"Well, most people like it and I like it, and I'm working hard and trying to keep the cost down"

J. Russell Finch CEO & President
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Company
Fresno, CA.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Honor Blackman

         


    Born of this day 90 years ago and still going strong is Bond girl extraordinaire Honor Blackman.  Although it probably seems more accurate to call her a "Bond woman" as she was 38 years old at the time of GOLDFINGER and most likely was one of  the only Bond female counterparts that was older then the actor portraying 007.
    Before GOLDFINGER she was known to British audiences as Cathy Gale in THE AVENGERS and I think she's wonderful in Roy Ward Baker's Titanic drama A NIGHT TO REMEMBER from 1958. She also made for a beautiful goddess Hera in Ray Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS. A drive-in re-release of GOLDFINGER at some point in the 60's is one of my earliest childhood movie memories and Honor will always be my favorite Bond girl of any age.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

EMPEROR OF THE NORTH 1973

    



    Coming Sept. 8 on blu-ray from Twilight Time is Robert Aldrich's 1973 depression era action/drama EMPEROR ON THE NORTH. Upon the surface this would seem to have box office bonanza written all it - the director of such classics as THE DIRTY DOZEN reuniting with two of that films stars in the presence of Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Based upon a couple of short stories by Jack London, it was marketed as an "action" film in the vein of THE DIRTY DOZEN and as a result struggled at the box office and for years was MIA on home video until a DVD release in 2006.
    The sparse plot concerns a hobo named A-No.1 (Marvin) who takes up the challenge to hitch a ride upon a freight train guarded by a sadistic guard named Shack (Borgnine) who takes great pleasure in killing any unwelcome riders with Carradine being a cocky (and none too bright) youngster attempting to make a name for himself. The film was originally title EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE which was a slang term for the best hobo in the world, which in hobo parlance equates being king to the same as ruling over a frozen wasteland.  It was  quickly retitled with the shorter EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.
    Filmed in the Pacific Northwest and set in almost entirely in dirty train yards and strangely empty trains that travel back and forth between two points with everything seemingly just set up as props to let Marvin and Borgnine face off like gladiators. Excellent work by the two leads (with Borgnine in probably the most sadistic role of his career) and a strangely off key movie that is well worth seeking out.






Friday, August 14, 2015

Warren Oates Day On TCM

    

    Coming up on Aug. 24 is as part of their Summer Under the Stars Series its a full day of the great Warren Oates on Turner Classic Movies. The days programming contains the usual suspects such as the classics THE WILD BUNCH and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, however there's some hard to see gems buried in there - including the still not on DVD western THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN from 1970 and the 1973 comedy THIEF WHO CAME TO DINNER.
    Also of interest is the excellent 1968 caper film THE SPLIT and in what is one of Warren's finest performances in Sam Peckinpah's grungy & sweaty neo noir road trip from hell BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (where you get to see Peckinpah directing Oates who is playing Peckinpah). Sounds like a good day to find an excuse to stay home.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

FAT CITY Coming on Blu

  

    Twilight Time has announced a Sept. 8 for this excellent John Huston directed 1972 drama. Starring Stacy Keach as a washed up prizefighter attempting a comeback it also stars Jeff Bridges as a young boxer, Candy Clark and best of all a heartbreakingly beautiful performance by Susan Tyrrell as Keach's barfly girlfriend.
   The critical success of this film led to a late career renaissance for Huston, who was coming off a string of not well received projects and the acclaim for FAT CITY would allow him to direct his long time dream project of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING in 1975. Previously available on DVDr from Amazon it will be nice to have this vital piece of 1970's American cinema on blu-ray.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

THE OUTSIDE MAN 1972

     


    Directed by Jacques Deray this strangely seductive French production (original French title is UN HOMME EST MORT) was shot in Los Angeles and with the exception of the lead it features a cast of familiar American faces. Combing a 70's American crime film vibe with the low key coolness (by way of Jean Pierre Melville) Gallic style production its one of those films that in spite of its stellar cast has fallen off the radar through the years. With its off kilter plot maybe adding to its cult status, its seems like a movie that would be ripe for re-discovery as a cult film .
    French hit man Lucien Bellon (Jean-Louise Trintignant) arrives in Los Angeles to kill an American gangster (film noir staple Ted de Corsia in his last role). Dully carrying out his assignment as the gangsters wife (Angie Dickinson) and son stand mutely by and watch, he returns to his hotel and finds his passport and luggage missing with another hit man (Roy Scheider) gunning for him. The pair then play a cat mouse game through the sun baked seediness of early 70's Los Angeles.
    Along the way Trintignant hooks up with a hardened topless bar manager (played with a tough as nails brassiness by Ann Margaret) as he attempts to navigate through a totally alien world where he doesn't even speak the language. Director Deray uses the city as almost a main character with its endless freeways, concrete lined streets and intrusive modern technology including TV's that drone away in the back ground at every possible moment. The film is reminiscent somewhat of John Boorman's excellent L.A. based neo noir POINT BLANK with its detached protagonist wondering through a cold mechanized world.


