Friday, December 28, 2018

Get An Amazon Card For The Holidays?

Amazon gift cards for the holidays? Treat yourself! These e-books are the answer! From TERMINATOR fans to ACTION writers to HITCHCOCK fans to generic writers who have barcodes instead of names, there is something here for everyone!

This (Dec 28th) is Amazon Kindle Day - the day to load up your Kindle for the new year. Hey, a couple of my titles are FREE - and the rest are at the regular low price!


bluebook

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!



HITCHCOCK SERIES



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


bluebook

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!


STORY IN ACTION SERIES


bourne

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!


bluebook

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!


BLUE BOOK SERIES


bluebook

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!

SALE! $2.99 - and no postage!



BRAND NEW!

OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!

bluebook

OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC Blue Book.

ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?

Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.

Only $4.99!


bluebook

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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


bluebook

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!


bluebook

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!


bluebook

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!


bluebook

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!


BRAND NEW!

DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book!

bluebook

DESCRIPTION & VOICE Blue Book.

IS HALF OF YOUR STORY IN TROUBLE?

Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

Only $4.99


bluebook

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 $4.99 - and no postage!


bluebook

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!



bluebook

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!


bluebook

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!


bluebook

Only 418 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!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


VINTAGE SERIES

bluebook

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!



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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

THRILLER Thursday: The Ordeal Of Dr. Cordell

The Ordeal Of Doctor Cordell

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



Season: 1, Episode: 24.
Airdate: March 7, 1961


Director: Lazlo Benedek
Writer: Donald S. Sanford
Cast: Robert Vaughn, Kathleen Crowley, Robert Ellenstein, Marlo Thomas.
Music: Morton Stevens
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Producer: Maxwell Shane




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Such are the hazards of scientific research. As strange as it may seem, this is not the end but only the beginning of “The Ordeal Of Dr. Cordell”. Are leading players are, Mr. Robert Vaughn, Miss Kathleen Crowley, Mr. Robert Ellenstein, and Mr. Russ Conway. Speaking if chemistry this Thriller is a mixture of one part scientific possibility, one part imaginative melodrama, and two parts pure terror.” (Poof! Karloff disappears from the lab) “Oh dear! Well these are the hazards of science!”

Synopsis: Like a script for THE OUTER LIMITS rejected because it had no monster...

On a college campus research facility...



Scientist Dr. Frank Cordell (Robert Vaughn) is working with chemicals in a safety lab with an airlock, with fellow scientist Dr. Lois Walker (Kathleen Crowley) supervising at the control panels on the other side of the glass. There’s an explosion and fire, and gas fills the safety lab! Dr. Walker wants to vent the lab, but Dr. Cordell says the oxygen will just feed the fire... he needs to get the fire out first. But as he uses the fire extinguisher to spray the flames, the gas seems through his gas mask and... he passes out just as he gets the fire out. Dr. Brauner (Robert Ellenstein) rushes in after hearing the alarm, and they vent the gas... but have to wait until has all been sucked out of the room before they can open the airlock and pull out Dr. Cordell. By that time, he’s dead.

Dr. Brauner does a Pulp Fiction and stabs him in the heart with adrenaline, gives him oxygen, and brings him back from the dead.



Dr. Cordell comes to, says he’s fine, and wants to go back to work. But he’s worried: They’ve spent 2 years trying to find an antidote to the enemy’s latest nerve gas... and by mistake he has just discovered something much worse... something that a gas mask doesn’t provide protection from. Dr. Brauner (the boss) orders Cordell to go home and get some rest. Walker offers to drive him home, and walks him to the door, where they kiss. They aren’t just coworkers, they are lovers. There’s a birdcage on the front porch of Cordell’s house, and the little bird begins ringing it’s little toy bell...

But to Cordell, the sound is magnified and is driving him crazy. Giving him the ultimate migraine headache. He reaches into the cage and grabs the bell, stopping the bird from pecking at it. Though he *was* going to invite Walker in, she thinks it may be better for him to get some sleep. He *was* dead only a couple of hours ago.

After she leaves, the bird starts pecking at the bell again, driving Cordell crazy...

Dr. Cordell wakes up the next morning when his maid Mrs. Heath (Helen Brown) tells him he has a phone call from Dr. Walker. He rubs sleep from his eyes and picks up the phone, and she wants to know if he wants to go to lunch. Lunch? Yes, it’s almost noon. That’s when Mrs. Heath screams from the porch.

Someone has crushed the bird to death. It’s mangled body on the floor of the cage. Mrs. Heath thinks it might be some neighbor kids.

Later, Dr. Cordell and Dr. Walker return from lunch, and when Cordell reaches in his pocket he pulls out... the bird’s little bell. He quickly hides it before Walker can see it.

Cordell becomes focused on recreating that gas again. When Dr. Brauner comes in to see how he’s doing, and Walker mutes the intercom, Cordell becomes paranoid and enraged. Why are they talking behind his back? Walker says Brauner just wanted him to stop in for a physical check up. Cordell sends her home and sticks around the lab...



When a pretty CoEd (yes, that’s Marlo Thomas) looking for the library. Cordell goes ballistic, asking how she got past the security door. Seems that the security door doesn’t close properly and needs to be fixed. Cordell calms down, steps outside to point out the Library Building on campus, and when the CoEd walks away, her bell ear rings ring, driving Cordell crazy. He races after the CoEd and...

Wakes up at home the next morning when the alarm goes off at 8am.
What happened last night?
There’s a single bell ear ring on his night stand, covered in blood.

There’s a police car parked outside the research building. A Detective Boutaric (Russ Conway) questioning Walker and Brauner. A CoEd was *brutally* murdered last night just across from the research building, did Cordell see her? Cordell says no one can get into the lab area due to the security door. So he didn’t see her. Cordell overhears Dr. Brauner unleash a big pile of exposition on Dt. Boutaric about how chemical imbalances in the brain may cause homicidal urges which can not be controlled. Oh, so that’s what’s up with Cordell! When the Detective leaves, Cordell asks Brauner if homicidal urges are caused by chemical unbalance, could they be cured with chemicals? Yes, that’s possible...

