Movie marketing sure has changed. Studios rarely advertise films in newspapers today (assuming you can still find a newspaper today) but that medium was once the most effective method of promoting new films. Not only were traditional ads run but clever off-beat ancillary campaigns were also featured in the guise of entertainment. For example, here is a promotional campaign for the 1966 epic "Khartoum" starring Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier that was squarely aimed at kids despite the fact that the intended audience was adults. This promotional block seen above was featured in the United Artists pressbook sent to American theater owners to suggest creative local publicity campaigns.
(For extensive coverage of the making of "Khartoum", get the Cinema Retro Movie Classic Roadshow Epics of the 1960s issue by.)
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Cinema Retro reader and contributor Kev Wilkinson was kind enough to provide these rare photos of the British sexploitation film The Pleasure Girls playing at London theaters in 1965. For Adrian Smith's extensive articles on the British sex film industry in the 60s and 70s, see Cinema Retro issues #23 and #24.
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Cinema Retro has received the following announcement from Bondstars:
Bondstars have a handful of tickets left for their Chitty Chitty Bang Bang event on Sunday November 18th at Pinewood Studios, London England.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming's most fantasmagorical flying car 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' on the big screen, they are hosting a special anniversary lunch event at Scrumptious Mansion, aka Pinewood Studios. Pinewood isn’t open to the public, so this is a rare chance to step into one of Britain’s most iconic film studios. The day will include a visit from the car herself; cast and crew members in attendance; screening of the film in The John Barry Theatre; a delicious lunch in the Pinewood Ballroom; a special Chitty quiz; Q & A’s with our guests from in front and behind the camera; a tour around Scrumptious Gardens and an exhibition of Chitty memorabilia and souvenirs.
Adrian Hall (Jeremy), Heather Ripley (Jemima), Vic Armstrong (Stunts), Robbie Sherman (son of Robert Sherman), Dickie Bamber (Assistant Director: title sequence \ Set Dresser), Peter Lamont (Assistant Art Director), Graham Hartstone (Sound Camera Operator), Martin Body (Assistant Camera), Brian W Cook (Second Assistant Director), Lawrie Read (Sound recordist and ADR), Michael Reed (Director of Photography: title sequence), Les Tomkins (Draftsman) and Rona Brown (Animals)
More event information can be found here -
If you'd like to attend or have any questions, please email.
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Turner Classic Movies (North America) will broadcast "Treasures from the Disney Vault" on October 15. Here is the official description:
Once again, we are honored to present an assortment of classics from the Walt Disney library, with TCM friend and Disney expert Leonard Maltin returning as host. This collection includes the TCM premieres of three Disney features and two cartoon shorts:
The Cat from Outer Space (1978) is a sci-fi comedy feature about an intelligent extraterrestrial cat named Jake who crash lands his spaceship on Earth and seeks help in making repairs so he can return to his own planet. The human actors include Ken Berry, Roddy McDowall, Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson.
The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (1980) is a family-adventure film in which a plane carrying various animals is turned into a boat after crash landing on a desert island. (A full-scale Boeing B-29 bomber was used in the film.) This film stars notable actors Elliott Gould, Geneviève Bujold and Ricky Schroder.
Flight of the Navigator (1986) is a sci-fi adventure about a boy (Joey Cramer) who is abducted by a spaceship and travels into the future. Randal Kleiser directed and the cast includes a young Sarah Jessica Parker.
The premiering cartoons in our night's lineup focus on the Mickey Mouse family of characters. In Magician Mickey (1937), Mickey stages a magic show despite interruptions from heckler Donald Duck. In Pluto's Sweater (1949), Minnie Mouse knits a hideous pink sweater for Pluto, to the amusement of the kitty Figaro.
Two features are given encore screenings in the theme of Halloween. The classic musical fantasy Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), which combines animation and live action, stars the delightful Angela Lansbury as an apprentice witch in WWII England, who takes in three children during the London blitz and plans to use a magic spell to help in the war effort. The film, directed by Robert Stevenson, received four Oscar nominations and won in the category of Best Special Visual Effects.
The Little Whirlwind (1941), an encore cartoon, has Mickey Mouse struggling with a small tornado. This short is of particular interest because it employs a redesigned Mickey that was employed briefly during the World War II period. In this version, Mickey has smaller ears, larger head and hands and buck teeth.
The sci-fi adventure The Black Hole (1979) concerns space travelers who locate a lost spacecraft that is hovering near a black hole and try to solve the mystery of how the ship defies the enormous gravitational pull. An imposing cast includes Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine and Yvette Mimieux. This film was Oscar-nominated in the categories of Best Cinematography and Visual Effects. It was the first "dark-themed" Disney feature and the first to be given a rating of PG.
by Roger Fristoe
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
By the mid-to-late1970s, the legendary Henry Fonda was deemed all-but-through as a leading man. What was a screen icon to do in an industry that no longer appreciated his talents? In Fonda's case, he began farming out his services in cameo roles, often playing scientists or presidents and bringing a bit of gravitas to such decidedly underwhelming productions as "Tentacles", "City on Fire", "The Swarm", "Wanda Nevada" and "Meteor", along with the hit WWII film "Midway". Clearly, Fonda was frustrated by being relegated to cinematic window dressing, which probably explains his participation in "The Great Smokey Roadblock", which went into production in 1976 and which received a spotty release the following year. Fonda probably disapproved of the fact that the studio had changed the title from the more appropriate "The Last of the Cowboys" in order to cash in on the CB radio craze and the unexpected success of "Smokey and the Bandit". It is rather shocking to see Fonda starring in this bare bones production shot entirely in rural California. But he brings dignity to his performance as "Elegant John", a well-known aging trucker who is revered by his peers for his record of reliability. Seems he's never missed a scheduled delivery and is known as a true professional. However when an illness confines him to a hospital, John falls behind on his truck payments and the vehicle is confiscated. Facing bankruptcy and the loss of his livelihood, John steals his own big rig and immediately becomes a wanted man. Low on cash and resources, he gives a lift to a young hitchhiker, Beebo Crozier (Robert Englund), a naive and shy young man who possesses enough cash to fill up the gas tank at least once. The pair hightails it to a bordello run by John's old friend Penelope Pearson (Eileen Brennan), who presides over a group of happy young hookers. However, they have just been busted by the cops and face arraignment. They concoct a daring scheme to move their possessions into the back of the big rig and take off for South Carolina, where for some vague reason, everyone feels they can safely start a new life. (Apparently, they have never heard of extradition laws.) John states that he may be doomed but he wants to make one last, big successful run.
No corn pone trucking comedy would be complete without a buffoonish lawman and in this case he's played by the inimitable and always amusing Dub Taylor. The plot finds the group arrested by Taylor and his equally dopey deputy but they turn the tables on them by using sex as a temptation. The big rig then takes off at high speed but now inter-state warnings are out and John and the girls are becoming the stuff of popular legend. Along the way, the rag tag group attracts more lovable misfits including a down-and-out DJ played by master impressionist John Byner and a crazed hippie from New Jersey played by Austin Pendleton, who seems to be channeling the future performance of Dennis Hopper as the whacky photographer of "Apocalypse Now". Soon, the entourage of counter-culture types forms a nomadic family that is perpetually one-step ahead of their pursuers. (Picture "The Outlaw Josey Wales" with motorcycles and a big rig.) The only action set piece in the film comes during the climax when police have set up the titular roadblock that Elegant John and his followers are determined to smash through on their way to a new life. The scene itself is well staged and features the requisite amount of crushed police cars for a film of this peculiar genre.The movie borrows heavily from director Richard C. Sarafian's 1971 cult flick "Vanishing Point". Both films center on outlaws who become populist legends by avoiding capture by the police. The film even has John Byner blatantly imitate the DJ from "Vanishing Point" played by Cleavon Little by having him broadcast propaganda to the masses on behalf of the outlaws.
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Kino Lorber continues its welcome habit of unearthing cinematic rarities and making them available to retro movie lovers. Case in point: "Tiger by the Tail", a long-forgotten crime thriller filmed in 1968 as an independent production but not released until 1970. The film is the epitome of a good "B" movie from the era: lean, fast-moving and efficiently made with an impressive cast. The movie is typical of low-brow fare from the 1960s. It's primary purpose was to shot quickly and turn a modest profit. Many of these films, which often played as the second feature on double bills, had the asset of affording leading roles to actors and actresses who rarely had the opportunity to get top billing. Such is the case with this film which features Christopher George in the leading role. He plays Steve Michaelis, a recently discharged U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran who is returning home to New Mexico. However, he makes a nearly fatal pit stop in Mexico and the opening scene is a bit of a shocker. He's a about to bed a local beauty when two thugs enter the room and a brutal fight ensues that he barely escapes. This seems like an irrelevant scene, given all that follows, but we find out later its pertinent to his fate. Steve arrives in New Mexico where he reunites with his older brother Frank (Dennis Patrick), who raised him after their parents died. While Steve is down-and-out and broke, Frank has prospered as the majority share holder in the local horse racing track which fuels the local economy. The two men have a frosty reunion that is strained even further when Steve discovers that his former girlfriend Rita (Tippi Hedren) is now romantically involved with Frank. Nevertheless, the two men reconcile and things appear to be heading in the right direction. However, fate takes a tragic turn when the racetrack is robbed and Frank is murdered in cold blood. This sets in motion a complicated series of events. Steve learns he will inherit his brother's share of the racetrack stock, something that doesn't sit well with Frank's partners who inform Steve they intend to use a legal loophole to pay him off at a bargain basement price and assume total control of the operation. Steve soon discovers that he may not even get that money, as it becomes apparent someone has ordered him to be killed. Worse, he is being framed for the murder of his brother. The film follows the formula of old film noir crime thrillers and that isn't a bad thing. We see him use his wits and considerable fighting ability to thwart attempts on his life as he tries to find out who is out to get him. The logical suspects are the racetrack shareholders, a group of greedy elitists who don't want to be in business with him. Red herrings abound and Steve learns he can't trust anyone including Rita who informs him she wants them to resume their relationship now that Frank is in his grave.
"Tiger by the Tail" feels and looks like a TV movie of the era and that isn't a coincidence. Director R.G. Springsteen was best known for his work in television where he excelled in directing episodes of classic western series, and his colleague on those shows, writer Charles A. Wallace wrote the screenplay for the film. (This would prove to be Springsteen's final work in the film industry before his death in 1989.) Springsteen's direction is workmanlike in some areas but more inspired in others. He milks a good deal of suspense from the plot and keeps the action moving at a brisk pace across the movie's 99 minute running time. Springsteen, perhaps because of budget limitations, shoots virtually every scene in a real location which adds authenticity to the production. The film boasts a good cast of supporting actors, all in top form: Lloyd Bochner and Alan Hale as the greedy stockholders, Dean Jagger as a Scrooge-like banker and most intriguing, John Dehner as the local sheriff (in an excellent performance) with a penchant for using twenty dollars words in his vocabulary and who, along with his hot-headed deputy (Skip Homeier) may be complicit in working with the bad guys. Steve's only friends are Sarah Harvey (Glenda Farrell), the perky owner of a gun and souvenir shop who performs ballistics tests in the shop and New Mexico State Trooper Ben Holmes (R.G. Armstrong) who offers Steve whatever limited advice and support he can. The singer Charo (yes, that Charo) is cast in a superfluous role to provide a couple of songs in a local bar and to add a bit of additional sex appeal when we aren't gawking at Tippi Hedren sunning herself poolside in a bikini. As a leading man, Christopher George is top-notch. He's handsome, rugged and capable with fists and a gun as he takes on seemingly insurmountable odds. George should have been a success on the big screen. He was coming off a run in the hit TV series "The Rat Patrol" but never quite got his opportunity to shine on the big screen. "Tiger by the Tale" represents one of his few leading roles in a feature film, though he impressed as villains in the John Wayne westerns "El Dorado" (1967) and "Chisum" (1970). He died in 1983 at only 51 years of age from heart complications.