    Thom Anderson is his excellent documentary L.A. PLAYS ITSELF calls THE OUTSIDE MAN "the most precise portrait of the city there is". Among the films highlights are a shoot out at a dreary looking Venice Beach, a confrontation at a funeral home with Ted De Corsia's embalmed corpse front and center and Georgia Engel (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) who along with her son (Jackie Earle Haley in his first role) are taken hostage by Bellon. Upon its surface the film has a lackadaisical meandering rhythm to its plot as even a car chase is filmed as though its an afterthought with it's characters wondering through the proceedings with little or no dialogue - all of which add to sense of isolation and detachment.
    The entire cast is excellent (this probably Ann Margaret's best role) and Scheider with about five lines of dialogue seems to having a great time with his role. Coming off the previous year's THE FRENCH CONNECTION he gets the central image in the promotional artwork. THE OUTSIDE MAN in available on DVD from MGM through their on demand service, but this really deserves a nice blu-ray release.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Adolfo Celi

    

    A very special  Birthday remembrance  goes out today for Bond villain and character actor extraordinaire Adolfo Celi. Born in Sicily on this day in 1922, he passed away on Feb. 19 1986.  He played on the more unforgettable (and one of the more sadistic) Bond villains in 1966's THUNDERBALL and in the next year was in OPERATION KID BROTHER - a Bond knock-off starring Sean Connery's younger brother Neil. He also appeared in VON RYAN"S EXPRESS (1965) and Mario Bava's DANGER DIABOLIK in 1968.
   Over the ensuing decades he carved out a solid career in euro thrillers, spy and crime movies with his commanding presence looming over them and becoming one of the more recognizable faces in Italian cinema.


Alex Rocco Feb. 29 1936 - July 18 2015



    A bit late with this as this past week ago Sat. we lost the wonderful character actor Alex Rocco. Probably best known as Moe Green from THE GODFATHER, he also made a fine series of appearances in the several low budget exploitation moves of the 70's including Arthur Marks's BONNIE'S KIDS ("Thank God She Only Had Two !") from 1973 and in a rare leading role for him in 1973's excellent police thriller DETROIT 9000.
   He also made memorable appearances in SLITHER from 1973, along with 1974's FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (both starring James Cann and both well worth seeking out) and the great THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (1973 - man, he was busy that year !) with Robert Mitchum and the sorely under seen HEARTS OF THE WEST from 1975. He will be greatly missed.



Saturday, July 4, 2015

HELLFIGHTERS Coming on Blu

   


     Coming Aug. 11 on blu-ray is this 1968 John Wayne adventure actioner from Universal. Anytime Universal releases a catalog title on blu-ray, its a cause for celebration and in addition with it being a John Wayne vehicle, its cause for a double hip hip hooray.  A "G" rated rough & tumble action spectacle, this is one of Wayne's best "popcorn" movies and has pretty much everything you want in a later period "Duke" movie - John Wayne being John Wayne while surrounded by a bunch of his buddies including Bruce Cabot, Vera Miles, J.C. Flippen and Batjac stalwart Edward Faulkner.
    Wayne and co. operate an oil well fire blowout company (based upon the real life Red Adair) all while juggling various romantic and family issues - including Vera Miles as Wayne's sorta ex-wife, Katherine Ross as his estranged daughter and Jim Hutton as Wayne's cohort and love interest for Ross.
    Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen it combines a bit of his & Wayne & previous collaboration (MCLINTOCK from 1963) and Wayne's Howard Hawks directed HATARI ! from 1962 with its touch of light comedy, fistfights, semi-comedic love and/or marriage problems and initially unwelcome female characters intruding on Wayne's male dominated world. With its explosions, billowing fires and bright red fireman's jumpsuits this should look beautiful on blu-ray.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembering Al Mulock 1926 - 1968

      