Cordell becomes even more obsessed with his lab work, discovering exactly what combination of chemicals caused his current (psycho killer) condition. When Dr. Walker brings Chinese take out to the lab and asks him to break for dinner, Cordell goes ballistic and screams at her. “Science and ego make lousy chemistry!” She breaks up with him and storms out... passing Detective Boutaric, who has just discovered that Maintenance *repaired* the security door because it wasn’t closing properly this morning, because Cordell asked them. So the CoEd *could* have entered the lab. Cordell insists she still did not come into the lab, but the detective is suspicious.

Dr. Brauner tells Cordell he is overworking and gives him a choice: Take a vacation or resign. He suggests that maybe Cordell and Walker might take that a vacation together as a honeymoon... but Cordell doesn’t tell him they’ve broken up. Cordell opts for the vacation.

When he leaves the research building that night and crosses the college campus to his car, he passes a big football game rally... including another CoEd ringing a cowbell. The sound drives him crazy... He follows the CoEd as she leaves and before you can say "Less cowbell!"...



He wakes up in a crappy downtown hotel... the bell the CoEd was ringing on the floor. The news reports another CoEd has been brutally murdered, crushed by someone’s monster’s hands. He calls the front desk: it’s *Wednesday*, how long was he sleeping? Cordell writes a suicide note and prepares to kill himself... then calls Walker at the lab and warns her *not* to continue the experiments. She asks why. “I have to talk to you somewhere alone.” She agrees to meet him at the campus chapel at midnight and leaves.

Meanwhile, Detective Boutaric has found the bloody ear ring in Cordell’s house and knows he’s the killer.

Cordell goes to the deserted chapel at the strike of midnight... which means the bell begins ringing, which drives him crazy! He climbs the stairs to the bell tower. At the top of the tower, he tries to stop the bell, but it’s huge. Walker enters the chapel and hears Cordell screaming and climbs the stairs. When she gets to the top of the stairs, Cordell sees her and attacks! She fights him off, pushing him away... and the bell knocks him out of the bell tower and he SPLATS! On the ground below.



Review: If the bells had turned Cordell into a *physical* monster, this could have been an OUTER LIMITS episode. The story has elements of Jekyll And Hyde and maybe Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and even though this was 3 years before THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn was probably a “get”. He had a bunch of TV roles in his past by this time. But I kind of think he’s slightly wrong for the role: part of Dr. Jekyll is that he’s more contemplative, and that’s the trait this role needs. An actor who really feels terrible that he’s been killing cute CoEds. Vaughn is such a charismatic guy that it covers the emotional side of this character. He does a great job, and is probably more subdued than usual... but he’s still Robert Vaughn. But what the heck, it’s a fun episode.

In addition to Marlo Thomas’ 4th role on film, you may recognize Robert Ellenstein who plays the supervising scientist as the assassin from NORTH BY NORTHWEST who says: “Yes, a joke. We will laugh in the car” when they grab Cary Grant out of that bar at gunpoint a couple of minutes into that film. He was one of those actors who did everything, and you may recognize him from the great original 3:10 TO YUMA or his recurring villain on THE WILD WILD WEST or STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME where he played the Federation Council President.



The production design and sets are great, all of the lab equipment looks real. There’s also some great stock footage of the pre game bonfire party from USC or UCLA that helps sell the big pre game rally scene.

The director, Lazlo Benedict, directed Brando’s THE WILD ONE before becoming a prolific TV director... but I’m not sure he had the visual skillset to handle suspense. The scene where Walker climbs the stairs to her possible death is kind of bland. By this time PSYCHO had played in cinemas with a great primer on how to make climbing stairs filled with tension and suspense. Some of these episodes are really well directed and others are kind of TV bland: with a director coming in and getting the shots on film (this becomes more apparent after next week’s episode which has one amazing shot that would be just as amazing if it had been in a big budget movie). But Lazlo does one amazing thing here: Cordell’s “crazy vision” is a nice twisted image effect done with a lens (there was no digital back then, so everything was practical to some extent). It’s a great way for the audience to experience his insanity... and it always ends in a blackout that is held just long enough to make us wonder what the heck happened during it when Cordell wakes up.



They also do a great job making us imagine the brutality of these murders while showing us nothing. I’m going to give the credit for this to writer Donald Sanford who wrote some of the other creepy episodes and seemed to know how to get maximum impact on a TV budget. The story has some great reveals, like when Dr. Cordell reaches into his pocket for a match to light Dr. Walker's cigarette and comes out with the bird's bell... then has to quickly hide it from her and grab his matches pretending that he didn't just learn who smashes his bird to death.

Hey, was that the bell or belltower set from VERTIGO?

A really good entry in the series, but with just a little more could have been one of the great ones... But that’s okay, because we’re about to get a grouping of great episodes!

Bill



Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Kiss Of Death

Day after Christmas, let's go back ten years on the blog and see what I posted...

This is Richard Widmark's first film role... and he steals the movie. Notice how the character is in contrast with himself - that's what makes him interesting. In films we'd had happy-go-lucky people who enjoyed their work, and we'd had hit men... but never happy-go-lucky hit men who enjoyed their work! He does those two things that don't seem like they belong together, and makes it all seem natural.



And another attack on Great Britain, sorry!

UK's Movies For Men 2:

Sunday April 12th, 21:00 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub. 1997.

Tuesday April 14th, 13:50 - Black Thunder - When the world's most powerful stealth jet fighter falls into enemy hands, only one man can get it back. Starring Michael Dudikoff.

Tuesday April 14th, 22:05 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub. 1997.

I'm sorry for the pain I have caused anyone who watches these.

- Bill

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trailer Tuesday: The Two JACK FROSTS

Merry Christmas!

When Hollywood isn't remaking classics or turning bad TV shows into films, they are ripping off B Movies and hoping that no one will notice. It's bad enough that three years after that HBO World Premiere movie about the scummy deep-core drillers trying to plant nukes in a killer asteroid hurtling toward Earth (WITHIN THE ROCK), Hollywood does their big budget rip-off version (ARMAGEDDON)... or when the year after my HBO World Premiere movie VIRTUAL COMBAT was in the can, Paramount buys a script with the exact same plot called VIRTUOSITY... or when three years after my NIGHT HUNTER premieres on CineMax, New Line does a scene-for-scene remake called BLADE. But now Hollywood is ripping off obscure direct to video flicks.




