Not only are the causes of Jesse’s behavior explained
differently, the way Jesse’s life is examined is different as well. In the
earlier film, the story is told chronologically. But “The True Story of Jesse
James” begins at the end with the Northfield bank robbery and tries to put the
puzzle of James’s personality together through flashbacks. This
socio/psychoanalytical approach is one that Ray could have used successfully
with Dean in the title role, portraying Jesse as another one of his rebel-without-a-cause
characters. But Wagner lacked the depth to be able to come to grips with the
demands the part called for, and it appears that Ray simply gave up trying to
get more out of him. The film lacks the energy of most of Ray’s other films, with
many scenes consisting of stretches of dialogue that go on far too long. And,
for whatever reason, Ray actually re-used footage from the earlier movie. The
train robbery with the silhouetted figure of Jesse running over the top of the
cars, and the scene during the Northfield raid where Jesse and Frank ride their
horses through a storefront window were both clipped from the earlier film. Had
Ray lost enthusiasm for the movie by the time it came to shoot those scenes? We
may never know.
Twilight Time presents “The True Story of Jesse James,”
in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio in a very sharp 1080 p high
definition transfer. The film was shot with Twentieth Century Fox’s Color by De
Luxe and looks great. All of Fox’s Cinemascope films had terrific stereo
soundtracks, and Twilight Time has transferred it in optional 5.1 DTS HD, or
2.0 DTS. The 3,000 unit limited edition comes with a separate audio track for
Leigh Harline’s music score. There’s also some Fox Movietone newsreel footage as
well as the theatrical trailer. Twilight Times’ Julie Kirgo provides an
informative essay along with some stills in an 8-page booklet.
Sometimes life is unfair. We didn’t get to see James Dean
in what could have been one of his greatest roles, but at least we have
Twilight Time preserving the kind of films that remind of us of when we were
young and what it was like to be a rebel.
One of those "guilty pleasure" James Bond spoofs from the 1960s was "Salt & Pepper" starring one-time Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford in a London-based "mod" adventure. The film was awful but you had to admire the Jack Davis artwork used on the soundtrack album with score by John Dankworth.
The success of Larry Cohen’s 1973 Blaxploitation classic,
Black Caesar, was so immediately
evident that producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, then head of American International
Pictures, put the sequel wheels in motion almost instantly. The follow-up, Hell Up in Harlem, was released just 10
months later, still in 1973. Such a hasty turnaround certainly makes its mark
on the completed picture, with a frenetic tempo, chaotic storyline, and haphazard
construction that all seems to mirror its own pace of production. Yet even in
the face of this slapdash development, the film itself is thoroughly
entertaining, if not quite living up to its predecessor.
Reprising his role as Tommy Gibbs, the shrewd criminal
entrepreneur who worked his way up through the underworld ranks in Black Caesar, Fred Williamson starts off
the sequel in dire straits. As seen in the earlier film, Tommy had proudly
flaunted an aggressive charm, with a sly sense of humor that worked in tandem
with his brazen confidence. He knew where he wanted to go in life and was assuredly
willing to do whatever it took to get there, be it learning Italian so as to
ingratiate, impress, and ultimately usurp the more ethnically traditional
mobsters in the city, or simply to do the dirty deeds necessary to establish
his prominence—if there was territory he wanted, his fierce ambition secured
it. Before long, Tommy assumed a swaggering spot center stage on the streets,
branching out from low-level misdemeanors to criminal enterprises with broad
ramifications. Needless to say, he also made more than a few enemies in the
process, and his brutal track record catches up with him. As Black Caesar ends, Tommy has been shot,
mugged, and left for dead outside the dilapidated apartment building he used to
These final minutes are recapped during the opening
credits of Hell Up in Harlem, now
available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. We also see that Tommy’s nascent archenemy,
District Attorney DiAngelo (Gerald Gordon), had set up the hit, with a little
help from Tommy’s scorned ex, Helen, played by Gloria Hendry. In this manic
opening, with its looming threat of death, Tommy appears slightly more
vulnerable than he had in Black Caesar,
or would again in Hell Up in Harlem (after
Arkoff saw the instant potential of Black
Caesar, he recalled and quickly altered certain prints of the film,
adjusting what was supposed to have been Tommy’s fatal dénouement). It gives
him a tinge of fallibility, but there is little doubt he will be back on top in
no time. The depleted hero still has a few friends left, and most importantly,
he is still in possession of vital ledgers detailing the rampant misdeeds of
several high-ranking city officials. Aside from using this information to
essentially erase the transgressions and conflicts of Black Caesar, holding the books as leverage to set things right, Tommy
plans to crack down on the city’s drug trade and, with Jennifer (Margaret
Avery), his generally inconsequential new love interest, he hopes to move into
a life of legitimacy. All of this is easier said than done, of course, and Tommy
is soon embroiled in police conspiracy and in-house treachery: his
overly-ambitious enforcer, Zach (Tony King), has been scheming since the
beginning, and is none too pleased when Tommy’s father re-enters the picture to
assume a more prominent role.
There are many ways to approach reviewing a movie like
“Crazy Six.” You could join all the disgusted and angry user reviews on IMDb
and call it the worst freaking movie you’ve ever seen. It’s got an incoherent
script, if there was any at all. The art nouveau cinematography only further
distracts from any sense the story might have made. There’s no continuity, with
scenes following each other without any narrative logic and actors all seeming
confused and dazed (as opposed to dazed and confused), standing around on the
set as if they weren’t sure where to stand, and even less certain what their
Or you could discuss the career of the film’s director,
Albert Pyun, a B-movie director who has been called today’s Ed Wood, and who is
most famous for using the sets and costumes from a Spiderman movie that never
got made and a canceled “Masters of the Universe” movie, to cobble together the
hit sci-fi film “Cyborg,” (1989) which made Jean Claude Van Damme a superstar. He
is considered in some circles a creative, edgy director with films like “The
Sword and the Sorcerer” (1982), and “Radioactive Dreams” (1985). He also
directed a pretty decent “Captain America” (1990), with Matt Salinger, J.D.s
kid. (BTW where are all those books J.D wrote but were never published?) But Pyun eventually wound up as one of those
guys making movies for the direct-to-video market. By 1997, he was directing
schlock like “Crazy Six.”
Another way to review “Crazy Six” would be to focus on the
cast. With names like T, Lowe, van Peebles, and Reynolds appearing on the
poster for the film, you might expect one or two good performances, at least.
Unfortunately, the actors look as though they were shipped out to Prague or
wherever in Eastern Europe this was filmed, and shoved off the bus onto the
grimy streets of “Crimeland,” (which is what the written out prologue calls the
place at the start of the movie), looking like they just escaped from a way-off
Broadway production of Pirandello’s Four
Characters in Search of a Better Agent.
