Thursday, March 29, 2018

THRILLER Thursday: Parasite Mansion

Best Of THRILLER: Parasite Mansion.

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



Season: 1, Episode: 30.
Airdate: April 25, 1961

Director: Herschel Daugherty
Writer: Donald Sanford, based on a story by Mary Elizabeth Counselman.
Cast: Jeanette Nolan, Pippa Scott, James Griffith, Tommy Nolan and Beverly Washburn.
Music: Morton Stevens
Cinematography: John Russell
Producer: William Frye



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Hospitality. Good old Southern hospitality. That’s what I like about the South. This is a room in Parasite Mansion, the name of our story tonight and the home of the Harrads. A fanily plagued for generations with a horrible curse. Parasite Mansion is a terrible place to visit, but obviously an excellent place in which to die. Featured in our story tonight are Jeannette Nolan, James Griffith, Beverly Washburn, Tommy Nolan, and Pippa Scott. One of these poor unfortunates is doomed to die before your eyes. Oh, oh! Don’t try to guess, you might be right and spoil all the fun.”

Synopsis: A stormy night somewhere in the backwoods of Louisiana. Marcia Hunter (Pippa Scott) takes a wrong turn after encountering a detour when the main highway is closed for construction... and sees a rambling old house through the pouring rain. Maybe an old plantation house. She drives towards it... and someone begins shooting at her! Marcia spins the steering wheel, hits a tree and crashes her car... hitting her head against the steering wheel and blacking out.

From the house, Victor Harrod (James Griffith) and Granny (Jeannette Nolan) brave the rain to investigate. Victor says they need to keep that rifle out of Rennie’s hands, he keeps doing stuff like this.



Marcia wakes up in an ancient bed in the old house... wearing only her underwear. What happened? Just as she works up the nerve to get out of bed and get her clothes on the other side of the room, perpetually drunk Victor and Granny enter the room and she gets back under the covers. Marcia wants to leave, Victor says that’s not possible. No phone to call for help (nearest phone is ten miles as the crow flies through the swamp), and it’s going to take a couple of days for Victor to fix her car so that it runs. Plus, she needs her rest, Victor had to put five stitches in her head. Marcia says, so you’re a doctor? Victor answers, “Not a doctor. We gotta learn to do our own doctoring out here.” Marcia pleads to leave: she was headed home to her parent’s in Shreveport... but Granny has gone through her purse, and read her mail, and knows that she’s actually headed to New Orleans to meet a man. They have completely violated her privacy. Victor tells her to just get her rest and they leave.

Marcia waits until night, puts on her clothes, and sneaks out... noticing a door at the top of the stairs with a massive padlock (what could be inside there that they need to lock it in?) on her way down to the front door... but once outside, Rennie (Tommy Nolan) starts shooting at her! Yelling that “She’s one those folks who took ma!” Victor wrestles the gun away from Rennie and Granny grabs her, “You can’t leave here alive!”



Marcia wakes up in the bed again. She tells Victor she doesn’t blame Rennie, she understands that the authorities came and took his mother to an asylum and he’s afraid he’ll be taken as well. Granny comes in with food, mentions the house’s dark secrets. “The Dark Fear”. When they leave, Victor locks Marcia in the room.

Marcia tries to find a way out... the windows are boarded up, door locked... but she notices a door frame behind the wardrobe. Pulling the wardrobe back (no shortage of cobwebs) she opens the door... into more webs and darkness. Grabbing the lantern, she finds a staircase and climbs up to a room... where a frightened teenaged girl Lolly (Beverly Washburn) is hidden. Lolly’s room is behind that padlocked door upstairs. Weird drawings on the walls of the room. Lolly says “You’re here to take me away!” Marcia calms her, says she’s a friend, offers Lolly her broach... and suddenly the broach levitates and flies across the room on its own! Lolly screams, her arm has suddenly begun bleeding. Granny is at the doorway, says now you’ve seen the whole family, time to go back to your room.



Back in the room, Granny asks if he has any last requests? Marcia tries to bribe Granny with her engagement ring, Granny says she’ll get that one way or the other anyway...

Downstairs Victor wants to let her leave, Granny says “She saw!” Now she can never leave. Victor tells her they will *all* have dinner in the dining room tonight. Marcia and Lolly and Rennie.

Marcia finds the door unlocked, goes downstairs, tells Victor that what Lolly has is stigmata, and he has read about it. Victor says he has, too... shows her a wall of books on stigmata. None of them have the answers. “We’re afraid of *it*: the thing that threw your broach, the thing that scratched Lolly.” For the past couple of generations the Harrod family has been cursed by *it*. Do you know what a poltergeist is? “An invisible parasite that attaches to people... it has attached itself to every woman in the Harrod family for the past three generations. Granny says you get used to it, like lice and other crawling things.



A tense dinner. Marcia notices that there is an extra place setting at the table. That’s for the poltergeist, she’s told. Wham! Lolly’s cup jumps off the table and begins striking the little girl in the head again and again! Granny laughs. The cup beats Lolly’s face and she begins bleeding... she runs away! Everyone is scared except Granny. Marcia says poltergeist or not, she’s going to destroy it and get the hell out of here!

When Marcia goes back to her room, Granny tells Victor they have to kill her. If she messes with the poltergeist, it’s just going to take it out on the whole family. They can kill her, put her in her car, and dump it in the swamp.

Marcia sleeps as the secret door opens and Rennie comes into the room with a knife. He creeps to the side of her bed and gets ready to stab her... but can’t. Granny whispers “Kill her! Kill her!” from the secret doorway. Granny takes the knife from Rennie to kill Marcia herself. Marcia wakes up, fights Granny for the knife, knocks it out of her hands... but Granny makes the knife levitate! The knife zips across the room into Granny’s hand! *Granny* is telekenetic! The family curse began when Granny married into the family and moved into the house. Granny has made everyone think that it’s a poltergeist haunting the Harrod women, when it was her all along! Victor comes in, hears all of this, wrestles with Granny... but Granny is more powerful! Except they have knocked over the oil lamp, and it ignites Granny’s dress, setting her on fire! She runs out of the house in flames and dies in a burning heap in the swamp.

Marcia asks Victor if their poltergeist ever acted up when Granny wasn’t around? The poltergeist is gone, the family curse is lifted... it was Granny.



Review: Nice creepy entry. They must have used a ton of cobwebs to dress this set! The cobwebs on the secret door are particularly cool because they stretch when the wardrobe is pulled away from the door. Though this was made before wires could be digitally removed, the effects are really good! You can’t see the wires at all, and the cup and broach and knife move convincingly.

One of the great things is how the story evolves. At first we think the “curse” is insanity, then it’s a poltergeist phenomena in teenage Lolly, and it finally becomes evil Granny who is secretly causing all of this dark fear in the family so that she can control them. It is a house of secrets, and when one secret is revealed it just creates another. The mysteries drive the story, with Marcia thinking that family insanity is the secret only to discover Lolly locked away, only to discover the poltergeist activity. But even that isn’t the secret, and she keeps digging until she finds out. Just when you think you know what’s going on, another secret door opens and you realize you are still in the dark.

