At a loss for words right now, but I would be remiss to not express my profound grief at the loss of the wonderful actor director and writer Leonard Nimoy. The last time I was this affected by the loss of an actor/media figure was when Vincent Price passed away. He will be missed by a lot of people, and he and his work will be remembered and appreciated for a long time.
Posts in category Movies
After the success of Smokey and The Bandit, Burt Reynolds was on top of the world. He was HOT. He had his choice of films, and every studio wanted to be in the Burt Reynolds business. He also wanted to direct.
So he directed and starred in The End.
If you have never heard of The End, here’s a quick summary. Burt Reynolds’ character finds out he is dying, with one year to live. He decides to kill himself. He fails. He is institutionalized, and still wants to kill himself. He just wants to make sure it doesn’t hurt. He meets Dom Deluise, who decides to help him.
Wow, this movie is frakkin’ DARK.
This movie is underrated, and exceptionally funny. The film takes the smart take all the way, and the end of The End is an incredibly moving moment where Burt Reynolds attempts to reason with God, as Frank Sinatra’s My Way plays on the soundtrack.
Obviously, suicide is no laughing matter, and when I look at the many debates that have taken place over the past few years around “dying with dignity” I sometimes think that The End dealt with the same issues decades ago – and, in some cases, better.
The cast is a mix of friend of Burt, and you are not surprised to see people like Norman Fell, Strother Martin, Sally Field and Carl Reiner make notable appearances. The film was a modest success, with $44 million in tickets sold (a significant sum in 1978, though not as much as Smokey and the Bandit’s $127 million haul). The End used to be perennial film on cable for many years, which is where I discovered it. Well, times change… And it has now fallen into the Neglected Cinema bucket, which is why I am discussing it here. It’s worth a watch, and a great showcase of Reynolds’ charisma when he was at the peak of his success.
Here’s the trailer:
This King Kong poster for the 1976 remake features the most over-the-top ad slogan, ever.
The most exciting original motion picture event of all time.
This line – and the poster – requires a bit of dissection. First, let’s look at the statement.
“Original” as a word can be dismissed immediately. Apparently, the writer of this slogan never saw the ORIGINAL Kong, which was a movie RKO made in 1933.
“Most exciting”? Well, I would say that before this movie came out there were exciting moments in cinema, but I needed to do some research. I googled “most exciting films” and I found that a lot of exciting movies came out before 1976. Granted, most of them did not feature a giant ape (though Sean Connery is pretty hairy). I also have SEEN 1976’s Kong remake, and I can in hindsight say that this statement is unequivocally false. Hell, Live and Let Die is a more exciting film, even being incredibly racist.
“Event”? Yes, by the strictest definition of the term, a motion picture release is an event. So, win one for the ad copy. Is it an “of all time” event? No.
So, your more accurate slogan is that King Kong is “The motion picture event.” Succinct, precise, and accurate.
Now, onto the poster itself. It is a GREAT poster, in that it is completely over the top and unrealistic. Kong is out of proportion to the World Trade Center, the blonde he is holding is also WAY out of scale to the buildings he is striding, and apparently he is crushing – what, an ICBM? Kong’s mouth is a gapping maw of existential angst – The Scream, if that painting featured a giant ape with an affinity for blondes.
I had this poster in my room when I was a kid – I think I paid for it with money I got from selling GRIT magazine – and I loved it. Still do, because it is just completely wrong and oh-so-right at the same time. And I still think the ’76 Kong is underrated as a film. Is it a good film? No. But it has some great moments, and a fantastic John Barry score.
Too bad the movie never lived up to the audacious awesomeness of the poster.
I remember these t-shirts fondly… When you were an eight year old and Star Wars came out, you HAD to have one. It was almost mandatory, to show that “yes, you saw it and yes, you loved it.”
A friend of mine not only still has one, he can still WEAR it (he got it as a teenager, and hasn’t really gotten any taller).
I should be taking a victory lap.
Roberto Orci, the writer/producer, has apparently been kicked off Star Trek 3 – a movie he was originally signed to both co-write and direct. Me and Mr. Orci, well… we have a history. His heated and condescending response to my TrekMovie editorial “Star Trek is broken” resulted in a tremendous amount of bad press for him, and it also resulted in my op-ed piece being read by far more people than would have done so otherwise.
When Orci was announced as director, I was critical and contributed to the very vocal #StopOrci2014 twitter response… a response that probably made no difference whatsoever in what happened, but gave fans a chance to vent.
I don’t know what has happened behind the scenes, but Devin at Badass Digest writes that Orci was kicked off the film, almost entirely – Orci initially responded to these rumors with a “not true, I am still very much involved” comment (again, on TrekMovie) but he finally stated yesterday that he was a producer only and was no longer writing the script (his script for Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the major points of criticism I and many others had with the film).
Like I stated, I should be taking a victory lap… but I’m not. Mostly because I see very little to celebrate.
Star Trek is STILL broken, because the direction the series has taken doesn’t look to change. They have brought in Justin Lin, the director of the Fast and the Furious movies, to direct the next Trek film. While he is quite adept with character moments and action beats, is he the right man to direct Star Trek? I don’t know, but other rumored directors (Duncan Jones!) could have brought a much more intellectual take at the material.
