Friday, July 03, 2020

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Mike Leigh on REAR WINDOW

Mike Leigh and Hitchcock may both be British directors, but after that they are polar opposites - Hitch being all about precision and technique, Leigh being more about realism and almost the lack of technique to tell the story. But both know what it;s like to be working class people (Hitch’s father worked in a produce stall - check out FRENZY and SABOTAGE) - so their interests intersect with one of my favorite films REAR WINDOW. In 1997 the BBC did a series of interviews with directors and actors in honor of Alfred Hitchcock, and many of the interviews seem to be in a vault somewhere at the BBC, but a few are hidden away on a couple of websites including Mike Leigh’s look at REAR WINDOW, his thoughts on all of the people across the courtyard on that hot day. Those characters could be in a Mike Leigh movie. In my HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR book I look at the fixed view experiment in this film, but also at the stories across the courtyard - and in this clip Leigh talks about the Miss Lonelyhearts story... which is heartbreaking.



Of course, I have a couple of books about Hitchcock, REAR WINDOW is in the one that is on sale today...

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!

369 pages packed with information!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:

UK Folks Click Here.

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Canadian Folks Click Here.

And...




HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



ON SALE!!! $2 OFF!

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.

SALE: $3.99

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

- Bill

Thursday, July 02, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: Papa Benjamin

Papa Benjamin

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



Season: 1, Episode: 26.
Airdate: March 21st, 1961

Director: Ted Post (MAGNUM FORCE, GOODGUYS WEAR BLACK)
Writer: John Kneubuhl (PIGEONS FROM HELL episode) based on a story by Cornell Woolrich.
Cast: John Ireland, Jester Hairston, Jeanne Bal, Henry Scott, Peter Forster, Alibe Copage.
Music: Pete Rugolo (who was a big band leader).
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Producer: Maxwell Shane




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “The harassed gentleman Eddie Wilson insists that he killed the man because he himself was being killed... with voodoo. Is there really such a thing? Can a voodoo Houngan really work black magic? Papa Benjamin does in this terrifying story by Cornell Woolrich. Our leading players are: Mr. John Ireland as Eddie Wilson, Miss Jeanne Bal as Judy Wilson, Mr. Henry Scott as Staats, and Mr. Robert Harris as Jerry. As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, you will witness fantastic events in this Thriller. Events as dark as the jungle where the voodoo rites and voodoo drums are seen and heard. It may even lead you to wonder what you yourself could accomplish with just an ordinary pin and a doll shaped like someone of whom you’re not particularly fond. Well I commend you to Papa Benjamin and an hour of thrills. I have things to do.” (pokes voodoo doll with pin)

Synopsis: Eddie Wilson (John Ireland) staggers into a police station on “Santa Isabel Island” (next to Haiti), dripping with sweat and looking ill. They lay him on a couch and ask if he needs a doctor... he says it’s too late for that. He pulls out a gun and says he killed a man. In self defense. A detective asks if the man was also armed? No. Was he strangling you? Hitting you? Did he have a knife? No to all of these. Wilson explains: it was Voodoo.



Detective Daniels (Peter Forster) says that there hasn’t been any voodoo on this island in fifty years, it was outlawed. He checks Wilson’s wallet, finds his name... hey, isn’t this that famous bandleader that was playing at the big hotel?

Flashback: That big tourist hotel a year ago... In the ballroom Eddie Wilson is stuck writing a new tune that he really needs *now*. He’s been playing the same stuff for too long, and that effects repeat business. The crowd in the hotel’s lounge is dwindling and he needs a new song to keep them coming. But he has “composer’s block”. He goes back to his room upstairs where his wife Judy (Jeanne Bal) who is also the band’s vocalist consoles him. Eddie says let’s go down to the ballroom and go over a song...

At the door to the ballroom they hear their drummer Staats (Henry Scott) playing an exotic beat and humming. (Just for fun, compare this humming and beat to humming and chest thumping Matthew McConnaugh did in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET... so *that’s* where he got it from!) As they spy on Staats from the doorway, it looks as if the drummer is in a trance. Is he on drugs again? Shooting up? Staats’ wife recently died, so that might explain a relapse. Wilson goes up to the piano and Staats breaks out of his trance. When he asks what Staats was playing, Staats says he doesn’t know, just kinda playing off the top of his head... and leaves. Wilson and Judy go over their number...

But Wilson can’t get that sound out of his head... it’s mesmerizing.



That night after their performance, Wilson and Judy are heading up to their room when Wilson realizes he has left his glasses on the piano and goes back to the ballroom... where he finds a chicken foot with a red ribbon tied to it on te stage. When he shows it to the (islander) cleaning woman, she freaks and runs out of the room. WTF? He hears someone coming and puts the chicken foot back onto the stage, and hides... as Staats comes back, grabs the chicken foot, and leaves. Wilson follows him into the night...