The Kino Lorber transfer is impressive, as usual, though there are some occasional speckles and artifacts. However, it's doubtful that there are many pristine prints of the film floating around, given its lowly stature. The Blu-ray features a very good commentary track by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, both of whom show a good deal of respect for the movie and all involved in its production. They are especially kind to Tippi Hedren, pointing out that she was long underrated as an actress. (She unfairly took most of the blame for the failure of Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" in which she starred.) The release also includes a gallery of other action films and mysteries available from KL, though no trailer is included for "Tiger by the Tail". I don't want to overstate the movie's merits. It certainly isn't a lost classic but I suspect you'll find it far more impressive than you might have suspected. Recommended.
TO ORDER FROM AMAZON
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BY TIM MCGLYNN
Never trust a man who says, “Trust me.”
With those sage words of advice, 15 year-old Fannie Belle Fleming leaves her home in the backwoods of West Virginia in 1950 to pursue a career in show business. What happens next is not exactly what the aspiring country singer had in mind.
Blaze (1989 Touchstone/Disney), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino-Lorber, is based upon the true story of the vocalist- turned- stripper who changed her name to Blaze Starr and became scandalously involved with Governor Earl Long of the Great State of Louisiana.
Blaze, played by Lolita Davidovich (Raising Cain, Leap of Faith, Cobb), is persuaded by sleazy club owner Red Snyder (Robert Wuhl) to try stripping, which he assures her is a form of dancing. “Trust me,” he tells her. After a timid start, Blaze becomes a star on the Burlesque circuit moving from New York to Baltimore and finally landing in New Orleans in 1959.
It is there in the Big Easy that Blaze encounters the colorful Earl K. Long, portrayed in bigger than life fashion by Paul Newman. One night Earl stumbles into a Bourbon Street establishment where he apparently knows most of the strippers on a first name basis. Immediately taken with her beauty and figure, Long asks if he may take Blaze to dinner. Remembering her mother’s words, a sadder- but -wiser Blaze asks the Governor “Can I trust you?” and is quite pleased when he answers “Hell no!” Their brief, but passionate affair was the stuff of legend in a state not unfamiliar with political shenanigans. While not addressed in the film, both the Governor and Ms. Starr were married to others at the time.
Writer-Director Ron Shelton’s film follows a late ‘80s trend of comedy-dramas from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, featuring a quotable script and likeable characters who are anything but the backwoods stereotypes we are accustomed to seeing. Much like Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes and Shelton’s own Bull Durham, this movie gives us another strong female lead, confident in choosing her path in life without relying on the support or approval of men. Ms. Davidovich’s portrayal of Blaze is both comic and intelligent in that she is able to partner with Governor Long and guide him through his campaign for Congress.
Paul Newman chews his way through Shelton’s script as a conflicted, progressive politician caught in a system that still sees women we are handsome vice summer 2018 swimwear and minorities as second-class citizens. On the one hand he supports a civil rights act that will guarantee voting and equal employment opportunities for blacks in 1960 Louisiana, but at the same time he still holds some of the racist beliefs of many in his own political party. “We can’t keep sleeping with them at night, and kicking them during the day” he says during a raucous meeting with state legislators.
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Curly and Shemp were long gone but even in the 1960s, the "new" Three Stooges continued to gain popularity with a younger generation. The slapstick kings "starred" in a series of cartoons and even inspired a long-running comic book series published by Gold Key. The web blog 1966 My Favorite Year presents a gallery of Stooges comics covers. to view.
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RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Even astute fans of retro cinematic classics may be unfamiliar with Billy Wilder's 1951 gem "Ace in the Hole". The film was a boxoffice flop in its American release back in the day but over the decades it has become regarded as a genuine classic and one of the best movies of its era. Kirk Douglas, in one of the truly great performances of his career, is cast as Chuck Tatum, a once-lauded reporter for a major New York newspaper, who finds his career on the skids. His cynical nature, overbearing personality and weakness for liquor has resulted in him being displaced to New Mexico, where- out of desperation- he convinces the editor of an Albuquerque paper to give him a job. Within hours, Tatum is bored by the sleepy atmosphere and passive nature of his co-workers, most of whom have no ambition beyond reporting minor stories of local interest. Things change radically when Tatum stumbles onto a crisis in the desert that could make for a compelling story. Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) is the owner of a cafe located on a remote road who finds himself trapped in a cave after venturing inside to look for ancient Indian artifacts. Tatum sees that rescue plans for the man are rather poorly staged by the local deputy sheriff (Gene Evans). He enters the cave at great danger to himself and makes a connection with Leo, whose legs and midsection are buried under debris. Tatum is able to communicate with him from a small opening in a dirt mound and he assures Leo that he will get food, water and cigars while he organizes a rescue team. Grateful, Leo looks upon Tatum as his guardian angel. However, it becomes clear that Tatum is using his relationship with Leo for his own selfish purposes. He sees the potential as one of those "child stuck in a well" scenarios that tends to galvanize the entire nation. By personally taking charge of the rescue effort, Tatum makes himself a national hero overnight, as hundreds of people stream to the remote location and erect a tent city in order to be on the scene when Leo is eventually saved. Tatum, fully aware of American's eagerness to embrace the bizarre elements of any story, also plays up the notion that Leo is the victim of an ancient Indian curse for prowling around sacred tribal grounds.
Tatum has some disturbing factors to contend with, however. The primary problem is dealing with Leo's bombshell, self-centered wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling in a terrific performance). She was already looking to get out of a boring marriage with a boring man and decides to leave town during Leo's moment of crisis. Tatum uses a combination of charm and threats to convince her that staying put and playing the role of loyal wife would be in everyone's benefit. His prediction comes true in the financial sense, as the Minosa's cash-starved cafe begins to burst at the seams with visitors due to its proximity to the cave. Ironically, Leo's life-threatening predicament is finally bringing him the financial success that has eluded him. While Tatum becomes obsessed with manipulating the crisis, he also finds that his dispatches from the scene and his exclusive access to Leo have put him back in demand as a writer. He bypasses his own employer to sell updates to his ex-boss in New York at extortionist rates. He also has a hot/cold relationship with Lorraine, who clearly has a submissive sexual aspect to her moody demeanor. She's excited when Tatum mistreats her, though it's never made clear if their relationship goes beyond the flirtation stage. Tatum gets some disturbing news when he learns that the rescue team can use an expedited method to rescue Leo. Not wanting to kill the goose who laid the golden egg, Tatum manipulates the corrupt local sheriff (Roy Teal) into ordering a more labored method of rescue, even though it will result in a delay of days before reaching the victim. The decision has startling consequences for all involved. To say any more would negate the surprising turn of events depicted in the film. Suffice it to say, the intensity of the story continues to build throughout, making "Ace in the Hole" a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience.
Criterion has released "Ace in the Hole" as a dual format Blu-ray/DVD. The quality, as one might expect, is up to the company's superb standards. The package is loaded with fascinating extras including a rare extended interview with Billy Wilder at the American Film Institute in 1986. In it, Wilder talks about "Ace in the Hole" and other aspects of his career. The film was an early directorial effort for him and the first movie he produced, following his career as one of the industry's most in-demand filmmakers. By his own admission, "Ace in the Hole" was a major source of frustration for him. The movie was ignored by American critics and audiences and even re-titled "The Big Carnival". In the post-WWII era, it was probably deemed far too cynical for U.S. audiences. In fact, the "hero" of the film is a cad, the leading lady is a self-obsessed phony and the local law officials are corrupt. Except for a few minor characters, there is no one in the film with a truly moral center. Wilder says he took heart from the fact that the movie was quite successful in its European release. The set also contains a 1988 interview with Kirk Douglas, who discusses the film and his respect for Wilder in a very informative segment. Most impressive is the inclusion of "Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man", a 1980 documentary by French film critic Michel Clement in which Wilder gives extraordinary access to his private life. We see him at home and at the office with long-time collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond as they laze around trying to come up with ideas for future projects. Wilder comes across as a symbol of Hollywood's bygone Golden Age. Speaking in a thick Austrian accent with his ever-present stogie at hand, Wilder regales the viewer with insights about his family's escape from the Nazi occupation and his unlikely meteoric rise up the film industry's food chain. Almost from the beginning he was a hot property and would remain a revered director, producer and writer throughout his entire career. The set also includes a vintage audio interview with another Wilder collaborator, screenwriter Walter Newman and an insightful and creatively designed "newspaper" with essays by critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin. Director Spike Lee provides a brief video "afterword" in which he extols the virtues of the film and also shows off a cool original lobby card that he treasures because it is signed by both Wilder and Douglas. Topping off the "extras" is a truly excellent audio commentary track by film scholar Neil Sinyard, who provides so many interesting background observations about the film that it will open any viewer's eyes to the latent meanings of certain sequences and images. Even if you consider audio commentaries to be dry and academic, I do urge you to give this one a listen. It's first rate throughout.
In summary, this is a first rate presentation of one of the most unfairly neglected American film classics; one that in recent years is finally getting the acclaim that it should have received on its initial release. Criterion has surpassed even its usual high standards.
to order from Amazon.
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a 45th anniversary screening of "The Exorcist" on October 22 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. There will be an on-stage discussion about the film with director William Friedkin and star Ellen Burstyn. for details and tickets.
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Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
(Oct 4th. - Omaha, Nebr.) Film historian Bruce Crawford will be presenting the 1985 classic on Friday, Nov.9th. 2018 at Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street in Omaha. It has become one of the most popular adventure comedies in cinema history and spawned 3 sequels as well as comic books and video games and much more.
In addition to the special event screening, writer, producer and co- creator of all three Back to the Future films, Bob Gale will address the audience as well as actor Harry Waters Jr. who played singer Marvin Berry in the film. Both will speak before the screening, discussing the making of this iconic film. There will also be a meet-and-greet and autograph session for the fans.
This event marks 26 years since Crawford started hosting film legends and the classic films on which they worked. He typically presents two movies each year, spring and autumn.
Tickets to meet and hear Bob Gale and Harry Waters Jr. go on sale Thursday, Oct.4th for each and can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores. Proceeds will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.
For more information call (402) 932-7200 or (308) 830-2121 and visit
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Writer Jim George provides an unpublished interview with Stella Stevens conducted in the 1990s in our latest issue of Cinema Retro magazine, #42. It seems fitting to raid Jim's blog to resurrect an article he originally wrote in 1981 about Stevens' co-star in "The Nutty Professor", Jerry Lewis. to read.
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BY TODD GARBARINI
Richard Donner’s spectacular 1978 film, Superman: The Movie, arguably the greatest comic book movie of all-time (IMHO), will be screened at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills in a 4K Digital Cinema Package (DCP) presentation on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 7:30 pm. The 143-minute film, which stars Christopher Reeve in the title role, with Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Margot Kidder, made us all believe that a man could fly.
PLEASE NOTE: At press time, several of the supporting performers in the film will be on hand to discuss their roles (please read the press release below for more info).
From the press release:
40th Anniversary Screening
Cast members joining for Q&A
New 4K DCP
Tuesday, October 9, at 7:30 PM
Ahyra Fine Arts Theatre
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present a 40th anniversary screening of the film that launched the comic book movie craze, the original SUPERMAN, directed by Richard Donner and starring new screen personality Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. Comics had inspired TV series and Saturday afternoon serials, but there had not been a big-budget attempt to capture the spirit of these fan favorites until Donner, working for producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind, gambled a huge budget on a screen version of DC Comics’ favorite superhero. The movie’s success spawned three sequels and also led to the first big-screen incarnation of another DC hero, Batman, a decade later (in the version directed by Tim Burton).
