"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, January 31, 2015

Steve McQueen & JUNIOR BONNER

   Here's some behind the scenes shots from Sam Peckinpah's JUNIOR BONNER. I especially like the one of Steve showing off his lasso skills. Released in 1972 it sadly seems to have fallen off the radar a bit in recent years, which is a shame as its an excellent movie and really deserves much wider recognition. Perhaps Peckinpah's most gentle and lyrical film it stars Steve McQueen as an aging rodeo star who returns to his hometown of Prescott, AZ. to compete in the annual rodeo celebration.
   Along with McQueen (who does most of his own stunts) it also features a touching performance by Robert Preston as his father along with Ben Johnson, Joe Don Baker and Barbara Leigh -who was McQueen's girlfriend for awhile and (almost) Vampirella in the unmade Hammer production.
  The current DVD isn't even anamorphic and since we're even getting CONVOY later this year, I'd say we're long overdue for a nice blu-ray.














Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Vito Scotti





    Born on this day in 1918 was the very talented and wonderfully funny character actor Vito Scotti. Probably best known for his role in THE GODFATHER as the baker who asks Marlon Brando for a favor before his daughters wedding in that film's memorable opening sequence, he appeared in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows playing various maniacal ethnic characters - but always with a smile & humorous glint in his eye (and never failing to make you smile).
  Most of his work was on TV (think of a series in the 60's & 70's and there's a good chance he's on it), but also appeared in some small (but well remembered) roles as the locomotive engineer in VON RYAN'S EXPRESS (1965) & as the Italian tank driver in The Monkees HEAD (1968) among others. He passed away June 5 1996 at the age of 78.
   In addition he also appeared in four of the best remembered episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND including playing a confused WWII Japanese sailor in two episodes (although justifiably considered "Un-PC" in today's world, he's still uproariously funny in these) and the arched eyebrow mad scientist Dr. Boris Balinkoff in the other two. In the season 2/ep. 29 THE FRIENDLY PHYSICIAN as Balinkoff he's joined by the great Mike Mazurki (playing his assistant "Igor"). Directed by Jack Arnold, the episode is unique in that its the only one where the castaways actually leave the island as Scotti takes them to his creepy island castle (which is represented by that classic matte painting from several Corman films) to preform brain switching experiments on them.




   Scotti is laugh out loud funny in his over the top portrayal and most people tend to forget that the series at times contained some very witty dialogue ("You must be one of those crazy doctors who voted for Medicare !"). As a young monster movie fan I remember being intrigued by the horror elements and as a young male I also remember being intrigued by the sight of Mary Ann and Ginger chained up in a dungeon.


  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

VIRGINIA CITY 1940





    While most known for his swashbuckling roles Errol Flynn also made a series of highly entertaining westerns with the best known of them being probably DODGE CITY from 1939. In 1940 he again teamed with director Michael Curtiz (with whom he made 12 films with and had an infamously volatile relationship with) for VIRGINIA CITY. Along with Warner's usual superb supporting cast including Alan Hale, Frank McHugh and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams the film also features Randolph as Flynn's adversary (both militarily and romantically). On loan here from Fox, Scott as by this time was just starting to  move up to "A" list pictures and had began to appear in more westerns.
    Also in the cast is a just on verge of stardom Humphrey Bogart as a hilariously mis-cast  Mexican outlaw (with a fading in and out accent) and Miriam Hopkins as a saloon singer/southern sympathizer who warbles several out of key songs and serves as the love interest between Scott and Flynn. Popping up in a couple quick blink and you'll miss 'em scenes are also Paul Fix and Ward Bond.


   Like most of the Flynn/Warner historical based films VIRGINIA CITY takes a smidgen of historical fact and then turns them into an entertaining romp through the appropriate historical period. Flynn plays Capt. Kerry Bradford who along with Alan Hale and "Big Boy" are being held in a Confederate prison during the later stages of the American Civil War. The prison is under the command of Capt. Vance Irby (Scott). Irby allows the prisoners to almost complete an escape tunnel before foiling the plot which causes Flynn to swear vengeance upon him. Later after a successful escape Flynn and his two cohorts are sent to Virginia City, NV. to thwart a Confederate plan to smuggle $5,000,000 in gold back to Richmond Va. in order to help the south's war effort.
   The Confederate officer in charge of the gold shipment is of course played by Scott with Hopkins playing a spy/dance hall girl in Virginia City who while initially romantically attached to Scott, is soon in the sights of Flynn. Scott enlists the help of Mexican outlaw Bogart (with the rather odd name of "John Murrell") to help get the gold out of Virginia but Morrell has plans of his own. Although clocking in at a lengthy 121 minutes the movie rips and roars through its running time and is a great example of the studio system firing on all cylinders (although I still have a preference for the previous years technicolor DODGE CITY) as Curtiz could direct stuff like this in his sleep and he never lets the story drag.
  Flynn while never wholly believable in his western roles (there's always some back story to explain his Irish or Australian presence) brings his usual daredevil bravado while Randolph Scott as the gallant Southern officer is a role that he was born to play and he and Flynn are quite good together (although supposedly they didn't get along). Lastly (but surely not least), you've got Alan Hale and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams trading one-liners.


   The one thing missing from here is the presence of Olivia De Havilland as Hopkins seems to have zero chemistry with her male leads and like Bogart seems oddly mis-cast here. By this time De Havilland was getting a bit tired of being "Errol Flynn's girl" and was increasingly voicing her displeasure to Jack Warner at her roles, although as favor to Flynn she would do THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON in 1941. The movie would seem at first glance to be a sequel to 1939's DODGE CITY as at the end of that movie the main characters including Flynn, de Havilland along Hale and Williams head off to Virginia City, but nothing is made of it in the plot.
    Along with monster movies when I was a kid, I watched a ton of westerns and it didn't take me long to to make a special effort to catch the Randolph Scott ones. Seeing such films RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, THE TALL T and the subject of this post for the first time at an early age was a major factor that helped turn me into a movie geek. A big thanks to Toby over at 50 Westerns from the 50's  for putting this together.





Thursday, January 15, 2015

THUNDER ROAD Coming on Blu !!


   Coming on April 7 from Shout Factory is this classic piece of American cinema. Produced, co- written and starring Robert Mitchum this is ground zero for the entire moonshine/hicksploitation genre that would fill southern drive-in screens in the coming decades. Released in 1958, Mitchum also composed the opening song ("Whip-poor-will") and although Arthur Ripley is the director of record rumor has that Mitchum himself actually handled the majority of the directorial duties. 
  Filmed in & around Asheville, NC in glorious B&W with Mitchum playing moonshine runner Lucas Doolin and featuring souped up Fords that sound the way cars should, this release is something to get very excited about.
  The role of Mitchum's brother although played in movie by his son James was originally offered to Elvis Presley, but Col. Parker nixed the idea. Bear Family is releasing the soundtrack next month with bunches of extra stuff including Mitchum's later re-recording of the opening song as "The Ballad of Thunder Road".