I really wanted to read this story before writing this entry due to Granny’s line about the lice and crawly things, which are parasites like the poltergeist. I was wondering if there was more about that in the story... but the book is out of print, and my local library branch didn’t have a copy. They could get it for me, but not by “press time”... so I will have the answer to that whenever all of these entries add up to an ebook.



I know that this was one of Stephen King’s favorite TV shows, and since one of the elements of this episode is a teenage girl who seems to have telekinetic powers which includes knives shooting across a room, I wonder if this was an inspiration for his novel CARRIE?

The spooky old mansion will return in a few episode in Stephen King’s favorite episode, PIGEONS FROM HELL... but next week we have a fun episode starring Edward Andrews who did three episodes of THRILLER and specialized in whimsical malevolence. You know his face from every TV show ever made plus movies like GREMLINS. He is the adult image of mischief!

Bill

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Movie Lines

From A Decade Ago....

Every Friday night I go to the movies with the same guys - we’ve been going to the movies together for years. Some weekends there may be 3 or 4 movies opening, but only one real choice - so that’s what we see. But some weekends there is a big discussion of what we should see over dinner - and it’s like a movie debate. Kind of Siskel & Ebert, but based entirely on the trailers and poster and cast and director and writer - we haven’t seen the film, so we argue about the elements that went into making it and any clues from the trailer on how it turned out.

The trailer for a comedy with only a couple of good jokes loses - if that’s the best they have, why pay $11 to see the jokes that weren’t funny enough for the trailer? Action movies and thrillers can be the same - if the action scenes in the trailer look lame, imagine how bad the ones in the film are? And sometimes you see a trailer a half dozen times and still have absolutely no idea what the film is about - hey, if *they* can’t figure out what their film is about, how can they expect me to figure it out?

Sometimes it comes down to actors. As a group of guys we have discovered that any film with Jessicas Alba or Biel is an instant “yes”. It could be an awful movie like CHUCK AND LARRY or INTO THE BLUE, but we’ll watch it. Sometimes you will see a movie you know is probably going to be bad because there’s someone in it who gives a great performance every time - which explains why I’ve seen almost everything Sam Jackson has ever made. But you have to convince me to see a Nic Cage movie. But some of the Friday Night Guys like Cage - and we debate other elements of the movies.

By the time we get into the line at the cinema, we know what we are going to see. We know what time the show starts, and we are prepared to buy our tickets. Because we may all be in different lines, there is often a kind of race to see who can get their tickets first. I use cash, some of the others use credit cards and the automated machines. If it’s AMC, I have a frequent viewers card and get free stuff sometimes. I have thousands of points, and go to the cinema often enough to snag free tickets or popcorn or drinks. I also have a card at the Arclight, which I go to less frequently. But by the time I’m next in line I am ready with movie title, time, cash, and card.

Which puts me either in the minority or in a slim majority. Maybe it’s just my luck - which is usually bad. But the people in front of me usually don’t have their money ready - and spend all kinds of time digging through their purse or wallet... and then they don’t have their card handy... and then they want to pay with coins that are also at the bottom of the purse or pocket... and then they don’t know the time their movie is starting (and there’s a 7:30 show and an 8:00 show, and they buy a ticket, then realize they wanted the other one)...

And more and more often I’m behind a gaggle of teens who don’t know what they want to see, and don’t discuss and debate, until they get to the front of the line. They could have figured it out before getting in line, but that never occurs to them. The strange part of this as a movie consumer - an something that is critical doe us to understand as screenwriters - is that these kids are *going to the movies* but not going to a specific movie. Sure, they will decide what movie they want to see eventually (please not at the front of the line while the rest of us are waiting and waiting and waiting behind them) and they will use the same criteria that my group of Friday night guys do - trailers, story concept, cast, poster... okay, maybe not the Jessicas part - but they are going to the movies more for social reasons than to see a movie. They are there every Friday night (holding up the line) to see some movie... any movie. They are the true movie consumers. They aren’t there because they can’t wait to see MAX PAYNE, they are there because they are there every Friday night with their group of friends to see *something* - to be decided later... when they get to the front of the line.

So when you wonder why they don’t make more movies targeting (fill in the blank - women over 40, men over 40 (that’s me), Asians, Lesbians, Lebanese-Americans, Liberals, Conservatives, Nudists, Albinos, People In Wheelchairs, Pleasantly Plump Americans, men over 70, women over 70, Lebanese-Americans over 70, etc) - the reason is that those groups don’t just show up at the cinema on Friday night to see a movie - whether there is something they want to see or not. My guess is that if every Friday night for 3 weeks there were 3 new movies and all of them were about Lebanese-Americans Over 70, those danged kids would still be at the front of the line every week trying to decide which movie to see.... then texting their friends about how much it sucked from inside the cinema - their cell phones giving off more light than that Jamie Faar movie on screen. They are regular movie goers, and the other subgroups are not.

But can we get them to figure out what they want to see *before* they get in line? And can we teach these new generations to think about people other than themselves (like me, standing behind them with my money in hand - exact change sometimes, decisions made, card ready, prepared to buy a ticket (that is what the line is for) and not talking on my cell phone or texting or doing anything else that will distract me or in any way slow down the purchasing of the ticket so that the other people can get to their movies on time and not have to sit in the very front or very back rows)? “Be considerate of others, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” as my mom would say. It takes the same amount of time to decide at the front of the line or not in line - so why not do it the way that doesn’t get in the way of others? What’s the matter with kids today? Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?

Standing in line... bitching at the hands that feed me.

- Bill

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thriller Thursday: The Twisted Image



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



THE TWISTED IMAGE


Season: 1, Episode: 1.
Airdate: 9/13/1960


Director: Arthur Hiller
Writer: James P. Cavanagh, based on a novel by William O’Farrell.
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, George Grizzard, Natalie Trundy, Dianne Foster.
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon.


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Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Her eyes. They were often upon him. Candid, admiring, possessive. Her eyes. Her extraordinary eyes. Alan Patterson was aware of her eyes. And used to them. In the lunch counter. In the elevator. He was aware of them for almost a month. And they were to lead him into guilt and terror and murder... as sure as my name is Boris Karloff. Our story is about a watcher, and the watched... and a not so innocent bystander. There’s an outsider, too: Alan’s wife. Four pairs of anxious eyes. But no one could see the shattering effect of... the Twisted Image. Well, I’ll say no more, but I promise you one thing: this is a thriller!”

Synopsis: Successful executive Alan Patterson (Leslie Nielsen) has a pair of stalkers: Lilly (Natalie Trundy), an attractive female employee who has some crazy fatal attraction crush on him... and will do anything to ruin his marriage so that she can become his next wife; and Merl (George Grizzard), an envious mail room employee at the company who wants to take over Alan’s life... once Alan is out of the way, of course. So we have a hybrid of FATAL ATTRACTION and SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, decades before either of those movies were made.