Trek is not action movie material… Trek is about the human adventure, the undiscovered country… as I pointed out (adeptly, IMO) in the article that pissed off Orci in the first place. Since the universe prides itself on irony, we have seen two great examples of what a Trek movie should and could be just this past year. Gravity and Interstellar are both provocative SF stories that I could see under the Star Trek label (and yes, I know both films are flawed). Hell, even Guardians of the Galaxy had more “exploration” than the last Trek film had.
So no victory lap for me, because I don’t take pleasure in Orci’s ouster… OK, to be completely honest, I do take a LITTLE pleasure. I am human, after all. As they say, pride goeth before a fall, and Mr. Orci was (and is) a very proud boastful little man. So to him I say: Good luck with that.
Now, to finish (and to reinforce the title of this missive): I’m kinda done with Star Trek.
I’ve gone (and spoken at) Trek conventions, I’ve written thousands of words on the subject, and I look back in fondness at the hours of entertainment the series and the films have given me. But with Trek now an “action adventure” franchise, the Trek that is being produced now is bringing me more pain than pleasure.
I also think that I have written all I have to say on the subject: I have nothing else to add to the discussion except the same arguments I have made already, and a few have (legitimately) criticized my Trek writing because of this. Since I don’t want or need to belabor my points, I’m out.
Finally, there’s plenty of other people writing about Trek out there… people who are still excited and passionate about Trek – many of them much better writers than I am – and I wish them well. I’m just not that interested in doing so anymore (especially when half the comments are people “white knighting” Orci and NuTrek – sorry, life is too short to deal with online debates waged in comment threads).
So, to my Trek friends… live long and prosper. I will be writing about and viewing other things. I may see the third film… eventually. But even with Orci gone I have no confidence that there will be a course correction to Star Trek anytime soon.
I meant to get around to rewatching Theatre of Blood before Halloween, but business travel and other priorities got in the way of that revisit. A recent international trip gave me ample opportunity to catch up on some things, and this was on top of my list to view.
Theatre of Blood stars the amazing Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, an egotistical actor who is exacting his revenge on the many critics who gave him poor marks throughout his stage career. It’s not hard to imagine the esteemed Mr. Price having similar feelings about his critics… though I doubt murder was ever a response he contemplated in real life.
This is one of the “Vincent Price kills people in creative ways” films, the most famous one being The Abominable Dr. Phibes. I love Dr. Phibes because of its dark deadpan humor, but I have a soft spot for this film… probably because I am a fan of both Price as a classical actor and the works of Shakespeare. In Theatre of Blood, Vincent’s Lionheart kills characters with methods derived from the Great Bard’s plays, and it’s wonderfully dark (I especially love the “pound of flesh” murder, inspired by The Merchant of Venice).
The supporting cast is outstanding, and it’s a who’s who of B-grade British actors. Ian Hendry, Coral Browne, Robert Morley, Harry Andrews… Lots of “I know that guy!” folks that have been in EVERYTHING.
I also especially appreciate Diana Rigg as Lionheart’s daughter, because she is not only at the peak of her beauty, but also her talent. She also plays in male drag for a big part of the movie, and the idea that anyone in the film would ever believe she was a man… well, it’s one of many areas where he film stretches credibility a bit.
(And if you think the name Richard Lionheart is a bit “on the nose”, wait until you see some of the names of the critics…)
If you’re excited over the idea of Vincent Price reciting classic speeches from Shakespeare, and you haven’t seen Theatre of Blood, then make a point to check it out.
I just hope (spoiler) that you’re not a dog lover…
Here’s a treat for fans of Patrick McGoohan (like me): The movie Kings and Desperate Men is available in full on YouTube. Written and directed by McGoohan friend Alexis Kanner, the film features McGoohan in a hostage tale that is similar to the later film Die Hard (Kanner thought it was TOO similar, and sued – he lost).
First, Elvira and Vincent Price guesting on The Tonight Show…
Vincent in a dramatic reading of Poe’s The Raven…
A documentary on the making of the movie Halloween…
And here’s a full Vincent Price movie, Madhouse!
Since Halloween is coming up, I thought it was appropriate to post this for everyone’s enjoyment – a downloadable PDF of Famous Monsters of Filmland’s first issue. Famous Monsters magazine influenced hundreds of filmmakers, from Joe Dante to Steven Spielberg, and I was lucky enough to have met the creator and editor of FM before he passed away, Forrest J. Ackerman (you can read that story here).
Here’s the issue. Enjoy.
Ah, 1968. The year where every movie studio decided they simply must put out a movie about peace, love, drugs and the counter-culture. Some, like Skidoo, are confusing and completely wrong-headed. Others, like Easy Rider, are acclaimed as classics (it was filmed in 68, released in 69). Even the Monkees got into it with the underrated HEAD.
And then there’s Psych-Out.
Produced by Dick Clark, Psych-Out stars Susan Strasburg as a deaf girl Jenny who has run away to Haight-Ashbury searching for her brother Steve. There she encounters characters played by actors who will go on to better things: Jack Nicholson, Henry Jaglom, Dean Stockwell, and Bruce Dern. Through her eyes you see the seamy underbelly of the hippie scene. Drugs! Sex! Bad acting! Low-budget sets!
To go to the obvious joke, it is a really bad trip. Three saving graces: the great footage that plays over the credits of the real San Francisco counter-culture scene, the great music that is featured throughout, and the raw young talent on display. Nicholson, Dern and Stockwell play the material for all it’s worth, which isn’t much… but they get an A for effort.
But don’t take my word for it! Watch it now, on YouTube: