Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Trailer Tuesday: American Friend (1977)



Directed by: Wim Wenders.
Written by: Wim Wenders based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, Lisa Kruezer, Gerard Blain, Sam Fuller & Nicholas Ray
Director Of Photography: Robby Muller.
Music: Jürgen Knieper.

THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY is getting a longform TV version from the writer of LUTHER, so let's look at another story in the Ripley series...

One of the things I have realized over the years is that the films you saw when you first *really* got into movies become your favorites because they opened doors in your mind that you didn’t even know existed. Often someone younger than I (that doesn’t take much these days) mentions one of their favorite film... and it’s some movie I think is a piece of crap. Of course, I saw it later in life when whatever door that movie opened for them had already been opened for me... so instead of being amazed at whatever the film did, I compared it to all of the other films that did that and found it lacking. But the same thing happens to me frequently: those young people who had the door opened by their film finally get around to seeing mine and think, “What’s the big deal?” This has taught me to be less judgmental about those films people love. Better that they love films than not love them!

So, in the 70s I caught this film because someone called it “Hitchcockian” and became a fan of Wim Wenders (to this day). This is not the usual Wenders film at all, but I found it fascinating that he actually understood how to make a suspense film: he knew how to use the camera to tell the story and use editing to create suspense. When someone shows that they know how to do something difficult like this, I cut them a lot of slack when they go off and do their own thing in their own style. So I was a fan of his films which are often valentines to America. He can take a 9 year old girl and turn her into the tour guide for America - seeing our world through her eyes... or show us small town life in Texas, or give us a Hollywood full of conspiracies and crime, or the great America road trip... in Germany! But I first discovered him with this Hitchcockian film based on a Patricia Highsmith RIPLEY novel about a normal dad and husband who discovers he is dying of a rare disease and is offered a fortune to leave for his family... all he has to do is kill a guy. A total stranger. A mobster the world would be better off without. Could you kill someone to help your family?



As you can see, BREAKING BAD's concept really owes a lot to AMERICAN FRIEND... the idea of a quiet intelligent man doing terrible things that are against the law to provide for his family because he is terminally ill... and killing a bunch of gangsters in the process... is the basic story of both. In both the lead must keep his side job secret from his wife and kid, and when it is discovered instead of appreciating the *huge* personal and emotional sacrifices he has gone through to provide for his family, they turn against him and he must fight to win them back. The parallels are strong between the two... which makes me wonder why nobody ever mentioned it.

Wenders was a genius for combining Highsmith’s RIPLEY'S GAME and RIPLEY UNDER WATER (the second and third novels in the series after THE TALENTED MR.) and then taking Jonathan's point of view instead of Ripley's. Instead of being the puppet master's story, we get the puppet... who finds himself in over his head just to provide for his family after he dies. The story is filled with twists and turns and has a bit of that 70's stillness used in films like THE PARALLAX VIEW. The film is also filled with music, and a love for The Beatles... and Volkswagen Beetles. Beautifully shot by Robby Muller, with a great score by Jürgen Knieper (who also scored RIVER’S EDGE), the film has a deliberate pace that works for the story...

Jonathan (Bruno Ganz who would later play Hitler in that DOWNFALL movie that you haven’t seen but *have* seen that one scene where Hitler loses it in a million memes) is a picture framer whose wife (Lisa Kreuzer) works for an auction house, and when he is introduced to Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper, I wish it had been John Malkovich who played this role in a remake) he refuses to shake his hand. Ripley feels insulted, and later when a Paris mobster Minot (Gerard Blaine) is looking for an assassin who can not be traced back to the mob, Ripley gives him Jonathan. You see, Jonathan has a rare blood disease may not have long to live. So Minot approaches Jonathan and offers him a second opinion at the most prestigious hospital in Europe... all expenses paid... as long as Jonathan listens to his offer afterwards. Jonathan goes in for the test... and Minot creates *forged* results saying that Jonathan is knocking on death’s door. Then offers Jonathan a job killing a mobster on a train. Here’s the thing: worst that can happen if Jonathan is caught is that he’ll die before trial, and his family will still get the money and be provided for. Jonathan reluctantly agrees... and then goes to kill the man. Except it’s never as easy as you think. This leads to one of the most intense suspense scenes I’ve seen as Jonathan can’t find the right time to shoot the guy... and every second he hesitates is a chance to be caught!



