Friday, October 22, 2021

HITCH 20: The Case Of Mr. Pelham (s1e3)

There's a great new documentary video series focusing on the 20 TV episodes that Hitchcock directed called HITCH 20, where I am one of the "guest experts". This episode is on THE CASE OF MR. PELHAM about a man who is haunted by a double who is trying to take over his life! A really weird tale, which may have been more at home of the THRILLER TV Show which was shot on the same lot. It's really a lot of fun, so take a look:



Two important things I talked about were cut for time:

1) This episode is based on a book by the screenwriter of Hitch's YOUNG AND INNOCENT which had actually been adapted into a film *the same year* in England. It has even been made a few times since then, including a film with Roger Moore titled THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF in 1970. And someone should sue *Harlan Ellison* because his SHATTERDAY short story (made into one of my favorite NEW TWILIGHT ZONE episodes) uses the same idea. (kidding... but it would be funny payback for the TERMINATOR lawsuit.)

2) The *magic* shot. There's part of the shot in the HITCH 20 episode, we see a wide shot of the bar, move in to Pelham flagging down the Psychiatrist, then asking him to join him, and then the camera dollies backwards as they walk to a table and sit down... except that table could *not* have been there when they were dollying back! The camera would have bumped into it! So *off camera* the table was rolled into place as the camera was dollying backwards! It's one of those crazy furniture moves that Hitchcock used in ROPE so that the camera would be able to move fluidly "through" furniture and walls. By making the furniture and walls movable, they could dolly backwards "through" that table in the bar that Pelham and the Psychiatrist would be sitting at! A magic shot!

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

- Bill

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

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

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And....

HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR






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, October 21, 2021

Thriller Thursday: ROSE'S LAST SUMMER

Rose’s Last Summer

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



Season: 1, Episode: 5.
Airdate: 10/11/1960


Director: Arthur Hiller
Writer: Marie Baumer, based on a novel by Margaret Millar
Cast: Mary Astor, Lin McCarthy, Jack Livesey
Music: Pete Rugolo
Cinematography: John L. Russell




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Rose French. In the blur of memory the face grows dim, but do you remember the name? Twenty years ago, Rose French... the remarkable Rose French.. As a servant girl or as a princess? She was a quicksilver star in a celluloid heaven. If a woman would sell her soul to achieve such fame, what wouldn’t she do to get it back? Poor Rose, that was all she wanted, to relive the past. And those who loved her, Frank Clyde for instance, could do nothing to stop her. For the comeback trail could lead to strange and sinister places. To a lonely garden, into a night of terror, it could even lead to the face of a painted doll. For the comeback trail is a journey without maps, sure as my name is Boris Karloff. Poor Rose French, and her last desperate summer. That’s the name of our story: Rose’s Last Summer. Let me assure you, my friends, this is a thriller.”

Synopsis: Mary Astor famously explained the Five Stages Of Stardom: “Who's Mary Astor? Get me Mary Astor. Get me a Mary Astor Type. Get me a young Mary Astor. Who's Mary Astor?”



Rose French (Mary Astor) is a once famous movie star, a real doll; now a washed up drunk living in a crappy apartment in Los Angeles... forgotten by time. She was married to three men... and divorced by them. Two were pretty boy actors who lived off her fame, one was a Howard Hughes like millionaire who may be the only man she has ever loved. But now she is alone. When she gets an unusual acting job out of the blue, she takes it... No fame or fortune involved, no spotlights and red carpets; that’s not what Rose is looking for. Just a chance to practice her craft... in some town in California called LaMesa. What’s the role?

A few weeks later, Rose French is found dead in LaMesa, in the garden of some dead millionaire’s toy manufacturer’s mansion. The young doctor at the rehab facility where she once dried out Frank Clyde (Lin McCarthy) and that Howard Hughes like ex husband Dalloway (Jack Livesey) show up at the inquest, where it is revealed she died of a massive heart attack, and had been in poor health for years. The two men team up, because the doctor had examined Rose not that long ago, and she had *no* heart condition and was in pretty good health for a boozer. Did someone kill her? Poison her and make it look like a heart attack? They head to LaMesa to investigate.



