(Barry Monush, author of the new book "Steven Spielberg FAQ" enlightens readers as to how the famed director inspired him to write this overview of the famed director's career.)
BY BARRY MONUSH
As it gets harder
these days to find “reliables,” it’s nice to have certain filmmakers still
around who have given me more pleasure than pain over the years. And even nicer
when you’re given a chance to celebrate them in print. Such is the case with
Applause Books, were tossing around possible ideas for further volumes of their
FAQ series, and I tossed back at them
the suggestion of a Spielberg book. Of course it got an instant response,
because absolutely everyone is aware
of Steven Spielberg. You needn’t be the sort of film aficionado that follows
the scene with fervent interest (i.e. readers of this website) to know he’s out
there making movies and has been doing so for some 45 years with a track record
of success far exceeding anyone else. When you’re pitching ideas, it helps for
your topic to have a high awareness factor in order to get a book on that someone
“greenlighted,” but it’s even better when the subject is worthy of the tribute.
To me, the motion
picture scene since the 1970s would be inconceivable without the presence of
Steven Spielberg. Some would go so far as to say he created the world of motion
pictures as we know it today, which shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a high
compliment. For everyone who loves the cinematic world of Steven Spielberg,
there are plenty who will give you a theatrical grimace at the mere mention of
his name. Trust me, I know, I’ve seen it, when people asked me what the subject
was for my newest book. They either lit up or cringed. You don’t get to be that well known and that well-to-do financially without making some people a bit
resentful or dismissive.
With great fame
comes expectations of an unreasonable size. You can’t blow people away with the
thrills of Jaws or the sense of
wonder inherent in Close Encounters of
the Third Kind or E.T. The
Extra-Terrestrial and then make a mere “good” movie; you’re expected to score
a slam dunk, a home run and a touchdown
every time you’re given the ball. As a result, some very good Steven Spielberg
films have been shortchanged over the years by those who wanted him to reach
Olympian peaks each time they plunked their cash down at the box office. Moviegoers
have pigeonholed him according to their own personal tastes and fond memories, and
often have stubbornly resisted venturing with him into new territory. Much as
“those wonderful people out there in the dark” are loathe to admit it, history
has shown that audiences let down filmmakers far more often than filmmakers do
the audience. Of course any director worth their salt is going to go in unexpected
ways once in a while or try out new genres or techniques, which is what makes
movie going something exciting. Believe me, if you had a mild initial response
to such movies as Empire of the Sun,
Amistad, or Munich, I recommend
you see them again. These are all strong,
impressive, moving works with something to say about the human condition. If
they do not tower as highly or with as much resonance as, say, Schindler’s List, that’s to be forgiven.
That’s an awful lofty peak to reach, after all.
I don’t need this
constant reassurance of greatness with Spielberg or any filmmaker for that
matter. I know he’s good; quite good. Even when I’ve come away disappointed
from one of his efforts, I know I wasn’t watching a hack on a downward spiral,
but a singular talent whose capabilities were still evident even within the
missteps. Such are all the best filmmakers. And Spielberg really is one of the
best. It’s been evident from the start; it was even evident in his television
work, in the handful of series episodes and movies he made for the small screen
before he ventured towards the larger canvas of motion pictures.
pretty vividly the segment of the Night
Gallery pilot he directed long before I even realized who Steven Spielberg
was. Blind Joan Crawford’s justifiable punishment for her abominable behavior
was dramatized in a lean but eerie fashion: her sight is restored for a brief
period only to find herself waking up during a New York blackout. Her
accidental stumble through a window was dramatized by dropping a plate of glass
and watching it shatter in slow motion. A great touch. Watching the segment
again, all these years later, there’s nothing in this credit to suggest that
its director had never before taken on a professional directing job prior to
this, nor that he had only recently turned 22 years of age. His work was that
of a professional with decades of experience behind him.
Published for the first time anywhere, in
celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mickey Spillane's birth, come two short
novels in the same book. "The Last Stand" (Spillane's final novel) is
preceded by "A Bullet for Satisfaction," an unfinished manuscript
that was finalized by Spillane's long-time collaborator Max Allan Collins. Both
stories are satisfying reads. The book has been published by the Hard Case Crime imprint from Titan Books.
Mickey Spillane is best known for his
character Mike Hammer, the fictional P.I. that redefined the "action
hero" and spawned countless imitators. Unlike private investigators before
him, Mike Hammer was a merciless executor of villains who slept with countless
beautiful, willing women. Sound like anyone we know? The first Mike Hammer
novel, "I, The Jury," was published in 1947, six years prior to Ian
Fleming's James Bond debut, "Casino Royale." It may be argued that if
Fleming was indeed James Bond's literary father, Spillane and Mike Hammer could
be considered, if not grandfathers, then influences. Fleming admitted to that
but he also had an influence on Spillane. The mid-1960s saw Spillane introduce
a new character, Tiger Mann, an agent for a private organization dedicated to
wiping out Communism. Tiger Mann lasted four novels.
If there is such a thing as a
"Tough-Guy-Renaissance-Man," Mickey Spillane was it. After a brief
stint in college he worked summers as a lifeguard and for a period of time was
a trapeze artist for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.Through a friendship with
fellow Gimbels department store employee Joe Gill, he began his career
as a comic book writer in 1940, eventually writing an eight-page story a day on
a diverse number of characters from different publishing companies, including
Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. He enlisted in the United
States Army Air Corps on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor and
became a fighter pilot and flight instructor.
"I, The Jury" was written in just
19 days and sent off to publisher E. P. Dutton. Between the hardcover released
in 1947 and the subsequent paperback a year later, the novel sold more than 6
1/2 million copies in the US alone. A new career began, along with a
reinvention of the genre.
Mickey Spillane was also an actor. His first
leading role was given to him by John Wayne, who hired him in 1954 to appear
with Pat O'Brien and lion-tamer Clyde Beatty in the Wayne-produced film
"Ring of Fear," which Spillane, without credit, also co-wrote, although,
he did receive a white Jaguar as a gift from producer Wayne. He also starred as
his most famous creation, Mike Hammer, in the 1963 British produced film
"The Girl Hunters" for which he received favorable notices acting
alongside such veterans as Lloyd Nolan and future “Goldfinger” actress Shirley
Eaton. But perhaps for many of us of a particular age, he was most well known
for his appearances in the Miller Lite commercials as his alter-ego of Hammer
along with "Doll," Lee Meredith of "The Producers" fame.
First up in the book is "A Bullet for
Satisfaction”, which presents a very Hammeresque character in a Hammeresque
story. Told in Spillane's traditional first-person style, Detective Capt. Rod
Dexter is both the hero (anti-hero?) and narrator. The book opens with Dexter
investigating the murder of the politically connected Mayes Rogers. But no one
seems to be talking. In an argument with the D.A, he loses his temper; "Then
I'll just continue my investigation of the Rogers’ murder and go anywhere and
everywhere it leads me. And before I'm through with you, you'll be doing plenty
of talking". Not
surprisingly, he loses his job. He takes it on his own to continue the
investigation unofficially. The web spins, the clock turns and he finds himself
getting deeper and deeper into trouble as he comes closer to unraveling a
conspiracy. Of course he finds time for a dalliance, this time with the sister
of Rogers’ widow.
Much like Mike Hammer, Det. Dexter is a man
driven by vengeance. And much like Hammer, Dexter has a lot of luck with dames.
When he, along with one of the women he seduces are kidnapped, Dexter diagnoses
the situation thusly: "The other one grabbed Jean. She tried to break
away and he slapped her until she was still. He was dead - he just didn't know
it yet." A short time later: "Behind the wheel now, Bacon smiled
and let a low, rumbling laugh come deep from his throat. 'What have you got
against a little joy ride, Dexter?' He laughed again. So did the guy in the
back. Killing them would be a pleasure."
Yes, Mickey Spillane's work can be a guilty
pleasure but he never fails to satisfy. I guess that's why sales of his books
have now topped 225 million.
The lead story here, "The Last
Stand", is an entirely different type of book. First of all, it's told in
the third-person, not Spillane's typical style. There are no shoot outs.
There's no sex. There's a hell of a terrific story, though.
Joe Gillian is a pilot who, when his vintage
BT 13A airplane loses power, lands "in the middle of a desert that was
someplace in the United States where nobody would ever look to find him and, so
far, not even a vulture was eyeing him for supper."
Drinking a beer (Miller Lite, natch -
Spillane got a plug in) to pass the time, he meets Sequoia Pete, an Indian from
a local reservation who's "fossil hunting" but who has lost his horse.
They share a "Tastes great, less filling, right?"beer and try to find their way back to
Pete's hogan. The buddy movie begins.
The love interest shows up soon after in the
form of Pete's sister who is as brilliant as she is sexy and Joe finds himself
pulled into a whirlwind of trouble that involves criminals, G-men, the tribe
and a secret that could lead to incredible wealth and power.
Then there's Many Thunders, aka Big Arms. "They
call him Big Arms for a reason," Running Fox said softly. "He picks
up train wheels. He plays with tree trunks. Sometimes he lifts cars right off
the ground." He also considers Running Fox to be his woman and has
hurt many other men who he thought were a threat to his claim. And he's going
to fight Joe on Feast Day.
"The Last Stand" is a terrific romp
through the western desert of the US with colorful, well-fleshed characters and
a fine story. It's written cinematically. You can almost picture the people and
the world they inhabit.
I thoroughly enjoyed both these stories both
times I read them. I can't say this about too many books, but when I turned the
last page of "The Last Stand" I turned the book over, turned to the
first page and started to read it again.
(Author Gabriel Hershman has written "Black Sheep: the Authorized Biography of Nicol Williamson" (The History Press). Williamson, who passed away in 2011 at age 75, was an enormous talent. John Osborne called him "The greatest actor since Brando". However, he had many personal demons that sidetracked what should have been a far more successful career. Hershman explores the peaks and valleys of this temperamental man's dramatic life and career and in this article reminds us of why his talents and work should be rediscovered.)
BY GABRIEL HERSHMAN
Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, Alan Bates, Albert Finney,
Tom Courtenay and … Nicol Williamson. Just a few of the most influential actors
of their generation.
Were you surprised when I mentioned Nicol’s name? He was, at the time of
his death, the least well known of
that generation of actors. And yet, in my opinion, Nicol should have topped that
list. Anybody who saw Nicol in Osborne’s InadmissibleEvidence, sweating, combustible,
driven by almost orgasmic self-loathing – ‘the greatest performance in a modern
play’ in Michael Coveney’s words – knew they were watching an extraordinary
If only we could re-visit Waiting
for Godot, Diary of a Madman, The Ginger Man and, of course, Hamlet – a performance that led Nicol to
the White House to give a one-man show in front of Richard Nixon – then it
would be clear: Nicol was the
foremost actor of his generation.
But … Nicol’s stage triumphs made his screen career
seem desperately unsatisfactory by comparison. Yes, Nicol wanted to be a film
star. An early meltdown at Dundee Rep came when Lindsay Anderson chose not to
cast him as Frank Machin in ThisSportingLife (1963). If he’d got that role – and there’s no reason to
assume Nicol would have made a lesser impact than Richard Harris – then Nicol’s
film career could have been different. Sadly, it was several years before
audiences would see him in a major role, to glimpse that blowtorch talent on
Nicol shone in The
Bofors Gun (1968), playing a deranged, alcoholic squaddie who kills himself
and, in so doing, scuppers the career prospects of a mild-mannered bombardier
who’s desperate for promotion. It was a barnstorming portrayal.Pauline Kael later criticised this and other performances
of Nicol’s as ‘too strong’ – but she was wrong. Take LaughterintheDark
(1969). He was vulnerable and oddly affecting as the businessman blinded by
infatuation (and a car crash) in Tony Richardson’s otherwise ineffective
re-working of Nabokov’s classic.
Nicol was on top form again with one of his serial
collaborators, Jack Gold, in The Reckoning
(1970), a powerful story of class and revenge. It should have been up there
with GetCarter but it was overlooked. The film of Hamlet – although too dark and claustrophobic – at least captured Nicol’s
nasal, deliberately unsexy prince for posterity.
By 1970, despite not having a movie hit, Nicol was a
genuine superstar. He wed gorgeous actress Jill Townsend who would enjoy small-screen
success with Poldark. Yet an essay by
Kenneth Tynan, written at the time of Nicol’s White House triumph, hinted at the
demons that eventually destroyed him. In particular, it seems to me, that Nicol’s
altercations– unlike those of Harris and Reed – were often with influential
people. ‘Victims’ included Broadway producer David Merrick, whom Nicol punched
when the legendary showman demanded cuts to InadmissibleEvidence, Dick Cavett, whose chat
show he once unceremoniously exited, and, later, Evan Handler, who got a beating
during the infamous Broadway performance of I
Perhaps – for all their hellraising and vitriolic
behavior – guys like Reed and Harris knew who to be nice to. Perhaps they were
simply more endearing drunks? Either way, by the early Seventies, Nicol was
losing ground. He stumbled again on film. Who remembers his Red Bull
performance in The Jerusalem File? Or
TheMonk? (Don’t worry, even diehard fans of Seventies movies don’t
know them!!) They have disappeared.
Nicol offered a brilliant interpretation of Arturo Ui
– the Hitler-like gangster in a TV version of Brecht’s classic drama. But it
was soon forgotten. Nicol made a memorable villain (his son, Luke, thought it
was his greatest screen performance) in The
Wilby Conspiracy. But it didn’t do much for his screen career. Playing
Sherlock Holmes in The Seven Per Cent Solution
looked like a breakthrough. Yet some enthusiasts had trouble accepting Nicol as
a drug-addled Holmes.
Williamson starred as Sherlock Holmes opposite Robert Duvall as Watson in the 1976 film "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution".
By then Nicol’s life was increasingly troubled. He
stormed out of Enemy of the People and
times before a scene was shot. He eventually took the lead in TheHumanFactor, Otto Preminger’s
cash-strapped tale of political double dealing. Yet again it was a troubled project. Preminger
seemed to be in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. It needed Hitchcock to bring it
to life. Yet in Nicol’s self-effacing, benevolent lead – a political agnostic
caught between despicable ideologies – there was so much nuance and subtlety.
Stage success continued to come Nicol’s way, in Coriolanus and TwelfthNight, in a Royal
Court revival of InadmissibleEvidence, and, especially, in a Broadway
production of UncleVanya. George C. Scott, his notoriously
fiery co-star, was driven to apoplexy when Nicol won better notices. Yet
genuine film stardom was elusive. Sadly for Nicol, who hated TV, it’s likely
that an episode of Columbo was his
best remembered screen performances of the decade. (Rosebud?!) See, I told
The Eighties finally gave Nicol a palpable hit – as Merlin
in Excalibur. Such was Nicol’s
perceived unreliability, and lack of box office clout, that John Boorman had to
fight to win approval to cast him. Nicol enjoyed the role but, strangely, it
did little for his film career. Instead he played third fiddle to Oliver Reed
and Klaus Kinski (whom he cheerfully described as ‘a cunt’) in the enjoyably
hammy Venom. To be fair, if anyone
caused trouble on that film, it was not Nicol.
After that? Who remembers I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can? Or his portrayal of Mountbatten in
the TV series The Last Viceroy? A late
supporting role (well, he was only 50 but approaching the end of his film career)
in BlackWidow gave a hint of what could have been. He played, with
endearing tenderness, a successful but lonely museum director. If you re-visit
the film, watch Nicol’s performance carefully, the way he fiddles with his watch
when he meets Theresa Russell, his little jig when he shows her his Seattle
dream house. Ah, what a talent Hollywood missed out on in the Eighties!