Like JACK FROST (1996)... becoming JACK FROST (1998).

Yes, kids, there WAS an early frost.

In a fit of masochism, I decided to watch both the 1996 B horror movie version from A-Pix and the big budget 1998 family film version from Warner Bros. and here is my report...

CONCEPT:

In JACK FROST (1998) Michael Keaton plays a killer blues singer named Jack Frost who gets killed in snow storm related car accident on the way to a gig (the biggest day of his life) and is reincarnated as a talking snowman.

In JACK FROST (1996) Scott MacDonald plays a serial killer with the blues named Jack Frost who gets killed in a snow storm related car accident on the way to his execution (the last day of his life) and is reincarnated as a talking, killing snowman.

In JACK FROST (1998) Joseph Cross is Keaton s neglected son, yearning for his father s attention... but dad is too busy with his career. Dad constantly lies to his son, flakes out on an important hockey game, then is too busy to spend Christmas with the family because he has a gig to play.

In JACK FROST (1996) Zack Eginion is the Sheriff (Chris Allport)'s neglected son, yearning for his father s attention... but dad is too busy with his career. Dad doesn't lie to his son, doesn't flake out, but is too busy dealing with a series of gory murders to spend Christmas with the family.

MAN AND SNOWMAN:




In JACK FROST (1998) musician Jack Frost is reincarnated as a snowman after his son plays a magic harmonica.

In JACK FROST (1996) killer Jack Frost is reincarnated as a snowman after he gets splashed with top secret government DNA goo transported in a tanker truck.

In BOTH versions of JACK FROST there is a touching, emotional scene where the lonely son puts the eyes, nose, buttons and hat on the snowman, unaware that it is alive! Really creepy stuff! You expect the snowman to grab the kid at any minute!

JACK'S BACK:

In JACK FROST (1998) Henry Rollins plays a guy who freaks out when he sees the walking, talking snowman, and spends the rest of the film running through town acting crazy.

In JACK FROST (1996) F. William Parker plays a guy who freaks out when he sees the walking, talking snowman, and spends the rest of the film running through town acting crazy.

In JACK FROST (1998) the snowman is created by expensive computer animation, but the black button eyes... black as coal, emotionless, evil... make him look creepy.

In JACK FROST (1996) the snowman is some guy in a bad costume, but the carrot nose and button eyes... cartoonish, obviously fake... make him look silly.

JACK BE NIMBLE:

In BOTH versions of JACK FROST the snowman removes his head and holds it up so that he can see through a high window.

THOSE MEAN BULLY KIDS:

In JACK FROST (1998) the son gets into a snowball fight with a gang of bully snowboarder kids, and is saved when Jack Frost the snowman pummels the lead bully kid with thousands of snowballs. Hooray!

In JACK FROST (1996) the son gets into a fight with a gang of bully sledging kids, and is saved when Jack Frost the snowman cuts of the lead bully kid s head with a sledge blade. Yech!

CRUEL SCENES (part 1):




In JACK FROST (1998) there is a scene where a dog rips off Jack Frost's arm! A scene where Jack Frost is hit by a snowplow and dumped into a snow bank! A scene where Jack Frost's head falls off, and he makes a few smart-ass remarks before putting it back on.

In JACK FROST (1996) there is a scene where Jack Frost smashes a woman's face into tree decorations until she dies! A scene where Jack Frost shoves an axe handle down a guy s throat! A scene where Jack Frost s head falls off, and he makes a few smart-ass remarks before putting it back on.

In JACK FROST (1998) there is a creepy scene where Jack Frost (snowman) follows the son around, stalking him, frightening him.

In JACK FROST (1996) there is a creepy scene where Jack Frost (snowman) follows the son around, stalking him, frightening him.

JACK THE RIPPER:

In JACK FROST (1998) there is a terrifying scene where the son hangs off the edge of a cliff! A frightening scene where bully kids are smashed flat by a giant Indiana Jones snowball! A scary scene where a bully kid rolls down a cliff!

In JACK FROST (1996) there is a really silly scene where a babe gets naked and takes a bath... not knowing that the water in the tub is really Jack Frost in his liquid state. Sort of Jack and Jill in a pail of water...

NIPPING AT YOUR TOES:




JACK FROST (1998) has a suspense scene where the babelicious mom (Kelly Preston) is about to discover the walking, talking, smart-ass snowman is in her kitchen after noticing a big wet footprint/puddle on the linoleum.

JACK FROST (1996) has a suspense scene where the babelicious mom (Eileen Seeley) is about to discover the walking, talking, smart-ass snowman is in her kitchen after noticing a big wet footprint/puddle on the linoleum.

EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK:

In BOTH versions of JACK FROST a leaky kitchen sink in babelicious mom's house figures into the plot.

THE SNOWMAN TALKS!

Sample funny dialogue from JACK FROST (1998) - "You the man!" "No, YOU the man!" "No, I'm the SNOW man!" (Jack and his son bonding)

Sample funny dialogue from JACK FROST (1996) - "Hey! I can see your house from here!" (Jack catapulted into the air)

YOU DON'T KNOW JACK:




In BOTH versions of JACK FROST no one seems to find anything unusual or silly about a walking, talking, wise-ass snowman. It's as if this kind of thing happens every day. In the big budget family film version, the son has no problem believing in the talking snowman, but needs to be convinced that it's his musician dad, Jack Frost, reincarnated.

In the B movie horror version, the FBI and Sheriff have no trouble believing that the talking snowman is killing people, or that it's really serial killer Jack Frost reincarnated. The only characters who think a talking snowman is a crazy idea are portrayed as crazy themselves. Both films never try to come up with a rational explanation for why a guy would be reincarnated as a snowman, instead they try (and fail) to create a world where being reincarnated as a snowman is a normal occurrence. (Yeah, that happened to my Uncle Phil... my Uncle Harvey was reincarnated as an invisible rabbit...)