The garden of the dead toy manufacturer’s mansion is accessible from the street, did she just wander in and die? While poking around they spot an old woman watching from the window, and ring the bell. They talk to the son of the toy millionaire, Willet Goodfield (Hardie Albright) and his wife Ethel (Dorothy Green), about Rose’s death, and they claim they know nothing. She was just this strange woman who wandered into their yard and dropped dead. When they ask to talk to Willet’s mother, who may have seen something from her window, Willet tries to dissuade them. When they insist, old Mrs. Goodfield yells from upstairs that she will see them.

Mrs. Goodfield is heir to Horace Goodfield’s Sweet Marie Doll fortune, and old woman who walks with a cane and spends much of her time confined to her bed. She’s cranky, but answers Frank and Dalloway’s questions. She didn’t see anything, but it’s a tragedy that the woman died on their property. When Dalloway continues with a bunch of follow up questions, Mrs. Goodfield orders him out of the room, she needs her rest. While this is going on, Frank pokes around the house and discovers a piece of evidence that makes it look like Rose may have been inside the house. Frank and Dalloway leave highly suspicious of the family, and do further investigation...



Now we get our big twist, much like in the classic thriller MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, the role Rose was hired to play is playing is a real person... Mrs. Goodfield. Millionaire toy maker Horace Goodfield left his fortune in an odd trust: his widow must live to her sixty fifth birthday for she and Willet to inherit... but the widow has a bad heart, and the family is afraid she will pass away before her birthday. So they hire Rose to play the window in the event she dies before her upcoming birthday. Rose does an amazing job, and Willet and his wife have trouble telling them apart. But when Mrs. Goodfield does die before her birthday, they have to figure out some way to get rid of the body... and decide to dye her hair, put her in Rose’s clothes with all of Rose’s ID and place it in the garden. Plan worked: nobody thought it was Mrs. Goodfield, and when her birthday rolled around Rose played the role perfectly and Willet got his hands on his father’s fortune...

But when Rose wants her money so that she can go back to her life, Willet asks, “What life?” You see, Rose is *dead*. Rose has nowhere to go, no life to live... nothing. Willet gives her a bottle of booze to wash away her depression... and when she’s passed out drunk they carry her out to their car to dispose of her. But Rose was *acting* passed out, and she escapes, running for her life as Willet and Ethel chase her in the car trying to run her down. A nice suspense scene, ending with Frank and Dalloway arriving at the Goodfield mansion with the police, hearing the screams from the car chase a few streets over, and rescuing Rose. Nice ending as Rose and Dalloway walk off together.



Review: MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS is about an actress who gets trapped in the role of a real person who was murdered, and can’t escape after she discovers they are setting her up as a suicide. This episode tells a similar story, but through characters outside the conflict who are investigating the mystery. This works fine, because by the halfway point we switch POVs and get Rose’s story, the character who *is* inside the conflict. What’s great is that Mary Astor gets to play duel roles, and pulls off both of them. When she is playing Mrs. Goodfield, you don’t recognize her at all and think she may be part of the conspiracy to kill Rose. And in the flashback sequence, she gets a *third* role, playing the real Mrs. Goodfield under the name “Helen Quintal” in the opening credits so that the audience won’t jump ahead of the story... the way Hitchcock did publicity shots with the chair for Mrs. Bates. She does a great job of playing the real Mrs. Goodfield against Rose playing Mrs. Goodfield, and manages to make each distinctive. So we get a great performance by Mary Astor at that time in her career she was probably the latter “Who is Mary Astor?”



The episode does some stock footage jet setting, from Dalloway’s yacht to San Francisco (where Horace Goodfield died) and from gritty downtown to the luxurious gated estate. All of this is very convincing, and gives the show some scope. Though the car chase and attack scene is tame compared to what we might expect on a TV series today, it’s great for the time. The novel it’s based on is by Margaret Millar, who was Mrs. Ross Macdonald (“Archer” filmed as HARPER with Paul Newman) and a great crime novelist in her own right. Again we get PSYCHO cinematographer John L. Russell shooting the episode, and Arthur Hiller who would go on to direct the hit LOVE STORY as well as critical favorite THE HOSPITAL does a good job... but on a show like this it’s all about pacing, and this episode works well.



