Steve McQueen and Charles Manson’s ‘Death List’

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Steve McQueen was one of several Hollywood celebrities placed on a “Death List” allegedly compiled by Charles Manson. The other names were Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.

On August 9th, 1969, members of Manson’s “Family” carried out the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and 4 of her friends.

McQueen had briefly dated Tate, and had planned to visit the actress the night of her death.

In December 1969, Manson and the killers had been arrested.

When McQueen heard he might be targeted by Manson’s followers, he started carrying a gun. In October 1970, a still cautious McQueen wrote to his lawyer to find out if any “Family” members were still active, and to have his gun license renewed.

Le MANS
A SOLAR PRODUCTION

October 17, 1970

Mr. Edward Rubin
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
U.S.A.

Dear Eddie:

As you know, I have been selected by the Manson Group to be marked for death, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. In some ways I find it humorous, and in other ways frighteningly tragic. It may be nothing, but I must consider it may be true both for the protection of myself and my family.

At the first possible time, if you could pull some strings and find out unofficially from one of the higher-ups in Police whether, again unofficially, all of the Manson Group has been rounded up and/or do they feel that we may be in some danger.

Secondly, if you would call Palm Springs and have my gun permit renewed, it was only for a year, and I should like to have it renewed for longer as it is the only sense of self-protection for my family and myself, and I certainly think I have good reason.

Please don’t let too much water go under the bridge before this is done, and I’m waiting for an immediate reply.

My best,

(Signed, ‘Steve’)

Steve McQueen

SMcQ/ja

cc: William Maher

 
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Previously on Dangerous Minds

Steve McQueen’s 1964 Driving License


The True Story of the Great Rolling Stones Drugs Bust


 
With thanks to Simon Wells, via Letters of Note
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Morals Amongst Mercenaries: Andrew V. McLagen’s ‘The Wild Geese’

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Looking at the glorious cover art for Severin’s recent release of the 1978 action film, The Wild Geese, one can just feel the epic sturm und drang emanate from it. We’re talking macho splashes of earth tones, weathered faces and a sense of complete, virulent action, all telling you that this is not your average uber-masculine, gun-toting, white-knuckling film. No, because while The Wild Geese has all the key elements to make your garden variety violence loving film fan happy, it also has more on the ball than that. This is a film that you can love for more than just its body.

The Wild Geese stars Richard Burton as Col. Allen Faulkner, a highly seasoned mercenary who is hired by the impossibly rich industrialist, Sir Edward Matherson (Stewart Granger), to put together a team of the best mercs in the business. The reason? To pull off a rescue mission for President Limbani (Winston Ntshona). Limbani has been imprisoned in his own African nation after being overthrown by a rabid dictator. The goal is to get him to safety and set off the domino effect to get the dictator out and to get their fair, if sickly, President back in his original position.

The real fun begins as Faulkner starts to put together his dream of mercenaries, including the dashing Sean Flynn (Roger Moore), single dad and the Colonel’s best friend Captain Rafer Janders (Richard Harris), retiree and gardening enthusiast Sandy Young (Jack Watson) and the wild card from South Africa, Pieter Coatzee (Hardy Kruger), among others. After one fantastic hard-boiled training sequence, the men are ready. The mission is pulled off with all the finesse and fine honed technique of a Russian ballet, but the worm turns and their employer pulls a double cross. It is then up to the titular Wild Geese to get out of Africa alive.

The Wild Geese is a quality film with an interesting and initially, controversial history. The film was protested for being (falsely) assumed to have sympathetic leanings towards Apartheid. Naturally, the protestors had not seen the film and in fact, pointedly refused to even read anything informative about it. In fact, while the film was partially filmed in South Africa, the integrated cast were kept together and left alone by the government. The stench of Apartheid is one that still haunts modern history and with The Wild Geese, there is a crystal clear message of unity at its core. This is especially true with the interactions between the initially hostile Pieter and the infinitely more patient Limbani. Both of them Africans, with the President at one point telling Pieter that for the greater good of their homeland, they must work together, race be damned. Given how much the action genre gets criticized for being anti-intellectual, this is some sweetly refreshing stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are still enough explosions and bullets to satisfy your inner Old Testament blood lust, but it has something for the ole noggin as well.

Of course, the most standout feature of The Wild Geese is undoubtedly, the cast. Richard Burton shines the brightest as the adroit, tough but with a heart leader Faulkner. Burton, in his early 50’s here, has the perfect blend of talent and manly gravitas that seals the deal. Richard Harris is sweet, in a rough and tumble, whiskey drinking, I’ll-kick-your-ass sort of way. The real revelation though is Roger Moore, who is not only more suave but also more virile here than he was in any of his Bond films. He’s wooing the ladies (well, like the one out of two women in the whole film), when he isn’t flying planes, dodging the mob or giving drug pushers their just desserts. Veteran character actor Frank Finlay, whose resume ranges from I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname to Polanski’s The Pianist, stands out in his brief role as a hot tempered priest. He gets one of the best lines with, “Good luck to you, you Godless murderers!”

The Wild Geese
is a piece of cinema rich with blood, 80-proof sweat and tears. While the film was a massive success overseas, it never soared past cult status in the States, namely due to Allied Artists, which had backed the film, folding right before the release. Now thanks to the fine folks at Severin Films, The Wild Geese has a chance for the US Market again, with this loving and thorough DVD/Blu Ray release. In addition to being remastered, there are also some choice extras, including interviews with Roger Moore, Director McLagen, audio commentary, trailers and more.

The only real misstep here is the film’s over-dramatic theme song, courtesy of Joan Armatrading. Nothing against her body of work, but it does not fit the film at all. The Wild Geese may have some heart but it’s still covered by a calloused, hard bitten exterior. If the film was more purely a political creature, maybe, but its action roots are too strong for extra-reaching folk music.

If you’re wanting to ring in 2013 with one fine, cult-action film with a cast that would make any repertory theater with a well stocked liquor cabinet happy, then check out Andrew McLagen’s The Wild Geese

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Written by Heather Drain | Discussion
War of the Worlds: The Rock Opera


 
This is a post from our guest-blogger, Peter Choyce of KXLU radio in Los Angeles

I’m surprised how few people nowadays (well, Americans anyway) have heard the ROCK OPERA version of War of the Worlds. The timeless classic, penned by HG Wells over a century ago and adapted by Orson Welles into a radio play in the late 1930s that drove people on the east coast bonkers, also enjoyed a life on vinyl, double vinyl, even, before becoming a musical play.

Orchestrated by Jeff Wayne (Not ELO’s Jeff LYNNE as I once thought) the piece has its base in prog rock stylings but with a classical string section, too. Recorded in 1977 and released in ‘78, the album boasts such talents of the day as Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, David Essex, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, and even featured a deep-throated narration by Richard Burton.

The lyrics are by Gary Osborne (who wrote a lot for Sir Elton) and lets not forget to mention contributions from Chris Spedding, Manfred Mann’s Chris Thompson and Evita’s Julie Covington as the damsel in distress.

AOR radio stations in the US played the single from the LP, “Forever Autumn,” back in the day and rotated it respectably like it was a new single from the Moody Blues. Hayward’s number was pleasant enough but it was really the anomaly, having little to do with the album’s narrative and deep, haunting theme. “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one…but still, THEY COME!” was heard all over the LP but was not part of the “pretty” song—the only song anyone here really remembers.

However, the LP sold hundreds of thousands of copies in other countries and spend a mighty 290 weeks in the UK top 100, a feat surpassed only by Dark Side of the Moon. It had a snazzy booklet with artworks by Peter Goodfellow and others that propelled the story along. I ripped the book apart so I could hang the pictures of the aliens on my wall in my teenage room.