Eventually he kills the mobster, only to find out there are more mobsters to be killed and Minot wants Jonathan to kill a well guarded mobster on a train. (Lots of trains in this film, it *is* by Highsmith who wrote STRANGERS ON A TRAIN). This time he is *way* over his head and his whole life spirals out of control. One of the things I swiped from this film for my HARD EVIDENCE script that was made for USA Network was the way the protagonist feels he can’t tell his spouse about this problems, when he needs all of the help he can get. Eventually Jonathan admits everything to his wife and they team up to resolve the conflict... though not in the way they thought.

One of the great things are all of the cameos by film directors. Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray (playing the dead painter Derwatt from RIPLEY UNDERGROUND) and Lou Castel. Wenders was a real fan of American noir films and cast his heroes in the film... later he would make a documentary about Ray’s final days.



The film is an interesting hybrid between studio movie and European arthouse, technically really well made but still focusing on character and those small moments (I love when Jonathan is playing with his son or trying to get two halves of a frame to come together. This film along with Wender’s Polanskiesque GOALIES ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK are slick Hollywood style films with that indie bent. He knew how to do dolly shots and crane shots and make a film that looks bigger than it probably was. His other films like ALICE IN THE CITY and THE WRONG MOVE and KINGS OF THE ROAD have a ragged indie feel to them. Oh, and this film landed him a big Hollywood picture, HAMMETT (the dude who wrote THE MALTESE FALCON based on a novel by Joe Gores... though the movie throws out almost everything from the book), and the failure of that Hollywood film lead to the success of PARIS, TEXAS and WINGS OF DESIRE. He’s done some interesting work since then on films like UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD and THE END OF VIOLENCE and the doc BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB and he has a new movie out this year.



- Bill

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

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



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Monday, December 23, 2019

AMAZON MONEY? BUY SOME BOOKS!

Did you get some Amazon money for the Holidays? Why not buy some great screenwriting books?

Forget a friend or a relative who writes? E-books are great because Amazon actually has a "gift" button that will deliver the book to their email box in "gift wrap" from you! No worries about the ebook being delivered on time - you can order it from your phone at your holiday gathering when nobody is looking and it will be waiting for them on their phone or computer. You can claim that you bought it months ago, and who will know?

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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING and the HITCHCOCK They make great gifts, so why not give them to a friend? Or buy them as a gift to yourself. YOU DESERVE IT! (remember - I'm trying to sell books, here!).

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***

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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

Friday, December 20, 2019

HITCH 20: BACK FOR CHRISTMAS (s1e4)

Last Friday Before Christmas!

There's a great new documentary video series focusing on the 20 TV episodes that Hitchcock directed called HITCH 20. This episode is BACK FOR CHRISTMAS which stars Hitchcock regular John Williams (TO CATCH A THIEF) as a henpecked husband who finds a permanent solution to his marital problems. In my Thriller class, I talk about the importance of comedy in a thriller to balance the story and make the thrills even more thrilling (peaks and valleys), and this episode has a great light comedy tone which heightens the suspense. Hitch called PSYCHO a comedy... and this episode is as funny as a steel pipe to the side of the head!



There is one more episode of HITCH 20 in this season, which I'll post next Friday.



Of course, I have my own books focusing on Hitchcock...

Bill

- Bill

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

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!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And....



HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR






HITCHCOCK'S MOST DARING EXPERIMENTS!



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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

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

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

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

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thriller Thursday: The Grinch

Okay, not an episode of THRILLER, but Boris Karloff as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. This is one of those Christmas classics that everyone my age grew up watching, and having Karloff be in an animated kid's film filled with songs is just... weird. William Henry Pratt (Karloff) was the host of THRILLER but also a legendary star of horror movies since the 1930s. He played Frankenstein's monster! He played The Mummy! And in some *great* Val Lewton horror movies like BEDLAM and ISLE OF THE DEAD (say that outloud). He was so famous as a horror actor, he starred in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF. In the early sixties he starred in AIP's COMEDY OF TERRORS with Peter Lorre and Vincent Price. This guy was SCARY! So to put him in a cartoon aimed at kids was genius.

Here's the big song about his character...



And here's part of the ending...



Jim Carrey is no match for Karloff. You wonder who had the dumb idea to remake this as a live action movie, since nothing could be better than the original. They always seem to remake the great films (so that the remake seems terrible in comparison) instead of remake those films that had potential but didn't quite work (where the remake might be an improvement).