Though not on a par with some of the great edge of your seat suspense episodes or the creepy horror episodes of the show, this is a solid entry that really showcases the talent of Mary Astor... and makes you realize there should *never* be a time when Hollywood asks “Who is Mary Astor?” just because an actor or actress is older. Mary Astor doesn’t play a 30 or 40 year old in this episode, and looks great... no crazy plastic surgery. For an actress who was a star in the silent age, and the femme fatale in the Bogart version of THE MALTESE FALCON, she gives a great star turn here and shows that she could still act circles around most actors half her age. What is the reason for that? Oh, yeah: *Experience*.

FADE OUT.

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Film Courage: Are Writers Damned?

FILM COURAGE did a series of interviews with me, around 36 (or more) segments total. That's almost a year's worth of material! So why not add a new craft article and make it a weekly blog entry? All I have to do is write that new article, right?

And the first segment...

I had done a full day of classes at Story Expo, it was the hottest day on record in Los Angeles (since broken a few times), I was seriously dehydrated after running from class to class all day, and the first question they ask me is...

A softball questions to start out with, like...

"Are Writers Damned?"

How the hell do you answer that?

Well, yes.



In Woody Allen’s Oscar Winning ANNIE HALL, there’s a great scene where Alvy Singer, who’s perfect relationship has fallen apart, sees the perfect couple walking down the street and decides to ask them the secret to the success of their relationship, and their response is: “I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.” And the woman responds, “And I’m exactly the same way.”

Writers are not shallow and empty, and we have something to say. Where “civilians” move through life not thinking about other people’s secret motivations and hidden agendas and all of the other things that your Mom might be *really* thinking when she says that you could use some new shirts, writers can’t help but think about these things. We know 57 ways to kill someone with a ripe tomato, thanks to research on that screenplay, and when we are in the produce section of the grocery store and see the seemingly nice little old lady trying to find the perfect tomato... we wonder just who she is planning to kill. Is it me? I don’t even know her! But what if this is some sort of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN club, where a hundred people swap murders so that there is no way for any of them to be a suspect, and she ended up doing the murder for some long forgotten person who considers me their enemy? Someone like that guy from SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE who has spent his life tracking down Billy Pilgrim for splashing mud on his trousers decades ago? I once spilled a drink on a guy in a suit in a bar, and that guy had been hitting on this woman, and maybe I ruined his love life forever and now he was part of this Murder Tanda and had given my name to that nice little old lady in the supermarket who was going to kill me with that tomato that she has just selected? As a writer I am constantly thinking about stuff like that - which is probably why I have insomnia - not only is my mind still working and I wish that I could shut it off, but I am a little worried that tonight might be the night that the nice little old lady strikes. I don’t really want to sleep through getting murdered with a tomato.

So we tend to look at the world a bit differently than most people, and over-think things and we can be a little bit paranoid because we know what evil can lurk in the hearts of men... and nice little old ladies. So we are probably damned.

But what about the writing part, Bill?

NO RESPECT!

The other way that we are damned is that nobody knows that screenwriters exist. There’s that line from IN A LONELY PLACE about how the audience thinks that movie stars make up the dialogue themselves, and if they become big enough stars - they do. Heck, even screenwriters don’t know who screenwriters are! A few years ago, for fun, I made up a quiz about who wrote what famous film and posted it on my website... and none of the screenwriters who frequent the site could get all of the answers right (without looking them up). Lots of “I didn’t know that writer wrote that!” Heck, if screenwriters don’t know who wrote the screenplays for movies that they have seen and loved, why would civilians, let alone hot underwear models (you may choose whatever sex you want - they will not be choosing you in return). So screenwriters are never famous. If you subtract the famous *playwrights* who became screenwriters, and writer-directors and famous novelists who became screenwriters, you probably don’t know the single name of a screenwriter who just *writes screenplays*. Like you want to.

So your plans to become a famous screenwriter?

