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Awesome Alfred Hitchcock action figure unveiled at Comic-Con
07.24.2014
12:30 pm

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Movies
Pop Culture

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Alfred Hitchcock


Photo via Ain’t It Cool
 
I was a little apprehensive when I heard there was going to be an Alfred Hitchcock action figure. Would Austin’s Mondo—known for their gorgeous posters—be able to do the great director justice in three dimensions? Well, I think they certainly have if this photo of the toy figure that’s starting to make the rounds on the Internet is anything to go by. Mondo did an excellent job with “The Master of Suspense,” IMO.

Sporting a fine-tailored suit, this replica of the legendary horror director comes with his directors chair, clapboard, cigars, and props from his most famous films—including a butcher knife, a raven and a seagull. The figure also comes with interchangeable hands and a stand.

I wish there were better images, but these will have to do for now. More to follow.


 
Via Superpunch

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The first film footage of Palestine circa 1896
07.23.2014
07:53 am

Topics:
History
Movies

Tags:
Palestine
Lumière Brothers

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Like an early Google Street View, the French movie pioneers brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière sent cameramen over to Palestine in 1896 to shoot the first moving images of life in the region. 

At this time, Palestine was a remnant of the Ottoman Empire with around 500,000 inhabitants—30,000 of whom lived in Jerusalem. 85% of the population were Muslim, 10% Christian and 5% were Jewish. All were subjects of the Sultan of Constantinople.

This incredible footage comes from the 93 reels recovered by Lobster Films, a film preservation company based in Paris, in 2007. Serge Bromberg, the company’s co-founder said:

…this year, we have something very special to show. In an antique shop, we have discovered 93 wonderful little camera negatives from c. 1897, all shot in the Middle East (Jerusalem, Palestine, Egypt.[...] etc), that would form an ideal 80 [minute] program of what could be among the earliest films shot in the region still in existence. … They are in wonderful condition … Not a scratch, no decomposition, and those little sprocket holes typical of the films of that year.

The clip of the Lumière’s footage shown below comes from the documentary Palestine: histoire d’une terre 1880-1950.
 

 
H/T Sabotage Times

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Privilege’: Peter Watkins powerful antidote to 1960s pop hysteria
07.22.2014
12:34 pm

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Movies
Music

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Peter Watkins
Jean Shrimpton
Paul Jones

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Set sometime in a none too distant future, Peter Watkins’ debut feature Privilege from 1967 told the story of god-like pop superstar Steven Shorter, who is worshiped by millions and manipulated by a coalition government to keep the youth “off the streets and out of politics.”

Inspired by a story from sitcom writer Johnny Speight (creator of Till Death Us Do Part which was remade in America as All in the Family), Privilege was an antidote to Swinging Sixties’ pop naivety. While Speight may have had a more biting satirical tale in mind, screenwriter Norman Bogner together with director Watkins made the film a mix of “mockumentary” and political fable, which was a difficult balance to maintain over a full ninety minutes without falling into parody.
 
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Though it has its faults, Watkins succeeded overall, and presented the viewer with a selection of set pieces that later influenced scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Lindsay Anderson’s O, Lucky Man! and Ken Russell’s Tommy.

Watkins also later noted how his film:

....was prescient of the way that Popular Culture and the media in the US commercialized the anti-war and counter-culture movement in that country as well. Privilege also ominously predicted what was to happen in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain of the 1980s - especially during the period of the Falkland Islands War.

 
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Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton have a “private” moment.
 
On its release, most of the press hated it as Privilege didn’t fit with their naive optimism that pop music would somehow free the workers from their chains and bring peace and love and drugs and fairies at the bottom of the garden, la-de-da-de-dah, no doubt.

In fact Privilege was at the vanguard of a series of similarly styled films (see above) that would come to define the best of British seventies cinema. The movie would also have its fair share of (unacknowledged) influence on pop artists like David Bowie and Pink Floyd, while Patti Smith covered the film’s opening song “Set Me Free.”
 
