Friday, June 30, 2017

12 Hours Of Hitchcock/Truffaut.

Seems the new HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT documentary that just played at TIFF is just a rehash of what we already knew from the book and the recordings:

Review.

So since I'm still recovering from finishing the DESCRIPTION & VOICE Book, so why don't you spend 12 hours listening to the original recordings of Truffaut's interviews with Hitchcock? It's only half a day...

Hitchcock Truffaut Master Tapes.

Plus, for your visual enjoyment, 1,000 FRAMES OF HITCHCOCK:

1,000 FRAMES.

Sight & Sound.

Bill

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Flashback: Set Crashing

Belated RIP: Roger Moore.

Originally ran in 2007...

My buddy Van Tassell and I and director Paul Kyriazi are going to hang out next weekend - a bunch of guys from the old days from my home town. I think Van is my oldest friend - I've known him since I was 18, and when I go home for the holidays we grab beers and see movies.

Whenever anyone filmed a movie in the San Francisco Bay Area, Van and I snuck on the set. Growing up in the East Bay Area - halfway between Oakland and Stockton - San Francisco always seemed like some far off place you only went to on special school field trips or when you went to the zoo on your birthday. Actually, we usually went to the Oakland Zoo on my birthday. I saw San Francisco more in movies than in real life.

So when I started making my own movies on 8mm and Super-8mm, my buddy Van Tassell and I began driving into the city and sneaking onto movie sets... to watch the pros at work.

Van installs carpets for a living (any out of work film guys could always find a job tearing up jute padding and carrying heavy rolls of carpet for Van) and his carpet tool pouch looks EXACTLY like a film grip's tool pouch. This was part of the plan to sneak onto movie sets - look like someone who belongs. So we would dress like grips, filling the tool pouch with film tools.

I subscribed to Weekly Variety, and they printed the films in production. Whenever anything was shooting in San Francisco (a popular location) we'd take a few days off from our day jobs to crash the set. To find out where they were filming I'd call the city permit office and pretend to be somebody from a newspaper covering the film or a caterer who forgot where to send the food truck. They'd tell me where the permit was issued for, but usually it was a vague answer like "They're shooting in the Marina District today" - maybe they didn't believe my story?

So Van and I would pile in his red Bronco - it was used as a picture vehicle in Paul's movie WEAPONS OF DEATH.... the hero's truck - and just drive around the Marina District until we spotted two dozen huge trucks. Then we'd just follow the cables to the set. The key was to be cool and blend in. We looked like grips, but we also had to ACT like grips. A couple of times someone would actually ask us to do something, and we always did it. I actually carried a 9-K light from the truck to where they were shooting on one set.

Van and I became pros at blending in, and we crashed a bunch of sets. Mel Brooks filmed HIGH ANXIETY in San Francisco, and we were there. Don Siegel shot TELEFON and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ and we were there. But the best story is when they shot the James Bond movie VIEW TO A KILL. We didn't know it would become the worst James Bond movie ever - we just knew that James Bond was shooting in San Francisco, so Van and I decided to go out and watch. Dressed as grips.

The day Van and I crashed the set they were doing this huge effects scene - burning down City Hall. They had rigged all of these gas explosions on the building. They had Roger Moore's stunt double on a fire truck. They'd hired a bunch of extras to run in panic and some stunt men who would actually catch on fire. It was going to be very expensive, and they could only do it once. Boy did we pick the right day to crash the set!

So, we're doing our best to look like grips - helping ourselves to doughnuts on the craft services table - when we notice these two guys hop the rope and sneak onto the set. Well, that creates a danger to us. If they start checking to see who belongs on the set and who doesn't, we'll be kicked off before they start filming. Van and I come to a dead stop in the doughnut line, causing REAL grips to complain.

These two sneak-ins are wearing warm-up suits and look WAY out of place. They're also laughing - probably a little drunk. Then they see the food and start to come over!

Oh man. They're walking right towards us. Laughing so loud, people are starting to notice them. A couple of big Security Guards hear the laughter, turn and see the two sneak-ins, and move to intercept them... Coming right at us!

Two big Security Guards.
Walking towards Van and me.
We both freeze for a minute, then one of the REAL grips tells us to stop hogging the doughnuts. So we try to move away from the craft services table, but that means moving TOWARDS the two sneak-ins... and those two big Security Guards.

Shit! No choice!
Van and I play it really cool and move away from the table, pretending to be REALLY interested in the sprinkles on our doughnuts. The two sneak-ins brush past us on the way to the food. One of the Security Guards says, "Hey! You two!" Van and I try NOT to look at them, but both of us are wondering if they're talking to us or the sneak-ins. What if the Guards know everyone on the crew and know we don't belong? Can they arrest you for crashing a set?

They two big Security Guards are coming right at us. One puts his hand on my shoulder. Busted!!!