Lilly shows up at Alan’s office at lunchtime, and insists he take her to lunch. His secretary sees them together, and assumes... and when they go to lunch, another business associate sees them together and assumes... But during the lunch, Alan is a bit freaked out by Lilly: she flat out says she’s going to marry him. When he says he is already married and has a kid, she is not deterred at all. She’s crazy! She calls him at home and leaves odd messages with his wife... who thinks he may be cheating.

When Alan has lunch with Lilly to tell her to just leave him alone, she *loudly* professes her love for him in the company lunch room... and is overheard by Merl, who now has some leverage against the boss he love/hates. It’s hinted at that Merl is Gay and also has a strange crush on Alan... he’s very similar to Bruno in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in some respects. When delivering the mail, Merl steals Alan’s watch from his office.

The more Alan tells Lilly to leave him alone, the more she calls his home and office. His marriage is eroding, his wife (Dianne Foster) is sure that he is cheating on her with Lilly. His life is falling apart!

One night Merl seeks out “Alan’s mistress” Lilly, telling her he has a message from Alan. Merl has a cheap bottle of wine and soon we have *two* drunk mentally unstable people in Lilly’s apartment... both in love with the same man. When Merl puts the moves on Lilly, trying to live out his Alan fantasy, she pushes him away... and he kills her. Oops!

That’s when Alan knocks on the door to demand that Lilly leave him the hell alone. Oops!

But Merl knocks him unconscious, steals his wallet, and wipes away all of his own finger prints... making it appear as if Alan killed Lilly. When wakes up and finds the dead body of the woman who everyone thinks is his mistress, Alan leaves Lilly’s apartment, and he’s seen by the building manager... who then discovers her dead body. Now Alan has to find the real killer before the police catch him.

Merl goes out on the town, using Alan’s money and Alan’s identification.

Alan’s wife goes to have it out with Lilly... arriving just in time to see the police take her out in a body bag. Did Alan murder his mistress?

Alan decides Merl is #1 suspect, goes to his apartment... but Merl isn’t there. When Merl does come back, he sees Alan’s car on the street, and steals it... becoming more like Alan every minute. Wearing his watch, driving his car, dressed to look like him. The transformation is almost complete! But to actually *become* Ala,, Merl goes to Alan’s house and accosts Alan’s wife... *his* wife, now. Then takes Alan’s cute little kid! And holds a gun to her head! Now Alan must race home to save his wife and kid from the maniac pretending to be him.

Review: For the amount of talent involved and the number of great episodes this series would have, not an amazing first episode. Though you might only know Leslie Nielsen from comedies, he began as a serious dramatic actor... and that’s why he was perfect in movies like AIRPLANE! The audience expected him to be serious... as he is in this episode.

You may not be familiar with George Grizzard, but he was a hot actor at the time, cutting his teeth on TV before moving on to films (one of my favorite cop movies you’ve never heard of WARNING SHOT) like ADVISE AND CONSENT... but you would probably recognize the older version of him as the stern father of the bride in BACHELOR PARTY and the old version of Ryan Philippe in FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. So we have a great cast.

Director Arthur Hiller was a TV veteran at the time, who would go on to direct huge Hollywood hits like LOVE STORY as well as great films like THE HOSPITAL and MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH... and comedies like the original THE IN LAWS.

Writer James P. Cavanaugh was a writer for Hitchcock Presents, and many other TV crime shows. So we have all of this talent, and the episode is kind of a muddled mess.

Novelist William O'Farrell was probably famous at the time for his novel REPEAT PERFORMANCE, which is kind of GROUNDHOG DAY as a thriller, about a man who must relive the year he commits murder over and over again.

I suspect the reason is that this hour long episode is based on a novel... and what might work over the course of a novel might not work well when condensed into an hour of TV. The two stalkers thing seems unrealistic; this isn’t a movie star, it’s a business executive! In order to flesh out each character we spend some extra screen time on scenes like Merl and his sister having a dispute... which was probably a fine scene in the novel, but here it seems to come out of left field and slow down the story. And compressing all of the things that happen into a couple of days makes it seem like Alan has the worst luck in the world. When the two stalkers come together, that just seems like a huge coincidence. So we have a story that probably worked well in book form condensed into too little time... and all of the things that could be either set up or glossed over in the book now seem abrupt. The story also ends up “too plotty”, so much going on that we don’t get enough time to really see the emotional impact on Alan. Things like Merl transforming himself into Alan are rushed, and often end up more exposition than demonstration. Adding to this is that the thriller aspects don't kick in until the last quarter of the show. Too much going on!

The music for this episode is basically variations on the THRILLER theme, which makes it seem a little cheap. The same composer will do *great* work on later episodes, like PAPA BENJAMIN (about a big band leader, which Rugalo was before doing TV scores) who must deal with a voodoo curse.

Despite all of this, it’s a competent episode... it just probably should have been a two parter or something. The acting and direction is fine, and the idea that an insignificant person in your life could turn your world upside down like this is scary. I almost wish they had split the story into two stories, one with the crazy FATAL ATTRACTION woman at the office and the other with the SINGLE WHITE FEMALE stalker who transforms themself into a clone of you... an unstable, violent, murderous clone. That way each idea could have been fully explored, and more time spent on the suspense of the situation. One of the reason why I loved this show as a kid were the episodes that take a simple situation and ramp up the suspense until it is unbearable. When we come to GUILLOTINE, you’ll see a great example of that: will a poisoned executioner make it to work today? This isn’t a bad episode... but it doesn’t display the brilliance this show will achieve in later episodes.

FADE OUT.

Bill

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

DVD Extras & Fletch

From way back in 2007...

I love movies, have seen a pile of them, and often read up on my favorite films to learn some of the cool stuff about how they were made.

Recently they released a new set of Film Noir flicks, including THE BIG STEAL, and the LA Times did a blurb about the set... but they neglected to mention what I thought was the most fascinating bit of background on that film. The reason why that film was made was to spring Robert Mitchum from jail. Mitchum had been busted for smoking pot (something he did regularly) and was serving time in county lock up... not in the Paris Hilton section, he was in general pop. There were photos of him behind bars, both in his cell and on a work detail. So the studio came up with this scheme to get his sentence reduced - they created a film starring Mitchum and put it into production. After shooting a chunk of the film without Mitchum, they went to a judge and claimed the film would crash and burn, costing the studio a bunch of money, unless Mitchum was available to work. Hey, Los Angeles is an industry town, and by this point they had shot everything they could without the star... so the decision was made to cut Mitchum’s sentence so they could finish the film. And if you watch the film closely, you can see how Mitchum’s footage was often shot during a different season than the other stuff - winter in some shots and spring in others.