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What’s also surprising is how the film’s lead, Paul Jones (then better known as lead singer of Manfred Mann) never became a star. As can be seen from his performance here as Steven Shorter, Jones could have made a good Mick Travis in If…, or Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

Jones went onto make the equally good The Committee but (shamefully) little work came thereafter apart from reading stories on children’s TV.

Ah, the fickle nature of fame, but perhaps he should have known that from playing Steven Shorter.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Peter Sellers is sinister and pathetic in the divisive 1970 obscurity, ‘Hoffman’
07.22.2014
11:41 am

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Movies

Tags:
Peter Sellers
cult movies
Sinéad Cusack


 
Hoffman is one of the most obscure films in the career of Peter Sellers, who hated the 1970 comedy-drama so much that he asked to buy up all of the prints and start over again from scratch. He needn’t have bothered, as the strange little movie was barely released in UK theatres at all and had its debut American screening in 1982 after he was already dead. I caught it on a low rent UHF channel that ran old B&W TV shows, wrestling, Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Marx Brothers and WC Fields movies, Australian women in prison soap operas, and flop films like this one in the late 70s or I probably would never have heard of it myself. Hoffman is a cult film with a very small cult.

Some people say it’s Sellers’ “best” performance” but I think that’s a contrarian film snob taking it way too far. Having said that, it is, for sure, one of his most interesting roles and a fascinating film that is basically just two very, very fine actors at work. Most of the film takes place in the same rooms. (The somewhat play-like material had been done before on television by director Alvin Rakoff with Donald Pleasance.)
 

 
Sellers’ intense dislike of Hoffman apparently stemmed from what he regarded as this being the closest he got to his revealing his true self onscreen. When not hiding behind an accent or make-up, the actor often claimed that he had no identity whatsoever outside the roles that he played. If, in fact, the odd, manipulative, somewhat psycho aging businessman Sellers played in Hoffman is close to how he saw himself, well, that’s… well… it’s very interesting.
 

 
Dull, creepy—even sinister-seeming—Benjamin Hoffman has an unrequited crush on his pretty secretary, Miss Smith, played by a young Sinéad Cusack at the very beginning of her career. When he discovers that her fiance is involved in a criminal activity, he blackmails her into spending a week with him, with just three weeks to go before their wedding when he will lose her forever. She reluctantly agrees and Hoffman behaves cruelly, playing mindgames with her until revealing himself to be a very lonely and pathetic soul. If Sellers saw a too-close for comfort version of himself onscreen in Hoffman, it would speak volumes about his legendary pathologies! What must the man have been like in private if THIS performance disturbed him so much? Yikes! (It’s worth noting that Sellers’ former writing and performing partner Spike Milligan sent Britt Ekland a congratulatory telegram when her divorce from Sellers became final in 1968!)

I’ve read Hoffman described as an “offbeat” love story, but I don’t know how many would agree with that, especially women.

Hoffman‘s moody music was composed by Ron Grainer, he of the Doctor Who theme fame.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Chuck Berry and Little Richard headline the London Rock & Roll Show 1972

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The London Rock and Roll Show was the first major pop concert to be held at Wembley Stadium, the sports arena later famed for LiveAid and the Freddie Mercury tribute concert.

Headlining the show that day on August 5, 1972 were the undisputed Kings of Rock ‘n’ Roll Chuck Berry and Little Richard. These gods were ably supported by Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screaming Lord Sutch and Billy Fury. Some of the booked acts couldn’t make the concert due to visa issues, but those who did turn up delivered a blistering set of rock ‘n’ roll classics. The whole event was filmed by Peter Clifton, who later directed Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, and given a brief cinema release. The performances are interspersed by an interview with Mick Jagger who gives his thoughts about the show—something he claims could never have happened a decade before—and watch out for a young Malcolm McLaren selling T-shirts at his Let It Rock stall.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Sugar Cookies’: The Discreet Charm of the Swinging, Decadent Bourgeoisie
07.21.2014
07:15 am

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Movies

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Mary Woronov
Lynn Lowry
Troma
Ondine

Vintage Poster for Sugar Cookies
 
There are few things more dangerous than someone who is rich, gorgeous and bored. New kicks get harder and harder to find, especially when you are someone like art/sex film director Max Pavell (George Shannon) in Theodore Gershuny’s underground-meets-overground psychosexual drama, 1973’s Sugar Cookies.