Nicol continued to shine on stage. But great
theatrical performances exist only in memory. Trevor Nunn, a particularly
insightful contributor to my biography, remarked that ‘the achievements of
those who work in the theatre are no more than writing on the sand. There may
well be a vivid and important message for all to see, for a while, but by and
by the tide comes in, and when it next goes out, that writing has disappeared’.
All too true, sadly. Nicol continued to appear on
stage, memorably in his one-man show Jack:
A Night on the Town with John Barrymore. A contributor to my book, Saskia
Wickham, told me she thought Nicol was “mesmerising and just sublime … a
genius”. This, in the end, is where the appeal of Nicol and – my biography – resides.
Nicol was perhaps a great screen actor lost. But I suspect that history will
regard him as probably the greatest stage actor of his generation nevertheless.
Cinema Retro receives many film-related books from publishers who desire that we feature them on our web site and in our magazine. One of the most impressive we've received recently is "The Films of Broderick Crawford" by Ralph Schiller. It's an engrossing biography that you may need two hands to lift and it's packed with interesting facts about one of Hollywood's most neglected leading men of a bygone era. We've asked Mr. Schiller to provide an overview of Crawford's career based on information in his meticulously-researched book.
sports films are ubiquitous in the movie world today, this wasn’t always the
case. The ability of a sports story to
transcend its roots in a game and become a triumphant story of the human spirit
was arguably first done in the 1942 film The Pride of The Yankees. A new book
about this film came out in June of 2017 from Hachette Books, written by
Richard Sandomir: The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic. This work is an impressive look at not only the making of the
film, but also its cultural impact.
of The Yankees is an ultimate hero story: the immigrant son who has a natural
ability in a truly American past time only to be cut down in his prime by a
fatal disease. It may sound like a natural for the film studios to develop, but
as Sandomir points out in his book, this wasn’t always the case. Sam Goldwyn
had to be convinced to make a movie about baseball. What finally moved the
mogul to go ahead with the project was seeing film of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest
Man” speech on July 4, 1939 in Yankee stadium. The connection was with the
human side of the story, never with the sport.
reading the making of chapters of any book that discusses a film in detail,
it’s always interesting to see who emerges as the main characters in the story
behind the story. Since this film was about Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” ball
player takes center stage. His strong-willed, independent widow Eleanor
Twitchell is just as an important character, if in fact not more so than Gehrig
himself. As the author lays out, it is Eleanor who made sure that Lou’s memory
stayed alive after his death. Another star that emerges behind the scenes is
Paul Gallico. Although Gallico is best known for his later career as the author
of The Poseidon Adventure and other novels, he was a sports writer during the
1930s and as such became a chronicler of Lou Gehrig’s career. His 1941 book
about the athlete, Lou Gehrig: The Pride of The Yankees became the official
source material for the movie.
as the makers of the movie had to deal with the conundrum of trying to figure
out how much actual baseball to have in the film, the author of a book about a
baseball movie has to balance those two seemingly opposite entities. Sandomir
does a good job in striking just such a balance; the book is much more about
the movie and it’s impact than it is about America’s favorite pastime. This is
an impressive accomplishment when one realizes that the author was a sports
reporter for the New York Times for many years and must have had to resist the
impulse to discuss in heavy detail the intricacies of the sport. When reading
the book, one need only have a very basic knowledge of baseball, and even if a
reader doesn’t possess this information, they should take comfort in realizing
that they still probably know more about baseball than Samuel Goldwyn, the
producer of the movie.
Other sections of this book discuss Babe
Ruth’s career on film and playing himself in Pride; whether or not Gary Cooper,
a natural right hander, actually batted left handed in his baseball scenes or
if the filmmakers reversed the negative; the real life friction between
Gehrig’s widow and his mother and how this was tapered down for the film. An interesting later chapter describes Gary
Cooper on a USO tour in late 1943 in the South Pacific and, after a big demand
from the troops, re-created Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech to the best
of his memory.
The Pride of The Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary
Cooper, and The Making of a Classic is an excellent book and a great look at
the making of what may just be the greatest sports movie of all time.
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement from McFarland publishers.
Horror and exploitation films have played a pioneering
role in both American and world cinema, with a number of controversial and
surreal movies produced by renegade filmmakers. This collection of interviews
sheds light on the work of 23 directors from across the globe who defied the
conventions of Hollywood and commercial cinema. They include Alfred Sole (Alice,
Sweet, Alice), Romano Scavolini (Nightmares in a Damaged Brain), Stu Segall (Drive-in
Massacre), Joseph Ellison (Don't Go in the House), David Paulsen (Savage
Weekend, Schizoid), Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Schramm), Jack Sholder (Alone
in the Dark, The Hidden), Marinao Baino (Dark Waters), Yoshihiko Matsui (Noisy
Requiem) and Jamil Dehlavi (Born of Fire). More than 90 photographs are
included, with many rare behind-the-scenes images.
British sex film was a truly unique beast. Finding its feet at the back end of
the 1950s, proliferating throughout the 60s and 70s, and all but gone the way
of the dodo by the early 80s, sex may have been the selling point but scarcely
was it delivered upon. Usually depicting the act itself as a bit of a lark and
something to be sniggered at, due to restrictive British laws at the time the
menu in this country was mostly comprised of light titillation as opposed to
the more, er... shall we say ‘gratifying’ material being served up to European
and Stateside audiences. With little to see beyond pert pink posteriors and
bountiful bare bosoms, visuals whose stimulation value was already negligible were
often further quashed by the wince-inducing sound of a slide-whistle.
films that general audiences probably think of in regard to this period of time
– if indeed they think of them at all – are the likes of the Confessions
comedies, which is hardly surprising, for their appeal was unprecedented and
the first in the series, Val Guest’s Confessions of a Window Cleaner, was the
highest grossing British film of 1974. Yet looking at the 70s alone it’s
remarkable just how many light-hearted boobs’n’bums films were birthed. I
should know, I saw a fair few of them at a crummy, long-gone little cinema in
Winchester. Most of them were excruciatingly awful too, albeit in an inexplicably
1992 ‘Doing Rude Things’ by David McGillivray was published and at that point
was the only book of its kind. An assembly – and expansion upon – a series of
articles that had originally appeared in the short-lived ‘Cinema’ magazine 10
years earlier, it chronicled the highs and lows of almost a quarter of a
century’s worth of British sex films, from 1957’s Nudist Paradise to 1981’s
last gasp, Emmanuelle in Soho.
to those with a passion for British exploitation cinema the name David
McGillivray will be a familiar one. A former writer for, among others, the
BFI’s lamentably deceased ‘Monthly Film Bulletin’, he would go on to pen
scripts for such cinematic schlockers as House of Whipcord, Satan’s Slave and Schizo,
several of which also found him lurking on-screen in some minor capacity.
Associated in the main with the ilk of those aforementioned terrors, David’s single
foray into the arena of the 1970s sex film was the amusingly monikered comedy I’m
Not Feeling Myself Tonight, a frothy brew awash with familiar thespian talent
of the era. [Oh, yes, it should be mentioned that a plethora of household names
populated these critically dismissed but publicly embraced oddities. From
Bernard Lee and Arthur Askey to Irene Handl and Jon Pertwee, from Brian Murphy
and Barry Evans to Windsor Davies and Richard O’Sullivan, dozens of ‘respectable’
actors shelved their pride to participate in these movies. But then in the
clime of widespread unemployment that plagued the industry back then – and is regrettably
still rife – work was work and beggars couldn’t afford to be choosers.]
“Make your life be your art and you will
never be forgotten.” (Charlotte Eriksson). I first fell in love with
Marilyn Monroe when I was sixteen, after seeing her on television in the movie “Bus
Stop.” By then she was long gone, but that didn’t matter. To me, she was like
something from outer space, a goddess dressed in black fishnet and gold tassel.
I’ll admit it’s a feeling I never quite got over. Marilyn had that effect on
some men, both those who knew her (Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, for example)
and millions of others like me who were her fans. Among the innumerable
critical brickbats tossed at her both in her lifetime and later was the charge
she was a terrible actress. I have always thought these criticisms somewhat
unfair. While not a great actress, she was nonetheless quite competent in a
number of roles. That is, when she was actually given the chance to act and not
just served up as window dressing. Rewatching “Bus Stop” recently, I was struck
anew at how really funny she could be. Forget all that stuff about her sad
life, the broken marriages, the desperate desire to be taken seriously as a
thespian. All that may be true, but her real talents lay in comedy. Like her
gifted miscast cinematic sisters, Clara Bow, Marion Davies and Jean Harlow,
Marilyn was born to play funny. Often she upstaged the best of them too,
including in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a film she made with Laurence
Olivier. In it, she makes “the world’s greatest actor” look downright dull. On
the other hand, there was that face, that body. For a generation of men, it
defined rightly or wrongly what feminine sex appeal was all about. All of these
qualities shine forth in The
Essential Marilyn Monroeby
Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions (ACC Editions), just released last
month. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 have never before been published.
Marilyn seems completely at ease in most of these photos.
You can tell she and the photographer trust and like each other. She is at
turns playful and happy, sad and reflective. None of it to me seems too
contrived. Instead, she is allowing us to see her in a way she would never permit
with any other camera man. She is fully naked (which had nothing to do with
taking her clothes off). Not all the shots
show her at her best. In some she appears, though still alluring, tired and
somewhat shopworn. These are among my favorites in the collection. I like to
think I’m getting a candid peek behind the carefully crafted, bloodless façade
of the manufactured Marilyn. For my money, she was most appealing when she
wasn’t doing anything much at all in front of the lens, just looking -- which
she often is in the Greene sessions. One photo, chosen by Greene’s son, Joshua,
for the cover of this expansive volume, is a prime example of the species. She
Marilyn and Milton
Greene shared a special bond. Not only were they personal friends, she even
lived with his family for a time in the 1950s. I imagine this as a happy period
for her. She felt completely safe with him in a way she rarely did with anyone.
It shows. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said that capturing
the right image on film was an act of extraordinary physical and intellectual
joy. As it turns out, that concept works both ways, for the photographer and
the viewer. Greene clearly wanted us to see the woman others seldom glimpsed or
even imagined. He succeeds brilliantly in that ambition. The glorious thing is
it’s all here in this fabulous photo collection, one for the ages. For the
Marilyn fan, it doesn’t get much better.
their characters have become iconic, the now classic fantasy monster films of
Universal Studios have suffered a reputation of creakiness, cheap thrills, poor
characterization and logic gaps. While the images of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula,
Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, and Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of
Frankenstein dominate magazine covers, notebooks, posters, mugs and other
collectibles, the series of movies that introduced these characters seems to
get very little respect from film historians. A step in the right direction to
correct this is the excellent new book The Monster Movies of Universal Studios
by James L. Neibaur, published by Rowman and Littlefield. In this fascinating
new study, the author puts Universal’s horror series into proper historical
context. Unlike other books on the subject, Neibaur has limited his focus to
films that feature one or more of Universal’s line-up of monsters. This book concentrates
on the classic era, with the range of focus highlighting movies from 1931
through 1956. Any movie made by
Universal Studios during this period with Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the
Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon
is discussed in-depth with a chapter devoted to each feature, twenty nine movies
in all. These include all of the sequels and films that blended fantasy and
comedy elements when Universal paired up their monsters with their house comedy
duo Abbott and Costello. The book is an impressive work of film scholarship and
shines a spotlight on classic Hollywood moviemaking by looking at one of the longest
film series at a major studio.
disappointed that Neibaur didn’t discuss such mystery and horror offerings from
Universal during this period such as The Old Dark House and Murders in the Rue
Morgue (both 1932) shouldn’t be. The focus on the monsters makes the book a one-
of- a- kind study devoted to characters that seem to always be taken for
granted. While Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) is celebrated for it’s
daring, unconventional storyline, the films that feature the monsters seem to
get lumped in with low budget movies from a later era. In fact, movies such as
The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula’s
Daughter (1936) share more in common with The Black Cat than just being made at
the same studio. The author restores these films to their proper place as
valuable works of cinematic art.
isn’t to say that when there are jumps in narrative logic, especially evident
in the later movies, Neibaur doesn’t point them out. However, even these
assembly line B films are given more respect in this book then in previous
studies of the Universal genre catalog. The usual pattern of writers discussing
movies made during the Great Depression and World War II is to highlight the
escapism and lighthearted nature that many of those films exhibit. Examples
that prove this pattern include the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers cycle at RKO, the
Topper films, etc. In this work Neibaur presents a different argument- that the
monster series presented something very real to fight against, a threat that
personified the evils of economic crisis and foreign fascism. Given this
argument, it is somewhat less hard to believe that the horror series at
Universal would decline in popularity after the war ended.
addition to the nation’s and the world’s economy fluctuating during the time of
the Monster films covered in this book, it was also true that there were money
problems at Universal as well. First, Universal founder Carl Laemmle Sr.
borrowed too heavily and lost control of the studio. It was then decided at
that time that the horror series would continue as B films, relegated to a more
factory mode of filmmaking. Whereas Universal’s monster series began with cinematic
artists such as Tod Browning and James Whale helming Dracula and Frankenstein
(both 1931), the series ended with Jean Yarbrough directing She-Wolf of London
(1946) in a decidedly non-flourished way, with cost cutting in mind. The
contrast couldn’t be more evident as She-Wolf is a film with a Scooby-Doo like
ending, a far cry from the earlier films that embraced supernatural elements
such as vampirism, invisibility, lycanthropy or fantastic science that brought
life to the dead through lightning or tana leaves. It’s interesting to note
that when the B movie factory mode of the series finally ran its course, a
happy ending was not in the cards.
“Starring the Plaza” by Patty Farmer (Beaufort Books, Hardback, Illustrated, 130 pages ISBN#: 0825308461)
One of New York’s biggest film stars isn’t even a person…it’s The
Plaza, the legendary hotel on Central Park where numerous classic movies have
been shot. Author Patty Farmer reverently captures the allure of the fabled
place in her new book “Starring the Plaza”, which pays tribute to one of
Gotham’s truly grand dames (she dates back to 1907). Cinematically, some celluloid gems stand out in our
minds: Cary Grant being kidnapped there in North
By Northwest, Streisand and Redford as briefly reunited former lovers outside the
hotel in The Way We Were and Walter
Matthau starring in numerous Neil Simon comedy skits in Plaza Suite. The wonderful anecdotes are accompanied by 180 photos,
making this an irresistible addition to any movie lover’s book collection.
Here is the official press release:
From the day it opened on October 1st 1907, the lavish 19-story
French Renaissance building on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Central
Park South was simply the grandest hotel in the world. It’s no wonder that from that day to this,
The Plaza’s lavish interiors and exteriors have remained sought-after settings
for films, TV shows, commercials and music videos as well as home to the most
significant social events of their day.
In “Starring The Plaza”,
a labor of love conceived and created by pop-cultural historian Patty Farmer,
the hotel shines in a whole new light - a Klieg light, as it were. Page after
page of moments captured from movies, plays, TV shows, parties, premieres, and
press events form a new kind of chronicle of New York’s favorite landmark.
Readers will find all of their favorite Plaza-on-film moments here: Alfred
Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; to
everybody’s favorite tear-jerker, The Way
We Were; to Neil Simon’s uproarious Plaza
Suite and Barefoot in the Park,
the grand lobby in Home Alone 2, plus
a few they might not have been aware of.
There are even some Hollywood recreations of the place
included—Plaza Pretenders—but it’s clear that no amount of movie magic could
ever beat the real thing. It was this combination of The Plaza’s own special
magic stirred with Hollywood’s heady mix that has made the legendary Fifth
Avenue address utterly timeless.