Anyway, because I love stuff like this, one of the things I enjoy about DVDs are the extras. On VHS you just got the movie, on DVD you get all kinds of fun stuff. There’s a great extra on ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST that goes to all of the film’s locations *today* and shows you what they look like. There is also a huge doc on the composer, Ennio Morricone (the reasoon why we have Morricone as a film composer is because he and Leone were childhood friends, and Leone asked his friend to write music for his movies)... plus the usual behind the scenes and interviews and tons of bonus material. I love to watch deleted footage - though usually you can see why those scenes were cut. I love all of this stuff.

FLETCH


So, on my recent DVD binge, I bought a bunch of stuff including a new special edition of FLETCH that promised all kinds of fresh bonus materials.

Okay, some background...

I love mystery and crime fiction. Back in the 70s, I was looking at the new crime fiction on the shelves of some bookstore (probably B Daltons) and stumbled on this new book called FLETCH by Greg MacDonald with a blurb from James M. Cain - one of my favorite writers. Cain said this was a great book... and that was enough for me to pick it up and read the first page. Wow!

So I waited until it hit paperback and bought it (I still have that copy). Clever, funny, lots of plot twists, great lead character who was obviously inspired by Woodward & Bernstein. And when the next Fletch book came out, I bought it. And the third Fletch book. And the spinoff books about Flynn. And every Fletch book that Greg McDonald wrote. Oh, and his non-series books, too. This guy was an amazing writer - he could fool *me* with his clever plot twists. The books won all sorts of awards, too.

So, when they announced they were making a movie, I was excited.

When they cast Chevy Chase, I was heartbroken.

Fletch is *clever* and *intelligent*... Chevy Chase does prat falls.

But two things looked promising: the script was being written by Andrew Bergman, a mystery writer himself (The Big Kiss Off, Hollywood & Levine) who knew how the genre worked... and also how to write movies - he was co-writer on BLAZING SADDLES. The film was going to be directed by Michael Ritchie, a very clever satirist who made one of the greatest films of the 70s - SMILE. Ritchie made sophisticated comedies, not prat-fall films. He also made political and social films like DOWNHILL RACER and THE CANDIDATE. Also, I had actually met him - he lived in Berkeley, California and often premiered his films at Bay Area film festivals. I was a kid then, and would often sneak past security to meet the film makers. We’d had a couple of conversations. If there was anyone who could turn this great book into a movie it was Ritchie.

So, the film comes out and it’s good news / bad news.

The bad news is that Chevy Chase has a fantasy sequence and wears goofy disguises and falls down a few times.

The good news is that they took care to keep the mystery plot and keep each and every clue so that you could play along. (The way mysteries work - they are interactive - the audience has all of the clues to solve the mystery and is racing the detective character to solve it. Bad mystery films don’t “play fair” and leave out the clues.) The book had 2 different mysteries, the movie combined them... but actually added the clues to set that up. It’s a really well crafted mystery. And Chevy Chase tones it down - because the story is serious, he has to be serious much of the time.

The film is probably Chevy Chase's best work... and one of the few good mystery films to come out of Hollywood since CHINATOWN.

There are Fletch lovers who hate the movie because of Chase - and I can understand that. But Hollywood is going to cast a star in the lead role, and who else was there?

They’re looking at doing a new Fletch movie with a new star... and I have no idea who could play him. (Who do you think should play Fletch now?) Can we clone Cary Grant or William Powell?

NOT SO SPECIAL EXTRAS


Which brings us back to the extras on the new FLETCH DVD...


The exec at Universal who approved of the extras on this DVD needs to be fired... or better yet, escorted to the Hollywood border and banished for life. I have never seen worse extras on a DVD - these extras are so bad, I would rather have a version of the DVD without them.

The extras completely disrespect this film.

I want my money back.

So what do we get for extras? A completely self-indulgent film starring the *producer of the extras* who thinks that he is funny - but he is not. He does a pile of lame gags that are not funny, and interviews some cast and crew members - which would be okay, except at least half of the interviews are about *him* - the producer of the extras! He's some guy in his late 20s who obviously thinks the world revolves around him. After a few minutes, you're tired of the guy - his ego is *massive* and his talent is minuscule.

No Chevy Chase interview - which is weird because Chase has done all kinds of low budget films lately - many haven't even been released (BAD MEAT).

Also - nothing about the Fletch novels by Greg McDonald - the *source* of the character and story. The novels were so popular that they bought the rights to use the novel's logo for the movie. But from these extras you would never even know there was a book - let alone and entire series. And you's never know these books are big award winners, and bestsellers. They just ignore the books completely.

Which is too bad, because you could make an amazing little doc about the books. You see, McDonald wrote them out of order. Things mentioned in passing in the first book end up being the central plot in later books... which take place before the first book. It’s kind of like MEMENTO - except it doesn’t work backwards, it’s scattershot. You read FLETCH AND THE WIDOW BRADLEY and he’s newly divorced from his first wife... when he was divorced from his second wife in FLETCH. Oh, this is a prequel! And at the end of the series McDonald wrote FLETCH WON and FLETCH TOO - which start the series chronologically. Anyway, an extra sorting out this jigsaw would have been a great addition... but the extras don’t even mention the books.

Instead of any behind the scenes, instead of anything about the books, instead of anything about the director (who made some great stuff - and made Robert Redford into a big star), instead of anything that focuses on the very clever plotting of the story (from the book), we get a short about the extras producer and a bunch of random clips from the film.

Someone at Universal should lose their job over this.

All they had to do was call me, and I could have filled them in.

How does one get a job producing the extras for a DVD? What are the qualifications? What are the *responsibilities*? Do they realize how important this stuff is to the folks who buy DVDs? And - the most frightening question - do these guys think these cruddy DVD extras will lead them to a feature directing gig?

What are your favorite DVD extras... and your least favorites?

- Bill

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Trailer Tuesday: The Great Santini

THE GREAT SANTINI (1979)

Director: Lewis John Carlino.
Writers: Lewis John Carlino based on the novel by Pat Conroy
Starring: Robert Duvall, Michael O'Keefe, Blythe Danner, Stan Shaw.

I was joking around about Father’s Day movies on twitter and suggested this film... then realized that this may be one of those films which has fallen through the cracks and many people have no idea it exists (and didn’t get the joke). This is arguably Robert Duvall’s finest performance (he was nominated for an Oscar); and that says something, doesn’t it? It’s a drama, a coming of age movie... except you are never quite sure if it is that son or the father who is coming of age. Probably both. The reason why I first saw this movie was because it was written and directed by Lewis John Carlino, the screenwriter who adapted SECONDS (one of my favorite movies.) For a while there I saw everything Carlino did, which included some great work like RESURRECTION (1980) and THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA and he wrote the original THE MECHANIC. I liked this movie so much that I tracked down the novel by some guy named Pat Conroy and began reading his stuff. That guy can write!