Opening with Max talking to an unseen reporter about the tragic demise of his superstar actress, Alta (Lynn Lowry), the film switches to a flashback revealing some of the truth behind the young (and damaged) beauty’s death. Waking her out of a more than likely drug induced nap, he starts to seduce her, which quickly turns into a head trip involving a loaded revolver, strange perfume and the handsome but soul-eroded Max pulling the trigger in such a way to make it look like a suicide. The film cuts back to Max talking on the news, his handsome and reptilian image now on multiple screens.
 
Max Pavell on the TV News
 
After the TV sleaze interlude, the film cuts to Camilla (Mary Woronov), bathing in one of the best fedoras ever. She saunters into Max’s living room and starts doing some topless stretching and leg exercises. He walks in and the best part is the near-bored look on her face. She knows she’s majestic and is the true alpha in the room. They do end up having sex, all set to the very sensual audio and inter-cut scenes of Alta’s autopsy report. Are we having fun yet?

There’s a weird subplot involving Max’s estranged wife, the fabulous Teutonic bitch-goddess Helene (Monique van Vooren) and her chubby, supremely awkward negligee enthusiast brother Gus (Daniel Sador). The way she hisses such bon mots like, “I will slit your throat!” at Max is heart-warming.
 
Julie is groomed by Camille
 
Meanwhile, Camille confers with her charismatically acerbic friend Roderick (the inimitable Ondine) about conducting auditions to find Max’s next big actress. (Something Roderick refers to as a “cunt hunt.” Did I mention he was acerbic?) After a genuinely funny audition montage, the last girl walks in. Julie (also Lynn Lowry) is an elfin looking beauty whose eagerness for an acting role is matched only by her lack of experience. Which is summed up with her sole credit of playing Anya in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, which Julie honestly describes her work in as perfectly terrible. Camille takes a liking to Julie and begins to groom her. The two women bond, first over seemingly benign activities, like shopping, tennis and swimming. But things soon grow more and more co-dependent, with Julie becoming increasingly more submissive to the innately domineering Camille. Is the moody Amazonian grooming Julie to be the next Alta or to be Alta, complete with the tragic ending?
 
Things get weird in Sugar Cookies
 
Sugar Cookies is from a very rarefied period of time where the underground and overground were cross-pollinating. With Warhol Factory stars like Woronov and Ondine, not to mention future Flesh for Frankenstein co-star Monique van Vooren, it has instant art cred. But that said, this is really more than just a cult film curio. Underneath its polished, arty veneer are some mighty strong cynical threads about not just the bourgeoisie but also the dangers of making stars of out of people who are damaged goods right from the starting gate.

Cast-wise, Woronov and Lynn Lowry, two wholly unique and wonderful actresses who would go on to be deigned cult film queens, truly run the show. Woronov is all slinky, sinister grace as Camille, making an interesting mix with the ethereal and fragile Alta/Julie. It’s a bit mind-blowing to realize that Sugar Cookies was Lowry’s first major role. (She had previously appeared as a mute cult member in the incredible horror film, I Drink Your Blood in 1971.) She manages to pull off the two similar but different personalities of her dual roles with conviction, leaving you truly worried for poor, possibly ill-fated Julie.
 
Camille in Max's Pad
 
The rest of the cast, especially Shannon, Vooren and Ondine, are wonderful but are not given enough to do. Shannon, who would go on to shine in Fernando Arrabal’s heart-building and heart-breaking I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse later that year, is good as the handsome but morally sooted director. Monique von Vooren, who was also a cabaret singer that could boast of having a pre-fame Christopher Walken as one of her backup dancers, is all icy hot anger and blonde glamor as Helene. Her fabulous bitchiness is only matched by the brilliant Ondine, one of my personal favorites from the Factory years. These three are all charismatics and while the film is really terrific, it would have been sweet to have more of them within it. On top of that, you also get to see early sexploitation and adult film legend Jennifer Welles as Max’s aggressive, honey-haired secretary. 