From Shirley MacLaine scaling the Pulitzer Fountain to a
frizz-headed Barbra Streisand handing out political leaflets, The Plaza has
co-starred with the best in the business. And from Liz Taylor to The Beatles to
the showroom of the Persian Room, anyone who is anyone has stayed there, partied there, performed there and
“Starring The Plaza” is the first-ever visual celebration of the Plaza
on stage, screen, and in society, and its author Patty Farmer has scoured the
archives to show it off in all its glory. Legendary movie star Mitzi Gaynor provides the Foreword and discloses a
few of her own adventures at the iconic hotel.
Blending movie making and political intrigue, Glenn
Frankel’s “High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American
Classic,” is a compelling account of the drama within the drama during the
making of the critically acclaimed Gary Cooper film.
With clarity and impressive detail, Frankel’s narrative
unravels the attitudes and desperation which pervaded Hollywood during the
height of McCarthyism in the early 50s. Speaking to both the film enthusiast as
well as the history buff, the book chronicles the film's production against the
backdrop of the House Un-American Activities Committee’s oppressive hunt for
Communist infiltrators in the film industry. Livelihoods were lost, families
wrecked, and friendships destroyed as result of the blacklist. Many in
Hollywood were forced to make the agonizing choice between ratting out friends
and associates or going to jail.
While Cooper is the star of the film, screenwriter Carl
Foreman emerges as a central character in Frankel’s book, as he himself faces
the wrath of the HUAC for his former communist ties. Foreman, who wrote the screenplay
as an allegory about the blacklist movement was eventually blacklisted himself
and moved to England shortly after the film was released in 1952.
Just as many in Hollywood felt abandoned and betrayed by
those who named names, the film’s protagonist, Sheriff Will Kane (Cooper) is
also abandoned by those he thought he could count on. Rather than flee to
safety, Kane faces down his enemies alone in a life or death shootout.
Foreman’s script parallels the pervading fear and uncertainty of the time period,
a brutal era in American history. Kane thought he could count on his friends in
a time of need. But like many in Hollywood who were ensnared in McCarthyism’s
vice-grip, fear won out, and his friends let him down. Foreman himself later
said he felt betrayed by his partner and the film’s producer, Stanley Kramer,
after Kramer denied Foreman producing credit due to his entanglement in the
But while the “Red Scare” takes center stage in the book,
Frankel also examines Cooper’s early life, as well as his physical and
emotional struggles during the filming of “High Noon.”
“High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an
American Classic” is about a pivotal film and those who bought it to screen. It
is also about the often predatory nature of politics and how the paranoid fear
of communism virtually turned Hollywood against itself.
most cities, when people are talking about Casablanca, they are most likely
discussing the 1942 classic movie, not the North African city. Why this one
film has become the quintessential example of Golden Age Hollywood filmmaking
is the focus of the new book We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend,
and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie by Noah Isenberg. This
excellent work not only tells the story of the genesis of the classic motion
picture from unproduced play to the backlot of Warner Brothers, but it’s impact
on generations of moviegoers as well. Isenberg does a great job in tracing how
Casablanca developed into a staple on the repertory film market, as well as the
many short stories, novels, movies and plays that have inspired it. As the
Ingrid Bergman quote that starts the book states, Casablanca does have a life
of it’s own. Through deep research and a love for classic cinema that is
evident from page one, Isenberg weaves a great book that describes that
book tells the story of how Burnett and Alison wrote the play Everybody Comes
to Rick’s, which was then sold to Warner Brothers. It then follows how producer
Hal B. Wallis dealt with assigning screenwriters to the script that would
become, as many people have recognized, the greatest screenplay ever written.
Subsequent chapters deal with the casting process of the film; how Harry and
Jack Warner were ahead of other studio bosses in calling out fascism in Europe;
the many refugees who played bit parts in the film who were also real-life
refugees; how the Rick/Ilsa affair gave the studio trouble with both the
Production Code and the Office of War Information. One of the most interesting
and important chapters deals with how Casablanca became a fixture at the
Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts after Humphrey Bogart’s death in
1957. Subsequently, the film became the most popular classic movie to be shown
on American television. This was the beginning of Casablanca becoming the
quotable movie we know and love today. Indeed, Isenberg discusses nearby
Harvard students stopping by the Brattle to relieve final exam stress in
reciting whole passages from the movie.
book is an excellent examination of how one movie can seep into the
consciousness of an entire country, and arguably, the world. It is the perfect
companion to the seventy-fifth anniversary of Casablanca, which premiered in
New York City in late 1942.In addition
to researchers and libraries, the book is a great read and will be of interest
to anyone who loves classic cinema and is interested in how a single film can
change the world.
no other filmmaker has blended art and commerce quite like Steven Spielberg.
Just as Spielberg has melded blockbusters with socially relevant films, he has
also conflated his own image as a Jewish outsider who buys whole-heartedly into
American consumer culture. Molly Haskell’s new book on Spielberg, Steven
Spielberg: A Life in Films, published by Yale University Press, takes a deep
dive into these issues in a concise, enjoyable and informative read. As part of Yale’s’ Jewish Lives series,
Haskell is front and center analyzing each Spielberg project from his
background as a Jewish kid growing up in 1950s Arizona who wondered why his was
the only house on the block without a Christmas Tree, embarrassed by his
traditional grandparents. Spielberg is certainly not the only outsider, Jewish
or otherwise, to mine his loneliness into a cinematic career, but as Haskell
illustrates in this monograph, he is the most successful film director to do so.
the text, Haskell describes several occasions where Spielberg consciously
creates his own public persona, actions most similar to Walt Disney, one of
Spielberg’s cinematic heroes- and someone he is often compared to. However, Haskell
compares Spielberg to another giant of classic Hollywood- David O. Selznick.
Selznick balanced his output of popcorn fare and meaningful epics in a career
that matches Spielberg, especially during the 1980s when Spielberg began
producing films of up and coming directors that he had faith in. However,
Haskell lays out times it was difficult for Spielberg to be a mogul. These
include the shooting of Poltergeist where on-set witnesses say Spielberg
directed sequences of the film as opposed to the movie’s credited director,
Tobe Hooper (these accusations hurt Hooper’s career) and later during
Spielberg’s partnership in DreamWorks.
Haskell’s strength lies is in describing in detail how some of Spielberg’s most
iconic films are rooted in his childhood. While it is easier to see this in E.
T. and Close Encounters, it is harder to discern this in the films based on
source material such as Empire of The Sun and Catch Me If You Can. In fact, in
reading this book I was surprised to learn that Spielberg as his most personal
movie cited Catch Me If You Can, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real life
forger Frank Abagnale, Jr. The changes
made when the film was adapted from Abagnale’s memoir reveal why this is the
case: Frank Jr’s mother is given a lover that leads to the break-up of the
family, the singular event that happened in Spielberg’s own young life that he
never really got over. In addition,
Frank Sr. (played by Christopher Walken) still plays a role in the younger
Frank’s life, whereas in real life Abagnale never saw his father again.
Although such changes might be those of the screenwriter Jeff Nathanson,
Spielberg’s execution of the scenes as director adds a personal touch that
another filmmaker might not give the material.
layout of the book informs the filmmaker’s life: there are four beginning
chapters, describing Spielberg’s early life and childhood, arrival at Universal
and his forays into their television department. Then the author gives a
chapter each for Jaws and Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Each subsequent
chapter is titled with at least two, sometimes three of the director’s films.
After Close Encounters, the only chapter that contains as its title a single
film is Empire of The Sun. Haskell cites this movie as Spielberg’s most
meaningful film. With it’s boy protagonist, separation of families, and war
time setting, the movie can be seen as a powerful bridge between Spielberg’s
early family movies and his later, socially important films such as Schindler’s
List and Saving Private Ryan.
Spielberg: A Life in Films is an excellent book and is a must-read for any fan
of Spielberg’s work. It is also an important work for anyone interested in how
the background and childhood of a director gets infused in their film work.
One of the very earliest developers of moving image
technology, Thomas Edison, was also one of the first “snuff” filmmakers. His
film The Execution of Czolgosz (1901)
purported to depict the actual electrocution of the assassin of US President
William McKinley. It was faked of course, but his 1903 film Electrocuting an Elephant was
distressingly real. Audiences have been both fascinated and repulsed by filmic
depictions of death ever since.
Killing for Culture was first published in 1994 as an
illustrated history of mondo documentaries, the infamous Faces of Death video nasties and films which purported to feature
actual death, such as the laughably poor exploitation film Snuff (1975), “the film that could only be made in South America…
where life is CHEAP!” In the twenty years since that first edition film and video
depictions of actual death have become far more prevalent owing to the
proliferation of digital video technology and, of course, the internet. The
authors attempt to explore why this has happened, taking in the rise of filmed
executions by terrorists and murderers who film their own horrific crimes, just
like that depicted in Henry: Portrait of
a Serial Killer (1986), a film itself inspired by real events.
Kerekes and Slater also take in a wide range of sources from
across film history in this rewritten and updated edition of Killing for Culture, much of which will
be of interest to Cinema Retro readers. They provide commentary on Italian
films such as Mondo Cane (1962), the Black Emmanuelle films from Joe D’Amato,
and other cannibal-type films, including the notorious Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Hollywood has also skirted around the
idea of the “snuff” movie, most notably in the George C. Scott-starring Hardcore (1978) from Paul Schrader, and
David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983)
imagines a secret TV station broadcasting live torture and murder to Canada
from across the American border.
Killing for Culture is a depressing yet compelling book.
Given its relentless treatise on the cruelty and brutality of man, it is not a
text you would want to read in one sitting. Packed with both colour and black
and white imagery, coupled with occasionally graphic descriptions, one might
require a strong stomach to make it to the end. It is however a fascinating,
Nietzschean experience of staring into the abyss and seeing what stares
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the History Press, UK in relation to the publication of a major new book about the life and career of Albert Finney by author Gabriel Hershman.
any actor or director of a certain age who was the most influential actor in
British cinema and theatre post-1960 and one name will immediately spring to
More than any other British actor Albert Finney was
responsible for the so-called New Wave, giving free rein to working-class
self-expression in cinema, especially in the landmark film Saturday Night
and Sunday Morning.
Other actors of the same ilk followed: Michael Caine,
Richard Harris, Malcolm McDowell, Terence Stamp and John Thaw, to name but a
few. But Finney was the original pathfinder, as all the above would have
acknowledged, his name synonymous with other British cultural mould-breakers of
the Sixties, such as John Osborne, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and George
Finney was also a supreme professional whose behaviour on
and off set - his perfectionism and precision - is often cited as the perfect
role model for others. Yet Finney is perhaps not as famous as his influence
would suggest. It is remarkable how he became the key figure in post-war
British film, a byword for the new style of acting, without selling his soul or
losing his privacy.
Finney and Audrey Hepburn in "Two for the Road" (1966)
‘I like to observe people rather than be observed,’
Finney once said.
Albert Finney’s name has resonated through the West End
and five decades of film-making but Finney the man remained largely hidden from
view - watchful, chameleon-like, the unnoticed watcher in the woods. A
character actor who managed to submerge beneath the roles he played to portray
such truthful and compelling characters: the surly Arthur Seaton, a sly
Scrooge, a senile ‘Sir’, a drunken yet heroic consul, a cantankerous Churchill
and a curmudgeonly lawyer in Erin Brockovich.
Finney is the one figure everyone genuflects to -
the godfather of modern British film. His influence, even in retirement, still
resonates in all discussions about acting in Britain right up to the present.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The Man. The Legend. “The King of
Cool.” For decades, Steve McQueen has captured our hearts and
imaginations. His canon of films is filled with classic titles such as The
Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles, The
Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillon.
But his career was almost derailed by a doomsday pet
project that took nearly a decade to come to fruition: the ill-fated 1971 film Le
As it stands, Le Mans is the most discussed,
debated, examined and beloved auto racing film of all-time, which is
mind-boggling if the initial reviews of the movie are read. But ask
any motoring aficionado what is their favorite racing movie of all-time, and
nine times out of ten it will be Le Mans with an exclamation point.
Now Don Nunley, the property master for Le Mans and
Marshall Terrill, the star’s preeminent biographer, reveal the true story of
the actor and the movie in the new book Steve McQueen: Le Mans in the
Rearview Mirror (Dalton Watson Fine Books – April 10, 2017).
Featuring hundreds of never-before-seen color photos of
the superstar in his prime and a lively narrative, Steve McQueen: Le Mans
in the Rearview Mirror is an indispensable book on auto racing’s most
respected film, Le Mans and one of cinema’s most beloved stars.
“It was a bumpy ride for all of us. It was the strangest
picture that I ever worked on in three decades of filmmaking. And I can confirm
that it was not a fun experience,” Nunley said. “What was supposed to be a
simple, straightforward movie to make ended up being a five-month nightmare of
epic proportions. I like to think of myself as an easy-going guy who generally
looks for the silver lining in every cloud, but I’m still looking for one in
There were high hopes about the 106-minute motion picture
at the time principal photography commenced in June 1970. Five months later
when filming ended, there was no wrap party, no toasts, no grand farewells;
every-one just quietly went away, thankful their ordeal was finally over.
Steve McQueen was an honest-to-goodness real life racing
fanatic, and Le Mans was supposed to be his cinematic dream come
true. But the movie left him with bitter feelings and lasting emotional dents
in his armor. There were conflicts with the original director, John Sturges,
personal excesses, budget woes, a war with the studio, a shutdown, months of
delays, and an unfortunate accident that left one driver without a leg.
At the time, McQueen was at the height of his
stratospheric popularity after an amazing string of box-office hits. Le
Mans coincided with his mid-life crisis, racking up several casualties
along the way. In one fell swoop, McQueen ended a 15-year marriage, severed
ties with his longtime agent and producing partners, saw his production company
collapse and lost a personal fortune, not to mention control of the film he had
planned to make for over a decade.
He was also in constant fear for his life after learning
on the set that he was on Charles Manson’s “death list.” And at the end of the
snake-bitten picture, McQueen was presented with a seven-figure bill by the
Internal Revenue Service for back taxes.
Decades after crash-landing at the box-office and its
savaging by critics, Le Mans has left an indelible legacy in the auto
racing world and movie industry.
For more on the book and to order from the publisher click here.
# # #
About the Authors:
Since 1959, Don Nunley has worked in the motion picture
industry as a property master, set decorator and production designer. Nunley
also started the first product placement agency in Hollywood, working to get
products into movies and TV shows, including E.T. drinking Coors beer and Tom
Cruise sporting Ray Bans for Top Gun and Risky Business.
Marshall Terrill is the world’s foremost expert on Steve
McQueen and the author of more than 20 books, including best-selling
biographies of McQueen, Elvis Presley and Pete Maravich.
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement from the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation:
Do you have a collection of Harryhausen film posters?
We’d like to speak with you…!
The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation are excited to
be working with esteemed writer Richard Holliss on a book detailing the poster
art of Ray Harryhausen movies. We have been able to scour Ray’s vast poster
archive, and have found numerous rare and fascinating pieces. However, we are
now looking for the help of fans worldwide in order to make this the most
comprehensive collection of Ray Harryhausen posters ever assembled! Artwork
varied greatly across the world, and we just know that there are more hidden
gems out there.
If you think you have any unusual or rare posters, or
just want to share pictures of your collection with us, please get in touch by
emailing email@example.com, with a snapshot of the poster in
question if possible.
If it’s one which we are missing from our collection, we
will arrange to have it scanned. Once the book goes to print, your name will be
printed along with the poster in question, and you will be sent a free copy of
this fantastic publication!
Click here for more info and to listen to podcast segment about the project.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the University Press of Mississippi:
Winnie Lightner (1899–1971) was the first great female
comedian of the talkies. Blessed with a superb singing voice and a gift for
making wisecracks and rubber faces, she rose to stardom in vaudeville and on
Broadway. Then, at the dawn of the sound era, she became the first person in
motion picture history to have her spoken words censored.
