1980s, Action Adventure, Blu Ray, cult, fantasy, Fred Ward, genre, Joel Grey, Orion Pictures, The Destroyer, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time Blu Ray

REMO WILLIAMS ( Blu Ray from Twilight Time)

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REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS (Twilight Time) Blu-Ray Regions: A/B/C $29.95 -1985, color, PG-13 Action-Adventure ,121 minutes. http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/remo-williams-the-adventure-begins-blu-ray/

 

From 1978 until 1999, Orion Pictures was a studio that made several brilliant films that sometimes-won awards and nominations (AMADEUS,1984; THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS,1991) but also had many box office failures and behind the scene intrigues that prevented it from becoming a new United Artists.

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In fact, several of Orion’s board were former U.A. executives who were looking around for a successful action franchise along the lines of James Bond.   The series that they decided upon were “The Destroyer “book series created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The series continues to this day (145 and counting) with Murphy’s son Will picking up the mantle.

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In the books, Remo Williams was a Newark cop falsely sentenced to die in the electric chair. His death is faked and he is spirited away and trained to become an assassin for CURE, a secret government organization. He is trained by Chuin, a master of Martial Arts. Many feels that the series hit its stride with the third book (Chinese Puzzle, 1972, Pinnacle Books). That is when Sinanju fighting style is mentioned and developed. Williams is taught that a gun is unnecessary (though he does occasionally use standard weapons when needed) and that he himself is the ultimate weapon.                                      (The Duo also appeared in Comic Book Form as well)

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The idea for a film was shopped around by producer Larry Spiegel (he had written several episodes of tv’s RETURN TO PLANET OF THE APE series (Fox -tv,1975) as well producing John Huston’s little seen horror thriller PHOBIA(Paramount,1980)) and he presented the Orion executives what they thought would be a lucrative series.

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To keep the idea of being a competitor to the Bond films, they hired director Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER,1964, U.A.) and screenwriter Christopher Wood (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME,1977, U.A.).

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Fred Ward was relative unknown when cast as Remo Williams (he had starred in TIMERIDER (Jensen Farley ,1982) as well as embodying Gus Grissom in the superb THE RIGHT STUFF (Ladd Company/WB,1983)). Ward, feeling this film series could raise his level of visibility, through himself into the role, doing as many of the physical stunts himself.

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Cast as Chiun was Tony Award winning Broadway star Joel Grey (winning the Best Supporting Oscar for role of the M.C. in CABARET (Allied Artists,1972). Grey was attracted to the mysticism of the role but feared offending the Pan-Asian community, particularly the Korean.  He researched and made sure that his character respected that history and he decided to take the role on the strength of the superlative make-up by Carl Fullerton.

REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, Fred Ward, Kate Mulgrew, 1985. ©Orion Pictures Corp

REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, Fred Ward, Kate Mulgrew, 1985. ©Orion                                                   Pictures Corp

The closest thing to a female lead in the film was the casting of Kate Mulgrew as Major Fleming. This was her first lead in a major film release (her debut was opposite Richard Burton in the barely released LOVESPELL(Paramount,1981) but there was not much there for the stage trained actress to work with.

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The film was lensed in New York City, Coney Island New York, Washington D.C., and various locations in Mexico.

 

With all the expectations, the film, released October ,1985, received mixed reviews and worse, did not even cover its production costs.   Adding insult to injury, the May release of A VIEW TO A KILL (U.A.) continued to outdraw REMO.
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The film started to receive cult status when it became a staple of H.B.O. and other premium channels.  Remo’s bad luck sadly continued when a t.v. pilot starring different actors was mostly pre-empted by a Presidential Speech in 1989, and then unseen until it began to pop up on some cable channels in 2009.

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Now, TWILIGHT TIME goes above and beyond with their release of the film. Limited to a print run of only 3,000, Twilight Time has given us a 1080p Hi Def print in its original 1.85:1 ratio (it seems director Guy Hamilton was not a fan of Panavision). The image is sharp, showing off the cinematography of Andrew Laszlo (THE WARRIORS, Paramount,1979).

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Sadly, the film betrays some cost cutting (or some money not making it to the screen. Shooting in Mexico to cut costs, they had superlative craftsmen, but they had not budgeted extortion that was a daily factor at the time in the Mexican Film Industry of the time). While the Statue of Liberty recreation is superb, some of the interior sets look like they were left over from a Jess Franco spy thriller (it seems some of the sets were unfinished when the filmmakers had to use them).japanese-posteer

 

The English 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound is rich, with hiss free dialogue.   The optional English subtitles are all very easy to read and follows the dialogue and describes the action perfectly.

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The Disc has an abundance of Superb Extras:

 

  The original theatrical trailer

 

MGM   90TH Anniversary Trailer (MGM had acquired many of the Orion titles in one of their many acquisitions)

 

-A poster /still gallery

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Craig Safan’s isolated score-  the synth sound dates the film as being from the 1980s, but it is a fun inventive work, mixing in traditional heroic orchestrations as well as a Korean Orchestra and even gun shots worked into the fabric of the compositions.(Remo Williams -Main Theme YouTube                                                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxAjVfDOTs4 ).