To write the screenplay, the Salkinds hired a bevy of successful writers—best-selling author Mario Puzo, acclaimed screenwriters Robert Benton, David and Leslie Newman, though the final version was reportedly crafted by Tom Mankiewicz, credited as “creative consultant.” The film takes an epic approach to the tale of Superman, beginning with a prologue on the planet Krypton, then following Clark Kent’s childhood and adolescence in Smallville, Kansas, before he takes on his grown-up identity as the “mild-mannered reporter” at the Daily Planet in the city of Metropolis.
The all-star cast included Oscar winners Marlon Brando as Superman’s father, Jor-El, and Gene Hackman as arch-villain Lex Luthor, along with Susannah York, Glenn Ford, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, Jack O’Halloran, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Jeff East, Jackie Cooper as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Marc McClure as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and Margot Kidder as Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane. After many big-name actors turned down the title role, the filmmakers decided to take a chance on a brand new actor, Christopher Reeve, who had only a couple of TV appearances and one other feature film to his credit. Their gamble paid off and turned the brash, witty young actor into a superstar. The creators of the original comic book, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, praised the casting. As Shuster said, “Chris Reeve has just the right touch of humor.” Oscar-winning cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth ('Becket,' 'Cabaret') had one of his last credits on the movie, and multiple Oscar-winning composer John Williams wrote the stirring score. The movie won a special Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
In addition to scoring an enormous box office success, the movie received mainly favorable reviews. Variety called SUPERMAN “a wonderful, chuckling, preposterously exciting fantasy.” Making an apt comparison, THE New York Daily News’ Kathleen Carroll, declared, “It is this year’s answer to 'Star Wars,' a movie that is pure escape and good, clean, unadulterated fun.” Roger Ebert wrote, “SUPERMAN is a pure delight… Reeve is perfectly cast in the role.”
Several of the supporting cast members will participate in our Q&A after the screening, including Jack O’Halloran (the 1976 'King Kong,' 'The Flintstones'), Marc McClure ('Back to the Future,' 'Apollo 13'), and Valerie Perrine (Oscar nominee for 'Lenny').
The Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre is located at 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. The phone number is (310) 478-3836
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What a golden era the 1970s were for major film releases. If you doubt it, check out this trade magazine ad for the major films released by United Artists in 1977.
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BY DARREN ALLISON
For anyone with a remote interest in soundtrack music, they will probably have some knowledge of how difficult it is to secure the rights to Stanley Kubrick’s film music. Permission has been basically refused and the whole issue is generally tied up in a bundle of tightly wrapped red tape.
Whilst there is still a great demand for these scores, the slow and unsuccessful process has left the fan base both frustrated and in limbo. It’s not that there hasn’t been a gallant effort; fans/producers such as the respected and much admired Nick Redman have taken up the challenge, but alas to no avail. As a result, the Kubrick soundtrack sagas remain something of an impregnable and stubborn wall to penetrate.
I can’t therefore condemn entirely the efforts of some labels and their attempts to try and fill the void and at least try and provide something for the fans that is at least commendable. El Records have attempted to provide just such a set with the release of a 4 disc box set Kubrick’s Music: “Selections from the Films of Stanley Kubrick” (ACME338BOX). It is important to point out that this is neither the definitive answer nor the solution to the long- standing problem, and neither does it pretend to be. Moreover, El’s presentation comprises of musical selections from Kubrick’s central masterpieces, complimented by pieces which the director used as ‘temp tracks’ during the production (and by varied accounts) with every intention of using these in the final film, only to decide to replace them late on.
As the press release states:
“Stanley Kubrick’s audacious use of music was one of the aspects that distinguished his films. He handled music with sensitivity, invention and respect and it resulted in the creation of some of the most indelible scenes in cinema history. Three that spring to mind… the use of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ over a ninety-second montage of nuclear explosions that closes “Dr. Strangelove”; the deployment of Strauss waltzes to create an elegant cosmic ballet during the docking sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and the highly controversial use of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” during the attack on F. Alexander and his wife by Alex and his Droogs in “A Clockwork Orange”.
In “2001”, the scherzo from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (used for scenes of weightlessness) and Vaughan Williams “Antarctica Suite” (for the Stargate effects and scenes on the moon) were both used in preview showings of the film before being discarded. While on “Eyes Wide Shut”, Wagner’s “Lieder Im Triebhaus” (“In the Greenhouse”) from Wesendonck Lieder was a significant theme in the production for more than a year before being replaced.
We have also assembled the complete vintage ballroom music from “The Shining”. The final movement from Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”, with its epic use of the chant from the Roman Catholic Requiem mass, the “Dies Irae”, and a Sibelius piece, “Valse Triste”. Both were important to the evolution of the film. Finally, as a young man, Stanley Kubrick fell in love with Sergi Prokofiev’s score for the Sergei Eisenstein’s first sound film, “Alexander Nevsky”. He played it to death, and it would inspire him later in his own use of dramatic music. From the scintillating recording by Fritz Reiner with the Chicago SO, we include the movement, “Battle On the Ice”.’
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“EARTHLY AND IMPERFECT LOVE”
By Raymond Benson
Ingmar Bergman’s celebrated six-part mini-series, Scenes from a Marriage, premiered on Swedish television in 1973. For markets outside of his native country, Bergman cut the 297-minute TV version down to 169-minutes (not quite three hours) for a theatrical release in 1974—which is the version I first saw.
Having recently discovered Bergman in the early 1970s while attending college, I welcomed Scenes with enthusiasm and awe, as did most critics. The film received numerous accolades, although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deemed the picture ineligible for Oscars since it had previously been a television mini-series. The acclaim for the film, director/writer Bergman, and the movie’s two brilliant actors, Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson, was through the roof.
In a nutshell, it’s the intimate, often painful, sometimes joyful story of the twenty-year relationship of a married-then-divorced couple. The tale begins in 1965. Upper-middle-class Marianne and Johan have been married for ten years. They have two tween daughters (who are seen only very briefly in the first few seconds of the picture) and are seemingly happy. However, when Johan has an affair with “Paula” (who never appears), the inevitable separation ensues, followed by a divorce. But as ten more years elapse, Marianne and Johan continue to occasionally see each other—even when they’re dating or married to others—in an ongoing, never-ending tryst.
In fact, in 2003, Bergman made a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage. Saraband was a Swedish TV-movie that was also released theatrically worldwide, and it featured the now elderly Marianne and Johan, again played by Ullmann and Josephson. (Oddly, their daughters’ names in Scenes are Karin and Eva, whereas in Saraband their names are Martha and Sara! Go figure.) Saraband was Bergman’s final film.
What made Scenes so remarkable back in 1973/1974 was its frankness, realism, and the camera’s near-claustrophobic closeness to the actors—especially their faces and what they revealed through subtle expressions or glances. Bergman, perhaps more than any other filmmaker, used the landscape of the face to reveal the genuine subtext of a character’s thoughts. The intimacy achieved in the work was revelatory, and the film is said to have gone on to influence other filmmakers (most notably Woody Allen).
I had revisited Scenes from a Marriage a few times since its first release, but now having the chance to dive into The Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray edition, I approached the picture with a fresh eye and mind, especially informed by the experience of age and a long marriage of my own.
I came away this time a bit puzzled. Who are these people, that they can be so matter-of-fact about adultery and mistresses and lovers? It’s as if it’s taken for granted that all married people will have affairs at some point. Back in the early 70s, I suppose we all thought that this was being “civilized” or “behaving like adults.” Or perhaps it was a Swedish or European thing!
It is more likely, however, that Scenes from a Marriage was written and directed to be a somewhat autobiographical treatise. Ingmar Bergman was married no less than five times, had numerous love affairs (and mistresses while married), including a five-year romance with Liv Ullmann (he was the father of her only child). Maybe in his world, or in the contemporary universe of artists and the literati in which Marianne and Johan reside, this kind of attitude existed.
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The Huffington Post's Jamie Scot takes a fascinating look back at the origins of gay and lesbian paperback novels that flooded the American market in the post-WWII era. It was the first acknowledgement that gays and lesbians represented significant numbers of the population, a fact attested to by the explosive sales of these novels. For the gay population during this period of cultural conservatism, these books provided a bit of titillation that heterosexual men had never had a problem accessing. More surprising to publishers was the significant sales of lesbian-themed books, some of which became bestsellers. (Undoubtedly, many of these sales could be attributed to men, who have always been preoccupied with lesbian sex.) Like any erotic paperbacks of the period, the covers of the gay-themed books featured provocative, highly suggestive artwork. Most of these artists labored in anonymity but today pulp fiction paperback art is considered by many to be an important aspect of American popular culture from this time period. to read
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Ever wonder what toy factories in China do with leftover parts? Generally, they try to make use of them by combining them in the creation of other toys, even when it isn't appropriate. In a hilarious slide show on Flavorwire, Jason Bailey has a remarkable collection of the worst bootleg superhero toys ever created. How about Superman using a parachute or riding a horse? Most of the toys change the name of the character, as though we're not supposed to believe he could possibly be based on Superman, Batman or Spiderman. Thus, we get Specialman, Spaderman and Silver Bat (who also rides a horse!) to view
(Thanks to Nick Sheffo for the link)
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Here's a look back at what was playing in Winnipeg, Canada during one week in 1966. The Sound of Music, Alfie, Doctor Zhivago, the remake of Stagecoach, The Appaloosa, How to Steal a Million, Gigi, The Glass Bottom Boat, Battle of the Bulge, A Fine Madness, The King and I, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Torn Curtain and a great double bill of Our Man Flint and Von Ryan's Express. Those were the days, indeed!
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From the rumored suicide of a Munchkin to debates about how many dresses Dorothy wears, there are still controversies attached to the beloved 1939 MGM screen version of The Wizard of Oz. to find the facts behind the legends.
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Mel Gibson has announced that he will co-write and direct a remake of Sam Peckinpah's controversial 1969 Western classic "The Wild Bunch". We can hear retro movie lovers around the globe shout "Oh, no!" But Gibson, who is enjoying a career renaissance since making some drunken, racist rants years ago, has a knack for making hit films out of seemingly unpromising ideas. He won the Oscar for Best Director for "Braveheart" and turned "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto" into surprise boxoffice hits. Still, tampering with Peckinpah's revisionist Western, which is better regarded today than it was at the time of its release, will be seen as treading on dangerous ground. No details are known at this time, as Gibson is working on a WWII film, "Destroyer" after which he is to commence work on "The Wild Bunch". Gibson's co-scripter Bryan Bagby, has a slim list of credits on. This much is known- Warner Bros., which released the original film, has been eager to remake the movie for many years. Gibson expressed interest in the project as early as 2009. One thing is sure: Gibson won't be able to improve on the original so the best that can be hoped for is that he turns out a credible effort that stands on its own merits. Hopefully, the remake will be set in the old West and not updated as an urban crime thriller. If you're dreading the remake anyway, you might take heart in the fact that Warner Bros. hinted many years ago that a remake of "Bullitt" was in the works but it never materialized. For more.
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Here's a rarity from a Western Auto stores catalog for the 1966 Christmas holiday season: an abundance of those great toys tied in with the spy movie rage of the era. In addition to the generic non-licensed stuff, check out the ad for the Man From U.N.C.L.E. rifle and the James Bond shooting camera. If you had these in mint, boxed condition today, you could buy your own hollowed-out volcano from which you could plot to rule the world!
