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Cinema Retro
Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s

DANNY BOYLE EXITS DIRECTING NEXT JAMES BOND FILM

BY LEE PFEIFFER

In a shock announcement, the James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and star Daniel Craig have announced that Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has exited the new, as yet untitled, 007 production. Much fanfare was attached to the original announcement that Boyle, who previously directed "Trainspotting" and "Slumdog Millionaire", would follow in the footsteps of another Oscar winning director, Sam Mendes, who had helmed the two previous blockbuster Bond films, "Skyfall" and "Spectre". The reason cited for Boyle's departure is the old show biz catch phrase: "creative differences". It is not known whether the screenwriter that Boyle brought on board, John Hodge, will stay with the production. Hodge has replaced longtime Bond movie scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had already completed a screenplay that was shelved when Boyle and Hodge came aboard. Filming is set to begin in December at Pinewood Studios, London. The pressure will be on Eon Productions to find another director of stature to sign for the film on relatively short notice. The movie is scheduled for the usual high profile London premiere in late October 2019. For more click here.

Posted by Cinema Retro in James Bond 007 News on Tuesday, August 21. 2018

REVIEW: "BLAST" (1997) STARRING LINDEN ASHBY AND RUTGER HAUER; BLU-RAY RELEASE

BY LEE PFEIFFER

MVD has released director Albert Pyun's 1997 thriller "Blast" as a Blu-ray edition. If you've never heard of the film, most of its cast members or director Pyun, you're not alone. But Pyun has a long-standing and enthusiastic fan base that credits him for being a pioneer in launching the cyborg sci-fi genre in the 1980s. His fans admire him for churning out independent films often under trying circumstances and very limited budgets. Despite having a few surprise hits at the boxoffice, Pyun has often been associated with films that were terminated or unreleased due to financing problems. Still, like the ultimate trooper, he continued to persevere and even today, while battling some significant health problems, Pyun remains determined to be a player in the indie film market. "Blast" enjoyed its "premiere" on home video, something that has apparently enhanced its reputation among enthusiasts for "direct to video" fare ("DTV" for those in the know...). While most movie lovers used to avoid DTV product on the assumption that it was deemed to be too bad to merit a theatrical marketing campaign, these fans enjoy making silk purses from sow's ears and claim that many underrated films have suffered the DTV syndrome. They are probably right, but "Blast" isn't one of them. The film was made when audiences were still obsessed with the blue collar working man hero generally played by the likes of Stallone, Willis, Van Damme and occasionally Schwarzenegger. The "grunt and punch" aspect of these heroes relegated them to limited dialogue, save for the precious "tag line" they will inevitably mutter in the course of the film in the hope that it will become the next "Make my day"-like catchphrase with the public.

"Blast" is set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics games. The American women's swim team enters the pool area to practice even as the President of the United States and other world leaders arrive in the city for the opening of the games. Just as the women's swim team arrives, the complex is taken over by terrorists led by Omodo (Andrew Divoff) and his band of fanatical followers who have posed as workers for the Olympic organization. The terrified female swimmers under the guidance of their coach Diane Colton (Kimberly Warren) are verbally abused and one of the women is shot to death as a sign to the authorities that the terrorists mean business. Omodo is well-known to international authorities and is wanted by police throughout the world. Seems that Omodo's ego is bruised because his last two terrorist actions have fizzled even though they left behind a string of dead bodies. He is determined to regain his reputation by ensuring the Olympics operation is a  success. (Apparently, when terrorists get together at their annual picnic, no one wants to be the butt of colleagues' jokes.) The terrorists quickly kill off any guards and begin operating the complex's security system, thus giving them views of any police attempts to enter the building, which they have made into a fortress by mining the entrances with bombs. Omodo's demands from the authorities must have been fairly mundane because minutes after he issued them, I forgot what they were. In any event, the only person in the complex left to combat the terrorists is Jack Bryant (Linden Ashby), a one-time Olympic star who has seen his life fall apart due to his own demons. He's now working in the building as a janitor. Omodo and his men can occasionally see him on the vast networks of security cameras but Bryant is a savvy guy and learns how to keep on the move and pick off the terrorists one-by-one. (Like most janitors, Bryant is also a world-class martial arts expert). For some melodramatic elements, we learn that Bryant and Diane had once been married but he lost her when his life went into a downward spiral. With the authorities virtually helpless, it's up to Bryant to thwart the terrorists...although he has a an ally in the Atlanta Police Department: Leo ((Rutger Hauer), a wheelchair-bound, eccentric detective who is an old nemesis of Omodo and who manages to provide Bryant with some helpful tips. 

"Blast" is a storehouse of every action movie cliche from films of this era but it's not as bad as you might think. Director Pyun does the best he can to disguise the movie's limited budget (virtually all of it is shot in one location with a few exterior shots tossed in to break the monotony). Pyun keeps the action moving at a brisk clip and avoids at least a couple of anticipated cliches from coming to pass. However, the sheer monotony of seeing Bryant and the bad guys chase each other up and down very similar-looking hallways and staircases quickly grows wearying. The cast performs gamely, with Linden Ashby suitably hunky and capable of delivering the film's obligatory "tag line": "I'm coming to get you!!!!" Andrew Divoff brings some Bond villain-like qualities to his role but he's undermined by Pyun insisting that he imitate every vocal mannerism of Arnold Schwarzenegger imaginable. The gimmick proves to be distracting, though Divoff has a few standout moments. The musical score by Anthony Riparetti starts out well but becomes grating because it seems to consist of a constant repetition of the same few notes. The film is occasionally suspenseful and exciting but Pyun goes off the rails during the climax which sees a knock-down fight to the death between Bryant and Omodo that incorporates some ridiculous elements including a bomb explosion that is so poorly rendered that it looks like a frame from a Road Runner cartoon was utilized. Also puzzling are the brief appearances of Rutger Hauer as a potentially intriguing character but the role is drastically under-written.

MVD has released "Blast" as a nice-looking Blu-ray edition as part of their "Marquee Collection". The box art features a cringe-inducing rip-off of the main poster art for "Die Hard" including an exploding skyscraper, even though there are no skyscrapers in "Blast", exploding or otherwise. There is a bonus trailer gallery of other similarly-themed titles from MVD, although the trailer for Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Lionheart" looks like a poor VHS transfer.  

CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON

Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Tuesday, August 21. 2018

ROBERT DAVI AT "LICENCE TO KILL" SCREENING, HOLLYWOOD, AUGUST 23

BY TODD GARBARINI

Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theatre in Los Angeles will be presenting a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) screening of John Glen’s 1989 James Bond outing Licence to Kill. The 133-minute film, which stars Timothy Dalton in his second and final stint as 007, also features Cary Lowell, Robert Davi, Anthony Zerbe, and Desmond Llewelyn. Director Glen also helmed For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), and The Living Daylights (1987).

Licence to Kill will be screened on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 7:30 pm.

PLEASE NOTE: At press time, Licence to Kill actor Robert Davi will participate in a Q&A after the screening at the NoHo on Thursday, August 23.

The NoHo 7 Theatre is located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. The phone number is (310) 478 – 3836.

Click here for tickets.

Posted by Cinema Retro in James Bond 007 News on Monday, August 20. 2018

REVIEW: "DEATH SHIP" (1980) STARRING GEORGE KENNEDY AND RICHARD CRENNA; BLU-RAY LIMITED EDITION


BY TODD GARBARINI

Plagiarism, if done willingly and poorly, generally does not go unnoticed and one cannot help but see certain similarities in various works be it literature, art, or cinema. In listening to the audio commentary with author Jonathan Rigby and director Alvin Rakoff on the new, limited edition Blu-ray of 1980’s Death Ship, a horror oddity about an abandoned old ship inhabited by the ghosts of members of the Third Reich(!), a remark is made that the poster for 2002's Ghost Ship was remarkably similar to the poster art for Death Ship, and it’s true that the similarities are uncanny. I can't help but wonder who came up with the idea for the poster for Ghost Ship, as Death Ship was well over twenty-five years-old and seemed to be relegated to the land of forgotten cinema.

Captain Ashland (George Kennedy) is at the helm of a cruise ship, about to turn over the reins to Captain Trevor Marshall (Richard Crenna) and he's not happy about it. He seems perturbed by this changing of the guard, commenting in no uncertain terms that his place as captain should be regarded as more than something of a novelty to tourists. Unfortunately for him and his guests, the unmanned and haunted titular ship that steers ahead, powered by the blood of its most recent victims, is on a crash course to meet with his. Using footage borrowed from Andrew L. Stone's The Last Voyage (1960) and Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure (1972), the two vessels collide and Ashland’s ship begins to fill with water and quickly sinks (too bad The Concorde: Airport ’79 didn't sink with it!)

Kennedy, Crenna, Nick Mancuso (who provided the bulk of the horrifying phone calls in Bob Clark's 1974 film Black Christmas), Sally Ann Howes of Dead of Night (1945) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and a few other characters manage to be the only survivors in a lifeboat and make their way aboard the decrepit ship that put them in their predicament. Once on board, they find the ship bereft of passengers and crew, and slowly become victims of the supernatural games that ensue.

As the plot unfolds, it becomes apparent that the ship in question was once used as a Nazi torture chamber, as evidence of teeth, clothing and medical devices start to turn up in explored rooms. The worst of these rooms houses a group of cobweb-infested corpses, presumably the long-dead Jews whom the Nazis tortured. One might wonder about the boundaries of bad taste pushed in a film that seems to make light of one of humanity's most horrendous and egregious atrocities.

The director employs some nifty scare tactics, such as a projector that runs itself; a shower that turns blood red; and a crazed George Kennedy, apparently possessed by the long-dead Nazis, going on a rampage. One must wonder why distress signals are not sent, and why help is not forthcoming, given the radio rules in place since the downing of the Titanic in 1912. However, this is a B-movie shot in five weeks and done on a shoestring and asking too many questions is not suggested. The ship in this film is supposed to be steering itself with a life of its own, however one never really gets the feeling that it’s actually alive, that it’s a merchant of evil like the house in Burnt Offerings (1976) or the hotel in The Shining (1980). The film ends the way one assumes with will, but it’s not bad for what it is.

Originally released on DVD in England in 2007, Death Ship had at the time had been transferred from a print that was not perfect and contained a few sporadic imperfections but was believed to be the best surviving source material. That disc had included a disclaimer citing the film lab that housed the original camera negative closed in the late 1980's and the aforementioned resources were "lost" as a result. I would be curious as to how this sort of thing happens as this is certainly not the first time it has occurred, nor will it be the last. I'm always reading of an original negative somehow getting "lost". Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, the TV-movie that Crenna made the year prior to Death Ship, was released on DVD at roughly the same time and that movie looks like it was just made yesterday. Honestly, Devil Dog’s transfer could not be more beautiful. Yet a theatrical film's negative gets "lost"? Insert quizzical expression here.

Continue reading "REVIEW: "DEATH SHIP" (1980) STARRING GEORGE KENNEDY AND RICHARD CRENNA; BLU-RAY LIMITED EDITION"

Posted by Cinema Retro in Todd Garbarini on Monday, August 20. 2018

OUT OF THE PAST: VINTAGE "MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." SECRET MESSAGE PEN COMMERCIAL

Here's a golden oldie from 1966: the Man from U.N.C.L.E. secret message pen ad by American Character toy company. It looks like the entire marketing campaign for the commercial cost about fifty cents, but in those days anything relating to a movie or TV spy was a sure-fire way to make a quick profit. 

Posted by Cinema Retro in U.N.C.L.E HQ on Sunday, August 19. 2018

THE SEAN CONNERY JAMES BOND FILM THAT WAS NEVER MADE


 

BY LEE PFEIFFER

James Bond scholars and purists are well-versed in the muck and mire pertaining to Ian Fleming's ill-fated partnership with producer Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham. But for those who aren't as consumed with Bondian history, the BBC's Nicholas Barber summarizes the contrivances that occurred when the business relationship between the three men broke up, thus resulting in a high profile lawsuit against Fleming and complications pertaining to the screen rights to the film version of Fleming's novel "Thunderball". In the mid-1970s, McClory began to exercise his rights to remake the film and enlisted noted novelist Len Deighton, author of the Harry Palmer spy books and Sean Connery as screenwriters for a planned film titled "Warhead" (though Connery never committed to star in the film). When Eon Productions, the company that had made the traditional Bond films, decided to fight McClory in the courts, the project faded away. Connery would return as Bond in McClory's 1983 remake of "Thunderball" titled "Never Say Never Again", marking his last performance as 007. However, that film bore virtually no resemblance to the one that screenwriters Connery and Deighton had cooked up for "Warhead" involving a battle atop the Statue of Liberty. Click here to read.

Posted by Cinema Retro in James Bond 007 News on Saturday, August 18. 2018

THE TRAGIC FINAL DAYS OF CURLY HOWARD

Curly Howard is considered today to be an icon of American comedy thanks to the eternal popularity of The Three Stooges. However, as this mini-biography shows, Curly's real life dilemmas were anything but funny. He was stricken with numerous debilitating strokes while only in his forties and his final days found the comedy legend struggling unsuccessfully to recuperate and lead a normal life. 

Posted by Cinema Retro in Out of the Past on Friday, August 17. 2018

KUBRICK'S "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" TO BE SCREENED IN IMAX

The web site www.in70mm.com  reports that Warner Bros will be screening Stanley Kubrick's classic "2001: A Space Odyssey" in the IMAX format for the first time at 350 North American theaters for one week only, commencing August 24. Four key theaters will be showing the film in IMAX 70mm, thus making this the ultmate viewing experience for fans of the landmark film.  Click here for more details.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Events on Thursday, August 16. 2018

REVIEW: "THE CHALLENGE" (1982) STARRING SCOTT GLENN AND TOSHIRO MIFUNE; BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FROM EXPLOSIVE MEDIA


BY DOUG OSWALD

Scott Glenn is a down on his luck American boxer who gets caught in the middle of a blood feud between Japanese brothers in “The Challenge” available on Blu-ray and DVD. Glenn’s character Rick accepts a job smuggling a valuable sword into Japan and is quickly swept up in intrigue as rival brothers seek ownership of the sword which was taken from Japan at the end of WWII. Hideo (Atsuo Nakamura) is a powerful businessman and convinces Rick to train under his brother, Yoshida (Toshiro Mifune). This close proximity should enable him to steal the sword in Yoshida’s possession and deliver it to Hideo. This is not a civil family feud, as a half dozen people are murdered within an hour of Rick’s arrival in Japan.

Yoshida honors the traditional samurai traditions and runs a school for practitioners of these teachings. Rick is a reluctant participant in the deadly feud and his loyalties are challenged as he is attracted to Yoshida’s daughter, Akiko (Donna Kei Ben), as well as to the traditional samurai philosophy and her father’s cause. Rick is skeptical of the training, but goes through the standard ordeals we’ve come to expect from this genre such as eating exotic foods including live lobsters and octopi with tentacles slithering on plates. He’s also reduced to performing seemingly mundane tasks like sweeping floors and cleaning up only to discover it was a test of his commitment and resolve.

At one point, Rick spends days buried up to his neck in a pit as ants and bugs crawl on his face while being denied food and water. He complains throughout the training, backing out and returning several times, and even steals the sword at one point, only to return it and learning this too was a test. He finally pledges his obedience to the samurai order under Yoshida and completes his training. Sound familiar? Yes, but it’s all part of the central trope of this genre and it works very well to further the story.

Directed by John Frankenheimer, the film is exciting with plenty of action and the climactic sword fight in the office complex is very well staged. While not quite a martial arts movie, the film offers a veritable buffet of combat techniques with fists, samurai swords, bow & arrows and knives. The location shooting in Japan and the action scenes kept my interest and the film culminates in a battle at Hideo’s office headquarters as Rick, Yoshida and Akiko sneak in and fight their way to Hideo and the inevitable confrontation between him and Yoshida.

The movie features familiar American television character actors Calvin Jung, Clyde Kusatsu and Sab Shimono in supporting roles and was the first starring vehicle for Glenn with a script by John Sayles and Richard Maxwell. Sayles was brought to Japan to make changes to the story which was radically altered after Glenn accepted the role. Disappointed, Glenn was persuaded by Mifune to take it in stride and enjoy the experience. This was the final of three collaborations between Frankenheimer and Jerry Goldsmith who provides a terrific score. Steven Segal also worked as a technical advisor and stunt coordinator for the movie. I enjoyed the movie a great deal and so should fans of action and martial arts movies.

Released in July 1982 by CBS Theatrical Films, the movie was a modest success for Frankenheimer and it has grown in status over the years with a solid fan base due to broadcast television and home video release. The movie clocks in at 110 minutes with a great looking transfer and sound quality. Bonus features on the German Blu-ray/DVD two disc set release by Explosive Media include the theatrical trailer, TV trailers, a poster gallery and the cropped TV version on the DVD. The set also includes a photo-filled 24-page booklet featuring poster art, lobby cards and an essay by Andreas Volkert of All About Movies Bayreuth.

(Note: this region-free title is available through Amazon Germany. However, Explosive Media titles often surface through third party dealers on other Amazon and eBay sites.) 

Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Wednesday, August 15. 2018

"THE FUGITIVE" TURNS 25; REFLECTIONS ON THE HARRISON FORD CLASSIC THRILLER

Hard to believe it's been 25 years since the big screen version of the classic TV series "The Fugitive" hit theaters and became a sensation, marking one of the best small-to-big screen adaptations ever. Writing in the Atlantic, Soraya Roberts reflects on what made the film so special and why today's action movies are largely lacking in the same qualities.

CLICK HERE to read

Posted by Cinema Retro in Film Reviews & Essays on Wednesday, August 15. 2018

ZEFFIRELLI'S "ROMEO AND JULIET" STILL SHINES AT 50

BY JOE ELLIOTT

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. The movie was a sensation when it came out in 1968, spurring ticket sales in the millions and becoming one of the top-grossing features of the decade. One reason the film made so much money was due to the number of people who returned for a second or even fifth viewing. It seemed audiences just couldn’t get enough of the story about those two star-crossed adolescent lovers from old Verona. The movie’s memorable music score, composed by Nino Rota, also became a best seller. The album quickly went gold and was later repackaged in a beautiful deluxe box set that included the entire movie soundtrack, along with two handsomely produced companion booklets.

There was something about the film, for all its shortcomings, that many found almost hypnotic. I’ll fess up and admit I was one of these people. I didn’t actually see it until the 1970s when it was still being trotted out in theaters in order to squeeze out extra profits for the studio. I was a teenager at the time and was more into flicks like Billy Jack and the Bond films than stories about people who lived hundreds of years ago and spoke in rhyming couplets. The only Shakespeare I had read was in class, the substance of which I found nearly indigestible. I did know something about the movie since one my English teachers had once played a portion of the soundtrack for us in class. However, apparently not having much else to do that summer evening, I decided to take a stroll down the street to our local movie palace and buy a ticket.

The first thing I noticed about the film was how rich in color it was. From the very beginning, following the smoky prologue spoken by Laurence Olivier, everything is drenched in bright primary colors. Things got off to a rousing start with the scene of the bloody brawl in the Verona marketplace between those two wild and crazy families, the Montagues and the Capulets. (I hadn’t realized until then that it was possible to be a real badass and still wear red and yellow striped tights with pointy soft leather shoes.) Soon the cops arrive (the prince and his soldiers) to break up the fracas and issue a stern warning to all those who would disturb the civil peace in the future. Immediately following this we get our first look at Romeo (Leonard Whiting), a handsome love-sick youth with a shaggy haircut. He talks dreamily of some girl he’s got a crush on, but then comes to his senses at seeing one of the wounded being carried away. Meanwhile, back at the Capulet palace, Juliet’s father (Paul Hardwick) is coyly negotiating the marriage of his daughter to a young man named Count Paris (Roberto Bisacco). The first time we see Juliet (Olivia Hussey) she’s running through the house like a kid at play.

All this is interspersed between scenes of Juliet and her bawdy, fun-loving nurse (Pat Heywood) talking to the girl’s mother Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry) about marriage and things, immediately followed by a night scene of Romeo and his friends on a soliquious pub crawl through the deserted streets of Verona. Later that same evening Romeo and his mates crash the Capulet masquerade ball. The ball scene is among the highlights of the film. It is here Zeffirelli really shows his stuff, combining visual pageantry with an almost obsessive attention to detail. Everything about this sequence is highly choreographed, from the beautifully composed dance scenes (“the moresca!”) right down to the fastidious arrangement of the candles and platters of fruit (Zeffirelli had studied art and architecture in his student days). Absolutely nothing is left to chance. In the hands of a less gifted visual director, and Zeffirelli was nothing if he wasn’t visual, all of this might have come off as too showy and distracting. However, here the effect is just the opposite. The viewer almost feels as if he or she is present in the scene, seductively pulled in as we are by the sensuous whirl of warm colors, voices and melodious music. All of it lovingly captured by the gifted eye of cinematographer Pasqualino De Santi who was awarded an Oscar for his efforts on the project. Clearly, the ocular accoutrements of this particular production are as essential to its success as the words of Shakespeare himself.

Continue reading "ZEFFIRELLI'S "ROMEO AND JULIET" STILL SHINES AT 50"

Posted by Cinema Retro in Film Reviews & Essays on Tuesday, August 14. 2018

OUT OF THE PAST: JILL IRELAND AND CHARLES BRONSON ON THE SET OF "BREAKOUT", 1975

Real-life husband and wife Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland made numerous films together. Among them: "Breakout", a 1975 film that was shot quickly in order to capitalize on Bronson's soaring popularity with "Death Wish". The crime thriller was lambasted by critics but performed very well indeed at the boxoffice. Click here for review. 

Posted by Cinema Retro in Vintage Movie Photos on Tuesday, August 14. 2018

REVIEW: "GENGHIS KHAN" (1965) STARRING OMAR SHARIF; TWILIGHT TIME BLU-RAY RELEASE

BY LEE PFEIFFER

Twilight Time has released the 1965 action adventure film "Genghis Khan" as a limited edition (3,000) Blu-ray. The film was released almost ten years after Howard Hughes produced the notorious clinker "The Conqueror" starring John Wayne as the legendary Mongol leader. A decade later, producer Irving Allen ensured he did not make the mistake of laughably miscasting the leading man. Omar Sharif, then a red-hot up-and-coming star, was cast in the title role, and while an Egyptian actor might not seem to be an obvious choice, Sharif possessed an exotic international appeal that saw him convincingly play characters of many different ethnic backgrounds. Ironically, while Allen had successfully hired a leading man, his judgment did not extend to the key supporting roles. If you want to enjoy "Genghis Khan", there are many positive aspects to the film- but you will have to overlook some jaw-dropping casting errors. That feat is a bit like trying to calmly peruse a newspaper in your living room while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla who is sitting across from you, but more about that later.

The film opens with a brutal raid on the tribal home of the young Mongol Temujin and his family. The raid is led by a rival Mongol tribe headed by the merciless Jamuga (Stephen Boyd), who murders Temujin's father and enslaves the women of the tribe. The story then jumps ahead a number of years and we find Temujin (Omar Sharif) has now grown to manhood and is still a captive of Jamuga. He's forced to wear a giant wooden yoke around his neck as a reminder of his humiliation. Ultimately, Temujin escapes captivity with the help of holy man Geen (Michael Hordern) and a mute Mongol warrior named Sengal (Woody Strode.), much to the chagrin of the infuriated Jamuga. Temujin vows to bring the warring Mongol tribes together so that they can form an unstoppable army capable of conquering the known world. How he achieves this is never shown but before long we see he has indeed amassed a devoted army intent on uniting the remaining Mongol tribes, one of which is headed by Jamuga.One of Temujin's obsessions is to humiliate Jamuga, which he does by kidnapping his woman, Bortei (Francoise Dorleac), who he then makes his own wife. As played by the gorgeous but ill-fated Dorleac (she died in a car crash in 1967), Bortei sports a modern hair style and the latest trends in makeup. She's a Mongol by way of the emerging mod scene on Carnaby Street. Dorleac is miscast but at least her performance isn't embarrassing. The same cannot be said of some of her otherwise revered cast members.

Since the film is designed to entertain, not enlighten, we are presented with a truncated historical record of Temujin's conquests. In short order, he and his army become feared as they relentlessly conquer seemingly any land they want to occupy, either by having the inhabitants willingly accede to their demands or face defeat in battle. The script boils down these tumultuous events into a Cliff Notes adaptation of a Classics Illustrated comic book. Temujin next sets his sights on the legendary land of China, and are admitted entrance through the Great Wall. Here they are guided by Kam Ling, a wise man who serves as chief adviser to the Emperor. The role is played by James Mason and if you thought, as I did, that this great talent was incapable of presenting a bad performance, be prepared to be enlightened. Mason sports a sem- Fu Manchu mustache and seems to be foreshadowing those now cringe-inducing Chinese detectives that would be played by Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov. But wait! Mason's performance seems positively inspired compared to that of Robert Morley as the Emperor. Yes, that Robert Morley, the rotund and usually delightful British character actor who played every role in precisely the same manner. Thus, we have the Emperor of China depicted as a prissy, comical figure. (Presumably, Paul Lynde was not available for the role.) The miscasting of these two pivotal roles makes it difficult to concentrate on the otherwise compelling script by Clarke Reynolds and Beverly Cross. Fortunately, events move quickly. The Emperor treats Temujin and his army with great reverence and respect- and Temujin is even giving the honorary title of Genghis Khan ("Great Conqueror"). But Temujin correctly suspects that they are being held as captives in a gilded cage. Seems the Emperor realizes that Temujin suspects that the Chinese military is a paper tiger and that he would be tempted to gather an even bigger army and take the nation by force. In a creatively-staged scene, the Mongols use the Chinese fascination with fireworks as an elaborate method to affect a daring escape. Armed with the advanced military technology they have secured from China, the Mongols' ever-growing armies continue to sweep through kingdoms far and wide. Jamuga, who had been held captive by Temujin but managed to escape, refuses an offer to join Temujin's forces- and even insults him by implying that Temujin's young son had been fathered by him. This results in a "Mongol Duel" in which both men go mano-a-mano, with the surviving winner taking control of the armies. The sight of two sweaty, hunky shirtless men grappling with each does have an unintended and amusing homo-erotic aspect but the scene is quite suspenseful.


Continue reading "REVIEW: "GENGHIS KHAN" (1965) STARRING OMAR SHARIF; TWILIGHT TIME BLU-RAY RELEASE"

Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Monday, August 13. 2018

MILOS FORMAN'S "RAGTIME" (1981) ORIGINAL TV SPOT

Watch the original U.S. TV spot for Milos Forman's superb (but underrated) 1981 drama "Ragtime", the adaptation of E.L. Doctprow's bestselling novel. The film brilliantly interweaves the sagas of disparate characters in a grand, lushly produced production that marked the final feature film appearance of James Cagney, who was lured out of retirement after twenty years. If you've never seen "Ragtime", make sure you do. (By the way, the DVD is out of print in America and has never been issued on Blu-ray. Are you listening, Paramount?)

Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Sunday, August 12. 2018

AMPAS ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO ACADEMY AWARDS TELECAST

 

BY LEE PFEIFFER, Cinema Retro Editor-in- Chief

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced changes to its annual Oscars broadcast. The event will be confined to three hours and certain awards will not be seen live on the broadcast. Instead, they will be given out during commercial broadcasts then edited into a segment that will be shown later in the telecast. After all, who wants to see some science-obsessed geek get honored for inventing something that enhanced the film industry when, instead, we can all enjoy some innovative ads for erectile dysfunction? Additionally, in an admitted attempt to gin up ratings, AMPAS will introduce a new awards category for outstanding achievement in popular film. That's right, movie lovers...you might live to see the day when the producers of a "Transformers" movie stroll on stage to be honored in the manner in which the greatest filmmakers of all time were. In fact, "popular" movies have long been recipients of major nominations. Films such as "Jaws" , "Star Wars" and "The Towering Inferno" were nominated for Best Picture, while a little flick from 1997 named "Titanic" won the coveted award. Exactly how the Academy will distinguish which "popular film" releases should be relegated to the new category is not known. What if the "popular film" that is honored happens to also gain a Best Picture nomination- or will the categories be mutually exclusive? AMPAS isn't saying.

