Thursday, June 24, 2010

"It's a lot of work, you know, just staying alive"

Cross a title off my MIA on DVD list, as Giuliano Montaldo's 1969 John Cassavetes takes on a mob caper Machine Gun McCain, which I wrote about here, is making its way to DVD and Blu-Ray on August 24th thanks to the good people at Blue Underground.

The cover's a little generic, but oh well, beggars, choosers, you know.

Here are the specs.

This is the first of the six titles I've mentioned thus far for this feature to actually make it's way to disc.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Percy Rodrigues Files: "If You Scream, You're Dead!"

When I was linking back to past articles from this blog that covered Jaws for my 35th Anniversary post on Sunday, I forgot one that covered a very vital component concerning the marketing of Jaws in 1975 (as well as it's first sequel), this one, dedicated to one of the all-time great trailer voice-over artists, Percy Rodrigues.

As a mea culpa, let's watch and listen to Mr. Rodrigues' narration in the trailer of Fred Dekker's 1986 cult favorite, Night of the Creeps, which finally made it's debut on DVD and Blu-Ray in a wonderful, extra feature leaden set last year (I got it for my birthday from my brother, thanks Sean!).

But before we get to the trailer, let's lament the short lived career, though he's still alive and working hard to get projects off the ground, of Mr. Dekker. Creeps, his directorial debut and his follow-up The Monster Squad, came out within a year of each other, while Dekker was still in his mid-20's. While neither set the box office on fire, they became favorites discovered on VHS and cable airings in subsequent years (I remember seeing Squad theatrically a few times as a 12 year old). Both films are loving and respectful homages to horror and sci-fi perennials while being utterly their own thing, and both are truly the work of a singular vision. The humor and care for the characters coupled with Dekker's impressive visual compositions make what seemed like pleasant enough larks in the mid 80's appear to be masterful breaths of fresh airs today when compared to the tone deaf modern genre filmmakers. While Dekker may have been a tier below the likes of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Joe Dante on their best days, he's several hundred tiers ahead of the likes of contemporary directors like Marcus Nispel, Rob Zombie and Eli Roth.

After Squad, he wrote and directed a few episodes of Tales From the Crypt before being offered what probably seemed at the time like a surefire hit, Robocop 3. Of course, that experience was disastrous (I still have not seen it), the original script by Frank Miller was rewritten several times, Peter Weller dropped out of the role, the film was cut for a more family friendly PG-13 rating, and the studio, Orion, went bankrupt mid-production, causing the film to sit on the shelves from it's intended summer 1992 release to a early November 1993 one, where it made no impression.

Hopefully the long wait for the excellent special editions DVD releases of Monster Squad (debuted in 2007) and Night of the Creeps which lead to renewed discussion and appreciation of Dekker's career have reignited interest in this talented writer-director and he will get another project made and out of a very long stint in director jail.

And now, here's the trailer for Night of the Creeps:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deep End Returns to TCM this Friday Night!!!!

It was great to see the amount of discussion generated on the internet from the airing of Jerzy Skolimowski's Deep End when Turner Classic Movies aired it in January. It was great to read several appreciative articles on the film from a range of people including those who saw it in it's brief theatrical run to those whose first exposure was from that very TCM showing.

Here's my post on the subject. For those of you that may have missed it, get your DVRs, VHS or Betamax players set, it's re-airing this Friday at 11:00 PM Pacific, that's 2:00 AM for you on the East Coast.

Hopefully the usually wonderful TCM will make up for the two egregious issues that I had with their January presentation. Firstly, the print was of a hideous, sub-VHS, quality. Let me state for the record this is not routine for TCM, which usually airs as pristine prints of their programming as possible. However, I know for a fact that Paramount struck a new print of the film around 2007-08 because I saw it myself at the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood. Skolimowski fills the frame with distinctive uses of color and action, so seeing a cropped image is tantamount to not seeing the film. Even worse though was a schedule glitch which caused the film to start a good five to eight minutes later than schedule, which lead to the film's ending being cut off by the DVR before the film ending. Fortunately for myself, I had also recorded The Shout, also directed by Skolimowski, so I was able to watch the last ten or so minutes, unfortunately for me, since The Shout has a running time of 86 minutes, my DVR cut off the end of the film, so I never bothered watching it. Luckily though it too is airing again directly after Deep End on Friday, at 11:45 PST (2:45 EST), and TCM has allotted an extra 15 minutes in their schedule, so that issue should be resolved.

Rumors persist that Deep End is in the pipeline for a Criterion release, which makes sense since Criterion has a history of releasing quirky oddities that Paramount distributed but have no interest in bothering with now such as Wise Blood and White Dog. When (if?) Criterion releases Deep End on DVD (and hopefully Blu-Ray) that will probably be the ultimate presentation, sans a repertory theatrical screening of course, but in the meantime, TCM is the only place to see this wonderful and unique film, hopefully this time they will do it justice.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mr. Show Sketch of the Moment: Rap: The Musical

For those of you who are not yet aware, The Onion's pop culture side website, The AV Club is currently churning out some of the more impressive, thoughtful and well measured articles on film, music and television that you can find anywhere, be it "new" or "old" media. Currently, writer Leonard Pierce is doing a series long dissection of Mr. Show with Bob and Dave.

Here's a link.

