1950s, 1970s, Art house, Blu Ray, Classic Hollywood, cult, Drama, film, Fox, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, independent, New York City, review, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, Theatre, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time, Uncategorized

NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95

                                                                                NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE

(Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95 https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/next-stop-greenwich-village-blu-ray/ released May 22,2018 limited to 3,000 copies only.

 

While not as well known or as financially successful as AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (Fox,1978) or BOB &CAROL & TED & ALICE (Columbia ,1969), to me NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE is writer/producer/actor/director Paul Mazursky’s masterpiece that can be revisited again and again.

A semi-autobiographical work, N.S.G.V. perfectly captures the mood of a vibrant bohemian culture that defined the Village scene until the early 2000s, when the area grew too expensive and the quirky and energetic art, individualism, and yes, just plain fun crazy inhabitants were driven out, and the cozy brownstones and shops turned into expensive high-rises and expensive pretentious stores that lack any personality.

 

Much of the credit must go to the casting geniuses of Juliet Taylor and Sylvia Fay (background). Ms. Taylor and the late Ms. Fay (if you ever saw tv’s  FRIENDS(W.B.,1994-2004), actress June Gable obviously based her character of the chain-smoking Estelle on the late Sylvia Fay) were the unsung heroes of NY casting.

Unlike many casting directors today, they would attend Off -Off Broadway shows, seeking out new interesting faces and talent.

That is how Ms. Taylor came across actor Lenny Baker. The actor was busy working in Off Broadway shows, when she brought him to the attention of director Mazursky very close to the start of actual filming. The role fit the actor to a “t”, and he went on to win a Tony Award in 1977 for his role in the musical I LOVE MY WIFE. It is a major shame that illness took him from audiences too soon, dying from AIDS in 1982 at age 37.

   Ilene Graff as Cleo and Lenny Baker as Alvin in I Love My Wife

 

The film is also filled with a lot of New York stage actors who were still unknown at the time, including leading lady Ellen Greene (later most famous for her star turn both on stage and off as a blonde tressed Audrey in the musical LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS) and a blink and you’ll miss him Bill Murray. This film and many New York lensed films of the 1970s truly did live up to the maxim, ‘They had faces then”.

 

Surrounding the talented newcomers were seasoned stars and supporting actors like Shelley Winters, Lou Jacobi, and Mike Kellin (whose last film role was as Mel in SLEEPAWAY CAMP, American Eagle, 1983).

 

• The Lapinskis are a nice if eccentric working class Jewish family living in Brooklyn ,1953 when son Lenny Lapinski (Baker) decides it’s time for him to move to Manhattan and pursue his dream of becoming an actor, much as the idea brings agita to his mother Fay (Winters) and his somewhat henpecked dad Ben (Kallin).

• Finding a flat in a Village brownstone, he is soon surrounded by loving bohemian friends who are artistically hungry, assured self-centered intellectuals, or creating lives and backgrounds for themselves that help them survive the real world. Among this idiosyncratic crew are Anita (Lois Smith), a high-strung friend who contemplates suicide, Robert (Christopher Walken) as the smug poet Robert, and Bernstein a black gay man who is full of fanciful stories of his life (Antonio Vargas, whom if you only know him as Huggy Bear from tv’s STARSKY & HUTCH, Spelling-Goldberg,1975-79, you will be astonished by his brilliant and touching turn here), hanger on Connie (Dori Bremmer).

The cast and director Mazursky

 

Lenny also a girlfriend, free spirit Sarah Roth (Greene). Their relationship is very sexual, in contrast to the normal conformity of the era. She enjoys their relationship but doesn’t want to be merely someone’s girlfriend. The problem is she isn’t sure exactly where she fits in the world.

 

That is not an issue with Lenny, who goes to acting classes, hoping like so many to be the next Brando, while working in an health food shop run by Herb (Lou Jacobi) and his wife (Helen Hanft, a fixture in Off -Off and Off-Broadway productions).

 

Along the way, we have many funny and tragic events happen along the way to Lenny’s journey to achieve stardom. Moments perfectly capture what feel honest and true of the period, including rent parties (a $1 a head, when a flat could be had for $50 a month!).

 

Among the names mentioned above, keep an eye out for Jeff Goldblum as a self-centered actor who studied at “The Studio” whose big mouth costs him from even being able to audition, Joe Spinnell as a cop who watches Lenny performing on a subway platform, and Rutanya Alda as an uncredited party guest.

 

The film was lensed by Arthur J. Ornitz (son of one of the Hollywood Ten ,Samuel Ornitz),who had been behind the camera for such films as THE BOYS IN THE BAND (National General,1970),SERPICO (Paramount,1973) and DEATH WISH (Paramount,1974) ,which all used a similar grainy look and brown palette in color, but he was also the cinematographer on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (MGM,1970), so he was not limited in his color use or cinematic style .

 

Bill Conti was the composer, the same year that he wrote his score for ROCKY (U.A.,1976). For N.S.G.V., his score is a bluesy jazzy score that perfect evokes the era, often using pieces from the Dave Brubeck Quartet (the 1953 set film has Brubeck’s 1959 composition ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk”) or Charlie Parker.

 

 Don’t you hate when your parents walk in during sex?                                                                    

 

 

The film was mostly shot on location in NYC, though you would be hard pressed to find many of the locations nowadays. A shot looking toward the city from the subway platform clearly shows on the far-left buildings that were not there in the 1950s, but this, like the Brubeck note, are so nitpicky, that if you notice them while seeing the film then you aren’t paying attention to the brilliance of the storytelling.

 

You can still recognize the location on 7th Avenue South and Christopher Street (Village Cigar is still there) and you can still a nice meal at Café Reggio on 119 MacDougal Street, as well as Julius’s Bar at 159 W 10th Street, which is NYC’s oldest Gay Bar (it was also used in a scene for the film of THE BOYS IN THE BAND).

The commentary track by Mazursky (more on in a bit) mentions that Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox, gave the director a lot of input on the film, up to and including the poster design by graphic designer Milton Glaser. Mazursky leaves it at that, but I was curious as to why he felt that was important to reference.

 

 

Though his imagery is well known even when his name is not (the original Broadway production of ANGELS IN AMERICA, for Bob Dylan, and the I LOVE NY logo, this is one of the illustrators few movie posters.

 

The more Norman Rockwell-ish design is by artist Birney Lettick, whose artwork graced movie posters for many a major American film across the genres..

 

The Blu Ray from Twilight Time is another winner from this company. An upgrade in picture quality from the previous DVD release from Fox, this is a 1080p High definition transfer in 1:85:1 ratio. The original grain and dark colors perfectly capture the look of the film when it played theatrically in 1976, to critical praise but small audiences in the U.S. It found a more appreciative audience for its European screenings, but slowly and surely it has been discovered by new audiences with each release. This stands as the one that fans will want to own.