AMPAS has been grappling with sagging ratings for the Oscars for years. Unless there is a major blockbuster to liven up the proceedings, audiences tend to drift away from the broadcast. Not helping matters is that the Golden Age of great Hollywood stars is also long over. That isn't anyone's fault but the lack of legends on any given broadcast only serves to diminish the special quality of the evening, as does the fact that there are now so many movie awards shows that ol' Oscar is struggling to remain relevant. The producers of the show are undermining the very people the ceremony was designed to honor. This is nothing new. AMPAS decided years ago that it was too boring to broadcast honorary awards to older people in the industry, thus these have now been consigned to a couple of snippets from an earlier ceremony. Ditto with the geniuses who are honored with technical awards. Under the current scenario, Charles Chaplin's acceptance of an honorary Oscar in 1972 (one of the great moments in Hollywood history) would now be deemed unworthy of being telecast. Instead, the broadcast has morphed into a quasi-comedy special hosted by late night hosts who replicate inane (and often embarrassing) extended skits that seem to drone on forever. It's the height of irony that there is plenty of time to allocate to such nonsense but it comes at the expense of the true artists who are supposed to be the focus of the show. As we point out every year in our review of the ceremony, even the tastefully creative tribute to talents who passed away in the last year has become contentious. Rather than simply extend the segment for a few additional minutes to include more qualified artists, the truncated tribute now not only excludes legendary personalities but even famed artists who were once nominated for an Oscar. 

The reaction in the industry over these proposed changes has been universally negative, leading us to think this is the worst marketing "improvement" plan since the introduction of New Coke in the 1080s. Hopefully, the backlash with cause those who make the decisions at AMPAS to rethink their position- otherwise we're likely to soon see the creation of the Steven Seagal Lifetime Achievement Award. 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Posted by Cinema Retro in Editorial & Opinion on Saturday, August 11. 2018

REVIEW: "THE MEG" STARRING JASON STATHAM AND LI BINGBING

BY MARK CERULLI

Do sharks give you the willies? Does the sight of a 12-foot Great White on the Discovery Channel make your heart skip some beats? Then imagine a 75-foot super shark, looking like a freight train with gills! Meet the villain of the new Warner Bros. sci-fi thriller, The Meg starring Jason Statham and Chinese star, Li Bingbing.

The story concerns a Chinese-American exploration team penetrating the deepest reaches of the Pacific, cut off beneath a thermal layer. The operation’s backer, a snarky billionaire played by Rainn Wilson (TV’s The Office) is hoping to exploit the sea bottom’s mineral wealth. Unfortunately this untouched region is inhabited by a Megalodon, a gigantic prehistoric shark that makes “Bruce” (the shark from Jaws) look like a sardine. It can bend submarines and implode research pods with ease… but it meets its match in a “washed up but still heroic” rescue diver played by Jason Statham.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) and made with (lots of) Chinese money, there is an obvious Chinese influence running throughout - with Chinese talent in key roles and the climax unfolding at an exotic Chinese beach resort. (There, several scenes such as a frantic mother searching for her child during the shark’s attack, or the giant shark dragging swimming platforms like flotsam are truly reminiscent of Jaws.)

Although the movie drags on the surface, it picks up speed underwater and the visual effects of the enormous shark trashing whatever technology mankind throws at it are superb. While Statham turns in his usual rugged performance (and at 51, his physique remains a work of art), Li Bingbing is lovely but a bit wooden. The dialogue tells us they’re inching towards romance but their interaction has an odd formality, with nary a kiss to be seen. Instead it falls to her precocious daughter (the wonderful Sophia Cai) to tell Statham, “My mom likes you.” As if an action movie icon like Statham needs a romantic assist from an 8 year-old!

To be fair, any shark movie made after 1975 will always be compared to the mother of all summer tentpoles, Jaws, and while The Meg does provide some thrills, it’s not better… it’s just bigger. But maybe for the “global audience” this movie is going after, that might be enough.

The Meg opens nationwide on August 10th from Warner Bros.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Film Reviews & Essays on Friday, August 10. 2018

DOES "JAWS" HOLD THE KEY TO A COLD CASE MURDER?


In the summer of 1974 Steven Spielberg was filming his soon-to-be legendary blockbuster "Jaws" on Martha's Vineyard. One hundred miles away in Provincetown, Mass, a badly decomposed and mutilated body of a woman was discovered near a beach area. Police have doggedly tried to solve the crime ever since and the victim has become known as "The Lady in the Dunes". Enter writer Joe Hillstrom King, who writes novels under the nom-de-plume of Joe Hill. King, the eldest song of legendary horror writer Stephen King, became intrigued by the case after reading about it in a book about amateur sleuths attempting to solve cold cases. Shortly thereafter,  King happened to attend a retro movie screening of "Jaws". At the 54 minute and 2 second mark, there is a scene in the film showing masses of tourists arriving at the fictitious town of Amity (in reality Martha's Vineyard). King immediately took note of a fleeting glimpse of a female extra who appears at this precise moment in the film. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash haunted him because he felt the extra bore a remarkable resemblance to police artist's conceptions of the murder victim. King recently revisited his theory, which was not dismissed by the police out of hand,  on a podcast he hosts relating to the movie "Jaws". King doesn't claim he knows that the film extra and murder victim are one-and-the-same but he is still sufficiently intrigued to find out for sure. Someone out there knows who the woman in the film is...perhaps a Cinema Retro reader can shed light on the mystery?

CLICK HERE TO READ FURTHER IN THE WASHINGTON POST

Posted by Cinema Retro in Entertainment News on Thursday, August 9. 2018

WHY "PARIS BLUES" DIDN'T HIT THE HIGH NOTE


EVE GOLDBERG looks back on a "can't miss" film production that fell short of expectations: 

Paris Blues could have been a hit. It could have been a game-changer. It could have become a classic. Starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musicians, this 1961 movie was filmed in Paris, directed by Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma Rae,) and written by Walter Bernstein (The Front). All the ingredients for a compelling, top-notch entertainment were in place.

But the movie misses. Despite strong performances, a fascinating milieu, meaty subject matter, gorgeous cinematography, several unforgettable set pieces, and a score by Duke Ellington, the whole is distinctly less than the sum of its parts.

So, what went wrong?

The problem is the script. How the script falters, and why, is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the film.

Paris Blues is based on a 1957 same-titled novel by Harold Flender. The book tells the story of Eddie Cook, an African American jazz musician living and working in Paris in the 1950s.

The author draws on the historical reality that throughout much of the 20th century, many African American artists, writers, and musicians emigrated to Paris, where they found the personal and creative freedom denied them back home. James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Lester Young, and Bud Powell all found refuge from racism in the City of Light. In addition, jazz musicians discovered that their artistry was more highly valued and appreciated in Europe than in the United States. Miles Davis said that his time living and working in Paris was life-altering. “It changed the way I looked at things forever. Paris was where I noticed that not all white people were prejudiced.”

The novel Paris Blues re-creates this vibrant world of smoky clubs, outdoor cafes, and a creative community where the “mixing” of everyone is the norm. In terms of plot, saxophonist Eddie falls for an African American school teacher, Connie, who is touring Europe with a group of educators. Eddie is torn between going back to the racist United States with Connie or forgoing their love and staying in Paris where he feels respected as a man and musician.

In a comedic sub-plot, Connie’s 60-year-old white roommate, Lillian, and Eddie’s middle-aged Jewish band mate, Benny, are thrown together for a booze-filled night on the town, during which Lillian experiences the wild side of Paris and begins to question her uptight, chaste lifestyle.

Some of the chapters are written from Eddie’s point of view, others from Connie’s, so we get a nuanced and in-depth look into both individuals. The author successfully creates a set of appealing characters with complex emotions and conflicts. While the novel goes flaccid in the last third — its themes have been exhausted and now it’s a forced slog to the end of a thin plot — just the fact that a 1957 novel by a white American writer features two fully-developed black protagonists who are dealing with important, real-life issues, is an achievement in itself.

Then, somewhere between page and screen, things happened.

First and most significant, in the film version of Paris Blues, Eddie and Connie, the book’s central characters, are relegated to the B-story. They now take a backseat to a pair of white folks.

In the film, Benny, who in the book is Eddie’s middle-aged, paunchy, Jewish sidekick, has been transformed into hunky trombonist, Paul “Ram Bowen” Newman. Ram is handsome, sexy, charming, and brooding. He yearns to be a serious composer, but fears he may not have the chops. He is the undisputed leader of the band and the central character of the movie, with saxophonist Eddie now playing the lesser role of “best friend.”

In a parallel revision, Connie’s old-maid roommate Lillian is converted into a young, attractive, divorced mother who is amazingly uninhibited when it comes to sex. She is played by Paul Newman’s real-life wife, Joanne Woodward.

Near the beginning of the film, we get a taste of what this movie might have been. Ram is at the train station, waiting to greet the famous jazz trumpeter, Wild Man Moore (played with gusto by Louis Armstrong). While at the station, Ram accidentally meets Connie (Diahann Carroll). He flirts with Connie who tells him she’s waiting for her traveling companion.

Ram: “Is your girlfriend as pretty as you are?”

Connie: “Yes.” (pause) “She’s a white girl.”

Ram: “Might be hard to find. All you white girls look alike.”

Connie shoots Ram a “Huh?” look. She’s clearly taken aback that this white guy is flirting with her….and what does he mean by that strange comment? The audience, and Connie, know that we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Although there is no interracial romance among the main characters in the original novel, the filmmakers seem to be flirting with creating one in the movie. But apparently, the powers that be in Hollywood decided America wasn’t ready for an on-screen interracial romance — that moment would come several years later with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? — so Ram predictably pairs off with white Lillian, as Eddie and Connie fall in love.

Poitier later stated, “Cold feet maneuvered to have it twisted around — lining up the colored guy with the colored girl.”


Continue reading "WHY "PARIS BLUES" DIDN'T HIT THE HIGH NOTE"

Posted by Cinema Retro in Film Reviews & Essays on Wednesday, August 8. 2018

REVIEW: "THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TALE" (1971) STARRING GEORGE HILTON; BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION

BY TIM GREAVES

The name Sergio Martino will strike a chord with anyone who has even a passing interest in Italian exploitation pictures of the 70s and 80s. Once seen, who can forget The Great Alligator or The Island of Fishmen – both of which are favourites of this writer in their showcasing of Barbara Bach at her most radiant – or premium Suzy Kendall giallo Torso, or for that matter once ‘video nasty’ and Ursula Andress headliner The Mountain of the Cannibal God? Marking Martino’s second giallo, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (o.t. La coda della scorpione), was released in 1971, sandwiched between a couple of his most highly regarded titles, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. Scorpion’s Tail isn’t quite on a par with either of those, but it’s still a respectable entry in the sub-genre.

When her husband is killed in a plane accident on a business trip to Greece, his unfaithful wife (Evelyn Stewart) is informed she’s beneficiary to a million inheritance, with the one caveat that she has to travel to Athens to finalise her claim. However, there are a number of people intent on getting their hands on the not insubstantial sum, and at least one of them will remorselessly resort to murder to do so. A turn of events results in the arrival of an insurance investigator (George Hilton), who hooks up with a reporter (Anita Strindberg) to check out some irregularities, and they inadvertently set themselves up as targets for the killer.

An enjoyable enough, if not particularly remarkable giallo then, touting a convoluted plot loaded with sufficient a measure of misdirection to keep things unpredictable. Opening in a very clean looking London and moving on to various Greek locales, the travelogue location work certainly functions in the film’s favour, lending it production value that eclipses the slightly ponderous narrative of the screenplay (a collaborative affair from Eduardo Manzanos, Ernesto Gastaldi and Sauro Scavolini). Most of – if not quite all – the standard giallo trappings come into play, primarily there are a number of graphic murders perpetrated by a fedora-wearing, razor-wielding maniac attired in black (who’s not averse to donning a scuba wetsuit when the moment is propitious). Some of them are pretty nasty too, including a startling– if not particularly realistic – moment of eye-violence (squeamish viewers be warned!). However, there’s a conspicuous dearth of nudity, in fact it’s about as coy as they come that department; of course, nudity is seldom (if ever) pertinent, but it’s standard enough a constituent within this sub-genre as to be noticeable when it’s missing. The showdown on a forebodingly rocky stretch of desolate Grecian coastline is fantastic, combining vertiginous camera angles and suspenseful POV to maximum dramatic effect.

Heading up a strong cast – which includes Alberto De Mendoza, Ida Galli (aka Evelyn Stewart), Janine Reynaud and Luigi Pistilli – are George Hilton and Anita Strindberg. Hilton also starred for Martino in the aforementioned pair, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark. His rugged good looks found him top billing in a slew of spaghetti westerns – he was a one-spin Sartana – as well as a run of crime and gialli pictures such as The Case of the Bloody Iris, My Dear Killer and The Two Faces of Fear... though 1965’s spoof Bond caper Due mafiosi contro Goldginger (in which he played Agente 007) can probably be safely disregarded! He’s on top form here and rubs along well with the very lovely Anita Strindberg. This writer first became aware of her in Who Saw Her Die?, in which she appeared alongside George Lazenby and Adolfo Celi. She didn’t enjoy as prodigious a career as Hilton, but she did score a lead role in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key for Martino, as well as featuring in such renowned fare as Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Women in Cell Block 7. Her performance in Scorpion’s Tail is among her finest and there’s no denying that the scene she spends clad in a sheer, clingy wet shirt affords the audience a prurient bonus treat.