In "Winnie Lightner: Tomboy of the Talkies" (University
Press of Mississippi, Hollywood Legends Series), David L. Lightner documents
how Winnie’s hilarious performance in the 1929 musical comedy Gold Diggers of
Broadway made her an overnight sensation. She went on to star in seven other
Warner Bros. features. In the best of them, she was the comic epitome of a
strident feminist, dominating men and gleefully spurning conventional gender
norms and moral values, which earned her the nickname of tomboy of the talkies.
When the Great Depression rendered moviegoers hostile
toward feminism, Warner Bros. crafted a new image of Lightner as glamorous and
sexy and assigned her contradictory roles in which she was empowered in the
workplace but submissive to her male partner at home. Because the new image did
not score at the box office, Lightner’s stardom ended. In four final movies, she
played supporting roles as the loudmouthed roommate and best friend of actress
Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, and Mona Barrie.
Following her retirement in 1934, Lightner faded into
obscurity. Many of her films were mutilated or even lost entirely. David Lightner
has beautifully captured Winnie's early years in vaudeville, her elevation to
revues, and her capturing of the very essence of talking pictures just as they
Tomboy of the Talkies is the first and only biography of
Winnie Lightner and finally gives HER the recognition she deserves as a notable
figure in film history, in women’s history, and in the history of show business.
This book is an evocative and fascinating read that will speak to fans of
DAVID L. LIGHTNER is professor emeritus of history at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Slavery and the Commerce Power: How the Struggle against
the Interstate Slave Trade Led to the Civil War; Asylum, Prison, and Poorhouse:
The Writings and Reform Work of Dorothea Dix in Illinois; and Labor on the
Illinois Central Railroad, 1852-1900: The Evolution of an Industrial
Environment. He became interested in Winnie Lightner because of their shared
surname but is not related to her.
Author Marcus Hearn is generally regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on the history of Hammer horror films, those legendary British films often made with a minimum of production money by exceptionally talented actors, directors and technicians. Hearn's historical knowledge of- and passion for- all things Hammer were put to good use in his superb 2011 book "The Hammer Vault", which drew upon hundreds of rare photos and promotional materials, all gloriously bound in hardback by Titan Books. The good news is that Hearn and Titan have just issued a revised and expanded version that incorporates even more jaw-dropping goodies provided by Hammer itself along with a legion of private collectors. The result is short on text in order to do justice to the rich photographic production values. Hearn manages to convey essential information about the famed British studio that, like it's greatest moneymaker, Dracula- seems to have risen from the dead after decades of inactivity, periodically producing new feature films.
Hearn should especially be commended for covering the early days of the studio when it was primarily known for making Poverty Row-style potboilers on miniscule budgets before the company found its niche with an almost all horror production schedule. These early Hammer films were often very well made and quite entertaining and served as a valuable training ground for the people who would help elevate the studio to legendary status in the late 1950s-1970s. It was Hammer that made character actors such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into screen legends. They also did the same with Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C." and gave prominent roles to a wealth of older actors who routinely found work in the back-to-back horror films that Hammer cranked out. The movies were certainly not all winners. With Hammer's success came the inevitable imitators, most notably Amicus Films, a British studio that shamelessly aped Hammer's style with great success- and occasionally lured away their two most prominent stars, Cushing and Lee. By the late 1960s the studio was losing its touch. With new screen freedoms in terms of censorship, an ill-advised strategy was implemented to replace intelligent scripts with an emphasis on blood, gore and tits and ass. Still, even the worst of the Hammer fare still qualifies to be included in the "Guilty Pleasure" category.
This book offers a remarkable assemblage of rare memorabilia and photographs many of which will be new to even the most hardcore Hammer collector. There also photos of storyboards, props and interesting curiosities that are all beautifully reproduced. I should take the exceptional step of acknowledging the book's designer, Peter Godbold, for his outstanding work on this volume. Many authors (including this writer) have suffered from having at least one of their books compromised by a designer who did not have a feel or appreciation of the subject matter. Gobold's layouts and choices of material elevate every aspect of the book. "The Hammer Vault" is a book you're likely to sink your teeth into (if you pardon the pun) and revisit on many occasions.
If you're a Beatles fanatic, chances are you already caught up with this book which was released last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's second feature film "Help!". Photographer Emilio Lari gets billing on the front cover but the accompanying text inside was written by Alastair Gordon, who provides insights into the film and the filming. There is also a brief (sadly, very brief) foreword by the movie's director Richard Lester. The bulk of the book is dedicated to photos that Lari took on the set of "Help!" as unit stills photographer on the production. It should be noted that Lari only worked on the UK-based sequences, primarily at Twickenham Studios and on the major sequence shot on the Salisbury Plain where the group plays a concert amid some military war games that are going on. Thus we don't get Lari's perspective on what he would have shot for the Bahamas scenes. Nevertheless, the book provides a gold mine of rare and previously unseen photos all captured with great skill by Lari. There is a playfulness apparent in the photos as this was shot during a time period when the lads from Liverpool were still trying to come to terms with their meteoric success. We see them lounging between takes strumming on guitars, smoking cigarettes, John donning a long woman's wig, posing with soldiers, walking among fans and on-lookers and clowning with Richard Lester, who seems to also be having the time of his life. Given what we know about what was to lie before them (i.e infighting, squabbling, Yoko and the ultimate breakup of the band), it's a pleasure to look back on The Beatles during their short-lived period of innocence and wonder, when they could still just concentrate on having fun and creating musical magic. It always struck me as odd that, with the exception of Ringo Starr, the Beatles never showed any interest in pursuing a career on the big screen. (A notable exception was John Lennon's co-starring role in Lester's "How I Won the War"). Each member of the band was a natural on screen but for whatever reason, Starr was the only band member to find success in the medium of cinema. Perhaps they sensed that film would distract from their creative abilities in the field of music. "Help!" had its pleasures but didn't come close to having the enduring impact of "A Hard Day's Night". Their third feature film, the animated "Yellow Submarine", disinterested them to such a degree that they wouldn't even provide their own voices for their cartoon alter-egos and limited their involvement in the project to a brief cameo appearance. Their final film, "Let It Be", was simply a filmed version of a recording session. We'll never know what could have been had the Beatles pursued more cinematic ventures, but this book does provide some wonderful memories of what they did achieve on film.
Why do you want to do a book on Jan-Michael
This is the most common question I received
during the writing of Jan-Michael Vincent:
Edge of Greatness, my book on the
career and life of Jan-Michael Vincent. Jan’s former Hollywood colleagues, most of whom now refer to him in the
past tense, asked me this, and so did Jan’s classmates and friends from
Hanford, California, where Jan was born and raised.
I’ve always been fascinated by unfulfilled
potential, and the tragedy this represents, and I see Jan as the embodiment of
this. Although Jan, as an actor,
possessed all of the ingredients, on a purely physical level, for superstardom,
there was something missing, something very wrong, and I wanted to explore this.
I called the book Edge of Greatness, which suggests great potential but also the
existence of a precipice bordered by the arbitrary forces of fate and
circumstance. Obviously, Jan’s story
turned out very badly, and although there is no clear explanation for the
source of Jan’s lifelong sense of confusion, his eternal torment, I found some
Jan’s hallmark as an actor, at the height
of his career in the early to mid-1970s, was his physical beauty, his
incredible well of vitality, which disguised the characteristics and
personality of a lifelong misfit, an identity that carried destructive
implications for Jan in his career and life. He was cursed with natural ability, in terms
of his screen presence, and with surfing, his one true passion. He got by on this, his god-given gifts, for a
very long time. When this evaporated, turned
inward on him, there was nothing left.
Jan’s alcoholism, which is the bedrock of
not only his downfall but his life, was rooted in his family. It was passed down to him through his
grandfather, Herbert Vincent, and Jan’s father, Lloyd, a World War II veteran
who owned a sign painting business in Hanford, Jan’s hometown. However, it must be pointed out that Jan’s
brother and sister both avoided this fate. “Jan was a born alcoholic from an alcoholic family,” says Bonnie Hearn
Hill, Jan’s classmate at Hanford High, the high school Jan attended between
1959 and 1963. “He would’ve been an
alcoholic had he ended up a sign painter in Hanford. He probably wouldn’t have had access to all
of the drugs.”
Jan wanted to be a surfer. After graduating from Hanford High in 1963,
at the age of nineteen, he enrolled at Ventura College, far away from
Hanford. In early 1965, Jan abruptly
dropped out and went to Mexico in pursuit of a surfing odyssey, which was
halted due to Jan’s draft status. In
1966, after completing basic training, Jan had few prospects. Acting, as a possible career, was a last
resort for Jan, and he really had no choice.
Through his father’s connections, Jan made
the acquaintance of legendary talent agent Richard “Dick” Clayton, who
immediately saw in Jan, purely visually, the heir apparent to James Dean,
Clayton’s friend and former client. Clayton,
following the Rock Hudson model, specialized in identifying good-looking boys,
hunks, and developing them into stars, whether they had talent or not. Clayton’s stable included Harrison Ford and
Nick Nolte, whom Clayton discarded in favor of Jan.
The only acting training Jan received in
his career was at Universal Studios, in the training program, which he entered
in the summer of 1966. Jan was a
natural. The camera loved him, and he
had an instinctive sense of the camera, and he understood how to seize the
crucial moment within a given scene. “Jan
was a “stand and deliver” type of actor,” says Robert Englund, Jan’s friend and
co-star in the film Buster and Billie. “He could, in those short bursts, dominate
the scene he was in, and he was very effective. Jan was about five ten, which was the perfect height in terms of him
relating to the camera. He had
everything going for him.”
Following the Rock Hudson model, Jan was
marketed, beginning in the late 1960s and continuing well into the 1970s, as a
male model. He was a teen idol, a
luridly-developed persona that followed him into the early thirties, when he
was a husband and father.
Vincent starred with Darren McGavin in the acclaimed TV movie "Tribes".
Jan’s first acting role, which Jan received
outside of the Universal bubble, was a supporting part in the western feature The Bandits, which starred Robert
Conrad, who urged Jan to abandon his chosen screen name, Jan Vincent, in favor
of a more manly-sounding name. He became
Michael Vincent, Mike, employing the middle name he’d barely invoked in
Hanford, a moniker he kept until he appeared in the TV production Tribes, the first film Jan was proud
Conrad was the first in a parade of iconic
leading men Jan found himself paired with between the late 1960s and late 1970s. Conrad was followed by John Wayne and Rock
Hudson in The Undefeated, Darren
McGavin in Tribes, Robert Mitchum in Going Home, Charles Bronson in The Mechanic, Gene Hackman in Bite the Bullet, and Burt Reynolds in Hooper.
As a leading man, Jan found his greatest
success, critically and commercially, between 1972 and 1975, with the films Buster andBillie, The Mechanic, The World’s Greatest Athlete, and WhiteLine Fever, a film that was most notable, in spite of its success,
because it represented Jan’s introduction to cocaine, which he was turned onto
by a stuntman. None of these films were
gigantic box office hits, but they were successful and promoted the idea that
Jan was going to become a major star. “Jan was at the beginning of the process of being groomed for stardom
when I met him,” recalls White Line Fever’s
director, Jonathan Kaplan. “He was being
groomed by Peter Guber at Columbia Pictures, which distributed White Line Fever, and Peter told me that
he was convinced that Jan was going to become a major star.”
Tippi Hedren was a model with no acting experience when director Alfred Hitchcock cast her as the female lead in his 1963 classic "The Birds". The announcement surprised the entertainment industry, given Hitchcock's penchant for casting well-known actresses in his films. He saw Hedren by chance in a TV commercial and immediately set his sights on the beautiful blonde. Hedren was recently divorced at the time and in need of a new career in order to care for her young daughter, future actress Melaine Griffith. In her just-published autobiography "Tippi: A Memoir", the 86 year-old actress says that Hitchcock manipulated her when she was vulnerable by signing her into an exclusive contract that gave him dictatorial power over her career. He promised he would cast her in high profile films that would establish her as a major star. However, her dreams were shattered when Hitchcock made overt sexual advances toward her that she spurned. In retribution, Hitchcock allegedly sought revenge by sabotaging her career after their second and last collaboration, the ill-fated "Marnie". For decades Hedren has only hinted at the specifics of what caused the deterioration of her relationship with Hitchcock but in the book she finally gives her side of the story. It is known that Hitchcock was depressed during the filming of "Marnie" and some critics attribute his lack of interest in the film to the sexual tension between him and Hedren. For more click here.
UPDATE: Since publication of Hedren's accusations there has been push-back from people who knew Hitchcock or have studied his career. These people have raised doubts about the veracity of Hedren's claims and point out some facts that seem to contradict the time table in which some of the events allegedy occurred. Click here to read.
We were very sorry to hear that Video Watchdog magazine has announced it is closing down after an astonishing run of 27 consecutive years. Publishers Tim and Donna Lucas cite soaring postage costs combined with the ever-diminishing number of bookstores and newsstands to carry the magazine. In a written statement on the Video Watchdog web site they say they have explored all possible methods of staying in print but could not find a feasible way to do so and that the future of Video Watchdog is up in the air. Over the years, the magazine has presented outstanding coverage of the latest video releases along with insightful interviews, great photos and the talents of supremely informed writers. We at Cinema Retro never viewed Video Watchdog as a competitor, but rather, an inspiration. They faced a familiar problem that all of us who publish traditional magazines in the age of new media face: the web site draws a huge number of readers but the majority of people who read it don't buy the print edition. This is true of every print publication in the world. What many readers who enjoy the web sites don't realize is that, if there isn't a magazine or newspaper to generate funds, the web site, too, will most likely go away. We at Cinema Retro continue to buck the trend but we, too, can ultimately be susceptible to the same factors that sank so many worthy film-related magazines. So many great newspapers and magazines have gone out of business because people just take a fast read of their web sites and call it a day, which is why, to survive, even great institutions like the New York Times only allow a certain number of articles to be read for free during a given month before the reader is told they have to subscribe at least to the on-line edition. So if you enjoy any web site regularly, please do support the venture behind it. On-line journalism is terrific...but there is also something special about a printed publication that you can hold in your hands and peruse at your leisure.
Tim and Donna Lucas provided outstanding insights into the world of classic and cult cinema. We sincerely hope that their considerable talents are used in a new venture to continue their valuable contributions to film journalism. Thanks also to their outstanding "supporting cast" of talented writers. We at Cinema Retro also benefit from the selfless contributions of outstanding writers around the world. Without their efforts, we wouldn't exist. We thank everyone associated with Video Watchdog for a job well done and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
McFarland has released a major book about the life and career of the brilliant but eccentric actor Klaus Kinski. Edited by Matthew Edwards, the book features essays that cover Kinski's work in indisputable classics as well as his appearances in "B" level cult movies.
Here is the official press release:
With more than 130 films and a career spanning four
decades, Klaus Kinski (1926-1991) was one of the most controversial actors of
his generation. Known for his wild tantrums on set and his legendary
collaborations with auteur Werner Herzog--Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu
the Vampyre (1979)--Kinski's intense performances made him the darling of
European arthouse and exploitation/horror cinema. A genius in front of the
camera, he was capable of lighting up the most risible films. Yet behind his
public persona lurked a depraved man who took his art to the darkest extremes.
This first ever collection of essays focusing on Kinski examines his work in
exploitation and art house films and spaghetti westerns, along with his
performances in such cult classics as Doctor Zhivago (1965), Crawlspace(1986), Venus
in Furs (1965), The Great Silence (1968), Android (1982)
and his only directorial credit, Paganini(1989). More than 50 reviews of
Kinski's films are included, along with exclusive interviews with filmmakers
and actors who worked with him.