Staats walks through the city at night, down dark alleys, through bad neighborhoods, until he comes to an old abandoned plantation. Wilson watches as Staats knocks on the door, shows the chicken foot to a HUGE doorman, and is allowed entrance. Wilson sneaks up and starts looking through the windows... he can hear the music, that same beat that Staats was playing, coming from within, and climbs through a window into an empty room to get a closer look... spying on a Voodoo ritual!



Wham! He is *captured* and brought before the old Voodoo Priest Papa Benjamin (Jester Hairston) who wants to kill him. Wilson claims he came to *join* them, and Staats vouches for Wilson. “He is my friend.” Papa Benjamin indoctrinates him into the voodoo religion, making Wilson say “I believe” until Wilson may actually believe. Then making him say, “If I betray you in any way, I will die.” The ritual continues with some Carribean dancing (though Karloff did not introduce any of the Black cast members, the other stand out in the Voodoo scenes besides Hairston is dancer Alibe Copage who is not only hot, but insanely limber... though I suspect she had a ballet background I can find nothing on her online except her film credits).

When Wilson and Staats leave, Wilson explains that he was there to hear more of that music... and he’s going to write a rhapsody based on it. Staats says that music is sacred and if he uses it he’ll die. Wilson thinks Voodoo is fake. Staats says, “Goodbe dead man” and walks away... into the shadows. Never to be seen again. Creepy. Wilson goes back to the hotel, and writes the new Voodoo Rhapsody as if the music owned him. He’s so focused on the writing the new music that he ignores Judy... and their marriage begins to deteriorate.



The Premiere Of The Voodoo Rhapsody. Wilson makes sure the ballroom is packed with bigwigs from New York, and his agent Jerry (Robert Harris) is there. They play the music, and the crowd goes wild! Wilson’s career is about to skyrocket! But at the end of the piece, Wilson collapses on stage! Judy and Jerry come up to him, and he says it’s as if someone suddenly stuck a knife deep into his back. They think he’s just overworked... but behind him on stage is a Voodoo doll with a pin shoved deep into its back!

New York City: Wilson and his band play bigger and bigger venues. But it seems the more famous he gets, the more he battles illness. He is wasting away. After he passes out a few more times during Voodoo Rhapsody, some of his bookings cancel and Jerry gets worried. That’s when Judy asks for a divorce: Wilson hasn’t been himself lately, it’s as if the music owns him, control him... and there is no place for his wife in any of this. He has become so driven that his health is an issue, and he’s acting crazy. He tells her about the Voodoo curse, but she doesn’t believe him. She thinks he needs to see a psychiatrist. When he refuses, she *physically* walks out on him, closing the door in his face. Now he is alone, and wasting away more and more every day. The only way he can see to survive is to go back to the Island and have Papa Benjamin lift this curse!

The Island: Wilson is sweating and ill when he makes his way back to that old abandoned plantation. No music this time, no dancing. He finds Papa Benjamin and begs to have the curse lifted. Benjamin says Wilson had his chance, what is done is done and can not be undone. “Go away, dead man!” But Wilson doesn’t go away, he pulls out a gun and shoots Papa Benjamin dead! Then runs to the Island Police Station...



This is where we came in: Detective Daniels has Wilson show him to the Abandoned Plantation, and the body of Papa Benjamin... but the Plantation really is abandoned... spiderwebs fill the place, sticking to Wilson’s face as he leads the Detective and other policemen back to the room where he killed Papa Benjamin. All of the furniture is gone. And in that back room? No corpse. “I killed him, I tell you! Right here in this room!” They take him away...

New York City: Jerry visits Wilson in the mental ward. He’s getting better, and will soon be released.

When Wilson is released, he feels fine. Gained back weight. He goes to Jerry’s Office where he bumps into Judy. They’ve booked the band... on the island. Is Wilson up to this? Sure, that Voodoo stuff is fake. Superstition. He’s over it...

The Island: Wilson and Judy and the Band (minus Staats of course) play to a packed house. Wilson has never felt better. The crowd loves them. Then someone requests Voodoo Rhapsody. A moment... will Wilson play it? Of course! That whole voodoo thing was just superstition! The band starts playing, the crowd is loving it, then right as they get to the end... Wilson DROPS DEAD ON STAGE!

On the corner of the stage, a voodoo doll.



Review: This is the first of many THRILLER episodes that are based on a story by Cornell Woolrich (REAR WINDOW) and I wonder why it took them so long. Woolrich was a prolific pulp writer who turned out hundreds of thriller stories, many of which have been put on screen. Woolrich wrote all kinds of things for the pulp mags, from Noirs to Thrillers to Hardboiled to Crime Fiction to Police Procedurals to Supernatural stories to "Whiz Bangs" (sort of screwball crime fiction) and is one of the three fathers of modern Noir fiction (along with Horace McCoy and James M. Cain). His “Black Series” is one of the reasons why “noir” is noir, and when Truffaut did his pair of Hitchcock homages he picked a pair of novels by Woolrich, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and WALTZ INTO DARKNESS. Hitchcock only made one film based on a Woolrich story (REAR WINDOW), which is surprising, but directed several short stories for his TV show and one for a *rival* TV show (FOUR O'CLOCK - a real nail-biter of a story about a husband who plots his wife's murder... then gets caught in his own trap and realizes *he* will die at 4 O'clock along with her!). Years ago I was up for a gig to adapt a great Woolrich story about an arson investigator who ends up prime suspect in a series of huge fires and must find the real arsonist... but all of the clues lead directly to him. Funny thing: I already had a treatment written, because this was one of my dream projects. Not funny thing: this was for a TV movie and they could not afford to have any buildings burn down... making a film about arson impossible. Hey, there are so many Woolrich stories out there, eventually I’ll get my chance.