The casting credits are not the only weirdly impressive ones for the film. In addition to a young Oliver Stone (!) as the associate producer, there’s also Mr. Troma Films himself, Lloyd Kaufman sharing both writing credits with director Gershuny, as well as an executive producer credit. Before Vinegar Syndrome spiffed this film up with a lovely Blu-Ray release, Troma had actually released it years before. Other than the fact that there is nudity and Lloyd Kaufman attached to it, Sugar Cookies does not play out at all like a Troma film. If anything, it’s right next to films like Rufus Butler Seder’s criminally underrated Screamplay (which co-starred underground film titan George Kuchar) and Dario Argento’s last truly great film, The Stendhal Syndrome, which are both brilliant and are about as Troma-like as Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

One of the coolest coups that Gershuny and Kaufman pulled was landing electronic music great Gershon Kingsley for the appropriately trippy soundtrack. Kingsley, best known for the composition “Popcorn,” was a Moog pioneer and one of those composers, like fellow genius-peers Mort Garson, Wendy Carlos and his musical partner, Jean-Jacques Perrey, whose body of work is just begging for more examination.

Sugar Cookies is a dark, strange gem that is as compelling as its mighty cast. If you love any and/or all of the main actresses and actors or just want to see something different from a point in time where the cinematic lines were thinner and ultimately, more interesting, definitely give this one a go.
 

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
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Up to no good: Teen actor’s impressive audition for Francois Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’

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François Truffaut was casting for his first feature film The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups), the semi-autobiographical tale of Antoine, a rebellious adolescent growing up in Paris. The young director had already cast Claire Maurier as Antoine’s mother, Guy Decombe and comedian Pierre Repp as his teachers, and Henri Virlojeux as the night watchman who arrests the troubled youngster for the theft of a typewriter. But still Truffaut had no one for Antoine.

He placed an advert in the Paris Soir in the Fall of 1958. Hundreds of young hopefuls were auditioned but none were quite right for the role. Then a friend suggested the son of assistant scriptwriter Pierre Léaud and actress Jacqueline Pierreux.
 
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Actor and Director in Cannes, 1959
 
When Truffaut met Jean-Pierre Léaud he knew he had found his Antoine. The director later wrote that he saw in the 14-year-old:

...a certain suffering with regard to the family…With, however, this fundamental difference: though we were both rebels, we hadn’t expressed our rebellion in the same way. I preferred to cover up and lie. Jean-Pierre, on the contrary, seeks to hurt, shock and wants it to be known…Why? Because he’s unruly, while I was sly. Because his excitability requires that things happen to him, and when they don’t occur quickly enough, he provokes them.

 

 
Jean-Pierre Léaud was a pupil at a private school in Potigny, where he was a described by the school’s headmaster as “unmanageable” with a level of:

Indifference, arrogance, permanent defiance, lack of discipline in all its forms.

Jean-Pierre had been caught with pornography in his dorm, and had often escaped with the older boys on their nights out. But the teenager was bright with an aptitude for writing.
 
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An audition was held that confirmed that Jean-Pierre Léaud was Antoine, so much so, that Truffaut made changes in his script, as he later explained:

I think in the beginning there was a lot of myself in the character of Antoine. But as soon as Jean-Pierre Léaud arrived, his personality, which was so strong, often led me to make changes in the screenplay. So I consider that Antoine is an imaginary character who derives a bit from both of us.

The 400 Blows is described as “one of the defining films of the French New Wave.” It won François Truffaut numerous awards, and was his most successful film in France. It also began a fruitful collaboration between director and actor over the following decades, with Jean-Pierre Léaud going on to become one of France’s greatest actors.

As for the title, well The 400 Blows is a literal translation of the French, which doesn’t capture the nuance or double-meaning of the term Les quatre cents coups, which comes from “faire les quatre cents coups” meaning “to be up to no good.”
 