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Audio Commentary by Film Historians Eddy Fiedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and( friend of Scarlet) Paul Scrabo.  This has got to be one of the most interesting commentary tracks in quite a while, as two of the three up front basically say that the film is not one of their favorites, and while they are quick to point out its many wonderful qualities, they seem to go into detail in pointing out its flaws.

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The only other commentary track that I recall being this belittling of its subject was Retromedia’s out of print Tenth Anniversary DVD of JACK-O (Tri-boro, original Direct to video release,1995). On that film, producer Fred Olen Ray’s ribbing angered filmmaker Steve Latshaw so much that the Latshaw stormed out of the recording!!!

 

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Ballyhoo Pictures once again outdoes themselves with their special mini documentaries.

 

Subjects covered are:

 

CREATED, THE DESTROYER: Writing Remo Williams. This part goes into detail about the many novels, and their history, plus interviews with author Will Murray and  others.   Devin Murphy (son of  Warren Murphy )has taken over production of the series .

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UNARMED & DANGEROUS -Producing Remo Williams. Interviews with many of the people who shepherded the film from pre-production into the final release, including producer Larry Spiegel and some of his team.

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SECRETS OF SINANJU: Training Remo Williams – A nice interview with star Joel Grey. He talks about how he approached the role, and the work that he put into it.  He seems (rightfully) very proud the part and has great affection for the character.   Sadly, neither Fred Ward or Kate Mulgrew appear in an of the interviews.  For Miss Mulgrew, it is perhaps no surprise, as it was a thankless role, but that Ward did not make himself available is a bit of a surprise/disappointment.

 

 

BALANCE OF POWER: Designing Remo Williams –  Production Designer Jackson DeGovia gives a very informative interview (well-illustrated with production sketches) on the important job that he and his team did on making REMO WILLIAMS, plus the behind the scenes problems and some disappointments.

 

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ASSASSIN’S TUNE: Composing Remo Williams- Composer Craig Safan talks about his ideas that went into making his memorable soundtrack. Plus, as a bonus, he composes on the spot a villain’s theme, which the film he feels lacked.      Here he is a few years ago conducting his Remo Williams Suite without synths. What do you think?    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdoeKTv40qs

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All in all, a quite enjoyable disc given a remarkable first class release.  If you are a fan of this film, then this a definite must have.  If you have never seen it, this is a superb introduction to the characters.

 

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Every few years, it is announced that someone else is going to attempt a new Remo Williams film. Before that happens, you should seek out this film.  It may not be a classic, but it is fun.  Kudos once again to TWILIGHT TIME.

 

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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  (this article was corrected and updated on October 27,2016 thanks to welcome information provided by author Devin Murphy.Kevin had incorrectly said Will Murray ,not Devin Murphy was the son of Warren Murphy . The above pressure point was applied to Kevin ,and he is truly sorry for his error !Agh!)

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1930S, 1940s, 1950s, book, BOOK REVIEW, books, british, Classic Hollywood, crime drama, cult, Encyclopedia, fantasy, FILM NOIR, genre, ghosts, Horror, international, McFarland, obscure, rare, review, SCIENCE FICTION, Silent, SILENTS, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, wierd

DOWN FROM THE ATTIC (book review)

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Down from the Attic: Rare Thrillers of the Silent Era through the 1950s
By John T. Soister and Henry Nicolella -(McFarland; June ,2016 )248 pages $39.95

 http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-9831-4

This wonderful follow up to UP FROM THE VAULT: RARE THRILLERS FROM THE 1920S AND 1930S (McFarland ,2010) has author John T Soister joined by Henry Nicolella to track down and view where possible twenty-four films that are ignored and unknown by the majority of genre fans.

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Some are at present lost (i.e. deteriorated nitrate negatives and thus no longer in existence) and others available in truncated forms. Yet that we have still so many of these films for viewing is in itself miraculous, as according to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation claims that “half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever.”

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Beginning with the silent era and going up to 1951, the pair of author sleuths tracked down films and prints from around the world, viewing whatever prints are still extant, and delving deeply into research about productions and reviews buried long ago in musty volumes and microfilm. Their summaries and plot synopses of the films covered makes one seek to look for many of these films, and some make you wonder why a few of them are not better known. Hopefully, their research may bring a few of these films to being found and perhaps preserved.6676769_1

What also makes this book invaluable is their willingness to seek out films that were made outside of the United States. Movies from The U.K. Germany, the Czech Republic, and South America are also explored, many perhaps for the first time in such detail outside of their borders.

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Plus, they cover the odd career of filmmaker Bud Pollard, responsible for the elusive and obscure THE HORROR (Bud Pollard Productions ,1932) as well as the first sound version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O8kbTi4WNo .

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Soister and Nicolella have done a wonderful job of finding these films and bringing them to the attention of genre fans. As they point out, not all of the films can be considered classics, but their importance cannot be denied.