After the fall of communism, the prologue explains, rival
gangs took over this part of Eastern Europe now known as “Crimeland.” Ice-T is
the head of one of the gangs, Mario is head of another, and Rob Lowe another
(although his character is stoned out of his mind most of the film.) By the
way, Lowe’s character is called “Crazy Six,” he says, because he was the sixth
child in his family and he’s, well, nuts, I guess. Crazy has a sexy blonde
girlfriend (Ivana Milicivic), who sings in a nightclub and, I swear, every shot
she’s in, all through the picture, she’s smoking a cigarette. There are
literally dozens of close ups of her sucking on a ciggie, smoke lit up
dramatically all around her, as if they were shooting a bootleg Marlboro
commercial. It’s the first movie that ever made me feel like I was having an
Van Peebles plays Dirty Mao. He and his gang all wear
wide-brimmed black fedoras and black suits. Dirty Mao carries a Chihuahua, and
talks with a fake French accent. Ice T is Raul, a Spanish gangster, who has
little dialogue. Maybe T didn’t want to fake a Spanish accent. He mostly stands
leaning against walls, with a really pissed off (more than usual) look on his
face, as though he’s contemplating walking off the set any second.
The local Crimeland
police are at a loss battling these laughable crime lords, but lucky for them
they have the help of an expatriate American detective on the force named
Dakota, played by Burt Reynolds, wearing what looks like the same cowboy hat he
wore in “Hooper,” along with a trench coat. While Van Peebles and Ice-T seemed
to have no clue that they were actually in a movie, and Lowe played a character
stoned on drugs in every scene, only Reynolds actually attempts to play a
character. Of course, he’s playing himself, as he always did, but he at least
gets some laughs out of it. At the end of the film he ends up with Dirty Mao’s
Chihuahua. Somebody asks him whose dog is that? He says. “Meet my new partner,
Actually, there really is no way to review “Crazy Six,”
because there’s nothing there to review. This movie is strictly for Pyun fans
who want a complete collection of his work, or fans of Burt Reynold, for the
same reason. While everybody looks miserable in “Crazy Six”— and it certainly
is without a doubt the nadir of Reynolds’ career— don’t feel too bad for him.
He probably got a good check and a trip to Europe out of it. Hollywood. It’s a
tough town. Everything’s a gamble and you never know when you’ll hit the
jackpot. The same year he made this turkey, he made “Boogie Nights,” and found
his career suddenly revived.
“Crazy Six” has been released on Blu-ray by the MVD Marquis
Collection.Picture and sound are
excellent. A 2.40:1 aspect ratio was used and the sound is PCM Stereo. The only
extras are some trailers for other MVD releases. Unless you’re a masochist, or
a true Burt Reynolds fan, don’t waste your money. Maybe it’ll show up on cable.
Criterion Collection has released its fourth entry in a group of Harold Lloyd
silent classics, titles considered to be his very best work—and The Kid Brother could very well be at
the top of the heap as the definitive Lloyd feature film. While Safety Last! (1923) contains the iconic
sequence of Lloyd ascending a skyscraper and hanging on to the arm of a giant
clock, there is much to be said about The
Kid Brother’s storytelling, the depth of its characters, and Lloyd’s
ability to make us laugh at peril. This time, instead of great heights or
speeding cars, the threat comes from villains who want nothing more than to
break poor Harold’s neck.
setting is a rural town at the cusp of the changeover between “western times”
and the modern age. Cars exist, but most people are still riding horses. Sheriff
Hickory is a masculine and hearty leader in the town, and he has two strapping,
tough sons who help him in all endeavors. And then there is Harold, his
youngest, who is the more “sensitive,” one, the guy who wears glasses (the trademark
Harold Lloyd “Glasses” character). The boys’ mother is no longer on the scene,
so Dad and the two eldest sons do most of the “manly” stuff, while it’s up to
Harold to be the Mom (laundry, cooking, etc.).
a traveling medicine show on a wagon, the star of which is the dancer, Mary
(Jobyna Ralston). Harold and Mary become smitten with each other, but there are
several forces out to prevent the couple from being together. First, the
strongman (a superb bad guy played by Constantine Romanoff) and the show’s
proprietor have some dastardly plans that will affect the whole town. Secondly,
Harold’s childhood nemesis, the town bully, is constantly a thorn in his side.
Finally, our protagonist’s own family is a roadblock, as Harold strives to not
only defeat the odds against him but also prove to his father that he is as
good a son as his brothers.
short, Harold the Milquetoast must become Harold the Hero. How he does this forms
an extremely satisfying silent movie experience full of inventive sight gags,
colorful characters, and a suspenseful climax involving the ingenious
cat-and-mouse battle with the strongman aboard a derelict freighter.
new 4K digital restoration looks amazing; it’s as if the 92-year-old picture
had been shot recently. There are two musical scores from which to choose while
viewing—a 1989 orchestral score by Carl Davis, or an alternate Wurlitzer organ
score performed by Gaylord Carter that approximates the type of accompaniment
that would have been done in 1927. (One can easily toggle between the scores
with your remote’s audio button in order to choose the one you like best!)
There is also an optional audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker and
Lloyd archivist Richard Correll, film historian Annette D’Agostino Lloyd (no
relation), and Lloyd’s granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd.
The Kid Brother release contains many
more supplements than did Criterion’s other Lloyd titles. The highlight is the
new conversation between Suzanne Lloyd and author Cari Beauchamp about Lloyd’s
three main leading ladies—Bebe Daniels, Mildred Davis (who became Lloyd’s wife,
Suzanne’s grandmother), and Jobyna Ralston. A new video essay examines the
“Anatomy of a Gag” by focusing on the sequence aboard the derelict fighter, and
especially spotlighting the talented little monkey, Josephine, who has the
distinction of appearing in films with not only Lloyd, but Chaplin, Keaton, and
Laurel and Hardy as well! An interesting video essay covers the film’s
locations around L.A. and Hollywood and what those places are like today. Lloyd
himself appears in a Dutch TV interview from 1962—he always comes off as
charming and friendly. Suzanne Lloyd also gives us a tour of Greenacres, the
Lloyd estate. Two rare Lloyd shorts are restored and presented—Over the Fence (1917), the first
“Glasses” picture, and That’s Him
(1918), along with features on the restorations and the creation of the musical
scores on the Wurlitzer organ, engagingly tutored by composer Nathan Barr and
organist Mark Herman. There’s a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and an essay
by critic Carrie Rickey in the package booklet.