Buy The DVD!

But what about *this* story? This is an okay episode, and Ted Post does some great work with having Staats just vanish into the darkness and that scene where the spiderwebs cling to Wilson’s face make you go Yech! But in mainstreaming the story I think they took some of the punch out. The problem is, this story is all about mood. It’s a set up/punchline story that has not just been expanded to an hour (when it might have made a nice half hour show) they also start with the punchline: the episode opens with us knowing that voodoo is real. That’s actually the way the short story begins as well. But the short story is a metaphor for heroin addiction, and is about a New Orleans Jazz Band rather than a Ballroom Orchestra, and Staats doesn’t just vanish into the darkness, he comes back as a human skeleton... wasted away by his addiction to Voodoo. And Staats *dies* in the short story, as an early warning to Wilson (Bloch in the short story) of what will happen to him if he continues along this road. But in Noir when the protagonist sees that he or she is on the wrong path, that doesn’t stop them... they are addicted to the woman or the drug or the whatever else plays that “spider woman” role in the story. Because the Voodoo As Drug thing is muted, the focus ends up on that “twist end” which really isn’t a twist. Also, some of the suspense in the short story isn’t transferred to the screen: when Wilson follows Staats to the old Plantation is filled with tension and once they get to the Plantation there is all kind of suspense built up around the Wilson character being caught (in the story he creates a fake chicken foot to get him through the front gate, and suspense is built around him being discovered as an impostor). One of the things that’s great about Woolrich stories is the suspense, and that wasn’t really exploited in this episode... check out next week’s episode, though.

John Ireland is an odd choice, but gives a good performance. The wife character and the romance thing was an invention for the TV episode, probably as a way to externalize what the protagonist was going through... but it ends up adding a soapy element to the story. In REAR WINDOW the love interest was also an addition, but there it was done brilliantly: they made it thematic. Here it was just an additional character, and no effort was made to make Judy into a believer/non believer to take us deeper into the story.

The episode is still entertaining, and they do a great job of creating an island off the coast of Haiti on the backlot. But this isn’t the best episode of THRILLER based on a Cornell Woolrich story.

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Darth Vader & Storm Troopers On The NYC Subway

From A Decade Ago...

Okay, you're taking the subway to work in NYC when suddenly...



- Bill

THE NEW BLUE BOOK!

bluebook

THE LOGLINES, TREATMENTS, & PITCHING Blue Book!

DISTILLING YOUR SCREENPLAY

Loglines, Treatments, Pitching, Look Books, Pitch Decks, One Pagers, Rip-O-Matics, oh my!

You have written a brilliant 110 page screenplay, but how do you get anyone to read it? You need to distill it down into some form of verbal moonshine or story rocket fuel that will ignite that bored development executive or manager or agent and get them to request your screenplay. But how do you shrink those 110 pages into a 25 word logline or a 2 minute elevator pitch or a one page synopsis or a short paragraph?

How do you take that brilliant visual told story and great characters and snappy dialogue and dramatic moments and spectacular conflict and distill it into 25 words? How is that even possible? And keep it so interesting that that bored development executive reads it and wants to buy your screenplay and turn it into a movie that will make people laugh and cry and kiss $12 goodbye? The most common way is by crafting an amazing logline – rocket fuel – that will make people in the industry want to read your screenplay. The first thing that anyone asks about your screenplay is “What's it about?” and a logline is the answer. They have been used in the film business for almost 100 years, and are the secret to breaking in.

In this just under 100,000 word book we will look at all forms of “distilled story” that you are likely to encounter as a screenwriter, and take you step-by-step through the creation. We will look at the most effective ways to pitch your screenplay, and how the pitch reveals problems with your screenplay. Just about every question that you might have is answered in this book! Including how to use Look Books as a creative tool as well as a sales tool, and why some commercial pitch platforms may be a waste of money. We look at the 4 types of pitches, how a one page synopsis is a “birth to death” element of your screenplay – you may use one to sell the screenplay, and the distributor may use that same one pager on the back of the Blu-ray box! The critical elements needed in any logline. And much more!

So, what's your logline?

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: 11 HARROW HOUSE (1974)

Directed by: Aram Avakian (Don Westlake's COPS & ROBBERS).
Written by: Jeffrey Bloom and Charles Grodin based on the novel by Gerald A. Browne.
Starring: Charles Grodin, Candice Bergen, James Mason, Trevor Howard, John Gielgud.
Produced by: Elliot Kastner (every 70s crime film plus WHERE EAGLES DARE).
Edited by: Anne V. Coates (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA to OUT OF SIGHT).