     A short post for actor Al Mulock, who was born on this day in 1926 in Montreal, Canada. He worked in British TV during the early 60's, but is probably best known for his short (but highly memorably) roles in two Sergio Leone westerns - 1966's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST from 1968. In the former his unforgettable face filled Leon's widescreen vista in the film's opening moments and in the latter he's one of a trio of gunfighters (along with Woody Strode & Jack Elam) who are waiting for Charles Bronson at a train station in the opening sequence. Leon clearly loved Mulock's craggy expressionistic face and his opening close up in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one of the most iconic moments in the spaghetti western genre.
     During the filming on ONCE UPON TIME IN THE WEST he committed suicide by jumping out of his hotel window in Guadix, Spain.
 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

DODGE CITY on Blu

 
  

    Warner has just released Michael Curtiz's DODGE CITY from 1939 on blu -ray. Keeping with its western setting it features mostly a brown & ochre color scheme (although some of those neckerchiefs, gingham shirts & dance hall costumes really pop out), but none the less its a ravishing example of early technicolor and hopefully this will usher some Errol Flynn classics on blu-ray
   The first (and best IMO) of Flynn's westerns DODGE CITY with its technicolor, railroads & cattle drives has a sweeping almost epic feel to it and is a perfect example of the studio system firing on all cylinders. Along the teaming of Flynn and De Havilland (their fifth of eight movies together) it features the cream of Warner Bros. stock company including Ann Sheridan (with a bit to much time given over to her saloon numbers), Bruce Cabot, Frank McHugh, Alan Hale (one of 13 films he shared with Flynn), John Litel, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Victor Jory & Douglas Fowley.




   The somewhat simple plot (all around cowboy/adventurer Flynn is gradually goaded into cleaning up lawless frontier town) is fleshed out with various colorful characters as Flynn gradually perks the romantic interest of de Havilland while going against evil town boss Cabot. Flynn looks a bit uncomfortable in his western gear (he wears his gun like a child would a toy gun) but his charisma and overall likable cocky attitude more then make up for his western persona deficiencies (its always amusing in these how they insert into the plot the story of his round about trip from New Zealand or some such place to the American west).
    The movies features one of the all time great western saloon brawls, a burning runaway train climax and the scene where a befuddled Alan Hale goes to the temperance meeting is classic.





Monday, June 8, 2015

Richard Johnson July 30 1927 - June 6 2015

  

     English actor Richard Johnson passed this past Sat. at the age 87. With a career spanning 60 years he appeared in pretty much every genre and was producer Albert Broccoli's first choice for James Bond, but turned it down as he didn't want to be tied into a potential series. He did however appear in one my favorite James Bond homages - 1967's DEADLIER THEN THE MALE (which was just released this past week on blu-ray).
    Along with appearing in one of the greatest haunted house movies ever (THE HAUNTING from 1963) he also found a niche appearing in Italian horror moves in the 1970's such as the THE EXORCIST inspired BEYOND THE DOOR (1974), Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979) and THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979).
 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE 1945

 

    For some strange reason MGM has allowed 1945's THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE to languish in OOP purgatory for several years now. A DVD was released back in 2005, after which it disappeared surprisingly quick and now it goes for pretty outrageous prices on the secondary markets (this is one of the last laser discs I've held onto).
   An outstanding RKO "Hitchcockian" like thriller it stars Dorothy McGuire, George Brent and Ethel Barrymore (along with a scene stealing Elsa Lanchester), an eerie theremin score by Roy Webb and direction by Robert Siodmak in full German Expressionism overdrive. McGuire plays a deaf mute domestic servant in a creepy Victorian mansion (that's almost a character unto itself) while a serial killer lurks about the vicinity killing women suffering from physical afflictions.
  A triumph of set design, mood and atmosphere, its come to be regraded as a precursor to the Italian giallo thrillers of the 1970's (Dario Argento has mentioned it as one of his influences). Hopefully MGM will get off their collective butts and remedy this situation soon. At the very least licence it someone like Criterion, who's released in the past couple of years a growing collection of classic Hollywood films such as THE UNINVITED, I MARRIED A WITCH & SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Bruce Dern

   

