Friday, April 28, 2017

Hitchcock: The Kuleshov Bikini

Originally I was going to rerun MARNIE with some rewriting to both expand the entry and focus on the similarities to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, but I reran MARNIE a couple of months ago! So, you'll have to look at Hitch explaining Kuleshov using a babe in a bikini instead of a bowl of soup.

Hitchcock explaining the Kuleshov Experiment using a hot babe in a bikini:





But there is the rape/sex/honeymoon night scene from MARNIE to prepare you for FIFTY SHADES....



NOTE: When Mark and Marnie are in the outer room, check out the specific shots and how they tell the story. We begin with Mark at eye level as he looks at Marnie's shadow moving around in the bedroom. By showing Mark looking and then showing what Mark is looking at, we *become* Mark at this point.

But when Marnie enters the room, Mark is shown from a slightly low angle, making him superior to the audience... he becomes powerful (while sitting down and not really moving). He has become dominant... while Marnie is shown from a distance, making her distant and unattainable. Every *angle* and *movement* of the camera is part of telling the story the way words are when writing a screenplay. This is basic cinematic language, but something that some directors don't seem to speak these days.

Boning up?

Once Mark goes into the bedroom, we get a great shot with Mark on one side of the frame and Marnie on the other, separated from each other. They have a verbal battle, and at this point they seem to be evenly matched (according to the shot). But then the shot *moves* in on Mark's face. When a shot gets closer to the subject, they become more important... more powerful. So this shot begins with two evenly matched people on opposite sides of some issue and then turns one into the more powerful (and aggressive) one. That's where it gets all FIFTY SHADES OF GREY...

We get some shocking implied nudity... and Marnie seems to go catatonic. When Mark puts his coat around her, we get an interesting combination of shots: Mark and Marnie from an overhead (Mark is powerless to make her respond to his kisses) to a low angle (he's going to *take* the power) and that's when we get...

That great shot where Marnie seems to float into bed. This shot would be replicated by the Coen Brothers in BLOOD SIMPLE.

If you are going to direct, you have to speak the language!



And here's Hitch discussing MARINE...





- Bill




Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chess Moves

From 2010, because DARK PASSAGE is now on BluRay...

One of the techniques used in suspense stories is something I call the Chess Moves or Chess Dialogue - even though you may find it closer to Poker because it involves bluffing. I wrote about it in the Fridays With Hitchcock about I CONFESS, and it recently popped up in the film DARK PASSAGE, so I thought it would be a good “blog filler” for the day. No actual chess is involved in this technique, so don’t worry if you only know how to play checkers.

The reason why I call it the Chess Move is that, like in chess, the player is several moves ahead of the game, and what may seem like a foolish move now is actually a brilliant move. You are watching a chess game, and one of the players moves his Queen into a very vulnerable position - and the other player takes the Queen. Now, that particular move may look stupid, but when the other player made their move to capture the Queen, they created an opening that two moves from now will result in their being checkmated. Now that stupid move where the Queen was moved onto a square where they were captured doesn’t look so stupid, does it? That player was thinking moves ahead of the other player, and without sacrificing that Queen could never have won the game.

In a story this technique is usually used either to create a trap or to look innocent when the character is, in fact, guilty.

Buy DP BR The trap version you’ve seen a hundred times and probably needs no explanation, but often a character will appear to be vulnerable in order to spring a trap. And sometimes a character will *actually* put themselves in a vulnerable position to spring a trap - they volunteer to be “bait” because it is the only way to make sure the adversary show themselves. Think of John McClane with that gun taped to his back raising his hands and giving up to Hans in DIE HARD. Or the Princess in John Woo’s RED CLIFF and her female archers fire on the enemy army even though they are outnumbered... and are chased into the desert... where the Princess’ much larger army awaits. You may think at first that it’s stupid for McClane to give up to Hans, but how else will he get close enough to attack him? How will he get Hans to let down his guard, thinking that McClane has lost? Though McClane *is* vulnerable - what if Hans just shoots him? - it is a calculated move where McClane is playing several moves ahead of Hans (who has no idea about that gun taped to his back). And even if the Princess in John Woo’s RED CLIFF ends up being killed by the enemy soldiers before they fall into the trap, she will have died so that the trap could be sprung on the enemy soldiers - and the plan still succeeds. Just without the Princess. Sometimes when you’re “the bait” the fish eats you - but you still hook them.



The other version of the Chess Move is also one you’ve seen a hundred times - it’s when a character does something that will make them look innocent when they are guilty. There’s a bluff involved in this - and a “poker face”. There’s a great example in DARK PASSAGE... Humphrey Bogart escapes from San Quentin Prison, and there’s a huge manhunt for him. Lauren Bacall offers him a ride - knowing that he is an escaped prisoner. She has a reason for this, that we won’t know about for several more scenes. Bogart doesn’t know her, but there are a million cops looking for him and this woman has offered to help him escape. When they come to a roadblock, Bogart hides in the back seat which is full of paining supplies, including a tarp. He’s hidden under the tarp when Bacall pulls up to the roadblock. A Policeman tells her there is an escaped prisoner, and asks if she has seen anyone on the road. She says no. The Policeman notices the tarp covering... something... in the back seat, and asks what it is. Bacall says it’s painting supplies, and if he would like to search the car that’s okay with her. That line is the Chess Move. Bogart is hiding back there, and she *encourages* the Policeman to search! Is she crazy? Is she double crossing Bogart? Does she want him to get caught? Why would she ever *encourage* the Policeman to search the exact spot where Bogart is hiding?

Well, let’s look at the alternatives...

A) She could jam on the gas, crash through the roadblock, and speed away! Okay, if that’s her chess move, what does the other player do? Well, now everyone will be chasing for her car and searching for her car and eventually she *and* Bogart will be caught.

B) She could *refuse* to let the Policeman search her back seat, tell him he needs a warrant or a court order or something. Okay, if that is her chess move, what does the other player do? Well, the Policeman will *know* she has something to hide and detain her and get that search warrant and find Bogart and then they both end up in jail.

If you can come up with a C that would fit a 1947 movie, post it in the comments section and we’ll look over what the other player would do in response. Stripping as a diversion isn’t going to work for many reasons, so skip that. I can’t think of any other good alternative that doesn’t make her look like she’s trying to hide something.

And that’s the reason why she has to make the Chess Move - she needs to look innocent, even though she’s guilty as hell of hiding an escaped convict in the back seat. She must do exactly what an innocent person would do, so that the Policeman doesn’t become suspicious, even though that puts her in potential peril. If the Policeman *did* search the backseat and find Bogart, she is in no more trouble than the other alternatives. But because she acts innocent and encourages him to search the backseat, the Policeman figures there must not be anything under that tarp. Why would she *want* him to search if there was someone hiding there? Guilty people have something to hide, innocent people do not - she isn’t trying to hide anything, therefor she must be innocent and not hiding anything. By *encouraging him* she is actually causing him to not search. Hey, still an element of chance, but this is a calculated risk.