The Kid Brother is a first-class
release from Criterion, and a must-have by fans of Harold Lloyd and/or silent
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the character of Batman, director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy ("Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises") will be shown in a marathon session in Los Angeles on March 30 with Nolan participating in a Q&A. The interview session will be filmed and shown with the trilogy at select theaters across North America on April 13 and 20. All screenings will be in IMAX 70mm. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, March 13 at 9:00 AM EST. Click here for details.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" web site presents contemporary film editor Mark Goldblatt's tribute to the 1969 James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Goldblatt provides an insightful and very appreciative analysis of the film and correctly points out that, contrary to popular belief, George Lazenby's only Bond film was indeed a boxoffice success.
From a 1935 edition of The Hollywood Reporter comes this advice column from Laurel and Hardy about how one can go about becoming a successful comedian. As you might suspect, their advice is of fairly limited practical value! Click here to read.
"The High Cost of Loving" is yet another worthy film that has been plucked from obscurity by the Warner Archive. The 1958 comedy offered a rare starring role to Jose Ferrer as well as an opportunity for him to direct a feature film. Ferrer plays Jim Fry, a 15 year veteran of working diligently in the purchasing department for a mid-size company. He is frustrated with the corporate red tape that inhibits productivity but is overall happy in his work as well as with his home life. Why not? He's in his late 40's and his wife Ginny (Gena Rowlands in her big screen debut) is a ravishing blonde beauty twenty years younger than him (though the poster for the film simply ignores this and refers to them as the "young couple".) The film opens on an amusing note that will be familiar to many working couples. We see Jim and Ginny go through their morning workday rituals in an almost robotic fashion, barely saying a word to each other as they each perform their unspoken duties. He gets breakfast ready, she serves him orange juice in the shower. They both sit silently at the table, each taking a quick read of sections from the newspaper. They both climb into their vehicles and pull out of the garage in tandem before, each en route to their jobs. Ginny, against the fashion of the day, has her own career working at a small company. Jim still considers himself a rising star in his own company, a conceit that is reinforced by the news that his employer is being taken over by a much larger corporation. Warned that this often results in layoffs, Jim feels he is immune. He also isn't sympathetic to those who might lose their jobs, attributing it to social Darwinism and "the law of the jungle".
Jim's smug attitude goes into a nosedive when he discovers that virtually all of his fellow executives have been summoned to a forthcoming luncheon as a get-acquainted meeting with the new brass. The problem is that he didn't receive the invitation. Assuming it must have been a mistake, he pretends he did receive it and joins in all the backslapping among his colleagues who view this as a way to make a good impression on the new bosses and rise the corporate ladder. As the days pass, it becomes apparent an invitation isn't in the cards for him. His concern turns to paranoia as he tries to analyze why all his years of devoted service have resulted in him being bypassed. He becomes obsessed to the point that he barely acknowledges Ginny's news that she is pregnant, something that both have been hoping for quite some time. (Although the film hints at sexual activity, the prudish norms of the time in the film industry relegates both husband and wife to separate beds.) To bolster his spirits, Jim's best friend from the office, Steve Heyward (Bobby Troupe) arranges for he and his wife Syd (Joanne Gilbert) to go to dinner with Jim and Ginny. However, the evening is ruined by Syd's incessant chatter about the importance of the corporate luncheon, which she doesn't realize Jim has not been invited to. The script plays out predictably with Jim interpreting every action (or inaction) of his new bosses as a sign that he is about to be fired. He looks up an old business contact in hopes of getting a new job but not only are there none open, but he is warned that in terms of his age, he might be considered "over the hill" in the corporate world. Now enraged, Jim plans to have a showdown with the brass and tell him what he thinks of them, unaware that his snub from the luncheon was due to a bureaucratic mistake that they intend to rectify.
"The High Cost of Loving" is a modest production shot in B&W on a fairly low budget (most of the scenes are studio interiors). However, the movie signifies that paranoia about one's place in their jobs is not a new phenomenon and that discrimination based on age in the corporate world is also a long-standing concern. There is also plenty of sexism that never gets addressed. When she announces she is pregnant, Jim orders Ginny to quit her job ASAP. The corporate world is made up entirely of men in management positions and bosses refer to keeping an eye out for good "men" they can promote. All of the women in the office are clearly in secretarial positions. Ferrer gives a wonderful performance (did he ever not?) and has a deft hand at the comedic elements of the script. He never allows the characters to depend on slapstick or one-liners to get a quick laugh. They all talk the way real people would in the circumstances. There is also a great deal of pathos involved as Jim comes to a life lesson that no one should define the worth of their character on the basis of a specific job. The film boasts a wonderful supporting cast with Rowlands displaying the star qualities that would serve her well in the years to come. There are also some fun appearances by TV sitcom stars of the future including Jim Backus ("Gilligan's Island"), Werner Klemperer ("Hogan's Heroes"), Edward Platt ("Get Smart") and uncredited appearances by Nancy Kulp ("The Beverly Hillbillies") and Richard Deacon ("The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the only character in the film allowed to go a bit over the top.)
The film is not only delightful but unexpectedly poignant. The DVD includes the original trailer.
“The Revolt of the Slaves” (1960), now available on a
spectacular-looking Blu-ray from Kino-Lorber, tells the familiar story of a
beautiful Roman woman of high birth (Rhonda Fleming), who falls in love with a Christian
slave (Lang Jeffries) during the period when Emperor Maximian (Dario Moreno)
was busy feeding said Christians to the lions.It’s based on a 19th Century novel by Nicholas Patrick
Wiseman called “Fabiola,” and, although the liner notes say Fleming plays
Fabiola, in the English language version of the movie, which was written by Hollywood
veteran Daniel Mainwaring (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), they call her
Claudia. Maybe Mainwaring just didn’t like a weird name like Fabiola (or maybe
Fleming didn’t think it was sexy enough). Who knows? But the fact is, the whole movie is pretty weird that way.
It’s an Italian-Spanish-German production done in a style that is a crazy mix of
a Steve Reeves sword and sandal peplum (minus
Hercules), and the religious spectacles of the early 1950s, like “Quo Vadis,” “The
Robe” and “Demetrius and the Gladiators.” Director Nunzio Malasomma (“15
Scaffolds for a Murderer,” The White Devil”) has a real flair for juggling the
two styles—for example cutting from the reverential tone of a scene depicting
faithful Christians down in the catacombs praying, to a shocking close-up of a Christian
getting an arrow right in the bread basket. In a bizarre touch, the arrow is
fired by an African mercenary clad in over-the-shoulder leopard skins—one of
the emperor’s private security force hired because he doesn't trust the Roman Praetorian
Guard. “I’m not going to be done in by my own men, like Nero was,” he says. It
may or may not be historically accurate, but it’s a nice touch.