The other common fantasy that goes along with famous is rich, and we have all seen those deals in the trades where some new writer’s screenplay was in a bidding war and sold for $1.2 million. Hey, I can write 3 screenplays a year if all I do is write one page a day, that’s $3.6 million a year... that ought to attract the underwear models! I can buy a Lamborghini every year! I can live in a mansion! I can eat my weight in lobster twice a day! I will be rich! Except, that’s not really how it works. Because that $1.2 million works like this: The $1 million is when and if they make the film - and only around 10% of the screenplays they buy or develop ever get made. So the odds are against you ever making that $1 million. The $200k is what you will be paid - for the screenplay and all of the rewrites, and these days they sometimes decide not to do the rewrites (great! until you realize that you won't be paid that part if the $200k)and you might end up with just over $100k total. That still sounds pretty good, right? But that’s for a screenplay that sold for $1.2 million - which is a huge sale that makes the trades. And a sale - you see, most screenplays don’t ever sell. There are around 1 million screenplays in circulation in any given year and fewer than 100 sell to studios. Okay, there are screenplays that sell to low budget genre companies and companies that make films for Lifetime and SyFy Channel and Hallmark... for much much less. A friend of mine sold a screenplay to a company that makes SyFy Channel movies... for $2k. I didn’t leave out any zeros. This is a tough business to make a living in! Most of the professional screenwriters I know make an okay living... But I often joke that if I had kept my job at Safeway Grocery I would probably be making more now (as a District Manager or something).

So your plans to become a rich screenwriter?

And if you are looking at those million screenplays and fewer than a hundred sell, that means that a whole bunch do not sell. The writers wrote them for nothing!

Or did they?

And that is the key to avoiding being damned.

The writing itself needs to be its own reward.

MOTIVATIONS

If you're having a problem getting your scripts finished it may be tied to your motivation - maybe you aren't writing because you want to tell a story, perhaps you're writing because you want fame and glory. Guess what? There is no fame and glory in the screenwriting world - name the three Oscar winning writers of CASABLANCA. You probably can't, and you're the MOST LIKELY person who could do that (you want to be an Oscar winning screenwriter). So if your motivation is fame, is having people acknowledge and love you... you're in the wrong business. Screenwriters are either ignored or blamed or crapped on.

If your motivation is "I like to write" or "I need to write" then it's all about writing and writing is what you should be doing (actually, you'll already be doing it). This is the motivation you want to have - the need or desire to tell stories. That way your motivation is all about the work - not the rewards. I hate to be a cold blanket, but this is a business where the rewards are few and far between and usually out of our control. The only thing really in our control is doing the work. So writing needs to be its own reward!

If your motivation is "I want to write to prove I'm somebody important" or "I want to write to prove my enemies were wrong" then it's not about the writing - it's about your personal problems. If you are writing to solve personal problems (and trying to solve them by changing OTHERS) your focus isn't going to be on writing, so you WILL have trouble finishing scripts or starting them or anything else that has to do with WRITING. If your motivation for writing is anything other than "to write", you're going to run into problems because those other motivations will get in the way of your writing.

If you aren't in the biz because you have to tell your stories, because you're PASSIONATE about writing, you're in for a future of heartache. You don't see screenwriters on eitherr of the Jimmys or Colbert. You don't see them interviewed on ET or Access Hollywood or any other TV version of National Enquirer. Screenwriters just toil away in obscurity... we write because we have stories inside of us that they have no choice but to tell. We are writers.

A writer writes.

I have a stack of unsold screenplays that I am now planning on adapting into novels. I also have a stack of unread screenplays - no one ever requested them. Many of those are from early in my screenwriting "careeer" where I was writing typical genre screenplays instead of focusing on an amazing high concept that could attract producers from the logline alone. Those unread screenplays are good - just not interesting enough. Some I have rewritten with a “high concept injection”, others I have figured out how to adapt into novels with a more interesting central idea. Everything that I have written, from my very first screenplay, is written. It is not just some idea bouncing around in my head, it is something that was fleshed out and set on paper or floppy or whatever. It actually exists. And that is the key to being a successful writer - actually writing.

A writer writes.

A sure fire way to be damned as a writer is to focus on the things that you do not control, instead of the things that you do control. If you focus on the prestige or the money or the respect or anything else that is completely outside of our control... you are going to end up damned disappointed. Even if you are a successful screenwriter, not everything you write will end up on screen, and I guarantee that what ends up on screen isn’t going to be the way you wrote it. Probably mentioned the huge list of unsold and unproduced screenplays by multiple Oscar winner Robert Bolt, and even Oscar winners will get rewritten by a string of other writers. That’s just how it works - out of our control. If you focus on the stuff that you can’t control, you will go crazy. But there is one thing that you control 100% - that is the actual writing. Getting pages done every day. Writing a stack of screenplays that may or may not sell - but they are accomplishments! You wrote that screenplay! You got to Fade Out!