In JACK FROST (1998) the son tells the bully that the talking snowman is his dad, and the bully JUST BELIEVES HIM! Then, for some dumb reason, becomes the son's friend/helper! Huh?

In JACK FROST (1996) a scientist tells the FBI agent that the talking snowman is the serial killer, and the FBI agent JUST BELIEVES HIM! Then, for some dumb reason, the FBI agent and scientist team up to capture the snowman! Huh?

I'M MELTING:

In JACK FROST (1998) Jack's days are numbered because a warm front is moving in, melting the snow on the town's streets. In one scene, the son threatens Jack Frost with a hair dryer... really sick, if you consider it s his reincarnated dad!

In JACK FROST (1996) they filmed someplace where there wasn't any snow on the streets in the first place... but they spread around some white "snow blankets" to make it look like winter. It looks like it's about 80 degrees in most of the scenes. You wonder what effect heat has on Jack Frost. In one scene, the Sheriff threatens Jack Frost with a hair dryer... really confusing if you consider that Jack Frost has the power to turn into water in order to sneak under locked doors, then re-freeze himself into a snowman. If they blast him with hair dryers, why doesn't he just use his re-freezing powers.

JACK IN THE BOX:

In JACK FROST (1998) the son tries to keep Jack from melting by jamming him inside the kitchen freezer... almost caught by mom when she notices the melting ice cubes.

In JACK FROST (1996) Jack gets the drop on some teenagers by jamming himself in the kitchen freezer... then attacking when they look for ice cubes.

JACKING OFF:

In the late JACK FROST (1998) the snowman gets knocked to pieces, and re-assembles himself WRONG! Head in the wrong place, arms in the wrong place, etc. Of course, he makes a wise-ass remark about it.

In the early JACK FROST (1996) the snowman gets knocked to pieces, and re-assembles himself WRONG! Head in the wrong place, arms in the wrong place, etc. Of course, he makes a wise-ass remark: "Look, I'm a Picasso!"

CRUEL SCENES (part 2):




In JACK FROST (1998) in a tender, touching scene, the son slams holes in his reincarnated snowman dad with hockey pucks - about a dozen holes - you can see right through all of them! But Jack scares the hell out of his son by sneaking up behind him and yelling BOOOO! a couple of times as revenge. Jack Frost ties a dog to a sledge and WHIPS IT as if it s a dog team! But still, Frost MELTS in the heat - sizzling across a hot asphalt parking lot... losing many of his precious bodily fluids! And, did I mention the son trying to melt his ass with a hair dryer?

In JACK FROST (1996) they use hair dryers to melt half of Jack's head off, stab him with ice picks, throw him out a window, run over him with a car, and toss him in a furnace. Actually, nothing in the horror movie version holds a candle to the cruel, evil, sick stuff that happens in the family film version!

I ONLY HAVE ICE FOR YOU:

In the later FROST, the son gets his snowman dad into the mountains before he melts. But snowman dad tells the kid that his job on earth is over (I guess he scared the crap out of enough people) and it s time for him to move on. But Jack has seen Spielberg s E.T. in his pre-snowman days, so he tells his son, "If you ever need me, I'll be right here," and touches the kid's heart. Then there s a bunch of special effects and the snowman seems to blow away... up to heaven!

In the early FROST, they kill him by forcing him into a pick-up truck bed filled with anti-freeze. Jack dissolves, his arm falls off, and other fake looking effects happen and the snowman melts away... down to hell!

CONCLUSIONS:

BOTH versions of JACK FROST end with white credits on a black background, with cute little cartoons of snowmen in the margins. I swear - it's the exact same credit sequence! (Only the names were changed to protect the guilty!) Both end title rolls have jokes hidden in the credits, with the family film claiming that "No Snowmen Were Harmed In The Making Of This Film".

Come on! Of the two JACK FROSTs, the family comedy provides more horror and cruelty, while the horror version is actually funnier! The horror version actually has better family values, and more characters with more morals! It s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack!

- Bill



Click here for more info!

Only $5.99

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.

CLICK HERE!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thriller Thursday: Child's Play

CHILD’S PLAY




Season: 1, Episode: 2.
Airdate: 9/20/1960


Director: Arthur Hiller.
Writer: Robert Dozier (THE CARDINAL and the Ryan O’Neal version of Elmore Leonard’s THE BIG BOUNCE.)
Cast: Frank Overton (Dad), Bethel Leslie (Mom), Tommy Nolan (Hank).
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: Bud Thackery.




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Sometimes children become so lost in a world of imagination, they’re unable to find their way back. Then there is only danger before them, sure as my name is Boris Karloff. We’re concerned now with a boy whose imagination brings him to a crisis involving not only himself but also his family. A crisis that begins, but does not end as child’s play. Let me assure you my friends, this is a thriller!”



Synopsis: Kind of a scaled down version of THE SHINING, minus the supernatural elements. An ignored, love starved wife (Bethel Leslie) makes a last ditch attempt to save her family by insisting that her cold, self centered, workaholic husband (Frank Overton) and their completely neglected son Hank (Tommy Nolan) spend three weeks vacation in a remote mountain cabin where they will have no choice but to bond and heal. Great plan, but ahole Dad claims one room as his office and spends the whole time working (he’s a writer, like Jack from THE SHINING) and forbids any disturbance for the entire three weeks (though demands that his wife keep his coffee cup full). So, no healing for the family again this year.

While the wife sulks, the son (who is used to being completely ignored by his parents) spends his day imagining epic adventures outdoors... playing cowboy sheriff chasing an evil desperado named Black Bart. The episode begins in media res with an incident from close to the end of the episode where Hank points a *real* rifle at a terrified fisherman...

But our story opens with Hank playing with a toy six shooter and pretending that a fallen tree near the cabin is a dangerous cliff he must balance on the edge of wile chasing his quarry... as his Mom calls him in for lunch. She comes out and asks him what he’s doing, he explains the perils of falling off the end of a cliff, and she tells him he needs to hurry up and get across or he’ll miss lunch. That’s when Dad comes out, and orders him to come in right this very minute... and Hank falls off the log, screaming all the way down...

This is a great way to show the family dynamics and set up Hanks’s underlying motivations throughout.