Bill

Karloff as Santa?








Buy the DVD.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Flashback: My First Agent

A rerun from the first year of the blog...

Another one of those flashbacks that screenwriting gurus hate...

After my first screenwriting career writing Drive In Movies (NINJA BUSTERS) ended, I got a job working for Safeway in their liquor warehouse. Driving a fork lift and Big Joe stacker. I did that full time for almost ten years, writing scripts in my spare time and on my days off. I wrote just under 30 scripts in that decade... and got an agent on one of them.

Now I had a Hollywood agent! Cool! I had sent out about a bunch of query letters - targeting agents in Los Angeles. My thinking was - because I lived out of town I wanted an agent who lived in the same city as the producers. Why should both of us be out of town? I kept hammering the same list of agents with query letters until I got somewhere around 3 positive responses, sent scripts and signed with the first agent to say "yes".

This was a mistake.... but what was tragic at the time I now find pretty funny. I had somehow signed with the worst agent in the world - and every time I thought it couldn't get worse, it always did!

My agent had an LA address - in the San Fernando Valley. The letter he sent me was on cheap letter-head stationary and filled with blotches of white out. I was working on a Commodore 128 computer and my query letters were mistake-free, but this was the mid-1980s and the world was still switching over from typewriters to computers. Many offices still had their big IBM Selectrics and bottles of correction fluid. I figured the agent's secretary wasn't as worried about impressing me as I had been about impressing them. And they were probably using the old stationary for me, and saving the expensive stuff for people who mattered.

My agent (it was cool to say that) asked for 10 copies of the script I'd sent him. I made them up and sent them in 2 shipping boxes. He said he would begin sending them out right away. I went to work every day hoping to come home to that phone call that would change my life. When it didn't come for a few months, I decided to call my agent for a progress report. He answered the phone himself, said the script had gone out and he was still waiting for responses from producers. I told him I had a NEW script, and he asked for 10 copies. I made them up and sent them on my next day off. For a while I was sending ten copies of every new script... and my agent would send them out and we'd wait for the producers to get back. The producers always seemed to be looking for rom-coms or comedies or some other genre than what I'd written. Was he sending them to the wrong producers? He wouldn't tell me who he'd been sending the scripts to... so I decided to help by sending a list of suggestions for each of the scripts I'd already sent him.

After that he began sending me the rejection letters or telling me what the producers had said over the phone. I was getting photocopies of letters from The Thom Mount Company and Silver Pictures and other big companies praising the scripts, usually saying that they were developing a similar project or were looking for a script that could star a particular actor, and make sure that they get a chance to read any new scripts from this writer. Mount and Silver wanted to meet with me, but my agent told them I lived out of town. He took care of sending follow up scripts, and I often disagreed with his choices but at least my agent was actually calling me on a regular basis - cool!

I continued to send 10 copies of every new script, and a list of potential buyers. I read an ad in the back pages of Variety looking for a jungle adventure script... and sent a copy of that ad with my new script TREASURE HUNTER (which originally took place in the Amazon). I pressed him to send them the script, he finally did, and the company wanted to option it! My first Hollywood deal!

It was a German production company, and they weren't going to pay for my airfare or hotel. My agent said he'd do the whole deal himself, but I wanted to BE THERE. So I took the time off from work, bought an airplane ticket and made a hotel reservation, and flew to Los Angeles. I was about to get my big break! Despite the cruddy letterhead, my agent had landed me a deal! I had the greatest agent in the world!

I would find out just how great my agent was when I flew to Hollywood to make the deal. I landed at LAX and waited for my agent to pick me up. Whenever a Mercedes or BMW circled near the arrivals area, I expected it to pull to the curb. They just zoomed past. In Hollywood, presentation is very important - so I knew that he drove a fancy car... even if it leased. I was driving a fairly new blue Ford Taurus at the time (thanks to Safeway Credit Union). Maybe my agent drove a Rolls? Or was sending a Town Car? I kept smiling at drivers whenever a luxury car passed by...

Eventually this beat up old Datsun 4 door pulled to the curb, and my agent swiped all of the junk off the passenger seat so that I could sit down. I had to throw my single piece of luggage in the back seat - he told me his trunk was full (of what?). The passenger window was broken and a piece of plastic tarp had been duct taped over it - it was hot but you can't roll down a piece of plastic tarp. Okay... so my agent didn't drive a pretentious luxury car... or keep his old crappy car very clean.... he probably made up for it with his skills as a deal maker, right?

