Friday, May 29, 2020

Hitchcock: Content vs. Technique

Here's another bit of advice from Hitchcock while I get some writing done...



- Bill






Of course, I have my own books focusing 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!

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






USA Readers 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 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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, May 28, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: WAXWORKS

SEASON 2: WAXWORKS

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



Season: 2, Episode: 16.
Airdate: January 8, 1962.

Director: Herschel Daugherty.
Writer: Robert Bloch, based on his short story.
Cast: Oskar Homolka, Ron Ely, Alan Baxter, Booth Colman, Antoinette Bower.
Music: Morton Stevens.
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline.
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “I can not tell a lie. I cut it with my hatchet. A very famous quote from an even more famous gentleman. But his good father had no trouble obtaining the confession - afterall his victim was nothing more than a cherry tree. While ours? Ours was living flesh and blood. I wonder if an admission of guilt can be extracted from a chap who, as we have heard, has already been executed. Not once, not twice, but three times. Yes, my friends, Vardack the mass murderer certainly should be harmless now. Now that he’s merely a cleverly molded figure in the waxworks. Which, as it so happens, is the setting and the title of our story. A moving amidst models of monsters and murderers you will encounter some very real people. Our players. And they are: Pierre Jacquelin, Master sculptor whose wax companions include no less than fifty of the world’s most diabolical murderers, played by Oskar Homolka. His niece, Annette, beautiful, beguiling, a pleasant contrast to her sinister surroundings, played by Antoinette Bower. Colonel Bertroux, a pursuer as relentless as he is mysterious, portrayed by Martin Kosleck. Detective Hudson, a very young man in a very dangerous business, played by Ron Ely. His more seasoned colleague, Sargent Dane, who is to learn that flesh and blood murderers are much easier to capture than the other kind, enacted by Alan Baxter. And Lieutenant Baily, whose not so enviable responsibility it is to solve the mystery of the waxworks, portrayed by Booth Colman. So come, let us go into the chamber of horrors together! I’ll vouch for the fact that you’ll enjoy yourselves, and it’ll be interesting to see if you can find your way out... alone!



Synopsis: Pierre Jacquelin (Homolka) owns a traveling wax museum of killers, and shows a tour around. Each diorama shows the killer in the act. All look very lifelike... and one of the guests thinks one of the statues are moving. A pretty woman (Amy Fields) is sketching one of the killers - Vardack - who has a bloody ax, and Jacquelin notes that her sketch missed the lift in the killer’s right shoe - one leg was shorter than the other. It’s closing time and everyone leaves... except for the woman who lurks behind finishing her sketch, and is now locked in with the 50 wax killers. The wax figure of killer Vardack that she sketched begins walking towards her - great suspense! We see the feet - one shoe with the lift - as they stalk her in the dark housed of wax. Closer and closer and closer and... She gets to the doors and tries to get out...

The City Morgue: Lt. Baily (Booth Coleman) and Sgt Dane (Alan Baxter) ask the Morgue Attendant (J. Pat O’Malley) about cause of death and other clues - she was killed with the ax, and they will have to wait for the Medical Examiner to finish up with another customer before they can get details. There’s a great bit here where the Morgue Attendant opens one of the refrigerated drawers with a dead body and pulls out his lunch - hey, just keeping it cold! Lots of witty lines.



Police Station: The Detectives look over the victim’s persona; effects... and the sketch pad. The drawing of the man with the ax... her killer? Did she know her killer? And why would he *pose* with the murder weapon? They can’t identify the man in the sketch, so Sgt Dane goes to the Waxworks to interview Jacquelin.

Waxworks: Sgt Dane shows the sketch to Jacquelin and ask if he has ever seen this man. He has... and leads the cop to the diorama of the ax murderer. What? Jacquelin expects them to believe that a wax dummy murdered the girl? That’s crazy! There are 50 wax murderers in the waxworks, Jacquelin knows a lot about murder. Dane asks if Jacquelin has an alibi for the time of death, and his niece steps out of the shadows and says they were working on a new exhibit. When Jacqueline goes to show a group around the waxworks, Sgt Dane question his pretty niece Annette (Antoinette Bower)..

Dane asks if he can search the studio - and Annette allows him to poke around. There is a vat of wax, a work bench, all kinds of wax body parts - it’s spooky as heck! Dane wants to open a closed door, Annette tries to stop him... too late! The Detective opens the closet door and there is a *man* inside. An old bearded man! And he falls out - right at the Detective! Who catches him. Annette moves in to help - it’s a wax dummy. The very one that Jacquelin was working on last night. This is a great shock moment.



After he is satisfied that Jacquelin isn’t the killer, Sgt Dane asks if he can buy Jacquelin dinner and they walk down the foggy street at night... when they hear the roar of a car engine. The car zooms right at them - hitting and killing Sgt Dane! Behind the wheel of the car: The wax dummy that was in the closet!

After Jacquelin makes her statement at the police station, handsome young Detective Hudson takes her home. Meanwhile, Detective Baily has a theory - what if the killer is after Annette? He mistook the artist girl for Annette, and then the car was trying to kill her instead of Sgt, Dane.



As Hudson walks her home, a man follows them in the shadows. They stop at a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and afterwards each lies about what their fortune cookie says. Annette says it reads “Don’t stay out to late on the first date” - when it really says “Beware of the dark stranger.”

Just when they may be about to kiss, the man who was following steps out of the shadows with a gun! He is Colonel Bertroux (Martin Kosleck) - and Detective Baily and Jacquelin blast out of the waxworks doors and tackle him... arresting him for both murders.

Except he’s not the killer - he’s a French detective who has been tracking a serial killer. This serial killer seems to strike wherever the waxworks sets up shop. Every city in Europe where the exhibition set up camp was plagued with killings. Bertroux’s investigation has found no evidence against Jacquelin nor Annette... He believes the wax figures may be doing the killings. The M.O.s for all of the killings have matched the 50 wax figure’s killings. Bertroux has the crazy idea that the wax figures can come to life, and rattles off a series of legends and myths about statues coming to life. He’s wacky!



But Sgt, Dane was killed by a car - none of the wax killers used an automobile. Bertroux says there was a killer who murdered with a car... and the name is the same name as the new wax figure that was in the closet!

The spooky waxworks at night. Pounding at the door. Annette opens the door - to Colonel Bertroux, who has a crazy theory that Jacquelin is stealing hairs from the killers when he makes his death masks and is using black magic to bring them to life. Dude be crazy! He wants to confront Jacquelin, breaks down the bedroom door and pulls back the covers... exposing a wax figure in Jacquelin’s bed. What?

Then Bertroux hears footsteps coming closer. The hook handed killer wax figure enters the room, raises his hook... and kills Bertroux! The wax figures ARE alive!



Lt Baily and Detective Hudson pound on the door of the waxworks - they were following Bertroux. They break down the door and enter the dark, spooky waxworks - filled with 50 wax killers! They pass a wax killer with a huge butcher knife poised to stab a woman - he looks so real! Then Baily realizes that Hudson is no longer behind him, and re-traces his steps. This time the wax killer’s hand is empty - no butcher knife. The knife is in dead Hudson’s back!