Buy DP BR For me, this sort of Chess Move often results in a note from a Development Executive asking me why the character would be so stupid as to invite the Policeman to look in the back seat. Is she stupid? Heard that dozens of times, and I wonder if they actually think through their notes? Here we have a character - a fictional person - who is more intelligent than the Development Executive. The character is several moves ahead, the Devo is several moves behind. And if they looked at the alternatives, they would see that there are not any. The only way scenes like this can play is if the character makes that Chess Move. Because everything in a screenplay (and in life) is cause and effect, you need to be able to see all the way down the line - several moves ahead - and understand that the *best* possible move at this point might be one that seems stupid on the surface - sacrificing that Queen - but is clever when you see a few moves ahead.

There’s a great scene in THE GRIFTERS where the master con man played by the late great J. T. Walsh *insists* that a reluctant investor follow him to the back room to look at all of the expensive computer equipment... which does not exist! The back room is empty. But Walsh must make it clear that he has nothing to hide and that the computer equipment does exist - and no one would ever *insist* that someone look at it unless it were actually there, right? Again, calculated risk - what if the guy went back there to look? - but the worst case scenario remains the same no matter what Walsh does... but only by making the Chess Move does he have a chance at success. Often, the only smart move a character has is something that may seem like a dumb move at the time it is made... but the character is a few Chess Moves ahead and this is really a clever move.

When Devos are unable to see that it is a clever move is when those Devos should be replaced. Unfortunately in my experience, instead it is when the clever move is removed and the script gets dumber.

Pisser.

- Bill

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trailer Tuesday: COPS & ROBBERS (1973)

Cops & Robbers (1973)

Directed by: Aram Avakian (11 HARROWHOUSE).
Written by: Don Westlake, based on his novel.
Starring: Cliff Gorman, Joseph Bologna, John P. Ryan, Martin Kove.
Produced by: Elliot Kastner (every 70s crime film plus WHERE EAGLES DARE).
Music by: Michel Legrand.


This film is based on a novel by three of my favorite writers, Don Westlake, and he wrote the screenplay as well. Wait, some of you may wonder how one man can be three of my favorite writers, so maybe I should explain. Westlake was a prolific writer who broke in during the paperback revolution writing soft core porn under various pseudonym’s, often with his poker pal Lawrence Block (hey, another one of my favorites!). He was writing 2 novels a month for a while, and when he broke into mainstream mysteries he was just as prolific... and wrote different styles of fiction under different pseudonyms. So he wrote his comedy caper novels like THE HOT ROCK and BUSY BODY and SPY IN THE OINTMENT and HELP! I AM BEING HELD PRISONER under his own name, and the violent world of Parker novels like POINT BLANK under Richard Stark, and these great mopey private eye novels about a guy named Mitch Tobin under the name Tucker Coe. Plus some other books under other names. But here’s the kicker... nobody knew he was any of these other guys. Okay, maybe his agent knew, but these weren’t “Don Westlake writing as” books, these were completely different writers with completely different writing styles as far as anyone knew. A book written as J. Morgan Cunningham features a cover blurb by Westlake that says, “I wish I had written this book!” and everyone just assumed he hadn’t. So he was three of my favorite writers, three different guys who wrote different types of crime novels in different styles until he “came out” in an interview in the mid 70s which included all of his other personalities... and I was shocked!

Anyway, Westlake had this term for novels that didn’t fit in any genre, “Tortile Taradiddles” which I believe comes from Lewis Carroll... and COPS AND ROBBERS is definitely one of those. It’s a caper film that isn’t quite a comedy and isn’t quite serious. Maybe light comedy, but even that makes it sound funnier than it is. What it is is *amusing* (cue the great speech from GOODFELLOWS). That’s probably why no one remembers this film and maybe why it wasn’t a hit when it came out. It’s an amusing film written by Westlake, based on his own novel... but not really a comedy.



Click For Trailer.

Joe (Joseph Bologna) and Tom (Cliff Gorman) are New York City cops who live next door to each other in some crappy ticky tacky suburb in Long Island and car pool to work together every day. Because both are *honest* cops, they have mortgages and mounting bills and are basically risking their lives on the job every day for not enough money to live on. Joe is a patrol cop, Tom is a detective. Neither wants to be a corrupt cop, but it would be nice to have enough money to pay the damned bills every month.

Joe’s partner gets shot during some stupid call and is hospitalized, Joe reaches a breaking point decides to rob a liquor store in uniform. Gets just over $200... enough to pay some of those bills that have gone to red notice. And here’s the thing: *everyone* says the robber was some guy masquerading as a cop. The liquor store owner says he didn’t act like a cop, the police department doesn’t want *anyone* to think that a cop might also be a robber, and the media warns the public about “fake cops” who rent uniforms from costume shops. So Joe completely gets away with it!

One morning while driving to work, Tom brings up the fake cop pulling a robbery and Joe admits that was him. Tom is not shocked, he’s curious... and the two begin planning one big heist that will set them up for life. Anything under a million bucks each isn’t worth it. One robbery means less chance of getting caught, the reason why robbers get caught is because they just keep doing it and the law of averages says they’ll eventually be caught or shot by a store owner. But who the heck has $2 million they can steal?

Well, these guys are *cops*, so they know *crooks*, and crooks know this kind of stuff, right? They have an endless supply of “technical advisors”. Tom knows just the guy to help them: “Patsy O’Neill” whose real name is Pasquale Aniello, and is biggest crime kingpin in New York City. Tom has his rap sheet, knows where he lives, knows his phone number, knows his criminal record. Never been convicted. An anonymous phone call later, Tom has a meeting with Patsy at his mansion. Wearing a bad disguise, Tom asks Patsy for his illegal advice in the crime lord’s private bowling alley. (There was a time when bowling matches were broadcast on network TV every week the way Monday Night Football is broadcast today.) Patsy tells Joe the easiest thing to steal pound for pound are barer bonds from a Wall Street brokerage house. But Patsy can only pay 20 percent of the face value, so for $2 million they have to steal $10 million... and Wall Street brokerage houses are like freakin’ Fort Knox! Impossible to rob!

Buy the border

Hey, nothing is impossible. Joe and Tom come up with a clever plan to pull the impossible robbery... using their uniforms as a way past most of the security. But what they need is a huge diversion, and that comes with the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th, 1969. On August 13th, 1969 the Astronauts had a huge ticker tape parade on Wall Street... the *perfect* diversion! There will be hundreds of cops on the street, so they can blend into the crowd, and most of the police force will be dealing with the parade! Plus, the brokerage house will be distracted by the parade as well.

Wearing fake mustaches, they enter the brokerage house in uniform saying there was a complaint that people were throwing objectionable material out the office window (near the vault). One of the managers takes them past all kinds of security almost all the way to the vault! Everyone is distracted by the parade, and these are cops... not crooks. Near the vault, Joe and Tom tell the manager they are not real cops, and they’re here to rob the vault. The manager cooperates (they are pointing guns at him) and takes them through the final security and into the vault. They handcuff the manager and his secretary and proceed to grab $10 million in barer bonds, easy as pie! Until the alarm sounds... and police flood the building searching for two guys dressed as cops. Realizing they will never be able to walk out with the $10 million in bonds, Tom comes up with a great plan: instead of stealing the bonds, all they have to steal is a *headline*. They shred the bonds and throw them out the window as part of the ticker tape parade (a suspense scene because the police are searching room by room for them). They walk out of the building pretending they were some of the police called to search for the two fake policemen. Heck, their badges are *real*! (More suspense as they have to get past the security guy at the front desk who thinks they are fake cops.)