We went directly to the meeting in Beverly Hills. A small office that I think was on Beverly Blvd. The producer was there, as well as a director. These guys had made a couple of small films with casts from recently canceled TV shows and people like George Kennedy who usually played the sidekick. Their previous film starred George Lazenby - the only one film James Bond. This wasn't going to be a big blockbuster, but was going to be a big film for these guys. I was excited.

When they made their first (low) offer, my agent wanted to take it. I thought we should at least TRY to get more money. Because my agent was playing the good guy, I decided I'd better play the bad guy - I told them when they were ready to make a serious offer, they could contact my agent... and I left the office. My agent was shocked. I got about halfway down the block before the pudgy little producer caught up with me, explaining that was just a starting point in the negotiations.

We agreed on $40,000 with a $5,000 option for six months.

When we got back to my agent's pseudo-car, he chewed me out for making waves - I could have blown the deal! Why did I leave the office and make the producer chase me? Why did I ask for so much money? Why didn't I just let him handle the deal?

As we pulled away from the curb leaving a thick cloud of smoke that drifted over Beverly Blvd, I asked if we'd be going back to his office. "NO!" Instead he'd buy me a celebratory dinner. We'd closed a big deal ($40k is a big deal?) and now it was time to celebrate. Would he take me to Chasens (down the street) where Hitchcock dined? Or Spago? Or Mortons? Or one of those trendy LA places where the stars hung out? "Do you drink?" he asked me. A weird question - but maybe he was going to splurge on a bottle of champagne. Some restaurants had better wine cellars than others. If he was planning on order a bottle of Dom Perignon 1957 (like James Bond) you probably have to select a restaurant that has a bottle in their cellar. "Yeah. I've been known to have a beer or two." "A beer drinker! That's perfect!" Sure - a beer drinker would be more impressed with a bottle of 1957 Dom than a wine connoisseur would. We drove into the luxurious Hollywood Hills...

And over the hills into the Valley. We ended up at this crappy bar near the Van Nuys airport that had beer by the pitcher... and a free Happy Hour buffet. After buying the pitcher and handing me a glass, he pointed to the chicken wings and mini-tacos and said "Dinner!" Not exactly Chasens or Spago... or even Denny's. I ate as many chicken wings as I could, but still ended up hammered and hungry and half-deaf from the airplanes flying right over the bar's roof and landing a few feet away. After happy hour was over, he drove me back to my hotel. I ended up walking down the street to a Denny's and getting an actual meal as soon as he was gone.

The next morning I took a taxi to his office before my flight. It was an 8 by 8 room without any windows over a motorcycle repair shop in the slums of Reseda. No secretary - no room for a secretary. With the door closed, the place was like a cave... or maybe like a closet (except for the din of guys using power tools to repair motorcycles). His office might have been in Los Angeles, but it was about as far away from Hollywood as you can get. I found out that his other clients were mostly washed up rock bands from the 1960s - one hit wonders that you didn't know were still around. He was a nice guy, but not much of an agent. I flew back home that afternoon, got my $5,000 check a few weeks later, but the Germans never made the film and allowed the option to expire.

A couple of months later I went to the American Film Market in Los Angeles for the first time (and adventure I'll chronicle later) and I collected a stack of business cards from companies looking for scripts. One particular company had just co-produced their first feature with a Swedish company - a low budget horror movie - and planned on making a couple of films a year. They needed scripts! I'd pitched them one of the scripts that the Mount Company and Silver Pictures had liked, and it was EXACTLY what they were looking for. The VP of Production told me: "Have your agent messenger it to me on Monday." Cool! I had a potential deal with a brand new company with an upcoming theatrical release. I was in on the ground floor.