A door pops open behind Baily, he spins - it’s Jacquelin. With Bertroux’s gun. Bertroux is in the bubbling caldron of wax in the workshop. Baily says he went through Bertroux’s files before coming here - evidence of murders throughout Europe, wherever the traveling Waxworks was. Baily thinks that the murders were not committed by wax figures, but by a man who disguised himself as those wax figures: Jacquelin.



They wrestle for the gun, Baily manages to grab it. Asks where Jacquein’s niece is. “I have no niece... she is my wife.” Baily opens a closet door and there is Annette... except she’s freakin’ ancient! And a wax figure. You see, she was a murderer witch who was executed and Jacquelin used black magic to bring here back - stole her body and molded wax over her dead form - a wax figure that comes alive. He needs fresh blood to keep her alive - hence the victims. Obviously he’s crazy. He takes a candle to illuminate her face... then tries to grab Baily’s gun. In the struggle Jacquelin is killed and the candle lights the wax figure of Annette and she burns - exposing a skull and skeleton underneath!

Jacquelin wasn’t crazy - Annette was really a wax figure come to life!



Review: This is a great creepy episode, with lots of suspense and twists... Daugherty was one of the “staff directors” and sometimes his episodes are great and sometimes they seem rushed for time (it’s TV, and you have to shoot the episode in time for it to air or there will just be a test pattern). But I wonder how much the writer ended up part of that equation? Robert Bloch is one of mt favorite horror writers, and his work was frequently adapted for THRILLER and often - like in this case - by his own hand. I learned a lot about creating dread and terror by reading his stories, and I assume that he carried those techniques over into his teleplays. If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage! How many of the scary episodes are due to suspense scenes being in the screenplay, so that they were scheduled into the shoot? That opening scene where the wax killer stalks the woman trapped in the waxworks after closing could have just been: “Vardack kills her” in the script, and scheduled as a couple of seconds of screen time - with only a few minutes to shoot. But if it had been written out as a suspense scene, they would have scheduled more time to shoot it and there would have been time to get all of those creepy shots. Could that be the reason why the same director has different results?



Oskar Homolka was a silent star in Austria back in 1926 who became one of Hitchcock’s great villains ten years later in SABOTAGE, and spent 50 years in the business playing all kinds of great roles including Russian Colonel Stok in a couple of the Harry Palmer movies. He was one of those dependable character actors who could show up for work and knock it our of the park. He’s so charming, here, that you know why he has evaded the police for so long.

Ron Ely is impossibly young in this episode. A few years later he would play Tarzan, and so far he is the only one to play Doc Savage on film. Antoinette Bower began her career in a TV version of Poe’s TELLTALE HEART and has had a huge TV career including playing Berlin Betty on HOGAN’S HEROES and played the principal’s wife in PROM NIGHT... and is still with us. Martin Kosleck had a career playing Nazis in movies and on TV (HOGAN’S HEROES), but I know him as the homeless guy sleeping in the windmill in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Alan Baxter was in Hitchcock’s SABOTEUR.



The story is a semi reworking of Bloch’s YOURS TRULY JACK THE RIPPER with a series of murders that fallow the pattern of previous murders and the driven expert from across the pond who aids the police in their investigation... but also is one of the prime suspects. But the whole things gets a fresh coat of paint and a completely different concept. Instead of Jack The Ripper, we get the very creepy idea of house of wax killers coming to life. Instead of the victims being women and that trip to a 60s strip club, most of the victims are men and we focus on the super creepy house of wax at night. So Bloch took the skeleton of the story and jettisoned everything else, creating a completely new story. I find this stuff interesting. If you are making a living writing and selling short stories, you have to keep turning them out! How do you keep that up? One of the way Lester Dent (Doc Savage) managed to write a novel (or two) a month was to have a handful of story patterns - or formulas - that he could use as the skeleton. You can read all of those books back to back and they seem like completely different stories because the details are different. Here, Jack The Ripper being split up into the 50 wax killers in the house of wax - and the completely different resolution - make it a completely new story. All of the scenes are different. The skeleton is similar.

After last week’s crime story disguised as a horror story (the dream sequence opening), we’re back to real horror - and this is a fun, creepy episode! Next week - a period episode about witches!

- Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tales From The Script

From Ten Years Ago...

If you believe that after you win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay you will suddenly be treated better by Hollywood and your writing will be respected and not messed with by the damned dirty apes of development... think again! You’ll have to deal with all of the same problems - you’ll just get paid more.

Two weeks ago I went to the Aero Cinema in Santa Monica to see the pre-DVD release screening of...




TALES FROM THE SCRIPT is a great documentary that all screenwriters both new and abused should see. Filmmakers Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman interviewed dozens of professional screenwriters about their work, the business, and how the role of the screenwriter has changed over the years. The film is broken down into chapters, with many screenwriters addressing the same issue in each chapter. Shane Black, Frank Darabont, William Goldman, David Hayter, Paul Schrader, Ron Shelton, David S. Ward, and just about any writer you can name is interviewed. You learn the truth about screenwriting - a truth you may not have wanted to know, but that will help you navigate the treacherous waters of the screenwriting business. Though the film is simple talking head interviews - these folks are all great storytellers, and when they tell a war story about the business it’s a heck of a good story! I was never bored - and usually too busy laughing or squirming with terror.

If you have seen the film on screen, the DVD has 3 big special features:
47 minutes of additional interviews.
12 minutes of William Goldman’s advice.
9 minutes of advice for new screenwriters from the pros.



There is also a companion book with *different interviews* and *different screenwriters*.

The DVD is available on Amazon and on Netflix - check it out.

After the screening there was a great panel of screenwriters doing Q&A, many of them I know. It was kind of cool. Steve DeSouza, Peter Hyams,. Stephen Susco, Bruce Joel Rubin, Adam Rifkin, and a couple of others. It was a great Q&A session - many things that probably will never see print or film or tape - because these guys want to continue to work in this town. Bruce told a horror story about a big name star who has no story sense at all - but is so big that whatever he wants in the script goes in the script... even if the resulting film sucks. The film is filled with stories like this!

POPATOPOLIS!



And Thursday May 27th at 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Premiere of POPATOPOLIS - a film I saw at the Raindance International Film Festival in London last year. The movie is being released on DVD, and this screening is a celebration...

POPATOPOLIS is a film that answers the question - can you make a feature film in 3 days with a crew of only 2, starring women with freakishly large breasts who may be too top heavy to stand? B movie director Jim Wynorski can... and this doc chronicles every crazy minute.

Here is a link to my review from London - POPATOPOLIS.

If you are in Los Angeles and like sleazy low-end Z movies, come on down and see this documentary on how they are made!

- Bill

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: With A Friend Like Harry (2000)

A FRIEND LIKE HARRY (2000)

Directed by: Dominik Moll.
Written by: Dominik Moll and Gilles Marchand.
Starring: Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin.
Cinematography by: Matthieu Poirot-Delpech.
Music by: David Whitaker.