This is one of my favorite films that you’ve never heard of, and I have the poster framed (though not on my wall right now, not enough space). It’s an odd film, a sixties style caper movie made in the 70s and starring Charles Grodin who couldn’t really open a movie. Probably the main reason for the movie is that it is based on a best selling novel by Gerald A. Browne who wrote a bunch of breezy caper books that everyone took to the beach to read in the 70s and 80s. Only a couple ended up on screen, this one and another film that wasn’t a hit GREEN ICE starring Ryan O’Neal and Anne Archer. I read a bunch of his books, which always dealt with gemstones and were usually fun caper stories against a glamourous background... with a bit of conspiracy theory thrown in. They’re kind of Cary Grant movies. The combination of comedy and crime is probably what attracted me to the books and this movie. I had not seen it since it was released, but thanks to those wonderful folks at Shout Video I now have it on DVD and have watched it a couple of times. It’s an acquired taste sort of thing, and a flawed film whether you like it or not.



The story gets off to a great start with an unconscious man under a doctor’s care on an airplane, headed to a hospital for life saving surgery. He is taken off the plane and loaded into an ambulance, the doctor hops in back, and the ambulance speeds off. A Man watches all of this, and smiles. In the back of the ambulance, the unconscious man sits up, and he and the doctor open a secret compartment in his medical bag where a bunch of smuggled diamonds are hidden... Then the ambulance is blown to smithereens!

That Man is an enforcer from 11 Harrowhouse in London, the secret organization which controls diamonds throughout the world. The Diamond Exchange. In order to keep the price up, only so many diamonds are allowed out in the world. Every diamond ever bought or sold starts with a raw diamond from 11 Harrowhouse. They are the conspiracy theory part of the story.



Howard Chesser (Charles Grodin) is at the bottom of the list of diamond buyers from 11 Harrowhouse, he’s a smart ass American who doesn’t know how to dress (his suits are not from one of the approved tailors) and he’s, well, common. There’s a great little scene where he lights a cigarette in the waiting room and the receptionist *wordlessly* stares at him until he puts it out. When it’s his turn, Meechum (Sir John Gielgud) who is in charge, insults Chesser and gives him very few raw diamonds at an outrageous price... and since this is a conspiracy/monopoly, Chesser has no choice but to buy them. The vault manager who does the diamond handling, Watts (James Mason), apologizes to Chesser for his treatment. Watts is the only one at the company who isn’t a prick.

Chesser complains to his girlfriend Maren (Candice Bergen) about how they treat him, and she suggests: “My money is your money, if you have to be humiliated, be humiliated with me.” She’s the widow of a formula one driver and rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams... but he doesn’t want to be a kept man. Oh, and if they get married? She loses all of the money.



The next day they are walking down a dark and spooky pedestrian tunnel and are attacked by two men... who subdue them and then give them an *invitation* to meet with the UK’s wealthiest man Massey (Trevor Howard) who made much of his money from oil. Massey lives on an estate the size of a state, where all of his servants are mutes so that they won’t blab to the press. Except for the security force, which is kind of a private army. Massey would like to hire Chesser to purchase and have cut a huge diamond that will be named after him... because when you already have everything, why not have a diamond named after you? Chesser agrees, buys the raw diamond at Harrowhouse and takes it to Amsterdam to be cut by the world’s best diamond cutter. But on the road to Massey’s estate to deliver the diamond, Chesser and Maren are attacked by a pair of thugs and the diamond stolen. Those thugs look a lot like members of Massey’s security detail. But Chesser is over a barrel... and Massey convinces him to rob 11 Harrowhouse of *everything*. To keep the price of diamonds high, they keep a large percentage off the market in the vault deep underground. Impossible to get in or out... so how do you steal anything from this vault?



The film’s tagline is intriguing...

This is like no robbery you've ever imagined.
THE CHALLENGE: Steal 12 billion dollars in uncut diamonds.
THE TASK: Break into the most securely guarded fortress devised by man.
THE PLAN: Use amateurs armed with ingenuity, guts, a cockroach, a thin cord, and a vacuum cleaner.
THE RISK: Death.



Wait... a cockroach and a vacuum cleaner?



And now we get to the fun part where Chesser approaches vault manager Watts who has always been kind to him, and tries to hint around that he’d like Watts to betray the Diamond Exchange and 11 Harrowhouse... while Watts is hinting around that the company is screwing him and he’d do anything to get revenge. Watts has been working for the company for 29 years, and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Problem is, the Diamond Exchange will *not* provide his family with any pension if he fails to work for the company for 30 years. His doctors say he probably won’t last that long. His family will be penniless. If he can screw over the Diamond Exchange *and* provide for his family? He’s in.

Chesser comes up with a plan, but the great thing about this film is you know it will take the cockroach and vacuum cleaner and the thin cord... but have no idea how those items will be used. And that’s the fun!