The sound is available to listen to in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo as well as the original mono sound. I really didn’t notice any major difference, but since this is a dialogue driven score, it really doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment.

 

There are optional English SDH subtitles.

 

Other extras include

A very warm and informative commentary track recorded for the 2005 DVD release by director Mazursky and Ellen Greene. Though recorded separately, they are very nicely edited together for a commentary track that you may wish to listen to more often than other more technical but cold commentaries heard on bigger budgeted new releases. The joy that each have on recalling the film, and how it affected each one, is engrossing.

 

Another audio track allows you to hear the music track isolated in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo. This is a fun score to listen to while you are doing things, like perhaps writing a film review.

The Original Theatrical Trailer- this will give you an idea of how much the film elements have been cleaned, as well as idea of how the studio sold films at the time.

 

 

There is a reversible case sleeve as well as a nice booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, ending with some more personal commentary than usual that shows the power of this film.

This is a must have addition to anyone who

-Loves Great Independent Style filmmaking (ironically, it was greenlit by Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox)
-seeing famous actors in their early works
-Nostalgia
-Superlative Storytelling.

 

 

Heck, I think I am going to watch it again right now.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Get it now- remember -only 3,000 pressing.

-Kevin G Shinnick-

If you enjoyed this film, may I also recommend MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/moscow-on-the-hudson-blu-ray/
And
BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/bob-carol-ted-alice-blu-ray/
, also directed by Paul Mazursky.

Remember to like and follow us here: https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/

Also like and follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/

 

 

 

Advertisements
Standard
1930S, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2017, Academy Award Winner, Action Adventure, Adventure, Frankenstein, genre, ghosts, gore, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, Mummy, Uncategorized, Universal, vampire, VAMPIRES, Wolfman

IS IT REALLY HORROR?

 

Universal, it seems ,has not, as previously reported, killed off their DARK UNIVERSE franchise idea. According to Screenrant (https://screenrant.com/dark-universe-monster-movies/ ) producer Holly Goline is still connected to the concept.

Holly Goline had begun as an assistant to actress /director/producer Angelina Jolie ,has worked on films in various capacities until becoming a producer on IN THE LAND OF MILK & HONEY (Sony,2011 ).

So, like the classic monsters of old, there seems to be a spark left in the idea of reviving the collective creatures.

The thing is-should they?? I mean ,are they actually horror films anymore?

The change began with Universal‘s THE MUMMY (1999). Director /writer Stephen Sommers had come to audiences and critical attention with his film DEEP RISING (Hollywood/Disney,1998). That film began as a high seas action adventure story ,with hijackers out to rob a luxury liner, only to end up fighting for their lives against an unleashed monster.

A well written well directed story,with a great cast led by Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, and Kevin J. O’Connor,superb set pieces as well as scares and laughs galore, the film failed to make back it’s estimated $45,000 budget (U.S. box office $11,000) but it did well on home video and cable television .

It was enough to impress Universal  so that they hired him to remake THE MUMMY for a new audience. Columbia Pictures had shown in 1992 that an A budget and all star cast could give prestige and financial rewards with their version of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA . Though uneven in tone (along with some miscasting and overacting ),the movie was a stylish treat that had both scares and a romance that worked in combination . The film made double its production cost in the United States alone, which made Hollywood take notice.

Columbia tried to have lightening strike twice and revive another classic creature with style , and two years later unleashed MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN . Once again an all star cast was gathered to retell the famous tale, but to this day critics and fans are divided upon this production, and the movie only made back half of it’s production budget for it’s American release . It eventually made a profit overseas and with the home video market .

Universal was undeterred ,and realizing that they had their own original creations that were known and marketable, they decided it was time to make their own monster epic.

With a high budget ( $80 million) , THE MUMMY film clicked with both audiences and critics alike , and made $155,247,825 in the U.S. alone upon its original release, and was a strong seller on video .

But it was the beginning of the slide away from being a pure horror film.

The film had a few jump scares but it was more along the line of a thrill ride , Indiana Jones style. The wonderful pairing of Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz gave us a couple we could cheer on as they went through some exciting adventures set during 1925 (three years after Tutankhamen’s grave was discovered,starting the mania in Egyptian artifacts).  Add to that a wonderful supporting cast including John Hannah and Kevin J O’Connor as comic companions , Odeth Fehr as Ardeth Bay and Arnold Vosloo as the immortal Imhotep  (Bay and Imhotep are the names used by Karloff  in the Universal 1932 THE MUMMY ),and one had a real crowd pleaser.

It resulted in THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001),an animated series that ran for 26 episodes between 2001 & 2003  , THE SCORPION KING(2002) (the last two films truly launching the movie career of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,with THE SCORPION KING  being a standalone prequel set in the distant past )  and finally THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (2008).

Each film moved further and further away from horror into more fantasy tinged adventure stories.

Looking at low budget films from the 70s,80s and 90s, I think that the original HALLOWEEN(Compass,1978) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (Paramount ,1980) were a better template for what a mummy movie could have been.   Both figured silent figures who appear invincible and once they decide that you are their target they will not stop until they have killed you, usually in some horrible fashion.  Like  the slower moving Mummy of the Universal classics , MIchael Myers and Jason both strode purposefully ,never running , to overtake their victims , What these films lacked in gloss they more than made up for in suspense and scares ,something that the Mummy series lost more and more as the series went on.

Stephen Sommers only directed the first two Mummy  films (though keeping his hand involved in all of them),prepping instead for an even bigger film . Sommers formed his own production company in 2004 with plans of making an Homeric retelling of the beloved villains.

The result was VAN HELSING (Universal,2004) ,a loud  bloated everything but the kitchen sink major misfire. With a more than generous $160 million production budget (as well as an initially big publicity push ) ,the film was critical disaster, and made only $120 million domestically, luckily for the studio making a profit thanks to overseas box office ( worldwide cume : $300,257,475 ), which was also the start of studios looking for overseas markets to make their movies get out of the red.

 

The film seemed determined to start at 11 (to reference THIS IS SPINAL TAP,Embassy 1984   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgx4k83zzc ) and build in shrieking volume.  Almost everyone screams their lines (with poor Shuler Hensley ,who had worked with star Hugh Jackman on Broadway in OKLAHOMA!,being the one directed the most to bellow everything      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rev5Z6Dg91A ). The story is a ghoulish goulash has Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman ) as a bounty hunter of monsters for the Roman Catholic church.