After seeing THE GUEST I was reminded of this French film, and decided to pop WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY into the machine and watch it again. I had seen it in the cinema, bought the DVD... and it sat on my shelf in the shrink wrap ever since. The odd thing about those silly French folks is that while America seems to shun most thrillers, the French love them. One of my favorite Don Westlake non series novels, THE AX, is about the economic downturn in the USA and a mid level management guy who realizes there are a couple dozen guys applying for the same jobs that he is... everyone is out of work! Then he decides the only way to land a job is to eliminate the competition, and becomes a serial killer of downsized mid level executives. Great *American* story... but no studio in America seemed to want it, so it was made in France by none other than Oscar Winning director Costa Gavras... with French actors speaking French. Hey, things were tough all over. But why do great American thrillers end up being made in France?

HARRY is an original screenplay by Gilles Marchand and the director Dominik Moll, but it’s the kind of story that Patricia Highsmith (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) might have written.



I'm sure we all have had someone come up to us, call us by name, talk about some shared experience... and we don't know who the hell they are. We have forgotten them, but they have not forgotten us. They were nothing in our lives, but we were everything to them. Okay, that scene happens in a highway rest stop men's room at the opening of HARRY... do you want to be recognized while you are peeing? Do you want to shake some stranger’s hand, or worse: hug them?

Michael* (Laurent Lucas) and his wife Claire (Mathilde Seigner) and their three little girls (one a perpetually crying baby) have been taking a road trip to the ramshackle country house a couple hours past the retirement community where his overbearing parents live. They have a beat up old station wagon without air conditioning... and France is in the middle of a heat wave. The kids are miserable, and so are Michael and Claire. They stop at the gas station to change the baby’s diaper and use the facilities... never thinking that Michael might run into some one he knows.

Or, pretends to remember.

It seems that Michael and Harry (Sergi López) went to high school together years ago, and Harry claims that Michael collided with him on the soccer field once and broke Harry’s front tooth. Michael remembers none of this. Harry claims they were friends way back in high school because they had so much in common, but now one is a struggling teacher with a wife and his three little (always screaming) kids and the other has inherited his father's fortune after he and his mother died in that tragic accident and drives a Mercedes sports car with a hottie named “Plum” (Sophie Guillemin) in the passenger seat. Michael has a life full of problems... and Harry believes in solving problems... permanently. Harry would like to buy dinner for Michael and his family, but Michael says he needs to get to the country house before nightfall so his kids can get to sleep at their bedtimes. Harry says he has some bottles of wine in the trunk, why not follow them to the country house and have a glass or two with them? Have you ever had someone invite themselves into your life and you just didn’t have the balls to tell them “no”?

It just keeps getting worse!

This is a great set up for a thriller because it has happened to all of us, and opens our life to potential peril when we allow some sinister stranger into our home... our lives... our family.

Basically Harry and Plum move in, sleeping in the best bedroom (because Michael wants to impress him). And Harry begins helping the struggling teacher. When the stationwagon breaks down, Harry buys them a brand new SUV. Michael tries to turn down the gift, but Harry explains ever since his parents died he has had more money than he could ever spend, so why not help out an old friend?

Because they missed a planned stop at the retirement community so that Michael’s overbearing parents could see their grand kids, his father calls and *insists* that they drive over. Michael tries to dissuade them, his father really shouldn’t be driving at night, and ends up agreeing to drive out in the new SUV and pick them up, then deliver them back to the retirement community afterwards.

When he gets there, you understand why Michael keeps his distance from his father and mother, and does not accept any gifts from them... those gifts come with *many* strings attached. His father is a manipulative ahole, a retired dentist who *insists* on giving Michael a dental exam and teeth cleaning in the spare room where he has all of his old dental equipment! This is one of those brilliant absurdist thriller scenes which help the audience feel ill at ease as they suppress their laughter at how silly (but creepy) the scene is. One of the great things about this story is that they keep finding odd things that you can relate to... that person who recognizes you but you do not recognize them, this scene where the overbearing father offers something you do not want, but you can’t really decline without hurting his feelings, and later scenes where Michael and hottie Plum meet in the bathroom and have a strangely erotic moment... it’s filled with uncomfortable scenes that just get weirder and weirder!

Michael mentions Harry, and his father remembers him! In fact, his father tells the same story about how Michael *irresponsibly* ran into Harry on the soccer field and broke his tooth and Michael’s father had to repair it for free... always cleaning up after his screw up son...

When Harry meets Michael’s parents, he realizes that they are what is holding his old friend back. They seem to go out of their way to belittle him, they offer him help (but in such a way that Michael would be forever in their debt if he accepted), and they won’t just help him financially without a bunch of strings and lectures and shaming. Harry realizes that Michael would be better off if his parents had the same sort of tragic accident that befell Harry’s parents... and makes it so! He calls Michael’s parents and says it is an emergency, they must drive out to the country house... then Harry steals a delivery van and runs them off the road, killing them.

Eventually things come to the point that Michael realizes all of his recent good fortune is due to Harry’s help... and that he has become an accomplice to Harry’s crimes. Can he let this man continue to kill people... even if it means that Michael gets everything he secretly desires? Or should he stop Harry before it’s too late?



WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY is a great thriller with the genre’s required humorous absurdity. Like STRANGERS ON A TRAIN’s rocky relationship between two men, one who may secretly love the other, HARRY takes us deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until helping him bury a body just seems normal. An average man’s life suddenly spins out of control and he must step up to set it right... can he do that?

A couple of years ago they announced a US remake which would be directed by Kimberly Peirce with a script by Wentworth Miller, but according to a Variety story, she is no longer attached... which is too bad. After seeing Miller penned STOKER I would have lost Miller and kept Peirce. Though you can't judge a screenplay by its movie, I always worry a little about actors who write. Actors sometimes have a tunnel vision about *their* craft which results in a screenplay with good scenes that often don't add up to a story. STOKER's big problem was the script. We’ll see what happens if they ever make it.

Bill

* I've used the American spelling instead of "Michel" to avoid confusion.

Friday, May 22, 2020

MISSION: HITCHCOCK!

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT was the first time the same director has been brought back for a second film. When they began the series the plan was to bring in a different director for each film, so that each movie had a different feel. The slightly amusing part of this is that the first director, Brian DePalma, set the tone for all of the rest of the films in many ways including his reverence for Hitchcock. My latest book, STORY IN ACTION: MISSION IMPOISSIBLE looks at how Hitchcock has influenced most of the films.

The previous film by Christopher McQuarrie, ROGUE NATION, has a great scene at the Vienna Opera where Ethan Hunt spots *three* assassins aiming sniper rifles at the Chancellor or Austria! The scene is reminiscent of the assassination scene from Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", but director Christopher McQuarrie says it's actually inspired by a Freixenet Sparking Wine commercial. Say what? But the commercial was directed by some guy named Martin Scorsese and supposedly based on a script by Alfred Hitchcock, and is definitely in the style of Hitchcock. So the scene in ROGUE NATION is inspired by a commercial that was inspired by THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH!

And here is that commercial!

The Key To Reserva: A Short by Martin Scorsese from Ben Grossmann on Vimeo.