Continue reading "REVIEW: "THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TALE" (1971) STARRING GEORGE HILTON; BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION"

Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Tuesday, August 7. 2018

MONSTER-RAMA 2018 DRIVE-IN HORROR FESTIVAL SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED

The annual Monster-Rama Drive-In horror movie festival will take place at the Rivrside Drive-In in Vandergrift, PA on the evenings of September 7-8, 2018. This year's programs includes restored DCP presentations of 8 classic Hammer horror flicks, some featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Raquel Welch. Click here for details.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Events on Monday, August 6. 2018

L.A COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION, SUNDAY, AUGUST 12

Cinema Retro has received the following press release:

 

The LOS ANGELES COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION features Author SUSAN E. KESLER, who will be signing THE WILD WILD WEST, THE SERIES, a new book on the popular 1965-1969 CBS-TV Series. Robert Conrad stars as James West and Ross Martin as master of disguise Artemus Gordon, Secret Service Agents during the 1870’s. Featuring Science Fiction and Horror themed storylines, spy gadgets, kung fu and steampunk, Wild Wild West was conceived as James Bond on horseback. Wild Wild West is known for it’s many distinctive villains such as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, a brilliant megalomaniacal dwarf, played by Michael Dunn, and Count Manzeppi played by Victor Buono. Every episode had a title with the word Night such as: The Night of the Puppeteer, The Night of the Inferno and The Night of the Steel Assassin. Find out more in The Wild Wild West, The Series, a 250 page Behind the Scenes Book. Wild Wild West, The Series, first published in 1988, is now updated with more photos and information, and is considered the definitive history of this unique series.

Actor and Stuntman BOB HERRON starred as KAHLESS, the first Klingon Emperor, in the Classic STAR TREK episode THE SAVAGE CURTAIN. Bob appeared in 46 episodes of the Wild Wild West Television series, doubling Ross Martin, also playing various henchmen and other characters. Bob appeared in episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Green Hornet, The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, Logan’s Run and many others. Bob starred as one of the Mole People in the Classic 1956 Science Fiction Movie, The Mole People, did stunts in Diamonds Are Forever, Disney’s The Black Hole (Stunt double for Ernest Borgnine), The Goonies, Soylent Green, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Frankenweenie. Bob is only 93 years old and rarely attends autograph shows, so this is a great opportunity to acquire a signed item.

Also appearing, TOM WELLING and MICHAEL ROSENBAUM for a SMALLVILLE REUNION, and POM KLEMENTIEFF, who stars as Mantis in the Marvel Movies AVENGERS INFINITY WARS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.

The LOS ANGELES COMIC BOOK AND SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION will take place SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2018 at THE REEF, 1933 South Broadway, in Los Angeles, a mile north of USC College.  Show Hours are 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.  Regular Admission is only .00, five years and under are free.  Early Admission is .00. The Dealers Room features over one hundred tables full of Old and New Comic Books, Toys, Action Figures, Funko Pop, Trading Cards, Trade Paperbacks, Graphic Novels, DVDs, Movie Memorabilia and many other collectibles! Check www.comicbookscifi.com or www.facebook.com/comicbookscifi.com

 

Posted by Cinema Retro in Events on Sunday, August 5. 2018

THOSE GLORIOUS OLD MOVIE PHOTOS: DUSTIN HOFFMAN VISITS THE SET OF "CABARET"

Flashback: 1972. Dustin Hoffman drops by the set to visit director Bob Fosse and star Liza Minnelli, who were filming "Cabaret". Hoffman would star in Fosse's next film, "Lenny", the biopic of Lenny Bruce.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Vintage Movie Photos on Friday, August 3. 2018

"LIVE AND LET DIE"'S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: REFLECTIONS FROM JAMES BOND SCHOLARS


Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site has once again done yeoman work by rounding up a panel of James Bond scholars (including Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer) to reflect on the 45th anniversary of Roger Moore's first James Bond film, "Live and Let Die".

Click here to read.

Posted by Cinema Retro in James Bond 007 News on Thursday, August 2. 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "BARBARA LA MARR: THE GIRL WHO WAS TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR HOLLYWOOD" BY SHERRI SNYDER

University Press of Kentucky

464 pages

Published 15 December 2017

ISDN: 978-0-8131-7425-9

REVIEW BY ADRIAN SMITH

Born in 1896, as a teenager Barbara La Marr, then Reatha Watson, lead something of an adventurous life. Her father worked in the newspaper business, and the family moved home constantly, almost inevitably contributing towards the turbulence and seeming inability to settle down that plagued her life. At the age of sixteen, now living in California, her elder sister and her husband kidnapped Reatha, causing a minor scandal, with some accounts stating that Reatha had helped plot the kidnaping herself in a desire to flee her oppressive parents. Reatha was already an incredibly luminous and attractive young woman, and she was regularly spotted in the nightclubs of Los Angeles dancing, drinking, and generally behaving in such a way that soon brought the wrong kind of attention. For her own protection a court declared that she was “too beautiful” to be on her own in the city and was ordered to leave Los Angeles.

This did nothing to assuage her ambitions however, and she attempted to turn this publicity into a Hollywood career. Having had stage experience as a child, she appeared as an extra in several films within the still developing Hollywood studio system. Being somewhat disappointed by her perceived lack of success, she went on to develop a career as a dancer, and performed in nightclubs around the country, attracting men wherever she went, until the strain on her health proved too great and she headed back home to California. Reatha Watson was incessantly creative and decided to try her hand as a writer. Her first attempt at a novel found its way into the right hands, and in 1920 the Fox Film Corporation produced The Mother of His Children (Edward J. Le Saint), the success of which lead to her becoming a staff writer for Fox.

Aware of the negative publicity attached to Reatha Watson, it was around this time that she changed her name to Barbara La Marr, and she was overjoyed to back in Hollywood, even if it was on the other side of the camera. However, that state of affairs did not last long, and she was soon invited to screen test and began appearing in small roles again. Her friendships with A-list stars soon lead to bigger roles, and within just three years she was playing major roles in The Three Musketeers (1921, Fred Niblo) alongside Douglas Fairbanks, in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922, Rex Ingram) with her good friend Ramon Novarro, and in Hollywood satire Souls for Sale (1923, Rupert Hughes), the cast-list of which reads like a Who’s Who of the silent era. La Marr often found herself cast as a ‘vamp,’ a Hollywood type popular in the pre-code films, and as such she was often dressed in amazing jewelled costumes and over-the-top headwear whilst tempting men to their fate, often being punished for such licentiousness by the end of the film. Despite being kind, overly generous and unselfish towards everyone she knew in her real life, this Hollywood ‘vamp’ image began to follow her wherever she went, and the Hollywood gossip press loved to tell tales of her somewhat scandalous personal life, the truth of which is laid out in this meticulously researched biography by Sherri Snyder.

Continue reading "BOOK REVIEW: "BARBARA LA MARR: THE GIRL WHO WAS TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR HOLLYWOOD" BY SHERRI SNYDER"

Posted by Cinema Retro in Adrian Smith on Wednesday, August 1. 2018

REVIEW: “BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY” (2017; Directed by Alexandra Dean); KINO LORBER BLU-RAY


“BEAUTY AND BRAINS”

By Raymond Benson

One of the unsung heroines of the 20th Century—her fame as a Hollywood star notwithstanding—is actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr. Few have known about her extraordinary proclivity to invent stuff, and even less are aware that she came up with a patent (in collaboration with a musical composer, no less) during World War II for a communications system that was later adopted and is still used today.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a wonderful documentary on the woman’s life and career, deliberately emphasizes that Lamarr’s scientific knowledge and technical imagination takes precedence over her Hollywood legacy. And while Lamarr appears to have maintained an upbeat attitude throughout the decades, the motion picture reveals that her struggles were many. Lamarr was troubled, misunderstood, and too many times ignored for her efforts beyond being a “pretty face.”

Pretty she was indeed. Lamarr was one of those Hollywood beauties who turned heads and dropped jaws. She was talented, too—a competent leading lady with on-screen charisma and a chemistry with (most) of her co-stars. Unfortunately, the Hollywood moguls, namely Louis B. Mayer at MGM, refused to cast her out of the pigeon-holed slot of “glamour girl.” Only after she broke away from the studio and took better control of the kinds of roles she played did she begin to display a wider range. Perhaps her most well-received role was that of Delilah in Samson and Delilah (1949), for which she campaigned in person to director Cecil B. DeMille. “I am Delilah,” she told him. He believed her.

Lamarr, who was from Austria, had made a controversial picture there in 1933 entitled Ecstasy, in which she frolicked about in the nude. A love scene focused on her face, which portrayed, well, an orgasm. Looking at these clips today, they all seem tame; but then—they were extremely potent. This “scandal” followed her to Hollywood and seemed to forever taint her career in a hypocritical business that exploited young starlets all the time. Nevertheless, she persevered and made a name for herself, becoming one of Tinsel Town’s biggest stars of the 1940s.

More significant, Bombshell contends, is that Lamarr should have been more appreciated for her brainpower. In the early days of the war, prior to the U.S. involvement, Lamarr teamed up with avant-garde composer George Antheil to come up with a way for battleships to communicate with torpedoes and guide them to their targets. The system was called “frequency hopping,” and was based on the way player piano rolls were constructed. If radio signals to a torpedo jumped around in frequency, the Germans would be unable to block the transmissions. The couple received a patent for the idea. Unfortunately, the Navy poo-pooed the notion and shelved it. It was discovered later, after the patent had expired, that the system was indeed developed and put into use. Lamarr and Antheil never profited from their invention, but apparently the system became the basis for much of today’s communications technology in GPS and WiFi.

Writer/Director Alexandra Dean assembles a fascinating portrait of Lamarr in a lean 88-minute feature that relies on vintage footage, film clips, and interviews with family members (Lamarr had a tumultuous love life—she was married six times), filmmakers and film people (Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne, Diane Kruger, Gillian Jacobs), and the scientific community. Dean doesn’t pull punches when it comes to some of Lamarr’s more problematic history—her studio-inflicted addiction to drugs, an arrest, the abandonment of an adopted child, and her rejection of her Jewish past. Mostly, though, the film is a celebration of a remarkable woman with an astonishing sense of self, curiosity, and innovation.

Kino Lorber’s 1920x1080p Blu-ray looks marvelous, and the vintage film clips are especially sharp and clear. The soundtrack is 5.1 Surround with optional English SDH subtitles. Special Features include an interview with director Dean, outtakes of interviews with Brooks, Jacobs, and Osborne, and trailers.

For anyone interested in Hollywood and/or World War II history, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story provides worthwhile, revelatory viewing.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON

Posted by Cinema Retro in Raymond Benson (see also Criterion Corner) on Tuesday, July 31. 2018

RE-EVALUATING WOODY ALLEN'S "MANHATTAN" IN THE #METOO ERA

BY LEE PFEIFFER

With the advent of the #MeToo movement, movie lovers are re-evaluating their opinions regarding older films, some of them indisputable classics. Case in point: "Manhattan", Woody Allen's 1979 romcom that sits high on the Woodman's list of significant cinematic achievements. The film's reputation survived Allen's own messy breakup with Mia Farrow and his subsequent marriage to her adopted daughter in the 1990s. However, in light of much greater sensitivities in the post-Weinstein era, some viewers may now find a key plot line in the episodic comedy to be cringe-worthy: Allen's character, a 42 year-old writer in a romantic relationship with a 17 year-old high school student. In real life, there would be moral and ethical consequences pertaining to the clearly sexual relationship that is depicted in the film but at the time of the movie's release critics and audiences were seemingly unconcerned. Writing in the New York Times, Steven Kurutz ponders "How do you solve a problem like "Manhattan?" and examines why some fans of the film are now finding it hard to enjoy its many merits. (Click here to read.) The article raises a larger issue: are we to ignore the artistic merits of cinematic classics because societal norms have changed- or do we still value them but view the films in the context of the times in which they were made?

Posted by Cinema Retro in Out of the Past on Monday, July 30. 2018

REVIEW: "A STUDY IN TERROR" (1966) STARRING ROBERT NEVILLE AND DONALD HOUSTON; MILL CREEK BLU-RAY RELEASE

BY LEE PFEIFFER

The James Bond films may represent the longest-running movie series produced by the same company, but ol' 007 doesn't hold a candle to the longevity of Sherlock Holmes as a big screen hero. Holmes has been a cinematic staple since the silent era and though his popularity has soared and waned over the decades, he has remained a presence in popular culture throughout the world. In recent years, younger people have embraced Holmes as a hero thanks to hip, updated interpretations of the character on television and the big screen. However, there were long periods in which Holmes had disappeared from motion pictures. The films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were enormously popular from their first appearance in 1939 through their final cinematic adventure in 1946. Holmes and Watson would not re-emerge on the big screen again until Hammer Films produced the first color Holmes movie, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in 1959. The plan was to launch a Holmes series for the studio starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morrell. Although the film is very well regarded today, it was not a financial success and the series never materialized. The next major studio release of a Holmes adventure was "A Study in Terror", which has been released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek. The movie starred John Neville as Holmes and Donald Houston as Watson- and both of them performed admirably in the handsomely-mounted 1965 production. The concept of Holmes facing off against Jack the Ripper has been done numerous times to date both in literature and on the screen, but "A Study in Terror" was the first Holmes property to exploit the duel-of-wits between the fictional detective and the real-life serial killer.