Mom pulls Dad aside and explains the reason why Hank is spending this vacation in his imagination is because Dad is completely ignoring him. Dad says he’s very busy, doesn’t have time for this, and Mom suggests he take a break and take Hank hunting this afternoon. Dad says he’s too busy this afternoon... but maybe tomorrow. Which is what he says *every day*. They go in for lunch...



Hank tries to engage his Dad in conversation... but Dad is pretty much a dick. When Mom suggests Dad take Hank hunting this afternoon, Hank gets excited and starts talking about the animal tracks he spotted this afternoon... Then Dad says he’d like to take Hank hunting, but can’t: has too much work. Hank is broken hearted, excuses himself. Dad lashes out at Mom for putting him on the spot like that. An argument begins that will last the rest of the episode.

Hank puts on his toy gun... then sees the real rifles in the gun rack. Grabs one, fills his pockets with shells, and goes out to play.

Most of the rest of the episode focuses on the argument between Dad and Mom, with a few shots of Hank wandering around in the woods with a loaded rifle, chasing “Black Bart”. Dad wants to know why Mom doesn’t punish Hank more often, why she allows him to play let’s pretend instead of dealing with reality. The more Dad says things like this, the more we realize that he’s the reason why Hank is this way. Dad just wants to be left alone for the rest of the vacation so that he can work. Unlike Jack’s novel in THE SHINING, this Dad writes completely accurate technical articles... and has no understanding of imagination. At one point the argument escalates so that Mom admits she has been considering divorce, and this vacation was supposed to get the family back together... which leads Dad to snap back that she hates his job. Hates that he works. Why can’t she just raise the kid and do the housework and leave him alone!



Dad asks Mom why Hank is even here, why didn’t he go to the summer camp he went to last year, so that he’d be out of their hair and Dad could get some work done? Well, it seems that Hank has been kicked out of the summer camp for acting out last year. He tried to play William Tell by shooting an apple off another kid’s head! Dad asks why she didn’t tell him so that he could punish Hank? Mom says that may not have been the best solution to the problem, and Dad says he’s punish Hank when he gets back from playing. This guy is never going to win Dad Of The Year or Husband Of The Year.

Meanwhile, Hank has happened upon a Fisherman (Parley Baer) and aims his rifle at him. Fires a couple of shots when the Fisherman starts towards him. Then they both sit down while Hank figures out what to do next.

Mom and Dad’s blow up leaves Dad alone in his office... finally realizing that his family is disintegrating and maybe he should stop being a major dick. He decides maybe he will go hunting with Hank afterall, goes to grab the guns... and realize that one is missing! Mom and Dad are worried, Dad says he’ll go out and get Hank... and loads up the other rifle. Um, WTF? Dad is going to shoot his son? Mom mentions the rifle may not help the situation, so he reluctantly puts it back on the rifle rack and they go to find Hank together.

Meanwhile, Hank has gotten the Fisherman to put an apple on his head, and the Fisherman is doing everything in his power to talk Hank out of shooting at it. The whole thing ends up about the William Tell trust test thing, and Mom and Dad find Hank in time for Dad to offer to take the Fisherman’s place and put the apple on his own head. Hank shoots it off, and the family hugs each other. Oh, and Dad’s name is *Bart*.



Review: Unlike the first episode which had too much happening for an hour long show, this episode is simple and direct... but suffers one of the same problems that first episode had: basically a drama until the end, when everything happens at once (and it feels rushed). For a show called THRILLER, these two first episode manage to spend 3/4 of the show on the build up (without suspense or thrills) and then try to cram in all of the thrills at the end. Though this show is about a kid trapped in fantasy world running around with a loaded rifle, the majority of the running time is that argument between Mom and Dad. When we get a shot of Hank with the rifle, he’s just walking around. (Though, at one point they have him cross a waterfall which is dangerous.)

It’s more than halfway through the running time when Hank stumbles on the Fisherman... and then they just sit down on the ground while Hank figures what he’s going to do with him. The last ten minutes (of a 50 minute episode) is when we get the William Tell Apple On The Head thing... and it’s only the final 7 minutes where we have Mom and Dad and Hank and the rifle (and the Fisherman, of course) all in the same scene! So, 7 minutes with some thrills in a 50 minute episode! Oh, wait, I forgot to subtract the family hug screentime.

The problem is, instead of focusing on the kid with the loaded rifle wandering around (and eventually holding a man hostage) which is suspenseful, they focus on the husband and wife arguing... which is boring. This argument doesn’t even work as a discussion of baseball statistics while a bomb ticks under the table, because there is no bomb until the last 10 minutes! The suspense stuff is rushed instead of stretched until it becomes unbearable. That’s how suspense works: because it is the anticipation of an event, we want to stretch out that anticipation. So instead of Hank trying to shoot the apple of the Fisherman’s head in the last 10 minutes, that should have been bumped forward. Instead of being in the last quarter of the episode, it should have been either at the halfway point... or maybe at the end of the first quarter. The show should have focused on the suspense of the kid with the gun rather than the bickering parents.

Frank Overton who plays the Dad is all one note ahole, even after they are out searching for Hank together at the end. It’s as if he’s still an ahole, and after this hug he’s gonna paddle the hell out of Hank. The performance needed to better show Dad realizing the errors of his ways and softening, the Overton didn’t do that. Overton was the Sheriff in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD who says “Let the dead bury the dead” at the end and lets Boo Radley off the hook... a compassionate performance. So maybe it was Arthur Hiller’s direction, though Hiller is a damned good director. The Dad character just never changes, when that is kind of the point of the story.



Also, the child actor who plays Hank is *way* too old. He’s a teenager, in a role that seems written for some one younger.

Music by Pete Rugolo is great this time around, lots of primal percussion instruments.

By the way, I really dislike stories that equate an active imagination with being violent and dangerous. Why do writers write stuff like this? There are freakin’ serial killer scripts (and movies) about kids with imagination who take it too far and kill a bunch of people. Um, I have an active imagination and am one of the least dangerous people I know. I kind of suspect those without imaginations are more dangerous, they may lack empathy. I can imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, they can’t. It almost seems like this episode was written by the Dad character at times!