The story takes place in 1962. Duvall plays Bull Meechum (nicknamed The Great Santini) , a hard ass Marine fighter pilot who is a bit of a contradiction: he wants those in his command to be disciplined, tough as nails, unemotional, and fearless... but he’s a man child who is constantly pulling practical jokes on his superiors and is secretly afraid that he is losing his edge due to age. He is a warrior without a war... and ends up fighting those around him. *He* is a discipline problem, so he gets shipped from his base in Spain back to a training base in the South Carlolina in the USA... and his family. And begins to fight them.



His wife is played by Blythe Danner (who you know as Gwenyth Paltrow’s mom, but she was a stage and TV star at the time), a religious woman who has learned to put up with Bull’s verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse. Oldest son Ben, who is our protagonist, played by Michael O’Keefe whose next role would be the lead in CADDYSHACK the following year. And three other children, including teen daughter Mary Anne played by Lisa Jane Persky and a preteen boy and girl. The whole family is packed up pre dawn to drive to the new military base somewhere in the South. Bull does not stop if you have to go to the bathroom or are hungry or thirsty. You need to be *disciplined*. And if the family wants to sing some song he doesn’t like, he sings over them as loudly as possible... he is in command!

Rounding out the cast is the great Stan Shaw, and this may have been the first film I noticed him in. He plays Toomer, a stuttering Black man who sells honey and flowers and becomes Ben's best friend in their new town. But this is the deep South in the 60s and whites and blacks don’t hang out together... and the antagonist in this subplot is Red played by David Keith (who should not be confused with Keith David). This also may have been the first time I ever saw Keith in a role, and he would go on to become a star and play the lead in LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (also based on a Conroy novel) as well as a bunch of other movies... before falling into B movies. When Jim and I were doing our Russian film, he was one of the guys we looked at to be the lead. He played *Elvis* in a Chris Colombus film, then ended up in B movies. No idea why. There are only so many leading men slots and maybe someone else came along and knocked him out of his position. Anyway, he gives a great performance as a complete racist dick in this film.

Here’s Bull pulling a practical joke when a superior officer wants him and his men to quiet down because they are disturbing the officer’s dinner...



Eldest son Ben is a senior in High School, about to turn 18, and has just made the Varsity basketball team in his new school. All he wants is the love and respect of his father... who is genetically incapable of giving him those things. You know all of those bastard Marine Basic Training Drill Instructors in movies? Now imagine that’s your dad. He shows you his love by belittling you and maybe even hitting you (to toughen you up). Ben’s problem to some extent is that he is his father’s son, and is competitive and strives to be the best (looking for his father’s respect). Well, that brings the two of them into conflict again and again, as Bull wants Ben to follow orders like a good Marine and Ben is struggling to become an adult. Early in the film, Bull tells Ben *exactly* what his adult life will be. He will go to college. He will join the Marines. He will meet a woman and start a family. He will do at least two tours of the Marines, after that he will stay because it is his destiny... or he will disappoint his father and do something else. Ben feels trapped in all of this.

One of the ways this conflict is demonstrated on screen is a father and son game of basketball. Hey, a place for Ben and his father to have a good time together. Only Bull does not lose at anything, ever. So when his son beats him, he does not take it well...



Ben continues to battle his father throughout the movie. No matter what he does, he can not live up to his father’s impossible expectations. There is a scene at the big basketball game where Ben is playing an amazing game, and a member of the other team intentionally fouls him, knocking him to the floor. Bull tears out of the stands and orders his son to knock that player down. Screaming at his injured son! Ben fights back by purposely missing both free throws. Which *infuriates* Bull, who paces the sidelines as if he’s the coach. When the opposing player gets the ball, Bull ORDERS Ben to take him to the floor. Again and again, until Ben finally knocks the player down... and breaks the player’s arm in the process. Ben is ejected from the game...

And gets chewed out by his coach for not being able to stand up to his father. Yeah, coach, you try it.

There’s a major subplot where Ben becomes involved in the fight between Toomer and racist Red. Bull orders him to stay out of it, but Toomer is his best friend and Bull has to do something. This subplot thread comes to a head when Red and his racist pals all grab guns and go to Toomer’s shack to show him who is boss... and Ben races across town to help his friend. Defying Bull’s orders. Bull decides it’s best to punish his son for doing the right thing.

When Ben turns 18, Bull takes him to the Officer’s Club on base... and we end up with a macho drinking battle between the two...



THE GREAT SANTINI is filled with great performances and manages to be funny and heart warming and heart breaking all at the same time. All of the characters are clearly drawn (Mary Anne uses sarcasm to deal with her problems fitting in to a new school every time Bull gets transferred, and will Bull himself), and you get a glimpse of the pre Civil Rights South where segregation was the law of the land and white people didn’t befriend black people without paying the consequences. The movie was made with the cooperation of the Marine Corps, and there are plenty of air combat drills in the film. I neglected to mention all of the airplane stuff because for me the movie is about the two Meechum men battling it out. Another one of those films I fear is forgotten...

Bill



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

You Have *Potential*!

From 2009...

In the remake update post (about HOUSE which starred William Katt) we talked about this crazy idea that the director they love is hotter than the one I know because their guy’s film hasn’t been released yet. That gives him *potential*, where the director I have a connection to has just made a film that was released and got great reviews.

Ages ago when my friend Jim and I were doing our Russian film we ran into the *potential* thing when we were casting our lead. This project began when Jim and I were wandering around Location Expo (an event that no longer exists) and stopped by the booth for the St. Petersburg Studios. Communism had just fallen in Russia, and after decades of government run film industry, the studios were scrambling to make money. We had a meeting with them, and discovered that we could make a movie in Russia for very little money. I put together a treatment for a RED HEAT type film in reverse - starting in Texas and going to Russia - with the cool idea that the “hero” would be killed on page 10 and the comedy-relief sidekick would be thrust into the hero position and have to track down the killer. That’s when we got a call from Mosfilm, who heard we were thinking about shooting a movie in Russia and wondered if we would like to meet with them before we signed any contracts with St. Petersburg. They had a brand new office in Los Angeles to try and attract movies to Russia - even though only a couple of indie films had shot there so far.

Mosfilm made us an offer we could not refuse. They had Panavision cameras and an onsite Kodak approved lab and an onsite hotel and undercut the other guy’s prices and, the clincher, had access to some buildings set for demolition (we could blow them up) and some military equipment we could have access to (helicopter chase for cost of fuel) and could use their connections to get us locations like Red Square.

Oh, and they had a couple of conditions - they wanted to be co-producers and cast Russian stars in the Russian roles. That’s a condition? We loved it! They had head shots and video of some stars, and the ones they were pushing were great. They had an actress who had been in a recent Russian film that had played in the USA, and had done a Playboy spread to promote the film. Yes! They had Russia’s biggest rock star, who wanted to get into acting, and showed us his music video. Yes! Everyone they showed us was someone who would add to the film. Their motivation was to make sure the film was a big hit in Russia and some ex-Soviet countries that they would keep as part of the deal. These were places that US distribs didn’t have a foot hold in, yet, so giving them away cost us nothing.