The next day, the headlines are all about the two fake cops who stole $12 million in barer bonds. What? Where’d the other $2 million come from? That manager and his secretary each stole a million bucks and blamed them! So the danged manager ended up with more money than they did!

Buy The DVD

But they have stolen a headline, and gangster Patsy believes they have $10 million in barer bonds and will trade $2m in cash for them. Now all they have to do is outsmart New York’s biggest crime lord and get his $2m in exchange for barer bonds they do not have. Of course, they manage to do this... but nothing is easy! And Patsy has to answer to his superior in the mob for losing the $2 million dollars.

The interesting thing about the film is that it takes place in the early 70s New York City that SERPICO and MEAN STREETS and FRENCH CONNECTION take place in. It has the same gritty look and feel as those films, even though it’s lighter in tone. The Michel Legrand music is often a little too upbeat, and I suspect it was trying to turn an amusing film into something they could sell as comedy. Cliff Gorman, who gets star billing in this film, was a 70s actor who was ain AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and ALL THAT JAZZ and a bunch of other NYC based films, and guest starred on every TV show that filmed there... then just kind of vanished from stardom, even though he continued working until his death in 2002. Bologna became the bigger star, and if you don’t know him by name you totally know him by sight. He’s Adam Sandler’s father in BIG DADDY and was Michael Caine’s horn dog friend in BLAME IT ON RIO. He has a movie shooting *now*. A tortile taradiddle like this would probably never be made today because it doesn’t fit in any genre and they’d have no idea how to sell it, but it’s a nice little film that is amusing if not laugh outloud funny. You want these two guys to get away with it.

Bill

Thursday, April 20, 2017

THRILLER Thursday: The Prisoner In The Mirror

Best Of Thriller: Prisoner In The Mirror

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 1, Episode: 34.
Airdate: May 23, 1961

Director: Herschel Daugherty
Writer: Robert Arthur
Cast: Henry Daniell, Lloyd “It’s a cookbook” Bochner, Marion Ross.
Music: Morton Stevens
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “The hand of death strikes suddenly, and without regard for the plain, the beautiful, the bad or the good. For when the hand of death is controlled by a force of evil the consequences can defy belief. Our story tonight concerns just such a force and it features a most unusual star: This mirror. In it you will see our players caught in a strange reflection. Mr. Lloyd Bochner, Miss Marion Ross, Mr. Jack Mullaney, Miss Pat Michon, and Mr. Henry Daniell. So be prepared to gaze through a glass darkly. But don’t! Please don’t stand too close! I should hate to see this happen to any of you.”

(Break to continue the prologue story in 1910)

“Young Robert was no murderer, nor was he mad as he may have seemed. He was a victim of one of the most diabolical practitioners of black magic ever known, Count Alessandro Cagliostro. Only a legend you say? Well, perhaps, but that’s for you to decide. Now we resume our tale, more than half a century later.”

(Now to present day)



Synopsis: Paris, 1910: The elegant Robert de Chantenay (David Frankham) and woman Marie Blanchard (Erika Peters) sip champagne in a restaurant. Robert does some amazing slight of hand magic producing a bouquet of roses, a bird, a diamond necklace! She is amazed and amused and wants more. He uses the diamond necklace to hypnotize her... but the end of his hypnosis is a frightening: “Life transformed into death.” He suddenly turns into a skeleton, and puts the necklace around her neck with a boney hand! Who is Robert de Chantenay? A sorcerer? A demon?

Later, Robert paints the mirror in his room black... when there is a knock at the door. It is his Mother (Frieda Inescort), who says there are men downstairs who want to speak to him... *police*men! They have a warrant for his arrest for the murder of Marie! Robert tells his Mother that he is innocent, but could never prove it... so he jumps out a window to his death! Splat! On the cobblestones below.

Back to Karloff for the second half of his introduction, then...



Paris, Today: In the Societe Curiosites Historiques, Professor Harry Langham (Lloyd Bochner) is investigating the historical figure known as Count Alesssandro Cagliostro but is warned not to by Professor Thibault (Peter Brocco) because Cagliostro was pure evil... undying evil. They are interrupted by Harry’s research assistant Fred Forrest (Jack Mullaney) who reminds Harry of an appointment. Harry tells Thibault that his research has lead him to look for a large mirror owned by Cagliostro that was acquired by Robert de Chantenay and sold soon after his suicide in 1910. Thibault suggests he look through the records at Armand’s, where every valuable antique bought or sold or stolen in Paris has been catalogued. Professor Thibault still wants Harry to abandon his quest for information about Cagliostro and offers to take him to the tomb of Yvette Dulaine, a favorite at the court of Louis The Sixteenth who fell under the spell of Cagliostro which lead to a strange and terrible fate. A dark tomb of a beautiful woman who suffered a terrible fate? Who could say no to that?

The Tomb: downstairs, gated and padlocked. Dark and creepy. Harry asks, “How did she die?” Thibault answers, “Did she die at all?” He opens the coffin and... Yvette (Patricia Michon) looks exactly the same as when she died in 1780. Is she dead or under a spell? Harry looks at her, she’s young and attractive... forever. Also probably dead. Is he falling in love with a dead woman? How could she remain so well preserved?



Harry talks to Mssr. Armand (Louis Mercier), who has a huge collection of antique mirrors... including one covered with black paint which was once owned by Robert de Chantenay. When Armand steps away to speak with someone else, Harry begins to remove the paint seeing the reflection of himself... and Yvette standing behind him!



Boston, Today: Professor Harry’s house, Fred and his sister Kay (Marion Ross looking nothing like Richie’s mom on HAPPY DAYS) are unpacking the mirror that Harry paid a fortune for in Paris. Cagliostro’s mirror? Fred wants Kay to hurry up and marry Harry so that he’ll settle down and stop these obsessive searches for weird historical artifacts. That’s when Harry comes home, kisses Kay, and asks Fred to help him carry the mirror upstairs. They place the mirror in the bedroom, and as soon as Fred and Kay are gone, Harry looks into the mirror for Yvette. He scrapes off the rest of the paint, until it’s a normal mirror again. No reflections but his own. Harry pulls up a chair to watch the mirror... and as darkness falls outside, he goes downstairs to dinner.

Professor Fred has dinner with his fiance Kay, who asks why he’s so distant. He tells her the story of Yvette... forever young and dead in that crypt. Kay wonders if he’s fallen in love with... a corpse. How can she compete with that? After dinner Harry goes up to his room and look at the mirror again. He is *obsessed* with Dead Yvette! Kay’s fears are not unfounded.