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Indiewire chronicles the often torturous road of bringing Daniel Craig's last few James Bond films to the screen including an early plot suggestion for "Skyfall" (then titled "Once Upon a Spy") by screenwriter Peter Morgan in which Bond kills "M", which probably explains why Morgan was released from the film. With the departure of director Danny Boyle prior to production starting on what will be Craig's final appearance as 007, the producers scrambled to find another suitable director to helm the project. Cary Fukunaga got the nod, though the changeover in directors will bump back the planned release date of the film to February 2020. It is now reported by Indiewire that Craig is determined to make his final appearance as Bond be his most memorable and is looking back on the early days of the series, citing the classic 1963 film "From Russia with Love" as his inspiration. Recent political headlines involving Russia under President Putin have brought the quasi-Cold War status between that country and the USA and UK to a boiling point not seen for many years and it seems clear that Russian intrigue will play a major role in the script. Craig even paid a visit to the CIA to get first-hand experience on real-life counter-intelligence methods. For more.
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All movie lovers have experienced it: a favorite movie theater closes and is usually replaced by some nondescript cookie-cutter store, usually part of a big chain..or worse, the place suffers the indignity of the wrecking ball. Writing in the New Yorker, author Thomas Beller provides a poignant personal view of the recent closing of a landmark New York movie theater, the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, that served the community for decades. The landlord declined to renew the lease despite the fact that the place was profitable and there was broad community support to keep it open. I guess that's the price of "progress"...the same "progress" that in recent years has seen a virtual war declared on Gotham landmarks, the very establishments that define neighborhoods and give them their inimitable flavor. You don't have to be a New Yorker to appreciate Beller's sentiments, so and weep. - Lee Pfeiffer
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Maverick director Sam Peckinpah tried to bring the 1934 novella "Castaway", an offbeat story about a man who survives an unnamed catastrophe by hiding in a department store, to the screen. Despite having collaborated with James R. Silke on numerous versions of the screenplay, the project was never realized despite Peckinpah apparently having found backers as early as 1981. Peckinpah, who had looked forward to directing the movie, was in a career decline at the time due in part to his abrasive relationship with Hollywood studios and his own personal demons. The last feature film he directed was the poorly-received "The Osterman Weekend" in 1983. Peckinpah died the following year. Now, however, there has been new life brought to "Castaway" as a team of producers is planning to finally put the film into production using Peckinpah's original script. for more.
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Cary Fukunaga, acclaimed for his direction of the "True Detective" TV series, has been named as the director the next James Bond film which will mark Daniel Craig's final screen appearance as 007. Fukunaga, whose anticipated "Maniac" series is debuting on Netflix on September 21, is the first American chosen to direct a Bond film. He replaces Oscar winner Danny Boyle who dropped out of directing the next Bond film after having "artistic differences" with the producers over the script. The search for a new director has meant that the film's premiere will be moved back from October 2019 to February 2020. For more.
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With the recent passing of Neil Simon, let's look back on the smash hit 1968 film adaptation of "The Odd Couple" starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. (Did you know Art Carney played the role of Felix Unger in the Broadway production?)
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This photo ran in the August 19, 1977 issue of the Independent Film Journal showing the second day of production on "Grease".
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Cinema Retro tries to remain neutral when it comes to weighing in on political issues of the day. About the only time politics enters our pages is when it's in the context of a review or analysis of the political elements of a film or stage production. However, this is an intriguing story reported by The Washington Post that is of interest to retro movie fans in the sense that it relates how the 1954 film version of Herman Wouk's bestseller "The Caine Mutiny" actually influenced one of the most important elements of American law: the 25th amendment, which indicates under what extreme conditions a president can be removed from power either temporarily or permanently. The amendment was drafted in the 1950s when "Caine" was very much on people's minds. The fictional tale centers on eccentric U.S. Naval Captain Queeg (memorably portrayed in the film by Humphrey Bogart in an Oscar-nominated performance.) He runs his ship as a strict disciplinarian but his quirky habits lead the officers and crew to doubt if he's sane. During a hurricane, Queeg appears to be a in state of panic and is unable or unwilling to give his executive officer, Maryk (played by Van Johnson) explicit orders in regards to navigating the deadly storm. Fearing that the ship will founder, the exec notifies the crew that he is taking command and he ultimately gets the vessel back to port safely. Maryk is placed on trial in a court martial and things look grim. Queeg, after all, is a career officer with a distinguished record and he comes across initially as the voice of reason when he is on the witness stand. However, he soon deteriorates under questioning from the defense counsel (Jose Ferrer) and has a form of breakdown that makes it clear he suffers from paranoia. The Washington Post article outlines how American lawmakers were concerned that there was no constitutional solution for addressing a situation in which a president is physically or mentally unable to perform the duties of office. Ultimately, the 25 amendment was drafted. It's understandably conceived to make it a very tall order to remove any president from power and requires overwhelming support among the president's cabinet and lawmakers in order to enact the amendment. The law is actually quite vague in certain key areas leaving plenty of loopholes to be disputed in the unlikely event the amendment is ever attempted to be enacted- but most interesting is the role "The Caine Mutiny" played in the very creation of the law. to read.
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BY FRED BLOSSER
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die!,” a 1968 Italian Western, in a Blu-ray edition. In the movie, Gov. Lem Carter (Robert Ryan) offers amnesty to outlaws in a bid to quell lawlessness in 1880s New Mexico. On the run from deputies and bounty hunters, desperado Clay McCord (Alex Cord) decides to seek the governor’s clemency. McCord suffers from paralytic spasms of his gun hand. The attacks have become more frequent and more severe, and he fears that they represent the onset of epilepsy, the malady that disabled and eventually killed his father. But enemies on both sides of the law make it difficult for him to go straight as he wishes to do. Bounty hunters surround the town of Tascosa, where McCord must go to sign the needed papers, and even if he can elude them, the cynical marshal, Roy Colby (Arthur Kennedy), is disinclined to give him a break. The gunfighter is equally unwelcome in nearby Escondido, a haven for fugitives, after antagonizing Kraut (Mario Brega), the brutal hardcase who controls the rundown settlement. It’s even money on who will bring McCord down first, Kraut’s pistoleros or Colby’s deputies. Although I can’t find any sources to either confirm or refute the speculation, I believe that Brega’s dubbed English voice as Kraut belongs to American actor Walter Barnes, who made several Italian and German Westerns in the 1960s.
With an American executive producer, three high-profile ‘60s American actors in starring roles, an Italian producer, an Italian director, and an Italian supporting cast dubbed into English, “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die” straddles the divide between the earnest tradition of U.S. Westerns and the violent, anything-goes approach of the Italian kind. It opens with a long (actually, too long) outdoor sequence of McCord and a pal eluding a posse, like characters in “One-Eyed Jacks” and any number of other classic Westerns. Then follows a scene of two sadistic gunmen roughing up a frightened priest in front of an altar, and eventually shooting him in the back. Try to find a situation like that in a John Wayne or Roy Rogers movie. The two gunmen are played by Aldo Sambrell and Antonio Molino Rojo, who -- like Mario Brega, the Ernest Borgnine of Italian Westerns -- are instantly recognizable from Sergio Leone’s stock company of scruffy character actors. An unsympathetic critic might speculate that a respectable if unexceptional American Western could have resulted had the moviemakers tightened the script, dialed back the film’s high body count, and substituted homegrown character actors for Italian ones in the supporting cast. On the other hand, for those of us whose moviegoing tastes were formed in the Cinema Retro era, the manic unevenness of the picture as it exists has a certain freewheeling charm of its own.
Kino Lorber’s cover notes advertise the Blu-ray as a new high-definition master from a 4K scan of the original negative. Although the daytime scenes have some graininess, the nighttime lights and darks are clear and sharp. The label’s resident Spaghetti expert, Alex Cox, contributes an informative, droll, but respectful audio commentary. Those new to Italian Westerns will learn a lot about the genre from Cox’s remarks, while fans will have fun matching their knowledge against his in spotting familiar Italian faces in the movie’s supporting cast. As another supplement, the disc also includes the original ending from the European print of the movie, transposed from an old, overseas VHS tape. This bleak denouement is stronger by far than that of the U.S. cut.
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FRED BLOSSER IS THE AUTHOR OF "SAVAGE SCROLLS: VOLUME ONE: SCHOLARSHIP FROM THE HYBORIAN AGE". TO ORDER ON AMAZON
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BY JOHN M. WHALEN
Kino Lorber has released “Singing Guns” (1950), a Republic Pictures “singing cowboy” western filmed in Trucolor. The film is based on a western novel by Max Brand, and is pretty unremarkable except for the fact that the cowboy anti-hero, Rhiannon, an outlaw with a long bushy beard who has been robbing stagecoaches to the tune of over a million, isn’t played by Roy, or Gene Autry, Rocky Lane Rex Allen, or any of the other western stars in Republic’s stable. Rhiannon, is played by a popular singer from that era named Vaughn Monroe.
I remember Vaughn Monroe when I was a kid. I used to hear him singing “Racing with the Moon,” on the radio. He had a rich baritone voice and my mother would turn up the radio every time it came on and sort of stare out into space with a funny look in her eyes. Monroe also had another big hit with “Mule Train,” with lyrics like “clippity clop, clippity clop, Muuuuuule Traaaainn.” Whips cracking. Well, it appears “Singing Guns “was made so that Vaughn could have a chance to sing “Mule Train” in a movie. The song has nothing to do with the story, but fits in with a scene where Vaughn drives a wagon pulled by two mules--- not exactly a train, but close enough, I guess. Monroe sings three other tunes in the film as well.
The script by the screenwriting team of Dorrell and Stuart McGowan concerns the attempts by Sheriff Jim Caradac (Ward Bond), doctor/preacher Jonathan Mark (Walter Brennan), and lady gambler Nan Morgan (Ella Raines) to catch, reform, and fall in love with the aforementioned stagecoach robber, respectively. The movie has a real corkscrew of a plot, starting with Rhiannon holding up the stage occupied by Nan and Sheriff Mark. When Rhiannon finds out the sheriff outwitted him by making sure there was no gold on this trip, he humiliates him making him march into town wearing a pair of Nan’s bloomers and a hat that looks like a flower pot. The sheriff, furious, gets to his office, grabs his other guns and chases Rhiannon out into the desert. Rhiannon gets to his mountain hideout and shoots the sheriff off his horse. He later goes down to bury him (he’s a decent sort of outlaw) but the sheriff was faking it and gets the drop on him.
He’s about to take Rhiannon in, but in another twist, Rhiannon jumps him and shoots him. In another weird turn, he decides to take the sheriff to town so the doctor can patch him up (like I said he’s a real decent sort of outlaw). Doc Caradac tells Rhiannon the sheriff needs a transfusion. The outlaw rejects his call for help (he’s not that decent, he’s gotta get out of town), forcing the doctor to slip him a mickey and perform the transfusion while he’s unconscious. (Aren’t there ethics rules being violated here?) Even worse than taking his blood, the doc also shaves off Rhiannon’s beard! When he wakes up he’s not only a quart low, he’s clean shaven!! And here comes the most unbelievable plot element. Without the beard, when he wakes up, nobody recognizes him. He’s just some guy who saved the sheriff’s life!!!
The story goes on like that with the plot switching back and forth, with the sheriff sometimes wanting to help Rhiannon and other time wanting to jail him, and Nan sometimes hating Rhiannon and sometime loving him, and Doc Caradac saying he’s just as interested in saving his patients’ souls as he is healing their bodies, and just wants everything to be okay.