He takes on a CGI Mr Hyde and then high tales it to Transylvania ,meets up with fellow monster hunter Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsdale) and goes after the Frankenstein Monster, the insane Igor (Sommers‘  talisman ,actor Kevin J. O’Connor ),a werewolf who is Anna’s brother (Will Kemp) and Dracula (Richard Roxburgh, who was more frightening in his more  semi -comic role for MOULIN ROUGE (Fox,2001))and his undead brides want to hatch a cavern-full of gigantic Alien -like eggs , which are in fact vampires awaiting to be born(Vampires lay eggs??) .

 

Universal was so sure that they had another hit series on their hands , they kept the sets built in Prague for the film up, which meant they had to keep paying for the land  rental use while they remained.  Upon the movie’s release, however, they decided that a sequel didn’t seem like a financially sound idea.  They also scrapped a planned Transylvania land for the  Universal Studios Theme Parks ,as well as a planned Transylvania tv series.

The film failed to work as either an adventure or a horror film, but became a CGI riddled massive video game that seemed to be designed by a ten year old with A.D.D .(a charge which ,to be fair , now seems to describe the majority of theatrical releases lately).

 

Ten years later, Universal wanted to re- reboot their monsters into the summer blockbuster market . DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal, 2014) was the result.  The film basically goes back to the Vlade Tepes legend ,though instead of a annointed sociopathic Prince with a fetish for driving stakes up the hindquarters of his enemies (which included practically everyone), he is transformed into a fierce warrior,loving husband,father and nobleman  (Luke Evans )who makes a deal with The Master Vampire (Charles Dance ) for his aid in getting his son back from the Turks who have abducted the boy and about a thousand other youngsters.   What he gets ,however, slowly transforms him .

The film is indeed epic in it’s look and design, and handsomely mounted .There is also some very clever sound design and editing which gives the audience a bit of a jump once and awhile.  However, as it was planned for a summer market, the film was PG-13 rated, and the scares toned down for a larger target family audience.  Done on a $70 million budget , the film only made $56,280,355 domestic , $160,843,925 internationally for a final  worldwide tally of  $217,124,280 . The film also underwent some reshoots when Universal felt that this film needed to be tied into its just announced idea of their Dark Universe plans.

The Dark Universe franchise was to be Universal‘s answer to the many superhero films whose main power was siphoning the cash out of a willing public . Not having a superhero of their own (did they forget about DARKMAN (1990)?),they looked to the properties which they did have ,and rather than reviving Francis The Talking Mule (which would literally be beating a long dead horse) they turned instead to their creature creations . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfxLdBDr1ww

There had been some talk of Dracula turning up in  a future Dark Universe film only to have executives change their mind again, wanting the Dracula in the series to be different from the one portrayed in DRACULA UNTOLD .Talk about too many mad doctors spoiling the creations!

The “official” first release for the Universal Dark Universe turned out to be –THE MUMMY (2017)!  A re-boot of the reboot (a re-reboot?)of the character again.

                                                             The MUMMY 2017 vs THE MUMMY 1999 -sand bites!

 

With a  $125 million budget  (and an advertising budget said to be at least equal to that),THE MUMMY was slammed by critics and fans, taking in only  $80,227,895 domestically, but being saved by countries where Tom Cruise still opens strong ,taking in a final total  $409,231,607 . The film is considered to have been a failure,due to various costs attached to the project, with as much as a $95 million dollar final loss .

So, Universal decided it was time to quickly kill the DARK UNIVERSE.  Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who were in charge , left to pursue other projects. By November, 2017 , the idea was considered dead. Only, as I stated in the beginning,rumors of it’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.    

Is it possible to do a proper horror film on a big budget ? The answer is yes.  The thing is to convince fans to come out and see them.

A perfect example is the 2010 THE WOLFMAN . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZabAU7ySbmE . That movie was a glossy remake of the 1941 classic .  So why didn’t fans like it? A common complaint was that they had seen the story before (but if it had varied from the original ,fans would be crying it varied so much it should not be called THE WOLFMAN ). That the story wasn’t strong ( a bit of tightening perhaps could have been used, but it followed the template fairly closely ).  That it wasnt gory enough, that it used CGI,etc.  Even professional viewers seem to contradict their own opinion . The Huffington Post review said it had cardboard characters, and yet just a few lines down :  “the film spends an obscene amount of time on a twisted father/son dynamic, and not enough time with actual werewolf terror.”  So which is it?

The film certainly looked lavish ,and the make up by the great Rick Baker and Dave Elsey won a Best Make-up Oscar.

 

So where did it go wrong? Benicio de Toro, an avowed fan of the original ,was cast in the lead in 2006 . Andrew Kevin Walker,who wrote Tim Burton‘s love letter to Hammer style horror ,SLEEPY HOLLOW (Fox,1999) ,did the screenplay.

Rick Baker , of course, adhered as much as possible to the classic Jack Pierce creation.

Director Mark Romanek was attached to the film on February 8, 2007. Romanek directed powerful music videos like Johnny Cash’s “Hurt “ video in 2003 as well as the disturbing  thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO (Fox Searchlight 2002).  The budget was set at a  reasonable (for such a big production) $85 million.  After working on the project for a year, Romanek left the project ,using the “creative differences” comment.

Several directors were interviewed including Brett Ratner (no!) ,Martin Campbell (MASK OF ZORRO, Columbia,1998),James Mangold (the  stylish 3:1O TO YUMA remake, Lionsgate, 2007),Joe Johnston (the sadly neglected THE ROCKETEER ,Disney,1991),Frank Darabont (great choice ,a screenwriter of classic horror remakes,as well as directing  some of the best Stephen King cinematic adaptations) and Bill Condon ( another superlative choice . A longtime classic horror fan, he made the James Whale biopic GODS & MONSTERS (Lionsgate ,1998) .

Almost a year to the date that Romanek had first signed on, Joe Johnston took over  to direct on February 3,2008.   Work on the film continued while Johnston brought screenwriter David Self .This was not a good sign to horror fans ,as Self wrote the awful adaptation of THE HAUNTING (Dreamworks,1999) .   Still , changing directors early on and bringing in new writers is not unusual.

 

 Not the 1999 THE HAUNTING ! Gahhh!

 

A month later, filming began in England from March to June ,2008 . Having had only 3 weeks to develop the film,Johnston decided that CGI would help patch over any cracks in the project. Rick Baker expressed his disappointment to that fact, and the increasing use of CGI was the main reason the make up effects ace decided to retire in 2015.

 

The studio began to meddle around with the film ,trying to make a classic period piece and make it a more action packed movie.  Composer Danny Elfman had written his score and left to work on other projects ,and other composers were brought in to bridge the gaps due to retakes and studio demanded edits. The movie ended up losing nearly a half hour of footage ,mostly character scenes.  The Blue Ray restores some of these scenes, and it indeed improves the film.