So you probably aren’t ever going to become rich and famous and respected and have your choice of underwear models to fly to Europe with for a weekend with The Countess, but you are going to actually accomplish something that very few do - you will have a growing stack of screenplays or short stories or novels. So if you want to be a writer, you need to enjoy (in some way) the writing part.

Writing needs to be its own reward.

That’s the way to avoid being damned.

Good luck and keep writing!

- Bill



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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Trailer Tuesday: FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM

FROM A WHISPER TO SCREAM (1987)
Aka THE OFFSPRING

Starring: Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Susan Tyrell, Cameron Mitchell, Lawrence Tierney, Terry Kiser (WEEKEND AT BERNIES), Rosalin Cash (OMEGA MAN) and many others - great cast!
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr.
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Produced by: Bill Burr & Darin Scott




When you read a biography of Vincent Price, they always say he came out of retirement to do two films, WHALES OF AUGUST and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS... but they never mention this film! The actual return from retirement movie. Oh, and made by a whole bunch of people I know. Directed by my friend Jeff Burr, produced by my friend Darin Scott, written by my friend C. Courtney Joyner (plus Darin and Jeff), and even some of the cast members are people I know. Met these folks at a series of Fangoria conventions I went to when I was still living in the Bay Area... and at AFM (maybe the year they were selling the film as THE OFFSPRING - I had a long conversation with Bill Burr on one of the balconies as we looked down at the “Lobby Rats”). Since the film was 1986, and that was my first year ever at AFM, these guys may have been the first people I met in Los Angeles! I saw the film at AFM, which means I probably saw it before it was released by MGM under the new title the next year.



Katherine White (Martine Beswick) is being executed in a Tennessee prison, as the Warden (Lawrence Tierney, pre-RESEVOIR DOGS “comeback”), the death is not instantaneous nor pleasant. Reporter Beth Chandler (Susan Tyrrell) watches in horror...

Oldfield, Tennessee: a spooky old house that is a combination town Library, town bureau of records, and residence - where the White family lived. Beth knocks on the door, finds it open, ventures inside to discover Mr. Julian White (Vincent Price) in the library section. He was the uncle of the executed woman. Beth wants the full story - Katherine killed her first man at age 7 and continued her killing spree until she was caught at 32. Why? What could have caused her to kill at 7? White says his niece’s execution will not end the problem - Oldfield is serial killer central, many a killer has called this place home. A cursed town. White tells the stories of some of the residents like...



Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager), who wakes up screaming after dreaming of his dead and bloody wife. A quiet small town man. Lonely. He watches a pretty girl, Grace (Megan McFarland), at en employee barbeque for the meat packing company he works for. That night his sister Ellen (Miriam Bird-Nethery) is suffering from a fever and he has to bathe her in ice water, washing down her naked old body. This is more horrifying than that execution - as the wrinkled old sister is digging having her brother touch her naked flesh.

At work he shyly flirts with Grace, who gives him the cold shoulder.

One night, he calls her to ask her out on a date... and she refuses at first... then relents. Sister Ellen is jealous that he’s got a date.



At some cheap family chain restaurant they have an awkward meal together... afterwards on the drive back, she pretty much shoots him down big time. He forces a kiss on her, and she insists he take her home. When she keeps shooting him down, he strangles her to death... the tail light of the car blinking as they struggle. He dumps her on the side of the road and drives away.

Next day at work the Foreman announces that a fellow employee was killed the night before. There will be a funeral in a couple of days and they will be given time off to attend. A coworker notices that Stanley has scratches on the side of his face.



Night. The funeral home. Someone breaks a basement window and crawls inside... Stanley making a late night visit. Grace is laid out in a coffin for tomorrow’s funeral, surrounded by flowers. Stanley brings champagne, tells the corpse they can’ let something like this get in the way of their romance. Oh, yeah - it’s going there. Stanley kisses her corpse, then undresses both of them and gets busy...

