Peter Sellers is sinister and pathetic in the divisive 1970 obscurity, ‘Hoffman’
11:41 am


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 | Leave a comment
Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation’s futuristic machinery concept art
11:34 am



“Here Comes the Flying Bus,” 1946
You might remember my post from a while back on Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation’s anti-communist propaganda. As ominous/absurd as capitalist agitprop from the bossman may seem, Bohn was actually building on a prior artistic legacy, albeit one of a much less reactionary vision for manufacturing.

The images you see below are all from Arthur Radebaugh, who produced tons of gorgeous art deco future-looking concept art for Bohn. The sleek designs and seamless use of the airbrush technique are as distinctive as they are dated, and by the mid-50s his commercial appeal had waned as photography replaced illustration in visual advertising. However Radebaugh’s visions found new life in the wildly popular Sunday newspaper comic “Closer Than We Think!” The comics lack the depth of Radebaugh’s ad work, but they allowed him to crank out idea after idea to a future-hungry 1950’s audience.

Lawnmower, 1945

Firetruck, 1945

Cruise ship, 1946

Heavy machinery, 1947

Covered bridge, 1946
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Watch the first film adaptation of ‘The Hobbit,’ a 1966 animated short that takes… some liberties
08:01 am


The Hobbit
JRR Tolkien

Any film adaptation of a Tolkein epic is going to have to make some major edits if it clocks in at twelve minutes. The elaborate history of Middle Earth and the sagas that shape it are so painstakingly constructed, a totally faithful movie would just have been boring as hell—there’s the medium to consider. However, this version of The Hobbit, rendered as a 1966 cartoon fairy tale, barely even uses the book as a framework. The producer actually obtained film rights before The Hobbit became popular, and after his attempt to produce a feature-length movie fell through, he was left with a contract that still required him to create a “full-color film” to retain them.

Spotting a loophole, he realized no specific length of color film was mentioned, so he threw together what you see below. Avoiding legal breach with a twelve minute cartoon, he was then able to sell the rights for roughly $100,000—a pittance for what he could have made, of course, but nothing to sneeze at back then, either. Of course, this leaves us with a totally random film, with a hastily tacked on princess, a total deficit of dwarves, and an inexplicable series of name-changes—goblins are “groans” and “grablins,” Gollum is as “Goloom,” and Smaug is “Slag.”

Taken as an cartoon that has nothing save for the title to do with The Hobbit, the short actually does quite well for itself. The narration is compelling, the story is constructed well, and the classic Gene Deitch animation is great—distinctively Eastern European work from Czech illustrator Adolf Born is jagged and erratic one minute, ethereal and shimmering the next.

I’d say it’s a must for any Tolkien completist, but only if you can refrain from having a nerdfit with all the liberties taken.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Ant music for sex people’: Adam and the Ants live
07:40 am


Adam and the Ants

Like Genesis and Ministry, Adam and the Ants had two distinct phases, each with fan bases that don’t always quite overlap 100%. Pre-1980, they were a raw, spiky post-punk band with sharp, fetishy lyrics. Things changed quickly for them in 1980, when their manager, the infamous Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren, poached most of the band for a new project called Bow Wow Wow. But eviscerating the group proved not to be such a terrible idea. Singer Stuart “Adam Ant” Goddard continued with an entirely new band, and a major sound and image overhaul. On the presentation end, the band dove headlong into an embrace of the new romanticism, favoring an overwrought leather-pantsed-new-wave-pirate look which unaccountably struck people at the time as just absolutely dead sexy. Well, it actually DID look good on Ant. Most of the rest of the band just kinda looked goofy.


On the musical end, the Ants adopted a distinctive dual-drum attack inspired by the Royal Drummers of Burundi, and, just as critically, enlisted Siouxsie and the Banshees’ founding guitarist Marco Pirroni, who’d become Ant’s co-songwriter and a major influence on the band’s direction just as it started to find wide fame. This version of Adam and the Ants released Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming, both of which featured more sophisticated song craft than the band’s first iteration, and both of which ate the charts for breakfast. The single “Stand and Deliver,” for example, entered the UK charts at #1, and remained there for weeks.

The band broke up in 1982, and Ant embarked on a solo career, but it was an in-name-only breakup, really, as the creative nexus of Ant and Pirroni remained together. In fact, Pirroni has contributed to every Adam Ant solo album, all the way up to one that came out last year.

Live video of the first incarnation of Adam and the Ants is damnably difficult to find. The most widely available representation of that period is the album Dirk Wears White Sox, released in 1979 in the UK, 1983 in the US (A Jack Sparrow-lookin’ Ant recently reunited with band members of that era to play the album in its entirety), but the best video I could dig up is this delightful miming along with “Plastic Surgery” from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee:

Here’s one that features their early manager Jordan singing the song “Lou,” and Adam Ant backing her on vocals for “Puerto Rican.”

When I sought live footage of the far better-known second version of the band, holy shit, motherlode. Search for them on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. Their visual presentation made them a sought-after act for televised music shows—and of course, the band’s early ‘80s heyday coincided with the launch of MTV, who couldn’t play their videos enough—but among the best footage I’ve found is this late 1981 show taped in Tokyo (setlist). I had always wondered if the distinctive vocal harmonies that featured prominently on their LPs were pulled off well in a live setting. Answer: actually not bad.

And then there’s this heavy performance of “Dog Eat Dog” in Manchester, 1980:

When Kings of the Wild Frontier was released in America, Epic Records, probably sensing that they might have a HUGE new act on their hands—maybe even a teeny-bopper phenomenon—lowered the price of the album to just $3.99 at a time when most albums were in the $6.98 list price range. Between that, Solid Gold and MTV, Adam and the Ants soon became famous in the US as well. Here’s a contemporary documentary about the American Ants invasion that is tons of fun:

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment