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Fiona Apple’s dad plays a crazed, killer Santa Claus in a John Waters favorite, ‘Christmas Evil’
12.14.2018
09:46 am
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Christmas Evil poster 1
 
Christmas Evil is a psychological horror movie about a unstable man obsessed with Christmas. He becomes increasingly unhinged over the course of the film, eventually donning a Santa Claus costume to deliver toys—and kill. First screened in 1980, Christmas Evil is a high quality B-movie, and has developed a much deserved cult following over the years. Its most famous supporter is John Waters, who’s been a vocal fan of the film for decades. Lewis Jackson, the writer/director of Christmas Evil, credits Waters with both the picture’s revival and his own re-embracing of a project he had put so much into decades prior, before it all slipped from his grasp.

Filming of Christmas Evil largely took place during the November-December 1979 holiday season, a moment Jackson had been preparing for for some time. He first came up with the idea for the film after he smoked a joint and saw an image of Santa Claus holding a knife.
 
Santa 1
 
Jackson worked for years on the script, and envisioned a mainstream, big budget movie. While Hollywood liked his finished script, they felt the concept was just too strange. Jackson did secure a modest $450,000 to shoot the picture—a budget he would ultimately exceed by $400,000.

For the crucial lead role of Harry Stadling, Jackson had met with a number of famous actors, including Peter Boyle, but they all passed on the project. Jackson was then introduced to a little-known actor who was primarily a Broadway performer. This was Brandon Maggart.

I met him, and I saw something. It was a gamble, because basically his looks were not like a movie star. But he brought something to it. When I look back now, there were some moments with him in the screen test where you see the performance completely whole. He brought that musical comedy quality to it. It comes from another place. It’s off kilter. It appealed to me. I cast him and we started shooting a couple of days later. (from Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews)

Maggart’s the father of singer/songwriter Fiona Apple, who was three years old when Christmas Evil was released.
 
Harry
 
In the opening minutes of Christmas Evil, we see Harry, as a child, witnessing a sexually-charged exchange between his mother and father—who’s dressed as Santa Claus—which greatly disturbs the boy. The film then fast-forwards to the present, in which an adult Harry is preoccupied with Christmas, and either thinks he is, or wants to be, Santa. He spies on neighborhood children, noting whether they are “good” or “bad.” At the same time, he maintains a job at a toy factory, seeming to live a normal life to those around him, but privately becoming more and more crazed. It’s all very creepy and unnerving.
 
Beard
 
On November 6th, 1980, an advance screening of what Jackson was then calling You Better Watch Out took place at a theater in Pittsburgh. “It’s about the myth of Santa Claus as he was known in the 19th century,” Jackson told The Pittsburgh Press, describing his film. “He was regarded then as a moral arbiter, a figure to denote good and band. The idea was: Be good or Santa will bring you something bad.” He also equated it to a fairy tale, in which “violent and lovely things,” as well as “horrible and fantastic” events occur.
 
Dead bodies
 
Though he had to work with a smaller budget, Jackson found that because there wasn’t as much at stake, financially, he was able to stick to his vision—for the most part. He did lose some control over the final edit, and the title was changed. Jackson didn’t realize it would be called Christmas Evil until he was a handed a poster with that title.

Christmas Evil was the first film to depict Santa Claus as a killer, and there were expectations that the movie would be a slasher, in the spirit of Halloween. But the movie is really a character study, with the pacing of an art film, and the first murder doesn’t take place for a while. Horror ‘zine writers, who were expecting gore—and lots of it—were disappointed. After a bunch of negative reviews and just a few screenings, Christmas Evil faded away.
 
Poster 2
 
One viewer who totally understood the film was John Waters, who first saw Christmas Evil in a Baltimore theater. When it came out on VHS, Waters would screen the picture during his Christmas parties. In the “Why I Love Christmas” chapter in his 1987 book, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, the Pope of Trash unironically praises Christmas Evil, writing that it’s the “best seasonal film all time,” and a “true cinematic masterpiece,” adding, “I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and if they don’t like it they’d be punished.”

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.14.2018
09:46 am
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David Lynch sings Bob Dylan
12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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David Lynch’s second solo album, The Big Dream, seems to have made less of a splash than its predecessor, Crazy Clown Time. I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, just the practiced eye of a former record store clerk and lifelong cheapskate.

The Big Dream should not be overlooked, because it includes David Lynch’s reading of “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” by Bob Dylan. You may prefer the Stooges’, the Neville Brothers’, Nina Simone’s, or perhaps even Entombed’s version of Dylan’s take on “Pretty Polly,” but I’m partial to the particular feeling of emptiness Lynch summons.

In the movie David Lynch: The Art Life, the director tells a story about walking out of a Bob Dylan show as an art school freshman in 1964, leading to a bust-up with his roommate Peter Wolf, future singer of the J. Geils Band. As Lynch tells it, back in their room after the concert, Wolf scolded him—“Nobody walks out on Dylan!”—and Lynch responded “I walk out on Dylan—get the fuck outta here!”
 

David Lynch and Scotland’s answer to Bob Dylan, Donovan (via Pinterest)
 
Bob doesn’t appear to have played “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” that night in Boston, but the song, released earlier that year on The Times They Are a-Changin’, is a murder ballad about a man who kills his five children and his wife before turning the shotgun on himself—Dylan’s “Frankie Teardrop.” I suspect Lynch was drawn to “Hollis Brown” as much by the violence in the song and the blankness of the singer’s persona as by the cosmic perspective that appears in the last verse. It’s worth considering that this move to a God’s-eye view of the Wheel of Birth and Death isn’t necessarily redemptive. I take it to mean that a murder–suicide is as natural as the weather.
 
Listen after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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Watch a 19-year-old Robert De Niro acting in his first film role, for which he was paid 50 bucks!
12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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The Wedding Party
 
It isn’t discussed all that much, but actor Robert De Niro and director Brian De Palma—both Hollywood titans—worked together at the start of their careers, when both were unknowns. De Niro appeared in the first three De Palma films, which have been recently restored and packaged together for an upcoming boxed set. Dangerous Minds has a preview.

Brian De Palma produced, directed, and edited his first film, which would be called The Wedding Party. Shooting began in 1963, but the movie wasn’t completed until 1966. Three more years would pass before it was released. The Wedding Party is about a man facing doubts about his imminent marriage. Shot in black and white, De Palma’s film is a comedy that is, at times, experimental.

Robert De Niro first heard about the production via an ad in the casting weekly, Show Business, and went to De Palma’s studio to audition. The director noticed De Niro was shy, but was subsequently blown away by his acting chops. When De Niro received the call that he got the part of groomsman, he was so excited that he misheard what his compensation would be. He thought he’d be getting $50 a week, but it was actually $50, total, for the role. Still, De Niro was thrilled. It was the first time he’d be paid for acting. He was nineteen.
 
De Niro
 
This was also the debut for another future star, Jill Clayburgh, who’s the bride-to-be. The other groomsman is played by quirky character actor William Finley, who is surely memorable to many of our readers as Winslow/the Phantom in De Palma’s awesome cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise (1974).

Four months before The Wedding Party was released in April 1969, another De Palma movie, Greetings, hit theaters. Greetings, a satirical picture, was the first film to receive an X rating.
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.06.2018
01:30 pm
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Black Xmas: Half off classic cult movie posters sale (for the weirdo on your Xmas shopping list)
12.05.2018
10:38 am
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Torture Garden’ (UK, 1967)
 
Every year around this time, Westgate Gallery‘s poster concierge extraordinaire Christian McLaughlin drastically cuts prices for his annual Black Xmas 50% Off Sale. Why it’s almost half off, even…

Anyway, my pal McLaughlin, a novelist and TV/movie writer and producer based in Los Angeles, is the maven of mavens when it comes to this sort of thing. You couldn’t even begin to stock a store like his if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for in the first place, and if you want a quick (not to mention rather visceral) idea of his level of deep expertise—and what a great eye he’s got—then take a gander at his world-beating selection of Italian giallo posters. Christian is what I call a “sophisticate.”

He’s got a carefully curated cult poster collection on offer that is second to none. His home is a shrine to lurid giallo, 70s XXX and any and every midnight movie classic you can shake a stick at. But why would you want to shake a stick at a bunch of movie posters to begin with? That would be pointless. And stupid.

The Westgate Gallery’s Black Christmas 50% off sale sees every item in stock at—you guessed it—50% off the (already reasonable) normal price. All you have to do is enter the discount code “BlackXmas2018” at checkout and your tab will be magically cut in half.

The selection below is only a very tiny sliver of what’s for sale at Westgategallery.com.
 

‘Multiple Maniacs’ poster on sale at Westgate Gallery
 

Grave of the Vampire’ aka ‘Seed of Terror’  (USA, 1972)
 

The Pit’ aka ‘Teddy’ (Canada, 1981)
 

‘Andy Warhol’s Dracula’ poster for sale at Westgate Gallery
 

Rare Japanese ‘Sisters’ poster for sale at Westgate Gallery
 
Many, many, more marvellous movie posters, after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.05.2018
10:38 am
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Get a glimpse of our imminent future in ‘2019: After the Fall of New York’
11.26.2018
08:16 am
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2019 poster
 
A few years back, I wrote about the really bad science fiction/action film, Firebird 2015 A.D. (1981). That movie, like so many dystopian pictures produced in the 1980s, imagined that the not-so-distant future would be a world filled with destruction and lawlessness. In the early ‘80s, Americans were worried about high crime rates and the very real possibility of a nuclear war—with filmmakers tapping into those fears. These movies were frequently set in a specific year that wasn’t all that far off, which I find amusing, especially as we approach and then pass these dates. The best is when a year is part of the film’s title.

John Carpenter’s 1981 picture, Escape from New York, set in 1997, depicts a Manhattan that has been converted into a maximum-security prison. When the U.S. president ends up trapped on the island, Kurt Russell’s anti-hero character, Snake Plissken, is sent in to rescue him, as the threat of nuclear war looms.
 
Escape poster
 
Despite its B-movie status, Escape From New York received largely positive marks from critics, and it did well at the box office, too. Its success led to other films of its type, including a number of pictures that came out of Italy. One of them is called 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982). A cross between Escape and The Warriors, it visualizes a post-apocalyptic Big Apple ruled by street gangs—just eight years in the future! It’s campy good fun.
 
1990 VHS
 
In late 1984, the Italian-French co-production, 2019: After the Fall of New York, hit theaters stateside. Many understandably assumed it was a sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors, but it wasn’t. 2019 takes place after a nuclear holocaust, with the world broken into two factions. A man that is part of the good guys group is given the mission of rescuing earth’s last fertile woman, who’s trapped in New York City, which is controlled by the bad guys. Escape from New York is the obvious inspiration, but there are also elements of other dystopian pictures, including Death Race 2000, the initial Mad Max movies, and the Planet of the Apes series. Star Wars was obviously an influence, as well.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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11.26.2018
08:16 am
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‘Population: 1’: The post-apocalyptic art punk film that starred Tomata du Plenty of The Screamers
11.16.2018
09:04 am
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The Screamers may have never released any music, but their punk legacy lives on through the rough bootleg tapes and high-energy video recordings that have resurfaced over the years. And lest not we forget the lingering rock appropriation of Gary Panter’s notorious “screaming man” logo. When citing them as a major influence, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys once referred to the electro punk outfit as “the best unrecorded band in the history of rock ’n’ roll.”
 
A raucous force of dystopian, feral energy with a timely, but uncanny absence of guitars, The Screamers set into motion a new era of punk rock and showmanship in the few years that they existed as a functioning band. In its heyday, they were considered the biggest band in Los Angeles without a record contract, known to sell out multiple nights at the Whiskey a Go-Go and headline the Roxy (something previously impossible for an unsigned band).
 

 
As forward-thinking as their synths were futuristic, The Screamers, led by the eccentric frontman Tomata du Plenty, weren’t interested in putting out just a record. Nearly predating MTV, the band envisioned its full-length debut to exist strictly in video format. Not only would it allow them greater control over the aesthetic and message being conveyed, but if the TARGET videos were any indication, it would’ve been really fucking cool. Sadly, The Screamers dissolved before the rest of the world was able to catch up with them.
 
But it was video that also ‘killed’ the synthpunk stars. In 1979, The Screamers teamed up with Dutch filmmaker Rene Daalder for a series of mixed media, highly theatrical live shows. In doing so, Daalder and Du Plenty had hoped to develop their idea of a music video concept, but it didn’t necessarily pan out. What did result, however, was the 1986 sci-fi art punk musical, Population: 1.
 