 

The tinkering went on longer and longer, so the opening date moved from late 2008 to several dates in 2009, only to finally open in February 2010.

 

 

The original 1941  was a modest $170,000 budgeted film that ran 70 minutes.  The newer version ran 102  minutes (though the director’s cut on BLU RAY runs 119 minutes ). The 2010 version  final budget (before advertising costs , ended up totaling $150 million.  Mixed reviews and poor word of mouth had the film fail to recoup even it’s production budget ,taking in only $139 million world wide.

However, I think this film needs to be re-evaluated.  It is a much better film than it’s original reviews led one to believe. It was also a decent remake of the classic film, and it had one thing that several of the other remakes have had, some decent scares. With the idea of the DARK UNIVERSE project, this film was considered a stand alone one-off.

Look also at Del Toro’s beautiful ghost story CRIMSON PEAK (Universal, 2015),not part of the Dark Universe . A feast for the eye with lavish costumes and set designs ,and some actual scares, the film only grossed about $74 million worldwide  on a $55 million budget .  Why did this film not do better?  It was a visual feast for the eye, but it failed to find the audience it deserved. Is it horror fans really now just want more gore and less style?? INSIDIOUS 3(Blumhouse/Focus), released the same year, made over ten times it’s production cost ($11 million).

Perhaps the people now in charge of nursing Universal‘s DARK UNIVERSE concept will reconsider what  made the originals classics and will consider reducing the slam bam action and return to horror.  The original plans were that the “Universe” would be linked by Prodigium, a secret society dedicated to hunting supernatural threats, run by none other than Doctor Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCowxWN2c_Q      I am sure that concept is now deader than a vampire staked in sunlight while lying in holy water as rose thorns are floating through it atop a garlic garnish.

Projects that were cancelled due to the failure of THE MUMMY were

THE INVISIBLE MAN to star Johnny Depp.

The cancelling of Bill Condon‘s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN project was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the announced remake.

THE WOLFMAN .

DRACULA

a VAN HELSING reboot –Tom Cruise was once announced for the role, but I guess he decided upon THE MUMMY instead).

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – this poor creature has been bandied about for decades, with names like John Landis and Guillermo del Toro attached at different times. Guillermo del Toro got tired  of waiting and made his own version ,called THE SHAPE OF WATER ( Fox Searchlight,2017).   One should note that this wonderful film ,even with Oscar wins, only took in  $194,742,801 worldwide,with almost $64 million coming from the U.S.

Perhaps Universal should study that film,as well as on films like GET OUT (Blumhouse/Universal,2017)  and figure on moderate budget films that deliver on the scares.

I think they could also learn from the old Hammer Studio model of designing films to make use of sets ,etc ,while developing their own stock company of stars .

-Kevin G Shinnick

Standard
1950s, Beverly Garland, crime drama, Drama, dvd, Film Chest, FILM NOIR, New York City, review, reviews, t.v., tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

DECOY (dvd collection -Film Chest )

DECOY  (1957 Television series) (Film Chest Media) DVD set (all 39 episodes on 3 DVDs) $19.98 First episode date: October 14, 1957 episodes run about 25 minutes each. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y18TNQ1/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tvobscur47-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B06Y18TNQ1&linkId=24b5dd7a881e2acaab9606c6f8f612bf

Back in 1992, I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing actress Beverly Garland .The interview appeared in issue ten of SCARLET STREET (to read and see the issue, go to http://scarletstreetmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/10/ )

Best known for her films with Roger Corman as well as her later appearances on MY THREE SONS (74 episodes,Don Fedderson Productions 1969-1972) ,in the late 1950s she starred in a syndicated New York lensed series called DECOY (Official Films ,39 episodes, October 14,1957 -July 7,1958) .

In our SCARLET STREET #10 interview , she called the series the “biggest mistake of her life” as it ran only one season but rerun for seven, and she was labeled a TV actress, thus being forced to start her career all over again.

Now ,in hindsight , we can see how forward thinking the show was, as well as a time capsule of ideas and mores of the period . For one, she was an independent woman who knew self defense and how to work a side arm, as well intelligence. That said, reactions to her show the difficulty of a police woman being looked at as an equal.

 

The series has had certain episodes available from several public domain companies as well as on line video sources, but this is the first time that the entire series has been released in a three DVD collection.

“Presented as a tribute to the Bureau of Policewomen, New York City Police Dept.”(opening credit ).*

 

Ms. Garland was Policewoman Patricia ‘Casey’ Jones . She seems to live up to the Decoy title , as she is often undercover to investigate and stop crime in a no nonsense style reminiscent of the then popular DRAGNET (Mark VII,Ltd. ,1951-1959). She often breaks the fourth wall to address the audience about the case that has just been solved.

She often finds herself in dangerous situations, like becoming an inmate at an insane asylum while pursuing a lead in an heroin case (“Dream Fix”). We know very little about Jones’ personal life except that her boyfriend was a police officer who was killed by a person he was sent to arrest (“The Sound of Tears”), but like her counterpart Joe Friday from DRAGNET ,it was the cases, not her personal life, that were front and center.

Being shot in New York on location gives the series a grittiness often lacking in other series from the time . It also is a time capsule of the many sites and sights no longer around in the city that never sleeps, such as Colony Records and Steeplechase Park ,as well as several that still are (John Jovino’s Gun Shop in Little Italy. The photographer Weegee had a room above the store that overlooked the large pistol replica).

 

                                                (Weegee from his apt fire escape, same locale today)

 

Also, the New York location gave them a talent pool of up and coming actors from the New York Theatre scene .Larry Hagman ,Frank Campanella,Ed Asner , Colleen Dewhurst, Martin Balsam ,Suzanne Pleshette, Diane Ladd and Al Lewis all appeared on the series.

As a syndicated show, it was shot quickly ,and some continuity errors exist .For example, Al Lewis is with a cigar in his mouth in wide shot but cutting to closeup ,we see him putting the cigar into his mouth again.The exteriors were often filmed with a hidden camera , as they did not have the funds to get permits and shut down streets.

The show probably slipped into obscurity due to it’s noticeable lack of violence ,concentrating on gathering evidence and good police work .Plus, with so many people wishing to be “politically correct” , there is a lot of smoking on the show (amazing that Westinghouse rather than Winstons Cigarettes sponsored the series.).

 

That said, it is historically important that it is one of the first dramatic shows to star and be built around a female character, who didn’t have to “sex” it up , or need a male side kick. Indeed, Ms Garland is one of the few recurring characters, having her instead work with officers in different departments to solve the week’s story .Without Policeman “Casey “ Jones, we may not have had an Angie Dickinson’s Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson , Teresa Graves’ Christie Love , or Mariska Hagitay’s Olivia Benson .