The caper is lots of fun, with Chesser a complete scaredy cat and Maren an insane risk taker and Watts getting a very dignified revenge. Lots of suspense, too: from guards doing their rounds to Chesser almost falling off the roof to Watts over exerting himself and almost passing out during the middle of the burglary. Some great sight gags as Maren chills champagne in 12 billion worth of diamonds while munching of a carrot. A caper film is all about how clever the scheme is to get past all of these impossible obstacles, and this movie takes you step by step through how they do it using those items. The vault that is impossible to steal from, and the insanely clever plan that allows them to empty it.

But after they have successfully stolen every diamond from that underground vault at 11 Harrowhouse, they now have to figure out how to get their money from Massey for delivering the *truck full* of diamonds. Their plan is to hide the truck on a building site among a bunch of other trucks and heavy equipment, and take a satchel with a sample of the diamonds to Massey’s estate. Massey is a man who cheats at *dog shows*. Impossible to trust him.



And this proves to be the right choice, as Massey and his private army try to steal the satchel of diamonds from them and get them to tell where the rest are; which leads to a massive car chase on the grounds of the estate and some shoot outs and explosions and other Act 3 stuff. The tone is often a little weird here, as they go for a fun romp action feel... but people are trapped in cars that go over a cliff and explode.

That inconsistent tone is one of the issues with the film, along with post production voice over with Grodin quipping about what happens on screen. The VO was actually one of my favorite parts when I first saw it, as it gives the whole things a 40s private eye movie feel... and also does what the movie PULP does so well: gives us tough guy patter when the film shows the protag being anything *but* tough. The scene in the dark pedestrian tunnel has Grodin getting the crap beaten out of him and collapsing, as the VO says “Lucky for him he let me go, in another minute I would have had him”. Some great laughs. Now the VO seems obviously added after some terrible test screening, though it is still amusing. This was obviously Grodin’s baby, he cowrote the script and stars... and it’s too bad this didn’t rocket him to stardom. But maybe if he had become a big star, he wouldn’t have been cast as second banana in MIDNIGHT RUN?

11 HARROWHOUSE is an acquired taste, but if you love sixties caper movies (and great British casts) it’s worth a look. I like it despite all of it’s problems.

Bill

Buy the border

Friday, June 26, 2020

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Sean Connery on MARNIE

If you believe the press releases, Sean Connery was a male model and coffin polisher who was discovered almost by accident and shot to stardom playing James Bond in DR. NO (1962), which kind of omits all of the films and TV series that he had done before that - a whole bunch of them! Including TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE and Disney’s DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (both 1959). Heck, he had starred as MACBETH in a Canadian TV film version - crap! I said the title!

Between FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER he found time to do a Hitchcock movie, MARNIE, based on the novel by Winston Graham (POLDARK) about a frigid female thief who is “saved” by the combination of Connery’s c*ck and a lengthy flashback sequence featuring Bruce Dern. The film is, um, problematic, these days, but works as an interesting Character Mystery where we delve into the motivations of what causes unusual behavior and childhood traumas... it’s related to Hitch’s SPELLBOUND in that way. But a big, glossy, soapy flick that’s still interesting. Connery talks about working on it and his relationship with Hitchcock in this interview segment.



Of course, I have a couple of books about Hitchcock, though MARNIE will be in the third book which should come out in 2022...

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!

369 pages packed with information!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:

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



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.

- Bill

Thursday, June 25, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: The Prisoner In The Mirror

Best Of Thriller: Prisoner In The Mirror

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



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

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



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

(Break to continue the prologue story in 1910)

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

(Now to present day)



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

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

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



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

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



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



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

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



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

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



Harry wakes up in the mirror world...

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

Bill



Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Just Another Day At Work...

From ten years ago....

My friends Scott and Ronson found this on YouTube and have posted this on FaceBook, and I'm swiping it from them and posting it here...

Ever wonder what Customer Service is doing at the call center when you are on hold?



- Bill

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: THE DELPHI BUREAU (1972)

This week’s Trailer Tuesday is for an obscure TV show from the 1970s, so it doesn’t really have a trailer... but it’s one of my favorite shows and this is *my* blog, so suck it.

THE DELPHI BUREAU (1972)

Directed by: Paul Wendkos
Written by: Sam Rolfe
Starring: Laurence Luckinbill, Celeste Holm, Dean Jagger, Cameron Mitchell, Bradford Dillman, Bob Crane, Joanna Pettet, Dub Taylor.



THE DELPHI BUREAU is kind of the father, or more likely grandfather, of the TV show CHUCK (also one of my favorites). Probably the father of CHUCK was the movie GOTCHA! which they referenced in the show at least once, and though I don’t remember them ever referencing either DELPHI BUREAU or THE LIQUIDATOR (another grandfather) you can easily see their DNA in that show. CHUCK is about a normal guy who works a crap job at Buy More Electronics who becomes a spy when a specially designed image based computer program called The Intersect “downloads” into his head when he opens an email from an ex friend, and he suddenly knows everything the CIA, NSA, FBI and any other 3 letter spy organization has ever known. Every intelligence file ever is now stored on his brain.