The show will *soon* find its footing and live up to its name (episode 5, ROSE’S LAST SUMMER has some great hints of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, and episode 7, THE PURPLE ROOM, is great stuff!), but these first couple of shows are not the best examples of the show I fell in love with as a kid.

FADE OUT.

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Talent Shortage Part 2: The Revenge

Last Wednesday and today, this 2 part series from 2007!

Lots of response on the last entry, here are some more answers and thoughts.

So many of these bad AFM films were written-produced-directed by the same person, who might have been able to do *one* of those jobs right - but they were not looking to hire anyone else (or even get advice from anyone else).

I was in the lobby for a while yesterday, and talked to a few writers. One had financing from private sources and had written a script... and he was looking for a distrib and a director and someone to physically produce the film. This guy told me every producer or director who has read the script so far had the exact same problems with it... but he was sure he'd find someone who shared his vision.

I think this guy did an amazing thing in finding the money to make a film... but he either needs to fix the script or find someone to rewrite it. He isn't interested in doing either.

So many of the companies at AFM are clones of the company I talked about in a previous entry (about the stunt guys) - and they don't know what is a good script and even if they find one someone at the company rewrites it into crap. They don't have talent and they don't care... and they're in charge.

The main thing at market is still that the middle has fallen out - I was talking to a couple of producers who said the only films that can make a profit are extreme low budgets ($10-15k) and movies made for $2 million with stars working below their rate in the cast... or big stars in big budget movies that the studio will buy.

Oh, and those rare really great films.

The $15k and below movies - writers don't get paid.

The $2 million movies with stars - well, those deals usually begin with someone who has access to a star who will work below below their rate... the guy with access has a script, and no matter how bad that script is, that's the one that gets made.

The studio style films work just like any other studio film... and often they begin with star access. When I talk to these guys, the thing I hear over and over again is - who is attached?

One of the producers I talked with is a guy I know who made a $100k film that distribs are offering him the kind of money on that only makes sense if the film had cost $15k. He found his script on Craig's List (why even look there?) and I read it. The script had lots and lots of problems, not the least of which was that it could not be made on $100k. I gave him notes and told him he needed to create a small role and hire a name to play it. He passed my notes on to the writer... who ignored them. The problem is, the producer didn't have any money in his budget to pay the writer for rewrites or hire another writer... and the writer didn't want to lift a finger to improve his script. So it was filmed as is, without the role written for a name, and now it's a crappy film without even a single name in the cast. Hard to sell one of those.

Now, my first question is why not start with a good script? But obviously there aren't enough out there. Well, not enough out there that this guy could afford. But why not wait until you find a good script before making the film? Why just grab the first script that comes along? I would really worry if there wasn't a better script than this one... even on Craig's List.

Those middle movies that start with a script - very few of those are made these days. The focus is so much on the stars, that the scripts are an afterthought. Big mistake! When you're cruising the aisles at Blockbuster and you see some new movie you've never heard of with some big name star - that may be one of these suckfests.

I had 2 films come out on DVD this year, and both ended up completely screwed up because there isn't enough talent (or people who care) in the other creative departments. What pissed me off most is that in one case they had a script that everyone thought was really good... so they changed it. People who didn't know anything about screenwriting made changes that turned it into crap. But these people were in charge - they paid me - so they must know more than me, right? Okay... this is headed into sour grapes territory, so I'm going to get back on topic: There is a big talent shortage - and even if they buy a good script, it doesn't end up good by the time it hits the screen.

For me the frustrating part is that we could have better movies, producers could make more money, and good writing could be rewarded... if they just put quality first. The guy with the great star connection and the not-so-great script? You know, maybe it would be a better film with someone else's script? The guy with the great money connection and the not-so-great script? Wouldn't the investors be more happy with him if he found a great script that would bring a greater financial return? Shouldn't the focus be on making a good film?

Maybe the stars and producers and directors should learn the difference between a good script and a script that makes *them* look good? You know, they would make more money in the long run, and actually look better in the long run. You have to put the film first.

Look, if someone offered me a bus-load of money to write a rom-com, I'm not going to take it. I'm the wrong writer for that job. I know my limitations. This project would be better off with some other writer.

I think the quality of the project has to come before ego. Has to come before everything... or we'll just end up with more bad films.

NOT MY JOB



I think this is the real problem: no one wants to do their job. Agents don't want to search for new talent, so they only read scripts that are referred to them. Producers don't want to search for scripts, they want agents to find them... and they would rather someone just hand them a script that already has Tom Cruise attached - saves them finding a star.

The result of all of this are films like BATTLEFIELD EARTH - John Travolta attached to a script, and he'll work for below his quote.

And speaking of Tom Cruise, I haven't seen LIONS FOR LAMBS, but it's not getting good reviews. The reason why it got made? Well, Tom Cruise's company and Redford's company wanted to make it.

Problem is - I don't see a major change in the way business is done any time in the future. Writers are the least important part of the equasion. So many companies at AFM believe that a script is a script. If they want to make good movies, movies with a shelf life, they need to start with a good script... then make sure every other element in the film is good.

This may happen because of the policy shift at Blockbuster - starting in January they are remodeling stores to focus on DVD sales instead of rentals. You may rent a DVD because of good box art, but you aren't going to spend $25 to *buy* a DVD unless it's a movie that you plan on seeing more than once - and that means it has to be a good movie... and good movies start wih good scripts.

Of course, this shake up will take *years* for producers to figure out. If they ever do.

- Bill

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Trailer Tuesday:
THE SILENT PARTNER

THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)

Director: Daryl Duke
Writers: Curtis Hanson (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL)
Starring: Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, John Candy.






It’s no secret that thrillers are my favorite genre, and I saw this Canadian gem when it was first released back in 1978. I have no idea if some critic called it Hitchcockian or not, but it has that STRANGERS ON A TRAIN vibe where two strangers become connected by crime. It also takes place during the Holiday Season with a background of Mall Santas and Holiday Parties and the Christmas Rush at stores... and a Santa with a gun.