In the middle of the night, a weird reflection in the mirror: a flame? Yes! It’s Yvette lighting candles on “her side” of the mirror. Her side of the mirror is another room in another time, and Harry is not reflected there. It’s as if the mirror is a portal into another world. Harry talks to the mirror, on “her side” Yvette shakes her head when asked if she can speak... he wants to help her. Maybe he wants to kiss her, too, but Kay knocks on the door. She was worried about him. He was acting strangely at dinner, and then raced upstairs afterwards. Is he okay? Harry opens the door, but wants to keep her away from the mirror (and Yvette, the other woman in his life)... Then asks her to look in the mirror and tell him what she sees. Kay moves to the mirror, looks straight into the glass... but only sees her own reflection. The world on the other side of the mirror has vanished! “She’s gone! You scared her away!” He yells at Kay to get out of the room. She thinks he may have gone a little crazy and splits. He *has* gone a little crazy...

When Harry goes back to the mirror, instead of Yvette’s reflection in that other world he sees “another victim of Count Alexander Cagliosto” (the awesome Henry Daniel) who claims Cagliostro’s evil spell has made him and Yvette prisoners in this mirror... and Harry can help them escape. Harry looks at the beautiful Yvette, he can help her escape? All he has to do is repeat aloud one of Cagliostro’s spells... and then the Man hypnotizes Harry. Hey, that’s not a victim of Cagliostro, that’s the evil man himself! As Harry speaks back the spell, Cagliostro orders his soul to join them in the mirror... and Harry’s soul gets up from the chair (his body left behind) and walks *into the mirror*! Joining them on the other side! This is done in one shot, by the way: which is totally cool. A “how did they do that?” moment.



Harry wakes up in the mirror world...

Where Cagliostro tells him that he has left his body unoccupied by a soul, which will allow Cagliostro to occupy it! Harry watches as Cagliostro exist the mirror and enters Harry’s sleeping body on the other side... and then his body awakens! Harry has allowed the evil of Cagliostro to be release once more upon the world! He is trapped in the mirror with Yvette while his body goes on an evil rampage!

The body of Harry picks up some hot babe named Laura (Pamela Curran) in a sleazy waterfront bar, does some slight of hand magic to make flowers appear and gives them to her. He takes her for a walk in the moonlight...

Wakes up the next morning and has a conversation with Harry’s soul, trapped in the mirror. A knock on the bedroom door... and Kay says there’s a man downstairs to see you... a Policeman (echo from the opening scene!). Harry/Cagliostro tells Key he’ll talk to the Policeman in private, and then apologizes to her for acting strange these past few days. When Kay leaves, Harry/Cagliostro goes to the mirror and tells Harry that he plans on nailing her later. Why wait until after the marriage for the honeymoon? How can Harry get out of the mirror world and stop him?



Harry/Cagliostro goes downstairs and talks to Sgt. Burke from Homicide (Walter Reed) who wants to know where he was at 3AM this morning. Harry says he was here, working. Burke says that a cop on the beat saw him enter the house at 4:15 AM. Harry explains that he took a walk at 4AM. Well, Sgt Burke say it seems that one of his students saw him leave the bar with Laura... who was later found murdered. Harry/Cagliostro says he isn’t exactly the type to hang out in bars like that, and his students shouldn’t be, either. I mean, he’s a college professor! What would he be doing in such a place? Obviously a case of mistaken identity. Sgt. Burke leaves, agreeing that it’s most likely a case of mistaken identity.

Then Harry/Cagliostro lays a massive kiss on Kay. Rotor rooter tongue action!

That night Harry/Cagliostro and Kay leave for a night on the town, passing Fred... who has a copy of the paper with the murder headline in his hands.

In the mirror world, Harry is trapped... worried about Kay.

Fred goes up to Harry’s room to look for clues to Harry’s recent strange actions (is he the killer of that woman?), but as much as Harry yells from inside the mirror, Fred can not hear him. Fred eventually falls asleep in the chair facing the mirror...



Harry/Cagliostro and Kay come back from their night out and Kay wants a cigarette, looks in Harry’s coat pocket and finds some women’s ear rings... which match the ear rings in the newspaper photo of the murdered girl that Fred left on the table. Suspense: is her fiancé a killer? What should she do? Run? Wimpy women run, Kay confronts Harry/Cagliostro... who takes the ear ring out of her hands and uses it to hypnotize her!

Fred hears a noise and goes downstairs, finding Kay... murdered! Fred chases Harry/Cagliostro upstairs into the bedroom. They have a big fight, and *the mirror breaks*! Harry/Cagliostro dies... and Harry’s soul is trapped with Yvette in the mirror world forever!



Review: That might be a happy ending, since he gets the girl, or a frightening ending because he should have been more careful what he wished for!

On a message board we’re talking about how amazingly high concept TWILIGHT ZONES were, considering they were made on sixties TV show budgets. This is another example of what you can do on a very limited budget. We not only have the idea of the mirror world, we have *body swapping* years before FREAKY FRIDAY! The great thing about body swapping is that it’s just two actors acting like each other. What does that cost? Here it’s particularly sinister because we have an evil man taking joy rides in other people’s bodies and leaving the body owner to clean up the mess (or commit suicide because there is no way to clean it up). It’s a frightening idea, and it’s dirt cheap to film.



The Mirror World is another great idea that costs nothing (but talent) to film. The “sells it shot” where Harry’s soul detaches from his body and walks into the mirror is done with two simple shots. One is a double exposure with the camera locked down and Harry sitting in the chair, then a shot of harry getting up and walking away from the chair. Marry them and you have one Harry sitting as a translucent Harry gets up and walks away from his sitting self. The other shot is a little more complicated, but still not a budget buster. We see Harry *walk into the mirror* and disappear from this side as he exists only in the other side! All one shot. Of course, this is a $1.98 special effect where the mirror is just a frame with the “mirror world” on the other side. Harry just walks up to the frame, steps over it, and continues walking on the other side where Yvette is. Then he turns and looks out at a shot of his body in that chair. The Marx Brothers did a more complicated version of this in DUCK SOUP for laughs. When the mirror world disappeared, they just put a mirror in that frame! Though they didn’t do this for the episode, if you wanted to do this now I’d get a semi silvered mirror (two way mirror) and you could make a real reflection fade out into the mirror world without any cuts at all. (It looks like they might have done this in the episode, but the fade is too quick.) If you are doing a low budget movie you have to use much more imagination... that’s what you have instead of money. Same was true in television when this episode was made.

The echo scene of the police coming to talk to Robert in 1910 Paris and later Harry in present day America is great because we know the outcome of the Robert scene and fear that this will be the outcome for Harry as well. Things like this work in any genre and create suspense and dread... at no cost.



Henry Daniell was in five episode of THRILLER and is one of those great hambone British actors who just stole every second he was on screen. No one could be as deliciously evil as Daniell. He was an excellent Professor Moriarty in the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies and costarred with Karloff in THE BODY SNATCHER in 1945.

Marion Ross, Mrs. Cunningham from HAPPY DAYS, is a that young wholesome woman you’d take home to the parents and marry. She’s young and attractive, but not in an overt sexual way. This totally works for the story, because it’s one thing for Cagliostro to rape and murder some slutty bar girl, but much more shocking if it’s the super nice virgin. I realize that’s just plain wrong to say: it’s awful either way. But the in visual shorthand it’s one thing to kill a growling pittbull and another to kill a cute puppy. Yeah, both are dead dogs, but audience’s make value judgements and sometimes we use those value judgements for dramatic purposes.