NEW!

bluebook

THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES

All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!

THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES - Only $3.99!

Here's the plan: I want this book to be #1 on Amazon's Screenwriting List on Wednesday 2/27. So if you guys tell your screenwriting and film fan friends about this book - and the plan to make it #1 on Amazon on Wednesday - I think we can make it! And they get the VINTAGE SCREENWRITING #1 book for free...

NO KINDLE REQUIRED! Get the *free* app (any device, except your Mr. Coffee) on the order page on Amazon!



UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

India Folks Click Here.

Austrailian Folks Click Here.

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!

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



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, May 21, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: Parasite Mansion

Best Of THRILLER: Parasite Mansion.

Next week another new entry! A Robert Bloch story!

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



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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Fade Out Does Not Equal A Sale

From 2011...

Congratulations! You have finished your screenplay! It was a lot of hard work, and you deserve to be rewarded, so do something nice for yourself. You deserve something special!

“Swell, do you have Spielberg's address? I think he'd be he perfect director!”

Okay, now to the reality check: just because you have made the major accomplishment of finishing a screenplay does not mean that that screenplay is great. It just means it's finished.

“Okay, how about Uwe Boll's address?”

Now, I'm not saying your screenplay *isn't* great – I haven't read it. I'm just saying that because it is finished is no reason to believe that it is great. It may suck. At this point, you are just so happy that you finally got to type FADE OUT that you probably are not the best judge. Later, after you have rewarded yourself for your excellent hard work, and maybe had a few days or weeks to just bask in FADE OUT, you might take a closer look at the script to see if it needs one of those rewrites you keep hearing about.

“Wait a minute! You mean once I finish it, I still have to keep rewriting it? Even for Uwe Boll?”

Lots of new writers (and probably some old ones) figure that once they type FADE OUT they have a salable screenplay – something they can send out to agents or managers or producers or their best contact. But just finishing a screenplay is like just finishing a foot race – you can come in last place and you have still finished.

“You're not going to make me run, are you? I'm, uh, a little out of shape.”

The problem is, just like that race, you aren't the only one running. There are around 75,000 scripts (etc) registered with the WGA every year, plus the things registered with the copyright office, plus the things that are not registered at all. Here's the thing – assignments and scripts adapted from other materials are usually *not* copyrighted or registered, because they are based on previously copyrighted material. So, I guess there are at least 100k scripts (etc) written every year... and it's common for a screenplay to stay in circulation for a decade – you often read about scripts like THE UNFORGIVEN that were bouncing around Hollywood for 10 years before they were finally bought... and that gives us about a million screenplays in circulation at any one time. And how many of those million sell? Well, last year it was 53.

“What you talking about? 53 total? That's impossible!”

Thanks to the brilliant Scott Myers, here is the list.

“Wow, that's all? But... well... my script might be better than those. It has a better title than some of them. BLOOD OF THE NAKED MUTILATORS. See? That's gotta be close to winning, right?”

But what that means is that if you were running that foot race and came in #54, you would still have lost. And there would be 999,946 people behind you!

“Crap.”

Wow, I probably just depressed the hell out of you. Sorry. The point is, just because you finish a screenplay does not mean what you have written is going to sell or get you an assignment or even get you noticed. Each of those things is a step. The first step is finishing your screenplay, then you keep climbing those steps getting better and better until you reach the point that you *are* one of those 53 winners. But that's probably not going to happen with your first screenplay. Might, but odds are kind of against it.

“Running, and now *steps*? This sounds like work to me.”

One of the things that frequently happens is people write their first script and become disappointed when it doesn't sell or get them work. They have unrealistic expectations.

“What is unrealistic about selling my first script to a studio for $1 million and having Spielberg direct it?”

Though Han Solo doesn't want anyone to tell him the odds, imagine how much confidence he would lose if he kept failing at something he thought was easy? When you golf, each hole is clearly marked with the level of difficulty *before* you tee off. A board gave gives you a guide for what age groups will be able to play it. So, telling you the odds is not to burst your bubble but to tell you that this isn't going to be easy, so if you try and fail a bunch of times – so did everyone else. All of your favorite screenwriters? Failed a lot. *A lot*. Part of the learning curve.

“Running, steps, now *golf*? That was bad enough, but now you are saying that I am going to *fail*? But I don't want to fail! I'm not a failure! I'm gonna be a huge success and win all of the Oscars!”

I wrote an article for Script Magazine in the 90s that took a bunch of famous Oscar Winning screenwriters and listed the number of unsold and unproduced scripts they'd written – my source was a big book called Film Writers Guide which no longer exists anymore. But once you saw how many great writers had screenplays that had “failed” - often after they were famous – you realized how tough this business is, and hopefully didn't feel so bad when your script did not sell.

“Well, I'm not feeling good about it. But if you have to fail to succeed, I guess I can do that.”

Once you write FADE OUT, you still have a lot of rewriting to do – and maybe page one rewrites where *everything* changes. Yes, everything - even that title of yours. And even then, they can't all be winners. It's a major accomplishment to finish a screenplay, but that doesn't mean it's going to be great... and doesn't mean it's going to sell. So, put off pricing the Ferraris for a while.

"Okay, but I just finished my first short film, how do I enter it in Sundance?"

- Bill

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Trailer Tuesday: THE OUTFIT (1973)

Directed by: John Flynn.
Written by: John Flynn (based on the novel by Richard Stark... who is really Don Westlake).
Starring: Robert Duvall, Karen Black, Joe Don Baker.




THE OUTFIT (1973, written & directed by John Flynn) is one of those no-nonsense action films from the 1970s - kind of a studio B movie. This was the tail end of the studio system, when they were still making movies just to fill screens. Studios were like giant factories with employees, and it would cost them more to shut down between movies than to just make some “programmer” movies. Now studios are just banks and distributors, and they do not have any full time employees, but in the early 70s they had actors under contract and film crews and directors who they paid a salary to whether they were working or not... so why not keep them working making B movies? Some studios, like Universal, became big TV producers with their employees on salary. But they all made “programmers” - basic meat and potatoes genre films often starring second string stars or TV guys like James Garner. Garner starred in all kinds of programmers, from the comedy-western GET TO KNOW YOUR SHERIFF movies to some action flicks like MARLOWE. The great thing about these movies is that the studios still had all of these great character actors under contract, so you’d get a bunch of familiar faces in every film.


The “programmers” served a handful of purposes - they kept the studio employees working, they filled screens with movies to watch until the studio’s next *big* film like THE STING came out, they often played as the “A feature” at rural drive ins and big city grind houses (in “second run” - after they had already played in normal cinemas as “screen fillers”) they were kind of the farm team for actors and directors and stars - grooming them for bigger and better films, they helped “amortize” the big budget films, and every once in a while one of these little studio B movies became a big hit - and the studio made a ton of money from a very small investment.