Ignoring the ridiculous plot, perhaps the best thing about “Singing Guns” is the way it looks. It’s a brand new master by Paramount from a 4K scan of the original 35mm Trucolor nitrate negative. It’s sensational looking. And for the first time I’m aware of, “Singing Guns” shows how beautiful Ella Raines’ eyes were. The film she’s remembered for most is “Phantom Lady” (1944), the noir thriller based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel. It was shot in black and white, so you couldn’t see what color her eyes were. Film historian Toby Roan in his highly informative audio commentary said that cinematographer Reggie Lanning had trouble getting the color right; sometimes her eyes looked green, sometimes blue, sometimes yellow. Roan says he thinks they’re turquoise. Whatever they are they’re fascinating to look at, so much so I found myself having to reverse the disc in several places because I’d lost track of what she was saying. Maybe I was hypnotized. Raines only made 20 films in her lifetime. It’s a pity she didn’t make more..
“Singing Guns” is directed by R. G. Springsteen, who also directed Monroe’s only other western, “Toughest Man in Arizona.” The film is also notable for the number of familiar faces in the cast, including Jeff Corey, Harry Shannon, Rex Lease, and Jimmy Dodd (as well as Eleanor Donahue, and Billy Grey, who would later play Robert Young’s kids on “Father Knows Best”). Bonus features include the aforementioned audio commentary and several trailers for other KL Blu-rays. It’s another one of those discs that astonish you in regard to how good an old movie can look and sound when it’s done right. They can’t release enough of these to satisfy me.
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John M. Whalen is the author of "Tragon of Ramura". to order from Amazon.
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Samuel Fuller is today regarded as a revered name among directors. Unlike his peers- John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Howard Hawks, to name but a few- Fuller didn't get much respect when he needed it, at least from critics and studio heads who regarded his talents as workmanlike. Consequently, this talented director, screenwriter and occasional novelist and actor, toiled under meager budgets and scant support from studio executives. Fuller was typical of directors of his generation who had come of age during the Great Depression and World War II. He had a tough guy persona and had learned to survive on the mean streets of Manhattan where he worked as a crime reporter in the 1930s. Fuller could have landed a cushy job in the military during the war but eschewed the opportunity in favor of volunteering for combat duty in the European campaign. His scripts were tightly-written, no-nonsense affairs and his direction was direct and to-the-point. Fuller cut a larger-than-life figure with an out-sized personality and his penchant for indulging in cigars that were so large they looked as though they were inspired by cartoons. Despite the budgetary limitations on his films and the fact that he never enjoyed a career-defining breakaway hit, Fuller's movies have stood the test of time and before he died in 1997, he had witnessed his work being favorably reassessed by a new generation of directors and critics.
"Underworld U.S.A." is one of Fuller's true gems. A 1961 film noir crime story, the movie gave an early career boost to Cliff Robertson but its significance goes much deeper. Although viewed as a typical low budget crime thriller back in the day, the movie is a a true classic of the genre. The film opens with 14 year-old Tolly Davlin (David Kent), a street-wise product of a crime-infested unnamed big city, witnessing the beating death of the father he idolized by a pack of enforcers from a mob syndicate that he had crossed. Tolly's dad, himself a low-life who was teaching his son how to survive in the urban jungle by being more cunning and ruthless than the competition. Tolly, now orphaned, finds the only friend he has is Sandy (Beatrice Kay), a tough-as-nails saloon owner who takes a maternal interest in Tolly, though he rarely heeds her advice. Tolly is consumed with avenging his father's death. He arranges intentionally builds up a criminal record leading to him being incarcerated in a juvenile detention center- but all the while he is painstakingly following leads about who his father's murderers were and who employed them. The story jumps ahead and we find Tolly now a young man in his late twenties (played by Robertson) having been incarcerated in a prison that houses one of the killers, a man who is literally on his death bed in the hospital ward. That doesn't stop Tolly from smothering him with a pillow and making it look like natural causes. When Tolly is released from jail, he reunites with Sandy and has a chance encounter with a sexy gun moll who is nicknamed Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) who has been marked for death for having failed to carry out a mission for the mob. Tolly saves her life and secretes her in Sandy's apartment while he begins his pursuit of two other men who killed his father that fateful night. Having succeeded in getting his street justice, he goes for bigger game: the syndicate bosses.
Fuller's film is somewhat unique in that he avoids the cliche of showing the mob echelon as seedy, Al Capone types. Instead, they are elite, sophisticated and corrupt businessmen and elected officials who run a major complex called The National Projects which ostensibly benefits the poor because periodically the Olympic-sized swimming pool welcomes neighborhood children. In reality, the top bosses live in splendor in penthouse apartments there and ruthlessly oversee their crime organization. In a clever plot device, Tolly works with the local crime-busting city official (Larry Gates) and volunteers to go undercover and work with the mob in order to bring them to justice. He then tells the mob he's a double agent, so to speak, and really working for them. Ultimately, he devises an inspired scheme by which he places circumstantial evidence to convince the crime lords that their partners are out to betray and kill them, thereby leading them to "off" each other and ensuring that Tolly's hands are clean. It's a plot device that was used in "The Godfather Part II" when the mob boss Frankie Pantangeli becomes mistakenly convinced that Michael Corleone tried to have him assassinated and tries to do the same to him. Similarly, in the 1989 James Bond film "Licence to Kill", 007 infiltrates a major drug gang and convinces the big boss that his key people are betraying him, thus leading to their murders.
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“SIMENON AND GABIN”
By Raymond Benson
The Belgian author, Georges Simenon, wrote close to 500 novels and an abundance of short stories in his lifetime, and these included 76 novels and 28 short tales featuring the French police detective, Commissioner Jules Maigret, published between 1931 and 1972. That’s an impressive achievement in and of itself, but more importantly, Maigret became a worldwide beloved fictional character in the mystery genre. Oddly, Maigret is not as well-known to the general public in the United States as he is in Europe and the U.K. Thankfully, Penguin Books in America is in the process of reissuing the series in English.
There have been numerous film and television adaptations of Simenon’s works. Jean Renoir did the first feature film adaptation in 1932 (Night at the Crossroads). British television has produced three different series, with three different actors (Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, and Rowan Atkinson). France made an overwhelming number of TV episodes with a couple of actors.
In 1958 and 1959, two very good Maigret pictures were made in France, elevated to a high status by the presence of actor Jean Gabin in the role. Gabin is without question a key figure in French cinema. In many ways he could be called the “French Spencer Tracy.” Well-regarded for such classics as Pépé le Moko and Grand Illusion in the 1930s, Gabin enjoyed a long career into the 1970s. He was thus the right age to play Commissioner Maigret in the late 50s, and he is easily one of the best of the several actors who have interpreted the role.
Maigret is a no-nonsense investigator who is smart, gruff, and is never without a pipe. Some might compare him to Hercule Poirot, but Maigret is decidedly less eccentric of a character. He also appears in darker, noir-ish tales that are closer to psychological crime dramas than Christie’s detective ever did. Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case, the first two of three Maigret pictures that Gabin made, are indeed surprisingly dark and deal with some seriously sick criminals.
For example, in Sets a Trap, the perp is a Jack the Ripper type who gets off on stabbing young women in the street at night—and the filmmakers don’t pull any punches in frankness. Much of the setting is in sleazy Parisian back alleys. while gathering clues and focusing his suspicions on various men—and women—Maigret carefully constructs an elaborate and ingenious net with which to snare his prey.
The St. Fiacre Case takes place in the country, near Moulins, Maigret’s childhood home. A countess with whom the inspector was close back in the day has been threatened—and then mysteriously dies. Maigret quickly determines it was murder, and he sets about again laying the foundation for a gathering of suspects at the end of the movie to reveal the culprit.
Director Jean Dellanoy fashions two stylish whodunnits that maintain the viewer’s interest and keep us guessing. While there are moments of humor here and there, these pictures take the Maigret character seriously and faithfully and satisfactorily execute Simenon’s work.
Kino Lorber’s new restorations of the two films (separate releases) are marvelous. The images are crystal clear and without blemishes, and they are some of the best transfers of 1950s material I’ve seen. The soundtracks are in 2.0 mono and are in French with optional English subtitles. There are no supplements other than the theatrical trailers.
Fans of Simenon and Maigret, or of Jean Gabin, or of whodunnits in general, will want to pick up these two releases.
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Universal has released a superb boxed set of their horror classics. Here is the official press release:
Universal City, California, August 22, 2018 – Thirty of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces starring the most famous monsters of horror movie history come together on Blu-ray™ for the first time ever in the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection on August 28, 2018, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Featuring unforgettable make-up, ground-breaking special effects and outstanding performances, the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes all Universal Pictures’ legendary monsters from the studio that pioneered the horror genre with imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror in unforgettable films from the 1930s to late-1950s.
From the era of silent movies through present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection showcases all the original films featuring the most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Starring some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester in the roles that they made famous, these films set the standard for a new horror genre and showcase why these landmark movies that defined the horror genre are regarded as some of the most unforgettable ever to be filmed.
Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare production photographs and is accompanied by an array of bonus features including behind-the-scenes documentaries, the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula, Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce, 13 expert feature commentaries, archival footage, production photographs, theatrical trailers and more. The perfect gift for any scary movie fan, the collection offers an opportunity to experience some of the most memorable horror films of our time.
The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Mummy's Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy's Ghost (1942), The Mummy's Tomb (1942),Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy's Curse (1944), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, and includes a 3D version), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955 and includes a 3D version) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
· Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
· 3D Versions of Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature
·1931 Spanish Version of Dracula
·Featurettes on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce
·13 Expert Feature Commentaries
Not mentioned in the press release is the impressive collector's booklet packed with rare photos and movie poster artwork.
One caveat to note: the set was accompanied by a letter from Universal explaining that some of the Blu-ray discs containing the 3-D version of "Revenge of the Creature" and the 2-D version of "The Creature Walks Among Us" had some manufacturing snafus and customers might experience some playback problems on this one disc. If that occurs, Universal will send you a corrected disc if you E mail them at:
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As any retro movie lover knows, the 1961 John Huston film "The Misfits" was steeped in tragedy. Both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe would be dead by the time the film was released, making the production the final time either star would be seen on the big screen. Now the Daily Mail reveals that footage of a controversial nude scene Monroe had filmed has been discovered...along with numerous takes of the bedroom scene. Director John Huston ultimately decided not to use the footage in his final cut. to read the fascinating story of a historic find.
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RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" has long posed a conundrum for film critics and historians. How do you assess a film that is brilliantly made but which promotes a hateful message? The 1934 production which was created as a love letter to Adolf Hitler and his rapidly-rising National Socialist movement has been relatively shunned at film festivals and the art house circuit over the decades. It's undoubtedly been most widely seen in classrooms and on home video. Yet the passing of time has allowed the film to be more actively shown in recent years and it is nearly always accompanied by an introduction that rightly explains its relevance both to the period in which it was made but also as it pertains to today's world. Director Riefenstahl had been a popular actress in German cinema who had caught the eye of Adolf Hitler, who was quite the movie fan (his favorites included "Gone With the Wind" and Laurel and Hardy.) Riefenstahl had recently become a pioneer as one of the first women to enter directing in the era of sound films. Hitler commissioned her to film the Nazi party's annual meeting in Nuremberg in the expectation that it would bolster the movement as well as increase the fanatical cult of personality that was already attached to him. Hitler had tried to overthrow the German government a decade earlier but ended up in jail. He turned this to his advantage by becoming a martyr to the cause and writing his personal bible Mein Kampf from his jail cell. By the time he was released, even those who had prosecuted him were trying to curry favor with the future dictator. Hitler ran for office and won the election to become Germany's chancellor. In reality he had most of the political power but was prudent enough to bide his time until the ceremonial head of state, Von Hindenburg, passed away from natural causes. Hitler knew that the public would not abide him disrespecting the beloved Von Hindenburg, who was regarded as a national war hero.As it had so many times in these early days of Hitler's rise, fate cooperated with his interests. Von Hindenburg passed away and Hitler went full throttle to establish himself as a virtual dictator. His first order of business was to eradicate Germany's fragile hold on democracy, first attacking the free press and then nationalizing it as a propaganda arm. The nation had come out on the losing side in WWI and was suffering terribly from onerous war reparations that had to be paid to the Allies, who were basically using Germany as a cash cow. Hitler quickly put to rest the last remnants of the loathed Weimar Republic and combined the offices of chancellor and president, thus giving himself unchallenged power over the country. He then persuaded the Reichstag to voluntarily cede most of their powers to him, thus making the series of checks and balances in the government a rubber stamp for Hitler's policies. Hitler still had important goals to fulfill. It was important to mobilize the nation as a fighting force in the expectation of war. However, he was bound by the Treaty of Versailles which mandated that Germany's armed forces number no more than 100,000 men. Hitler got around this by organizing numerous civic and political groups and turning them into paramilitary organizations. In this way he was able to train millions of Germans as soldiers even if they carried picks and shovels instead of rifles. Hitler also did some controversial "house cleaning" within his party by personally ordering the murders of SA head Ernst Rohm and his top lieutenants. The SA was Hitler's personal bodyguard but had grown to the size of an army. He worried that Rohm had political aspirations of his own and that he might orchestrate a coup. On the so-called Night of the Long Knives, the top echelon of the SA was systematically executed. Hitler appointed a more benign stooge, Viktor Lutze, as the new head of the SA. Hitler's biggest challenge was to ensure that he and Lutze could convince the rank and file SA men to stay loyal to the party and Hitler himself. This he intended to do at the Nuremberg rally, where he would give speech extolling his appreciation of the SA. The ploy worked and any dissension never spilled over into a threat to Hitler.