In other interviews, Ms Garland said : “Throughout my life, I’ve had ten or twenty women come up to me and tell me that they saw me on ‘Decoy’ and because of it they became a policewoman.”

I think that was a source of pride for the actress.

FILM CHEST has done a great job of presenting these full frame black and white episodes. Images are sharp and clear ,with no noticeable dirt or film damage. The mono sound was clear and serviceable. Each of the three discs has 13 episodes ,and can be either played straight through or episodes played separately .

-Recommended.
Kevin G Shinnick

 

Standard
1930S, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Action Adventure, Adventure, Art house, book, BOOK REVIEW, books, CLASSIC, crime drama, cult, fantasy, film, FILM HISTORY, FILM NOIR, genre, ghosts, gore, Horror, international, Italian, McFarland, monsters, Mystery, rare, review, reviews, SPAGHETTI WESTERN, studio history, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, VAMPIRES, Western, wierd

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker
Roberto Curti Price: $45.00 40 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
376pp. softcover (7 x 10)McFarland  2017                                                http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6970-0

Like many American film fans, my knowledge of director Ricardo Freda was mostly limited to his
Horror films I Vampiri /THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT (Titanus,1957),Caltiki il mostro immortale /CALTIKI,THE IMMORTAL MONSTER(Lux,1959),L’orrible segreto del Dr. Hichcock /THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK(Panda,1962) and Lo specttro /THE GHOST (Panda,1963).

• However, Freda had a career in cinema that lasted from 1937 (Lasciate ogni speranza /LEAVE ALL HOPE ,Juventus Film) until 1994 (La fille de d’Artagnan /REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS ,Canal+ )starting and ending his career as a writer.

• Writer Roberto Curti of Cortona Italy has done a remarkable job tracking down an amazing amount of information on Freda’s life and career.His love for the subject comes though with his very detailed synopses of these rarely seen (outside of certain countries), providing the history behind many of them, production facts, and their success or failure in various territories as well as changes made to them .

Curti uses Freda’s memoir Divoratori di celluloide (Emme Edizioni (1981),164 pages)as a starting point ,but also researching though film magazines and newspapers from several countries, as well as tracking down and watching the titles from the director’s long career. Curti points out that the director could often be petty and recall incidents that might not always match the facts.Curti’s interviews and research sometimes contradicts what Freda put into his book.

• Still ,the Egyptian born Italian director lived La Dolce Vita, being an extravagant personal spender and gambler as well as womanizer. It is ironic that he despised films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Riama,1960) as well as the entire neo-realist movement of films like Ladri di biciclette/THE BICYCLE THIEF(Ente Nazionale,1948).

He was more a storyteller who felt that film should be escapist,and take us out of reality. Not only did he have those skills, he was also able to make limited budgets look richer than they were, due to his understanding of film editing and camera placement ,as well as working with innovators like the great Mario Bava. Indeed, the short tempered Freda walked off the set of a I Vampiri ,leavinng it to be  finished by Bava. We see throughout the book that Freda had a habit of walking off set, much to the detriment of his films and career.  I Vampiri has an important place in Italian horror films ,as it was the country’s first true sound horror film (the first Italian horror film may have been Il monstro di Frankenstein(1920) a now sadly lost silent picture).

Freda had prior to I Vampiri had done a lot of regional comedies ( he cared little for the comics in many of his films ,but put in many physical gags inspired by the likes of Buster Keaton ,historical dramas and swashbucklers . Indeed ,his love of classic novels and adventure tales seemed to have merged into Caccia all’umo /LES MISERABLES( Lux,1952) ,making it more of an action thriller!

His swashbucklers seemed to have broken new ground in storytelling in Italy, being more inspired by American filmmakers than the home grown artisans. His love of tracking shots to get a lot of detail within a long take was developed during this period .Having reviewed the Italian historical drama La cena delle beffe / THE JESTER’s SUPPER* (Società Italiana Cines,1942 ,not by Freda, but by a contemporary),I would love to see more these  rarely motion pictures                (see review at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/the-jesters-supper-dvd/ ) .

Freda also was one of the first to leap into the sword and sandal films ,even telling an earlier version of the tale of SPARTACUS(Spartaco(API,1953),released in the U.S. by RKO as SINS OF ROME ). He hopped from genre to genre with various budgets and varying success. Comedy (at which he seemed to have a lot of success),drama ,spy thrillers ,Krimi( he faced off and WON against the antagonistic Klaus Kinski) ,swashbucklers,historicals, and of course horror.

His indifference to some parts of the movies he made show with some sloppy work (in ROGER LA HONTE( Comptoir Francais du Film Production ,1966,one of his later films with a decent budget, he allows a major stunt to show clearly that a “woman” passenger is actually a stunt man since his trousers are clearly visible ),as well as his indifference to actors (he was notorious for using doubles when actors gave him any grief). Yet in staging ,he often surpassed the budget with strong imagery and tracking shots that convey a lot of information .Plus several actors who worked with him praised the director .

Curti’s book makes me want to revisit several of Freda’s films and seek out some of his rarities. Curti has done what any film researcher should do, and that is evaluate and place into historical context the work of the subject.

McFarland is to be commended once again for putting out such a detailed volume about a filmmaker not as well known as perhaps he should be. Each film has b&w illustrations of the film posters or on set photographs, The graphics are sharp and easy to see.

This is a MUST HAVE for lovers of film, especially for those who love Euro-Cinema.

Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

                  "Acquista il libro o ti farò del male ..."

Standard
1950s, Action Adventure, Adventure, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, genre, Horror, monsters, Phyliss Coates, Republic, review, reviews, serial, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (Republic,1955){Olive Films Blu Ray,2017}

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (REPUBLIC,1955) {OLIVE FILMS BLU RAY,2017} 2 HRS 48 Min. B&W. DTS-HD Master Audio English. Optional English subtitles. $29.95. https://olivefilms.com/product/panther-girl-of-the-kongo/ (Also on DVD for $19.95

 

Olive Films has done a masterful job of releasing Republic’s penultimate movie serial (the final and 66th one, KING OF THE CARNIVAL, was released later in 1955).

 

Filmed between 16 August and 4 September 1954 as “Panther WOMAN of the Kongo”, the 12-chapter serial was filmed on a budget of $179,341. To put it in perspective, Roger Corman filmed the 69-minute APACHE WOMAN (ARC) that same year for $80,000 and Ed Wood shot his 75-minute BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (Banner) for $70,000.

 

To stretch their budget, Republic had star Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane for the first season of T.V.’s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (Motion Pictures for Television,1952) wear the same outfit as Frances Gifford wore in the earlier 22nd Republic serial JUNGLE GIRL (1941) and a lot of footage was lifted from this earlier serial. By the way,14 years earlier the 15-chapter JUNGLE GIRL had cost $177,404!!