I drove by my agent's office on the way home and over the din of power tools told him to make sure he messengered a copy of that script to the company on Monday morning. I offered to stay over an extra night and take it myself, but my agent yelled that he'd take care of it. The entire 8 hour drive home I was excited - I probably wouldn't be working at the warehouse much longer! I worked all day Monday on adrenaline (no sleep) but still had trouble falling asleep that night. Every day when I came home from work I expected a message on my machine from my agent that they wanted to buy the script. By this point in time I knew the Southwest Airline schedules by heart and knew the best inexpensive motel in the Beverly Hills area to stay in (the Holloway). I was prepared to fly down as soon as I got the phone call from my agent. After a couple of weeks with no message, I called for a progress report. My agent didn't know anything. I kept calling every week - still no word from the production company. Did they hate the script? Nina Jacobson at Silver and Bess Semans at Mount had loved it. Maybe they were waiting for the release of their horror movie? I called my agent every week for a progress report... MONTHS later he admitted he still hadn't gotten around to sending my script! By that time the film had come out, become a huge hit, and the window of opportunity had closed. Every agent in Hollywood was sending them scripts. The horror film was NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the company was New Line Cinema. Since then they have TWICE paid $4 million for a screenplay... and recently produced the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

I fired my agent soon afterwards. By then I had sold COURTING DEATH to a Paramount based company on my own and my second career in screenwriting was about to begin.

- Bill

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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!


Friday, December 13, 2019

Fridays With Hitchcock: HITCH 20: The Perfect Crime. (s2e3)

This is a great new documentary series called HITCH 20 that I have been a "guest expert" on (season 1). The series looks at the 20 TV episodes directed by Hitchcock and here is the third episode of the second season, which looks at the importance of specifics of Hitchcock's work on screen (and on the page, or it never gets to the screen). This new season is without me. I was juggling too many things and thought I'd squeeze it in, but just didn't have the time. But I'm still be featuring it here, because it's a great show.

THE PERFECT CRIME (Season 2, Episode 3).

Hitchcock was famous for saying that he didn’t like mysteries, so this episode ends up being a send up of the genre and Sherlock Holmes and C. Auguste Dupin are alluded to as our protagonist’s equals... then the story tears our protagonist apart piece by piece.



Oh, I should mention that this famous detective is played by Vincent Price... and for me that’s the coolest part of this episode: Hitchcock directing Vincent Price!

The story has a lawyer played by James Gregory coming to see the great detective about a case he may have got wrong... and an innocent man who may have been executed. Though most of the story is those two verbally battling it out in Price’s living room, there are a trio of flashbacks that show us portions of Price’s detective work and then Gregory’s information which changes the story so that some of the evidence from Price’s flashback has a different explanation. The flashbacks have no dialogue, they are all narration... and this reminded me of Hitchcock’s much better experiment alomg the same lines in BON VOYAGE (1944) one of his films for the French Resistence. I look at that film in EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR... it shows the same story twice, but the information we learn the second time around changes what we’ve seen the first time. In a way it’s the predecessor of movies like RUN LOLA RUN and HILARY AND JACKIE and RASHOMON where the same story is seen multiple times and possibly for different points of view so that it changes every time we see it. BON VOYAGE shows an RAF Pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines and a Polish POW using the French Underground to escape Nazi Occupied France... and that’s what happens the first time we see the story. The second time, we discover that the Polish POW is actually an enemy soldier who is killing all of the French Underground members that the RAF pilot takes him to! In PERFECT CRIME we see Price at the scene of the crime collecting evidence and noting things like the footprints of the killer pacing back and forth outside the crime scene... but in Gregory’s version of that event the innocent man isn’t pacing back and forth, he’s walking back and forth of the real killer’s footprints (his lover) to obscure them. The same piece of evidence has two different meanings!




One of the other interesting scenes in a episode is when Price and Gregory have a verbal duel, each trying to show the other that they are superior. Hitchcock shoots both men from about waist level aiming up at their faces so that they appear to be towering over us... superior to us. By having Price verbally blast away at Gregory from this angle which makes him appear to be superior, he gets the upper hand... until we cut to Gregory countering, verbally showing his superiority to Price (which the up angle makes Gregory seem superior to us)... and then we cut back to Price who counters... and because we cut back and forth between these two men shown at an upward angle so that they seem superior to the audience, we feel that this really is a duel of wits!

Things like camera angles, camera movement, composition, juxtaposition, and lighting are part of the basic language of cinema which Hitchcock was fluent in. Note the change in lighting on Price during the verbal dueling scene.





Bill

Of course, I have my own books on Hitchcock...