"Excuse me," he says as he moves me aside to get to the sneak- ins. Van and I watch the sneak-ins get rousted by the two big Security Guards. They are told to leave the area... but they hang around on the sidelines.

Close call. Van and I eat our doughnuts and watch the extras get instructions on how to run in panic when City Hall explodes behind them. The extras are told they can't screw up the shot, because they are only going to do it once. Van and I watch as the FX guys turn on their remote controls and they get the Roger Moore stunt guy on top of the fire truck. "This is gonna be cool," Van whispers to me.

Everyone takes their places as they get ready to blow up City Hall. Lights blast on. The director whispers to the AD who yells: ACTION! They start filming. The extras walk down the street calmly. BLAM! City Hall explodes into flames! The fire truck races into the shot...

And the two sneak-ins in warm ups hop the rope, run RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA and yell "City Hall's on fire! City Hall's on fire!" Then they run away, like the rest of the extras... blending into the crowd.

Van and I have been on a dozen film sets and have always stayed in the background. Always played it cool. Always tried to blend in. We can say to friends, "Yeah, we were on the set of that James Bond movie. We watched them burn down city hall." But those two sneak-ins?

They're actually IN THE MOVIE!

- Bill

Friday, June 16, 2017

Free Book! (FINAL DAY!)

Last week I gave away my short story PRIME RATE and this week I've been giving away another free short story, FOLLOWED HOME, that was *supposed* to be only 4 pages but ended up 22 pages. That's fine, because what increased was the suspense. This is not a Mitch Robertson story, but a stand alone. I plan to write a few of these, just fooling around with story ideas I've had that aren't right for screenplays. Next up should be SHOTGUN EFFECT with badass detective Shelly Steele... when I find time to write it between Blue Books!



This story has beeen FREE for five days (June 12 through June 16 - TODAY!), and I'd like to ask you a favor: Tell all of your friends about it, so that they can get it free, too! If you want to read it first, that's fine (it's only 23 pages, a quick read).

There are a couple of reasons for giving a way a story:

1) This was written for fun, and you guys are all my friends. If I could figure out a way to make it *always* free at Amazon, I would do that. But they limit the give aways to five days. After that, the lowest price I can charge is 99 cents. I only make about a quarter of that, so it's obviously not about the money!

2) If I give away a lot of books, it climbs the Amazon sales chart and becomes visible to people who have never heard of me. Then, *they* get the book for free... and the book continues climbing. When the free deal is over, some stranger may actually pay 99 cents for it, and I'll be able to afford a pizza. And maybe someone will discover the Hitchcock Book or the Blue Books in the process. Every short story I write will be free for the five days Amazon allows, so that you don't have to pay. It's good publicity and a thank you to everyone who paid for one of the Blue Books or Secrets Of Action.

One more favor...

Could you go to Amazon and GoodReads and write reviews? I'd love it if each of the books I have out managed to get an additional 10 reviews each on Amazon. That helps people who have no idea who I am decide to buy (or not) the books. An interesting thing I've noticed with the Blue Books is the number of reviews from *novelists*... those folks don't know me and are discovering the books by word of mouth. I'd love to have more reviews!

Thank you!



Bowden knew the best place to find a victim is somewhere they feel safe. And the best place to find a rich victim is someplace where rich people feel safe. He’d learned the hard way about country clubs; those rich people are all armed with golf clubs and tennis rackets and shit and beat the hell out of you before calling the cops. End up punch ugly and busted up at your arraignment... and the jury applauds every damned yuppy who beat on you when they testify at trial. No more country clubs for Bowden. But a nice, upscale supermarket like Archstone with a parking lot filled with Beemers and Mercies and massive Cadillac SUVs? No shortage of rich people who feel safe. Now all Bowden had to do was pick one.

Diane Taylor put the final bag of groceries into the Range Rover, pushing it back to give herself room for the huge 40 pound bag of dog food on the bottom of the cart. That’s when the strange man came from the shadows between cars and smiled at her, “Hey, pretty lady, let me help you with that.”


FREE BOOK: USA!



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Bill

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Story Behind THE TERMINATOR's Story!

What's up with that acknowledgment to the works of Harlan Ellison credit at the end of THE TERMINATOR?

Let's find out in this excerpt from my book THE TERMINATOR MOVIES!

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

It began with a fever dream about a robot skeleton rising from the flames. James Cameron was sick as a dog, editing his first feature: PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING, and had this nightmare which became an idea for his next film... if he ever had a next film. He was fired from PIRANHA 2 twice, locked out of the editing room, and thought his career might be over before it ever really began. But his next film, THE TERMINATOR, would insure that he would still be making movies to this day... and probably allow him to escalate his budgets on those latter films to record breaking amounts.