Lloyd Bochner is one of those actors who are *everywhere*. The year after this he would be on TWILIGHT ZONE in Richard Matheson’s TO SERVE MAN, and he’s *everywhere*. He’s in my favorite film POINT BLANK, he’s a villain on THE WILD WILD WEST, he’s on both THE MAN and THE GIRL FROM UNCLE, he’s on HOAGN’S HEROES and IT TAKES A THIEF, he’s on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and COLUMBO. He has 202 show credits on IMDB and some of those are TV shows where he was a recurring character, so it’s *hundreds* of total credits! This is a guy who could play heroes and villains and everything in between. This is his only THRILLER episode, and TO SERVE MAN was his only TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but he is memorable in both.

Though this episode isn’t as scary as some of the other horror eps, it has a creepy idea that sticks with you. What if someone could take your body for a joyride?

Bill



Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Zoo Reviews

When I was a kid there was a show called NEW ZOO REVIEW aimed at preschoolers that featured people dressed as hippos and other animals who sang and danced. My brother and I made fun of it (do I need to provide an explanation?). If I thought it would increase the number of reviews of my books on Amazon, I might dress as a hippo and sing and dance. Instead, I'm doing this blog entry...



Could you do me a favor and either write a review on Amazon on the new book or any of the other books you have not yet reviewed or post about one of the books on Twitter or Facebook or some other social media? When I post a picture of one of my books next to some other book on FB, the other books all have hundreds of reviews... and mine have fewer than fifty! As Popeye would say: It’s embarrrasking! And someone said the other day that books with more than fifty (and then more than 100 reviews) get bumped onto the You May Like section, which helps keep the book in front of people.

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The best kind of reviews are ones where you mention something specific you found helpful. My thing is tools not rules, and I try to include as many tools as possible in the books. I've received a bunch of emails about the "Barista attitude" technique from the DIALOGUE Blue Book, so I know people found that helpful. But how many mention it in a review? Things you found helpful will help others who may need that kind of help. If everyone picks one technique or one chapter that helped them, or just reinforced something they already knew or suspected, and mentioned it in the review, that would be cool.

A) The Blue Books sell for $4.99 and I'm trying to get each one to around 200 pages or more, was it worth the retail price? Was it a good value?

B) What was your favorite part or tool from the book? Explain why.

C) What did you learn from the book? List the things and maybe explain them a little.

D) Were there tools and techniques in the book that you have never read anywhere else?

E) Were there a good variety of examples, and what examples were most helpful?

F) Was the book a pleasant read, or was it boring or dry or too academic?

G) Would you recommend this book to other Screenwriters? How about Novelists?

One of the problems is that Amazon requires a certain number of words for a review, and some people would rather just click the “like” button because they don’t know what to say. Hopefully those will give you someplace to start.

Telling people about the books on social media helps inform people that the books exist without me doing my daily sledge hammer posts about where the books are in the rankings. I appreciate when you guys help me spread the word about the books, because there is no advert budget... it's just word of mouth. I really need to expand my market (often on message boards it seems most people haven't heard of the books) and that's also where you can help. Screenwriting groups online and in real life. I have no idea what the percentage of readers who write reviews are, but the more people who read the books the more reviews I'm going to get. As I said, it's all about trying to get to 50 and then 100 reviews on each of them. Chris Soth has a 36 page book that came out on March 20th of this year and already has 41 reviews... My SUPPORTING Blue Book has been out since September 17, 2012 and only has 18 reviews!

Obviously Chris has some kind of mind control cult, or maybe punished those who do not write reviews.

These books need reviews! Thank you for helping!


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NEW AND HOT!

*** STRUCTURING YOUR STORY *** - For Kindle!


William Goldman says the most important single element of any screenplay is structure. It’s the skeleton under the flesh and blood of your story. Without it, you have a spineless, formless, mess... a slug! How do you make sure your structure is strong enough to support your story? How do you prevent your story from becoming a slug? This Blue Book explores different types of popular structures from the basic three act structure to more obscure methods like leap-frogging. We also look at structure as a verb as well as a noun, and techniques for structuring your story for maximum emotional impact. Most of the other books just look at *structure* and ignore the art of *structuring* your story. Techniques to make your story a page turner... instead of a slug!

Introductory Price $3.99 - and no postage!


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Brand New!

*** THE BOURNE MOVIES

All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!


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Over 240 pages!

*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!


He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!



LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

*** HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE *** - For Kindle!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the *Master Of Suspense*; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Only $5.99


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Strange Structures!

*** HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR! *** - For Kindle!

***

Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"?
HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Only $5.99 - and no postage!


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Over 400 Pages!

*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!


Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!

$4.99 - and no postage!


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BRAND NEW!

*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!


Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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SECRETS OF SCENES!

*** SCENE SECRETS BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!



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BEST SUPPORTING ACTORS?

*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Includes Story Purpose of characters and Subplots. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 150 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!



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STORY PROBLEMS?

*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!


This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE?

*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!


Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that’s well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 208 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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I WRITE PICTURES!

*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)


Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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GOT IDEAS?

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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MOVIES ARE CHARACTERS!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much morePrint version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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DIALOGUE TO DIE FOR!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 41 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!

Only $3.99 - and no postage!


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ADVICE FROM #2 SCREENWRITER!

*** VINTAGE #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS *** - For Kindle!

***

Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.

Only $2.99 - and no postage!



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THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!

*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!

*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!

Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

Only $9.99 - and no postage!



These links all lead to the USA store, if you are in some other country and want to write a review for your country, go to your Amazon website.

Thank you all again.

Bill

PS: The next Blue be DESCRIPTION & VOICE in a couple of months.

ALSO PS: The DIALOGUE Blue Book will soon get a revamp, it's the last of the original 3 Blue Books and needs work! It will get a chapter on speeches, a chapter from the paper booklet on making up your own words and phrases that somehow got lost, and all of the duplicate paragraphs will be removed. I've already done work on the IDEAS and PROTAGONIST Blue Books.

The SUPPORTING Blue Book will also get an update with an expanded Subplots section. Plan is to get all of the old books up to 200 pages and fix the typos.

If the Automatic Kindle Update isn't operational when I finish these updates I'll have Amazon notify everyone who previously purchased the books that a free update is available. I'm trying to keep improving the books!

Any ideas or suggestions? Post them in the comments section!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trailer Tuesday: OSS:117 - Nest Of Spies

Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius.
Written by: Jean-François Halin and Michel Hazanavicius.
Starring: Jean Dujardin, François Damiens, Khalid Maadour.


Before there was the Oscar winning film THE ARTIST, the same team made a couple of silly spy movies starting with...



OSS 117: CAIRO - NEST OF SPIES - Imagine carefully recreating one of those 1960s James Bond rip-offs, even down to the cheesy rear-screen projection whenever anyone is in a car or on a motorcycle. The same lighting style and film stock and use of stock footage and the occasional model plane as in those old films. The same costumes and acting style and... well, it looks like a film they found in a vault somewhere and are showing it for the first time. That’s OSS 117: CAIRO - NEST OF SPIES. Because an early 60s spy movie would look silly, now, they give this film the full AIRPLANE treatment - the characters are dead serious, the film is absurd.