The plot of “The Revolt
of the Slaves” is pretty simple. The idea seemed to be to hustle the cast and
fifty or sixty extras around from one set to another for 104 minutes until they
all finally end up in the arena where they will face various means of
execution. The movie seems to have been influenced mainly by 20th
Century Fox’s “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” which starred Victor Mature and
Susan Hayward and featured a stand-out performance by Jay Robinson as Caligula.
(Remember Robinson standing over the dead Christian he had just killed, holding
the Robe he believed had magical powers, commanding him to rise? “Rise
Christian! Rise! Why won’t he rise?”) “Revolt” suffers quite a bit in comparison with
“Demetrius,” however. Rhonda Fleming,
who did a good job as Claudia/Fabiola, never became as big a star as Susan
Hayward, and Lang Jeffries as Vibio, her love interest in the film (and in real
life), was definitely no Victor Mature. But there is one performer in “Revolt”
who stand out almost as much as Robinson did in “Demetrius.” Serge Gainsbourg
plays Corvino, head of the emperor’s secret police. Physically, he resembles
Robinson, and plays Corvino as a hawk-nosed, sniveling, nasty little cutthroat
who keeps a pit of hungry dogs in his house and he’s always throwing somebody
or other into it. The unknown actor who dubbed his English dialogue almost
seems to be channeling Robinson’s nasal speaking voice. Director Malasomma
gives us our first glimpse of Corvino in a characteristically eccentric scene
with Corvino tied down on a torture rack, writhing and screaming “Stop! Stop!
It hurts!” as a big guy turns the crank. The torturer guy stops and says: “You
wanted to see if it worked.” “It works,” Corvino says, getting up, rubbing the
soreness out of his limbs. “I can’t understand why he didn’t talk.” “He’s a
Christian. The more you make a Christian suffer, the better they like it.”
It’s Corvino who sets the wheels of the plot in motion
when he spies on Claudia/Fabiola’s cousin, Agnese (Wandissa Guida) at a secret
meeting of Christians in the catacombs and reports it to the emperor. Corvino lies
and tells the emperor that Claudia and her whole family are Christians and
Claudia soon finds herself locked up with Vibio and Agnese in the emperor’s
dungeon and learns her father’s been killed. Vibio chisels out a stone in the wall of the dungeon to
let water from the sewer on the other side pour into the dungeon. There’s a
trap door in the ceiling and when the water rises they’ll float up and climb
out through the trap door. A nice clean getaway. Once they’re out, they’re on
the run. However, Claudia/Fabiola goes back to the emperor and denounces
Christianity. She’s freed, but when she finds out the emperor has gone bonkers
and is sending every Christian in Rome to the arena and that Vibio has gone there
to rescue them, she tries to help but ends up in the arena herself.
Woven into the story are a couple of real-life martyrs of
the early church, St. Sebastian (Ettore Manni) and St. Agnes of Rome.
Sebastian’s death was particularly gruesome and this film version is historically
accurate. The emperor ordered him to be tied to a tree and shot with arrows in
every part of his body except his heart, so that he would suffer great
long-lasting pain. He lives through it briefly, as a human pin cushion, but is
killed later in the emperor’s palace, when he goes to plead mercy for the
Christians. Agnese, Claudia/Fabiola’s niece, is actually a fictionalized
version of St. Agnes. In the movie she was in love with Sebastian, but in
reality the two never met. It wouldn’t have mattered if they did, since Agnes
was 12 years old when she was martyred. In the movie she dies in the arena by a
spear tossed by one of the African mercenaries.
Like most Italian epics there is action and spectacle
aplenty in “The Revolt of the Slaves”, especially during the final 20 minutes when
all the Christian extras are herded into the arena and dozens of Roman extras
up in the cheap seats start screaming for their blood. The film could have
redeemed itself with a decent ending even halfway close to reality, but instead
Malasomma went for a totally make-believe finish that you can’t help laughing out
“The Revolt of the Slaves” is a colorful spectacle that comes
pretty close to matching the size and splendor of those earlier Christian
persecution movies. The costumes and sets (especially the throne room of the emperor’s
palace) are large scale, a visual treat in high def. Kino-Lorber’s 1080 p
transfer of the 2.40:1 image brings it all to vibrant life. The original trailer is included along with trailers for other Kino Lorber releases: "The Vikings", "David and Bathsheba", "Kings of the Sun" and "Those Redheads from Seattle". Even if it leaves a
lot to be desired in the script department, the movie is fun to watch, partly
for the way it looks, but mainly for Gainsbourg doing his Jay Robinson impression.
If you enjoy weird spectacle and colorful action, “The Revolt of the Slaves” is for
Jan-Michael Vincent, the one-time heart throb star of films and television in the 1970s and 1980s, has passed away at age 74. He was born in Denver but had the look of a hunky surfer dude. In the late 1960s he began to get noticed in Hollywood, landing supporting roles in films such as "The Undefeated" opposite John Wayne and Rock Hudson. It was his starring role in the acclaimed 1970 TV movie "Tribes" that won him enthusiastic critical notices as a young recruit in conflict with his drill instructor. Soon, Vincent was a major star with top billing in films like "Buster and Billie" , "The World's Greatest Athlete", "Baby Blue Marine", "Vigilante Force" and "White Line Fever". He also co-starred with Burt Reynolds in the 1978 hit "Hooper". Other prominent roles include his memorable performance opposite Charles Bronson in the 1972 crime thriller "The Mechanic" and an all-star cast in Richard Brooks' 1975 western "Bite the Bullet". He won acclaim for his role in John Milius's 1978 surfer drama "Big Wednesday." In the early 1980s, his TV show "Airwolf" was a hit and Vincent became the highest paid actor on television. However, his personal demons got the better of him. His addiction to alcohol and drugs soon made his reputation decline. Deemed to be unreliable and arrogant, Vincent was relegated to brief roles in forgettable films. His health deteriorated and he suffered from the aftereffects of two serious car crashes. In 2012 he had a leg amputated. In recent years he had lived in relative seclusion with his third wife as he attempted to deal with his health problems. For more click here.
Joe Dante's "Trailers from Hell" is bottled in Bond again with director Brian Trenchard-Smith analyzing the second 007 blockbuster, "From Russia with Love" and providing some interesting anecdotes within a very abbreviated time frame. By the way, are we the only ones who ever noticed a major curiosity about the "FRWL" trailer? Every major participant is credited by name on screen except for the film's star, Sean Connery. That wasn't the only blooper associated with the film: actress Martine Beswick was a victim of a careless mistake in the opening credits and was listed as "Martin Beswick". Director Terence Young felt badly about the error and made it up to Beswick by providing her with a far bigger role in the fourth Bond film, "Thunderball".