James Cameron was from the “Roger Corman school” and had worked on a bunch of low budget films doing set design and special effects work. The great thing about working for Roger Corman is that you learn how to make a movie for next to nothing that looks enough like a big film that people will buy tickets. Cameron worked on the special effects crew for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, Corman’s science fiction retelling of THE SEVEN SAMURAI with a screenplay by John Sayles (LONE STAR, EIGHT MEN OUT) and a great cast... unfortunately, one of the worst directed movies ever to come out of the Corman factory. But the space ship miniatures in that film are amazing - and I think some of those were the work of Cameron. Those space ships ended up being recycled into a movie that *I* wrote for Roger Corman! By the time Cameron came to direct TERMINATOR film, he already knew how to get the most bang from your buck, and did storyboards and production sketches and even paintings that were used to entice stars. The great thing about low budget filmmaking is that it forces you to use imagination instead of money to solve problems. And this film is *full* of imagination.

The concept is brilliant. Basically a riff on a serial killer movie like HALLOWEEN (1978) about a relentless killer of women and the “Final Girl” who has to fight to survive, Cameron gave it a high concept twist by having the killer be an android from the future sent back in time to kill the mother of his enemy. That android is an infiltration unit, so it looks just like a human. The great part about that is that it is just an actor (great for low budget) who is playing a machine. While other low budget movies just found different ways to kill the teenagers in their HALLOWEEN knock offs, Cameron’s high concept twist takes this out of the horror genre and into uncharted territory. His imagination made this film something we hadn’t seen before. Those other producers could have made the same film... if they’d had the imagination.

Though Lance Henrickson was originally supposed to play the Terminator, and then O. J. Simpson was up for the role, they ended up casting Arnold Schwarzenegger... who took special care to move like a machine (I could easily make a joke about that, but the way he moves his head in this film is *not* the way a human would - real acting was involved.) But Cameron didn’t stop at HALLOWEEN with an android, he kept adding more twists and turns to the idea - including an “I’m my own grandpa” romantic subplot... and a soldier from the future sent back in time to protect that “Final Girl”.

Which brings up Harlan Ellison and his end credit on the film for “acknowledgment to the works of” What the heck does that mean? Well, his short story “Soldier From Tomorrow” which was made into the OUTER LIMITS episode SOLDIER which was the first episode of the second season on that show. That story is about a pair of soldiers on opposite sides of a war in the future who are zapped back to Los Angeles in our time. One of the soldiers is captured by the police who have trouble believing his story, but linguist Tom Kagan who has been brought in to translate his futuristic version of the English language befriends the soldier. The soldier has only known war, never known family. So Kagan takes him home to live with Kagan’s family. But that enemy soldier has also been zapped back in time, attacks the Kagan home... and our soldier gives his life so that the Kagan family will be safe, killing the enemy soldier.

Ellison has another short story made into an OUTER LIMITS episode DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND about a man named Trent who is zapped back from a future at war into an office building in our time that is closed for the night... the only person inside is a pretty woman names Consuelo. Enemy soldiers have been zapped back in time to capture him, and there is a deadly game of hide and go seek as they chase Trent and Consuelo through the dark building. Trent’s mission - to save the human race. Of course he falls in love with Consuelo and...

After the success of THE TERMINATOR, Ellison sued - believing the film was based on his material. Though I think all three stories contain the same germ of an idea, all three are completely different... unlike, say, Ellison’s SHATTERDAY and the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS episode THE CASE OF MR. PELHAM which are pretty similar. But they settled out of court with Ellison and he gets a closing credit on THE TERMINATOR. Which explains that strange credit.

The idea of a military defense computer system being given control of our nuclear weapons... and then deciding that humans were the real problem, can be found in movies like COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970)... and a bunch of material written during the Cold War when we were afraid that *someone* might push that button an unleash the nukes, beginning World War 3 and ending the world as we know it. So all of these ideas were floating around out there, but what Cameron did is find his own way to tell the story and make a low budget movie that really delivers. A movie that has spawned four sequels and counting!

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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.



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- Bill

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Robot Monsters With Breasts!

Some movies are so bad that they're good... and others are bad and weird and make you wonder about the people who made them. Here are two of the strangest films I have ever seen - both are about robot monsters and both have no shortage of topless women...



EXTERMINATOR CITY is a train wreck of a film that combines puppet robots and GIRLS GONE WILD. You know how some films require that you consume a 12 pack in order to enjoy them (I've written many of these)? This film requires you to drop acid *and* do mushrooms to fully understand the story. The robot puppets are kind of MST-3000 style - and the only thing that moves is their mouths. The bodies don't move, the camera doesn't move. I got the feeling the whole film was made by one guy with a tri-pod. He would set up the camera, then operate the robot puppet. There are no "two shots" of robots - that would require an extra person. So we get close up of Cop Robot intercut with close up of Psychiatrist Robot. Never both in the same shot. Never any two characters in the same shot. No long shots or wide shots at all.