The OSS 117 spy series has been a staple of French cinema since 1956, when OSS 117 IS NOT DEAD was released, but really kicked into gear in the James Bond era with a film a year for a while in the 60s. OSS 117 TAKES A VACATION brought the series to an end in 1970... but this film brings back the character in a great mix of Bond parody and GET SMART. The spy (whose name goes on forever - even in the non-parody films) is this completely clueless moron who accidentally manages to save the day. His main talent seems to be saying the exactly wrong thing at the wrong time - angering everyone around him. Movie opens in WW2 where our hero and his best friend Jack steal the plans for the V2 from the Nazis in a scene that could be from one of those serials INDIANA JONES is lifted from. One of the silly things in this film are the title cards - we get a stock footage shot of the Colosseum... then the word ROME in huge letters. The Eiffel Tower stock shot lingers before we get PARIS in huge letters.



Our hero (Jean Dujardin) gives the crazy code phrase at a restaurant, gets the counter phrase, and is taken to a back booth to meet his boss, who tells him that Jack is dead! He was working in Cairo, where a militant Muslim group, the Soviets, a King’s niece, and a bunch of other bad guys are all involved in... something.

They’re sending our hero down to find out who killed Jack and what all of these bad guys are up to. But first - a flashback to our hero and Jack frolicking on the beach together... Which seems *very* Gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that... by the way, this is the 25th year anniversary of SEINFELD’s first episode). From here on, every flashback of our hero and Jack becomes more and more Gay until they are in that beach scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. And later in the film, a henchman has a flashback of him and another henchman on the same beach frolicking together.

Anyway, our hero flies to Egypt, where a dozen suspicious looking guys in the airport follow him, and we get every spy movie cliche... done to the comedy extreme. The French espionage agency’s cover in Egypt is a poultry company - with a warehouse full of chickens that crow when the lights are turned on, because they think it’s morning. This isn’t just a running gag - our hero can spend hours turning on and off the lights. Unlike other spy movies where the cover job is just a cover - there are shoot outs (and fights using chickens as weapons) with other countries spy organizations over the poultry business. It’s not enough that millions of dollars in Soviet arms were stolen... the German poultry business is losing money to the French poultry business in Egypt!



My favorite gag in the film has our hero wake up with one of the hot women from the story, with a terrible case of “bed head” - hair sticking up everywhere - but when he runs his fingers through his hair it ends up *perfectly* in place. Another gag has one of the fellows following him giving him the wrong code phrase again and again - each time our hero beating the crap out of him. Eventually, the guy gets it right - he’s not some bad guy spy, but his contact from the British Secret Service. He also shows the girl how his gun cocks... um, again and again. He causes an international incident when he stops a priest from calling people to prayer (and a dozen other times he is so insensitive to the locals that you wonder why they don't kill him). The double-triple-multiple crosses. An underwater scene where our hero holds his breath for about ten minutes. Enjoying a massage wayyyyy too much. And there’s a musical number that really gets out of hand. This movie has so many silly things going on in it, I was always laughing at something. Sometimes, just the way the movie gets some 1960s cheesy spy thing dead on is funny.

Bill

Buy the border

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lancelot Link Monday: Day After Easter

Lancelot Link Monday! It's the day after Easter and FATE OF THE FURIOUS was the big Easter film over the weekend and THE CASE FOR CHRIST came in at #9. Oddly Alec Baldwin has a hot new carer thanks to SNL and BOSS BABY. While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...




Here are a dozen links plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 F8 Of Fur ..................... $100,181,640
2 Boss .......................... $15,540,000
3 Beast .......................... $13,634,000
4 Smurfs .......................... $6,500,000
5 Going ........................... $6,350,000
6 Gifted .......................... $3,000,000
7 Get Out! ........................ $2,917,865
8 Rangers ......................... $2,850,000
9 Christ .......................... $2,720,000
10 Kong ............................ $2,670,000




2) Shia LaBoeuf Movie Breaks Box Office Records!

3) Japanese Fans React To GHOST IN THE SHELL.

4) What If Will Smith Starred In THE MATRIX?

5) The Problem With Indie Films... If You've Read The "Dying Grandmothers" Script Tip, You Already Know The Answer!

6) Testing 1, 2, 3...

7) David Lynch's STAR WARS...

8) This Week's New Trailers...

9) The Amazon Vs. Netflix War Heats Up! No matter who wins... *we* win!

10) Fnine And The Furious?

11) The Golden Age Of Genre Films... It's *now*!

12) Screenwriting Opportunities.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:





Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

THRILLER Thursday: Late Date

Best Of Thriller: LATE DATE

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 1, Episode: 27.
Airdate: April 4, 1961

Director: Herschel Daugherty.
Writer: Donald Sanford based on the story by Cornell Woolrich (REAR WINDOW)
Cast: Larry Pennell, Ed Platt, Jody Fair.
Music: Great Jerry Goldsmith score.
Cinematography: Ray Rennahan.
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Put yourselves in young Larry Weeks’s shoes my friends. You’ve just come home from a carefree day at the beach. Mind and body exhilerated by the sun and water. And what awaits? The tragic evidence of murder. Now ask yourself: What would you do next? Remembering always that the one person you love most in all this world, your own brother, was the killer. Would you phone for the police? Would you run from this terrible scene? Or would you have the courage to do what Larry Weeks will do? But before you answer, let me introduce the people who you will meet in tonight’s excursion with a corpse. Mr. Larry Pennell, Mr. Edward Platt, and Miss Jody Fair. Now for those of you who are still undecided let us see exactly how young Larry did handle this grim problem.”

Synopsis: Summertime, and everyone is at the beach. Mid 30s Larry Weeks (Larry Pennell) walks back to his suburban home, expecting to find it empty... but his middle aged brother Jim (Ed Platt from GET SMART) is back a day early... and looks like hell. It’s Thursday, and Jim works in the city during the week, staying at an apartment there, and only comes home on Friday for the weekend. When Larry asks if Jim’s wife Doris is upstairs, Jim mysteriously answers yes, but don’t go up there. Larry climbs the stairs to the bedroom to find Doris dead on the bed... neck broken.

Jim says he discovered she had been cheating on him, and just snapped... as did her neck. Larry says she began cheating a week after they were married, met a guy named Syd in a beer joint and with Jim away all week...



When Jim wants to go to the police, Larry talks him out of it. And by accident, Jim has caught a break: he forgot his train punch card and had to buy a ticket at the station, round trip, so he could go back in the morning. No one on the Thursday train recognized him, because he always comes home on Friday. Larry convinced Jim to sneak back to the station, take the next train to the city, and hang out with friends the way he usually would on a Thursday... to create an alibi. Then, using his punch card when he comes back on Friday, make sure that people *do* remember him on the train. Meanwhile, Larry will deal with the corpse.