I wrote the script, taking place in Moscow and using all of the materials we now had access to... and the result was a film we could make for a budget of around $1 million that would look like LETHAL WEAPON - we had a helicopter chase! We blew up an apartment building! We had a big dock-side action sequence!

What we didn’t have was an American star.

Jim was (and is) a clever guy. He had bought the mailing list from one of the trades, and had the home addresses of a bunch of movie stars and famous folks. And he had begun looking for our American star - bypassing agents and managers and going directly to their home address. Our financial contacts might get us around $1 million, but not that much more, so we weren’t targeting Tom Cruise... we were looking at B movie stars. We already had the late, great, Steve James as our villain. Steve and I had been trying to put together a movie for a while - he was a great actor (from John Sayles films) who was usually the side kick to Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff and had starred in a couple of low budget films. The problem with most of the stuff he was in was that it never showed what an amazing actor he was. This guy had done theatre in New York. I didn’t think we could get the money for our film with him as the star, but villains are always big juicy roles... and Steve said yes. I wrote a part for him that would make him the star he should have been. A great villain with some big juicy acting scenes.

But for our star... We came up with a list, and the guy we really liked was Thomas F. Wilson. Who? The guy who played various versions of Biff in all of the BACK TO THE FUTURE movies. He was a stand up comedian, great for the comic relief role (which turned into the lead on page 11). And if you watch the three B2TF movies, he’s an amazing actor. I honestly think that’s why his career didn’t really take off after the trilogy - you can’t tell it’s the same guy playing Biff in all those films! He’s the teen Biff, the fat Biff, the handsome Biff, the cowboy Biff, the loser Biff, the billionaire Biff... he’s completely different in each role - even *physically* different (losing or gaining weight). So, we had a meeting with him... and he brought along a team of managers and agents and lawyers and gardeners. A half dozen people! After getting through all of their BS, we finally got a chance to talk with Tom, who was a very nice, very funny guy, who was interested.

We took our package to our #1 distrib/money source. We had put together a sheet that showed all of the movies Tom had been in, what their domestic and worldwide grosses were. Beside the B2TF movies, he’s been in ACTION JACKSON and a handful of other movies that made a bunch of money. So, we are looking at a guy who seems like an easy sell...

But he was not. They didn’t know him by name. They said, you put his name on the poster, and nobody knows who that is. Find us the name that everybody already knows.

They didn’t care that his films had made a ton of money, they didn’t care that this film would cost them $1 million and look like a huge studio action film... they wanted a name they knew.

Every other distrib/money source we had a contact with told us the same thing.

Lesson learned: Just because someone is a great actor who has been in movies that everybody in the world has seen does not make them a bankable star.

So, Jim and I went back to the list, and cycled through a bunch of actors. Some were turned down by the distrib, some of them turned down the project. We had met with some line producers who had made one of the handful of US films to actually shoot in Russia, and they said the biggest problem we would have is that after decades of working under the Soviet model, most Russian crews worked about as fast as those people behind the counter at the DMV. We would have to double our shooting schedule because they moved so slow. We had included this in our budget and schedule... but the big problem with a star, even a B movie star, is that their time is money. We had the same amount to pay for twice the shooting time. Some stars turned us down because they didn’t want to leave home for two months, others didn’t want to work for half their rate.

Then we had a meeting with William Katt at Stanley’s on Ventura Blvd, and we found our star. First, everyone knew who he was from GREATEST AMERICAN HERO and CARRIE and a bunch of other stuff, including one of my favorite films, BIG WEDNESDAY. Second, he had a great attitude about the project - looking at this as an adventure, going to a place very few people had been to before. He wasn’t as concerned about the money, he thought just going someplace cool would be worth it. So, we had an interested star who completely fit all of the distrib/money source’s conditions.

We had a meeting with them, figured we’d walk out with a start date and a million bucks...

But a strange thing happened. They said, we love William Katt, but if you could get us Brad Pitt we’d fund this thing tomorrow. And we said, Brad who? At this point in time, Brad Pitt had done two movies - a low budget horror flick called CUTTING CLASS and an indie film called JOHNNY SUEDE. Neither film had made any money. But Pitt had *potential*. He *might be* a really big star. Word on the street was that he was the next big thing.

So, Jim and I went through our distrib/financing contacts looking for someone who would give us the money based on the people we had now. A real TV star who everyone knew who had starred in some great films (CARRIE, BIG WEDNESDAY, etc) who was more interested in the adventure of making a film in an interesting location than making a pile of money. We were pretty much ready to go... and everyone said, Get us this Brad Pitt kid and we’ll give you the money. And again, we said Brad who?

So, I rented CUTTING CLASS on VHS, a silly slasher movie where Pitt played the villain... and really didn’t understand why they would want this guy. He was okay, but he wasn’t even the star of the movie! Jim tried to track him down, but I don’t think he had a subscription to Hollywood Reporter at that time so he wasn’t on our list. After spending a lot of time, we found out that *everyone in town* had been told that Pitt was the next big thing and that everyone in town was fighting to hire him, and that there was no way in hell that he would be in a low budget film that would take two months of his life to shoot in Russia.

We went back to our first choice in distrib/financing and told them that Brad Pitt was a no-go. By now, William Katt had gone on to do another movie or two and was unavailable for a while. Thomas F. Wilson was doing a stand up comedy tour, also unavailable. Everyone else we had talked to had gone on to some other project and we would have to wait for them.

What I didn’t understand was why Tom Wilson was a “no” because the audience wouldn’t recognize his name on the poster, yet this Brad Pitt guy was so hot... when the audience would not only not recognize his name, they wouldn’t know his face or any of the movies he had been in. This distribution company did some small theatrical releases and the rest went to VHS and cable. It was common to list the star’s most popular films on the back of the VHS box. That means even if the audience doesn’t know an actor by name, if they recognized his face and wondered where they know him from they can flip over the box and discover this guy was in a bunch of films they have seen and liked... and they rent the movie. And the answer was... Tom Wilson may have been in a bunch of hit films, and he was a known quantity... but Brad Pitt was *hot* because he had *potential* - he was unknown. He hadn’t made a flop yet, or made a film that didn’t turn out, or proven that maybe he wasn’t the next big thing, yet. This makes no sense to me - but in the fear-driven film biz it's part of the way they operate. Of course, Brad Pitt really was the next big thing - even though it took him a whole bunch of movies to become a star - so maybe all of these distribs/financing sources were right. If we had been the ones to get Pitt instead of CUTTING CLASS, we’d... well, let me ask you - have you ever heard of CUTTING CLASS? Yeah, that’s what I thought. So it didn’t matter whether we had Pitt or not.