David Essex, best—and perhaps only—known stateside for his “Rock On” hit, does a good job acting in the dramatic scenes and also sings lead on many of the tracks. Essex has always been popular in his homeland, a one-time member of the Royal Opera who recorded a number of pretty cool records that never really made it out of the UK. Most of the songs clock in at more than eight mins. All good prog rock need to take their time ‘specially when there is so much going on with the whole world to burn up and conquer before ultimately succumbing to Earth’s atmosphere and dying oh-so-ignominiously.

Perhaps the best part of the record is how the Martians are embedded into the score. Using a decidedly Wagnerian technique, they appear as leitmotifs, which in this case are synthesized repetitions of key sounds. Their musical voice is anguished and misunderstood. The arrangement is real spooky and way scarier than that old radio broadcast that allegedly drove a few gullible New Jersyites to suicide.

Like Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar before it, in 2006, War of the Worlds was turned into a live musical spectacular that has toured the world, and also a video game. An updated release will surface later this month under the title War of the Worlds “The New Generation” with a couple of new songs, more attention paid to the script and Liam Neeson taking over for Richard Burton as the narrator/journalist.

For now I encourage you to clicky the linky below. You’ll be glad you did.  It’s the original LP from 1978 in its entirety.  The whole thing.  Quite scrumptious.
 

 
This is a post from our guest-blogger, Peter Choyce of KXLU radio in Los Angeles

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Candy: A Cult Film So Bad That It’s Just Bad

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Candy should, I repeat should be off the scale incredible. But it’s not.

Candy was a film that was always talked about, but no one ever saw it. The poster of Candy topless in the airplane cockpit would always be for sale in the back pages of magazines like “Famous Monsters of Filmland” next to ones of King Kong and Frankenstein and it became a familiar image of the era. But the movie you never saw. Not on any late night movie show, never on a Sunday morning “Million Dollar Movie” or anything like that, Candy was seemingly banned from TV for being too racy and for whatever reason was never released on VHS either. Nor was it ever on HBO or Showtime. It was the great lost movie in my eyes.

I became mildly obsessed with this film I could never see and went about collecting movie posters, lobby cards, publicity photos and I own several different versions of the novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg with different groovy covers. The mythical Candy became a cult movie Holy Grail for me. I really built it up in my mind. For years I tried to get hold of a copy in the tape trading underground, but the best I was ever able to find was still unwatchable. Then finally it came out on DVD. It was like Christmas had arrived.

But it sucked! Really sucked. It was such a let down!

I mean just LOOK at the cast: Ringo Starr (Emmanuel, the Mexican gardener), Charles Aznavour (the horny hunchback), Marlon Brando (Grindl, the horny (fake) Indian guru), Richard Burton (MacPhisto, the drunk, horny Welsh poet), James Coburn (egotistical surgeon), John Huston (dirty old man doctor) and Walter Matthau (horny military general). Sugar Ray Robinson and Anita Pallenberg make cameo appearances. How could you go wrong with a cast like that?

Let’s not forget the amazing opening space travel sequence by Douglas Trumbull who went on to make 2001 with Stanley Kubrick. And the soundtrack by The Byrds, Steppenwolf and soundtrack great Dave Grusin (it’s INCREDIBLE and easy to find on audio blogs). The script was adapted by Buck Henry. HOW could this fail?

It even featured the decade defining pulchritude of Miss Teen Sweden, Ewa Aulin, in the title role of “Candy Christian,” the ultimate All-American girl.

But despite all this Candy is a terrible film and even worse, it’s boring.

One of the things that must have mucked up things badly for the production is—and I am just theorizing here—the contracts for the lead actors. These were THE leading actors of the day, all of them top drawer A-list 60s talent. After watching Candy the thought occurred to me that Marlon Brando’s agent probably asked how much screen time Richard Burton was getting and demanded the same for his client. Then James Coburn’s manager asked the same question and demanded equal time for his client and so on and so until each actor was guaranteed “Most Favored Nations” equal screen time. How else to explain the film’s structure? It’s maddening to watch and Candy feels like it’s never going to end.