Shy, chess playing Miles (Elliott Gould) is the head bank teller at a mall branch. He is approaching middle age, and this is the best it is ever going to get for him. He has a crush on the woman who is in charge of safety deposit boxes, Julie (Susannah York), but she’s having an affair with the married bank manager. He has a dead end life, and part of that is not being very assertive.

During the busy Christmas season, Miles is in charge of all of the Merchant deposits from the mall... all of the money people spend on gifts and clothes and meals comes to *his* window. Tens of thousands of dollars in *cash* every day. The bank manager trusts him with the money, but won’t recommend him for a promotion.

Miles discovers a deposit slip with a hold up note written on it in block letters... but with a distinctive “G”. Someone was planning on robbing the bank, then decided not to. Later he notices that one of the Mall Santas has a sign asking for donations to the poor... hand lettered with the same distinctive “G”. That is the robber! The next day, Miles puts all of the big cash deposits in his lunch box instead of the cash drawer... and when that Mall Santa comes in and hands him the stick up note, Miles gives him all of the money in the drawer, then triggers the alarm... and puts his lunch box full of cash in his briefcase. The old Security Guard gets into a shoot out with the Mall Santa, but he gets away....



Everybody run! Santa's gotta gun!

Miles is interviewed on TV, they say his name... and also the amount stolen (which is much much more than the Mall Santa ended up with). So the Mall Santa calls Miles, tells them that they are *partners* in this robbery, and if he knows what is good for him he will share the money. This begins a great cat and mouse game between Miles and the vicious bank robber (Christopher Plummer) where each tries to outsmart the other without being caught by the police. The background is the holidays, and Miles ends up taking Julie to the Bank Manager’s Christmas Party so that the Bank Manager’s wife won’t figure out he’s cheating. This leads to Julie confiding that she is facing the same dead end as Miles... and they two hook up. While the Bank Robber makes Miles’ life hell in the background. Miles has to figure out some way to outsmart the Robber, without screwing up his new relationship with Julie. And it’s much more complicated than that! (a character gets their head cut off, Miles loses the money, all sorts of fun things happen!)



John Candy plays another teller who hooks up with the hottest woman in the film (the new teller hired as Christmas Help). This is a great thriller, edge of your seat suspense, and does an amazing job of quietly setting up later complications (the new bank’s vault will be surrounded by a massive underground wall of cement is mentioned in passing, and pays off much later!). A great little movie, and written by some guy named Curtis Hanson (who would later win an Oscar for L.A. CONFIDENTIAL). I love this movie so much that I tracked down the Danish novel it’s based on (“Think Of A Number”, found it in a mystery book store in London) and read it. The book ends differently (in the film Miles and Julia talk about running away from the city to some tropical paradise and starting over again... and that’s what happens in the book and that is where the Bank Robber finds them), but the story is basically the same and the book also takes place at Christmas Time.

Check this film out if you haven’t seen it!

Bill


bluebook

Great The Holidays!

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

A look at 18 of Hitchcock's films with radical cinema or story experiments. ROPE, REAR WINDOW, LIFEBOAT, CHAMPAGNE, BON VOYAGE and more!

Only $5.99 - and no postage!


Thursday, December 13, 2018

THRILLER Thursday: The Man In The Middle

Man In The Middle

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



Director: Fletcher Markle
Writer: Howard Rodman from the novel by Charlotte Armstrong.
Cast: Mort Sahl, Sue Randall, Frank Alberson, Werner Klemperer, Burt Remsen.
Music: Pete Rugolo
Cinematography: John L. Russell.
Producer: Fletcher Markle




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “The departing eves dropper is Sam Lynch, the conversation he has just overheard will change his life abruptly. It may even finish it. These two men, Mr. Clark (so called, he hasn’t used his real name in years), his good friend Mr. Baby Hoffman, take their work quite seriously. As you would have overheard, their current enterprise concerns the kidnaping and murder of a very beautiful Miss Kay Salisbury. Mr. Clark and Mr. Hoffman know that Mr. Lynch has overheard them. And Mr. Lynch knows that they know that he knows. Mr. Lynch also knows that if he talks, no one would believe him no one would believe him and he would be murdered. But if he doesn’t talk, Miss Salzbury will be murdered. This is the predicament of The Man In The Middle. That’s the name of our story based on a prize winning novel by Charlotte Armstrong. Our principle players are: Mr. Mort Sahl, Miss Sue Randall, Mr. Frank Alberston, and Mr. Werner Klemperer. As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, eves dropping can be very dangerous. You will agree fervently, as you enjoy this... Thriller.”

Synopsis: Sam Lynch (Mort Sahl) is having a beer in a booth in the back of his regular bar when he overhears a conversation from the next booth... two men plotting to kidnap a young society woman named Kay Salisbury just before her wedding and hold her for ransom... but kill her after they get the money. The two men are Mr. Clark (Werner Klemperer from HOGAN’S HEROES) and Baby Hoffman (Julian Burton), career criminals. Sam doesn’t know what to do... and that’s when Clark spots him listening in a mirror on the bar’s wall. He is confronted by the two men, says he didn’t hear anything... but they don’t believe him. Sam sits at the bar, knowing the two will listen to *his* conversation with the Bartender, and tells a heck of a long story about the time he saw a dog on the freeway and wanted to save it, but realized *he’d* get hit by a car in the process and it made more sense to just let the dog die. It wasn’t his dog, why should he care? When Sam gets up to leave, he bumps into another bar patron who hits him up for some drink money (to show Sam is a good guy after that speech).



Sam goes to his job as a TV writer... doesn’t realize that Clark and Hoffman are following him. In the writer’s room everyone is trying to write a skit, and Sam pitched a skit that is *exactly* what just happened to him in the bar. In minute and boring detail. The other writers don’t like it, and instead of Sam explaining what just happened to him, he gets all defensive and leaves... And Clark and Hoffman follow him again.

In Sam’s apartment, there’s a knock at his door: Clark and Hoffman! Clark watches as Hoffman beats the crap out of Sam as a warning to keep his mouth shut. If the police become involved, they will kill him.