"Triumph of the Will" presents a sanitized picture of all these dastardly goings-on. What emerges is a nation that is completely behind Hitler and the Nazi cause. This was nonsense, of course. There were countless people who opposed the regime and over the course of the next few years they would pay dearly for their protests against the demise of German democracy. Nevertheless, as a propaganda piece the film is probably unrivaled in its impact. Although the movie was shown internationally, it didn't quite have the alarming impact one might have assumed. The Western democracies still thought of Hitler as primarily a quirky crank whose influence would be confined within Germany's borders. Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was a master of using cinema as a tool of manipulation. Not wanting to alarm the Allies before Germany had been rebuilt militarily, the film was given rather non-threatening sub-titles to accommodate its international showings. Meanwhile, within Germany, the messages were more ominous. When viewing the film even today one gets the feeling that Germany was an invincible power. One can only imagine the trepidation Allied troops must have felt when they finally had to go up against what had become a seemingly unstoppable war machine. The clues were in the film. The legions of robot-like paramilitary adherents are presented as fanatical loyalists to the new dictator. In fact the "real" armed forces were featured so slightly in the film that they raised protests. To appease them, Hitler commissioned a second film by Riefehstahl titled "Day of Freedom" (also included in this set). The movie has her trademark use of imaginary camera angles but it amounts to basically a sop to the armed forces by showcasing their prowess through military training exercises. More powerful are the scenes in "Triumph of the Will" that carefully showcase Hitler as a demi-god. He is seen traveling to Nuremberg by the small plane he favored for use in his political campaign stops. (Hitler was the first politician to eschew the traditional whistle stop train tours in favor of using a plane in order to cover more territory.) The images of his plane flying through the spectacular cloud formations are truly stunning. We also watch him as he stares down at the massive rally forming in expectation of his arrival. When Hitler does arrive at the rally he is preceded by a small army of his top officials who were being formally introduced to the German people through this film. In retrospect, they formed the perfect "Rogue's Gallery" and would go on to perpetrate some of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century. Most paid for their sins with their lives though others were sentenced to jail terms in the aftermath of the war. When Hitler takes to the podium he uses his trademark practice of starting his speech in a low voice but gradually rising in tone and emotion into a virtual scream. The most disturbing part of the film occurs when all of the countless thousands of participants march past the podium and pledge their loyalty, not to Germany, but to Hitler personally. The film then concentrates on the ancillary fanfare that took place during this seminal week in the nation's history as we watch torchlight parades march past Hitler's hotel balcony where he looks on approvingly. At all times Riefenstahl diminishes the notion of individualism in order to present Hitler in an almost superhuman manner. He is photographed from angles that make him seem literally larger than life.
The Synapse Blu-ray, which features a restoration by Robert A. Harris, contains some valuable extras, the most informative being a feature-length commentary track by Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, an expert on German history. Santoro's calm, laid-back manner is somewhat jolting at times, given the gravity of what we are viewing, but he provides excellent information regarding the nuances of these scenes and the fate of the individual Nazi top brass.Where the track falls a bit short is in Santoro's discussions of Riefenstahl and her legacy. He acknowledges her talents as a director but doesn't put much meat on the bone in regard to her personal life and legacy. (She lived until the age of 101 and never fully repented for her association with Hitler, nor was she ever prosecuted. She would defensively point out that she never actually joined the Nazi party, which is indeed surprising.) She would go on to make another important propaganda film for Hitler in 1938, "Olympiad", an equally whitewashed account of the 1936 Olympics that were held in Berlin and which also managed to elevate Hitler as a star attraction even though he was largely a bystander. Arguably, "Olympiad" was the more important and effective film as it was meant to appease foreign concerns about the atrocities that were just being implemented in Germany. Some of the slack from the commentary is addressed in excellent liner notes written by director and film historian Roy Frumkes, who delves deeper into Riefenstahl's fascinating life. Frumkes points out that the film should not really be considered a documentary because many of the "spontaneous" scenes were staged by Riefenstahl and some were shot repeatedly in order to get the desired footage. The new 2K restoration is impressive on all counts and does justice to Riefenstahl's astonishing camera angles. This presentation also boasts newly interpreted English sub-titles that accommodate the film's original German language version. It's beneficial to watch the film first then view it again with Dr. Santoro's commentary to provide context.
"Triumph of the Will" is indeed a major cinematic achievement- but tragically it promoted the greatest evil of the 20th century. The mind reels at what Leni Riefenstahl could have achieved had she not been compromised by her political beliefs. More importantly, the movie clearly illustrates that democracies are fragile states that can deconstruct under the influence and spell of one man.
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Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
MURDOCH MYSTERIES: Home for the Holidays
DVD/Blu-ray Debut from Acorn TV on September 18, 2018
Special feature-length episode of the hit Canadian and Acorn TV period mystery series
Praise for Murdoch Mysteries:
“If you haven’t seen it, you must.” —Globe & Mail
“A terrific procedural police drama” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Yannick Bisson is perfect as Murdoch.” —Deseret News
“Smart, fast-paced fun” —The Globe and Mail
Garnering more than two dozen Gemini® nominations and the sole 2016 ‘Fan’s Choice Award’ at the Canadian Screen Awards for Yannick Bisson, MURDOCH MYSTERIES: Home for the Holidays makes its DVD/Blu-ray debut on September 18, 2018 from Acorn TV. Set in Toronto in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the age of invention, Murdoch Mysteries (aka The Artful Detective) centers on Detective William Murdoch (Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective, who enlists radical new forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders. This DVD/Blu-ray 1-Disc features a feature-length Christmas special from Season 11 and bonus behind-the-scenes featurettes (.99, Amazon.com). Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays made its U.S. debut in December 2017 on. The series is currently in production on Season 12. Called a “glorious streaming service… an essential must-have” (The Hollywood Reporter), Acorn TV is North America’s most popular and largest streaming service focused on British and international television.
Dashing detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson, Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye) must solve a holiday whodunit in this feature-length special of the award-winning mystery series set in Edwardian Toronto. Days before Christmas, Murdoch and his wife, Dr. Julia Ogden (Gemini® winner Hélène Joy, Durham County), travel to Victoria, British Columbia, to spend time with Murdoch’s eccentric brother. But instead of a relaxing holiday with Jasper (Dylan Neal, Dawson’s Creek) and his family, they end up investigating a murder at an archaeological site.
Back in Toronto, Constables Crabtree (Jonny Harris, Still Standing) and Higgins (Lachlan Murdoch, Copper) try to impress their sweethearts before a skiing outing, and Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig, Where the Heart Is) and his wife invest in a money-making scheme run by a man named Ponzi. Guest stars include Kate Hewlett (The Girlfriend Experience), Jake Epstein (Degrassi: The Next Generation), and Megan Follows (Reign, Anne of Green Gables).
Street Date: September 18, 2018
DVD 1-Disc: Feature length episode – Approx. 89 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles – UPC 054961265893
Blu-ray 1-Disc: Feature-length episode – Approx. 89 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles – UPC 054961265992
Bonus: Behind-the-scenes featurette (3 min.)
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BY PETER BENASSI
It was the enormously ambitious and costly film project they said would spectacularly flop; the 1937 feature length cartoon feature that even his own family tried to talk him out of making; the realised dream of an all cartoon motion picture, three years in the making, which broke new ground and cemented his place in film history. It could have failed and it was a gargantuan gamble, but it paid off handsomely and Walt Disney never looked back after the supremely seminal Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became a global sensation and set him on his way to certain success with a succession of captivating cartoon classics. Then came the parks, the publications, the inevitable merchandise and the rest, as they say, is history. So much for this being “Disney’s Folly” which Snow White was unfortunately nicknamed - even during its production! Indubitably, the film serves as a life lesson in believing in yourself and following your dream. The visionary that was Walt Disney surely deserved every cent of success for the wealth of wonder and excitement for which he was responsible.
Picking up a copy of “Disneyland” comic from a selection of periodicals in the doctor’s surgery when I was a very young boy was enough to captivate me and ordain me as a Disney devotee. It became a weekly reading staple of mine from that point on, taking in “Mickey Mouse” comics along the way. I never missed “Disney Time” on the Beeb and the first big Disney movie for me at the cinema was Lady and the Tramp. It completely blew me away and even at that tender age, I knew that there was something extra special about this particular animation; everything about it was so wonderfully lifelike (I then had no knowledge of such animation processes and techniques such as rotoscoping). I eventually knew all the Disney characters by heart and longed to see the other films on the big screen. One by one, during school holidays and Easter weekends, I would get the invaluable opportunity to thrill to these masterpieces: Pinocchio (1940), The Jungle Book (1967), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Rescuers (1977). However, the one Disney production which never played at any of our local cinemas was the one film I wanted to see most of all. And that was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, having adored the classic Grimms fairy tale as a nipper and from which the film was adapted. Finally that day came when I was in my early teenage years and I actually visited the cinema to see it after all that time. I would have much preferred to have seen it as a child, but it still cast its magic spell over me and delivered the goods I had longed to see.
I think what appealed to me most about the Disney films, especially Snow White, were the genuinely frightening moments in his films that featured the villains of the piece. That stirred something deep inside me and was instrumental in making me a horror film aficionado as I grew older.
So, back to Snow White. Disney did something quite remarkable with the oft-told and much loved Grimms Brothers favourite Everyone knows the story of how a young princess, forced to flee for her life when her insanely jealous mother Queen demands she be killed because she is more beautiful, encounters a cottage full of dwarfs, becomes a mother to them and then is brought back from death by love’s first kiss, delivered by a handsome prince for whom she always had the hots. After which, it goes without saying, they all live happily ever after.
However, making a short and sweet little story into a full length animated and consistently entertaining film is no mean feat, but Disney knew exactly what he was doing and his invention and attention to detail here is extraordinarily admirable. There are no longeurs whatsoever and the film is carefully and cleverly paced and crafted to ensure that there is no extraneous material inserted to pad out the picture which has an the 83 minutes running time. For a start, the dwarfs are imbued with their own personalities and named accordingly; then there is that unmistakable anthropomorphic charm with the woodland creatures who befriend the gentle and sweet-tempered Snow White, help her with household chores but most importantly play a pivotal part in the exciting climax; beautifully written songs are introduced into the story along the way and could easily stand alone as classics in their own right. All of this works wonderfully well and never looks out of place or appears poorly judged.