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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-Kevin G Shinnick

Please LIKE and FOLLOW
SWEENEY TODD 1928https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews
and
https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/

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1980s, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, DONALD PLEASANCE, Italian, KLAUS KINSKI, NOSFERATU, NOSFERATU IN VENICE, Uncategorized, vampire, VAMPIRES

Prince of The Night / NOSFERATU IN VENICE

PRINCE OF THE NIGHT (NOSFERATU IN VENICE,1988) (93min 21 seconds) Color. Klaus Kinksi, Donald Pleasance Christopher Plummer Released by: One 7 Movies $14.99

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https://www.amazon.com/Prince-Night-Klaus-Kinski/dp/B00KT5P9XE/184-6920398-9658701?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

This is a release that somehow slipped by me but I felt will be of interest to vampire fans. PRINCE OF THE NIGHT is a retitling of
NOSFERATU OF VENICE (aka VAMPIRE OF VENICE, Scena Films ,1988), the quasi “sequel” to Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE (Werner Herzog Filmproduktion/Gaumont/Fox 1979) itself a remake of the silent classic NOSFERATU (Prana- Films GMBH,1922, U.S. release June 1929).

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I say quasi as the film had a lot of production problems, a great deal of them generated by star Klaus Kinski himself. Three directors walked off the production or were paid off before producer Augusto Caminito took over the directorial reins. The film was also helped along by uncredited input by Luigi Cozzi (STAR CRASH, 1978 ,New World) . However, it didn’t end there, as Kinski bullied crew members and performers alike, forcing many to quit or be fired. Kinski even took a turn, shooting hours of footage that barely made it into the final edit. Kinski also refused to reprise the makeup from the previous film, so now the vampire resembles-well Klaus Kinski!

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To say that the final film is an incoherent mess is an understatement, with ideas brought up then dropped, seemingly important characters disappear from the narrative as new characters’ pop up (due to the firing policy of the star). Nosferatu walks about in daylight (though to be fair, in the original novel DRACULA the vampire walked about in a straw hat in daylight!) and only has to rest about once every month.

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Still, the film does have moments of interest. The photography by Tonino Nardi is quite good, with a sense of the dreamlike captured perfectly. The image near the opening of Professor Paris Catalano (Christopher Plummer) standing at the forward bow of a small boat made the film seem to cover several centuries in one image (set modern day, though with the ancient city and Plummer wearing a cape it harkened earlier history). A flashback to the plague swept city reinforces this. The feeling of decay is buttressed by the filming within several dilapidated buildings that still harken back to days of splendor and glory.

 

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Kinski at moments has a kind of quiet sadness about his character, for we discover that his really wants to end his existence. *

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     (“Who is this long haired imposter ?” )

The plot, such as it is, has Professor Catalano (Plummer) come to Venice at the request of Princess Heiletta Canins (Barbara De Rossi, HEARTS & ARMOUR, Vides Cinematografica Italy /WB (U.S.)1983). She feels that Nosferatu is buried within the family cellar crypt. The Professor does not believe her as he feels the Vampire fled the city when the plague broke out 200 years before. A Medium (Clara Colosimo, NOVECENTO/1900, 1976) is summoned and sooner than you can say SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (AIP,1973), Nosferatu (Kinski) is back and nibbling into a neck.

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Donald Pleasance shows up for a paycheck as a cowardly Priest but adds little to the storyline. Meanwhile, our nominal hero, the Professor, confronts the vampire, only to have his hands get burnt when Kinski stares at the metal cross that he is holding, superheating. What does the Professor do? Regroup. Nope, he packs up and leaves!! Perhaps Plummer was saving his strength to play Van Helsing 12 years later in DRACULA 2000 (Miramax,2000).

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Late into the film we are introduced to the character of Maria (Anne Knecht*), supposedly Heiletta’s sister. There is some mumbo jumbo about reincarnation and the vampire only being able to be destroyed by a consenting virgin, but in the end it all just fizzles out. The film ends with a group of hunters (whom we saw at the beginning of the film) intoning “It’s bad luck to kill a bat. ” Not this one, it’s a vampire!”

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Err- um-WHAT???

There is an interesting film in there but every time it starts to come to the fore the movie beats it back and starts on another idea (the first film with Attention Deficiency Disorder?).

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The music is “inspired” by Vangelis, meaning a lot of droning electronics.
As to the DVD, the image is quite clear and sharp, though sound at time has a bit of warble like a damaged vhs tape (particularly during the opening and closing titles). You can listen to the dialogue in either Italian or English. It appears certain actors spoke one language or the other and so you hear their voice in one dub but not the other.

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I.M.D.B lists the running time as 97 minutes, while this print runs a little over 93. Nothing appears to be missing, though.09

The rarity of this title makes it worth seeking out, though, like Dario Argento’s DRACULA 3D (Enrique Cerezo Producciones Cinematográficas S.A., 2012, U.S. IFC 2014) ,the inanities definitely distract from the better moments.

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*- (His actions off camera should have led to the mercurial actor being arrested as he violently sexually assaulted two of the actresses.)

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**- . Knect it seems she was cast at the demand of Kinski after another actress quit/was fired. She was actually just the girlfriend of another actor visiting the set, and not an actress at all. No matter, she was cast. She is quite lovely to look at and spends the final part of the film nude so she has that in her favor.

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