The great thing about the action films from this period is that without Paul Newman or Steve McQueen or big budgets, they had to entice the audience with what Blockbuster video used to call “Super Action” - fist fights and car crashes and hot women. In order to get you into the cinema, they’d make the fist fights more visceral, and the shoot outs might be fewer... but more savage, and you weren’t getting the car chase from BULLITT, but they’d crash some junker cars and there would be a nice explosion. These were studio exploitation films. The quality of a studio film crew, the subject matter of some drive in action flick. This time period also gave us all of the great studio Blaxploitation films like SHAFT (also from MGM).

Part of my love for these films is that they are not about rich guys with good jobs in nice office buildings, none of these guys would be caught dead as the love interest in a rom-com. These films are about guys who work for a living, and seem to either take place in the big city or somewhere rural... Charles Bronson played a *watermelon farmer* in one of these films!

THE KILLER SET UP



So THE OUTFIT stars Robert Duvall, from those GODFATHER movies, as a version of Richard Stark’s Parker named *Macklin*, who gets out of prison and discovers his brother has been murdered by the mob and wants to get himself a little revenge. The guy who wrote the novels thought Duvall was closest to his creation, and this is Duvall playing deep fried tough guy to perfection.

Film opens with a Priest in a taxi cab driven by Felice Orlandi - who you would recognize as the low level pock-marked crook in at least a dozen films (including BULLITT!), stopping at a gas station to ask for directions. So you know something is wrong...
Orlandi isn’t just playing a taxi driver like Duvall did in BULLITT, he’s some sort of bad guy. It’s like casting Gary Busey as a waiter. When they get to this house out in the middle of nowhere (rural setting), there is a guy fixing a fence with his dog... And Orlandi and the Priest show up with guns and blow him to pieces. Violently. They just keep firing at him while the dog barks and yelps. The dog is a great touch - when it howls for its dead master, we feel its pain.


Then Duvall gets released from prison, where his ex-girlfriend Karen Black is waiting for him. She tells him she has not been at all faithful, and he says that’s okay - he was away for a while. Then she tells him that his brother was killed by some mob guys...

That night in some crappy roadside motel, a bunch of mob guys including Orlandi try to kill Duvall. But he’s one tough bastard and blasts them all and gets the name of the guy behind it. But he also knows that Black set him up by picking that particular crappy roadside motel.

SOME CASUAL VIOLENCE


Duvall braces Black, she pulls back her sleeve and there are at least a dozen big infected cigarette burns. Guy who did it to her? Same guy who hired the killers who killed his brother. Seems the bank robbery that Duvall was busted for was a mob owned bank. They killed his brother for being part of it, they tried to kill Duvall, and they tried to kill the third guy in the robbery - Joe Don Baker. So Duvall and Black drive to the big city hotel where the lead bad guy is playing a 24 hour poker game...

While Black sits in the car with the motor running, Duvall walks into the hotel, goes up the elevator, pokes his gun in the face of the guard at the hotel room door, takes him out to the balcony and SLAMS him with his gun, then goes back to the hotel room, kicks open the door, slams the inside guard in the face without even slowing down, and robs the poker game - taking guns and cash. The great thing about this sequence is that it’s *suddenly violent* and the film never makes a big deal about it. If this film had been made today, they would make it a big deal... and it wouldn’t be nearly as cool. By downplaying the importance of the violence without downplaying the level of violence, it makes it seem like it is all in a day’s work for Duvall. Before Duvall slams the outside guard with his gun they have a casual conversation and the outdoor guard requests to be slammed with the pistol on his right side because of a previous injury to the left said of his head. These guys get hit with guns and shoot people for a living - no big deal.

The lead bad guy at the poker table is played by the great Timothy Carey - from THE KILLING - who is a big fat a-hole. Timothy Carey is one of those guys who shows up, gives a great sneering performance that gives you nightmares, and collects his check. There are actors who you can see working, Carey isn’t one of them. Hard to believe that this complete a-hole is the same actor who was so sympathetic in THE KILLING.

Carey taunts Duvall as he robs them - he’s got a gun pointed at him, and he’s still spouting crap. Duvall tells him that the mob has to pay $250k for the death of his uninsured brother... who leaves a widow behind.

Then, just when you think the whole thing is over and Duvall is about to leave, he calmly shoots Carey through the hand for using Black’s arm as an ashtray. Danged brutal!

Duvall connects with Joe Don Baker in some rural cabins that are owned by an ex-whore played by Marie Windsor from THE NARROW MARGIN, one of many great bit parts played by actors and actresses from classic noir and action flicks. This film is a who’s who of Noir actors... Elisha Cook Jr from THE MALTESE FALCON pops up in a bit part and Jane Greer from OUT OF THE PAST is the widow! Over some beers they decide to take the mob for $250k - even if it means they get killed. They are already on the mob hit list, right? What’s the worst that could happen? The plan is to rob every mob place they can find until they get $250k or they mob pays them. Then the $250k goes to his brother’s window.

DANGEROUS ADAPTATION


One of the interesting things about this film is how they turned what was book #3 in the Parker series into a stand alone movie. Unfortunately, THE OUTFIT is too much like POINT BLANK to be a good double bill. In the books, after Parker gets his money back from the mob there is one mobster left alive - Bronson. Bronson wants Parker dead, so in book #2 Parker gets plastic surgery. In book #3, Bronson tries to kill Parker... and Parker decides to show the mob who has more power by getting the word out to all of his armed robber friends across the USA that robbing the mob is now okay - as long as they mention Parker’s name. So in the novel THE OUTFIT, all across the USA robbery teams are knocking over mob businesses (casinos, drugs, prostitution, loan sharking, etc) and eventually Bronson decides to leave Parker alone.

The film manages to stay faithful to the book and still change the core story. One scene that’s lifted right from the book - but they completely change the location: When Duvall and Baker go to buy weapons, in the book the characters go to a hobby shop and the guns and rifles are hidden in model car kit boxes. In the movie they pick up a salesman with a sample case on the side of the road, and the sample case is filled with guns - kind of like the gun salesman in TAXI DRIVER. They drive around the highway and do some shopping at the same time.

The dead brother thing is how they make THE OUTFIT work as a stand alone, and this gets used in a great scene from the book where Parker shows up at these redneck brothers rural chop shop, and they don’t recognize him because of the plastic surgery... and there’s some tension where they may kill Parker because with that new face he’s a stranger to them. Same scene in the film, but it was Duvall’s *brother* who knew the redneck brothers, so he must convince them he’s trustworthy. In this scene there also an angry dog that’s a threat throughout the scene - I have no idea how much a growling dog costs compared to an explosion, but the dog turns even the quiet moments in the scene into potential danger... And there aren’t many quiet moments.

I love the redneck brothers in both the book and the film. These guys are moonshine hot-rodders who know more about cars and how to make them go fast than all of those NASCAR mechanics combined. They build getaway cars for a living. The idea that people like this exist as peripheral occupations in the world of professional armed robbers is really cool - it’s like being taken into the armed robber’s world and shown details that you never knew existed. One of the cool things in this scene (both book and movie) is the VW Bug getaway car with the hidden V8 - looks like it would have trouble going up hills, but can do over 120 mph. Only problem? It doesn’t *sound* like a VW... and the brothers are trying to find the right muffler combination to get the sound right.