Rowan & Littlefield Publishing has released a major biography of film director Henry Hathaway. The book, by Harold N. Pomainville, is chock full of fascinating insights into a director who never quite got the acclaim he deserved. The volume will be of special interest to Western fans, given the extensive coverage afforded Hathaway's North to Alaska, 5 Card Stud, Nevada Smith, How the West Was Won, The Sons of Katie Elder, Circus World, Legend of the Lost and John Wayne's Oscar-winning classic, True Grit. Hathaway, like his contemporaries John Ford and Howard Hawks, could be a gruff, no-nonsense character who demanded perfectionism from his cast and crew. While the films he made never quite reached Fordian or Hawksian levels of acclaim, they have stood the test of time. Author Harold N. Pomainville has provided an exhaustive and highly readable account of a master filmmaker. - Lee Pfeiffer
Here is the official press release:
For the casual film fan, Henry Hathaway is not a household
name. But in a career that spanned five decades, Hathaway directed an
impressive number of films and guided many actors and actresses to some their
most acclaimed performances. He also helped launch the Hollywood careers of
numerous actors such as Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Karl Malden, and Charles
Bronson. His work on Niagara established Marilyn Monroe as a major
star. Hathaway also guided John Wayne to his Academy Award-winning performance
in the original version of True Grit.
In Henry Hathaway: The Lives of a Hollywood Director, Harold N.
Pomainville looks at the life and work of this Hollywood maverick. The author
charts Hathaway’s career from his first low budget Western in the early 1930s
through his last film in 1974. In between, he focuses his attention of the
films that brought the director acclaim, including The Lives of Bengal
Lancer (1935)—for which Hathaway received an Oscar nomination—noir
thrillersThe House on 92nd Street and Kiss of Death, and his
documentary-like production of Call Northside 777 with Jimmy Stewart.
In this book, the author captures Hathaway’s extroverted personality and keen
intellect. He befriended some of the best known celebrities of his generation and
was known for his loyalty, generosity, and integrity. He was also notorious in
Hollywood for his powerful ego, explosive temper, and his dictatorial style on
the set. Henry Hathaway: The Lives of a Hollywood Director is a
must-read for anyone interested in the enduring work of this unheralded, but
no-less-noteworthy, master of American cinema.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release
regarding the book “Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey” by Harlan Lebo (Thomas
“This book is a gold mine for fans.”―Kirkus
It is the story of a film masterpiece―how it was created and how it was almost
It is the celebration of brilliant
achievement and a sinister tale of conspiracy, extortion, and Communist witch
It is the chronicle of a plot
orchestrated in boardrooms and a mountaintop palace, as a media company that
claimed to stand for “genuine democracy” defied the First Amendment and schemed
to burn Hollywood’s greatest creation.
Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journeyis
the extraordinary story of the production of Orson Welles’ classic film, using
previously unpublished material from studio files and the Hearst organization,
exclusive interviews with the last surviving members of the cast and crew, and
what may be the only surviving copies of the “lost” final script.
Harlan Lebo charts the meteoric rise to stardom of the
twenty-three-year-old Orson Welles, his defiance of the Hollywood system, and
the unprecedented contract that gave him near-total creative control of his
first film. Lebo recounts the clashes between Welles and studio executives
eager to see him fail, the high-pressure production schedule, and the
groundbreaking results. Lebo reveals the plot by the organization of publisher
William Randolph Hearst to attack Hollywood, discredit Welles, and incinerate
the film. And, at last, he follows the rise ofCitizen Kaneto its status as the greatest film
Cinema Retro's Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer provides the foreword for the new paperback edition of author Michael Munn's acclaimed biography of James Stewart. Here is press release:
Getting to know the real Jimmy Stewart was an
exhilarating experience for film historian and author, Michael Munn. In Jimmy Stewart: The Truth Behind the Legend
(Skyhorse Publishing, A Herman Graf Book),
Munn describes how he met Jimmy Stewart and his wife, Gloria, and how over the
years, Gloria confided in Munn secrets about Stewart that the public never
knew. Some of these will surprise even serious fans: his explosive temper, his
complex love affairs, his service as a secret agent for the FBI, his innate
shyness, and his passionate patriotism.
Through his friendship with Stewart and his wife, Munn
was able to conduct many interviews with the Stewarts as well as their
colleagues and friends, and this personal touch shines through his writing.
This definitive biography reveals the childhood ups and downs that formed this
cinema hero, explores the legendary Henry Fonda–Jimmy Stewart relationship, and
recounts Stewart’s experiences making The Philadelphia Story, Rear
Window, Anatomy of a Murder, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington.
a film historian and the author of twenty-five books, including Stars at War, The Hollywood Connection, and the bestseller John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. As a journalist he has written
extensively on cinema, crime, ancient history, and the World War Two. He lives
in Suffolk, England.
Earnshaw, one of our contributing writers, has trawled his extensive archive of
interviews with prolific directors – accrued over some 20 years of attending
press junkets – and cherry picked a selection of the most worthy material for
his new book "Fantastique: Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Filmmakers" (a title which, on the copyright page, is tantalisingly
suffixed with a parenthesised Volume I).
bulk of the content comprises 30 interviews with genre directors (a few of them
in the company of their stars or writers), each speaking primarily about one of
their films. Adopting an A-Z format by director, each interview is preceded by
cast, credits and a brief synopsis for the film under discussion. There’s a
diverse collective of talent represented too, from the big boys (Quentin
Tarantino discusses 2007's Death Proof,
Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale talk about 2005's Batman Begins, George Lucas promotes 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) to the possibly less
familiar, but no less significant (Frank Khalfoun on his imaginative 2013 restaging
of Maniac, André Øvredaldiscussing
2011's Troll Hunter).
around a third of these interviews were conducted in the more intimate environs
of one-on-one sessions, the remainder derive from press junkets mounted at the
time of each film's release. Whether the responses gleaned to questions posed
under such circumstances can be considered entirely honest or not is debatable,
the very purpose of those (usually contractual) gatherings being for directors
and all manner of other associated creative parties to sell their movie as the
best thing to ever hit the screen; it can often take a bit of distance and the
benefit of hindsight to extrude more candid comments. However, given that most
of the films under discussion here were bona fide critical and financial
successes adds considerably to the veracity of the directors’ words.
anecdotes harbour a ring of familiarity (again, being the product of press events,
they were repeated often), but this reader found enough fresh meat and potatoes
to compensate. Everyone will have their favourite chapters (as likely to be dictated
by one’s liking for a particular film as they are a partiality to the director
at hand); among the highlights for this reader were Tim Burton (on 2000's Sleepy Hollow) revealing Christopher
Walken's apparent fear of horses (he must have had a tough time on the likes of
1978’s Shoot the Sun Down and 1985
Bond caper A View to a Kill too then!),
William Friedkin (on 1973's The Exorcist)
dismissing the stories of the much-publicised curse surrounding the production
and his disinclination to ever integrate the legendarily shelved "spider
walk" sequence into the film (which, in a new cut some years later, was), James Mangold talking about his
multi-layered mystery masterpiece Identity
(2003), and literally everything a tirelessly enthusiastic Frank Henenlotter
had to say in a 2012 retrospective discussing his movie-saturated youth and in
particular his barmy 1982 comic horror film Basket
with a foreword from noted genre writer Bruce G Hallenbeck and rounded off with
a listing of director filmographies, “Fantastique” is an irresistibly worthy
addition to the library of anyone with even a passing interest in fantastic
cinema. Roll on Volume II.
As the introduction explains, this is not an
attempt at a definitive guide but rather to be a companion piece to some of the
films released on the Arrow label; to extend enjoyment and expand upon some of
the cult material for fans old and new. A
significant portion of the text here has been recycled from Arrow's
already-published DVD and Blu-Ray booklets, but this is made clear from the
outset (also noted throughout where relevant) and collectors may appreciate the
comprehensive assortment here in book form nonetheless, alongside new and
Arrow Video's book provides a whistle-stop
tour of the great and the good of cult, horror and genre cinema here, arranged
nicely into sub-sections focusing on cult movies, directors, actors, genres and
distribution respectively. An overview
of the topics conjures up a nostalgic mixture of fare presented on cult TV
shows like Videodrome, or The Incredibly Strange Film Show; as director Ben
Wheatley aptly notes in his foreword, "I'm profoundly jealous of anybody
coming fresh to the back catalogue of world and genre cinema. It's mind expanding and f*****g
great." Long standing cult film fans
may well be more than happy to revisit examinations of Deep Red, Zombie Flesh
Eaters, Withnail and I, The 'Burbs and others whilst those just beginning to discover
these hidden pleasures (of whom I share Ben Wheatley's envy) are well directed
toward classic gems.
Directors like David Cronenberg, Tinto Brass,
Wes Craven and George A. Romero are deservedly examined; whilst it is glorious
to see Lloyd Kaufman (of Troma films) included in such an illustrious list, it
is a shame that no female directors are noted. This is redressed somewhat in the section on actors, with the inclusion
of chapters on Meiko Kaji and Pam Grier alongside Vincent Price and Boris
Karloff. Cult sub-genres under review
range from the well-known spaghetti western and giallo through to the less-obvious
Brazilian 1970s sexploitation genre 'Pornochanchada' and Canuxploitation
(post-1990s Canadian B-movies), amongst others. The final section on distribution is good to see, as the mechanics
behind and social context of cult cinema can often be at least interesting as
the films themselves. These chapters
provide overviews of the early days of cult and exploitation cinema, a look at
the Super-8 format, film festivals, fanzines and the more recent Asian DVD
It is a shame that in a glossy presentation
like this, clearly aimed at fans, where film posters are presented near full-page,
the decision has been made to treat images of film stills like columns of text,
split in half with a thick white line. Nonetheless, this is a very clear and accessible look at cult cinema,
with the inclusion of some less obvious subject matter alongside must-see
classics which would remiss to exclude in a companion such as this.
Ed. Kier-La Janisse & Paul
Corupe (2015) Spectacular Optical Publications
$29.95 CAN / £17.95 UK
Review by Diane Rodgers
Those around in the 1980s may well
remember hysteria about 'video nasties' and the fevered destruction of records in
America bearing the (then new) Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics label, fuelled
by fears of a pervading obsession with evil amongst youth and popular culture. Satanic
Panic studies this moral frenzy from a vast array of perspectives in
fascinating depth, outlining the fears of anxious parents and a confused mainstream
culture about teens supposedly embroiled in Satanic cults and potentially carrying
out ritual abuse, devil worship, suicide or murder at any given moment.
Following the rise of interest
in the occult from the 1960s onward, it's easy to see why Reagan's America,
still reeling from the confusion of Vietnam and the implications for the 'American
Dream', morality and family values, latched onto something so easily
sensationalised as a scapegoat to blame for all of society's problems. Satanic Panic builds this picture
brilliantly throughout; each chapter looks at a different aspect of pop-culture
- specific films, comics, music, TV, RPGs, infamous trials, MTV, home video, evangelists
and preachers, but never dwells on already well-trodden subjects; the editors
have gone to some lengths to find plenty of material covering new ground.
Films like Evilspeak (1981) and 976-EVIL (1988) consider adult anxieties
fantasised onto youth culture and their apparent susceptibility to 'techno
devilry'. Kevin Ferguson suggests that
the real hidden fear is the invasion of telephone and computer technology in
the home. Role playing games like
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) are case studies which faced significant and
widespread criticism from Christian detractors who saw the gaming community as
"a Satanic conspiracy threatening society". Gavin Baddeley (once offered an honorary
priesthood by satanic cult leaderAnton LaVey) discusses an outspoken D&D detractor
Christian personality William Schnoebelen who, by his own admission, used to be
a Satanist and a vampire before becoming 'born again' and evangelising on the
evils of RPGs. More often than not, here
and throughout the book, it is shown to be these detractors (rather than the
merely rebellious teen participants), who believe in the power of the
supernatural and the evils of magic in a very real way and thus cause plenty of
Paul Corupe covers the
Christian comic art of Jack T. Chick who, amongst many dubious choices, gave a
platform to controversial figure Dr. Rebecca Brown who lost her medical licence
in 1984 for misdiagnosing patients (blaming sickness on demon manifestations
and witchcraft, amongst other causes), suffering herself from paranoid
schizophrenia and demonic delusions. Satanic Panic 's host of writers
(including experts, enthusiasts and academics) frequently argue the case
successfully; the loudest detractors of the 'Satanic Panic' were actually often
the ones causing damage, and usually in their pursuit for fame, greed or
notoriety. There are serious cases here;
that of Michelle Smith and her notorious Michelle
Remembers memoir (1980), co-written by therapist Dr. Lawrence Pazder, about
Satanic ritual abuse, detailing physical, psychological and sexual
torture. From the evidence Alexandra
Heller-Nicholas gives, Pazder cashed in on and sensationalised what may have
been a far more unremarkable but no less tragic case of child abuse. The infamous case of Ricky Kasso (who
savagely murdered a fellow teen in 1984) is also highlighted for discussion,
influential on films like River's Edge
(1986) and songs by bands like Sonic Youth (Satan is Boring, 1985).
It is easy to forget the size
of such a moral panic from almost 40 years ago, but Joshua Benjamin Graham's 'Fundamentalist
readings of occult in cartoons of the 1980s' is a reminder of its full extent;
it seems laughable now that worry about violence and Satanism was so widespread
at the time that people thought a cartoon He-Man calling on the power of
Greyskull actually meant that "our children are being taught by TV today
to call on demons..."! Stacy
Rusnak's perceptive analysis of the demonization of MTV details battles over
(American) family values and moral issues like abortion, pornography and drugs
and how the explosion of music video was challenging to the dominant
hegemony. Rusnak explains how MTV gave
strong anti-authoritarian representation to the jeans, leather jacket and
shaggy hair generation and thus became a target in itself for Tipper Gore and
other wives of high-ranking members of Congress who founded the Parent's Music
Resource Centre (PMRC) ; "as though MTV was more accountable for America's
children than the parents".
A centrepiece to the book, and
the entire Satanic moral panic itself, is Alison Lang's chapter on the Geraldo
Rivera TV special Devil Worship: Exposing
Satan's Underground (1988). Most chapters
in the book at least refer to this inflammatory show, due to its notoriety and influence
on the outrage of the time, which the New York Times described as an
"obscene masquerade". From
Lang's description, Rivera's programme sounds like Chris Morris' Brasseye Paedogeddon! special (2001), an
intentionally outrageous parody of tabloid TV on yet another moral panic of the
modern age. However, this doesn't make
Rivera's reportage any less shocking. His scandalous claim of 1 million practising Satanists in America
carrying out sex abuse pornography and satanic ritual abuse (which Lang points
out was a phenomenon since debunked by FBI) was entirely unsubstantiated. Rivera uses no scientific or academic
evidence for his claims, but rather conjecture, opinion and bullying to extract
rapid fire soundbites from his guests, requesting they use words of "...
no more than two syllables - we're dealing with an audience with the mental
capacity of 13-year-olds here". From contemptuous to downright offensive, Lang summarises Rivera's show
as hilarious and troubling; pure sensationalist 'entertainment'.
Many chapters in the book
concern music, film or pure pulp fiction that were intended as such
'exploitainment', cashing in on the easily sensationalised, but the outrage and
hysteria caused are clearly where the danger lies in Satanic Panic. The book is a
mine of information with plenty of full-page images, posters and stills to whet
your appetite further, with a deliciously glossy set of full colour images at
the back. Topics cover everything
relevant from the kitsch, fun and tabloid to sincerely perceptive and philosophical,
I already have a rapidly growing must-see list of films, comics and TV specials
to follow up next!