"A Study in Terror" has the look and feel of a Hammer Studios film of the period and one expects Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee to pop up somewhere along the line, but we must console ourselves with a very fine cast of character actors, each of whom is used well thanks to the intelligently-written screenplay by Donald and Derek Ford and the assured direction of James Hill, who would go on to direct "Born Free".  Among the standout appearances: John Fraser, Barbara Windsor, Adrienne Corri,  Anthony Quayle as a seemingly devoted surgeon who might just be the killer, Georgia Brown as a beer hall singer, Peter Carsten as a shady pub owner, Robert Morley as Mycroft Holmes- and keep an eye out for young Judi Dench. Frank Finlay appears as Inspector Lestrade, but his role is frustratingly underwritten. The film has a lush production design that masks the fact that virtually all of it is shot in the studio, with the exception of some exteriors of stately mansions, and the score by John Scott is appropriately atmospheric.  The story opens with the horrendous murders of prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London, a seedy place in the Victorian era where pollution was often so bad that one could barely see across the street, a factor that aided Jack the Ripper in escaping justice for his crimes. When police can't solve the string of murders, Holmes and Watson take up the cause and, as one might expect, the list of suspects includes a number of red herrings. This was the first Holmes movie to benefit from the new-found screen liberties. Thus, there is a blatant sexual element that would have been unthinkable a decade before. In addition to plenty of heaving bosoms and boisterous bar girls, there is also more violence and gruesome elements than had ever been seen previously in a Holmes feature film. It also features Holmes and Watson demonstrating their prowess with fisticuffs.  As with most Holmes mysteries, the fewer details divulged, the better the element of surprise for viewers. Suffice it to say that the story moves at a brisk pace and that Neville and Watson both give spirited performances that should have led to sequels. Alas, "A Study in Terror" was not a boxoffice hit. The lack of marquee names along with a preposterous marketing campaign that emulated the "Batman" TV series (referring to Holmes as "The Original Caped Crusader!") seemed to ensure that the film would not be a popular success. However, that doesn't dilute its many qualities. The Mill Creek Blu-ray has an excellent transfer that does justice to the rich color schemes and fine set designs. Unfortunately, there are no bonus extras. Do we recommend it? The answer should be elementary: of course.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Monday, July 30. 2018

REVIEW: "REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER" (1975) STARRING MICHAEL MORIARTY AND YAPHET KOTTO; KINO LORBER BLU-RAY RELEASE

BY LEE PFEIFFER

The early-to-mid 1970s was the heyday of grungy cop thrillers. Films exploring the seamier side of police work arguably got its biggest boost from the 1968 release of "Bullitt", which dared to show cops intertwined with ethically-challenged politicians in their common quest for career advancement. With the release of "The French Connection" and "Dirty Harry" in 1971, the genre kicked into high gear. In these films, the anti-hero disregards constitutional protections to take the law into his own hands. With America reeling from soaring crime rates, audiences cheered on these dubious symbols of our justice system. It's safe to say that watching these films from today's standpoint, one might have a different reaction to the tactics used by Popeye Doyle and Harry Callahan. However, there were more nuanced looks at modern urban police departments in films that explored corruption without the benefit of an superhuman anti-hero. Sidney Lumet's "Serpico" certainly exemplifies this type of film, with the protagonist being an every day cop who suffers terribly for calling out the blatantly criminal acts being committed by his peers. Similarly, a lesser-known film dealing the same subject matter- "Report to the Commissioner"- took a cynical look at the NYPD and found a nest of bribery, payoffs and other illegal methods used by many cops. This was not just some left-wing fantasy. The experience of Frank Serpico and fellow whistle-blower cop David Durk had blown the lid off massive corruption in the NYPD. The result was the formation of the Knapp Commission which uncovered widespread graft in the department and instituted radical changes to clean up the NYPD. A number of criminal indictments were handed down. "Report to the Commissioner" was released in 1975, well after the Knapp Commission had released its findings but during a period when faith in the NYPD remained weak among the citizens, who were shocked at the level of corruption unveiled in the Knapp probe. Adding to the public paranoia was the recent Watergate scandal. The film went into production shortly after President Nixon resigned in disgrace just two years after being re-elected in the biggest landslide in American history.

The story centers on the experiences of rookie undercover cop Bo Lockley (Michael Moriarty), who from the get-go seems too naive and sensitive to fit in with the hard-boiled detectives he's been assigned to work with. They cruelly subject him to hazing and never stop mocking him for looking like a hippie, even though he's not supposed to look like a cop since he works undercover. Lockley is shown the ropes around the Times Square district by fellow officer "Crunch" Blackstone (Yaphet Kotto), a hard-bitten veteran who strolls through the grimy neighborhood like a king, routinely abusing its denizens by words and physical actions. Lockley is appalled but Crunch warns him that survival in this part of the city depends on being feared, not being admired. The script introduces a parallel story line in which a young female undercover cop, Patty Butler (Susan Blakely) comes up with a dangerous plan to bring down local crime kingpin "Stick" Henderson (Tony King), who has evaded being arrested despite being the area's most feared pimp and drug dealer. Patty requests permission to pose a teenage runaway, seduce Stick and ultimately become his "old lady" with the intent of being able to witness his day-to-day operations and gather enough evidence to arrest him. The plan obviously violates departmental regulations but both Patty and her two superiors are eager for the promotions that would result from bringing Stick to justice so they approve her plan. Patty makes good on reeling in Stick and before long she's shacking up with him. Lockley, doggedly trying to find and rescue her on the assumption she is a runaway in distress, manages to trace her to Stick's apartment where the two men engage in a gun battle. Patty is tragically killed in the incident, and Lockley pursues Stick in a wild foot chase that includes Times Square before culminating in the men encountering each other inside an elevator in Saks Fifth Avenue. This is the most suspenseful sequence in the film. The police shut the power off, stranding Lockley and his prey in a sweltering, confined space with both men pointing guns at each other. Over time, they engage in a conversation in which Stick tries to persuade Lockley that they are both doomed because if they are allowed to live, their stories will bring disgrace to higher-ups in the NYPD. The conspiracy aspects of the script reflect the mood of the era. Nobody in the film is a traditional good guy except Lockley and he's treated like a fish-out-of-water.

"Report to the Commissioner" succeeds in presenting a gritty, realistic view of New York City during its decline in an era when crime was soaring, the streets were dirty and the future looked grim. Anyone visiting Gotham today would surely pronounce the city's turn-around as a miracle but there is no doubt that New York went through some difficult years and these were reflected in the movies of the era. However, the film is flawed in some key areas. Director Milton Katselas, who was revered as a playwright and academic more than a filmmaker (he directed only a handful of movies), is saddled with an erratic script by old pros Ernest Tidyman and Abby Mann, based on a novel by James Mills. The story isn't told in a linear fashion and instead jumps back and forth from present to past and vice-versa, making for an occasionally confusing experience for the viewer. Consequently, while some scenes are highly engaging, the film never gels satisfactorily as a whole. Not helping matters is the performance of Michael Moriarty as Lockley. We know he is supposed to be a naive rookie but at times Moriarty plays the part like he just stepped off a turnip truck and is seeing New York for the first time. His wide-eyed innocence often strains credibility. More convincing is Yaphet Kotto, who commands the screen in every scene in which he appears. Sadly, he vanishes from the middle section of the film, much to its detriment.  Tony King is excellent as "Stick" and young Bob Balaban excels as a double-amputee who acts as a police informant. The scene in which he uses his crude, wooden wheeled "dolly" to hitch a ride on a speeding car makes for a thrilling experience. However, certain other cast members over-act and dilute the impact of their scenes. Even the great Elmer Bernstein's score seems unusually mediocre. 

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a very fine transfer that captures the glitter and the gutters of New York during this period. The Blu-ray includes the original theatrical trailer. 

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Sunday, July 29. 2018

RARE "MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." DOUBLE FEATURE TV SPOT

Although we've seen the individual theatrical trailers for the 1966 "Man from U.N.C.L.E." feature films "To Trap a Spy" and "The Spy with My Face", we had never seen this rarity: a 60-second U.S. TV spot presenting them in the double-feature format in which most fans saw them theatrically. Amusingly, the footage crediting David McCallum (who the narrator refers to as "David McCullum") was inexplicably lifted from another "Man from U.N.C.L.E" feature film, "One Spy Too Many" and shows villain David Sheiner in the same footage! The U.N.C.L.E. feature films were simply two-part episodes that had been telecast on TV, then converted into highly profitable movies, occasionally with some re-editing and extra footage added that was deemed a bit too steamy for network broadcasts.

Posted by Cinema Retro in U.N.C.L.E HQ on Saturday, July 28. 2018

LOST STANLEY KUBRICK SCREENPLAY IS DISCOVERED

BY LEE PFEIFFER

A lost screenplay written by Stanley Kubrick and and novelist Calder Willingham in 1956 has been discovered by writer Nathan Abrams, who was researching his book about the making of Kubrick's final film "Eyes Wide Shut". According to Abrams, the script was based on "Burning Secret", a 1913 novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Kubrick and Willingham had adapted it to contemporary American society. The script dealt with a then- controversial subject matter: a 30 year old man befriends a pre-teen boy with the intent of using him for access to his married mother in the hopes of becoming her lover. The screenplay has been described as the "inverse of "Lolita" in which a man feigns interest in a mother in order to gain access to her young daughter. (Kubrick made a film version of "Lolita" in 1962). The "Burning Secret" project came about at a time when Kubrick was just starting to direct films for major studios. He had not yet developed an acclaimed reputation, nor did he have any clout with studios. "Burning Secret' was under consideration by MGM but the film never came to fruition, possibly because of the sensitivity of the subject matter in 1956. Indeed, Kubrick had to make major alterations to "Lolitia" years later in order to keep certain sexual elements subdued. For more click here.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Entertainment News on Friday, July 27. 2018

FRED MACMURRAY: THE PERFECT HEEL

For the baby boomer generation, Fred MacMurray was primarily known as the affable widowed dad on My Three Sons and the star of numerous Walt Disney films. However, as Movie Morlocks writer Greg Ferrara points out, MacMurray once excelled at playing charismatic creeps, giving brilliant performances in films such as Double Indemnity, The Caine Mutiny and The Apartment. Click here to appreciate the dark side of MacMurray's talents.  

Posted by Cinema Retro in Out of the Past on Thursday, July 26. 2018

REVIEW: STEVEN SODERBERGH'S "SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE" (1989); CRITERION BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION

“THERAPY FOR SECRETS”

By Raymond Benson

The year 1989 brought us such Oscar-winning pictures as Driving Miss Daisy, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, and, of course, the blockbuster Batman. One picture, though, always stood out for me and was my personal favorite of the year—Steven Soderbergh’s remarkable feature film debut, Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The Academy nominated it only for Original Screenplay. The Cannes Film Festival, however, awarded it the Palme d’Or and the Best Actor honor for James Spader. The movie put Soderbergh on the map, establishing him as an innovative, provocative filmmaker who was unafraid to take on challenging subjects.

The Criterion Collection has produced a new, restored 4K digital transfer and a new 5.1 surround mix (from the original sound elements), supervised by Soderbergh. The results, in the director’s own words that appear in an on-screen comment on the restoration, are such that one should “throw away” all previous home video (DVD, Blu-Ray) versions of the film—this is the definitive edition.

Made for only a little over a million dollars, the story is really a chamber drama of sorts that focuses on four characters. There is Ann (wonderfully played by Andie MacDowell), a sexually uptight and frigid housewife married to John (Peter Gallagher), a successful, go-getter lawyer who happens to be a lying philanderer. He’s having an affair with Ann’s precocious and definitely not sexually uptight sister, Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), who works as a bartender. Enter Graham, an old college friend of John’s, who has returned to town after nine years—and he is one strange dude. James Spader delivers a nuanced, sensitive, but assuredly slightly perversely skewed performance—one that pretty much defined the kinds of roles he would play for years to come. Like Ann, he, too, is sexually inhibited due to something that happened with his college girlfriend.

These days the only way Graham “gets off” is by videotaping various female acquaintances and interviewing them about their sex lives—and then viewing them when he’s alone.

While Ann suspects her husband is betraying her, she finds Graham oddly fascinating and they become friends until she discovers Graham’s “habit.” This proclivity is not a problem for Cynthia, though—she happily makes a video for Graham.

How things turn out for the quartet of characters plays out like therapy. In fact, Ann is seeing a therapist throughout the picture. Soderbergh has subtly structured and presented the story such that, in many ways, we, the audience, are the therapists observing the characters as they reveal their secrets.

In 1989, the material was shocking. Without any nudity or explicit sex scenes, Sex, Lies, and Videotape manages to be extremely visceral, voyeuristic, and, yes, sexy. It explores how the most intimate desires of human beings might seem kinky or perverse to some, and yet be perfectly normal for others. The way the “therapy” of the film addresses these hang-ups in the final moments is revelatory. Soderbergh may have never written or directed a more perfect picture.

The new transfer looks and sounds remarkable. An audio commentary from 1998, featuring Soderbergh and filmmaker Neil LaBute, accompanies the film.

The supplements are up to Criterion’s usual high standards. There’s a new introduction to the film by Soderbergh, along with vintage interviews with the writer/director from 1992 and 1990. A new documentary on the making of the film, featuring actors MacDowell, Gallagher, and San Giacomo, is especially informative and insightful. James Spader makes an appearance in a vintage 1989 appearance on the Today Show. There’s a deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh. A new conversation between sound editor/re-recording mixer Larry Blake and composer Cliff Martinez explores the challenges of the location shoot in Baton Rouge. Finally, Blake takes us on a journey through the evolution of sound restorations. The booklet features an essay by critic Amy Taubin and excerpts from Soderbergh’s 1990 book about the film.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape is still relevant and powerful. The picture reveals a young filmmaker who is exploding with talent, and four brave actors who dig deeply within to reveal all. It’s a masterpiece of independent filmmaking. Pick it up.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in Criterion Corner-DVD/Blu-ray Reviews on Wednesday, July 25. 2018

REVIEW: "THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN" (1972) STARRING PAUL NEWMAN; WARNER ARCHIVE BLU-RAY RELEASE

BY LEE PFEIFFER

Like Marlon Brando, director John Huston was often considered to be a has-been during much of the 1960s into the early 1970s. He worked steadily, but- like Brando- it was assumed his glory days were behind him simply because most of his films during this period didn't generate sparks at the boxoffice. (The success of his 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King would temporarily restore his luster.) His acting career got a boost from his great performance in Chinatown, but even some of his directorial flops look far better today than they did at the time of their theatrical release. One major disappointment, artistically as well as financially, was the seemingly sure-fire hit The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, made in 1972 and starring Paul Newman fairly fresh from his triumph in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The movie is a whimsical tale that is nevertheless loaded with violence and gallows humor (literally). The story is (very) loosely based on the real Roy Bean, an outlaw who became a self-appointed judge who called himself the "only law West of the Pecos" at a time when parts of Texas were a no-man's land of thieves, murderers and swindlers. Bean became known as a hard-ass judge who dispensed lethal justice. In reality, he only sentenced two men to be hanged and one managed to escape. Nevertheless, his colorful background provides screenwriter John Milius with plenty of imaginative fodder for fictitious encounters and incidents. We first meet Bean when he ambles into a remote outpost where he is robbed and beaten mercilessly by the denizens. He returns shortly thereafter and single-handed kills them all, thus instantly making him a local legend among the peasants who live in the area. Bean becomes obsessed with studying the law and showing mercy on the poorest elements of society. He even takes a lover, a young Hispanic woman (Victoria Principal, in her screen debut). Bean appoints himself as a "judge" despite not having any legal authority to do so. He enlists a group of slovenly "deputies" to dispense justice in his courtroom, which is the bar in which he was robbed. Before long, Bean is holding kangaroo trials and routinely lynching anyone who incurs his wrath. Despite this, he gains a reputation for being fair and defending the defenseless.  He adopts a bear and the movie presents some amusing sequences of Bean and his friends interacting with this over-sized "pet". The film traces his experiences over a period of years as the remote outpost becomes a bustling town. Bean is gradually sidelined as a force of influence. The death of his young wife during the birth of their daughter depresses him further and he rides off into oblivion. Twenty years later he returns to find that oil has been discovered on his property and that the corrupt mayor (Roddy McDowall) is using legally questionable methods to displace Bean's 20 year old daughter (Jacqueline Bisset) so he can control the oil on her land. Bean's reappearance causes a sensation as he rounds up his motley, aging group of former deputies to help his daughter fight for her rights. A fairly spectacular battle climaxes the film.