What happened while we were jumping through all of these hoops trying to find a star was that the “Russian Mafia” had begun shooting up Moscow and kidnaping Americans for ransom and all kinds of other things that made no one want to make a film in Russia right now... and our project just died. The only thing that really remains from it is the frame of the story-board that I used as an illustration on the front of my book. We had a bunch of the big action scenes story-boarded to make it easier to communicate what we wanted to our crew, and make filming a little faster and more efficient. A couple of years ago I did a rewrite on the script because I had a producer with some Russian connections interested, but the producer was... unusual... and that rewrite was lost when Fry’s repair guys wiped my hard drive to replace a plastic hinge on my laptop. I thought I had it backed up on my desk top and on a disk, but both ended up being the old version. Pisser.

The big lesson I learned from all of this is that *potential* beats experience in Hollywood. So, you have potential... I just have experience. You could be destined for greatness! I have written a movie about robot hookers from outer space for Roger Corman. Use your potential!

- Bill

Friday, March 09, 2018

Fridays With Hitchcock:
The Paradine Case (1947)

Screenplay by David O. Selznick.

Do I really have to say anything more?

Okay, for those of you who may not know who David O. Selznick was: He was the legendary producer who made the Best Picture Oscar winner GONE WITH THE WIND which is also the record holder for box office in adjusted dollars - yes, it even beat AVATAR. Name any film you think was a massive hit, GONE WITH THE WIND made more money in adjusted dollars. Selznick was also legendary for his ego and for micro-managing to the point of insanity. He would send lengthy memos to *everyone* involved in one of his films explaining what he wanted in minute detail. Often the memos were wacky - he once sent a 30 page telegram... and the last line of the telegram said to disregard the telegram! In the 1970s someone collected many of these crazy memos and published them in a book, MEMO FROM DAVID O. SELZNICK - I have a copy somewhere. At first, reading the memos made my brain hurt... then they became laugh-out-loud funny. He wrote memos on things so small and insignificant you wonder how he found the time to do anything else. So, imagine the lunatic, egotistical, head of production for the studio writing a screenplay...



To be fair, Selznick began in the story department at MGM - because in those good old days of Hollywood they promoted *screenwriters* and people who worked in the story department to producers and heads of production. Hollywood back then was not about deals and lawyers and agents, it was about *stories*. From the story department he worked his way up to producer at MGM, and produced a string of hits - which probably didn’t help that out-of-control ego of his. He married his boss’s daughter, Irene Mayer, and decided that he was too good for MGM, so he quit and started his own company - Selznick International. If you are ever on the Sony lot, you can still see his building. It looks much smaller than it does on film.

Selznick was the guy who brought Alfred Hitchcock over from England... and brought a bunch of European stars to the United States, including Ingrid Bergman. What he would do is sign them to a long term contract with his “studio”, which had yet to make a single film. Then he would “rent them” to another studio for more money... and make a profit. So, let’s say he was paying Ingrid Bergman $1X a month, he would rent her out to MGM for $5X and keep the difference. Bergman got paid the same no matter what. Because Selznick and Hitchcock did not get along, Selznick “rented” Hitchcock to other studios from 1941-1944 for five different movies, and basically lived off the money Hitchcock earned for him. Pimp-daddy Selznick. The director of an Oscar winning film could get top dollar... and all of that money went into Selznick’s pocket. During that period of time he made only one movie as a producer - SINCE YOU WENT AWAY... the rest of his money was from pimpin'.

Though he made a handful of successful movies at his “studio”, the film he made in 1939 was the one he’s best known for - GONE WITH THE WIND.

I think that film ruined him.

Imagine making the biggest box office film of all time *and* having it win Best Picture Oscar. What do you do for an encore?

Well, the year after he won Best Picture Oscar for producing GONE WITH THE WIND, he won Best Picture Oscar for producing REBECCA... directed by Alfred Hitchcock.



After that Selznick seemed to be *exclusively* trying to make movies that would be massive box office hits *and* win the Best Picture Oscar. Because Hitchcock was under contract to him, he was either being “rented” to some other studio or producer or making some film for Selznick. Some of these films, like SPELLBOUND, were “Hitchcock movies”, but THE PARADINE CASE is pure Selznick... a big glossy soap opera of a film that seemed created to pander to both the mass audience *and* the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences membership. The film starred his new discovery from Europe Alida Valli (THE THIRD MAN), who he hoped to rent out as soon as she became a star, and Gregory Peck - another contract player, and a young hunky French actor he was grooming for stardom, Louis Jourdan (SWAMP THING). Hitchcock disliked the project, but was under contract and had no choice but to make it. Hitchcock brought in his own writers, and Selznick didn't send anyone to pick one of the writers up at the airport - so he flew back home. Eventually Selznick took over and wrote the screenplay himself, which Hitchcock must have loved. Hitch and Selznick were battling every day on the set. It’s hard to believe that this film falls between NOTORIOUS and ROPE on Hitchcock’s resume, because it’s so unlike either one of those films... it’s overwrought.

It was also Hitchcock’s last movie for Selznick - he walked off the set at the end of shooting. His contract was complete, and he was now a free man...

THE PARADINE CASE was a massive box office flop.



Nutshell: In London, rich and beautiful widow Mrs. Paradine (Valli) is about to sit down to dinner when the police arrive and arrest her for the murder of her husband. She gets the most respected criminal barrister in England, Anthony Keane (Peck) to represent her in his robes and powdered wig...

Okay, while you’re wondering how Peck did with his British accent, we’ll get on with the synopsis.

Because Mrs. Paradine is the most beautiful and seductive woman in the world, Keane’s wife Gay (Ann Todd) becomes jealous and worries that she will lose her man. Keane’s older law partner, Sir Simon (Charles Coburn) also worries about this, but his college girl daughter hopes that Mrs. Paradine will break up the marriage and then dump Keane so that she can swoop in and take him, because she thinks he’s a dreamy older man.

Oh, speaking of older men, the trial’s Judge (Charles Laughton) is a complete letch and keeps hitting on Keane’s wife. It’s kind of implied that if she sleeps with him, he may favor her husband in the case. Though his character doesn’t show up for a while, Louis Jourdan plays the dead Mr. Paradine’s valet Latour who may or may not have been playing hide the salami with Mrs. Paradine while her husband slept in the next room. I know that I’m leaving out some people who were either having sex with other people or at least wanted to have sex with other people, but you get the idea.



The first 2/3rds of the story takes place before the trial while all of these people are trying to get into each other’s pants. The last third is all in the courtroom - but far from Perry Mason excitement. There are only two suspects and no surprises. The story isn’t about who the killer is, it’s about who is gonna sleep with who and who already slept with who. Sex for the mass audience, powdered wigs and frilly shirts for the Academy.

Peck doesn’t even attempt a British accent.

Experiment: I’m sure that the main experiment was trying to get through the film without killing Selznick...



But the film has one amazing shot - as Mrs. Paradine sits at the defendant’s table in court, Latour enters the court room behind her and walks to the witness stand, and Hitchcock does a great composite shot with Mrs. Paradine in the foreground (one element) and Latour walking in the background (the other element) with both images moving so that it seems as if she can *feel* him entering the courtroom and - without looking back - *sense* him as he walks around her. It’s a great shot concept - she knows he is there without ever seeing him.