For decades Bob Hope was one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. In the 1940s and 1950s, his films were regarded as sure-fire moneymakers. Studios loved Hope productions. They were generally filmed on modest budgets and returned major profits. By the late 1960s, Hope was still very much in-demand on American television. His TV specials for NBC always topped the ratings and Hope was a ubiquitous presence on TV chat shows. He even had a semi-permanent gig as the most beloved of all hosts for the annual Oscars broadcast. However, his status in the motion picture industry had diminished substantially. Hope's style of old-fashioned family films was becoming outdated in an era that saw new freedoms in on-screen sex and violence. When biker movies were depicting gang bangs and Bob and Carol were under the same sheets with Ted and Alice, Hope's sitcom-like comedies seemed as though they were from distant past. One of his more promising feature films was the 1969 production, "How to Commit Marriage", one of many sex-oriented comedies that were all the rage in the mid-to-late 1960s. (i.e. "The Secret Life of an American Wife", Divorce American Style", "A Guide for the Married Man", "The Tiger Makes Out", "How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life)", "Marriage on the Rocks".) In an attempt to remain relevant to modern audiences, this was the most adult-themed of Hope's big screen comedies.
Hope plays Frank Benson, a wealthy L.A. real estate agent who seems to have an idyllic life with his wife of many years, Elaine (Jane Wyman). However, their relationship is fracturing and the two spend most of their time together griping about the other and trading cruel insults. They agree to get a divorce and file the necessary paperwork. However, before they can be officially divorced, they receive a surprise visit from their teenage daughter Nancy (JoAnna Cameron), who returns from college with her new boyfriend David (Tim Matheson). He's a clean-cut type who is studying classical music and Nancy announces they intend to marry, largely because she has been so inspired by her parent's loving relationship. Frank and Elaine don't want Nancy to become disillusioned and decide to withhold the news about their pending divorce until after Nancy and David marry. However, there is a complication: David is the estranged son of Oliver Poe (Jackie Gleason), a rich promoter of rock 'n roll bands who resents Frank for selling him a Malibu mansion that was in a mudslide zone, thus resulting in Oliver losing his entire investment. He's an obnoxious boor and braggart with a sexy mistress (Tina Louise) and when he discovers the Bensons are secretly planning to divorce, he cruelly informs Nancy and David. Heartbroken and disillusioned, the young couple decides to eschew marriage and simply live together (still a shocking concept for a "nice" girl in 1969). Making matter worse, Oliver convinces the couple to quit college and join his latest band, The Comfortable Armchair, which is becoming all the rage. Distraught by the developments, Frank and Elaine begin to live in separate houses. Frank takes up with Lois Gray (Maureen Arthur), a voluptuous widow while Elaine begins dating Phil Fletcher (Leslie Nielsen), a suave rival of Frank's in the real estate trade. When both couples accidentally end up sitting beside each other at a Comfortable Armchair nightclub concert, they notice that Nancy is very obviously pregnant. They also discover that she and David have become disciples of a con-man posing as a guru named The Baba Ziba (Professor Irwin Corey). Oliver has bribed Baba Ziba to convince Nancy and David that it is in their spiritual interests to put their baby up for adoption. In reality, Oliver is motivated by his desire that the couple stay with the successful rock band and not become traditional parents.
John Payne was one of those “meat and potatoes” kind of
actors. Nothing fancy. No complicated method acting style. He just gave good,
solid, straight off-the-page performances in dozens of films and television
shows over a span of nearly 40 years. I think of him primarily as the guy trapped
and fighting for survival in old black and white film noirs of the 1950s--
films like “Kansas City Confidential,” “99 River Street,” and perhaps one of
the best noirs ever—“The Crooked Way.”
He made a number of interesting westerns however, including
“El Paso” (1949), the first of a several he made for the Pine-Thomas Productions
B-movie unit of Paramount. It was notable for the fact that it was the first
Pine-Thomas movie to have a decent budget-- $1 million. It was filmed partly in
El Paso, but mostly on the Iverson Ranch, which, film historian Toby Roan
explains in the audio commentary, was basically a western town built for the
studios to use for outdoor location shooting.
Another notable fact about “El Paso” is that it was
filmed in Cinecolor, a two strip process that was used by some studios because
it was cheaper than Technicolor. It wasn’t a very good process. Cinecolor
movies look mostly orange, with some dark blue and green. Kino Lorber transferred
“El Paso” to Blu-ray disc using a “brand new HD Master from a 4K scan of the 35
mm original 2-color negative and positive separations.” I have no idea what
that means, but that’s what is says on the box. Toby Roan swears that the image
you see on your TV is exactly the way Cinecolor movies looked back in the day.
“El Paso” was written and directed by Lewis R. Foster,
based on a story by J. Robert Bren and Gladys Atwater. It’s set just after the
Civil War, and Payne plays Clay Fletcher a Confederate Army Captain and a lawyer
who comes home to Charleston but isn’t quite ready to settle down yet. His
grandfather, a Judge (played by the saintly H. B. Warner, who played Jesus in
Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings”) learns that his friend Judge Henry Jeffers
(Henry “Werewolf of London” Hull) is in some kind of trouble down in the El
Paso settlement. Clay jumps at the chance to go see what the problem is. Not
too unbelievable when we have already seen him fondly remembering that the
judge has a fine-looking daughter (Gail Russell) who he had a relationship with
before the war.
So Clay arrives in El Paso and finds the town is run by
land developer Bert Donner (Sterling Hayden) who is slowly gobbling up all the
land owned by ranchers and farmers. His number one henchman is Sheriff La Farge
(Dick Foran), who is busy either scaring or killing off any land owner who
won’t sell. In El Paso the law is whatever Donner and LaFarge say it is,
because Judge Henry has become a broken down drunk, probably driven to alcohol
by his sense of impotence at doing anything to stop the bad guys. But now Clay
Fletcher has arrived and sparked by his interest in Susan, the Judge’s
daughter, he intends to bring law and order to El Paso, not by taking them on
at gunpoint, but by using the law.
Although Orson Welles is arguably the most analyzed
motion picture legend, public fascination with his legend and mystique
continues to thrive. This has only been enhanced by the recent release of The Other Side of the Wind, on which
Welles labored for fifteen years and which was ultimately completed by his
protégé, Peter Bogdanovich. We all know Welles was a larger-than-life figure,
both literally and figuratively as well as a man of great contradictions. He
could be charming and insulting, self-indulgent and generous and always lived
above his means even while scrounging for funding for his next film project. Welles was a moody genius who did not learn to play nice with studio executives. His insistence on bringing worthy but not particularly commercially viable films to the screen led to decades of artistic frustrations. To stay afloat and find financing for his projects, he appeared in many films simply because of the need of a paycheck. He later became known to many as more of a raconteur than as a working actor and director, though true cinema buffs never tire of analyzing his genius.