But before Jim can leave, his daughter Helen (Jody Fair) returns from the beach. Larry tries to get rid of her by saying her boyfriend Gordon went to the beach to pick her up, but Helen says she’s already talked to Gordon... they’re going to the movies tonight and she can’t very well go in her bathing suit. She slips past Larry into the house. Will she discover Jim and ruin the plan? Helen takes off her wrap and is headed for the hall closet when Larry spots a coat tail hanging out of the closet door... is this where Jim is hiding? Larry tries to take her wrap for her, but she refuses. Opens the closet door: nobody there. Then she asks Larry if Doris is home. Larry says no, and Helen says: great, I can break into her room and use her make up and perfume. That’s where the corpse is!



Larry heads her off at the door to Doris’ room, makes sure it’s locked. While Larry and Helen are talking upstairs, Jim sneaks out downstairs. Helen goes into her bedroom, then sticks her head out and says to Larry: Doris probably didn’t lock the door to the shared bathroom, so Helen can still get in and use her make up and perfume. When Helen ducks back into her room, Larry scrambles to unlock the door to Doris’ room, slip inside, and then tries to close and lock the connecting bathroom door before Helen can try the door... but Helen goes into the bathroom first, turns on the light. Larry hides next to the door, unseen... but Doris’s corpse is in plain view sprawled on the bed!

That’s when the doorbell rings. Helen yells for Larry to answer it, it’s probably Gordon. But Larry can’t move or make a sound without being discovered. When Gordon keeps ringing the doorbell, Helen goes out to the hall (next to the door to Doris’ room) and yells down that it’s open, and Gordon enters. While Helen is on the other side of that door, Larry grabs Doris’ corpse and tries to hide it in the bedroom closet, but the door is locked. Helen goes back into the bathroom, and Gordon yells from downstairs to put on some of that expensive perfume that Doris uses... and Helen enters Doris’ bedroom!

Larry and the corpse hide behind the bed as Helen puts on make up and perfume, then steps back from the full length mirror to check herself out... almost stepping on Dead Doris’ foot! The phone rings. When Doris leaves the room, Larry sneaks out into the hall and says he’s got it, answers the phone downstairs... it’s Doris’ boyfriend Syd! Wants to know if she’s home. He says she’s out, call back later. Helen and Gordon leave for the night.



That night: Larry goes out to the car, pops the trunk, pulls out everything and puts it in the garage... including the spare tire. Doesn’t notice the nosey next door neighbor woman sitting on her porch, watching him. Back in the house, the phone rings... it’s boyfriend Syd again asking if Helen has come home. Larry comes up with a plan: says she’s having dinner with some friends at the Paradise Club and will meet him there at 8:30. But he should park in the back of the lot so that her friends don’t see him. Syd says he’ll be there. Larry checks his watch: 8:00. The ticking clock has begun. He lights a cigarette, gets ashes on the livingroom rug... and figures out a plan. He pours some ink on the rug, wraps Doris’ corpse in the rug, then calls a cleaner and says he’s spilled ink on his carpet, can he drop it off tonight? The cleaner is closed, but the guy says to ring the bell and he’ll open the door for him. Larry picks up the rug to carry it out to the car... and a shoe falls out. He stuffs the shoe back inside, plugs both ends of the rolled carpet with pillows, an carries it out to the car...

Where the Nosey Nextdoor Neighbor asks what he’s doing.



Larry tells her he spilled ink on the rug. She wonders why he’s taking it to the cleaners *now*, why not wait until morning? Larry explains that he doesn’t want the ink to set in. Then, in front of the NNN he has to put the rug in the trunk of the car. But it doesn’t bend like a rug, because it has a dead person inside. Suspense! He gets it in the trunk, closes it, gets in and... the car has trouble starting. He needs to getout of there *now*, the clock is ticking the Nosey Nextdoor Neighbor is watching. The car finally starts and Larry starts to drive away... when a police car cruises down the street! He *follows every possible law” as he backs out and drives off...

A winding mountain road with a sign for the Paradise Club announcing that it’s only 2 miles away. Larry turns the corner, clock ticking, he’s going to make it... then runs over something and gets a flat tire. Pulls the car to the shoulder and takes out the rug/corpse, slinging it over his shoulder. That’s when a car pulls up next to him. Two friends of Larry’s who want to help him. Change the tire? No spare. Drive you to a gas station to get a tire? He has to get this rug to the cleaners. Drive you to the cleaners, rug in the backseat? Um, no... it’s not that far, I can walk it. The rug is light. (He’s sweating like crazy, trying to make the rug look light). Will they discover the body? They say, “Your funeral” and get back in the car and zoom away.

Larry lugs the rug up the winding road, wondering if he’s going to get there in time.



On the road, a pick up truck pulls up next to him. The driver offers him a ride, he’s going past the Paradise Club. Larry puts the rug in back, climbs in. The driver asks him all kinds of questions about what he’s doing out at this hour with a rug. Larry tells his ink story and the driver says that’s bunk: he *stole* the rug. He’s hoping to sell it to someone at the Paradise Club, right? Right? Larry has no idea which way to answer... but the driver starts speeding up... faster and faster and faster. Larry says he wants out. The driver *throws him out*! Larry manages to yank the rug out of the back of the truck before hitting the shoulder with his shoulder and rolling down the side of the hill.

When he comes to, he’s messed up, but alive. His watch is broken. No idea what time it is. He climbs the hill, realizes he’s at the Paradise Club... and there’s Syd at the back of the parking lot in his car! Larry backtracks, finds the rug, puts it on his injured shoulder and carries it to the bushes behind Syd’s car.



Syd looks at his watch, impatient, then gets out of his car and goes into the Paradise Club looking for Doris. Meanwhile, Larry unrolls the rug, revealing Doris. How long will it take Syd to find out Doris isn’t in the club and come back to his car? Another ticking clock. Larry gets the corpse into the back seat of Syd’s convertible, makes sure her purse and identification and everything else that will make it look like she was out with Syd and he killed her, then slips back into the bushes *seconds* before Syd returns to his car, pissed off. For a moment, Larry is afraid Syd will look in the backseat and this whole thing will blow up while Larry is hiding a couple of feet away. But Syd pulls out a pint of booze, downs it, gets behind the wheel and drives off.

Larry rolls up the rug, goes to the Paradise Club and flags a cab, tells the driver he has to get this rug to the cleaners before the owner splits... puts the rug in the cab and they drive off...

Syd speeds down the winding road in his convertible, unaware that Doris’ corpse is in the backseat. He’s drunk and angry and speeding and...

When the cab drops Larry off at his house, he realizes that he’s done it. He’s saved his brother Jim from going to prison for murder! Now the Dead Doris Problem is Syd’s. Larry goes inside... and someone is inside, hiding in the shadows!



Jim. He tells Larry he couldn’t go through with it. He killed Doris and he wants to go to the police and confess. Larry says you can’t do that, Doris isn’t upstairs, she’s in the back seat of Syd’s car. How do you expect to explain that to the police? Jim still wants to confess, no matter what. Jim leaves the house, with Larry chasing behind him, trying to talk him out of confessing... when a police car stops in front of the house and two officers step out. “Are you James Weeks?” Jim says he is. The Police Officer is sorry to have to tell him that his wife was killed in a car accident along with another man. The Officer shows Jim some of the personal effects that Larry planted in the car. “Are these your wife‘s?” Jim says they are. The Officer says he can come down to make a formal identification in the morning, and they get in the police car to drive away.