Bean offers many pleasures, not the least of which is a terrific supporting cast that includes cameos by Anthony Perkins, Tab Hunter (surprisingly good in an off-beat role), Anthony Zerbe, Stacy Keach (wonderful as a crazed, albino gunslinger), Ava Gardner as the legendary Lily Langtree, the object of Bean's romantic obsession even though he never meets her, and John Huston himself in an amusing appearance as Grizzly Adams. There are also plenty of familiar faces in the supporting cast including Ned Beatty, Bill McKinney (reunited from Deliverance with happier results) Richard Farnsworth and stuntmen Dean Smith and Neil Summers. The attempt to capitalize on the success of Butch Cassidy is fairly apparent, as evidenced by a fairly sappy love song and romantic montage that is obviously meant to emulate the famed Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head sequence from the former film. Nevertheless, Bean is a consistently enjoyable, rousing Western that probably plays much better today, when we can realize just how special acting ensembles like this truly are. Maurice Jarre's fine score adds immeasurably to the the enjoyment of the experience. 

The Warner Archive has released the film as fine-looking Blu-ray. The only bonus extra is the amusing original trailer. 

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Tuesday, July 24. 2018

VINTAGE MOVIE PHOTOS: STEVE MCQUEEN GOES "007" WITH HIS FERRARI

Cinema Retro contributor David Dorward found this interesting photo of young Steve McQueen and his wife posing with his Ferrari Lusso. The license plate number reads 007! We think this may be just a coincidence that one of real-life coolest guys on the planet had a license plate pertaining to the one of the coolest fictional characters, as the Bond phenomenon hadn't totally kicked in yet...unless McQueen was so smitten by the Ian Fleming novels and the release of Dr. No on screen that he was inspired to request "007". Either way, it makes for a fascinating photo.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Vintage Movie Photos on Monday, July 23. 2018

JERRY LEWIS 10-DVD COLLECTION RELEASED BY PARAMOUNT

Paramount has issued a 10-DVD collection of Jerry Lewis films, all but one of which pertain to his solo career. ("The Stooge" co-stars Dean Martin). The set is packed with 90 minutes of bonus materials including trailers, commentaries by Lewis and rare archival films and materials. Here is the official press release: 

Paramount Home Entertainment has issued a repackaged DVD set containing ten Jerry Lewis feature films. Here is the official press release:

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Relive some of the greatest film moments from comedy legend and Hollywood icon Jerry Lewis with the new JERRY LEWIS 10 FILM COLLECTION, arriving on DVD June 12, 2018 from Paramount Home Media Distribution. Celebrated for his remarkable range of characters, outlandish antics, and uninhibited physicality, Jerry Lewis’ work continues to delight audiences around the world and inspire new generations of comedians.

Featuring 10 of Lewis’ most beloved comedies, the JERRY LEWIS 10 FILM COLLECTION is headlined by 1963’s enduring classic The Nutty Professor, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year.  Considered by many to be Lewis’ finest and most memorable film, The Nutty Professor was included on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American films of all time and was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004. 

The 10-DVD set includes the following:

The Stooge (1951)—Features one of Lewis’ earliest pairings with Dean Martin as a musical-comedy duo

The Delicate Delinquent (1956)—A “teenage terror” is recruited for the Police Academy

The Bellboy (1960)—Lewis plays a friendly but clumsy bellboy in this slapstick classic

Cinderfella (1960)—Lewis’ take on the classic Cinderella story

The Errand Boy (1961)—Paramount enlists a bumbling Lewis to spy on their productions in this hilarious film studio comedy

The Ladies Man (1961)—A girl-shy man finds work in a women-only hotel with uproarious results

The Nutty Professor (1963)—A socially awkward professor invents a serum that turns him into the handsome but obnoxious Buddy Love

The Disorderly Orderly (1964)—Lewis wreaks havoc in a private rest home

The Patsy (1964)—Lewis directs and stars as a novice recruited to replace a big-time comedian

The Family Jewels (1965)—Lewis directs and plays seven distinct roles in this family inheritance farce    

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Sunday, July 22. 2018

"GREEN ACRES" SITCOM BEING ADAPTED AS BROADWAY MUSICAL

BY LEE PFEIFFER

The mania for adapting non-musical TV shows and movies as musical productions on Broadway continues with the news that the 1960s sitcom "Green Acres" will be brought to the Great White Way with more tunes than just composer Vic Mizzy's classic theme song, which seemingly every American of a certain age can still sing to perfection. The show was a major hit back in the day and starred Eddie Albert as a New York attorney who became fed up with the congestion and stress of living in Manhattan. He relocates to a small town called Hooterville where the naive city slicker finds that the farm he has purchased is a dilapidated mess. Much of the fun centered on his gorgeous but not-so-bright wife played by Eva Gabor, who longs to return to the big city. Both she and her husband toil on the farm while still clad in the same attire they wore on Park Avenue. The show, which is still shown in re-runs, was created by Paul Henning, the mastermind behind two similar sitcoms, "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction". Cast members from each show would turn up as the same characters across the three series. In watching the series today, I've been impressed at just how funny it still is, thanks to the wonderful performances of Albert and Gabor as well as the many great character actors who were regulars on the series: Alvy Moore, Pat Buttram, Tom Lester, Frank Cady among them. The fish-out-of-water premise for a comedy extends back long before "Green Acres". Cary Grant tried to adjust to country living in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" and Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert did the same in "The Egg and I". In later years, Tom Hanks starred in the similarly-themed "The Money Pit". Whether contemporary audiences who don't even remember "Green Acres" will find its gentle style of humor entertaining is the big question. Let's just hope that keep that opening theme song.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in Stage News on Saturday, July 21. 2018

REVIEW: "THE COMPLETE SARTANA COLLECTION" FROM ARROW FILMS

BY TIM GREAVES

It was arguably the success of A Fistful of Dollars that really set the ball rolling on the slew of shameless spaghetti western rip-offs and cash-ins that proliferated throughout the 1960s, as film-makers jostled to get a taste of the sauce and chow down on a cut of the rewards from what quickly became a very profitable arena in which to be operating. 

Sartana rode into town a little later than popular gunslingers such as Sabata, Django and Ringo, but he made enough of an impression to warrant a number of official sequels – and several unofficial ones too. Just five legitimate Sartana films were lensed, with Gianni Garko (billed as John Garko) headlining in four of them and George Hilton just one. Cucumber cool antihero Sartana was notably more dapper than most of his mud-spattered box office rivals, a real snappy dresser in fact; with his black cape lined in red silk, sharp matching cravat and crisp white shirt, he cut a fine figure riding through desolate wasteland, deck of cards in one hand, natty miniature four-shooter in the other, always ready to spit out a death sentence when the moment was called for. In the first film he even retrieved a musical pocket watch from a corpse and proceeded to use its tinkly chime to taunt his nemesis.

The fabulously contrived titles of the five films belied a series of enjoyable enough but not exactly top-tier western actioners. Dripping with all the requisite tropes of the genre, and occasionally sprinkling a few unexpected condiments into the pot, they’re perfectly watchable fare, but it’s unlikely many would favour any of them over a Sabata instalment or, indeed, an Eastwood classic. If, for this writer, there’s any problem at all with the Sartana series – and it’s one that prevents them from residing up there among the genre’s finest – it’s that in every instance a plot suited at best to the 50-minute TV episode format was, out of necessity, stretched to feature length, the resultant slightness of narrative rendering them all far too leisurely paced.

The five official Sartana films have now been issued on Blu-ray by Arrow Video in an impressive collectors’ box set. Accompanied by an illustrated book, each film is individually packaged and boasts reversible sleeve art, and the entire collection is housed in an attractive slipcase.

The series kickstarter was 1968’s If you meet Sartana pray for your eath (O.T. Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte), directed by Frank Kramer, a.k.a. Gianfranco Parolini. (Note: in Italian film titles, only the first word is capitalised.) Among the most enjoyable of the quintet, the plot concerns a pair of dodgy bankers who hire a group of Mexicans to steal a strongbox filled with gold, subsequently allowing them to claim on the insurance. In fact, the precious cargo has been substituted with rocks, the valuable contents having already been squirrelled away in a coffin. Following the heist, the Mexicans are quickly eliminated to wipe out any evidence of the scam. It’s up to Sartana to uncover the truth and retrieve the gold. Any anticipation engendered by the opening credit “with the special participation of Klaus Kinsky” (sic) is swiftly quelled; it’s anything but special, for the A-class actor – who possessed one of cinema’s most expressive faces (and intimidating grimaces!) – is relegated to sideline status for much of the action. At least any disappointment on that score is appeased by the presence of a satisfyingly formidable bad guy in the shape of wild-eyed, buttercup-chewing William Berger as Lasky, who, when he’s not gleefully massacring bandits with his hand-cranked Gatling gun, proves to be a single-shot marksman, planting bullets centre-forehead in more unfortunates than it’s possible to keep tally of. An ace cardsharp, Sartana makes a fast enemy of Lasky when he cleans him out at the poker table. Despite the paucity of plot, director Kramer manages to sustain interest, layering in double and triple crosses as Sartana gently manipulates the wrong-doers into turning on each other. There’s a stab at comic relief too in the form of Franco Pesce as the town’s undertaker, but for this writer his theatrical gurning and cartoonish mannerisms eclipse the intended amiable quirkiness to become distractingly irksome.

Arrow’s 2K restoration from the original film materials displays a fair amount of grain, but aside from one brief moment of picture damage at the outset and a slightly protracted patch of vertical scratching further along, the print is in very respectable shape. The film can be viewed in either an English dub or its original Italian with newly translated English subtitles. Supplements comprise a commentary from film historian (and Cinema Retro contributor) Mike Siegel, an interview with director Kramer, a helpful guide to the characters in the Sartana universe, and a gallery of artwork and stills.

A year later, in 1969, I am Sartana, your angel of death (O.T. Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino) was unleashed. In this one our man (Garko again) appears to have been involved in a bank robbery and finds himself at the top of the most wanted list, with a ,000 dead or alive price on his head. He didn’t do it, of course, so has to hunt down the real perpetrator to clear his name, whilst evading bounty hunters hot on his trail and intent on bagging the reward. It’s a decent enough follow-up from director Giuliano Carnimeo (credited as Anthony Ascott), which showcases another fine Garko performance (with Sartana now displaying a knack for sleight of hand card tricks) and the return of Klaus Kinski (spelt with the “I” this time) in a meatier, albeit less threatening role, that of a gambler-cum-bounty hunter with the best character name of anyone in the entire run of Sartana pictures: Hot Dead. Unfortunately, Franco Pesce (uncredited this time) is also back, now promoted to town mayor, fortuitously only briefly on screen but every bit as annoying. The story unfolds at a sedate price, but Ascott and cinematographer Giovanni Bergamini keep things percolating with some stylish set-ups, the camera lurching sideways whenever bodies spin and hit the dust. One brief scene stands out for this writer, if not for the right reason; when Sartana dodges a spray of bullets from a trio of pursuing gunmen by zigzagging left and right, any sense of suspense is undermined by spurred memories of the amusing Peter Falk/Alan Arkin ‘serpentine’ sequence in 1979’s The In-Laws!

Arrow had access to the original camera negative for this one and the 2K restoration is very nice indeed. Again sound options are English and Italian. Extras comprise a commentary from historian and filmmakers C Courtney Joyner and Henry Peake, interviews with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and stuntman Sal Borgese, plus a gallery of European poster art and German lobby cards.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Friday, July 20. 2018

JAMES BOND OFFICIALLY LICENSED SWIMWEAR FROM ORLEBAR BROWN

The Orlebar Brown Company has released a super cool, officially licensed line of retro-based James Bond swimwear for men. The imaginatively-designed, high quality bathing trunks are available in four designs: "Dr. No", "Thunderball", "You Only Live Twice" and "Live and Let Die" and each designs features graphics from original 007 posters and promotional photos. The items are part of the company's "Bulldog" brand, so-named because of the sentimental connection between "M" and her ceramic bulldog that plays a role in the plots of "Skyfall" and "Spectre". The price of the swimwear might require the budget of Goldfinger himself with the trunks carrying a 5/ 245 GBP retail price. However, we are assured that each item has an official James Bond label sewn inside and comes with a limited edition, waterproof custom storage bag (illustrated above) for those blokes who regularly find themselves having to dispense with their trunks on short notice. We'll go out on limb and presume that the deadly spear gun, infra-red underwater camera and mini atomic bomb tow sled are not included with the swim trunks. 