This part is *great* in both book and film, because while Duvall is off with the brothers (played by Richard Jaeckel and Bill McKinney - the hillbilly rapist from DELIVERANCE) looking at cars, Joe Don Baker is left with McKinney’s superhot wife played by Sheree North (who was kind of a Suzanne Sarandon earthy type) who tells him they have time for some luvin’ before her husband comes back. And she does everything possible to get him interested. And it gets *us* interested too (at least, the male target audience for this film).

THOSE BRA-LESS BABES


Now, I have no idea what was going on in 1973, but bras seemed to be completely out of fashion. No woman in this film is wearing a bra. Karen Black is wiggling around, even Marie Windsor was braless. Heck, the old waitress in the coffee shop is wiggling around! That’s actually kind of gross, but I guess it’s a small price to pay because a bra-less Sheree North? Yikes! She is already a mega-busty woman (real ones, too - this was made back when all big breasts were the real thing), add the lack of bra and the tight tops and... well, um, it’s easy to forget what the plot is. Anyway, she offers Joe Don Baker a little luvin’ and he decides that is a good way to get killed and refuses...

But when Duvall and Jaeckel and McKinney return with the car, North tells her husband that Joe Don tried to screw her. McKinney goes crazy and tries to kill Baker, and there’s a big fight, and Duvall and Baker dive in the car and barely get out of there alive. One of the great throw away lines in this bit is that brother Jaeckel *did* sleep with her! These people are all sleeping with each other - it’s Tennessee Williams country!

CONFLICT ON THE SIDE


Now, the cool part about this scene is that it isn’t one of the scenes where Duvall and Baker are taking on the mob... this is a scene where they *prepare* to take on the mob, and it is filled with tension and conflict and excitement. The great thing about lots of these meat and potato action films is that they make sure that even the scenes between the action scenes are exciting. They find the conflict in the little scenes - there’s a great bit where Black and Duvall are hiding out in a another crappy roadside motel and Black goes out to call her mom from a payphone and tell her that she’s okay... and there is a man watching her the whole time. Some mob flunky posted at that motel to look out for them. So the great character scene where Black talks with her mother and we get a glimpse of her white trash past and the way she hooked up with Duvall to try and climb out of it... is an incredibly tense scene. And there’s no shoot out or car chase or giant fireball or someone outrunning an explosion... it’s just some creepy guy watching her.

So, Duvall and Baker decide to talk to the local mob guy headquartered in a bar/restaurant who hired the hitmen, with Black as their getaway driver... and it’s a really cool scene filled with all kinds of side conflicts and one kick ass line of dialogue, “I don’t talk to guys who wear aprons.” Duvall gets in to the mobster’s office pretending to be a mob guy from Timothy Carey’s crew... accompanied by the guy in an apron - the bartender, and has this conversation with the mob guy about those hit men who got killed... and the mobster just looks at him and says - you’re Macklin. Knows it right away. And that’s when the bartender attacks. Sudden violence. One moment they’re talking, the next moment the bartender is trying to club Duvall in the head.

After Duvall slams them to the floor, he robs the mob safe - this is like a regional headquarters, so there’s a bunch of money. As Duvall and Baker escape there’s this big muscular cook with a huge meat cleaver in the kitchen who tries to stop them. That cook character was established when Duvall and the guy in the apron walk past the kitchen... using that cleaver. And you just know that cleaver is gonna be used on him later... or, at least the guy will try. That’s the kind of cool thing that happens in these films - instead of being some cook frying eggs, you get a guy with a giant meat cleaver.

BAD ASS HEROES


Another thing that comes directly from the book, with a bit of a change, is Baker’s character owning a diner... it’s in Maine in the books and in Oregon... but the town name remains the same. Baker and Duvall have this great conversation in the car about the shelf life on being an armed robber... and how getting old makes it more difficult. A very realistic version of the “I’m getting too old for this shit” conversation.

Black has gone home to her mom, and Duvall and Baker just start kicking major ass. They rob a sports betting place - and Baker savagely slugs a woman at the front desk. When they get inside, they can’t get anyone to open the safe and Duvall grabs the guy in charge and says he’s gonna blow off a toe for every minute the guy doesn’t give him the combination... then has one of the other hostages take off the guy’s shoe!

The Macklin character is what I call a Bad Ass Hero - not that there’s anything defective about his hindquarters. There are two basic types of action heroes: Superman and Every Man. The Every Man type is a normal guy who ends up fighting bad guys - like John McClane in DIE HARD. The Super Man is like James Bond - someone who is our fantasy figure. This has nothing to do with spandex or capes or super powers - Tony Stark is an Every Man, as is Peter Parker. And most roles played by Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris are Super Man types - tough guy fantasies. We wish we were that guy!

Duvall’s character is a Super Man type - kind of a blue collar James Bond. He’s tough, he says clever things we wish we could think of (“Die somewhere else!”), he’s ultra-confident, he is never afraid (or never shows his fear), he never shows any sign of weakness and never shows pain. He’s the kind of guy who gets shot and takes it like a man. He’s a man of violence, who *hurts people*. Seagal swiped his character from BILLY JACK, but does a great job with it. Seagal *breaks people’s bones* in fight scenes - he’s savage. He also does the great Bad Ass Hero speech thing - where he gives his super confident warning about how, exactly, he will beat the crap out of the ten guys surrounding him. No fear - he has it all planned out. He’s a Bad Ass. He’s gonna eff those ten guys up. Duvall’s Macklin has some similar Bad Ass moments - in Act 3 he’s *way* out numbered and tells the mob henchmen that they don’t have to die, they can just walk away. Um, that takes some major cajones! Shooting Carey’s hand and clubbing guys in the head with his gun without even slowing down - all of these are Bad Ass Hero moments. This guy kicks ass!

BIG BAD GUYS


The reason why this was “too much of a good thing” when doubled with POINT BLANK is that eventually it becomes Duvall and Baker climbing the ladder of mobsters to get the $250k for the widow... and that’s not that much different. In the book they were just robbing mob places until Bronson took the price off the Duvall character’s head. When they changed it into money, they ended up in POINT BLANK territory. Robert Ryan plays a version of Bronson named Mailer - the head of the mob... and a very young Joanna Cassidy as his hot (braless) trophy wife. Ryan is one of the film’s secret weapons - he’s not only one of those guys who has been in a bunch of old noir and crime films, he’s tough as nails. He’s a bad ass, too.

At a horse auction, Duvall and Baker brace Ryan - a very public scene with Ryan’s bodyguards right there and everyone trying to be on best behavior... but seconds away from shooting each other. Duvall and Ryan have a nice little chat that is all about the world of organized crime vs the world of independents - Ryan thinks Duvall is nothing more than a stick up artist... but Duvall has been hitting them hard. It’s a good hero and villain scene - and the little guy being smarter than the big guy... just not as strong. It’s what the film is all about - the theme in a tense scene with guns and the chance for a bunch of innocent bystanders to get killed. This idea of the little guy going up against the big guy is part of the appeal of these films. They are about underdogs who kick some ass that we wish we could kick. In a strange way, THE OUTFIT is kind of a Tea Party movie - normal people standing up and taking down The Man. I don’t think it’s an accident that the bad guys in lots of these 70s films end up being big time mobsters who live in giant mansions, or big business guys who live in giant mansions, or crooked politicians who live in giant mansions. It’s blue collar workers against rich a-holes.