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

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!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

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HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



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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.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Bill

Thursday, December 12, 2019

THRILLER Thursday: Girl With A Secret

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



Season: 1, Episode: 9.
Airdate: 11/15/1960


Director: Mitchell Leisen.
Writer: Charles Beaumont based on a novel by Charlotte Armstrong.
Cast: Faye Bainter, Paul Hartman, Myrna Fahey, Victor Buono, Cloris Leachman.
Music: Pete Rugolo
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “An attache case. A classic ingredient in tales of cloak and dagger. Was the young lady correct? Was it switched on purpose? As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, the contents of that case will soon trap these two young people in a web of terror. Alice, the bewildered bride, doesn’t yet know that her husband’s life will depend upon her silence. She’ll become a girl with a secret. That’s the name of our story. Our principle players are Miss Faye Bainter, Mr. Paul Hartman, Miss Myrna Fahey, Mr. Rhodes Reason, Miss Cloris Leachman, and Mr. Harry Ellerbe. I assure you my friends, this is a thriller.”

Synopsis: After a couple of great episodes in a row, we go back to...



At an airport, newlyweds Anthony (Rhodes Reason) and Alice (Myrna Fahey from Corman’s HOUSE OF USHER) wait for their baggage and she talks about the pressure of meeting her (wealthy) inlaws for the first time. When Anthony sets down his attache case for a moment to grab his suitcase, a Stranger sets down his *identical* attache case to do the same and grabs Anthony’s attache case by accident when he leaves. Or was it an accident? Alice seems to think the Stranger did it on purpose. She points out the Stranger to Anthony and says to stop him before he drives away... but Anthony tells her it’s no big deal, he’ll just open the Stranger’s attache case, find his ID, and call him and swap cases later. They’ve had a long flight and Anthony just wants to get home to Pasadena and relax.

When they leave the airport, an evil looking Henchman (Rex Holman) is following them...

On a narrow, twisting road in the hills (probably where the 134 Freeway would end up) the Henchman tries to pass them on a particularly dangerous curve and “accidentally” hits their car, almost forcing them over a cliff! Alice is scared and confused, did that guy *try* to kill them or was it an accident? Seems like weird stuff is happening around her new husband! Why?



The family estate in Pasadena looks oddly like the Munster’s house from the outside (same backlot house), but the inside is a luxurious mansion where the entire family seems to hang out night and day, with Cousin Beatrice (Cloris Leachman) playing the piano for the entertainment of her boyfriend Walter (Harry Ellerbe) plus Uncle Gregory (Paul Hartman) and Aunt Hortense (Anne Seymour) and matriarch Geraldine (Faye Bainter) who is Anthony’s grandmother. The whole family meets the new daughter in law, and give her the normal third degree you would give a new wife... which kind of adds to Alice’s paranoia. Anthony excuses himself for a moment to get the luggage out of the car... but instead goes to the car to open the Stranger’s attache case... which is empty except for a cryptic note... which Anthony decodes!

He starts up the car and goes to the Stranger in a public library... where we discover that Anthony is some sort of spy and the Stranger is a fellow spy, who warns him that the bad guys are onto him. Anthony tells the Stranger that he knows: an attempt was made on his life earlier.

Cut to our evil badguy played by Victor Buono (King Tut from BATMAN), as the Henchman enters his evil lair to report that his attempt on Anthony’s life *failed*. Buono needs to know how much Anthony knows about his evil operation, and keep him from stopping whatever the heck that evil operation is. It’s kinda vague.



Anthony gets back to the Munster House, and nobody seems to notice he was missing. He and Alice are unpacking in their room... when she discovers an airplane ticket in his coat pocket. To Mexico City. She confronts her new husband... is he cheating on her? Anthony quiets her, opens the bedroom door... and there’s the Maid (Esther Dale) listening in on the conversation. He tells the Maid to please keep this little domestic dispute to herself, then closes the door and whispers to Alice... that he’s a spy! He has a secret mission to Mexico City to do things that will help foil Victor Buono’s evil operation... and while he’s gone she must keep his secret. No one can know that he has gone to Mexico City, *no one*. Not even family members. Alice will keep the secret while Anthony is away.

Anthony tells his family that he’s been called back to New York on business for a while, and to please take care of his new wife. Cousin Beatrice is already planning ways to mess with Alice in order to make matriarch Geraldine hate the new bride. And that, folks, is the set up!

And the halfway point.

After Anthony leaves on his secret mission, Alice is “alone” in the house with all of these strangers... and the Maid, who asks for some hush money or she’ll tell everyone that Anthony has gone to Mexico City. Alice gives her ear rings (which are expensive as heck) to the Maid to keep her quiet... but when Cousin Beatrice notices the Maid wearing Alice’s ear rings she accuses the Maid of stealing them, and this brings in matriarch Geraldine who insists the Maid return the ear rings... and creates a larger problem as the Maid now wants $300 to keep her mouth shut.