DELPHI BUREAU has the same concept, but without The Intersect, Glenn Garth Gregory is a government researcher with a photographic memory who often ends up in the field tracking down some fact for some probably pointless government report and uncovers a conspiracy... and must fight spies and terrorists. Imagine Chuck in his 40s. Glenn Garth Gregory is *not* a man of action, he’s a bookworm, like Turner in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, who ends up having to become a man of action... which he’s not very good at. Like Chuck and Turner his knowledge helps him out in action scenes. He’s a guy who knows how to fly a helicopter, but has never actually done it. This type of character was also the basis for James Allan Carter in my CRASH DIVE! movie... and a couple of unpublished spy novels I wrote about a guy name Roger Maxwell who also has a photographic memory. This show was a big influence on me.

THE DELPHI BUREAU only lasted one season... and really not even that, as it was part of a “Wheel Show” called THE MEN (sexist!). What the heck is a “Wheel Show” you ask? The 1970s were an innovative time in television: the Made For TV Movie became popular, and networks like ABC had a *new* Made For TV Movie every week! The other creation was the “Wheel Show” and though I really don’t know what the first one was, THE NAME OF THE GAME would be my guess. FAME IS THE NAME OF THE GAME was a TV movie directed by Stuart Rosenberg (COOL HAND LUKE) about a magazine publishing company like Time Life and all of its various magazines.

The movie was a hit and spawned the TV show that removed “Fame Is” from the title and ran from 1968 to 1971. The TV show was 90 minutes long and starred Gene Barry as the publisher, Tony Franciosa as a celebrity journalist for magazine called "People" (before that magazine existed!) and Robert Stack as an investigative reporter for a magazine like Time. Susan Saint James was the executive secretary who really ran the whole operation for Barry and was a regular in every episode. Every week it was like a TV movie, featuring either Barry’s publisher or Franciosa’s celeb & current affairs journalist or Stack’s investigative reporter. And the three stars rotated. So one week might feature a Hollywood behind the scenes soap scandal kind of story and the next week might be investigating a murder and uncovering a conspiracy and the next week we might have publisher Gene Barry on his way to an Environmental Conference where the President and some Senators would be speaking and makes a wrong turn and... well, that episode L.A. 2017 was directed by some kid named Spielberg and completely blew my mind when I was a kid. Part of TV’s innovative period was doing strange things like a science fiction episode in a dramatic TV show... Barry’s car crashes on the way to the Conference and he wakes up in 2017 where *air* is at a premium.

The idea of the “Wheel Show” was that it was 3 or 4 shows in one... and the format really took off, giving us The NBC Mystery Movie with COLUMBO, McCLOUD, McMILLAN & WIFE and several others. The great thing about a “Wheel Show” was that you could try out a potential TV series with an 8 episode season and if it caught on, move it to a weekly 24 episode series. Plus, if a show tanked, you could just throw a new series into the wheel to replace it. On NAME OF THE GAME Tony Franciosa’s character was written out in the third season (some behind the scenes contract conflict - ie: drugs) and replaced by Robert Culp and Robert Wagner and Suzanne Pleshette as journalists from other magazines run by Gene Barry’s character. The NBC Mystery Movie was constantly spinning off shows into their own series and replacing them with other detectives... often interesting experiments that might never get a chance at a series like HEC RAMSAY, a cowboy version of CSI in the old west. Try pitching CSI DEADWOOD today and see where it gets you.

ABC’s “wheel show” THE MEN featured ASSIGNMENT VIENNA (a spy show shot on location in Vienna), JIGSAW (about a missing persons investigator), and DELPHI. The entire wheel show only lasted one season, so there were only 9 episodes of THE DELPHI BUREAU made... and only the pilot episode is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

It’s no wonder that DELPHI BUREAU was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid, it was created by Sam Rolfe who also created HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E which were two of my other favorite shows. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay to THE NAKED SPUR, a great Anthony Mann western starring Jimmy Stewart. Rolfe’s last writing credit was on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, so he had a great career in TV.

Though CHUCK has traces of DELPHI BUREAU in its DNA., DELPHI has obvious traces of NORTH BY NORTHWEST (the movie poster of NBNW is on the wall of Chuck’s room!) and this pilot episode was obviously inspired by the Hitchcock classic...

THE DELPHI BUREAU:
MERCHANT OF DEATH ASSIGNMENT


“My job is to do research when the President needs to know some facts, but when the shooting starts? That’s a whole different department.”

The show opens with Glenn Garth Gregory (lanky Laurence Luckinbill) doing field research at an Airforce Base where miles of surplus planes are being stored for the next big war. There was a basic accounting problem: some surplus jet planes are unaccounted for but a later report had them written off after they were destroyed in a fire... and GGG’s job is to write a report on the damaged planes, so he’s flown out to this base in Arizona to take inventory. Booooring! Except there are no damaged pieces of the airplanes and no area at the base which looks as if a fire of that size took place. Suspicious. He takes photos of the supposed burn site and hops a plane back to Washington, DC.