Jean Evans is a jungle adventurer who is handy with both a rifle and a camera. Due to a past incident wherein she saved the village, the Utanga tribe refer to her as Panther GIRL (Ms. Coates, who is still alive today at age 90, was 28 at the time.). While out on a photo shoot for a foundation, they spy some very large crustaceans. The natives suggest she get Larry Sanders (Myron Healey in a rare good guy role), a great white hunter.

 

Evil chemist Dr. Morgan (Arthur Space, a nicer doctor on T.V.’s LASSIE (20th Century Fox,1954-71)) has discovered an abandoned gold mine in the area is full of diamonds (when life gives you lemons….) which he covets. To scare of the natives and interlopers, he has developed is “hormone compound “(steroid abuse even then??) to turn ordinary crawfish into the giant ‘Devil Beasts”.

Since the monsters do not scare off Evans and Sanders, Dr Morgan enlists human goons Cass (character actor John Day) & Rand (Mike Ragan, more commonly seen in westerns) who use the personal touch of shooting at, and knock down fights with Sanders, with heroine often knocked out or tied up.

The Lydecker Brothers, wizards of special effects, did what they could to make crawfish look gigantic. Mostly it involved the hard-shelled stars on miniature sets or people against rear screen projections. The interaction involves one giant claw reaching from above rocks of from off frame to grab Panther Girl or some poor native. I wonder if Roger Corman somehow got it and used the claw for his late ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS(A.A.,1957). Probably inspired by the giant ants in THEM! (WB,1954), these creatures also have a mighty roar. Bert I Gordon must have studied this serial, as many of his effects seem to be inspired by the techniques used here (his first film KING DINOSAUR, Lippert,1955, used a lizard magnified via rear projection and double exposure).

What is interesting for a film of the period is that there is no romance between the two leads. Maybe the studio felt that the youngsters would not put up with “icky kissing” getting in the way of the monsters, fistfights, and perils. The villain, too, is not out to rule the world as many serial villains seemed to be trying to attempt, but was motivated by old fashioned greed.

 

What does date the film in many cringe worthy ways are its portrayal of the natives. Easily frightened and superstitious, they are often reliant on the white actors to protect them. They speak in pidgin English, and another tribe (The Returi) is bribed to attack the heroes after being bribed by an elixir (alcohol!).

Plus, for the title character, Panther Girl seems to spend a lot of time tied up, screaming, or knocked out while Sanders punches and shoots his way out of the situation. She is also grabbed by the claw at one point and later ape handled by a murderous gorilla (ape specialist Steve Calvert). A lot of Jean Evans‘ action are lifts from JUNGLE GIRL of her swinging from vines and riding an elephant. She does save Sanders (the name maybe a reference to “Sanders of The River” by Edgar Wallace (U.K. first edition by Ward, Lock & Co. (1911))?) from quicksand*, so she is not completely unhelpful.

The production has a very studio bound feel to it, like many television productions of the time. Republic, through its subsidiary, Hollywood Television Service, had been involved with the earlier COMMANDO CODY (1953). The 12-part serial had been originally envisioned as a television series with each chapter running about 25 minutes. The serial finally aired on NBC television in 1955, the year PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO was released. One wonders if this too was planned as a television series?

During the 1950s up to the 1970s, movie serials, especially those from Republic, were aired on television regularly. In 1966, it was edited into a 100-minute feature called THE CLAW MONSTERS. When Super 8 home theatre came out, it was released in silent and sound edits. In the 1990s, they started to receive less air time. The home video market kept the titles out in front of fans for many years thereafter, but few have been released in their entirety on DVD and Blu Ray.

The print quality is of the high standard we have come to expect from Olive Films. The picture is quite sharp with few blemishes. The sound is DTS-HD Master 2.0, though the sound has not been remixed to make use of the new sound systems but instead is a clear replica of the original track. The optional yellow English subtitles are very legible and follow the dialogue and action.

Oddly, there were no extras, not even a trailer. It is a shame, as the trailer is unique, with the star narrating part of it before an announcer takes over:

 

For fans of Republic Serials or the lovely Phyllis Coates, this is one you will want to add to your collection.

Kevin G Shinnick

*- Coates once recalled in an interview that after filming in the swamp, Healey insisted the two of them go get penicillin shots!

 

 

No animals were harmed during the making of the film, though I assume many of the monsters met a boiling pot of water for the wrap party .

Standard
1950s, 3-D, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, FILM HISTORY, Horror, magic, review, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time, Twilight Time Blu Ray, Uncategorized, Vincent Price, wierd

THE MAD MAGICIAN (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

 

The Mad Magician 2D/3D (Columbia,1954) Twilight Time Blu Ray $29.95   B&W .72min. https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/mad-magician-the-3d-blu-ray/

themadmagician3d_bd_highres__27422_1481961646_1280_1280

Classic horror fans and Vincent Price fans will want to add this often overlooked film.

Created to cash in on the huge success of HOUSE OF WAX (W.B.,1953), this Columbia film not only used 3-D ,but also borrowed the same star and set their plot in the same period. The decision to shoot the film in black and white may have been a cost saving decision (or as is said on one of the Blu Ray extras, an artistic choice),but it may be why this film is not as popular as Price’s previous period horror film with modern audiences.

mm7

In the film’s favor was a superb cast ,led by Price and a director who knew his way around period thrillers. That director was John Brahm. Brahm had directed two of the best Jack The Ripper inspired films of all time ,THE LODGER (Fox,1944 ) and HANGOVER SQUARE(Fox ,1945),both starring Laird Cregar.

The screenplay was by former actor Crane Wilbur (he had co-starred with Pearl White in the original silent serial PERILS OF PAULINE (General Film Co.,1914)turned playwright and screenwriter.

Wilbur had written a Broadway thriller called OUIJA BOARD in 1920 , but his next play is better known.

THE MONSTER (1922) was later adapted into a Lon Chaney film for MGM . Wilbur hopped back and forth from actor to writer to director on stage and screen before settling down as a script writer. He worked on the screenplay for the spooky thriller THE SPIRITUALIST/THE AMAZING MR X (Eagle Lion,1948) (influenced by his early play OUIJA BOARD?), before working for producer Bryan Foy on the political thriller I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE F.B.I. (W.B,1951).

Foy obviously liked his work, as he hired Wilbur to write HOUSE OF WAX . Wilbur wrote for Price one more time with his adaptation of the old stage play THE BAT (A.A.,1959).

untitled

Wilbur may have been responsible for Lenita Lane appearing in THE MAD MAGICIAN, as she was his wife in real life. She also appeared in other screenplays by him. A fine actress in her own right, it is a shame we did not see her in more films (her final appearance was in her husband’s THE BAT, which he also directed).