There is also the reverse of the shot, from Latour’s POV when he leaves the witness stand. Basically one great shot done twice.

Oh, and a nice overhead of the courtroom when Keane leaves after realizing his client is guilty.

Hitch Appearance: Leaving the train station, carrying a cello.

Great Scenes: Well, no suspense scenes, so let me talk about some of the soap opera stuff.

The opening scene where Mrs. Paradine is arrested is shocking, and managed to find a way to sneak in the victim visually. A huge painting of Mr. Paradine hangs on the wall, and is the center of much of the scene. But there is some great confusion by Mrs. Paradine about how one is supposed to get arrested - they just served dinner, will she be allowed to eat first? And what about packing a bag? She has no point of reference.



At the police station, she is searched and stripped and a matron goes through her beautiful hair with a comb searching for contraband. Hitchcock has done similar scenes that were even better - involving fingerprint ink you can’t remove. I would have gone full-force and had them delouse her with spray hoses, but it seems like everything is blanded... probably due to Sezlnick’s screenplay.

There’s a great scene with Charles Laughton as the horny old judge who sits next to Peck’s wife on the sofa and grabs her hand and puts her hand on her leg (stealing a feel) and makes it pretty clear that he wants to screw her and that it would be good for her husband’s trial if she said yes. Laughton steals every scene he is in - almost rescuing the film. Almost.



There’s kind of a spooky scene where Peck goes to the scene of the crime - the Paradine country estate - and it’s closed up, dark, spooky... and has a Mrs. Danvers-like woman showing him around... and Louis Jourdan’s valet seems to appear and disappear without ever leaving or entering a room. There’s more atmosphere in that scene than in the rest of the film.



The courtroom trial is boring because we have two suspects: Mrs. Paradine and the valet Latour, and neither tries to blame the other or has any shocking witness stand reveals. The one and only is that Mrs, Paradine may have visited Latour’s room after dark.

In HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT, Hitchcock complains about all of the casting - and rightly so - but spends a great deal of time explaining why Louis Jourdan was dead wrong as Latour. If that is supposed to be the big shocker in court, it doesn’t work if she was sleeping with some beefcake guy like Jourdan. He’s better looking than she is!



There’s only shock if Latour is *ugly* - and this goes back to my problems with UNDER CAPRICORN - Hollywood often makes the mistake of hiring pretty people when the role requires really ugly people. That film was another woman-who-sleeps-with-a-man-beneath-her story, and Bergman and Joseph Cotton seem like a reasonable pair. In PARADINE, Valli is a beautiful woman, but Jourdan is a beautiful man. They belong together - no shock. You can “tell us” that Jourdan is a servant and Valli is wealthy and that it is scandalous for her to sleep with him, but there is no class distinctions on screen. There are only *physical* distinctions.



Hell, she goes to his room! If the script would have made him the groom and had him sleeping in an apartment in the stables and the first time they got busy was after a ride on the floor of the stable amongst piles of hay and manure, we have something! And that is something that a *screenwriter* can do to guard against casting issues. We can create a *situation* that is shocking, so the casting won’t kill the scene.

An *idea* doesn’t show up on screen, only the execution of the idea - the image or dialogue that turns the idea into something concrete that we can see or hear. The *idea* of sleeping with a man below her class needs to be turned into something we can see or hear. Since we are not involved in casting as screenwriters, it has to be a situation or dialogue. That roll in the hay (and manure) - whether we do that with actions (visual) or with courtroom testimony (dialogue) we need to get it out there. But we do not have shocking testimony or shocking visuals... Instead we have a very dull Q&A of suspects on the stand who do not want to incriminate each other so they don’t really say anything.

Sound Track: Excellent score from the always dependable Franz Waxman.

THE PARADINE CASE is basically a big glossy soap opera with a couple of interesting shots, that Hitchcock practically disowned. He walked off after his rough cut, leaving David O’Selznick to sort out the rest. I’m sure he sent a 30 page memo to Hitchcock afterwards.

- Bill

BUY THE DVD AT AMAZON:











The other Fridays With Hitchcock.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Broken In

From over a decade ago!

I bought these shoes *many* months ago - leather cross trainers - just before going on some adventure. When I first bought them, they were a little stiff. I was doing a lot of walking on whatever adventure that was, and these shoes were *not* comfortable. I probably ended up with some “new shoe blisters” - maybe you’ve had those, too.

But now, these shoes are completely broken in. Soft. Comfortable. They now completely fit my feet... and they are also worn out and ready to be replaced. Scuffed up, wearing out.

I just bought a new pair of Levis, and they are kind of stiff. It’s hard for me to find Levis that fit, because I’m tall... but not freakish tall. Though I could probably shop in some big and tall store, or go to somewhere that has extended sizes, my size of Levis can be found in a normal store. So that’s where I shop. But the strange thing is, Levis are *not* consistent in length size. So two pair that are supposedly the same size may be just enough different that one fits perfectly and the other is half an inch too short (what we used to call “floods” when I was a kid). So shopping for jeans requires a little work - and I own a couple of pair of Levis that are that half inch too short. The pair I’m wearing now are absolutely perfect. They were kind of stiff when I first bought them, but I’ve broken them in - and now they are perfect. The new pair of Levis is still in my closet - wore them a couple of times, but they just aren’t as comfortable as the pair I’m wearing now.

Of course, this pair of Levis came out of the washing machine with a hole in the right side back pocket - where I keep my comb - and I know that every time I wash them that little worn out section will wear out even more... and soon these perfect Levis will be worn out, and I’ll have to break in that new pair.

Why is it that just when something becomes broken in and comfortable, it’s days are numbered?

You can apply this to screenwriting any way you want.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Understanding protagonists.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Soup on a rainy day - that chunky sirloin burger stuff.

DVD: VANISHING POINT - one of those 70s films that is simple and complex at the same time. Barry Newman delivers cars cross country. He makes a bet with a guy that he can get this Dodge Challenger to San Francisco over the weekend - which means driving non-stop at top speed. When a highway patrol cop wants him to pull over, he just says ef-it and keeps on going. This brings in more police, and road blocks and helicopters and all kinds of problems... but Newman just keeps going. Most of the police cars crash - usually due to their own mistakes. A pirate radio DJ played by Cleavon Little turns Newman into a folk hero - while broadcasting information from the police radio to help Newman avoid road blocks. Newman becomes an anti-authority symbol. Everyone wants him to avoid the police - and the police must stop him to retain control. The entire problems of a nation are played out with a speeding car and a police chase. Along the way, Newman meets a strange old man in the desert who gives him life advice and a naked babe on a motorcycle who wants to give him something else. Great car chase stuff, amazing stunts, things that make DEATH PROOF look mega-lame... and an ending that is simple, yet so complex you will be thinking about it for days afterwards.

Pages: Talk about strange - yesterday I had an idea for a new spec and wrote 5 pages on it. That may be all I ever write on it, who knows.
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