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Please note: Cinema Retro issue #9 is now permanently sold out.
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced they are "postponing" their controversial new category to honor achievements in "popular" films...whatever that means. The announcement met with a tidal wave of criticism from A.M.P.A.S. members and movie fans in general who accused the organization of simply trying to goose up sagging ratings for the Oscar telecasts by including more coverage of boxoffice blockbusters. Our guess is that this idea will never see the light of day. Sorry, "Ant Man" fans, but you may not get to see the next installment bring home Oscar gold. For more.
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BY TODD GARBARINI
In the days before the home video revolution made its way into my family, the only way to see a movie on television was to either watch it when it was aired or beg my grandmother to ask her brother to record it for me on his 00 Magnavox video tape recorder. Just before Halloween in 1983, she told me of a movie that she had seen in a local theater in 1954 called The Maze, which starred one of her favorite actors, Richard Carlson. Channel 5 in New York was showing it at 2:30 am and we later viewed it at her brother’s house on VHS. I recall a TV trailer for Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession airing during the commercial break, oblivious that it would become one of my favorite horror movies seven years later.
The Maze, which was released in 3-D in July 1953 and played at the RKO Albee Theater in Brooklyn, NY with William Beaudine’s Roar of the Crowd with Howard Duff of all things, has all of the charms that one associates with B-movies of the 1950s. After a brief 1979 theatrical re-release of The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in 3-D, the format was experiencing a resurgence at the box office beginning in the early 1980s with Ferdinando Baldi’s Comin’ at Ya!, which I was so disappointed to see was rated R! The Maze is a film that lacks action, something that was all too familiar in the 3-D resurgence and exactly what you want from the format. There is a lot of talking and discussions up until the very end, and this review contains spoilers regarding the very ridiculous denouement, so you’ve been warned!
Richard Carlson plays a Scotsman with no Scottish accent named Gerald MacTeam on vacation in Cannes. He’s engaged to his girlfriend Kitty (Veronica Hurst) and the pair seem perfectly happy until he receives a letter from William, his Uncle Samuel’s butler, informing him of his uncle having taken sick. Despite not having a relationship with his uncle (a Baronet), Gerald feels a moral obligation to go to his side and pushes aside his initial reluctance to help. Uncle Samuel resides in the foreboding Craven Castle, a stately manor bereft of modern conveniences such as electricity or telephones and it isn’t long before he passes away, his obituary capturing Kitty’s eye despite no communication from Gerald. Kitty is perplexed by his silence until he writes her some weeks later, “releasing” her from the engagement.
Kitty and her aunt make their way to the castle and Gerald is unsurprisingly distressed to see them both. He also looks like he’s aged fifteen years and is unceremoniously aloof. Kitty and her aunt stay the night, and Kitty discovers a hidden passage (remember the hidden room in 1979’s The Changeling?) that leads to a lookout tower which reveals a hedge maze in the rear of the castle (think 1980’s The Shining) and detects strange noises and movement in the middle of the night. The remainder of the film attempts to keep this secret from the audience and when its revealed to eyes 66 years hence, it’s difficult not to laugh. The “secret” is a frog-like monster who used to be the castle’s master and meets an untimely death following a horrific illness. In the end, Gerald is able to return to a normal existence.
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NOW SHIPPING WORLDWIDE!
Cinema Retro proudly announces its annual Movie Classics special edition for 2018: Roadshow Epics of the '60s! This is an 80-page special that provides in-depth coverage of the making of five memorable epic films:
Mutiny on the Bounty
Lawrence of Arabia
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The behind-the-scenes struggles to bring these monumental productions to the screen often equaled the events depicted in the screenplays. Indeed, all but Lawrence of Arabia proved to be boxoffice failures (or disasters). However, Cinema Retro provides compelling evidence that all of them were superbly filmed and provided many grand, memorable moments. This special edition provides fascinating insights into the often seemingly insurmountable challenges directors, writers, producers and actors had to overcome in order to bring the films to completion. These are the kind of movies we think of when we hear it said "They don't make 'em like that anymore!". This special Movie Classics issue is packed with hundreds of rare production stills and on-set photos, as well as rare international advertising and publicity materials.
As with all Cinema Retro issues, this is a limited edition so order now and don't miss out!
(This Movie Classics special edition is not part of the subscription plan. It must be ordered separately.)
ALL PRICES INCLUDE POSTAGE.
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BY DARREN ALLISON
AUGUST 2018, VOCALION BOOKS, The Mood Modern, – 486 pages, Foreword by Keith Mansfield, Hardback and paperback editions – ISBNs: 978-1-9996796-0-6 (hardback) / 978-1-9996796-1-3 (paperback) – Fully indexed – Two sixteen-page photo sections, one in b/w, one in colour, both containing many never-before-published images: from the Phillips family archive, and of composers, musicians, recording sessions, catalogues, music scores and studio brochures.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Oliver Lomax for well over a decade. His superbly produced Dutton Vocalion CD’s have regularly graced the pages of Cinema Retro. So when he hinted to me some months ago that he had been working on a book, I knew that it would materialise as something very special. After reading Oliver’s meticulously detailed liner notes which had accompanied many of his KPM and Bruton re-releases, it was perhaps no surprise that he had chosen the history of these legendary labels as the subject of Vocalion’s publishing debut.
Also known as mood, stock, background or production music, for decades library music has made an important though anonymous contribution to the broadcast media, supplying film, radio and television with innumerable themes and underscores.
The Mood Modern is three books in one, weaving together the separate strands of company history, biography and critical assessment of some of the most important music collectively produced by the KPM and Bruton libraries during the course of a quarter century, spanning the years from 1956 to 1980. At the heart of the book, however, is the Phillips family, one of Britain’s great music publishing dynasties, but in particular Robin Phillips (1939-2006).
The mid-1960s through the ’70s have come to be regarded as library music’s golden age. In Britain, it was when this somewhat mysterious branch of the music industry emerged from the chrysalis of its light music heritage, into a vibrant new era of modern, colourful sounds. Robin Phillips played a fundamental role in this transformation when, in 1966, he established a new library – the KPM 1000 Series. Robin would also introduce several new composers who would quickly become some of the best-known and most successful names in the library music field: Keith Mansfield, Johnny Pearson, Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, James Clarke, David Lindup, Brian Bennett and Steve Gray among others. And thanks to Robin’s guidance, by the early ’70s the 1000 Series had become one of the world’s foremost libraries, its music a ubiquitous presence in countless films, documentaries, radio programmes and television series.
But in 1977, at the height of his success, Robin left KPM for ATV Music – taking with him his right-hand man, Aaron Harry, and the major composers – where he formed the Bruton Library under the auspices of his brother Peter (who by now was ATV Music’s managing director) and show business mogul Lew Grade’s financial adviser, Jack Gill.
Drawing on interviews with members of the Phillips family (including Peter Phillips) and many of the composers, recording engineers, musicians and staff of both libraries, The Mood Modern tells the remarkable inside story of how KPM and, subsequently, Bruton came to be dominant forces in library music, both in Britain and internationally.
In addition to charting the origin and history of the music publishing firms – Keith Prowse and Peter Maurice – that merged to form KPM, The Mood Modern covers numerous related areas. These include the birth of Britain’s library music industry; the early British libraries and their inseparable link to the English light music tradition; how the arrival of commercial television in Britain led to the formation of the Keith Prowse library in 1956 under the aegis of its manager, Patrick Howgill, which paved the way for the KPM library; KPM’s legacy as a famous popular music publisher and its place in the history of Denmark Street (London’s Tin Pan Alley); Robin’s father, legendary music publisher Jimmy Phillips; the corporate manoeuvring that saw Keith Prowse, Peter Maurice and KPM bought and sold; and the clash with management that eventually caused Peter and Robin Phillips to leave KPM for ATV Music.
The importance of the recording engineer is acknowledged in The Mood Modern, and those who largely shaped the “sound” of the KPM and Bruton libraries are featured: Ted Fletcher, Adrian Kerridge, Mike Clements, Richard Elen (KPM) and Chris Dibble (Bruton Music). There’s detailed coverage of all the KPM 1000 Series’ overseas sessions – including personnel, dates, locations and what was recorded – and chapters respectively devoted to the sessions in Bickendorf, Cologne (along with the stellar lineup of international jazz talent that played on them) and in KPM’s two in-house studios. The Musicians’ Union embargo, which had forced British libraries to record much of their material on the Continent, is also scrutinised, as are the negotiations with the MU of the late ’70s that finally allowed British libraries to resume recording in British studios with British musicians.
As well as delineating the setting up of the Bruton Library, its struggle to get established and the background of the parent company, ATV Music (itself a division of entertainment conglomerate Associated Television [ATV]), Bruton’s recording sessions and early output are placed under the spotlight.
Another aspect of The Mood Modern is the chapter-length biographical portraits of five of the KPM 1000 Series’ principal composers: Syd Dale, Johnny Pearson, Keith Mansfield, James Clarke and David Lindup. This is the first time that any of them have been the subject of an in-depth portrait, and these chapters take in many associated areas: KPM library offshoots Aristocrat, Radio Program Music and the KPM International series; the litany of famous and not-so-famous TV and radio themes within the KPM library; Lansdowne Studios; British jazz and pop; classical music; commissioned film and TV scores; BBC Television and Radio; Independent Television (ITV); the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society; the Performing Right Society; Phonographic Performance Ltd. and so much more.
A host of other composers also feature in The Mood Modern. These include KPM and Bruton stalwarts Laurie Johnson, Neil Richardson, Steve Gray, Dave Gold, Francis Monkman, Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw, John Dankworth, John Scott, Duncan Lamont, John Fiddy and John Cameron as well as the KPM 1000 Series’ house bands, WASP and SHARKS.
Putting everything into further perspective is a thorough examination of the pre-1000 Series KPM library, and a chapter that focuses on a leading music editor of the ’70s, who describes the processes and equipment that were used in transferring library music onto the soundtracks of films, documentaries and television programmes.
The Mood Modern is arguably the most fascinating and in-depth study of an essential genre within the music industry and a must for anyone with an intent interest in the history of soundtrack music.
UK/ EUROPE READERS: HERE TO ORDER
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
Burt Reynolds has died at age 82 from a heart attack in his home town of Jupiter, Florida. Reynolds had been suffering from poor health in recent years but was still appearing in films. He was announced as one of the stars of Quentin Tarantino's forthcoming "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Reynolds entered acting in the 1950s but his rugged good looks sometimes worked against him as he was told he bore too close a resemblance to Marlon Brando. He made "B" movies before gravitating to television where he landed a recurring role as a blacksmith in the hit series "Gunsmoke". Reynolds would go on to star in other short-lived TV series that never capitalized on his real life wit and humor. Of playing the title character in the "Dan August" detective series, Reynolds would quip that he had two expressions: "Mad and madder". Reynolds slogged through undistinguished feature films in the 1960s, some of which were undeniably appealing but none of which resonated with the public. However, he gained considerable attention with his frequent appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" where his self-deprecating sense of humor and racy quips endeared him to Carson's mammoth nightly audience. He agreed to pose nude (well, mostly nude) for Cosmopolitan, which caused a sensation. However, Reynolds said he regretted the decision because it detracted from his ability to be taken seriously as an actor. The release of director John Boorman's "Deliverance" in 1972 changed that. Reynolds gave a terrific performance and the "A"-list roles started pouring in. Most of his films had a considerable element of humor attached to them, combined with Reynolds' ability to do his own stunts. He became popular playing wise-ass characters with a penchant for towel-snapping humor. In 1977, he struck gold by starring in "Smokey and the Bandit", a film which became a phenomenal success with rural audiences. The Reynolds persona was often that of a good ol' boy from the south who took on corrupt cops and politicians. For a period of years, Reynolds could do no wrong and became one of the biggest stars in the world. However, his judgment often failed him and turned down major roles in classic films in order to star in forgettable movies. A misguided stunt on the set of "City Heat" in the early 1980s caused him severe injuries and helped spread rumors that was was suffering from AIDS. His career never fully recovered, but in 1998 he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for "Boogie Nights". He didn't win and he also squandered the newfound respect he had earned by churning out mediocre films and TV movies. Not helping matters was his messy personal life that saw marriage problems, nasty divorces and bankruptcy issues spread across the pages of tabloids.