Nine months later...



He comes home from work to find his sister wanting a bath... and wearing a ton of make up. Um, what’s up with that? Stanley breaks up the ice with an ice pick and pours some in the tub. His sister keeps talking on and on and on... and finally Stanley just pushes her head under the water and tries to drown her. That doesn’t work, and he grabs for the ice pick., ends up getting her robe belt - that works just fine to strangle her. She ends up dead and naked in the tub of ice water.

Meanwhile, at Grace’s grave, something crawls out of the dirt! Crawls across a field to Stanley’s house.

Stanley hears noises in the house - a broken window in the kitchen. A tree branch? No, something messy on the floor - dirt and slime. And there’s something crawling around in his house - like the totem dude in TRILOGY OF TERROR. Now it’s Stanley versus this little crawling thing! He reaches under he couch for it and it bites his hand! He grabs a knife to defend himself as it terrorizes him - what the hell is it? It skitters upstairs. When he follows, he finds his sister’s naked corpse at the base of the stairs! He climbs the stairs carefully, knife ready... when that *thing* trips him at the top of the staircase. Stanley tumbles all the way down... into the arms of his dead sister. He looks up to see what that thing is... and it’s a dead baby. A dead baby that keeps saying, “Daddy!” Then the baby comes down to attack him!



Back to Mr. White who tells the next story... that happened over 30 years ago.

Jesse Hardwick (Terry Kiser) lives in a crappy trailer and has the ultimate in relationship problems - his girlfriend says she’s leaving, and that she’s tipped off the McCoy Brothers that he was cheating them... and they are on their way.

Just the, the McCoy Brothers show up - guns drawn - and Jesse blasts through the wall of the house trailer and runs. But he can’t outrun a bullet, and one of the McCoy Brothers shoots him and leaves his body on the side of the road. But Jesse isn’t quite dead, and drags himself to the river where he has his boat stashed and then passes out in the boat. The boat drifts down the river... until someone pulls it ashore.

Jesse wakes up in an old shack filled with some really weird stuff. The old man who owns the shack, Felder Evans (Harry Ceasar) comes home and tells Jesse he’s been asleep for days. Gives him some soup. That night, old man Felder is practicing voodoo on the back porch and Jesse overhears.



The next day, Jesse asks Felder some prying personal questions and can’t get any straight answers. How old is Felder? How long has he been living here? Felder just talks about carving wooden buffalo while standing in the middle of a herd. No herds of buffalo for decades. How old is this guy? When Felder leaves, Jesse ransacks the shack - looking for valuables. Finds a hidden trunk filled with “valuables” - some antique guns, a book of voodoo spells, a scrap book with clipping about Felder that go back over *two centuries*. What? How is that possible?

Felder comes home and Jesse asks him how a man gets to be 200 years old. Is it that voodoo? Jesse demands to know how it’s done. If you could live that long, you could become rich! Jesse wants to take voodoo lessons...



Three weeks later, Jesse is frustrated. He’s a guy who is looking for a get rich quick scheme and this voodoo thing is a lot of work. Jesse has seen Felder drink from a little vial - is that his secret to eternal life? He knocks out Felder, puts him on the boat, and takes him out on the swamp. Threatens to throw him overboard if Felder doesn’t tell where the vial of magic water is. Felder doesn’t tell, and Jesse screws up yet again and accidentally shoves him all the way out of the boat. Felder sinks into the swamp. Jesse can’t see his body anywhere. Crap!

At Felder’s shack, Jesse is tearing the place apart looking for the vial - can’t find it. When Felder - covered in swamp mud - blasts through the door and slams him in the head with the boat paddle!

Jesse wakes up tied to the dock. Felder tells him when he first dragged Jesse and that boat in, Jesse was already dead. Felder used that potion from the vial on him to bring him back to life - so Jesse has just been trying to steal something that he already had. “You can’t die. I gave you enough that you’ll last another 70 years or more.” Felder pours kerosine on Jesse’s chest. Then chops off one of Jesse’s arms and sets him on fire and...



Two kids find a *moving* sack on the side of the road, call the police.

Hospital: The doctor says it is impossible for this... man... to be alive in his condition. But he is. And then we see what is left of Jesse - burned torso and head and... yech! Felder’s voice echoes, “You’ll last another 70 years or more.”