Among Welles's many skills was a talent for drawing. This remarkable book from Titan presents this rarely seen or examined side of him. He studied art briefly as a teenager and enough of what he learned
stayed with him over the course of his life. The book provides fascinating
sketches, doodles and paintings made by Welles, sometimes for professional use
(i.e costume designs) and others for personal pleasure.
The book has a minimum
of text and top production values, typical of a Titan title. There is also an
informative interview with his daughter Beatrice. Perhaps our favorite section
of the book is the chapter that presents Welles’s designs for Christmas cards
sent to friends and family. They are whimsical and intriguing, much like the
Cinema Retro has released the following press release pertaining to the Region 2 UK edition:
Steven Spielberg is
one of the greatest and most influential directors of our time, his CV spanning
an incredible array of iconic and unforgettable films such as Jaws, Jurassic
Park and Schindler’s List to name but a few. To celebrate the 25th anniversary edition of
Schindler’s List, which is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on
February 25th, we’re taking a look back at the history of Steven
Spielberg’s legendary cinematic work.
Dun Dun. Dun Dun. Dun
Dun Dun Dun Dun… JAWS. Spielberg’s first ever blockbuster movie released in the
summer of 1975 became one of the first ever movies to gross over $100 million.
Additionally, it was also one of the first movies to use animatronics
extensively and although to the modern eye it might appear robotic and fake, it
traumatised the audience of its time. Spielberg’s demands whilst directing Jaws
was that it had to be shot in the sea rather than a tank. In an interview he
stated “had we shot on the tank I don’t think Jaws would have been very
successful, because it would look really phony”. Although this did bring many
problems whilst shooting – to the point that Spielberg was almost fired because
he went over-schedule and budget – producers were so confident in his work that
they carried on and made one of the most famous films of our time.
E.T. phone home... a
story of a gentle alien stranded on earth and befriends a young boy called
Elliot. But where did this idea and vision come from? Spielberg expressed
whilst talking about E.T. that it didn’t just come to him in a flash, it was
several experiences from watching Peter Pan to witnessing meteor showers when
he was six. Spielberg explains that when shooting E.T. he aimed for reality;
although the narrative was a fantasy he believed that shots should appear as
realistic as possible. In the hope that everybody who saw the film would
believe that E.T could come into their lives. His technique and drive paid off,
as E.T. grossed $619 million worldwide.
Jurassic Park is one
of largest film franchises; it made over $50 million on its opening weekend and
became one of the biggest grosser of all time. Unlike Jaws, Jurassic Park was
ahead of schedule whilst filming as Spielberg’s creative process was more
organised and visual. He states in an interview "Every single action
sequence on this movie was storyboarded almost two years before we ever shot
scenes”. Additionally, the dinosaurs themselves were a massive element in the
success of Jurassic Park. Most of the dinosaurs were shot life size with cabled
eyes, mouth and limbs including a 20ft T-Rex, as Spielberg wanted to shoot the
action sequences live.
A more mature and
serious directing role for Spielberg was Schindler’s List, which he earned
nothing from as he used his earnings to set up the USC Shoah Foundation in
memory of those in the holocaust. Set during World War II the narrative follows
businessman Oskar Schindler who arranges to have his workers protected from the
SS so his factory doesn’t close down, but intern releases he is saving innocent
people’s lives. Schindler’s List had been on Spielberg’s desk for over a decade
before anything started moving, it was one of Spielberg’s favourite projects due
to its importance. Filming only lasted for 72 days with a small budget of $22
million which was roughly a third of the cost of Jurassic Park. Spielberg
excelled his directing ability during this project, as whilst recreating the
terror of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp Spielberg was also over-seeing the
special effects for Jurassic Park. Schindler’s List made over $96million and 25
years on is still one of Spielberg’s most significant films.
LIST 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION IS AVAILABLE ON 4K ULRA HD, BLU-RAY
AND DVD ON FEBRUARY 25 2019
Marcello Mastroianni has a terrific role in the little-remembered 1968 comedy caper film "Diamonds for Breakfast" which doesn't appear to have enjoyed an American theatrical release. (In the U.K., it opened on as the bottom half of a double bill with a spaghetti western.) Mastroianni excelled at playing lovable rogues and here he is in his element as Grand Duke Nicholas Wladimirovitch, a descendant of the ill-fated Romanov family that was notoriously executed in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Nicky has the requisite swagger of someone descended from Russia's last czar but he has fallen on hard times. His charm, charisma and good looks ensure a bevy of willing women (especially in the new era of sexual liberation) but his finances are dwindling. While in London he discovers that the Soviet Union has agreed stage a museum display of the Romanov family jewels that were seized as property of the state after the czar was overthrown. Nicky decides that he must honor his family's legacy by stealing them back, although his motives seem to based less on principal than on securing his own financial situation. He concocts an audacious scheme to enlist a wacky artist, Bridget Rafferty (Rita Tushingham) and a team of gorgeous young women as his partners in crime. The first order of business is to convince Popov (Warren Mitchell), the high-strung Soviet representative who has duty of ensuring the safety of the jewels, to allow them to be utilized in a charitable event at a manor house (actually Blenheim Palace) where they will be modeled by Nicky's team of allies. Popov initially resists but ultimately is charmed by the pleas of the young women to relent. From there the film chronicles the elaborate enactment of the crime that involves too many elements and deceptions to analyze in detail. Suffice it to say that one of the most clever elements involves carrier pigeons to secure the heisted goods are brought to a designated location.
The film is directed at breakneck speed by Christopher Morahan and in that respect, it mirrors the type of production that had emerged in movies depicting the on-going "mod" crazy that was sweeping England in the late 1960s. Morahan is also not subtle in his handling of the humor, occasionally crossing over into slapstick with a Keystone Cops-inspired chase. The screenwriters also fall short. Although the actual caper scenes, which comprise the bulk of the film, are often clever, they are also somewhat ludicrous with the crooks relying on unpredictable instances of happenstance and good luck in order to achieve their goal. The man asset of the production is Mastroianni, who once again plays a handsome ladies man who also possesses all-to-human failings. He literally slips on a banana peel and makes other bumbling mistakes even though he's quite competent at finding gorgeous bed mates. Rita Tushingham is unfortunately relegated to a minor role once the other women become more prominent in the story. (Among them: Margaret Blye, Elaine Taylor and Francesca Tu.) Leonard Rossiter is amusing as a police inspector who is beguiled by the seductive models and Warren Mitchell is encouraged to chew the scenery as the angst-filled Soviet who knows his life probably depends upon getting back the stolen diamonds. The whole affair ends up with an ironic ending, as many of these comedic caper films do.
