Young Peter Bogdanovich was an obsessive film lover watching over 400 films a year. In the days long before home video, this was an especially impressive count. Peter keep a file of 3×5 index cards with notes on every film he watched. In his twenties, while acting, directing and producing various theater productions including an off-Broadway production of Clifford Odets, The Big Knife, with Carroll O’Conner, Bogdanovich met Dan Talbot. Talbot, owner of the legendary New Yorker Repertory Theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, recently began programming classic films. Peter lived only a few blocks from the theater. In exchange, for free admission to the theater, Bogdanovich offered to write program notes for the films Talbot was showing. They had an agreement. Continue reading
In case you have not had enough of this political season, here are four films to watch while waiting for tonight’s results.
Arsenic and Old Lace is the story of two sweet and charming elderly sisters who happen to be mass murderers. It’s a delightfully hysterical farcical comedy with some dark overtones. Perfect for this time of the year and especially on Halloween. Continue reading
The Victors has had a long history. Released in 1963, it was quickly pulled and edited, then released back out to the public. Since then the film has been hard to find and when it has been available, there have been multiple edited versions. It’s been a film I have been wanting to see for many years. Recently, a local cable station showed the film on Memorial Day (I wrote this a few months ago and never published it) giving me the chance. Which version I have no idea, but it did not disappoint. Continue reading
Nicholas Ray’s films were filled with anti-heroes. Characters who were disillusioned with life. Outsiders in a system they could not or would not fit into or accept. Protagonist Dix Steele fits the mole perfectly. For Humphrey Bogart, playing Dix, was a stretch. This was not the typical Bogart character we were used to seeing. Whether on the right or wrong side of the law, Bogart’s characters were generally calm, cool and in control (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca). As Dix, we are watching the flip side. A man who is always on edge: cynical, moody and ready to explode at the slightest moment. As a screenwriter, like Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd., he knew where on the Hollywood pecking order he stood…way down at the bottom. He despised the Hollywood machine, considering most in the industry hacks or as he says, “popcorn salesmen.” Continue reading
If we don’t stop killing each other we will be exterminated. That’s the message given by one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. World War II ended with the dropping of a couple of devastating nuclear bombs over two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 129,000 people. Over the next few months, more than another 120,000 people would die due to burns, radiation poisoning and other after effects of the bomb. The bombing ended the war at a high cost. And while it ended the war, it was just the beginning of a new era in warfare. Ever since, along with Russia’s own testing of a nuclear bomb in 1949, the fear of nuclear war has hung over us like a massive mushroom cloud. In the world of science fiction, films like The Incredible Shrinking Man, Godzilla and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to name a few, have used these fears to demonstrate what our future may be. In 1951, came an early entry in the field. It remains to this day one of the best. Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still warns us that if we don’t stop killing each other, we may not have a future. It won’t be just giant genetically modified monsters we’ll have to worry about. Continue reading
Brian De Palma admittedly has been tapping into Alfred Hitchcock since his earliest works going back as far as Murder a la Mod in 1968. However, many other filmmakers have drawn inspiration from or just plain copied the master of suspense over the years including Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique), Jonathan Demme (Last Embrace), Francois Truffaut (Mississippi Mermaid), David Fincher (Panic Room), D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) and Woody Allen (Match Point) just to name a few. It’s difficult to make a suspense film without leaning at least a bit on the master. De Palma’s second foray into Hitchcock’s world came in 1973 with Sisters. After a series of low budget independent films: the previously mentioned Murder a la Mod, The Wedding Party, Greetings and Hi Mom! De Palma signed up with Warner Brothers to make the social satire, Get to Know You Rabbit. Creatively and financially it was a dud. Continue reading