The "story" has a robot serial killer attacking big breasted women just as they begin playing with their upper torso bundles of pleasure for no reason. But the robot serial killer is never in the same shot as the babes - and they aren't even on the same tape stock - the robots are crisp, the babes are fuzzy grainy - maybe shot on the director's mom's camcorder.

There is *never* a shot of the robots *and* the babes. Even the killing scenes have no interaction.

The robot serial killer was an exterminator - and kills all kinds of big plastic toy bugs. Oh, and mounted animal heads on his walls often talk to him. He's crazy... It doesn't make much sense, but it's just so weird you keep watching to see if it ever makes sense. No - it gets *weirder*. The Robot Cop begins to develop the traits of the Robot Serial Killer! And those plastic toy bugs show up all over the place. It's like NAKED LUNCH made by a really horny 13 year old boy obsessed by robots!

Because there are never any shots where the robots *move* or enter a room, there are these crazy shots used to connect scenes - a really bad miniature building with a toy space ship on a wire zipping past really fast. I think he made it really fast so that we wouldn't be able to tell it was some toystore model, but it ends up so fast that we aren't sure *what* it is.

This is Ed Wood film making at its finest. "Perfect!"

The only humans in this film are the topless babes... puppet robots play every other role.

I found out about this movie on a message board where people were discussing the weirdest movie they have ever seen. This was the "winner". I'll tell you, it's hard to imagine any film that is weirder now that I've seen it... but, you should *not* see it. EXTERMINATOR CITY is like a giant zit on someone's face - not pretty to look at, but can you really *not* look at it?

Meanwhile, LADY TERMINATOR is a film that should not be seen sober. It’s a Indonesian knock off of TERMINATOR, but obviously someone in the legal department was worried, so the opening of the film sets it up as based on the legend of the South Sea Queen (I think) who had 100 husbands and bite off all of their man-parts with an eel she hides in her woman-parts. Blood sprays from many a man’s groin area in this film. Like a garden hose of red liquid. Not subtle or realistic. Well, after husband #100 pulls out the eel and saves his man-parts, the South Sea Queen puts a curse on his family - specifically his great grand daughter - and returns to the sea.

Cut to decades later, this smokin’ hot babe who could not act her way out of a rice paper bag, claims to be an anthropologist studying for her thesis who is researching the South Sea Queen legend. Whenever she said she was an anthropologist, it got a laugh - like Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in that James Bond movie.

Just when you are about to leave the cinema because her acting is so bad it actually hurts, she dons a bikini and dives into the cursed area of the South Sea where the Queen vanished, and comes back as the Lady Terminator... hell bent on finding that Great Grand Daughter and killing her.


And now we get the silliest rip off of TERMINATOR you can imagine, as this often topless killing machine (not really a machine, just a possessed anthropologist) chases the Great Grand Daughter chick - who is a disco singer (so that we can get a bunch of disco numbers throughout the film) and also uses the eel hidden in her woman-parts to bite the man-parts off a bunch of guys. Yes, she comes naked from the ocean and steals the clothes from some punkers on the beach (and bites off their man parts with her hidden eel), yes there is a TechNoir bar scene where she finds the Great Grand Daughter chick singing and machineguns at least a hundred extras, yes there is a scene where her eye is injured and she cuts it out... then washes it off in the sink, dries it on a towel, and replaces it, yes there is a scene where she drives a car into the police station and kills at least a hundred extras dressed as cops with a machine gun, yes she (thankfully) doesn’t talk much as the Lady Terminator. She just walks around bare chested with a machinegun and kills people. Just like Ah-nuld did.

But the funniest parts of this movie are when they try to make it look like it takes place in America. The cops - in a police station unlike any you have ever seen before (there are sofas and recliners) have a never-ending conversation about how much they love hot dogs. After about the third hot dog conversation you wonder if there is supposed to be a strang Gay subtext to these scenes... and wonder if this is plot related. Will the Gay cops save the day because they don't put their man-parts in lady-parts and are immune to the Lady Terminator?

Two of the cops are some sort of Starsky & Hutch undercover team - one has a dyed blond mullet that does not match his very ethnic features at all. They say strange things like, “I’m here in the States” which make you wonder where they might have been before. It’s just crazy - bad!

The often topless Terminator chick can not be killed - she takes a million bullet hits that don’t scar her smokin’ hot body at all, her car gets hit by missiles (and even the car is unscratched!) and almost at the end of the movie after she has caught fire and comes out of it with a totally burned face - but her boobs are completely undamaged. This film has its priorities!

Oh, for some unexplained reason after catching on fire and losing her machine gun, she develops laser rays from here eyes that burn men’s man-parts off. The writer of this film has some issues.

What are your favorite So Bad They're Good movies and So Weird You Won't Believe It! movies?

- Bill



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