In the airport, an attractive woman (April Thompson played by Joanna Pettet) bumps into him... and secretly places a flower decal on his camera case. When GGG steps onto the escalator at the airport, a uniform cop wearing a motorcycle helmet with tinted visor (Stokely played by Cameron Mitchell) fires a silenced gun at the man holding the camera case... killing him. Too bad it was a pickpocket trying to steal GGG’s camera! The pickpocket dies right *on top* of GGG, knocking him onto the escalator and pinning him down when they reach the end of the escalator. The escalator was a great location for this assassination scene. GGG thinks the man may have had a heart attack, then discovers he was shot. WTF? When a motorcycle policeman arrives to help and asks GGG why he has the dead man’s camera bag, GGG says it’s *his* camera bag... and the motorcycle cop pulls out his gun and starts shooting at GGG and chasing him through the airport! GGG escapes and hails a taxi... That’s how to start a story!

GGG meets his boss Sybil Van Loween (Celeste Holm) in the Congressional Gallery, where he reports that something is fishy with these jet planes. 24 brand new F101 fighter planes supposedly burned at the Airforce Base, yet there is no evidence of this... and the base has used more fuel than usual, enough to fly 24 planes 600 miles. Sybil tells him that coincidentally, an arms dealer in Sudan seems to have 24 new F101 fighter jets for sale to the highest bidder terrorist or 3rd word dictator. The planes don’t seem to be in Sudan, so they must find them before they get there and fall into the wrong hands. GGG spots April from the airport in the gallery... following him? She works for Matthew Keller (Dean Jagger who always plays the villain) who used to be an arms merchant nicknamed “The Merchant Of Death” but is now funding experimental food GMOs to help feed the starving people in 3rd world countries. Though GGG doesn’t “flash” like Chuck, there’s always a moment where we can see the information pop into his head.

Before you can say “Monsanto” GGG is speed reading agricultural books so that he can pass himself off as a Department Of Agriculture guy who will accompany Sybil to a party being thrown by Keller for his War Against Hunger Organization. Everyone in government and politics is at the party, including GGG’s friend Charlie Taggert (Bob Crane) who is comic relief on the pilot episode (but didn’t return for the series). Taggert speaks in limericks and loves to use acronyms for government agencies. The limerick part would also be used as “chapter titles” for subsequent episodes. Taggert is hitting on a beautiful woman when GGG shows up, and we get a great demonstration of GGG’s photographic memory as Taggert zings him with sports statistic questions and GGG instantly answers even the most obscure of them! Hey, this guy knows *everything*. Taggert works for S.N.I.S.W.I.S. (Sniss Wiss) the Strategic Not In Service Weapons Inventory Section and asks GGG about the F101 situation, so that we can get a little more exposition... the main bit being that Keller’s experimental farm is located about 600 miles from the Airforce Base where the planes vanished... is Keller behind the missing planes?

Then GGG meets Keller at the party... and he’s confined to a wheelchair after suffering a major stroke. Or, that’s what everyone claims. With Keller is his male nurse Dobkin (David Sheiner) plus April and prissy grain geneticist Randy Jamison (Bradford Dillman, a frequent COLUMBO villain). GGG says he’d like to stop by their experimental farm and see if the Department of Agriculture can help them in some way...

When he accompanies Keller and his entourage to their limo, he flashes on the limo driver... Stokely, the fake motorcycle cop who tried to kill him at the airport!

Farmland... GGG drives to the small town hotel to check in, but spots Stokely in the lobby. Stokely says Mr. Keller has reserved the best room in the hotel for GGG. (Yeah, probably bugged.) As soon as Stokely leaves, GGG asks a cowboy hanging around outside the hotel if there’s anywhere else to say in this town, and the cowboy sends him to a local boarding house. Twist: that cowboy gets picked up by Stokely and April as soon as GGG is gone...

From here the story is filled with twists and turns, featuring an exploding horse, a scene at the County Fair where GGG is framed for murder just like Roger Thornhill is framed at the United Nations, a great cameo by Dub Taylor as a hick in a pick up truck who gives GGG a ride and tries to polish off a king sized jug of moonshine along the way, and a series of cool scenes where GGG uses his endless knowledge to McGyver his way out of dangerous situations. He knows exactly which tentpole to kick to bring down the whole tent, he knows the heat and speed at which a kerosene fire will spread. He knows the wheel base of cars, trucks, farm equipment, and fighter planes... and knows that the skid marks on a country road are a clue. He knows how to use a cage full of birds as a weapon! Every danger situation he is faced with he finds some intelligent way to escape, based on all of the crazy facts and statistics stored in that brain of his.