Click here for official web site to order.

Posted by Cinema Retro in James Bond 007 News on Thursday, July 19. 2018

REVIEW: "ALICE, SWEET ALICE" (AKA "COMMUNION") (1976) STARRING BROOKE SHIELDS; BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION

BY TODD GARBARINI

Alfred Sole is a production designer who has carved out a nice career for himself in Hollywood, most notably on the television shows Veronica Mars (2004-7), Castle (2009-16), and the reboot of MacGyver (2017-18). Long before he chose that line of work however, he dabbled in the world of film directing. His first film, the 1972 hardcore sex “comedy” Deep Sleep, must be seen to be believed because despite a few flourishes of cinematic style and several humorous sequences involving dialogue, it’s just a hardcore sex romp featuring folks no one in their right mind would want to see naked let alone copulating. There is absolutely nothing in this film to suggest that he would next direct one of the greatest and most thematically disturbing thrillers of our time, 1976’s Communion, not to be confused with the Christopher Walken/alien-probe-up-the-old-dirt-road 1989 outing based on Whitley Strieber’s 1987 “non-fiction” book of the same name. His subsequent films, 1980’s Tanya’s Island with the late and impossibly gorgeous Denise Matthews (credited as “D.D. Winters”) and 1982’s star-studded comedy Pandemonium both fared poorly at the box office, hence his career change. Thankfully Communion, with its high cinematic style and deceptively low production budget, refused to die.

In her screen debut, Brooke Shields plays Karen Spages (rhymes with “pages”), the younger sister of Alice Spages, the latter brilliantly portrayed by New Jersey-born actress Paula Sheppard. Karen is favored by everyone around her and can do no wrong, mostly because Alice is a, forgive the pun, holy terror. Alice teases Karen, locks her in a building to scare her, and mistreats her communion veil. Why the horseplay? Alice was conceived out of wedlock and is not entitled to receive the Holy Eucharist. As if this is her fault.

On the day of her first communion Karen is brutally murdered right in the church and all suspicion points to her sister after she finds the discarded veil and wears it to the altar. This sets in motion some truly well-acted scenes wherein the identity of the killer is constantly in question. Everyone suspects Alice, even her neighbor Mr. Alphonse (Alphonse DeNoble), an obese monstrosity you must see to believe. Karen and Alice’s mother Catherine (Linda Miller) is grief-stricken and meets her ex-husband Dom (Niles McMaster) at the funeral. Afterwards, there are suspicions about Alice’s whereabouts during Karen’s murder and Alice submits to a polygraph which she mischievously pushes on to the floor. Her Aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) battles with her sister and the latter accuses her of hating Alice because of her sinful status. Annie refutes this until she herself is attacked in a shockingly bloody sequence and fully believes that Alice is the killer.

Alice takes place circa 1961 as evinced by the production design, the old-style cars, the calendar on the wall, and the prevalence of a poster of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that can be seen if one really looks for it. Originally reviled amid concerns that it’s an attack against the Catholic Church (how can it not be?), the film was met with lukewarm box office. Director Sole was rumored to have stated that the church was simply the milieu he wanted to set the story against, but the commentary infers otherwise. It’s one of the most Catholic-themed films I’ve ever seen, even more so than William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973). It has a look, a feel, and an atmosphere all its own. This film is quite simply one of the best low-budget American horror films ever made. It boasts a superbly eerie score by Stephen Lawrence who scored a handful of other films. Yours Truly has been wishing for a soundtrack album of this music for years, however one has yet to surface. Great editing, wonderful set design, and excellent music all come together to make Alice an enjoyable shocker that can easily be viewed more than several times.

This film has had a strange history. Filmed in Mr. Sole’s hometown of Paterson, NJ in the summer of 1975, Alice premiered in Paterson (Lou Costello’s old stomping grounds) under its original title Communion on Saturday, November 13, 1976 at the Fabian Theater (now the Fabian Building). The event was met with much fanfare, however a subsequent theatrical release failed to stir much interest. Communion was dropped by the original distributor, picked up by another, retitled Alice, Sweet Alice, re-cut and redistributed in 1981 as Holy Terror and played up Ms. Shields’s participation in response to the success of the previous year’s The Blue Lagoon. It then made its way to cable television and local independent stations where the bulk of us caught up with it. Later on it was relegated to VHS collecting dust in discount bins beginning in 1985 with Goodtimes Home Video, seemingly forever to be lost within the public domain due to a legal snafu. I bought it for ten dollars, which was unheard of in an era when the MSRP on a VHS tape was roughly eighty dollars. In 1998, the film received a laserdisc release from the Roan Group which sported a highly entertaining audio commentary from director Sole and the film’s editor, Edward Salier. The film was given two DVD releases later on, which ported over the commentary. Even without the benefit of Sole's discussion, one can easily see the influence that Nicolas Roeg's astonishing Don’t Look Now (1973) has on this film.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in Todd Garbarini on Wednesday, July 18. 2018

'THE TOWERING INFERNO": THE ORIGINAL TRAILER

With the blatant "Die Hard" rip-off "Skyscraper" now in theaters, it's time to go back to a really good disaster film: producer Irwin Allen's 1974 blockbuster production of "The Towering Inferno", which benefited from having been made in an era in which it was possible to have genuine all-star casts. When it comes to this particular genre, they really don't make 'em like that anymore.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Out of the Past on Tuesday, July 17. 2018

REVIEW: "ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES" 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION FROM MVD

BY TODD GARBARINI

Movie-going audience members under the age of forty will not recall motion picture theatrical exhibition in the 1970s. It was a most interesting time when drive-ins and even first-run movie theaters would pair up an older feature film, generally one that was one to two years-old, with the main feature on a double-bill. A handful of theaters in my area used to engage in midnight showings of older films, too. One theater exclusively ran The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for years while another alternated between Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (1971), Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same (1976), David Lynch's art-house favorite Eraserhead (1977) and Alan Parker's Pink Floyd The Wall (1982). Other showcases included uncensored bloopers featuring Carol Burnett, the Three Stooges, and Abbott and Costello.

In October 1978, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was unleashed upon the moviegoing public (filming had begun in early 1977). The film is an effort to poke fun at the Japanese disaster and monster invasion films of the 1950’s and 1960’s, movies that, according to director John DeBello, were mostly unfamiliar to the moviegoing public. Billing itself as a comedy, to today's eyes, it's really anything but that. Despite a few laugh out-loud sequences the film, which runs nearly 90 minutes, feels nearly twice that length. There are many films that came out during this era that are disjointed and suffer from ineffective editing like Attack. Black Socks (aka Video Vixens) (1974) was an effort to introduce hardcore sex into a comedy and failed miserably. The Groove Tube (1974) and Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) are two other inane attempts at hilarity. However, there are some truly funny films in this vein, as 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane! in 1980, can attest to. In Attack, there is a humorous scene wherein military officials all cram into a small room for an impromptu meeting to discuss the best course of action against the tomato attack; a sequence involving a blind traffic cop; a badly dubbed Japanese official; and the requisite Jaws parody – bested by the aforementioned Airplane!

Attack recalls the similar premise of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) wherein dead bodies inexplicably are reanimated and begin feeding on human flesh. The one major difference here is that the unsuspecting American public is under attack by giant, killer tomatoes. The plot is almost too convoluted to be believed for a send-up, but the basic premise involves the government attempting to keep the seriousness of the tomato attacks under wraps so as not to give way to mass hysteria and have to call in the military.

What makes people laugh today is apparently different from what made people laugh forty years ago. However, there are certain comedies that are timeless. No matter how old I get, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges never fail to make me laugh. There aren't too many films made in the last thirty to forty years I can claim are able to do that. Even It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), with its television viewings and innumerable home video releases, is still to this day laugh out-loud hilarious. The interaction between all the characters is truly astonishing. There is no such chemistry between anybody in Attack. I’ll admit it’s unfair to compare Stanley Kramer’s epic comedy filled to the brim with comic geniuses who honed their talents for years with a film put together by a group of movie fans who wanted to make a film. To be fair, Attack probably was designed to play at drive-ins where people had other things on their mind besides a movie. And who can blame them? If you had to watch this film, you would do better off filing your nails.

I won't hold it against you if you're a fan of this film as I have my share of guilty pleasures, and if you are a fan then this DVD/Blu-ray is an absolute must-have. The restored, 4K transfer is very colorful and the film has never looked batter. The 2003 DVD release had several extras that have been ported over to this new release, and I will also list the extras that for some reason fell by the wayside. I would love to see half the number of extras lavished upon this film bestowed upon some of my favorite and lesser-known films that I grew up watching. For a film of this kind, the new DVD/Blu-ray combo set from MVD is jam-packed. It would have been nice if they included a hilarious cut of the film itself!

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Posted by Cinema Retro in Todd Garbarini on Monday, July 16. 2018

THOSE GLORIOUS OLD MOVIE ADS

The above ad ran in ABC Film Review, a British movie publication, in 1962. All of these films were showing simultaneously around the UK.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Vintage Movie Photos on Sunday, July 15. 2018

REVIEW: "THE LAURA GEMSER DELUXE BLU-RAY BUNDLE" FROM SEVERIN FILMS

BY TODD GARBARINI

This has been a good year for fans of model and actress Laura Gemser. Recently, Severin Films released a deluxe Blu-ray package of two of her films, a soundtrack CD, a really cool t-shirt and an enamel pin, the last item appearing to be something that is new and all the rage nowadays. We’ll take a look at the two films featured in this collection.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Laura Gemser, the high cheekbone-chiseled, dark-skinned Indonesian goddess born Laurette Marcia Gemser who appeared opposite Jack Palance in Emmanuelle and the Deadly Black Cobra (1975), returns in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals as Emanuelle. Here she’s a photojournalist who goes undercover at a mental hospital with a 35mm camera hidden within a creepy children’s doll that takes photos when the eyes open and close. She’s looking to expose the hospital’s treatment of the infirmed and witnesses a horrific event wherein a patient tries to eat one of the nurses. Yes, you read that right. A tattoo on the patient’s torso of a cannibal tribe’s logo stuns Emanuelle. She comes to find out that the woman was raised by a tribe of cannibals called the Apiaca. Eager to pursue this story, she consults with her newspaper editor, an older man who is looped so poorly you practically never see his mouth move. In fact, the whole movie is looped with foley effects and dialogue that all sound so unnatural but hey, that’s part of the fun of these movies. The story compels Emanuelle to seek out Dr. Mark Lester (Ms. Gemser’s late real-life husband, Gabriele Tinti) who agrees to accompany her on a journey to investigate the Apiaca. Before she leaves on her trip, however, she decides to make love to her boyfriend in full view of the New York skyline, but this is the last we see of him as she appears to be smitten with the older Dr. Lester. Mechanical and joyless softcore sex scenes proliferate, even after the point following their arrival in the jungle to pursue the tribe. They are offered assistance by a group of others who go with them: Reverend Wilkes (Geoffrey Copleston), Isabelle (Mónica Zanchi), an overly emotional Sister Angela (Annamaria Clementi), Donald Mackenzie (Donald O’Brien), and his wife Maggie (Nieves Navarro). They are on a mission to locate Father Morales who is supposedly the only person not from the Amazon who has ever had any contact with the tribe. Unfortunately, they only discover his remains, which sets poor Sister Angela into a terrible emotional state.

Poor Donald can’t seem to satisfy Maggie anymore, so when they stop to make camp she elects to get it on with natives in the jungle. As one would expect from director Aristide Massaccesi, better known as Joe D’Amato, the sex scenes are overdone, artificial and completely lacking in passion. Even Emanuelle’s multiple romps do little to exult in the wonder of her lithe figure. If ever there was an award for Best Mechanical and Robotic Sex Scene, director D’Amato would surely win every time.

Naturally, the more the group hikes further into the jungle the more they expose themselves to potentially being captured and eaten. This horrific fate befalls several of the party, but Emanuelle thinks of an ingenious way to escape once they are surrounded. The ending is silly and predictable, but you pretty much know what you’re getting with this acting troupe.

As difficult as it may seem to believe, cannibal films enjoyed a high level of popularity back in the 1970s and 1980s, so it was inevitable that they would make their way into other genres. If the title is unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, it should be. Though shot in the summer of 1977, Last Cannibals didn’t make its way to American shores until 1984 when it was dumped on VHS under the title of Trap Them and Kill Them. Like most exploitation films of the period, some of the action is shot in the streets of New York City and it’s a real hoot to see what Manhattan looked like 41 years ago. One shot has the comedy Kentucky Fried Movie displayed prominently on the marquee of the long-gone Rivoli Theatre which was known for its extended showcases of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Jaws (1975).

The film has just made its way to Blu-ray via of Severin Films and the results are so far above what we’re used to from VHS bootlegs that it looks like a different movie. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and given a 2K transfer from a good print that significantly brightens up the image, Last Cannibals looks good enough to make one dump the inferior and murky VHS bootlegs of over thirty years ago.

This disc has an unusual amount of extras for this sort of title. Up first is The World of Nico Fidenco which runs twenty-seven minutes. Signor Fidenco is the film’s composer and he has written an upbeat score for the film. He’s very interesting to listen to and describes how his stint in the military got in the way of his original ambition which was to be a film director. After he was discharged, he learned the guitar and studied singing and this led him to composing music for film. He collaborated multiple times with director D’Amato. (Note: if you’re a fan of the score, the first 3000 Blu-ray pressings in a special edition contain a separate compact disc of the score. The end of this review will fill you in on how to order it).

A Nun Among the Cannibals: An Interview with Actress Annamaria Clementi (twenty-three minutes). While watching the interview, I couldn’t believe that the woman speaking to the camera was the same woman who played Sister Angela in the film. She was roughly twenty-three when she shot the film, and is now sixty-five(?!) in the on-screen interview. This bespectacled beauty could easily pass for thirty-eight. Perhaps the interview was shot years ago? It looks new to me. She talks about how shy and aloof she was with lead actress Gemser, and how director D’Amato wanted to put her in his next seven films which she declined(!), as well as a chance encounter with Robert DeNiro when shooting in New York City. She also explains that she was approached by Pino Pellegrino, the man who would become her agent, casually on the street and he asked her if she wanted to become an actress. Remarkably, she trusted him and they had a good working relationship.