It is important to remember
seriously, however, that for every perceptive adult that sees such a movement
of purported Satanism as merely a teenage "... rejection against the
standards their parents represent..." (as Leslie Hatton quotes Revered
Graham Walworth, a pastor local to the Ricky Kasso case), there will be an
outraged Tipper Gore or fundamentalist group looking for something or someone to
blame for all societal problems. Lisa
Ladoucer, writing about the PMRC and heavy metal, cites the devastating case of
the West Memphis Three. Three teenagers were tried, convicted and jailed for
almost 20 years for the murder of three young boys based on no real evidence
other than a suspicion that one of the teens may be a devil worshipper as he
had expressed interest in metal music and the occult; new DNA evidence led to
their release in 2011. That, Ladoucer
writes, "...is the power of Satan."
World of SHAFT: A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films and
Steve Aldous (Published by McFarland $35), 260 Pages, Softcover, ISBN: 9780786499236)
Review by TIM GREAVES
can be few devotees of popular 1970s cinema unfamiliar with Gordon Parks'
gritty 1971 box office hit Shaft;
even those who've not seen it will certainly have heard of it. The movie
spawned two sequels, Shaft's Big Score
(1972, also directed by Parks) and Shaft
in Africa (1973, helmed by John Guillermin), as well as a short-lived
television series. Yet the iconic title character, black private detective John
Shaft – personified on film and TV by Richard Roundtree, and gifted with a
piece of theme music (by Isaac Hayes) as instantly identifiable and iconic as
‘The James Bond Theme’ – was actually the creation of a white author, Ernest
Tidyman, whose first novel originally hit the shelves in 1970. A paragon for
many black Americans during a heated period of struggle against racial
oppression, over time John Shaft cultivated a huge fan base across the world,
with readers and viewers of multiple nationalities, race and colour thrilling
to his literary and cinematic escapades.
Steve Aldous has channelled his boundless passion for all things Shaft into a
thrilling new book, "The World of SHAFT: A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic
Strip, Films and Television Series". At this point I should confess that despite
having sat through the movies on countless occasions, I've not seen a single
episode of the TV show, nor read any of Tidyman's seven novels (published
between 1970 and 1975, the final one concluding with the character’s demise); however,
the enthusiasm that emanates from every page of Aldous's book has certainly
inspired me to rectify that oversight.
off with foreword by David F Walker (instrumental in reviving Shaft in both comicbook
and novel form), and some background information aptly classified as "The
Shaft Phenomenon", there follows an informative chapter devoted to creator
Ernest Tidyman. We're then plunged into extensive information and commentary appertaining
to each of the man's novels (including contemporary reviews, as well as
location and subsidiary character detail), the story behind several lamentably
failed attempts to launch a syndicated comic strip in the early 70s
(illustrated with some of the original trial panels), and everything you could
want to know about the 7-episode TV show (originally broadcast between 1973 and
1974), in which the character was again portrayed by Richard Roundtree, but in
an unpopular watered-down incarnation designed to avoid offending the perceived-to-be
delicate sensibilities of armchair audiences. "Cinema Retro" buffs
will doubtless revel in the extensive detail – the only go-to quick reference
you’ll ever need – on the production of the films (though there's a slight over-emphasis
on cast and crew bio), which again includes some invaluable contemporary
critical reaction, as well as coverage of John Singleton's respectable 2000
re-imagining with Samuel L Jackson occupying the title role. The book concludes
with detailed appendices and a bibliography.
research benefited immensely from having had access to a collection of
Tidyman's original private paperwork, which provided an inestimable
resource and subsequently the backbone of the book. Adorned with an
action-packed "come on, pick me up and buy me, you know you want to"
cover (the movie poster art for Shaft's
Big Score), it has to be noted that "The World of SHAFT" is
otherwise a tad light photographically speaking, but it's nevertheless an
essential acquisition both for those already familiar with the character and
the curious who are eager to be educated. One thing's for sure: you'll
certainly depart its pages with the feeling there can't possibly be anything
left to learn – or at least worth knowing – about the legend that is John
To identify editor-publisher Richard Klemensen’s Little Shoppe of Horrors as simply a
fanzine is to do it a grave disservice. Such an appellation too often denotes an enthusiastic but decidedly
If you’re a dyed-in-wool-fan of fantastic cinema and were
knocking about in the late 1960s or early 1970s, you’ve probably gambled and subscribed
- at least once – to such a fanzine as described above. One mimeographed or perhaps having suffered the
ill-effect of poor off-set printing, lousy photo-reproduction, and variable
levels of scholarship. The earliest
issues of Little Shoppe of Horrors
(henceforth to be referred to as LSoH)
may have exhibited some of these mechanical deficiencies on inception, but over
its forty-three year history the content within its pages has never been short
of brilliant. LSoH is simply without
peer and has no comparable challenger in its field of endeavor; it’s indisputably
the most venerated encyclopedia of all things Hammer and British horror.
You’ve never heard of the magazine, you say? Well, if you’ve ever bought a useful book within
the last forty years that documented the history of British horror films - or one
of the better researched biographies of such key players as Christopher Lee or
Peter Cushing - you’re tangentially in debt to LSoH. Since its founding in June 1972, the resources of the
magazine have been plundered by the genre’s finest scholars. I suppose this is only fair. Many, if not all, of the most respected writers
painstakingly researching the tradition have earned their earliest bylines contributing
to the magazine. There’s hardly a figure
associated with British horror cinema, either in front or behind the camera,
whose stories, large and small, have not been annotated and shared within this
great magazine’s pages.
The fact that LSoH has
been based since its beginning in Des Moines, Iowa, half-a-continent and one
ocean away from the Hammer production offices in London, England, is simply mind-boggling. Not a world way, perhaps, but close,
especially in the pre-internet age. What’s
equally amazing is that, with the exception of the first six issues
(1972-1980), the succeeding twenty-nine have been published in the fallow years
following the studio’s sad descent into bankruptcy and irrelevancy in 1979. So the magazine has faithfully served these
past thirty-six years as the primary torch-bearer and celebrant of the studio’s
From the glossy and colorful artistically rendered front
and back covers to the impeccable research of their stable of writers – and in
spite of an indisputably erratic publishing schedule – LSoH has remained the nexus for all things British horror. The latest, issue no. 35, published October
2015, proves the passing of time has not even remotely dimmed the magazine’s
reputation for superlative reportage.
This spanking brand new issue features a gorgeous and
colorful fold-out cover, courtesy of artist Jim Salvati and equally impressive back cover art by Bruce Timm. Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing and lead
actress Susan Denberg are evocatively rendered in an atypical mad-scientist laboratory
scene from Hammer’s classic Frankenstein Created Woman (1967). Some twenty-eight of
the magazine’s ninety-eight pages are, not coincidentally, dedicated to an exhaustive
examination of all aspects of the film’s
production; synopsis’s, interviews, set-design sketches, a bevy of rare
photographs, clippings etc. A further
twenty-three pages examines Terence Fisher’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) in equally acute detail. There’s also a look-back at the early fan-journal
Fantastic Worlds, part of the
magazines series “A History of Horror Film Fanzines.” As always, there’s a
plethora of book and DVD/Blu-Ray reviews, as well as a provocative interview
with actor Barry Warren (Kiss of the
Vampire (1963), Devil Ship Pirates
(1964) and Frankenstein Created Woman
(1967). The former article is the
seventh installment of the magazine’s “British Character Actors” series. There’s also the always erudite and
worthwhile letters to the editor column.
In June of 2015 we lost the great Sir Christopher Lee
and, in memoriam, the editor has exhumed an interview, courtesy of his friend
the late Bill Kelly, of the legendaryt actor. In this “open conversation” from the early 1990s, Lee reminisces about
his career and his many roles, including his iconic turn as Count Dracula in seven
Hammer productions and several more instances in continental knock-offs. In yet another segment, the author Tom
Johnson (Hammer Films: An Exhaustive
Filmography) offers an affectionate memoriam to Lee and shares both amusing
and poignant glimpses of the times their paths crossed. There are several moments when both Lee’s and Johnson’s
observations and ruminations are as laugh-out-loud funny as they are revealing.
Let’s face it. You
need this. With their in-depth coverage
of every aspect of the best – and lesser efforts – of British horror cinema, Little Shoppe of Horrors has… well, left
no headstone unturned.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT OFFICIAL WEB SITE FOR LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS.
Derek Pykett (Published by BearManor Media £20.00), 444 Pages, Softcover, ISBN:
9781593938833 (also available £26.50 Hardcover)
Review by Tim Greaves
of the greatest films of all time were made at MGM British Studios and some of Hollywood's
most prolific names laid foot upon the stages there. In an eminently readable
trip down memory lane, “MGM British Studios: Hollywood in Borehamwood” is a bounteous
treasure trove primarily comprising interesting and amusing memories of some of
those who had the privilege to work there. Sub-titled "Celebrating 100 Years
of the Film Studios of Elstree/Borehamwood", the tome boasts a voluminous collection
of stories from those who worked in front of and behind the camera back in
those halcyon days – some names are familiar, others not so much, but all of
them have tales to tell; if nothing else, author Derek Pykett deserves an award
for his prowess in undertaking the unenviable task of assembling the wealth of
material into concise and readable form.
Following no less than five forewords (from Rod Taylor, Nicholas Roeg, Olivia
de Havilland, Virginia McKenna and Kenneth Hyman), the author provides some background
information on the six studios that operated in the Borehamwood and Elstree area
before moving forward through the decades, with mention – albeit not always
extensive – of every production that came to fruition there. Anecdotal material
is present in abundance and there are some marvellous nuggets to be found
within. Just a few standouts for this reviewer: Christopher Lee reminiscing over
some wordplay with Errol Flynn on the set of The Dark Avenger that resulted in the unfortunate (and permanent)
disfigurement to one of his fingers; Brian Cobby's amusing recollections of his
embarrassment over appearing starkers in For
Members Only (US: The Nudist Story;
and Bette Davis's pithy remarks after working with Alec Guinness on The Scapegoat – "[He] is an actor
who plays by himself, unto himself. In this picture he plays a dual role so at
least he was able to play with himself." (Try reading that and not hearing
her acid tongue spitting out the words.)
Additionally there is some terrific trivia dotted throughout, all drawn from
the files of the "Borehamwood & Elstree Post", with stories ranging
from an alleged alcohol-related motoring accident involving Trevor Howard and (in
a separate incident) Burt Lancaster's chauffeur driven car being damaged in a
collision, to an electrician being taken to court and fined the princely sum of
£1 for assaulting a colleague on set.
It has to be said that some passages leave one feeling a tad short-changed, for
example the coverage of the quartet of ‘Miss Marple’ films starring Margaret
Rutherford – shot between 1961 and 1964, and which this reviewer happens to
adore – that amounts to barely more than a page (though I was intrigued to
learn that Marple's cottage in the film, located in Denham Village, was some 20
years earlier John Mills's family home). However, one also appreciates that
given the breadth of the subject as a whole, brevity is paramount in holding
the reader's attention and Pykett's engaging and fact-laden prose keeps things
moving swiftly along, resulting in a captivating page-turner. Where the text is
a little more in depth – information focussing on producer brothers Edward and
Harry Danziger and the section devoted to the production of The Dirty Dozen, for example – there’s
some fabulous reading, also found in the slightly meatier pieces devoted to
Hitchcock and Kubrick.
The 1967 boxoffice smash "The Dirty Dozen" starring Lee Marvin was among the many classic films shot at MGM British Studios.
out with three expansive photo sections featuring shots of the sets, the stars,
the films and a wealth of behind a camera treasures (wherein fans of TVs Richard the Lionheart and Where Eagles Dare are particularly well
catered for), a pair of chronologically arranged filmography chapters, and a
reproduction of the text from a 1950s promo booklet put out but the studio to
extol the virtues of its facilities, "MGM British Studios: Hollywood in
Borehamwood" is a recommended addition to the bookshelf of anyone with
even a passing interest in the golden years of movie-making in Britain.
Films in Global Cinema: The World Beyond Disney
by Noel Brown and Bruce Babington (Published by I.B. Taurus, £62), 272 Pages, Hardcover,
BY TIM GREAVES
a well-researched and eminently readable series of essays from around a dozen
contributing writers, “Family Films in Global Cinema” delivers just what its
title promises. Rather than focussing on a particular era or subgenre, editors
Noel Brown and Bruce Babington have cast their net far wider; titles spanning
many decades and from all corners of the globe are afforded textual equality
with some of the more readily acknowledged classics. Fancy reading refreshing
opinions on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate
Factory or A Nightmare Before
Christmas (the latter rejected by Disney, who must still be kicking
themselves today)? They’re here, nestled alongside plenty of titles of which
this reviewer was largely unaware. Of particular interest was a chapter devoted
to the anime features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, of which I have long been aware
but actually knew very little about.
Had it ever occurred to you that Kubrick’s 2001:
A Space Odyssey is a “family film”? Prepare to be educated by a piece that
pitches an intriguing case for it being so. And any book savvy enough to devote
several pages (and an illustration) to Lionel Jeffries’ oft-overlooked
masterpiece Baxter! certainly gets
a scholarly approach to its subject, “Family Films in Global Cinema” is fully
annotated and brimming with facts, figures and opinions that are never less
than informative, with some of the minutiae not only proving interesting but in
some cases giving one pause to marvel at how attitudes to movies have changed dramatically
over the years. For example, it’s remarked upon how 1932’s The Island of Lost Souls was refused a certificate in the UK until
1958 – and even then cuts were imposed – and yet it now resides intact on the
DVD platform bearing a family-friendly PG classification.
things off there is a select bibliography and filmography; it’s guaranteed
there’ll be at least a handful of titles included you’ll feel compelled to seek
emanating from an independent publishing house rouses expectation of a need to
dig deep. The £62 price tag here – for a book that on face value looks like it
should be closer to half that, or less – could regrettably do it damage from a
sales perspective; I’d suggest quite a number of potentially interested
purchasers will be dissuaded. The fact that it’s only sparsely illustrated
won’t help its case either, nor that what is
here is poorly reproduced and in black & white only; for such a
colourful subject, some colour wouldn’t have gone amiss (even though that would
inevitably have pushed the price up even further). Yet all said, this is a hugely
recommended read and if you can afford to stretch to it then it’s unlikely
you’ll come away disappointed.
The Wall Street Journal has reviewed Cinema Retro columnist
Brian Hannan’s new book The Making of The Magnificent Seven: Behind the
Scenes of the Pivotal Western (McFarland Publishing). In a
1,000-word review David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch, called the
book “impressive” and “authoritative” and concluded that it was “a story
well-told.” You can hear Brian Hannan talking live about his book on the
U.S. radio show Talk of the Town with Larry Rifkin on Friday
this week (October 9) and at the Bradford Widescreen Festival on Sunday October
18 when he will introduce a special showing of The Magnificent Seven and
sign copies of his book.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
years of Tremors celebrated with first ever book on the cult horror phenomenon
brand new Kevin Bacon interview
October 2015’s Tremors 5: Bloodlines
paperback and ebook 23 July 2015
all the questions you never knew you had about the Tremors series’
White, The Projection Booth podcast
years after cult horror comedy, Tremors, flopped at the box office before becoming
a hit on home video, new book Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to
Tremors is set to shed light on the film’s rocky road to the big screen with
fresh insight from more than 55 cast and crew, including star Kevin Bacon.
first exploded onto cinema screens in 1990, detailing events in the small town
of Perfection, Nevada that had come under attack from giant underground
creatures, dubbed Graboids. Starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two handymen
trying to save the townsfolk, plus Michael Gross as survivalist Burt Gummer, the
film was a modest success on its initial release, going on to become a smash on
VHS and spawning four sequels and a short-lived TV series.