Where POINT BLANK turns organized crime into glass and chrome skyscrapers and the 60s version of big business with junior executives in charge, OUTFIT makes it layers of sleazy mobsters with a John Gotti type at the top. Not as interesting, but works well for a straight action flick like this. A lot of the pulp paperbacks at the time, like the EXECUTIONER series, were about Viet Nam vets who take on the mob. Ryan, as usual, is brilliant playing Mailer: barking orders and always on the verge of exploding. He’s one of my favorite tough guy actors because he always had a trace of vulnerability.

After Duvall and Ryan have their little chat, the film becomes a series of action scenes setting one against the other until we get to Act 3 where Duvall and Baker buy additional weapons and bombs and anything else they can get their hands on and storm Ryan’s country estate for an Act 3 of wall-to-wall action. Dozens of mobsters guarding Ryan means dozens of shoot outs and fight scenes... and then all kinds of ground taken and lost once they get inside the house. Though big studio films often have wall-to-wall action in Act 3, in these 70s films it tends to be more personal and visceral - shoot outs with people in the next room... close enough to smell. In one scene, a character looks in a mirror and can see something happening in the next room... and uses his gun. It’s close fighting, rather than the big explosions of today’s blockbusters. And the close fighting ends up being more personal and more emotional. Though, um, there are some explosions. And I forgot to mention the car explosions that happen before the house raid - there’s a great country road car chase and shoot out ending with an explosion when Ryan sets Tim Carey after Duvall and Baker.

ACT THREE ACTION


The Duvall & Baker team seem like a predecessor for writer-director John Flynn’s next film - ROLLING THUNDER (written by the great Paul Schrader) where William Devane & Tommy Lee Jones team up to take down some scumbags in Mexico. That’s another great B action flick that is now on BluRay. The shoot out in the whorehouse in THUNDER is much like the end shootout in OUTFIT. Two guys with guns take on a house full of trouble... and stay standing even after they have been shot multiple times. One of the great things about seeing THE OUTFIT on DVD is that you don’t get that crappy TV print where they changed the end. Somewhere along the line, some network’s Standards & Practices (censors) decided that having Duvall and Baker get away at the end was immoral. They are armed robbers! They kill a whole lotta people! The people they do not kill, they aren’t very nice to! So the network cut the end where they escape, and end with the two laying wounded on the stairs of the country estate after all of the bad guys are dead, listening to the police sirens getting closer - seemingly resigned to do prison time. The great print the New Beverly showed had them cleverly slipping past the police, laughing.

THE OUTFIT isn’t a great film, but it’s a *fun* one. It seems like real people in real situations really hurting people. Not like the fake action flicks we get these days. I miss these meat and potatoes flicks - just meant to fill some screens and provide some great little action stories. The B movies today all seem to be chasing the A movies - trying to be big event films made for a nickle. The only time we get films like this seems to be those flicks that are either almost parodies of 70s action films or *actual* parodies of B action films. It’s too bad. Some studio should start making some little no-nonsense action films on low enough budgets that they can’t lose money. Just some guys kicking ass for 90 minutes. I’d watch that...

Buy THE OUTFIT at Warner Archives.

Buy ROLLING THUNDER at Amazon.

- Bill

Friday, May 15, 2020

Hitchcock: Suspense vs. Surprise

If it's Friday, this must be Hitchcock day on the blog! I'm squeezing in another Hitch interview segment...



And HITCH 20 will soon return for Season 4... Here's something to tide you over!



- Bill






Of course, I have my own books focusing 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!

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






USA Readers 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 52 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

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, May 14, 2020

THRILLER Thursday: An Attractive Family

SEASON 2: AN ATTRACTIVE FAMILY

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



Season: 2, Episode: 15.
Airdate: January 1, 1962

Director: John Brahm.
Writer: Robert Arthur.
Cast: Richard Long, Otto Kruger, Leo G. Carroll, Joyce Bulifant, Joan Tetzel.
Music: Morton Stevens.
Cinematography: Henry Freulich.
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “What you have witnessed, my friends, was of course a dream. But was it a fearful dream of self destruction? A dark premonition of murder? Or was it one of those nightmares which means just the opposite of what they seem? Well, as sure as my name is Boris Karloff, you’re going to find out, And in doing so, you’ll meet an attractive family named Farrington. Marian, Bert, and Dick Farrington. In fact, that’s the title of our story: An Attractive Family. There’s nothing one could dislike about them, unless you object to the fact that they occasionally commit a casual murder. Of course, you really shouldn’t object to that. Afterall, they only do it when it’s absolutely necessary. But then, I’ll let you form your own opinion. And now, permit me to introduce our players. They are: Richard Long, Joan Tetzel, Otto Kruger, Leo G. Carroll, and Joyce Bulifant. Remember, no hasty judgments! I’m sure there are several attractive families living on the same block... right there with you. That’s a shocking thought, wouldn’t you say?



Synopsis: Virginia Wells (Joyce Bulifant - Marie from the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) runs up to a gated old mansion with a sculpture garden and... the statues tell her to come up to the house! The Bates House from PSYCHO. She climbs the stairs, enters the house... which is filled with cobwebs and vacant. The statues inside tell her to go up the stairs... to do what she has to do, what she came to do... She climbs the spooky stairs, covered with cobwebs, to a door. Inside the room - a noose hangs from the ceiling with a chair underneath it... waiting for her. The voices tell her to do what she came here to do. A trio of shadows on the wall tell her she must do it. The shadows tell her that if she does it she will be at peace, like Alice. And she hangs herself!

New England: 1947. On a beautiful lake, new bride Marian Drake (Joan Tetzel) and her wealthy new husband George (William Mims) and Marian’s brother Dicky Farrington (Richard Long from THE BIG VALLEY in super sleazy mode) decide to take a canoe ride to a picnic spot. George is afraid of the water, can’t swim, and Marian makes a joke about he even shied away from Niagra Falls on their honeymoon. The local guy who rents them the canoe mentions that, although the lake is supposed to be bottomless, it’s actually 800 feet deep. This doesn’t make George any less afraid of the water. Marian jokes that they plan to stay on the surface, and row across the lake...

She drops her paddle in the water, asks George to grab it for her.. And he tips over the canoe in the process. Marian and Dicky grab the canoe - George panics and drowns. Well, there’s a moment where it looks like George might keep his head above water until they are rescued, so Dicky makes sure his head is below water - holding him down until he drowns.



Mexico: 1955. Dicky is the newlywed this time, his new bride is the quiet and studious Alice Wells (Diedre Owens) and they are on honeymoon, with Dicky’s Uncle Bert (Otto Kruger from MURDER MY SWEET) tagging along. Some conversation about how Alice is a lonely girl who never had a date and never expected to get married... and that she and her sister are wealthy orphans with a bank in charge of their estate. Oh, and they just made new wills and took out life insurance policies on each other - with double indemnity for accidental deaths.