Dr. O’Brien MD: This eighteen-minute interview with Donald O’Brien who played Donald Mackenzie reveals how he got his start in acting, like most performers do, in the theatre. I was amazed at how much he had aged whereas the aforementioned Annamaria Clementi looked so much younger.

From Switzerland to the Mato Grosso runs nearly nineteen minutes and features Monika Zanchi whom genre fans will remember from the nutso 1977 outing Hitch Hike with Franco Nero and the incomparable David Hess. She also appeared in the ridiculous Spielberg spoof Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (1978).

The last featurette is called I Am Your Black Queen which runs just over eleven minutes and is a poorly-recorded audio interview with Laura Gemser which is subtitled. She talks about how she began, like most attractive young actresses do, by modelling. This is how genre favorite Caroline Munro got her start. Her first film, Free Love, was released in 1974. Perhaps not so surprisingly, she refers to her embarrassment over her nude scenes. Of the few movies that I have seen of her, she rarely if ever looks comfortable in her own skin, almost as if disrobing is a chore.

Last of all is the requisite theatrical trailer.

As I mentioned earlier, the first 3000 copies of this Blu-ray also include a soundtrack CD of the film’s score. The running time on the 31-track CD is one hour. It can be ordered here as part of The Laura Gemser Deluxe Bundle which includes a second film, Violence in a Women’s Prison.

Continue reading "REVIEW: "THE LAURA GEMSER DELUXE BLU-RAY BUNDLE" FROM SEVERIN FILMS"

Posted by Cinema Retro in Todd Garbarini on Saturday, July 14. 2018

OUT OF THE PAST: HUMPHREY BOGART'S OSCAR WIN FOR "THE AFRICAN QUEEN"

Here's a gem from the 1952 Academy Awards, which were very low-key back in the day and defined by short acceptance speeches by the winners.  Here Greer Garson presents Humphrey Bogart with the Best Actor Oscar for John Huston's "The African Queen".

Posted by Cinema Retro in Out of the Past on Friday, July 13. 2018

DVD REVIEW: "SWASHBUCKLER" (1976) STARRING ROBERT SHAW AND GENEVIEVE BUJOLD

BY LEE PFEIFFER

My only memory of "Swashbuckler" was seeing it for the first time when it was already in release for a year. The occasion was that this was an in-flight movie on my first trip to Europe in the summer of 1977. In those ancient times, films were still shown on 16mm projectors on pull-down screens in the main cabin. I remember being unimpressed with the film but the distraction of the  (then) free liquor service might have affected my opinion. As Cinema Retro's latest issue features coverage of the 1977 film "The Deep" starring Robert Shaw, I decided to revisit "Swashbuckler" largely because it also stars the estimable Shaw, who never gave a bad performance. I found my opinion of the pirate tale had improved considerably since the first viewing. It's a raucous, old-fashioned yarn that perhaps too earnestly tries to recapture the vim and vigor of those old screen adventures that would star Errol Flynn or young Burt Lancaster. Ably directed by James Goldstone, who takes full advantage of the lush Mexican locations (representing old Jamaica), the film opens in the court of Lord Durant (Peter Boyle), the corrupt British governor of Jamaica who rules the island like a tyrant. When honest nobleman Sir James Durant (Bernard Behrens) runs afoul of him, Durant has him arrested and imprisoned to await execution of a death sentence. He also commands that Durant's wife (Louisa Horton) and daughter Jane (Genevieve Bujold) be evicted from the family estate and forced to live in a tenement. Durant's main nemesis is the pirate Ned Lynch (Robert Shaw), who- along with his merry men- acts as a sort of Robin Hood, stealing from the corrupt rich and dispensing much of their fortunes to the poor. Predictably, Jane has an encounter with Ned and professes to loathe him, but as these things inevitably play out, we know the two are attracted to each other. After much griping and fighting that literally includes a duel between Jane and Ned, she implores him to come to the aid of her father, who is facing imminent execution. Ned and his men launch a full-throttle attack on Durant and- if you haven't guessed it- save the day.

"Swashbuckler" is undistinguished on most levels except for the fact that it is exciting and lives up to its title by including an abundance of terrific sword fights. Kudos to all the actors, who performed these extended and exhausting duels with great professionalism, including Bujold, whose slight build must have certainly posed an obstacle in filming these scenes. The supporting cast includes some esteemed names including Geoffrey Holder (in full "Live and Let Die" Baron Samedi mode) and Beau Bridges as a bumbling British army officer appropriately named Major Folly. The action is impressively filmed by cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop and it's all set to a lively score by John Addison. Shaw seems to be having the time of his life in what must have been a physically taxing role for him. Although the stuntmen are in abundance, it's quite clear he did many of his own action scenes. (Shaw says in the production featurette on the DVD that the film was more physically challenging than "Jaws"). Bujold does well as the gutsy young woman who defies sexual stereotypes and Peter Boyle is a great deal of fun as the evil Durant, even if he is miscast as a British nobleman. James Earl Jones has a prominent role as Ned Lynch's right-hand pirate. "Swashbuckler" wasn't designed to win awards or become a boxoffice blockbuster. It represents the kind of modest production that was designed to entertain and make a quick profit in an era before every release represented a major financial risk for the studio.

The Universal DVD features a very nice transfer and some welcome extras including an interesting original production featurette about the making of the film, cast and crew biographies and production notes and the original trailer. Recommended.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Thursday, July 12. 2018

"ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN" COMPLETE 5TH SEASON DVD COLLECTION FROM TIME/LIFE

Cinema Retro has received the following press release:

Available for the Very First Time at Retail, the 6-Disc Set Features 24 Complete, Remastered Episodes Loaded with Classic Sketches and Incredible Guest Stars Including Raquel Welch, Steve Allen, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Carroll O’Connor, Carl Reiner, John Wayne, Henny Youngman and Many More!

PROGRAM SYNOPSIS

Political correctness met its match with Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, NBC-TV’s groundbreaking variety series that became a cultural touchstone and part of the fabric of ‘60s-‘70s era America. Every Monday night at 8pm from 1968-1973, straight man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a supremely talented comic ensemble through a gut-busting assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief. ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON, from the award-winning TV DVD archivists at Time Life, makes its retail debut on July 10 in an uproarious set featuring all 24 re-mastered episodes from the fifth season (September 13,1971-March 20, 1972).

In THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON, after years of shameless name dropping, Dick finally gets his wish when bombshell Raquel Welch kicks off the new season with her first and only appearance on the show. Former Hogan’s Heroes POWs Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis escaped CBS to join the cast. And, along with alumni Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Teresa Graves, they help to celebrate Laugh-In’s landmark 100th episode (September 1, 1971). THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON also trots out many of the 20th century’s greatest talents, including Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Carol Channing, Charo, Petula Clark, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Henry Gibson, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Arte Johnson, Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli, Agnes Moorehead, Joe Namath, Carroll O’Connor, Vincent Price, Carl Reiner, Debbie Reynolds, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell, Vin Scully, Doc Severinsen, Jacqueline Susann, Tiny Tim, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Henny Youngman, and more!

THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON also includes such classic features as “Cocktail Party,” “Fickle Finger of Fate,” “Joke Wall,” “Gladys and Tyrone,” “General Bull Right,” “Big Al,” Lily Tomlin’s legendary “Ernestine” and “Edith Ann,” “Tasteful Lady,” and “Ruth Buzzi’s Hollywood Report”. Additionally, Mod, Mod World takes on sports, toys and games, families, politics, nutrition, leisure, year’s end, Manhattan, television, small towns, crazy people, and the theater, Robert Goulet, Charo, and Three Dog Night perform the Laugh-In news song and there’s a hilarious “Salute to Santa” and a very modern Christmas Carol.

CAST:

Dan Rowan, Dick Martin, Lily Tomlin, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Gary Owens, Alan Sues, Ann Elder, Dennis Allen, Barbara Sharma, Johnny Brown, Larry Hovis, Richard Dawson

PROGRAM INFORMATION

Format: DVD/6 Discs

Running Time: 1239 minutes

Genre: TV DVD/Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: Stereo

About Time Life

Time Life is one of the world's pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique music and video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media collections that evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered trademarks of Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by Direct Holdings Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in DVD/Streaming Video Reviews & News on Thursday, July 12. 2018

STARS AND DIRECTOR AT "GREASE" 40TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING, L.A., AUGUST 15


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a 40th anniversary screening of "Grease" with director Randal Kleiser in attendance along with stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Didi Conn and Barry Pearl. Comedian and actor Margaret Cho will emcee. The event takes place on August 15 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Tickets go on sale July 25th. Click here for more info.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Events on Wednesday, July 11. 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "TERROR IN THE DESERT: DARK CINEMA OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST" BY BRAD SYKES

BY TIM GREAVES

I must confess that when I first settled down to read “Terror in the Desert: Dark Cinema of the American Southwest”, a new book from McFarland by film-maker Brad Sykes, it was with a distinctly doubtful attitude, insomuch that I couldn’t quite believe there were enough films in existence to qualify its topic as an authentic sub-genre. Surely it would be a padded affair...

Following an introduction in which the author outlines his discovery of and enthusiasm for the films he identifies as “desert terrors” – distinguished specifically by the dusty, inhospitable locations in which they’re set – if, just 6-pages in, my doubts weren’t already being challenged, throughout the 275 ensuing pages they were suitably quelled; by the end I was completely won over. 

Though under-populated when compared to the staple sub-genres of slashers, vampires, zombies, nature-gone-crazy and their ilk (most of which have members in their community with facets that earn them a spot in the  “desert terrors” arena), there are nevertheless a surprising number of titles identified and discussed in the book, many of which had previously slipped under my radar. Quite a few of the films under examination have enjoyed their moment in the mainstream sunshine, rendering them (if only in name) familiar even to cinephiles with no interest in horror movies– From Dusk Till Dawn, Eight Legged Freaks, Tremors, Duel, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hitcher – but it was the intriguing-sounding entries I’d never heard of before which proved the most intriguing aspect of Sykes’ book for me. There won’t be many with a passion for cinematic terrors who, after having read about such titles as Raw Courage, Mirage, Road Killers or The Sadist (the latter cited by the author as the one which started it all back in 1963, and to which he devotes a whole chapter), will be able to resist an online search into their availability.

In discussing these films the text deigns to demonstrate, if I may quote the author, “...how the genre has evolved over the years due to social, economic, and political changes as well as stylistic technical transitions within the movie industry.” If that makes it all sound rather hifalutin, be assured it isn’t. Sykes writes authoritatively and informatively and never becomes bogged down in thesis-style analytics. In fact, so readable is his relaxed writing style that ultimately his enthusiasm becomes infectious. 

“Terror in the Desert” is an engrossing – and for this reader, educational – accomplishment and one that I’d not hesitate to recommend. There’s a handy A-Z appendix at the back cataloguing over 150 key titles, and it was nice to be reminded of movies I’d seen many moons ago, Sykes’ commentary about which filled me with the incentive for a revisit; Death Valley, The Velvet Vampire, Prey of the Chameleon, Ghost Town and Kingdom of the Spiders, to name but a handful.

Aside from the propensity to occasionally run a little too hot in recounting plot detail – though fortunately it is only occasional – my one reservation in terms of value for money with regard this slightly pricey volume is that pictorially it’s pretty underwhelming, with an extensive number of its 100+ b/w images being reproductions of (mostly) bland DVD sleeves and VHS cartons.

So, what did I take away with me from my immersion in “Terror in the Desert”? Definitely a desire to widen my viewing ever further, but moreover that there really does seem to be such a thing as the “desert terrors” sub-genre. Who knew? Certainly not I.

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Posted by Cinema Retro in Book News/Reviews on Tuesday, July 10. 2018

TAB HUNTER DEAD AT 86

BY LEE PFEIFFER

Actor Tab Hunter has died at age 86 after sudden complications from a blood clot lead to a fatal heart attack. Hunter's blonde hair and hunky build made him a natural for the kind of beefcake leading men that characterized 1950s Hollywood. He was put under contract at Warner Brothers and became the studio's top grossing star during the years 1955-1959. Among Hunter's biggest hits of the era was the WWII film Battle Cry and the screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. Hunter's popularity briefly extended to singing and his recording of "Young Love" was a smash hit, displacing Elvis Presley at the top of the charts. However, changing attitudes among fickle movie-goers in the 1960s swerved away from the traditional studio concept of a leading man. Hunter continued to work but in less-than-stellar productions. He did, however, have memorable cameos in big studio productions such as The Loved One and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.  Hunter remained relevant by appearing on television shows and starring in two bizarre hit cult movies of the 1980s: Polyster and Lust in the Dust. Upon publication of his 2005 autobiography, he came out of the closet and stated he was gay. Hunter acknowledged the obvious: that had he done so back in his glory days, his career would have come to an abrupt end. He lamented how he would have to feign love affairs with actresses and be seen on faux dates. Hunter's late-in-life embrace of his sexuality was welcomed in the gay community and figures prominently in the 2015 documentary Tab Hunter Confidential, which was produced by his long-time romantic partner Allan Glaser. For more click here.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Obituaries on Monday, July 9. 2018

LIZA MINNELLI TAKES ISSUE WITH JUDY GARLAND BIOPIC

Liza Minnelli was reported by Radar Online to have given her blessing to a new big screen biopic of her legendary mother Judy Garland. However, the story was removed from Radar's web site when Minnelli publicly stated that she had no connection to the film and, contrary to the report, had never been in contact with its star, Rene Zellweger. The film chronicles Garlands 1968 concert appearance in London and all the surrounding drama that accompanied it. At that point in her career, Garland was suffering from many personal demons that would lead to her death the following year at age 47. In a statement, Minnelli said that she does not approve of or sanction the film. For more click here.

Posted by Cinema Retro in Entertainment News on Monday, July 9. 2018

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