 
Using footage shot over the years layered-in and chroma-key’d with additional scripted content filmed at Tomata’s Hollywood Blvd apartment, Population: 1 is one man’s rambling hour long monologue at the end of the world. Du Plenty stars as mankind’s sole survivor, who has somehow survived both a nuclear holocaust and a bizarre plague-induced suicide pact. Restricted to his personified fallout shelter reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Tomata presents a distorted, beatnik memoir depicting his time on Earth and the final vestiges of civilization.
 
Part warped history lesson, part devoted tribute to his lost love Sheela (Edwards), the hypothetical narrative is sprinkled with musical numbers throughout and plenty of impressive punk rock cameos. See if you can spot appearances by members of Los Lobos, Penelope Houston of The Avengers, Vampira, Carel Struycken (the giant from Twin Peaks), El Duce, Al Hansen, his grandson Beck (the Grammy Award-winning musician), among many others.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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11.16.2018
09:04 am
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Watching ‘The Prisoner’ with ‘Repo Man’ director Alex Cox
11.12.2018
06:34 am
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It turns out leaving your house still pays sometimes: if I hadn’t stepped into a bookstore last weekend, I would be unaware of Alex Cox’s latest volume, I Am (Not) A Number: Decoding the Prisoner. Kamera Books published it in the UK last December to mark the series’ 50th anniversary, and the book came out in the US this May.

Like his introductions to cult movies on Moviedrome—like his interpretation of his own Repo Man, for that matter, a movie Cox insists is really about nuclear war—the director’s reading of The Prisoner is idiosyncratic and ingenious. Even though I don’t buy them yet, the solutions he proposes to the series’ riddles are brilliant and original; I won’t spoil them here, but it’s safe to say you’re unlikely to have come up with them yourself.
 

 
The 17 episodes of The Prisoner were broadcast in a different order in the UK and the US, and their correct sequence has never been settled. The Wikipedia page on the subject compares the production order (“not an intended viewing order,” the alt.tv.prisoner FAQ of blessed memory asserts) with four plausible running orders advanced or defended by fans over the years, based on the original broadcast or on different kinds of internal evidence in the shows: dates mentioned, logical sequence of plot developments, etc.

Cox has no use for any of these. Along with the series’ call sheets and screenplays, his interpretation is based on watching the episodes in the order of their filming—i.e., the production order most cultists reject as totally unsuitable for viewing. While this sequence is as reasonable as any other, it radically shuffles the narrative. For instance, “Once Upon a Time,” which is the second-to-last episode in every other programming of the series because it seems to lead directly to the finale, is sixth in Cox’s.

I’ve just started rewatching the series as Cox recommends. It’s too early to say whether the production order supports his conclusions, but I’m enjoying the shake-up so far. Below, the director discusses his book in a short promotional video.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.12.2018
06:34 am
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Tiny Tim, the Cleveland Browns and a bear made a sword and sorcery movie
11.09.2018
08:30 am
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As an answer to “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” the 1986 Cleveland Browns released this short fantasy film on home video. It co-stars Tiny Tim and a trained bear.

Masters of the Gridiron concerns a beautiful dream Browns center Mike Baab has after sustaining a massive head injury on the field—you know, the kind that causes permanent brain damage in people who play football. After losing consciousness, Baab awakes in an enchanted realm, transformed into a sword and sorcery hero, “the Baabarian,” who must confront Tiny Tim’s evil Lord of the League in the quest for a magic ring. Hometown heroes the Michael Stanley Band provide the soundtrack for the Browns’ LARP battles with the bear and some ninjas, filmed at the local landmark Squire’s Castle.

I’m sure this movie contains a lot of inside jokes for football fans; I don’t understand the rules of football, or why it is played, or how it is watched, though I have a vague sense that the Cleveland Browns must be all right, because Pere Ubu probably roots for them. I just like Masters of the Gridiron because it contains some of Tiny Tim’s best work. He is riveting as the Lord of the League, who issues his challenge in verse.

Talking to USA Today in 2013, Baab said Tiny didn’t work with bears:

He was terrified of the bear and would not come down from the top of the Squire’s Castle until the bear was back in his trailer. He thought the bear wanted to eat him.