"Diamonds for Breakfast" is a mildly amusing farce with some good production values and some wonderful memories of the mod era with those sexy fashions and models who have the code number "007" written on their thighs. Mastroianni and some lush scenery provide the primary reasons for giving it a chance. The Kino Lorber transfer looks very good indeed and there is a generous trailer gallery of other Mastroianni and Tushingham films, though surprisingly, "Diamonds for Breakfast"'s trailer is not included.
Burt Lancaster fans can rejoice that his 1974 thriller "The Midnight Man" finally gets a home video release in America with Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release. Even better news is that this is a special edition with an informative commentary track. Lancaster co-wrote and co-directed (both with Roland Kibbee) the murder mystery that plays out like a TV movie-of-the-week from the era. That isn't meant as a knock, given how good so many of the TV crime productions were in the 1970s. The film is based on David Anthony's novel "The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man" and, refreshingly, it has an offbeat quality about it due to its location filming in and around Clemson University in South Carolina, which was very much a sleepier locale than it is today. Lancaster is cast as Jim Slade, a once respected Chicago police officer who flew off the handle and shot his wife's lover (though it isn't clear if he killed him.) He's spent a lot of time in stir and when we first see him, he is arriving in a small southern town by bus to pick up the pieces of his life. He's broke with few prospects except a job offered to him by his old friend and police colleague Quartz (Cameron Mitchell), who is now retired from the police force and heading a security company that looks after the local university. Slade will be working in the seemingly boring job of night watchman on the midnight shift at the school, where crime isn't a major problem. However, his timing is right in terms of alleviating boredom. No sooner does Slade start the job than a psychiatric counselor for troubled students informs him that his office had been broken into and the only thing missing were several audio tapes in which students confessed the most troubling aspects of their lives. The highly confidential tapes had not been listened to but it becomes clear that one student in particular, Natalie (Catherine Bach) is particularly troubled. Slade befriends her and discovers she's an emotional wreck about the missing tape but she won't tell him what was so sensitive about the recording. When Natalie ends up dead in her dorm room, the local police captain, Casey (Harris Yulin) takes over the case and immediately arrests a local Peeping Tom who had an interest in the victim. Slade, however, voices his skepticism and starts his own ad-hoc investigation. Along the way he ends up romancing his parole officer, Linda Thorpe (Susan Clark), who has a big city mentality when it comes to sexual permissiveness.
"The Midnight Man" is a complex thriller with plenty of requisite false leads and red herrings. It's leisurely-paced and that's a good thing in the current era of shoot 'em up crime movies and TV series. There are some exciting action scenes in the film but it's primarily about following clues, which Slade doggedly does despite being targeted for murder and not being able to trust anyone, including Captain Casey, with whom he is in constant conflict. Lancaster provides one of his most low-key performances. Some critics said he was sleepwalking through the part but this isn't so. He's an ex-con with a lot to lose so it's appropriate that he would maintain a quiet, polite demeanor. Lancaster never gave a bad performance in his career and he's particularly good here. The film has a marvelous supporting cast and directors Lancaster and Kibbee use them well. It's great to see Lancaster teamed again with the ever-underrated Susan Clark after the two starred in "Valdez is Coming" a few years before. Clark has an important role here and she's excellent. So, too, is Cameron Mitchell as the only true friend Slade seems to have in an increasingly hostile and dangerous town. It's also good to see Robert Quarry in small, non-horror film (he's very good.) Lancaster's son Bill also has a supporting role and acquits himself well. The finale unloads an abundance of complex explanations in a voice-over by Lancaster as the mystery is solved. Your mind might end up reeling but if you stop and think about it all, the clues were provided throughout the film.
The Kino Lorber release has a typically fine transfer and the audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson is highly engaging and their subdued manner fits with the mood of the film itself. They genuinely like the movie and provide an abundance of interesting facts and insights. There is a also a trailer gallery for other Lancaster films available through Kino Lorber. Highly recommended.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
“MURDER IN SOFT
By Raymond Benson
De Palma’s crime thriller/horror flick, Dressed
to Kill, was a controversial release in 1980 for its depiction of violence
against women and its sexual content— nevertheless, it was a successful entry in
the director’s oeuvre during the most
fruitful period of his long career. The film was released in America with an
“R” rating—but only after De Palma, under protest, compromised with the ratings
board and agreed to cut some footage, re-edit a couple of sequences, and change
some lines of dialogue.
Palma’s preferred unrated version of the film was released on home video not
too long ago, but The Criterion Collection has seen fit to issue a new, 4K
digital restoration, supervised by the director, of what might have been an
“X”-rated picture back in the day. The results are gorgeous. De Palma’s
thrillers from the mid-seventies and early eighties tended to be shot with a soft
focus that emulated some of Hitchcock’s late work of the sixties and seventies.
This was intentional. De Palma himself admits in a new interview in the disc
supplements that he was in a “Hitchcock period.” The director on numerous
occasions paid homage to the master of suspense in more ways than just the
photographic style alone. For example, Dressed
to Kill contains cool blondes, kinky sex, shower scenes, cross-dressing
killers, the bumping off a protagonist early in the story, and a lush
orchestral score reminiscent of the way Hitch used Bernard Herrmann’s musical lyricism
to heighten tension.
story begins with Kate, a sexually frustrated Manhattan housewife (played by
Angie Dickinson), who is seeing therapist Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) about her
marriage. Early in the picture there is a brilliantly-choreographed extended
sequence, set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which Kate plays
cat-and-mouse with and allows herself to be picked up by a strange man. Then
she gets into serious trouble inside an elevator. A blonde woman in a hat and sunglasses
(resembling Karen Black in Hitchcock’s Family
Plot) slashes her to death with a straight razor. We then learn that one of
Elliott’s patients—a disturbed transsexual—stole the razor from the doctor’s
amateur sleuths Peter, Dickinson’s science-nerd son (played by Keith Gordon)
and Liz, a high class hooker who witnessed the murder (portrayed by Nancy Allen).
They team up to find the killer since the police (represented by a young Dennis
Franz) are having little success with the investigation. The movie then becomes
Allen’s picture. As related by the actress herself in a new interview in the
supplements, De Palma wrote the role for her—after all, she was married to the
director at the time. Allen delivers a performance that got nominated for a
Golden Globe for “Best New Star,” but also for a Razzie (Raspberry Awards) for
outcome of the story is no surprise, but that probably doesn’t matter. Dressed to Kill is all about an exercise
in style. De Palma is the real star
of the movie, and his presence is felt throughout. His signature close-ups,
tracking shots, soft focus, and carefully orchestrated techniques for
generating suspense, scream to the viewer that an auteur is at work. Maybe a little too loudly. But that doesn’t mean
Dressed to Kill isn’t entertaining.