STILL, I’m not saying it’s so bad you shouldn’t watch it. Actually I think that if this sounds even remotely intriguing to you then it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s not good, no, we’ve already established that fact, but it is a super insane, trippy, campy relic of the 1960s with some of the most iconic actors of the decade behaving like total hambones, each trying to outdo the other in chewing up the scenery.


Candy

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Boom!’ High Camp Masterpiece Starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

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As all true John Waters fanatics know, the Pope of Trash’s favorite film of all time is Boom! director Joseph Losey’s preposterous adaptation of Tennesse Williams’ 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Waters considers Boom! a bit of a litmus test: He’ll show it to friends and if someone doesn’t like it, he won’t talk to them anymore. Seems a bit much, but he’s John Waters and I respect that!

Boom! reveals itself as a cinematic atrocity almost from the film’s very first frames—not that this is a bad thing, mind you.  A clearly drunk—and I do mean clearly drunk, okay?—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton star, respectively, as Sissy Goforth, the richest woman in the world, and Chris Flanders, a penniless poet who has the uncanny knack for showing up just when some rich lady is about to kick the bucket, ready to relief them of their personal possesions. We know this because Flanders’ nickname is “The Angel of Death.”

When we meet her, La Taylor is seen swanning about her private island wearing insanely elaborate Karl Lagerfeld clothes and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bugari jewels. She is attended to by fawning servants (including a surly dwarf!) as she dictates her memoirs and asks for constant “injections” for her pain (as if she could feel any due to all the booze and prescription painkillers she was on, but I digress).

Burton arrives on her island and is nearly ripped apart by a pack of her guard dogs. She asks him to stay and offers him a change of clothes, which includes a Samurai sword which he sports—inexplicably—for much of the film. They spend much of their screen time engaged in (obviously) drunken screaming matches. It’s AWESOME!

At one point, Noel Coward (as “The Witch of Capri”) shows up for a dinner party—carried on the shoulders of one of her servants—and gives her the goss on Burton/Flanders, who he thinks is a gigolo and warns her of his “angel of death” reputation. (Worth noting that the role of the “Witch” was originally offered to Katherine Hepburn who was insulted and turned it down).

 
In one bio of director Losey, he admits that all the principals on Boom!—including himself—were shitfaced drunk for the entire filming. Burton later fessed up that there were several films he made in the 60s that he literally had no memory of making. Odds are this is one of them!

Boom! wasn’t even released on VHS until 2000 and it’s never been put out on DVD (except for a recent Region 2 release in the Netherlands). Very occasionally you might see it on TV. Next time it’s on, grab yourself some herbal “entertainment insurance,” invite a few friends over and gorge yourself on the glorious, gorgeous mess that is Boom!

And if you don’t believe me, here’s what John Waters has to say about the film:

 
John Waters Presents “Boom!” (excerpt from “Crackpot”)

Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968) great article from Cinebeats website

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Total War: The Impact of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Mike Nichols’s film adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened 44 years ago today during a summer of tumult. Not only were massive protests against the Vietnam War hitting Washington DC, but the last trouble-free marriage sitcom, The Dick van Dyke Show, had just aired its last episode. It was on.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor took on the roles of inadequate associate history prof George and his drunk university-president’s-daughter wife Martha two years into their actual marriage, which itself was one of the most scrutinized in pop culture history. The then-thrice-divorced Taylor won the Best Actress Oscar, and Haskell Wexler’s stark cinematography scored him a statuette as well. Controversy over how much of the play’s profanity to include in the film would compel the MPAA’s Jack Valenti to convert the industry’s old Production Code into the rating system we know today.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman ingeniously situates George and Martha’s relentless turning-point fight in a well-lit parking lot, giving Taylor the pacing space to sprawl out the argument across the psyche of tortured married couples across America. The pair’s agreement on “total war” seems almost chilling in its self-indulgence in the context of President Johnson’s escalating the horrific bombing of North Vietnam at the time.
 

 

Written by Ron Nachmann | Discussion