Alice brings the money to the Maid... and there is a knock at the Maid’s door! The evil Henchman! Alice hides in the murphy bed folded up against the wall and listens as the Henchman questions the Maid, doesn’t get any answers... so he kills her and then searches the room for some clue as to where Anthony may have flown to... almost finding Alice hiding in the folded up bed! The Henchman leaves, heading back to...



Victor Buono’s evil lair, where Buono is talking to... Walter! Cousin Beatrice’s boyfriend! They have blackmailed Walter into being part of the evil operation and spying on Anthony. It was Walter who gave the information that sent the Henchman to the Maid’s apartment. Twist!

Back at the Munster House, Alice returns and is freaked out... afraid she’ll be accused of the Maid’s murder and won’t be able to tell anyone that it’s all because her husband is really a spy. Walter hammers away at Alice about the murder of the Maid... did she do it? Why did she give the Maid those ear rings? Alice walks out... leaving the rest of the family to scheme. Walter and Uncle Gregory think Alice needs to get some rest and suggest giving her some tranquilizers... Walter wants to give her a whole bunch! Then take her to a friend of his who will give her some sodium penathol so she will tell the truth about the Maid’s murder and the family will know how to handle it. They don’t want to be harboring a murderer, do they? Think of the scandal!



A few weeks later Anthony gets back from Mexico City with all of the info to stop Victor Buono’s evil operation... and asks Grandmother Geraldine where Alice is. Geraldine says...

Alice never gave up your secret. They were going to drug her and make her talk, but Geraldine smuggled her out of the house and to a friend’s place in Los Angeles. She’s safe... and Geraldine thinks she’s a danged good wife.

Anthony gets to the address where Alice is hiding out... and it’s a drug store where she is working behind the counter. Just as they embrace, turncoat Walter and the evil Henchman come in with guns... but the Drug Store Owner shoots them both in the most boring action scene ever on television. Meanwhile Victor Buono is being arrested. Anthony and Alice live happily ever after.



Review: Actually, the problem here is the difference between what works as a thriller on that page versus what works on the screen. I can easily imagine this as a nail biter on the page, but it’s all internal... most of the suspense concerns what the character is *feeling*, and we can’t see that. In a way we have a story like REBECCA, about a shy new bride dealing with her new husband’s secret... and you’d think the hubby being a spy instead of a dreamy rich dude with a dead first wife would, but it doesn’t. Hubby is off screen doing spy stuff in Mexico City... and the only thing close to Mrs. Danvers is Leachman’s character, who is just a stuck up rich girl (instead of a foreboding frozen faced Maid who has the real power in the house). The Maid in this story is old and frail... not much of a physical threat. Also not much of any kind of threat because she knows the secret but really can’t do anything with it. And for a story that’s mostly confined to the family house, there isn’t even the sort of suspense and intrigue from REBECCA or NOTORIOUS. The family is mostly just sitting around doing nothing. None are really threats, no real suspense... Alice is just an outsider when it comes to the family rather than a target.

I suspect the story also loses something from whatever scope the novel may have had versus the confines of a TV budget and shooting schedule. This gets into my Dog Juice Theory: when the story gets smaller you need to increase the “juice” to keep it exciting, and in this case the juice would be suspense. Add to this the stiff acting and massive overacting of the villains (they’re on screen for so little time they only have time to be evil without any time for actual characterization).



So the whole episode comes off as kind of bland and boring, and that car chase scene can’t really make up for it. The suspense set piece with Alice hiding in the Murphy bed is also kinda dull... though there is a moment where she is almost discovered. And the reveal that Walter is working with the badguys is nonexistent! He’s just in a scene with Buono. No *twist* to it. Part of this is the writing isn’t finding ways to amp up the suspense and part is the director, Mitchell Leisen (who’s contract requires his *signature* as his credit), who was a famous director of big glossy studio films in the 1930s to1950s and doesn’t seem to be at home in the thriller genre... even though he directed Cornell Woolrich’s NO MAN OF HER OWN in 1950 (which ended up more soap opera than thriller). Leisen directed episode 3 and this one... and then was off to some other TV show and get that nifty signature title card.

After two good episodes in a row we go off track again with this one... but next week? Karloff takes a role in a weird tales type story!

Bill



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