It is. It’s just that it feels like we’ve seen it all before. Perhaps in a
supplements on the disc are extensive. New 2015 interviews include the
previously mentioned ones with De Palma (who is in discussion with
writer/director Noah Baumbach) and Allen, but also producer George Litto,
composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double (and Penthouse Pet of the Year at the time) Victoria Lynn Johnson, and
poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian. Also new to the release is a
profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring director Michael Apted.
Previously released extras include a 2001 documentary, The Making of Dressed to Kill, a 2001 interview with actor Keith
Gordon, and more than one feature about the different versions of the film and the
battle with the ratings board. There’s also a gallery of some of De Palma’s
storyboards. The booklet includes an essay by critic Michael Koresky.
Dressed to Kill is not De Palma’s
best work by a long shot, but it is representative of the director’s superb craftsmanship
at a time when he was at the height of his powers. If you’re looking for
something sexy, provocative, and gloriously violent to serve with your popcorn,
Kill will fit the bill.
In 1847 a boy was born in Mako, Hungary who
would grow up to change the world and challenge the President of the United
States. His name was Joseph Pulitzer. His father died when he was eleven. Seven
of his eight siblings died. The one that survived, his younger brother Albert,
would become one of his greatest competitors.
At seventeen years of age, in 1864, the
ambitious, multi-lingual Pulitzer left Hungary dreaming of becoming a soldier.
Recruited in Europe, Pulitzer enlisted in the Union Army and was assigned to a
German speaking regiment, The Lincoln Calvary.
Flat broke at the end of the Civil War he
made his way west. His first paying job was shoveling coal on a barge to St.
Louis. His next job required him to bury the bodies of cholera victims. In St.
Louis he tended ornery mules, of which he said: "The man who has not
cared for 60 mules doesn't know what work and troubles are."
At the Mercantile Library, over a chess
match, he met newspaper publisher Carl Schurz. Schurz was a leader in the
German revolution of 1848 and a Civil War general who eventually became a U.S.
Senator and then Secretary of the Interior under Rutherford B. Hayes. It was
Schurz who gave Joseph Pulitzer his first job in the newspaper business, at the
Westliche Post, a German language newspaper.
Pulitzer studied law. He shined as an
investigative reporter. He got elected to the Missouri State Assembly. He wrote
stories exposing St. Louis corruption. When attacked by an irate, corrupt
lobbyist who confronted Pulitzer in his hotel, Pulitzer pulled his pistol and
shot, grazing the lobbyist's calf. Instead of ending his political career, the
incident motivated the governor to appoint Pulitzer Police Commissioner of St.
He sold his share of the Westliche Post for
five times what he paid for it and bought, at a bankruptcy auction, the failing
St. Louis Dispatch. He merged it with the Post and within three years the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch became the largest selling newspaper in St. Louis.
Called "sensationalist" by his
critics, Joseph Pulitzer recreated what newspapers were and would later become.
He wrote for his audience. He remembered what it was like to not read English
well and made sure stories were "short and smart and snappy. They
should have style and be readable."
Pulitzer published the names of'Tax Dodgers,' wealthy citizens who claimed
they had no money in the bank. He stood up for the ideals of democracy, for
fair treatment of the populace. His newspaper's circulation soared. The upshot?
He created financial independence and power for his newspaper.
The desire to reach a national audience drove
Pulitzer to purchase The New York World in 1883. The cost? An astounding
$400,000. "I sense a grand opportunity in New York. All the city needs
to set its capacious glands awash is a daily dose of tingling sensations as
plentiful as mushrooms." Joseph was now about to go into direct
competition with his younger brother, Albert, who was publishing The Morning
Journal. When Albert refused to merge the two papers, Joseph lured away three
of his best reporters.
Now called The World, Pulitzer took the paper
to new levels. Readership grew. The pages were full of energy and excitement.
The visual presentation of news also changed. Journalism was unrecognizable
from what had existed before.
The time was ripe in the America of the late
19th century for newspapers growth. The expansion of cities, especially New
York, caused the growth of the populace who commuted to work. And, what better
way to pass the time commuting on the trolley than to read the newspaper?
Pulitzer realized that what his audience
wanted more than NEWS was STORIES. Stories about life in New York. Things his
readers could identify with instead of just read. News was now about what
happened to ordinary people; people just like you. "Always fight for
progress and reform. Never tolerate injustice or corruption. Always oppose
privileged classes and public plunder. Never lack sympathy for the poor, never
be afraid to attack Rome. Always be drastically independent." Pulitzer
stuck up for those people who didn't have a champion.
He opposed the one penny toll for pedestrians
on the newly built Brooklyn Bridge. He railed against Congress when they were
uninterested in funding a pedestal for that new gift from France, The Statue of
Liberty. Pulitzer's The World took on
the challenge. "Unless the Statue of Liberty goes to the bottom of the
ocean it is safe to predict that it will eventually stand on an American
pedestal and be referred to for a very long time with more sentiment than we
can now dream of." The World's readership funded the pedestal.
Fate dealt a number of strange dichotomies to
Joseph Pulitzer. This man who served in the Union Army married a distant cousin
of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, Kate Davis.
In 1908 This former Police Commissioner of
St. Louis butted heads with another former Police Commissioner, President
Theodore Roosevelt, over the Panama Canal. The World called the Panama Canal
'An act of Colonial Aggression.' The paper wanted the Government to account for
the $40 million dollars Roosevelt ordered the U. S. pay to acquire the assets
of 'The New Panama Canal Company' and claimed the money went to line rich men's
Roosevelt, who was in the last days of his
term, demanded that Congress sue Pulitzer for libel and threatened to put him
in jail saying; "It is a high national duty to bring to justice this
vilifier of the American People." Pulitzer fought the accusations as
an attack on freedom of the press and democracy itself.In 1911, just before Pulitzer passed away on
his yacht, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down their judgment.
Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People, produced for the PBS American Masters series, is a timely look at
what is and what isn't fake news and can be viewed as a moral for those in
power who feel they can push against the Constitutional guarantee of a free
press. It is a very well made, engrossing story about how a penniless Jew from
Hungary rose to become one of the most powerful men in the United States.
Written by Robert Seidman and Oren Rudavshy, directed by Rudavshy, all the bases
covered in this biodoc. Narrated by Adam Driver and featuring the voices of
Liev Schreiber as Joseph Pulitzer, Lauren Ambrose as Kate Davis, Rachel
Brosnahan as Nellie Bly and Tim Blake Nelson as Theodore Roosevelt, Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the Peopleis as
informative and entertaining a documentary one could hope for.
Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People opens March 1 in New
York at the Quad Cinema and in Los Angeles on March 8 at the Laemmle