The pilot film does a great job of creating that paranoia required in a Thriller, with every single character from that cowboy to townspeople possibly being part of the conspiracy. GGG has no idea who he can trust, and there are some great scenes along the way where bit part townspeople end up really being badguys... and a swell scene where someone who helps him escape ends up turning him over to the police for the murder he was framed for. There is also a great scene where GGG tells the Chief Of Police that he’s a researcher for the Delphi Bureau and the Chief calls GGG’s boss Sybil... who says she’s never heard of him! You see, Delphi Bureau is a secret organization that works directly for the President and there is maximum deniability. They can neither confirm nor deny that GGG is an employee... and when the Chief of Police asks GGG where the Delphi Bureau offices are? GGG doesn’t know, he meets Sybil in various places in D.C.... maybe there is no office? The Chief Of Police thinks GGG is lying, which removes the authorities from the equation. GGG can’t go to the police for the rest of the story, he’s on his own.

Taggert pops up again in the field with information that it’s not just 24 F101 fighter jets that are missing, there are tanks and rocket launchers and all kinds of other weapons! Enough for *someone* to start a war! Somewhere along the line Taggert asks April “Wangly diaplut?” (What's A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?) and has a comic relief limerick for everything. And April keeps sending GGG to his doom, much like Eve in NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

There’s a great suspense scene when Stokely, April, and the Cowboy come to the boarding house to kill him... and he uses a 4H group as cover much like Turner used those hippie kids in the apartment building for cover after the elevator ride with Joubert in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. One of the great scenes has April and GGG in a grain silo, he thinks she’s setting him up to be killed and pulls a gun he’s found someplace along the way... and then drops it in the corn. Um, not what a spy does. Now he’s digging through the corn for the gun and discovers... a jet fighter plane! They are shipping the planes in cargo containers of grain to the starving people of Africa! That’s when the badguys open the silo chute and try to drown them in corn!

There’s a nice conveyor belt escape, we find out who is behind the scheme (by now everyone is a suspect) and it *is* a surprise, and then we get our big action set piece at the end... that NORTH BY NORTHWEST crop duster corn field chase... but with GGG and April being chased by a harvesting machine with giant rotating blades. Can GGG and April outrun the machine?

One of the great things about this pilot episode is that everything is farm related, from those 4H girls to this harvesting machine chasing them through the corn fields. The improvised weapons GGG has to create are often farm related! Much as Jackie Chan uses whatever is at the location as a weapon, DELPHI BUREAU uses everything farm related for it’s story and scenes. This is one of those great screenwriting lessons in action: instead of a typical car chase or action scene, we get a *location specific* action scene like the harvester chasing them through the corn fields with its rotating blades.

This end harvester chase scene is great! As GGG and April run through the corn fields, holding hands, they try to out maneuver the harvester, but Stokely is an expert when it comes to driving farm equipment and turns to chase them... closer and closer and closer! When April trips on a corn stalk and goes down, the harvester is too close for GGG to help her up so he sacrifices himself: luring the harvester away from her and after him... then he stumbles in the corn field with the harvester is heading right at him! As he’s about to be run over, GGG grabs the undercarriage of the tractor and does a Yakima Canutt, hanging on for dear life and getting knocked from his place again and again by corn stalks until his next stop will be the rotating blades of the harvester! Of course, he uses his never ending knowledge to figure out an escape from this certain death.

The show does a great job of finding that line between action spy show and light comedy, much as NORTH BY NORTHWEST and CHUCK did. The cast is amazing for a TV pilot episode, every supporting actor you’ve ever seen pops up... and because there are so many names in the cast you really can’t guess who the villain is... all of these people have played villains before! Laurence Luckinbill is a great Cary Grant substitute for TV, charming and good looking enough to be the lead without being too good looking. There’s a nice rivalry between Luckinbill and Crane’s characters over women, and Crane is better looking and more self confident... making Luckinbill the obvious underdog. It’s like Chuck and Shaw in CHUCK Season 3... but Luckinbill plays his role less nervous and more just not heroic. GGG drives the cool James Bond car (a Jaguar XKE convertible) and drinks martinis and looks good in a suit... but when the shooting starts that a whole other department. Well, he wishes it were.

The cinematography is great: it looks like a big theatrical movie and has some amazing moving camera work. One shot worth noting starts with GGG in an office at the Airforce Base reading fuel consumption reports... and when he closes the ledger the camera pulls back *out a huge picture window* and follows him out a door and then down exterior stairs to a Jeep and he speeds off... all in the same shot! There are many big wide shots which are composed for the big screen rather than the small screen. Many of these MOWs and wheel shows had a theatrical release overseas, so they made them feel like a movie.

I love stories about people who use brains instead of brawn and use their knowledge to take down bad guys. That’s what Roger Thornhill and Turner and Chuck and Glenn Garth Gregory and some of my characters have in common. They are terrible in a fist fight, hate guns, but manage to use all kinds of seemingly pointless facts and stats and knowledge to win the battle. I hope Warner Archives releases the rest of THE DELPHI BUREAU so I have something to watch when I've finished binging on CHUCK! (currently finishing up Season 3...)

Warner Archive: All kinds of great vintage movies and TV shows!

From the capital came a young man…
To uncover some worms in a can…
So they con him – they frame him…
For murder they blame him…
In turn – he eludes them…
Pursues – then eschews them…
'Till he holds all the strings to the plan…
The end – more or less, Delphian!



Bill


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