At the end of the 19th Century, Don Gallico (Vincent Price) works for Illusion Incorporated Company, owned by Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph, later General Mark Ford in THE DEADLY MANTIS(Universal,1957)). The company creates stage effects for magicians, and Gallico has decided that he would like to strike out on his own as an illusionist. He is told, however that even though he created the illusions on his own time ,their contract has proprietary rights to any effects that Gallico creates. Ormond has little respect for his valued employee, having cuckolded Gallico by wooing away his wife Claire (Eva Gabor ,most famous for the tv series GREEN ACRES (Filmways ,1965-71)who had tied of being poor.

mad-magician-poster

To add insult, Gallico is forced to demonstrate his newest creation, a buzz saw that apparently decapitates anyone placed upon tithe Great Rinaldi (John Emery, who portrayed Dr. Karl Eckstrom in ROCKETSHIP X-M (Lippert ,1950) and in real life was often rumored to be an illegitimate son of John Barrymore!) feels that this is just the piece he wants for his act.

mm4

After Rinaldi leaves, Gallico snaps and kills Ormond with the buzz saw device (the murder is not shown just the insane glee on Price’s face ). Luckily, Gallico is also a master of disguise (and obviously the innovator of slip rubber life masks!) and makes himself up to resemble Ormond to set up an alibi and get rid of the remains.

mm1

When Ormond does not appear after a few days ,the police begin to investigate. By coincidence (or screenwriter Wilbur) Detective Alan Bruce (Patrick O’Neal, later himself to star as the baddie in a HOUSE OF WAX inspired period tv film that was released theatrically, CHAMBER OF HORRORS (WB,1966), who is investigating the mystery, is also the boyfriend of Karen (Mary Murphy, the ‘good girl’ from THE WILD ONE, Columbia,1953) Gallico’s assistant.

Gallico commits a few more murders in various disguises ,disposing of one body in a bonfire (similar to a major sequence in John Brahm’s own HANGOVER SQUARE) . The murders also draw the attention of a plucky female writer ,Alice Prentiss (Lenita Lane).Who will survive the vengeance of THE MAD MAGICIAN ?

mm2

A fun ,quick (72 minutes), there is a strong sense of déjà vu if you had seen HOUSE OF WAX, but the film also solidifies the template for the later Price “Vengeance” horror films like THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES(AIP,1971) and THEATRE OF BLOOD(U.A.,1973) with elaborate murders and disguises.

mm3

Price relishes his role, and gives it his all. It is odd seeing Patrick O’Neal as a hero in this his film debut (the Actor’s Studio trained actor had appeared on television prior) but he acquits himself nicely. Lenita Lane is sort of an gay 90s version of Lois Lane . The entire supporting cast fills their roles marvelously .

The direction by Brahm is solid ,though many feel he doesn’t take full advantage of the three dimensional process. I and many others feel he used it sparingly to emphasize certain images by dramatic placement rather than always throwing things into the lens(which he also does ,though, during Price’s magic acts).

mm6

TWILIGHT TIME has done an amazing job with this disc. The 50GB Blu Ray is REGION FREE ,and limited to a pressing of only 3,000 . The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is incredibly sharp in either 2 or 3D. The Grayscale is very rich and compliments the cinematography of Bert Glennon (also from HOUSE OF WAX). The film seems to have strong grain but that appears to be from the original negative . The DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track sound is clear and hiss free.

There are a lot of extras on this disc :

-First off , as mentioned ,the film can be watched either 3-D(you need a monitor and Blu Ray Player that allows this) or in regular 2-D.

Audio Commentary :There is a wonderful running audio commentary by David Del Valle and Steve Peros   , discussing the behind the scenes production of the film and the careers of many of those involved , as well as the 3-D phenomenon of the era. You can hear in their voices that they are truly enjoying this film (and who can blame them?) .

mm5

Isolated Music Score : You can hear the score by Arthur Lange (composer ,music director ,and orchestrator of over 200 scores, often uncredited) and Emil Newman ( brother of Alfred & Lionel Newman, and composer in his own right on such films as UNDYING MONSTER (Fox,1942)),as well as the Theremin played by Dr. Samuel Hoffman, the former violinist whose eerie playing of Léon Theremin ‘s invention graced the scores of films since SPELLBOUND (Selznick Intenational,1945). Dr. Hoffman’s work appeared in films both big budget (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Fox ,1951) to low budget (BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA, Embassy 1966), usually uncredited.

 

51332560aefeb575e790ed3e7429bc17Master of Fright :Conjuring “The Mad Magician”- Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, under direction by Daniel Griffith, have been providing some of the best making of bonus features for Shout Factory. Now , also working for TWILIGHT TIME, they continue the superb must watch documentaries that they are noted for .Between this and the audio commentary, you get a wonderful history of this film.

Two THREE STOOGES 3-D Short subjects : SPOOKS and PARDON MY BACKFIRE (both Columbia 1953)normal-randall-spooks

SPOOKS was the 148th of the 190 short subjects that the comedy team made for the studio. The boys (Moe & Shemp Howard, plus Larry Fine) are private eyes whose search for a missing girl (this was actress Norma Randals largest role of note) brings them into contact with Dr. Jeckyl (character actor Phillip Van Zandt, who was Muller in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Universal 1944) and his brutish helper Mr. Hyde (former boxer Tom Kennedy who was often the heavy to comic greats The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, and Bob Hope, among others). There is also, of course ,a gorilla (an uncredited Steve Calvert)

stooge_spooks53th

PARDON MY BACKFIRE has the team working as mechanics who capture some on the lam convicts that have the misfortune of pulling into their garage .stooges_pardon_my_backfire

Maybe it was the horror connection, but I felt SPOOKS was the more entertaining of the two. Both films work in 2 as well as three dimension (with hypos, bats, fire, water, and knives being hurled at the audience). The picture and sound quality on both are superb.spookstitle2

-The Original Trailer. Lots of Ballyhoo (That” House of Wax” Man).

themadmagician3d_bdbookletcover_highres__47771_1481961658_1280_1280-Booklet: Once again, TWILIGHT TIME provides another well written information booklet (kudos once again to Julie Kirgo).

THE MAD MAGICIAN leaps to the top of the list for any fan of classic film fans. classic horror fans, 3D lovers, and, of course, Vincent Price followers.

I suggest you order ASAP, as I think that this collectible disc is going to sell out fast!

 HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Kevin G Shinnickmad-magician-debonair

Standard
1950s, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, genre, Grant Williams, Horror, Jack Arnold, review, SCIENCE FICTION, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, Universal

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN: The Most Incredible Film Ever Made

110001616

The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Most Incredible Film Ever Made

                                                                            By Randolph Thanos

2069469

“I felt my body dwindling, melting, and becoming nothing. My fears melted away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation it had to mean something and then I meant something too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something too. To God, there is no zero, I still exist!”