If you watch nothing else, skip to Tiny’s first appearance at 7:18. Tell me it isn’t one of the best things you’ve ever seen.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.09.2018
08:30 am
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The fascinating world of tribute bands
11.08.2018
07:07 am
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Tribute
 
I’m fascinated by the subculture of tribute bands. The groups that are serious work hard to replicate whatever act they are paying tribute to, and I’m intrigued by all the different reasons why they do it. It’s not just the bands that are interesting, but also the attendees of the shows, some of whom are fanatical. In the early 2000s, a few indie documentaries concerning the subject were released, but they’ve all been pretty much forgotten. Which is too bad, as the two I’ve seen are both worth checking out.

I first saw Tribute years ago on the Sundance channel, and have watched it a number of times. The film follows five tribute bands, and I found myself mesmerized by their stories. There’s a surprising amount of drama, often reaching Spinal Tap-esque levels of absurdity. In Tribute, we get to know the people who play in these bands, and for many, performing as a member of a famous group in front of an enthusiastic audience is the thing that makes them happiest. A frequent attendee of the gigs put on by Queen tribute act, Sheer Heart Attack, is profiled. His dedication is unwavering because he gets to experience a Queen live show, despite the fact that the Queen he loves no longer exists, and gets to see the band in an up close, personal setting.
 
Sheer Heart Attack
 
Tributary – A Study of an American Pop Culture Subculture is the work of Russell Forster. The director first made waves with his 1995 documentary about obsessive collectors of 8-track tapes, So Wrong They’re Right. Tributary was his follow-up film. Forster aims for a scholarly approach here, dividing the bands into categories based on what he believes their motivations are. There are way more groups in Tributary—including the high concept and fabulous Ace’s High, a KISS tribute band whose members all dressed up like Ace Frehley—so you get more bang for your buck. At least you get more Aces…
 
Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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11.08.2018
07:07 am
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Cast and crew remember Orson Welles and his legendary film ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ in 1993 doc
11.01.2018
08:35 am
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Wind poster
 
We’re on the eve of Netflix’s worldwide debut of The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’s legendary unreleased film. After four decades in limbo, the picture was finally completed earlier this year. A new documentary on Orson Welles and Wind, entitled They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, will be available via Netflix on the same day as Wind, November 2nd. Though now obscure, there’s another documentary—directed by Welles’s friend and right-hand man—that largely focuses on The Other Side of the Wind.

Gary Graver was Orson Welles’s cinematographer from 1970 until Welles’s death in 1985. Graver was hired by Welles after cold-calling the maverick director, and the first picture he shot for him was The Other Side of the Wind. In 1993, the documentary he directed, Working with Orson Welles, was released. The doc zeros in on The Other Side of the Wind, which might seem odd, as only Orson’s most faithful would’ve known about the picture, but it speaks to Graver’s belief in the project. Working features interviews with some of the cast and crew (which often overlapped on Wind), including Peter Bogdanovich, Curtis Harrington, Peter Jason, Cameron Mitchell, Susan Strasberg, and Frank Marshall, who wore many hats during the original production, and as producer played a major role in the completion of Wind. Graver also talks at length about the movie, and some of his test footage for it is seen in the documentary. Everyone expresses their fondness for the enigmatic Welles, and while they acknowledge that he was often difficult and unpredictable, one gets the sense they wouldn’t trade the experience of working with Orson Welles for anything. There’s a lot of love here.
 
Wind 1
A candid shot of Gary Graver, Oja Kodar (actress and Orson Welles’s longtime companion), and Orson Welles on the set of ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ (photo by Frank Marshall).

Graver’s documentary was a straight-to-video release, and is now out of print. The doc is low budget, tends to jump from topic to topic, and is short on clips from Welles’s films (due to licensing issues, no doubt), but I think most Orson fans will look past its shortcomings and dig it. With anticipation high for the pending release of The Other Side of the Wind, the time for Graver’s documentary is now. It’s made all the more important as Mitchell, Strasberg, and Graver are now deceased.
 
Wind 2
L-R: Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Gary Graver, and others on the set of ‘The Other Side of the Wind.’

‘Working with Orson Welles’ has recently been uploaded to YouTube. Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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11.01.2018
08:35 am
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