Film journalist Jonathan Melville has spent two years interviewing Tremors’ cast
and crew, including stars Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire,
director Ron Underwood and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, perhaps best
known to modern audiences as the executive producer of The Walking Dead. The
book also looks at each of the sequels and the 13-episode TV series.
addition, the book charts the 10-year journey from script to screen of October
2015’s Tremors 5: Bloodlines, the controversial sequel which sees the return of
Michael Gross as monster hunter, Burt Gummer, minus the creators of the
book also includes:
discovered and previously unpublished photos from the set of Tremors
uncovered sketches from the original poster designs
reprints from the Tremors storyboards, including deleted scenes
information on Jonathan Melville, author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial
Guide to Perfection can be found at www.tremorsguide.com.
ISBN 978-0-9933215-0-4 – 304pp, B&W, RRP £14.99 / $22.99
ISBN 978-0-9933215-1-1 – RRP £5.99 / $6.99
Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Perfection features interviews with more
than 55 people involved in Tremors (1990), Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996),
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors: The Series (2003), Tremors 4:
The Legend Continues and Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015).
include Tremors co-creators/writers/producers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, director
Ron Underwood, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, producer Jim Jacks, actors
Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Ariana Richards, Charlotte Stewart,
Tony Genaro and Robert Jayne.
book also includes interviews with cast and crew from Tremors 2: Aftershocks,
including actors Helen Shaver and Christopher Gartin; Tremors 3: Back to
Perfection, including actors Shawn Christian and Susan Chuang; Tremors 4: The
Legend Continues, including actors Lela Lee and unit production manager Jon
Kuyper; and Tremors: The Series, including actors Victor Browne, Marcia
Strassman and Gladise Jiminez.
FROM FRANCE WITH LOVE: GENDER AND IDENTITY IN FRENCH
By Mary Harrod (I. B. Tauris, £62/ $99)264
pages. Hardback. ISBN: 9781784533588
Review by Diane
French romantic comedy has been enjoying
something of a popularity boom, beginning slowly in the 1990s and showing no
sign of waning two decades later. The
'comédie romantique' (still a relatively new term in the French language) now
firmly standardised as a popular film genre in France. The rom-com genre has outperformed all others
financially, responsible for around 50% of domestic box office takings and the
lion's share of French film production. So why, Mary Harrod poses, has the area been so badly neglected by
This book is not, perhaps, for those with a
casual or passing interest in the genre; some degree of academic knowledge and
awareness of related literature is assumed here. However, throughout the study, Harrod makes a
strong case for academic attention and the need for further study on this
contemporary cycle of films. Drawing
from extensive research, and a feminist framework, we are presented with how
there has been a slow shift towards promotion of the female point of view in more
recent films, with a large proportion of female writers and directors taking
the helm. This shift may seem late in
coming in comparison to the rest of the world, but perhaps unsurprising for a
country which didn't allow women to vote until 1944 and generally has exhibited
delayed liberalisation in terms of modern female life in France.
Harrod discusses this relatively new
phenomenon and newness of privileging female subjectivity from a number of
different perspectives and cites over a hundred films as examples here, which in
themselves clearly highlight some of the difficulties in categorising the
genre. Rom-coms veer from the
traditional boy-meets-girl narrative, to family-centred ensemble pieces, to other
recent trends such as rom-coms featuring male duos; male buddy 'bromance'
The rom-com is historically seen as frivolous
and lacking in substance; deprecated as an object unworthy of study, not least
in France where critics have tended to denigrate domestic efforts as
"pathetic imitation[s] of former Hollywood models". However, Harrod argues, comedy itself is
highly regarded in literature and can be profoundly revealing about the social
world and, of course, the very notion of romantic love is frequently
central in western fiction, remaining
irresistibly alluring throughout the ages. So, perhaps the fact that romance can be used as forum for women to
explore their identity, emotional lives and experiences is the very thing that
makes it at once historically overlooked by patriarchy and yet invaluable in
terms of social significance.
Harrod examines the French version of
romantic love, alongside changing dynamics of contemporary notions of the
couple. Although there are a huge number
of film titles mentioned in passing, there are a few more engaging case studies
which allow for detailed understanding of the issues under discussion. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie (2001); one of
France's most successful rom-coms ever to make a mark at the international box
office, is studied here as an example of the genre before it was
well-established in the domestic market. Harrod remarks upon a number of atypical elements with the film;
although having a feel-good Hollywood style ending, it displays notions of
disjointed and fragmented families, with the central couple more akin to
childlike friends rather than romantic lovers (the film also has suffered
allegations of misogyny and racism).
This study often, intentionally, raises
more questions than it answers - Harrod notes the "babbling polyphony of
discourses" apparent within the genre from race, religion, sexuality and
commitment, to defining the very construct of 'romance' itself. The fact that there are so many areas of
question is what makes Harrod's work feel like it's bursting at the seams;
further research is clearly called for to even begin to adequately cover all
the issues raised here - but the fact that they are acknowledged is a good start.
Timeless human issues such as male and
female positioning to commitment and adultery are frequently deliberated in
rom-coms, views on which have changed over time. In French cinema, adultery has traditionally
been seen as something of a joke; almost an endearing trait in men and integral
to the experience of marriage. Harrod notes that, though the notion still persists
and is far from dead, adultery has been significantly deglamourised and is significantly
less socially acceptable in modern French cinema (and, we infer, French
society). Female desire is increasingly
prominent in such films but, as Harrod points out, even in films made by women,
female promiscuity seems to result in emotional emptiness at best (using Bridget
Jones as a point of comparison).
The significance of the effect of cinema on
society (and vice versa) should not be underestimated; changing social
attitudes has been linked with audiences taking cues from their cinematic
hero(ine)s or, at least, are reflected in them. An important example Harrod gives here is the film Pédale Douce (1996) which
had significant impact on the case for gay and lesbian equality and made a key
contribution to legal change for same sex couples to adopt children in France.
Alongside foregrounded representations of
alternative or queer gender positions, Harrod discusses the emergence of new
types of heroine, and conflicting versions of womanhood represented by French
female stars. She presents Audrey Tautou
and Marion Cotillard as unthreatening, childlike versions of femininity whereas
more modern trends seem to allow for more comic heroines; favouring intelligence
over naïvety and becoming, therefore, more believably realistic rather than
(male) romantic fantasy. Romauld et
Juliette (1989) is noted as a key departure from conforming to norms of
physical attractiveness of French female protagonists (especially in terms of
slimness), but it remains that the rom-com genre still contributes
substantially to traditions of idolising the female body (as opposed to achievement). Harrod notes the double standard in attitudes
here; in 2005's Je préfère qu'on reste amis, Gerard Depardieu is described as "just
within the bounds of healthy size in this film" (having put on a
substantial amount of weight in recent years), yet continues to be cast in
leading roles - the same would be unlikely for a female lead.
The history of women needing to be
'rescued' - usually a low status woman by a rich man (à la Pretty Woman, 1990) -
also still pervades; the two most recent rom-coms Harrod saw at the time of concluding
this study, she says, both show career goals for women as unfulfilling, even
belittling, which, in the case of male characters is invariably the
opposite. She also addresses the still
current hot topic of age difference in the coupling of stars; many male
co-stars are at least 20 years senior to their partner (in the 1999 film Venus
Beauté, Audrey Tautou is a scandalous 49 years younger than co-star Robert
A particularly interesting pattern that
arises here is that, increasingly, characters in French romantic comedies
express desire to be part of a family unit; well beyond simply the romantic
desire of coupledom. This is highly
significant in a social context - the fact that a high proportion of female
directors opt for the family ensemble narrative adds fuel to the concept that romance
for men ends with conquest whilst for women it is a more of an ongoing
Harrod gives a broad picture of the evolution
of the nature of family as a social unit in film, into less conventional
formats; seen in the shift towards ensemble rom-coms, the dethroning of
marriage as a central goal, alongside inclusion of same-sex relationships. The emergence of the nurturing father is
discussed also - with Trois hommes et un couffin in 1985 (later remade in the
USA as Three Men and a Baby); although less prominent into the '90s and beyond,
nonetheless, motherhood for women became less often an exclusive life-goal.
Whilst Harrod's book may not be for the
casual rom-com viewer, she argues her case well: this is clearly an area of
distinct social significance for film studies, unfairly neglected and even
scorned by scholars and critics alike. Hopefully there will be enough academic interest in the near future for the
fascinating questions she raises to be taken on board and developed by others.
Cinema Retro Lee Pfeiffer recently moderated a book signing event for authors Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer in relation to their new release "Bob Crane: Sex, Celebrity and My Father's Unsolved Murder", which has been published by the University Press of Kentucky. The event was held at The Coffee House Club, a legendary 100 year-old private venue for the arts in New York that has boasted such illustrious members as Sir Winston Churchill, Robert Benchley, Basil Rathbone and Henry Fonda. The book details the impact that the murder of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane had on his family, specifically his son Robert, who was in his early twenties when the grisly crime occurred in 1979. Bob Crane had risen to fame playing avuncular, sharp-witted "guy next door" types. He was also a highly talented musician who enjoyed moonlighting as an acclaimed drummer. In private life, he was a very complex man. As outlined in the book, he was capable of being a loving, hard-working father and husband who always ensured that his family was provided for. However, he also had many personal demons, most of them revolving around an obsession with sex that he was never able to control.
(L to R: Christopher Fryer, Leslie Crane, Desly Fryer, Robert Crane)
(L to R): Robert Crane, Lee Pfeiffer, Christopher Fryer.
From his first days of stardom on TV in the early 1960s, Crane's unrestrained attempts to satisfy his libido led to great distress in his family. He routinely bedded the seemingly endless array of willing female lovers. When his long-suffering wife finally ended their marriage, whatever structure still remained in Crane's life evaporated. A second marriage to an actress who was a regular on "Hogan's Heroes" led to even more consternation. When "Hogan's Heroes" was finally canceled after a long run, Crane found himself estranged from his second wife. He was trying to support both ex-spouses and his own lifestyle even as his star power dwindled, in no small part due to his personal excesses. Crane had always been interested in the latest video and audio technology. His friendship with a creepy hanger-on named John Carpenter proved to be problematic in the long run. Carpenter, who was in the video technology business, kept Crane up to date with the latest video cameras, which the actor used to document his sex sessions with countless lovers. In return, Carpenter benefited from being included in group sex sessions that were arranged by Crane for the purposes of being filmed. (Contrary to popular legend, Robert Crane told Lee Pfeiffer that he has never found evidence that any of these women were filmed surreptitiously or without their consent.) Ultimately, Bob Crane's fortunes had dwindled to the point that he had to make a living by performing a middling comedy stage play on the dinner theater circuit. He was doing so for a Phoenix engagement when his lifeless body was discovered in his rented apartment there. Crane had been brutally bludgeoned to death with the tripod of a camera. Over the decades, the consensus was that Carpenter, who had had a falling out with Crane, was the likely suspect. He had motive and opportunity but so many years passed before he was tried for the crime that the case was largely circumstantial and he was found not guilty. During the course of the book event, both Crane and his old friend and co-author Fryer, each discussed their own theories about who was likely to blame for the murder, which was the subject of Paul Schrader's film "Auto Focus". (For the record, Robert Crane remains convinced that Carpenter was a culprit but leaves the door open for involvement by another person, whose identity might surprise readers.) The book very effectively interweaves Bob Crane's life and career with the very dramatic life of his son. Robert recounts numerous personal obstacles in a compelling and moving manner. Here was a young man who had to contend with his father's murder at an early age, then the loss of his friend, mentor and employer, John Candy. He would later also lose his beloved first wife to a terminal illness. It all makes for a highly readable page turner.
you’re a movie fan, you probably have a book shelf at least partly filled with
books about John Wayne, but I doubt any of those books reveal a more complete
story of The Duke than author Scott Eyman’s “John Wayne: The Life and Legend.”
author of acclaimed biographies on Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer and John
Ford, Eyman was reluctant to write a bio of John Wayne. “After spending six
years on John Ford, the last thing I wanted to do was saddle up and head back
to Monument Valley, either metaphorically or geographically. Ten years and two
books later, it seamed like a much better idea.” He knew the Duke, “… slightly,
but until I invested four years in research I couldn’t claim any special
insights into the man other than witnessing his good humor, his courtesy, his
first met Wayne, “… in August 1972. He was not merely big, he was huge, with
hands that could span home plate–the largest hands I have ever seen on a human
being.” A man with “… a surprising graciousness of manner and a quiet way of
speaking.” He further described the Duke, “… a good-sized man could stand behind
him and never be seen.” Duke was larger than life and a man known to family and
friends for speaking intelligently on almost any topic.
book is as much a joy to read as it is re-watching John Wayne’s movies. It’s
the origin story of a self-made man who became John Wayne. Movies were as
important to him as his family and his friends and this book lives and breathes
The Duke. It includes tales from his childhood, his collage years, his start in
Hollywood, lifelong friends, his first big break and the wilderness years that
followed; a decade of forgettable “B” movies which served as his acting school
and which defined his work ethic until the end of his life.
Wayne in the 1970 Western "Chisum"
the Duke’s origins were indeed humble, he became a man obsessively protective
of his on-screen image and box office status as a screen icon while at the same
time being known for his outspoken political views and his sometimes oblivious
nature of the changing world around him. He was both Duke Morrison the private
citizen, and John Wayne the movie star. While there are many great actors, most
are defined by one or two truly great movies. John Wayne fans and cinema
scholars alike can easily name more than a dozen John Wayne movies that are commonly
regarded as genuine cinema classics.
takes the time to explain the complicated nature of John Wayne’s politics
without being an apologist. Wayne’s political views evolved from his early years
and defined him almost as much as his movies. Eyman does an outstanding job explaining
and clarifying Wayne’s personal philosophy with anecdotes from family, friends
and colleagues; many of whom disagreed with the Duke’s politics, but the common
thread throughout the book is that almost everyone who knew him, even if they
disagreed with him, liked him and respected him. He would listen to people and
allowed them to say what was on their mind. Even in disagreement there could be
friendship. Likewise, fans love his movies regardless of their politics or his.
tells the John Wayne Story with honesty and sincerity and doesn’t hold back or
sugar coat topics ranging from infidelity, the Hollywood blacklist and charges
of racism to anger on the set, poor financial management and being out of touch
with the times. It’s as much the story of John Wayne movies and his movie image
as it is the story of his family, friends and the beliefs which defined The
Duke as a unique genre in American cinema history.
definitive biography of John Wayne chronicles the major hits and flops of his
screen career and includes the personal recollections of those who knew him. At
a hefty 658 pages, the book reads at a leisurely pace and takes its time just like
some of the Duke’s movies. The book contains an 80 page section devoted to
citations, a generous bibliography and a comprehensive index. This book is the
essential read for every John Wayne fan.
addition to the aforementioned Hollywood biographies, Scott Eyman contributed
the informative and entertaining audio commentary for the out-of-print 2006
Warner Bros. DVD release of “Stagecoach.” He also wrote the short documentary,
“Stagecoach: A Story of Redemption,” also available on that disc.
Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites. Edited by Paul Duncan and Jürgen
Müller. (Taschen, £34.99) 688 pages, illustrated (colour and B&W), ISBN:
Review by Sheldon Hall
Taschen likes to produce big, heavy books, and this is one
of its biggest and heaviest to date. Don’t drop it on your foot. The company
previously published a shorter handbook on this subject, entitled simply Film Noir (2012), and the editor of that
volume, Paul Duncan, now co-edits this triple-sized follow-up. The erstwhile
co-authors of the earlier book, Alain Silver and James Ursini, are among the
better-known contributors here (27 are credited) in a chronologically organised
survey of a hundred films spanning from 1920 (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to 2011 (Drive). Those two titles give an indication of the perennial
problem with film noir: deciding what it is. Is it a genre, a style, a mood, or
all three? Not surprisingly, the various authors do not agree on the answer.