   Very Happy Birthday wishes to Bruce Dern who was born 79 years today. A very unique and quirky actor who never fails to make in an impression no matter what the role is. He's had (which continues to this day) a pretty amazing career starting off in early 60's TV. moving on to A.I.P. stuff ( THE WILD ANGELS & PSYCH OUT), westerns (THE WAR WAGON, WILL PENNY & HANG "EM HIGH - where he invariably seemed to killed and/or had the crap kicked out of him by the likes John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in the 2nd or 3rd reel) and off beat 70's features such as KING OF MARVIN GARDENS, SILENT RUNNING and THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN.
   One of my favorite roles of his was in John Frankenheimer's under appreciated 1977 thriller BLACK SUNDAY. Playing a psychotic ex-navy blimp pilot, he's recruited by a terrorist organization to use the Goodyear blimp to explode thousands of steel darts into the Super Bowl. Dern (who's always at his best playing characters of questionable mental stability) plays the role alternating between an almost child like giddiness and scary psychopath. Also starring Robert Shaw as an Israeli intelligence agent and a terrific turn by Marta Keller as Dern's operative and handler, who while all the time realizing Dern is bat-shit crazy must alternately coddle and cajole him.



Monday, June 1, 2015

NAVAJO JOE Coming on Blu


    Kino Lorber has announced this Sergio Corbucci 1966 spaghetti western for release this Aug. Previously available in Germany on blu, this is one of the better "2nd tier" spaghetti westerns. Navajo Indian Burt Reynolds (with a really bad wig) vows revenge on a gang of outlaws who massacred his tribe and embarks on a one man killing spree all the while accompanied by a great Ennio Morricone score (one of my favorites of his).
   Allegedly Burt signed for this under the impression that this was to be a Sergio Leone project and tried to back out once he discovered it was Corbucci (oops -wrong Sergio). Producer Dino De Laurentiis was hoping to replicate the success of Leon's "Dollar" movies, so he hired another former American TV western actor and originally titled the film A DOLLAR A HEAD. Burt has often made fun of the movie, but its actually pretty good - its got Fernando Rey, the very beautiful Franca Polesello (who was also in the great Italian heist film GANGSTERS '70 from 1968) along with lots of killing, bloodshed (and Ennio Morricone !).



Sunday, May 31, 2015

SANDS OF THE KALAHARI 1965

   


    Concerning a disparate group of airplane crash survivors stranded in the desert wastelands of South Africa, its a shame SANDS OF KALAHARI has never really recd. the accolades it deserves. Directed by Cy Endield, its a first rate sweaty and intense adventure film - but was always maddeningly hard to see. Thankfully this was remedied a few years back by a DVD and blu-ray release from Olive Films. It has a first rate cast including Stuart Whitman (in whats by far the best role of his career), Susannah York, Harry Andrews, Theodore Bikel, Nigel Davenport and best of all the great Stanley Baker.
  After the success of ZULU American producer Joseph E. Levine approached the production team of Cy Enfield and Stanley Baker to collaborate on another picture. Deciding on a screen adaptation of William Mulvihill's African adventure novel SANDS OF KALAHARI they initially approached Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to star but Taylor refused to travel to Africa and George Peppard and  Susannah York were then cast. Peppard dropped out for THE BLUE MAX and Whitman was cast at last minute.(with he and York most likely for a whole lot cheaper then Burton & Taylor).
  Stranded after their initial plane flight is cancelled the group instead hires pilot Nigel Davenport to fly them to Johannesburg. Severely over loading the plane Davenport runs into a huge swarm of locusts during the flight and crashes the plane in the barren desert. Its to the movies credit that we don't get a whole lot of unnecessary back story (and soap opera plot lines) for the characters - we basically learn that Baker is an alcoholic former mine superintendent, Bikel is a college professor & Whitman is a big game hunter (with York's and Andrews story left mostly to the imagination).




   After the crash the group initially works together, finding a source of water and some food in a jagged outcropping of rocks that also is populated by a colony of baboons. Whitman with his gun soon begins exerting his alpha male persona as the best person to deal with this situation and begins seeing the other male members as a hindrance to his survival (along with the baboons - who he begins hunting down).  Seeing himself as Adam and York as his Eve, the slowing escalating psychotic Whitman begins whittling down the group, leaving only Baker left to defy him.
   The films makes excellent us of its locations with the wide screen photography (by Erwin Hillier - who also shot OPERATION CROSSBOW this same year) making great use of the wide sun baked vistas and shimmering distant horizons. The characters also become more bedraggled as the film progresses (with Whitman especially interesting to watch as he reverts to savagery) and in a nice touch there's refreshingly make up free York, who doesn't look like she stepped straight out of a beauty parlor as often in the case with female characters in movies such as this. All in all a this is great film worthy of re-discovery and perfect to watch on a hot summer's night.