Jim is completely off the hook.

But Jim walks down the sidewalk to the police car and gets into the back seat... and Larry follows him.



Review: I first saw this episode as a kid, and was blown away. It is *intense* edge of the seat suspense, and *relentless*. It never lets up. I had no idea who Cornell Woolrich was when I first saw the episode, and it was only later that I put two and two together and realized the same guy who wrote the short story that REAR WINDOW was based on wrote the short story that this episode and my other favorite from the series GUILLOTINE was based on. Around that time, Ballantine Books began republishing all of the Woolrich novels and short stories and I consumed them like a starving man. Woolrich was one of the three fathers of Noir and this episode fits right into the Noir genre: all about the darkness within and the descent of a good man into evil. This episode and an episode of HITCHCOCK PRESENTS called ONE MORE MILE TO GO were the inspirations for my DANGEROUS CURVES script, which is always a bridesmaid and I wish someone would just buy and make. The end of the short story this episode is based on, THE KID AND THE CORPSE (aka BOY WITH BODY) from 1935 is basically the end of Act One in DANGEROUS CURVES... and I wondered what happened if you got away with murder?



Before we look at the great stuff in this episode, let’s look at what almost sinks it. The short story has two titles (common for stories to get a new title with each new magazine publication back then to trick readers into thinking it was something they hadn’t already read), and KID and BOY are right there in those titles. Instead of Larry being the hunky younger brother of Jim in the story, he’s Jim’s shy son just out of high school... and not hunky at all. The idea of a *kid* doing all of this stuff to protect his *father* is a hundred times more involving than some studly mid 30 year old doing it to protect his middle aged brother. The age change also robs the story of it's Noir roots: a *boy* doing these things to protect his father is a descent into darkness, a grown man doing it makes the character seem bad from the start (which is a crime story but not Noir). Larry Pennel was just bad casting... and the muscle T didn't help... but this is the lead character, and somewhere someone thought they should get someone who looks like a movie star, and cast the muscular star of RIPCORD who would later play a parody of a hunky movie star named Dash Riprock on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES who keeps getting set up with Ellie Mae. Instead of worrying that this boy will never be able to pull this off, we get this strong and overly confident guy who we *know* will pull it off. Instead of the father/son bond, we get this brother thing which still kinda works... but the consequences of having your brother go to prison and having your *dad* go to prison are completely different. If dad goes to prison, you are homeless and your whole future changes for the worse. This casting screw up almost sinks the episode: the story is kid of father, son, daughter and wicked stepmother... the episode loses all of that. Maybe they were afraid to cast a kid for censorship issues? An adult hiding a body is bad enough, but a kid?



That censorship thing is no doubt the reason for the complete cop out ending. In the story, after the police tell them that Doris died in the car accident, the story is *over*. They’ve gotten away with murder! Time for celebration! But they probably couldn’t have that ending on TV in the early sixties. I just like to pretend the episode ends before Ed Platt goes out to the police car to confess... that’s a much happier ending.

Now for the great stuff: this episode is a textbook on suspense. There isn’t a scene or moment that doesn’t have suspense!

The moment when Helen wants to put her coat in the closet and Larry sees the tail of a coat sticking out between door and jam and we *know* that’s where Jim is hiding. Every chance for suspense is used... and this is a great lesson! When you have a scene in your thriller, look at all of the little ways you can milk it for suspense. The ways to turn the feeling of suspense into tangible things like that coat tail in the door. We know that Jim is hiding *somewhere* which is a vague suspense element. That can work, but it works *better* if we have a concrete suspense element like that coat tail sticking out of the closet. The great part of this is that as soon as the closet door is opened and Jim is *not* there, Helen asks if Doris is home... switching the suspense to someone else, something worse, she can discover! Escalating the suspense!



An other cool thing is when Larry is taking everything out of the car trunk so that he can fit the body in there, and takes out the spare tire. At the time we think nothing of it: he needs as much room as he can get. But that’s really a great set up for the problem with the flat tire later. When he gets the flat, we remember that he has no spare and realize he’s *really* screwed! The audience is always trying to jump ahead, and part of our job is to *hide* those set ups and plants so that they can’t figure out what happens next. Even if you do worry about him taking out the spare tire, there’s enough suspense afterwards (with the nosey neighbor, the car not starting, the cop car) to make it slip your mind until he gets the flat tire.

The episode uses a great “clock” or “time lock” with the meeting set at 8:30 at the Paradise Club. Woolrich frequently used this suspense device, in one of my favorite novels PHANTOM LADY the chapters are all titled with the number of days it is before the protagonist is put to death for murdering his wife... and it counts down chapter by chapter until they send him to the electric chair! Here we know Larry has a half hour to get Doris’ corpse to the Paradise Club, plenty of time! But then things go wrong. Things like the sign telling us the club is 2 miles away when he gets the flat help escalate the tension with that ticking clock. The broken watch is a great tool as well.

We also get to see Larry *think*. When he gets cigarette ashes on the rug, then looks down at the rug... we know he’s thinking that taking the rug to the cleaners is a great way to get the body out of the house, and create an alibi for himself.



One of great things in thrillers is that characters often have to do things completely against their nature and against logic, which often enters into the absurd. Here we have Larry broken down on the side of the road with this damned heavy carpet to carry to the Paradise Club and the clock ticking... and his *friends* offer him a ride. He’d have to be crazy to say no, right? But there’s a dead body in that rug, so he must fight against people offering to *help him*! It makes no sense. It’s a great scene, because he must say and do absurd thing to get rid of them. The rug is light as a feather... but he’s sweating like crazy!

One of the things I note in my Thriller class is how *the world* seems to turn against protagonists in thriller stories, and here Larry finally gets a ride with the pick up truck driver... only to have that driver accuse him of being a thief and then try to steal the rug! Larry is being accused of one crime, and can’t very well explain his innocence without exposing that he’s guilty of a far worse crime! So he just takes the driver’s abuse.

There’s also a great lesson in set ups and pay offs with Syd, Doris’ boyfriend. He’s been waiting in some bar for her all night, and when he heads to the Paradise Club he’s been drinking in his car waiting for her... and getting more angry every minute. This is completely logical behavior for this character. When he comes out of the Paradise Club and thinks Doris has stood him up, speeding away in a rage is logical behavior. The winding road to the Paradise Club has already been established with Larry, so it’s not some crazy coincidence that Syd would drive off the road and crash. We never feel like that ending is contrived, because it’s been set up so well there’s almost no other possible ending. Which is why it’s a shame that the episode felt the need to have Jim confess after we get that great plot twist.

This episode was directed by Herschel Daughtery, who is probably most famous as a regular director on the show filming on the same lot, HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Though not on the same level as Hitch, he was a really good TV director who knew how to make suspense work on the small screen and worked on all of the great action and drama shows of the time. The script by Sanford does a great job of putting Woolrich’s relentless suspense on screen, and Daughtery makes sure those suspense situations and scenes make it to the screen. Next week we’ll look at one of Robert Bloch’s most famous stories, YOURS TRULY JACK THE RIPPER, and the sequel to that story he wrote as an episode of STAR TREK. Two for one!

Bill

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