The most recent article covers the first two episodes of the second season. If you allow me a bit of personal history, I got into Mr. Show during a marathon of the entire first three seasons (Season 1 is 4 episodes, Season 2 is six, and Season 3 is 10, fyi) HBO aired to promote the then upcoming Season 4 in 1998. I set my VCR to record the entire run after catching a few sketches. My recorded tapes began with the first episodes of Season Two, and until the series became available on DVD in 2001, I obsessively rewatched these tapes over and over and passed them along to friends.

Today's sketch of the moment is from the second episode of Season Two, and considering that a Broadway show based on an album by a band that began their career at the 924 Gilman club is now a Tony Award winner, we are one step closer to RAP: The Musical. Let's just hope it doesn't actually contain any of that pesky rap music!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

24 Frames: Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg)

On this day, 35 years ago, Jaws was released. Obviously, it became what we now mockingly refer to as a "game changer". Whether or not it was responsible form a move away from the more substantive fare America was producing during the era to the corporatization of high concept with four quadrant pre-marketing cache bullshit that (mostly) passes for Summer films these days is a conversation for another day (though, I vehemently disagree with Jaws or Star Wars' culpability if you're asking). Instead let's celebrate Jaws, the enduring classic film that shows how to do grand entertainment right.

Since I still have yet to start the Psycho series of reviews, I will pass on the opportunity to review or rewatch the sequels at this time, maybe in 5 years, besides, they mostly blow.

Here are my other Jaws related articles from the archives:

Trailer of the Moment: Jaws (and a whole lot of blabber about the 2007 summer movie season)

Things I Just Noticed: Jaws (a currently one time feature which netted my first anonymous rude comment from a total stranger)

Death's Going to Need a Bigger Boat (my tribute post to Roy Scheider upon his passing, though I spend more time discussing Sorcerer than Jaws)

Books Read in 2009 (which includes a small review of the Jaws series retrospective: Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A Jaws Companion by Patrick Jankiewcz)

On this day let's look at 24 Frames that I selected from Jaws. Which was directed by Steven (Sugarland Express) Spielberg and Bill Butler was the cinematographer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy 50th Birthday, Psycho

"What is your favorite all-time movie"

Depending on their disposition, I imagine most cinephiles hate this question.

At least I do. Hell, if you made me pick my favorite films by my favorite directors like Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, or Howard Hawks, I don't know if I would answer the question to the asker, or really, my, satisfaction. Don't believe me, ask me what my favorite Leone film is. Go ahead, do it.

I am waiting...

Okay, I heard you. Yeah, that's an easy answer: Once Upon a Time in the West. It's his most epic, purely cinematic, emotionally layered and a culmination of a career lovingly dissecting his beloved Western genre into a distinct personal style. Yep, Once Upon a Time in the West is Leone's best film. Yep. Well, of course The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is also a masterpiece: hilarious, action packed and the Ecstasy of the Gold portion is one of, if not, the best sequence in cinema history. So yeah, Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly are tied. But you know, For a Few Dollars More is also incredible, and I did name this blog after a character from it . Of course A Fistful of Dollars jump started not only his own career but the whole Italian film industry....and though flawed (a bit long, weird flashbacks and Rod Steiger, though good, in brown face and imitating Eli Wallach as Tucco) Duck, You Sucker is underrated and his most politically charged film. Wait, what was the question, again?

With all that said, since I saw it first at the age of 10, my answer to "What is your favorite all-time movie" has been: Psycho.

Is that actually true? I don't know, honestly. I am not even sure if it's really my favorite Hitchcock film, Vertigo would probably be the victor if I had to make an analytical assessment. But Psycho is definitely the film that has had the greatest impact on my life and love of cinema. It was the first film where I was aware of who the director was and what he did, it was one of the first non-Wizard of Oz or Three Stooges black and white films I watched, and more personally, my father used to sometime tell me plots to horror films as a sort ghost/bedtime story-ish ritual including Psycho (Halloween was another favorite), probably spurred from my first visits to Universal Studios so it has been a part of my life since before even seeing it, as it's twists and turns were lovingly told to a burgeoning horror fan to young to see the film for himself by his proud father.

Regardless of my personal affection, I'm hard pressed to name a film that has had as much influence on cinema period in the last 50 years as Psycho. The slasher and a huge chunk of the Italian giallo genres owe their very existence to the ground Hitchcock and crew laid. Even the way we watch movies we're forever changed when theatres were told to insist that no one would be admitted to the theatre once the film had started. Directing. Screenplay. Editing, Acting, Music, Cinematography, it's hard to not find an aspect that Psycho does not excel at nor whose style has been emulated.

To celebrate it's long tenure as my favorite film, I am going to do a film retrospective of all the Psycho sequels (and yes, I'll give ol' Van Sant's remake a second chance) similar to my highly celebrated (as in 6 reviews and no comments) Death Wish series. I will not be reviewing the original, it's a film that I have too much of a connection with to offer anything more compelling than "gee, wasn't that part awesome?"

Look for the first review, Psycho II, in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime here are some older Psycho related articles from the Colonel Mortimer archives:

24 Frames: Psycho
Posterized: The Psycho series
Trailer of the Moment: Alfred Hitchcock gives us a tour of the Bates Motel

Monday, June 14, 2010

Posterized: June 1980

Ahh, no one is going to comment on my last post? Insert frowny face emoticon here.

Well, I am not sure if you deserve them, but here are the posters for all the films that opened in America circa June of 1980, including one that seems to have foresaw Peyton Manning arrival as a member of the Colts eighteen years prior to his rookie season, pay close attention.

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