                                                                          grant-williams-500x333

And those were the final words of The Incredible Shrinking Man in Jack Arnold’s incredibly stunning and visually breathtaking film of the same name.

MATHESON 1957 cover of The Shrinking Man

The Shrinking Man

Released in 1957 with a screenplay by Richard Matheson*, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN(Universal)  tells the story of Scott Carey, an average guy who is exposed to a mysterious cloud while on a boat at sea. Scott’s skin is covered with a glittering substance that he cannot explain. Scott returns home and he begins shrinking and the only medical explanation is that he has become a victim of atomic fallout. Scott soon shrinks so far down in size that his clothes no longer fit him, he is reduced to living in a doll house and he has to fight off a house cat and spider much larger than himself. Now living as a 3 inch tall man, Scott has now become the hunted and has to fight for his survival in a world that he once towered over.

shrinking-0

I first watched this incredible film in 1972 when I was 9 years old. I wanted to stay up late to watch The Big Show of the Week and the film that was being featured that night was The Incredible Shrinking Man. The Big Show of the Week was normally off limits to this young television viewer so I had to sneak down stairs, sit in the adjoining hallway and watch the film through the living room mirror opposite the television. My parents could not see me so they were oblivious to my special seat and therefore could not refuse me admission.

recreation-of-young-author

It was nothing like my eyes had ever seen before. At the Canadian National Exhibition, I watched a beautiful woman turn into a gorilla that year, I witnessed a horrific car accident and the monster from hell, my French teacher who was really really mean but nothing prepared me for the horrors that would face The Incredible Shrinking Man.

zz-the-incredible-shrinking-man-cat-in-doorway-large

In one scene, he has to fight off his house cat who now is clawing him down in terror, a once normal sized cat who now towers above him in height and that fight with the spider in the basement is one of the greatest fight for survival scenes in the history of cinema. All I could think about was what it must feel like to shrink so far down in size that one’s life didn’t matter anymore, that one’s life had no more meaning?zz-the-iincredible-shrinking-man-spider-fight-shrinkingman2

 

 

As a child growing up around adults who were much larger than me, I could identify with the discomfort and fears that The Incredible Shrinking Man was feeling, feelings of insignificance and anxiety at the vastness of the world before me. The Incredible Shrinking Man didn’t just terrify me, it made me really think about my own place in the world and since then I must have watched it over a hundred times and each time I am amazed by its cinematic wonder.the-incredible-shrinking-man9

 

 

I especially love The Incredible Shrinking Man because the hero of the story never gives up. Sure he is depressed (wouldn’t you be if you were smaller than a house spider?) but for all his bleakness he proves that big things like a heroic spirit, perseverance and fighting strength comes in a small package, a very small package. The other reason I love this film is because it is a humanity tale of how ones stature in life can become diminished and all hope can be abandoned but one can still plot ones future. Things in the world of The Incredible Shrinking Man do not always turn out the way he has planned but this does not mean that life is not worth living and fighting for.

 

 

the-incredible-shrinking-man-3

Another reason, I love this film is that it depicts the age old lesson that when life deals you lemons, you make lemonade. If you cannot live in a dollhouse, move to a match box as the hero in the story ends up doing. No matter how large or small we become, the universe is always going to be bigger than us and at some point we must face how insignificant we are in comparison but we can still remember that like The Incredible Shrinking Man, we still exist and it is our existence that gives our life meaning.zz-the-incredible-shrinking-man-scott-carey-in-water-in-cellar-bscap00033cs
The Incredible Shrinking Man is not only ripe with philosophical and metaphysical meaning; it is full of amazing special effects for its time. Director Jack Arnold, who made other fantastic science fiction films like, It Came from Outer Space (Universal 1953   ), Creature from the Black Lagoon(Universal 1954   ) and Tarantula (Universal 1955   ), spent almost a million dollars to make The Incredible Shrinking Man. The special effects were not cheap and technicians worked for almost a year on the photography for the special effects alone. Prior to the days of green screen and CGI, the special effects for this time were created by the film makers incorporating a pain staking process of creating and inventing props and camera manipulation to help the audience accept that what they were watching was real. Giant props were incorporated into filming key scenes to make it appear that actor Grant Williams had really shrunk down in size. Many of the props used were actually constructed just for these incredible scenes such as a gigantic 15 foot mousetrap and a sewing needle over 12 feet long and a match box which towered over Williams. These gigantic props were 40 times larger than normal size. A pair of scissors that weighed 40 pounds, a pencil that was 21 feet long was used in the flooded cellar scene was among the incredible props.incredible-shrinking-man-1

 

One of the pivotal scenes involves an exhausting battle between The Incredible Shrinking Man and a spider. The spider used in the film was an actual tarantula named Tamara and was the same spider used in the film Tarantula. Other fun (?) facts about The Incredible Shrinking Man are that Grant Williams almost died during the shooting from key scenes like the flooded basement where he almost drowned and on another scene he almost faced electrocution. And the remember the scene of the water heater exploding, the giant drops you see falling over the Incredible Shrinking Man were created by filling up condoms with water to create the perfect water drops falling in perfect unison.zz-the-incredible-shrinking-man-scott-carey-in-water-in-cellar-bscap00033cs
Many films I have seen as a 9 year old that have special effects have not really held the test of time, many of these effects now appear cartoonish but the special effects in The Incredible Shrinking Man have held up over the past 50 years because of the painstaking effort that went into them to create such memorable movie scenes not to mention the films central themes of isolation, existentialism, survival and loss that are prevalent in today’s world.

 

2069463

 

gw05b

The magic of The Incredible Shrinking Man comes from not only these philosophical and metaphysical themes and the special effects but from the power that the Incredible Shrinking Man is a humanity tale for all times, it is a fantasy yet the viewer is left with the question: What If? What if we did become smaller and had to carefully orchestrate our way through the world that we had once taken for granted? Would we find our meaning in life or just let ourselves shrink away into nothingness? That is the real horror we must not only confront in the world of The Incredible Shrinking Man and that we must confront in our reality today. This is why The Incredible Shrinking Man still fascinates and terrifies me today, more than 50 years after its release. The Incredible Shrinking Man is the most incredible film ever made.

el_incre_ble_hombre_menguante-274300196-large

*-based upon his novel ,”The Shrinking Man” (first published in 1956 by Gold Medal04102015p21pha

 

 

 

ae2c541b55479e35a1ea4851833c411c

           incredible-shrinking-man-photo-1ism4-e1471641323518                                                                                          (There is trouble in the marriage)

Standard