Still, Burt Reynolds was a genuine superstar at his peak and he never went out of style, as evidenced by the enduring affection for his films- and yes, he certainly could act.
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“GRACE VS. NATURE”
By Raymond Benson
Not many filmmakers since the great Stanley Kubrick have had the same kind of mystique, but one who easily fits that bill is Terrence Malick, a writer/director who has endeavored to redefine the narrative form of cinema in visually poetic terms.
Malick doesn’t create movies, he makes cinema in verse. The story in a Malick film is not a priority, although there is often a profound tale at work. A Malick picture is all about the emotions, the visual beauty, the aural splendidness, and taking part in a cerebral, yet primally impressionistic experience.
The reclusive filmmaker disappeared from the public eye after his two acclaimed, more “accessible” works (Badlands, 1973, and Days of Heaven, 1978). He returned twenty years later and made The Thin Red Line (1998). Something was immediately different about his art. Malick’s storytelling was more oblique, nonlinear, and lyrical. This trend continued more intensely in The New World (2005). Never one to be labeled “prolific,” Malick brought out his fifth feature, The Tree of Life, in 2011, and it featured a radical progression in this elegiac, non-traditional way of spinning a yarn.
The Tree of Life received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography (by Emmanuel Lubezki), but there were many audience members who just didn’t get it or refused to meet the film halfway. I remember counting many walkouts from the theater in which I first saw it. Its comparison to the initial reaction to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is apt. This was a new kind of film, something that challenged the viewer into sitting back, opening the mind and the heart, and going with the flow.
And flow it does… the picture is much like a symphony of sight and sound. The imagery of the world in all its glory from the ground, sky, and sea to the plants, animals, and people is breathtakingly sensual. The music—mostly classical pieces and some original scoring by Alexandre Desplat—is practically continuous as the pace of the editing moves frenetically. How anyone could call this a boring movie is mind-boggling.
There is a story. The focus is on the O’Briens, a family in a small town in Texas in the 1950s, particularly utilizing the point of view of the oldest boy, Jack (played by newcomer Hunter McCracken). Brad Pitt is the stern, sometimes over-the-top disciplinarian father, and angelic Jessica Chastain is the loving mother. Jack’s two siblings are played by Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan. The entire family’s performances are superb. Scenes in the present day feature an adult Jack (Sean Penn), who is somberly “remembering” the events of the film. Something has triggered old Jack’s memory of when the middle brother died at the age of nineteen (we don’t know how… possibly Vietnam?).
And then there’s the creation sequence, something else that is comparable to the Star Gate section of 2001 (and that film’s co-visual effects supervisor, Douglas Trumbull, is a consultant on Tree). We see in a nearly twenty-minute segment how the earth was formed in the heavens, how life began in the waters, the rise of dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs!), the predatory disposition of certain species, and their eventual destruction to make way for man.
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
When Amazon announced a major creative partnership with Woody Allen to develop original films, it was considered quite a coup. But as The Playlist reports, in the wake of continued allegations of child abuse against Allen, it seems Amazon's investment might be a total lost. The controversy extends back to the messy breakup of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow in the early 1990s during which Farrow accused Allen of abusing their daughter Dylan when she was very young. Dylan, now an adult, has continued to repeat the allegations in a very public way, often backed up by her brother Ronan Farrow, an award-winning journalist. However, Allen and Farrow's adopted son Moses has defended Allen by saying the charges are bogus and that Dylan had been rehearsed by her mother to make the allegations when she was young and impressionable. Police had conducted an investigation at the time, interviewing both Allen and Dylan. No charges were ever filed and there was suspicion at the time that Dylan had been coerced to make the accusations. Nevertheless, the stigma has haunted Allen, who also received bad press when he courted and married Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi. Still, Allen's career was never damaged in any material way and he continued to make and release at least one film a year over the last half-century, a remarkable record of achievement. Now, however, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Allen finds himself suddenly out-of-demand. He is not attached to any new projects and his film for Amazon, "A Rainy Day in New York" might never see the light of day. Amazon might buy out its contract with the Oscar-winning director at a considerable loss to its bottom line. Additionally, Allen might be having trouble finding financing for his new films even though he generally shoots on a modest budget. Many of the prominent stars who worked with him previously have said they won't do so again. The controversy brings up a creative dilemma: should a major filmmaker's work be suppressed even though there is no proof that the accusations against him are true? for more?
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The 1966 WWII film "The Heroes of Telemark" starred Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris in the true story of Norwegian resistance fighters who thwarted the Third Reich's plans to develop the heavy water necessary to build atomic weapons. Although the film had many fictional elements, the basics were accurate: including a devastating decision to sink a ferry boat that was secretly transporting the heavy water, even though it would ensure the deaths of innocent passengers. Now a team of National Geographic researchers will bring the true story to the NG Channel on September 6 along with footage of the 40 barrels of heavy water that was recently discovered the sunken ferry. for more.
(For extensive coverage on the making of "The Heroes of Telemark", order the Cinema Retro Movie Classics WW II Classics issue by.)
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BY LEE PFEIFFER
The final film of Orson Welles is the stuff of movie legend because the temperamental genius had spent about 15 years working on the project which remained unfinished upon his death in 1985. Since then, the troubled film, "The Other Side of the Wind", which Welles had hoped would restore him to the kind of glory he had not enjoyed since the 1940s, sat in a disjointed state, its rights the subject of seemingly endless lawsuits and other obstacles. Director Peter Bogdanovich, who viewed Welles as a mentor and friend, took up the task of trying to salvage "Wind" by raising enough funds to construct a coherent film based on Welles' notes and the many discussions they had on the set of the film, in which Bogdanovich appeared in a sizable role. Every time Bogdanovich thought he had found the funding for completion, his hopes were dashed- until recently when Netflix rode to the rescue and provided enough resources for the movie to finally emerge in a coherent state. The film will enjoy a limited theatrical release followed by telecast on Netflix on November 2. It stars John Huston as a grumpy, headstrong, once-great director trying to reclaim his reputation by producing one last classic film. (Welles claimed the movie wasn't autobiographical, but few believed him). Advance reviews indicate that the movie is not a masterpiece but does emerge as a serious and important work from a great talent. Pretty soon retro movie lovers will be able to judge for themselves. for more.
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Please note: Cinema Retro issue #6 is now sold out and is no longer available from our back issues section. Other sold out issues are: #'s 4,5,7,8,10,12 and "Kelly's Heroes" special edition.
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By Hank Reineke
If you trust the biographical sketch included on his 1963 LP As Long as the Grass Shall Grow (Folkways FN 2532, 1963), the folksinger Peter LaFarge hailed from Fountain, Colorado, a farming and ranching town settled ten miles south of Colorado Springs. If you trust the memory of his own mother, Peter LaFarge was actually born Oliver Albee LaFarge on April 30th, 1931, in New York City. The singer-songwriter was the son of the notable anthropologist, author and historian, Oliver LaFarge. The senior LaFarge’s 1929 novel documenting life on a Navajo reservation, Laughing Boy, would earn him a Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1930.
Though separated early on from his biological father due to his parent’s divorce in 1935, Peter remained his father’s son in his studious devotion of America’s indigenous people. His mother, with whom Peter remained, remarried in 1940 to Alexander Kane, a rancher in aforementioned Fountain, CO. Through his stepfather’s business, LaFarge fell in love with horses and roping and rodeo life, eventually dropping out of high school to try his hand at saddle bronc riding. Though he had become a cowboy in vocation - suffering numerous injuries during his brief association with rodeo life - he remained more absorbed by his birth father’s scholarship into the folklore, art, history, and customs of the American Indian.
LaFarge was a restless spirit, tending to drift in and out of things. He served on the U.S.S. Boxer during the Korean War, sparred as an amateur pugilist, studied acting at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, and wrote several (as of yet) un-produced plays. Befriending the folksinger Cisco Houston, an occasional singing partner of and best friend to Woody Guthrie, LaFarge’s existing interest in folklore ignited his enthusiasm for the folksong revival of the late 1950s. Upon his arrival in Greenwich Village with an intention of inaugurating a career in folk singing, the young LaFarge seemingly burnished his credentials by telling everyone he was the descendant of the Narragansett Tribe of the Rhode Island- based Algonquians. One of his stories was that once the Narragansett’s had been “wiped out,” he found himself adopted by “the Tewa Tribe of the Hopi Nation, whose reservation is near Santa Fe.” This appears to have been the tale he chose to settle on. He would write in a 1963 issue of the seminal folk music magazine Sing Out!, “The Pima Indians, whose reservation is just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, are cousins of my people, the Hopi Indians of the New Mexico Pueblos.”
If LaFarge’s assertions of a direct ancestral lineage to indigenous Americans are suspect - as most music historians now believe - the songwriter was certainly not alone in such self-mythologizing. Another recent Village transplant from the Midwest, Bob Dylan, was also telling friends and colleagues a similar fiction. Dylan, ten years LaFarge’s junior, famously suggested to a doubtful Izzy Young of Greenwich Village’s venerable Folklore Center that he was of Sioux Indian descent. To be fair, even Johnny Cash – who is, of course, more or less the central figure in Antonio D’Ambrosio’s moving 2015 documentary We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, now available on DVD courtesy of Kino-Lorber, was not above such mythologizing. In an infamous letter to Billboard (published August 22, 1964), Cash would describe himself as “almost a half-breed Cherokee-Mohawk,” whatever that means. It’s therefore somewhat perplexing that, regardless of the best intent and justice-seeking goodwill of all involved, D’Ambrosio’s film makes not even a passing mention to all of these innocent subterfuges.
Does any of this really matter? I suppose not. What does matter is that LaFarge, whether a full, half or non-fledged ancestor of indigenous Americans, wrote some of the most poignant, bitter and insightful songs somberly documenting the Indians’ experience in the United States. LaFarge’s intimate knowledge of Indian customs and folklore were, ultimately, far more schooled and convincing than either Cash’s or Dylan’s more clumsy appropriations which were easier to dismiss. While Cash and Dylan would, of course, both go on to be deserved long-standing totems of the music industry, LaFarge remained a mostly obscure figure, one very much on the fringe of the popular music scene. LaFarge would productively wax new no fewer than six albums between 1962 and 1965, but only “Ira Hayes” and Other Ballads (Columbia CL 17995/CS 8595) had been recorded for a major label with pop-music market distribution. It sold poorly. His following five albums were waxed for Moses Asch’s more austere and cerebral Folkways Records, whose eclectic catalog included everything from educational LPs, to anthropological studies, to early jazz and blues recordings. LaFarge’s addition to the Folkway’s roster was something of a more comfortable – if less royalty generating – fit for the artist. Asch, a supportive “fellow traveler” of left-wing causes, judiciously used his record label to provide an open microphone to such genuine folk music artists as Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Cisco Houston and Pete Seeger. It was a defiant gesture as well as a pragmatic one. The political climate made most labels in the late 1940s and early 1950s wary of recording rabble-rousers armed with guitars and 5-string banjos.
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