 
Below, an extraordinary interview with Jean-Pierre Léaud at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival:

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Mick Jagger and Keith RIchards turn up in pretentious Italian art film, 1972
07.16.2014
04:36 pm

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Movies

Tags:
Mick Jagger
Keith Richards


 
Mario Schifano, an Italian pop art painter and collagist who exhibited alongside Warhol and and Roy Lichtenstein, released this unusual art film Umano Non Umano (“Human Not Human”)  in 1972. The plotless Godardian inspired episodic documentary is quite boring (I don’t speak Italian, so it’s quite boring to me) but it is notable for the inclusion of two odd scenes, one with Mick Jagger and another with Keith Richards (Anita Pallenberg, once Schifano’s girlfriend, is also in the film, and there are appearances by Carmelo Bene and Italian existentialist novelist Alberto Moravia.)

At about 36 minutes in, Mick Jagger is seen prancing around like an idiot in a pink suit with a corsage doing a not terribly convincing—and spinning—lip-sync of “Street Fighting Man.” He looks like he has to take a wicked piss the whole time. At the one hour and one minute mark, Keith is seen arsing around making avant-garde electronic music. That part is actually pretty cool, but the rest of it’s pretty awful. Beware of boobies, as this is mildly NSFW.

Although Umano Non Umano came out in 1972, I’d imagine that Mick Jagger’s scene was probably shot sometime prior to when Marianne Faithfull left him for Schifano in 1969. Two pages are devoted to their affair in her 1994 autobiography, Faithfull. According to her Schifano was a massive coke freak.

Maybe that’s why he thought the incessant heartbeat noise going on throughout this film was a good idea?
 

 
Thank you, Chris Campion of Hollywood, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Peter Sellers was mad: Kubrickian tales from ‘The Stanley and Us Project’

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These various tales of Kubrick from The Stanley and Us Project were originally included as part of a documentary by directors Mauro di Flaviano, Federico Greco, Stefano Landini on Stanley Kubrick.

In 1997 during the course of making the original Stanley and Us documentary, the trio recorded over seven-and-half hours’ worth of interviews, but only used a small percentage of this in the finished film. After Stanley and Us was released in 1999, they packaged the interviews in to 30-minute shows for Italian television’s RAI channel.

Over the past two years as part of the on-going Stanley and Us Project interviews have been appearing on YouTube and include such gems as waspish critic, the late Alexander Walker explaining why Kubrick was in awe of Peter Sellers, and why Sellers was mad; daughter Katharina Kubrick talking about the “crazy time” after the release of A Clockwork Orange; designer Ken Adam on Kubrick verses Bond; the legendary actor Murray Melvin discussing 57 takes on Barry Lyndon; editor Gordon Stainforth on why Kubrick was always right; Darth Vader actor David Prowse on “one-take Kubrick”; actor Michael Tarn on why the script was the book; executive producer Jan Harlan on Kubrick’s use of time; and Kubrick’s wife Christiane on Stanley’s acceptance speech video for Directors Guild of America D.W. Griffith Award and why he didn’t do interviews; and Walker again, this time on Kubrick’s funeral.
 

 
More tales of Kubrick from ‘Stanley and Us,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Trailer for Nick Cave in ‘20,000 Days on Earth’


 
20,000 Days on Earth is a semi-fictional “day in the life” documentary about Nick Cave directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. The film combines mostly unscripted scenarios depicting Cave’s creative process, Cave interacting with songwriting partner Warren Ellis, Kylie Minogue and actor Ray Winstone, watching Scarface with his twin teenage sons and some in concert performance footage from a show at the Sydney Opera House. Cave’s voice-overs were scripted and each shot was planned out like it would be in a Hollywood film.

The film is currently on a sort of road show put together by Alamo Drafthouse Films that seems to bump into the current Bad Seeds American tour at several select junctures. Remaining screening dates here. The UK premiere of 20,000 Days on Earth at London’s Barbican will take place on September 17th and be broadcast live to 150 participating movie theaters.
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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