Uncle Bert wants to take a picture of Dicky and Alice on the edge of a cliff with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background. Has her take off her glasses - sun glare, you know. Take a step back... another step... and she’s off the edge of the cliff and Dicky has just inherited and collected on the life insurance.



New England: Present Day (1962). In their luxurious family home, Dicky, Marian and Uncle Bert discuss their need for cash. They are broke. The liquor store won’t take their credit and Uncle Bert is down to his last bottle of booze. It seems that when Alice met her tragic death in Mexico, half of her estate went to her little sister Virginia - Jinny - and Dicky became the executor. Well, Dicky embezzled a bit, and when Virginia reaches 21 the money is all hers... and she will discover that some of it is missing. So Virginia has become their house guest over summer, and they plan on making sure that she dies before her upcoming 21st birthday. That way the embezzled money is never discovered and they inherit Virginia’s money as well. Win, win!

Major Downey (Leo G. Carroll) comes to pick up Virginia to go bird watching, and they stumble upon the old Merriview House (the Psycho house) with it’s spooky sculpture garden - from the opening scene. Downey tells her the history of the place - Merriview hung himself in an upstairs room and the house has been vacant ever since. Rumor is, the house is haunted. On the way back, Downey spots some mushrooms, “Nature’s bounty!”, and Virginia picks them.



Back at the house, Virginia shows Marian the mushrooms and Marian says that Virginia can have them for dinner. Not enough to share. When Virginia leaves the room, Marian tells Dicky and Uncle Bert that the mushrooms are poison - this solves all of their problems!

At dinner, Virginia tries to get Dicky to eat a mushroom - and he has to find a way out of it. Every time Virginia starts to put a mushroom in her mouth, someone says something that she responds to... and doesn’t eat the mushroom. Some mild tension is built here, but they don’t build it very well. Before Virginia can take a bite of the mushrooms, she accidentally spills her plate and the mushrooms go into the trash.

On to plan B - a picnic near a cliff. When Virginia goes to bed, the rest of our attractive family begins planning her death.



Virginia wakes up screaming from a nightmare - the show’s teaser - and tells Mariam and Dicky about the dream where she hangs herself in the old Merriview House.

The next morning, before the picnic by the cliff, Marian calls the local doctor to ask if there’s a psychiatric specialist who can help Virginia, because she has been having suicidal thoughts.

Dicky and Virginia go out on the picnic, Marian and Uncle Bert will join them later. Dicky takes her to the cliff and tries everything to get her to go to the edge - but nothing works. Virginia tells Dicky that her sister Alice wrote her a letter the day she died... a letter about Dicky. Dicky worries that the letter might be incriminating, wants to know what it said...



Since the cliff isn’t working, Dicky takes Virginia to the old Merriview House. She’s afraid, but he tells her that she must confront her fear... And drags her up the spooky stairs to the room from her dream... the room with the noose and the chair. Marian and Uncle Bert join them, encouraging her to face her fears - stand on the chair, put the noose around her neck. Virginia does this (WTF?) and then she says that Marian and Dicky and Uncle Bert are just trying to kill her... the way they killed her sister Alice! The three admit that this is true, and get ready to kick out the chair...

When Major Downey and the town Sheriff burst into the room and arrest the three. This whole time, Virginia and Major Downey have been trying to trick them into confessing - it’s been a sting operation all along!



Review: The sting operation makes no sense.

The twist ending in this story is completely out of left field to the point that it’s obvious that the writer didn’t know it was coming. The thing about any plot twist like this is that it was there all along. If Virginia and Major Downey were doing all of this to get them to confess to murdering Virginia’s sister, then those characters knew that is what they were doing and when we see them together they should be working out their next step in the sting... but instead, they are acting as if they have no idea that there is a sting.

But instead we open with the hanging nightmare - which she shouldn’t be having if the old house and the hanging ending is part of the plan. Isn’t the purpose of the nightmare to steer them towards trying to kill her in the old house - where the Major and Sheriff can be hidden with recording equipment to over hear the confession? Why would she have this nightmare if she was in control of the sting? And why would we have the scene where Major Downey takes her on the birdwatching hike to the old house and explains the whole backstory to her? Wouldn’t she know the backstory if she were part of the sting? This twist end makes no sense at all! The story doesn’t ,match the twist!



Many writers don’t outline their short stories - heck, they’re *short*. But usually they have the whole story in their minds before they sit down to write it. Both of the “Crime Time” short stories that I’ve published on Kindle have twist ends, and I actually began with the twist ends on both and then working backwards to the beginning. I’m pretty sure that’s how most writers do it, because you have to set up the twist end’s reality at the very beginning and then have that reality exist while diverting the reader’s attention away from that reality in the rest of the story. If Norman Bates and his mother are the same person, you can’t have a bunch of scenes in the beginning showing them both together having a conversation - that’s impossible.

And having Virginia actually put her neck in the noose which standing on that rickety chair makes no sense as part of any plan.

Of course, there’s an odd possibility that there were some script notes involved here - the episode opens with the dream sequence - which doesn’t make any sense if Virginia is part of the sting and trying to get revenge for her sister... but the point in the story where she has the nightmare and then tells Marian about it is much later in the story. So a decision was made to move that upfront so that the episode could start strong. Without the strange dream sequence, this episode is a standard thriller - and maybe they were trying to make it seem more like a horror story? There’s also the possibility that Major Downey was originally a villain and there wasn’t a sting, which would make Virginia not in on it... but that’s a whole bunch of major conjecture. The writer, Robert Arthur, also wrote THE PRISONER IN THE MIRROR and DIALOGUES WITH DEATH, two pretty good episodes... so I’m trying to figure out how he would end up with this nonsensical twist ending.



One of the things that works with the episode are the murders - each is well planned with the boat rental guy as a witness in George’s drowning: they make sure to talk about George being unable to swim in front of him, and Uncle Bert actually takes a picture of Alice stepping off the edge of the cliff with no one around her.. And the call to the psychiatrist about Virginia’s suicidal dreams. So you can see how they have managed to get away with it for all of these years. There was a woman in Marin, CA who had a dozen wealthy husbands die of natural causes and it took forever for police to become suspicious.

Richard Long, the nice guy lawyer on THE BIG VALLEY is great here are a super charismatic, slick, and sleazy - he seems to be having a great time playing a villain. There’s also a really creepy incestuous scene where he makes out with sister Marian that must have had the censors worried. Joyce Bulifant, who played Ted’s airhead girlfriend on MTM and the mother of the dying girl on her way to the Mayo in AIRPLANE! seems like an odd choice - unless it was all about the twist end sting. She’s playing naive to the point of stupid. It’s always great to see Otto Kruger, and he gets to play a charming con man.

The birdwatching allows an amusing last line... about spotting a trio of vultures.

Not one of the best episodes in the series, but still kind of fun... as long as you don’t think about that twist ending for over a second.

- Bill

Buy The DVD!

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