The entries on individual films – each running to between
four and eight pages in length – are preceded by three longer pieces which give
some thought to the nature of the object in question: a reprint of Paul
Schrader’s classic article ‘Notes on Film Noir’ (no source is given for it, but
it was first published in the magazine Film
Comment in 1972), a lengthy analysis of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai (1947) by Jürgen Müller and Jörn Hetebrügge,
and ‘An Introduction to Neo-noir’ by Douglas Keesey. The first of these is the
most useful, placing the ‘original’ cycles of films noir in the social and
cultural context of the 1940s and 1950s, describing the influence of the
‘hard-boiled’ school of crime fiction, and suggesting some of the stylistic,
thematic and atmospheric qualities associated with the noir form.
In their chapter ‘Out of Focus’, Müller and Hetebrügge
justify the choice of The Lady from
Shanghai for an extended case study because it is ‘exemplary’ and ‘the
epitome’ of film noir style. But its extreme qualities also make it somewhat
untypical and more representative of its director than of noir generally. The authors
take the view that both Welles and the film are great because they broke
standard Hollywood conventions (which they evidently regard as stale and
boring). That may be true in this case but it is much less so of many if not
most of the other noir films of the ‘classical’ period, which as often as not
drew heavily on those conventions while adding to their range and variety. The
extensive illustrations which are as much the raison d’être of Taschen’s books
as the text are rather disappointingly used in this chapter. While Müller and
Hetebrügge describe shots from the film in some detail, their analysis is not
accompanied by stills or frame grabs illustrating those particular images so
the reader cannot judge the accuracy of the description. There are a dozen
frame blow-ups from the climactic hall-of-mirrors sequence, but that is not
among the scenes analysed at length.
While Schrader’s piece is insistent that film noir is particular
to the years 1941-58, the rest of the book suggests that its history is much
longer: no fewer than 45 of the hundred films selected for the book were made
outside that key period. Among the dubiously relevant later titles included are
Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966)
and The Passenger (1975), both of
which are distinctly lacking in the stylistic and generic qualities associated
with classic noir, along with Peeping Tom
and Psycho (both 1960), The Getaway (1972) and Black Swan (2010). In casting the net so
widely, the editors risk making noir a category so diffuse and nebulous as to
be meaningless. Although most of the chosen films deal in some way with crime,
virtually anything ‘a bit dark’ could be made to fit into parameters as loose
as these. As if to prove the point, a filmography of 1,000 titles includes such
unlikely candidates as Metropolis (1927),
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
(1948), The Wages of Fear (1953), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), Straw Dogs (1971), Deliverance (1972), Lethal
Weapon (1987), The Matrix (1999) and
almost everything by Hitchcock (including the lighter ones).
Douglas Keesey’s discussion of ‘neo-noir’ suffers
particularly from this lack of clear definition: although he refers to noir as
a genre, his chapter ranges over a diverse selection of relatively recent films
which seem to me to have little in common in either narrative or stylistic
terms. In referring back to the postwar cycle Keesey relies on the old-hat
notion that they reflect male anxieties about the threat posed by newly
independent career women – a character type conspicuous by her absence from
most of the films. He also seems not to know that the French ‘Série Noire’ –
often credited with giving rise to the filmic nomenclature – was so called not
because it was a ‘dark series of books’ or punningly suggested ‘a bad series of
events’ (his translations) but because the volumes had black covers.
I don’t want to sound too harsh about this beautifully
produced book which, with its lavish illustrations taking up three-quarters of
most double-page spreads, makes for a very pleasant browse or, at an RRP of nearly
£35, a very expensive doorstop. I’m just not sure that it helps to shed any
more light on a form – style, genre, whatever you want to call it – that seems
more shadowy the more scholars focus on it.
It may come as news that Samuel Fuller, the macho director of such films as The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, Pickup on South Street, The Steel Helmet and The Big Red One, had a second career as a novelist. Fuller, whose films were largely under-appreciated in America during his lifetime, went into self-imposed exile in France, where his work was exalted. He was nursing some hurt feelings over Paramount refusing a theatrical release for his final film "White Dog", a 1982 drama that dealt with sensitive racial issues that frightened the marketing team at the studio. In France, Fuller's literary endeavors also found a receptive audience there. His final novel before his death in 1997 was titled Brainquake. Written in the early 1990s, it centers on a bag man for the mob who suffers from periodic seizures, the result of a bullet wound to the brain. He ends up falling for a fellow mobster's widow and absconds with $10 million in mob money, an act that leads to a contract being placed on him. The book was published in France but never in the English language. Now, the Hard Case Crime publishing group will debut the novel in August to celebrate Fuller's birthday. It marks the first time the novel will be available in English. The book boasts an appropriately impressive noirish cover painting by Glen Orbik that harkens back to the golden age of pulp fiction. There is also an afterword by publisher Charles Ardai, who provides an interesting an informative overview of Fuller's life and career as well as the background story on the writing of this book. Highly recommended.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release relating to our columnist Howard Hughes' new book:
THE FILMGOERS’ GUIDE TO THE GREAT SCIENCE-FICTION FILMS
Published in Paperback
30 May 2014
£14.99 | 9781780761664
up-to-date detailed companion to the best sci-fi movies of all time
Science Fiction is probably the most popular box office
genre in movie history and has given filmgoers some of their most memorable
cinematic experiences. Outer Limits
takes its readers on a tour of the sci-fi cinema universe in all its
fantastical, celestial glory.
The milestone films of sci-fi cinema from Metropolis to
Avatar are discussed in this Filmgoers’ Guide for anyone who enjoys a cinema
that has pleased and amazed filmgoers since the dawn of cinema. Illustrated
with fine examples of sci-fi film poster-art, Outer Limits goes deep into the most interesting and popular movies
across sci-fi cinema’s many forms, with core chapters used as launch pads to
discuss lesser-known influential movies and follow-on sequels. Howard Hughes
tells the stories from pre-production to box office returns of The War of the Worlds, Independence Day,
Tarantula, Godzilla, The Time Machine, The Thing, Invasion of the Body
Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, Barbarella, Galaxy Quest, Minority Report, Planet
of the Apes, Mad Max 2, Back to the Future, Alien, Terminator 2: Judgement Day,
The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Matrix, Star Trek, Apollo 13, Blade Runner
and many more.
Film writer and historian Howard Hughes is the author
of Aim for the Heart: The Films of Clint Eastwood
(I.B. Tauris) and of the Filmgoers’ Guide
series, When Eagles Dared, Crime Wave,
Once Upon a Time in the Italian West and Stagecoach to Tombstone (all from
I.B. Tauris). He is contributor to ‘The James Bond Archives’, the official
fiftieth anniversary celebration of 007, and writes regularly for film magazine
FOR HOWARD HUGHES’ BOOKS
‘expertly dissected...a fascinating read.’ - The Times
‘offers much to inform and plenty to enjoy...Highly
recommended.’ - Kamera
Hughes is ‘rigorous...engulfing us with history and
myriad detail.’ - Empire
‘Entertaining, illuminating and packed with
information’ - Sight and Sound
‘Hughes is a fan and his enthusiasm, as well as his
research, shines through.’ - Tribune
‘a goldmine of such film trivia, wide-ranging and often
delightful...Hughes is a thorough researcher and knows his stuff’ - The Australian
Cinema Retro has received the following announcement:
The Morning After was established in
February/March 1991 as the official The Persuaders!/ITC Appreciation Society by
the then copyright owners, the ITC Entertainment Group Ltd.
The society mainly concentrated on The Persuaders! in
the club magazine, The Morning After but some issues were 'specials' dedicated
to other ITC action-adventure series made in the 1960s and 70s such as The
Champions, Man In A Suitcase, Department S and The Baron.
This book reproduces the first 10 issues of The
Morning After in their entirety. These issues have long been out of print and
were printed in very small quantities. Original copies rarely turn up and now
sell on auction sites for anything between £15 – £20 per issue.
Production Code Basics – For Movie Still Collectors is the first reference book written on how to use movie still production codes to help identify unknown movie stills and costumes.
Production codes came into use around 1912 as the United States became the major international supplier of films and movie studios were driven to increase their production due to increased demand. By 1920 production codes were used by every major film studio and became an indispensable tool utilized in almost every department. Some studios even used production codes to mark their costumes and props.
Production Code Basics – For Movie Still Collectors covers every phase from the initial creation and why they were needed and then, moves through the filming process to show the use of stills through each department. Also included is a breakdown of major studios and different variations each studio used. Explanations are included on the process outside of the major studios and cover such area as states rights, exports, independent studios, distribution, multiple markings and much more.
Production Code Basics – For Movie Still Collectors is the reference companion book to the authors popular Movie Still Identification Book that features over 45,000 production codes and is the only book of its kind as well. Ed and Susan Poole are film accessory researchers that have been in the industry for over 35 years. This is their 15th industry related reference book. The Pooles are on a quest to make sure that film accessories such as posters, stills, and pressbooks are not lost through neglect as silent films have been. To purchase this book directly from the publisher click here
Production Code Basics is scheduled for release AT CINEVENT (May 22-25). Anyone who buys the new PC Basics can either pick up their copy at Cinevent or we will start shipping immediate upon our return from Cinevent
Regular Price - $19.95
Pre- release Sale at $15.00 and includes U.S. shipping ORDER YOURS NOW!
The judge's ruling on the Holmes copyright is important but not very elementary.
By Lee Pfeiffer
In a landmark ruling, an Illinois judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle prior to 1923 are now considered public domain under U.S. copyright law. The ruling stems from an author's suit that protested what he felt were unnecessary licensing fees paid to the Doyle estate in relation to a new book based on the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson. The judge ruled that any elements of the stories contained in published works prior to 1923 can now be used without permission of the Doyle estate. These include key elements of the stories and the character of the villain Prof. Moriarty. However, in defending the copyrighted elements of the later stories, the judge cautioned that any elements of the Holmes legend that were introduced in those published works are still considered under copyright. The Doyle estate said it may appeal the ruling but also expressed confidence that the primary aspects of the characters that are routinely used in popular culture and new versions of the stories would be protected by copyright law. They assert that, under the judge's rulings, ten of Doyle's Holmes stories would be subject to copyright protection- but this is debatable and depends upon how many specific personality traits and relationship changes can be said to be defined in those post-1923 stories. Such legendary aspects of the series as Holmes' address at 221 B Baker Street would be in the public domain, as would the essence of the character as the world's greatest detective- as well as his friendship with Dr. Watson. Elements that expand and better define those aspects of the stories in the post-1923 writings would not be available in the public domain. Nevertheless, the judge's ruling opens the gates for anyone to create their own Holmes projects and stories as long as they are based on elements of the early books. The Holmes character is one of the most enduring and popular in literay history. Today a recent film series starring Robert Downey Jr. has proven to be a major success, as have various TV series based on the Holmes stories.For more click here
ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS (Schiffer Publishing, Hardcover, 208 pages) by Matthew Chojnacki
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
In his introduction, author Chojnacki states the
obvious: the once classic art of movie poster design went into a deep decline
in the 1990s. (He claims we are now in a Renaissance period but you wouldn’t
know it from most of the movie posters we see.) Chojnacki took it upon himself
to seek out and curate avante garde movie posters created by a widespread range
of contemporary artists. Some were created for film festivals and other
projects whilst others were specifically designed for this impressive, handsome
coffee table book with top production values.
Each piece of art identifies its creator and
is given a dedicated page of its own. The posters feature quirky and often
ingenious designs that reflect the most memorable aspects of classic and cult
cinema often in the most subtle of ways. Titles range from classic Bond movies
to contemporary horror- and in virtually every case, the posters put to shame
the mostly God-awful designs seen on posters today, which tend to be bland, scanned in photos of actor's heads or indistinguishable posters relating to super heroes. This outstanding book
makes a perfect gift for the movie lover in your life and reassures us that there are still talented people creating movie posters today (they are just not being employed by studios).
"CRAB MONSTERS, TEENAGE CAVEMEN, AND CANDY STRIPE NURSES: ROGER CORMAN, KING OF THE 'B' MOVIE" BY CHRIS NASHAWATAY; FOREWORD BY JOHN LANDIS
Review by Lee Pfeiffer
You can fill an ocean liner with all the tribute books that have been written about "B" movie mogul Roger Corman. The most elaborate so far is this superb coffee table volume by Chris Nashawatay, a long-time film critic for Entertainment Weekly. The book presents a plethora of outstanding movie posters, lobby cards and behind the scenes stills, some of which are from Corman's personal archives. They are all wonderfully presented, as this book is particularly well-designed to capitalize on the nature of the films it celebrates. So many big stars and directors had their initial success with Corman productions. In these pages you can relish Jack Nicholson as Cry Baby Killer, Ron Howard starring in (and directing for the first time) Eat My Dust, and Robert Vaughn as the Teenage Caveman. Best of all is the excellent, in-depth coverage and graphics of Corman's greatest successes: the string of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations he collaborated on with Vincent Price. (This past Halloween, I watched several of them in succession on TCM and I am amazed at how well they hold up, despite low production values.). There biker films, sexploitation pics and low-brow comedies, all given the Corman touch of being slick and well-produced. Corman has lived to see his reputation placed on an exalted level (he received an honorary Oscar, something that would have seemed inconceivable back in the 1960s). The book has significant contributions from such esteemed figures as Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Bruce Dern, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and William Shatner- not to mention a heartfelt introduction by John Landis, who also credits Corman for distributing the works of Fellini, Bergmann and Kurosawa in the USA. In all, this book is an ambitious and highly entertaining work that retro movie lovers will find irresistible.
Cinema Retro's own Sheldon Hall gives us a sneak peek at his forthcoming book, Armchair Cinema: Feature Films on British Television, with a look back at the earliest instances of theatrical films being shown on UK TV. Not surprisingly, the British film studios were not at all happy about the advent of TV and initially withheld feature films from broadcast. How the barrier was finally broken by Ealing Studios represents a fascinating part of BBC history. Click here for more
The Price of Fear by Joel Eisner (Black Bed
Sheet/Diverse Media, $20), 244 pages, illustrated (B&W), softcover, ISBN # 0988659026
There have been many fine books written about the
legendary Vincent Price but author Eisner brings a new twist in his tribute to
the iconic actor. Eisner had actually started to collaborate with Price on a
new biography and in-depth look at his films. Price’s death in 1993 derailed
the project but now Eisner has culled highlights from the interviews he
conducted with Price to explore how he felt about his own movies. The book is
less a biography than an examination of individual movies, which is a good
thing, as the basics of Price’s personal life have been covered countless times
before. It’s interesting to read how he felt about some of his best loved films,
as well as those he freely admits fell far short of artistic expectations.
Price was truly a man for all seasons: a fine actor, raconteur, lover of fine
art and master chef. There was so much more to his talents than simply being a
horror movie icon, and Eisner does a fine job in illustrating this. Speaking of
illustrating, however, the publisher owes the author something far better than
the poor photographic reproductions in this otherwise fine volume. An upgrade
in production values is merited for a book with so many attributes. The book
contains a heartfelt introduction by another legend, Peter Cushing, written
when Price was still alive.
A new book titled Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations contains amazing candid interviews with the legendary sex siren, who passed away in 1990. The book is based on interviews with Peter Evans, a friend and confidant Gardner trusted during the last years of her life while living in London. In an excerpt from the book, Gardner doesn't hold back when it comes to her ill-fated marriage to Mickey Rooney, then the top boxoffice attraction in the world. It was Rooney who plucked Gardner from a secretarial position on the studio lot, wooed her, married her and made it possible for her to become a star. Their marriage was a tempestuous one, with Rooney's penchant for skirt-chasing finally causing them to divorce. But Gardner still allowed him back because the sex was so good. In an era that preceded women's liberation, Gardner never gave a damn what anyone thought of her insatiable sexual appetites, which made it even more impressive that that the puritan attitudes of the time didn't derail her career. Click here to read extended excerpt.