Sam goes to warn Kay Salisbury’s father that she is in danger. In the elegant entry hall he bumps into Kay (Sue Randall) who is a sheltered young woman, and cute. When Sam gets his audience with millionaire Charles Salisbury (Frank Alberson) and Kay’s lawyer fiancĂ© (who is just a raging ahole), they mistake his warnings that Kay is in danger for some sort of shake down and refuse to pay him. Now, instead of just explaining the situation, Sam decides it’s time for one of his rambling monologues... this time about pacifists during the war. I’m sure it’s making some point, but neither I nor Mr. Salisbury got it... and still think Sam’s trying to get money from him based on some vague threat of danger that Kay might be in. When Salisbury agrees to cut him a check for his time, Sam storms out... without ever explaining the situation.



Sam bumps into Kay near his car, tries to warn her that she’s in danger but comes off sounding completely crazy. Then he notices Hoffman talking with the Maid at the servants entrance, and points him out to Kay. Kay says that’s the Maid’s boyfriend, nothing to worry about. Sam could explain that Hoffman is really a kidnaper, but it just seems easier for him to kidnap Kay himself and drive off with her unconscious in his car. That way she’ll be safe, right?

At Sam’s mountain cabin, he tries to calm Kay... but again doesn’t think that just telling her what is going on is a good idea. So she thinks he’s a kidnapper.

Meanwhile, Hoffman tells Clark that Kay has vanished unexpectedly, and the family has not called the police. They decide to call Mr. Salisbury and go through with their ransom demands even though they don’t have Kay.

Salisbury rounds up $80k of the $100k ransom and can’t get any more. When the kidnapers call, he says all he can get is the $80k and they reluctantly agree to accept $20k less than they asked. They give Salisbury directions for the drop and say they’ll release Kay 12 hours after they have the money. Salisbury delivers the money, gets knocked out by Hoffman, and makes it home when he comes to.



Meanwhile, Sam is pacing in the cabin and talking to himself as Kay listens. More boring monologue stuff. He decides to lock Kay in the cabin and go to a payphone to call Mr. Salisbury so that he won’t worry about his daughter. Except Salisbury misunderstands and thinks that Sam is the kidnapper and hasn’t released Kay because of the $20k. Now, all Sam would have to do is tell the truth at this point, but instead he decides to get offended and mention Clark and Hoffman’s names before he hangs up.

Sam calls the bar, asks to talk to that guy he gave some money to in the first scene and asks him to find Clark and Hoffman and tell them that he wants to deal with them, as long as they don’t kill Kay (or Sam). That guy says “sure” and Sam says they can meet in some other bar later. Who knows what Kay is doing all of this time.

Sam is sitting in the bar waiting for the guy he called, who is late. When the guy finally staggers in, Sam gives a speech about being drunk (because there’s always time for that) and then the guy says Hoffman *shot* him and he’s dying and Clark says: no deal, Sam & Kay both get killed. Then he dies. At no time does Sam ever think to himself that if he hadn’t have done that long speech about getting drunk the guy might have lived long enough for an ambulance to arrive. Nope.

Sam leaves the dead guy in the bar booth and goes to a pawn shop and buys a gun. Where we get a conversation about the price of an illegal gun in this city.

Meanwhile, Salisbury has called the police, and the police have rounded up Clark, who has an alibi for the time of the ransom drop... so the police let him go. But follow him.



At the cabin, Sam gives Kay his car keys and tells her to drive home. She wants to know what is going on, and instead of just explain, he argues with her or a while (which is mostly another one of his speeches). Eventually she takes the car keys and drives off, and Sam finds the best place to hide the gun in the cabin so that it will be easy to get to when he needs it.

Kay drives down the road... passing Clark and Hoffman who are headed to the cabin (I don’t know how they knew where it was) and Hoffman sees her and they turn around and chase after her. There’s a short car chase, they run Kay off the road, she escapes on foot and Hoffman chases after her while Clark drives to the cabin to deal with Sam.

Clark shows up at the cabin, and Sam tries to put him to sleep with another speech, and when that doesn’t work he pulls his hidden gun and aims it at Clark... which is when the door opens and Hoffman and Kay come in. When the shoot9ing starts, Kay dives for cover. Sam kills both Clark and Hoffman, and gets a flesh wound in the process. Because a TV writer who has never used a gun before is a better shot than two career criminals. The police show up, and it looks like Kay and Sam might hook up. The end.



Review: Where do I begin? This episode has a great concept, in fact... I seem to have accidentally ripped it off for a short story called “Rear Booth” that is coming soon. I”m sure I saw this decades ago and the only thing I could remember was overhearing the bad guys conversation... and my memory of that combined with “Rear Window” sparked *my* story idea (which is not the same as this story). But with this great concept, the story misfires again and again. There is no suspense, and way too much speechifying. I have no idea what Sam’s job was in the book, but I’ll bet it was not a TV writer. That just seemed like incestuous writing. The story manages to keep Sam and Clark on different story tracks most of the time, too. Oh, and the idiot plotting where Sam would rather get frustrated and walk away than just explain what is going on.

Mort Sahl (who is still with us) was the biggest comedian of the time, and they must have been incredibly happy to get him... and maybe they shouldn’t have been. Sahl was a low key political comedian who didn’t rely on punchlines, and had a vocal delivery that kind of reminds me of Norm MacDonald. Kind of a monotone with a little bite. All of that works great on a comedy stage, but doesn’t work at all in a dramatic role. He plays this whole thing in a sad sack monotone with almost no emotions. He’s too low key for these situations, and I wonder if they wrote all of those speeches because Sahl’s comedy routine was basically telling a long story about something from the headlines. He just sinks this episode.

And Colonel Klink also gives a very subdued performance, playing the brainiac crime planner who never gets emotional. So we have both protagonist and antagonist speaking in a monotone!

I suspect that the ahole fiancé was in on the kidnaping in the book, otherwise there would be no reason for his character to exist.

Director Markle was one of the staff producers on the show, and this was his last episode... and the only one he directed. He was responsible for many of the episodes up until this point that I didn’t think worked.

What could have been an interesting thriller ends up not working, due to a misfire script and bland direction and a terrible performance by Mort Sahl (admittedly out of his element). But next week we get a weird tales story about glasses that allow you to see... well, THEY LIVE may owe something to this episode.

Bill

Buy The DVD!
eXTReMe Tracker