Back to Mr. White and Beth, who still isn't convinced it is the *town* that is evil. All of these bad things happening in the same place is just a coincidence. Mr. White tells her the Librarian who was here 40 years ago killed two people and buried them under this very floor (what that Mr. White?) then he tells her a story from his childhood - when the carnival came to town, bringing along the sideshow. And he remember Amarrillis Caulfield....



1933: The Carnival - crowded - pretty small town girl Amarrillis (Didi Lanier) walks along the midway until she comes to the sideshows, and enters the tent for Arden The Amazing (Ron Brooks) - who eats nails and screws and broken glass and razor blades and other things not on the standard food pyramid. After the performance she waits for Arden, and kisses him. Small town girl attractive to “sophisticated” carny. As they kiss, fellow carny Leonard (Gordon Paddison) watches them. Arden tells her he has a poker game with the guys, so she’s gotta go. She doesn’t want to leave... and makes him a deal - she’ll leave tonight if he meets her for a necking party at the graveyard after tomorrow’s shows have finished. He agrees and tells her to leave, “You don’t know how dangerous it is here if she finds you.” Amarrillis wants to know “Who’s she?” but Arden tells her to just leave.



Arden plays poker with the other carnies... when SnakeWoman (Rosalind Cash) steps from the darkness and wants to know who’s the girl she saw Arden with. Arden asks *who* saw him, SnakeWoman or Leonard? Leonard sneaks up behind Arden and blows on his neck. Tiny Tinker (Angelo Rossitto) says that SnakeWoman has no control over their personal lives, and she threatens him with the police... Tinker relents. SnakeWoman says that she protects all of them from the police in exchange for their talents - maybe in the case of the freak “No Face” (Barney Burman) she gave him his talent (by removing parts of his face). “This is my carnival. I own everything in it. Even you,” she says to Arden. “I own the tears you weep and the blood you shed.” Arden splits.

Amarrillis goes to the graveyard to put flowers on Father’s grave, when Arden arrives. Arden says he can’t stay long, she needs to forget about him. She says since she first saw his act she wanted to marry him, or just be with him. He tells her he’s a freak. She puts his hand on her breast and gets her freak on. They make out on her father’s grave, and begin undressing each other. But when he puts his hands “down there” she screams and bleeds - is it supposed to hurt like that? He takes his hand out of her panties - and screws and nails that he’s eaten in the past have erupted from his finger tips. He screams and staggers back to the carnival, where SnakeWoman is there to meet him. “Welcome home, glass eater.” SnakeWoman is a voodoo priestess - whose tent is filled with snakes. She makes his bleeding stop... and tells him to forget the girl. She makes the glass and nails he has eaten poke through his insides! Tells him to love that girl and know what pain really is.



When Arden returns to his tent, Amarrillis is waiting for him - she begs him to leave with her. He decides that might not be a bad idea. But on the way to her car they are discovered by Leonard - who has a gun. When he threatens to kill Arden, Tiny Tinker comes out of the shadows and stabs Leonard in the back. As Leonard lays dying he tears open his shirt, exposing a third eye on his chest, and says “I can still see you!”

Arden and Amarrillis drive off together.

In a roadside motel, they once again try to make whoopi... then he begins screaming in pain as all of the nails and screws and glass and razors he has eaten over the years *burst* from his body! Blood sprays everywhere - drenching Amarrillis - and piercing her body again and again!



Back to the side show, where they have a new attraction: Amarrillis The Human Pincushion. She has holes in her body that you can see through!

Mr. White finishes the story, and Beth is coming around... she is starting to believe that Oldfield might just be an evil town. “Oldfield’s history is written in human blood, on pages of human skin.” All the way back to when the town was founded during the Civil War. He shows her a series of Civil War photos, and one comes to life before our eyes for the last story...

Four Confederate Soldiers, lead by Sgt. Gallen (Cameron Mitchell) have been separated from their division, and come across a group of Union Soldiers - also separated from their division. The Union soldiers haven’t seen them yet, so Gallen orders his men to fire on them. Everyone fires except Pike... whose man is getting away. Gallen grabs Pike’s rifle and kills the running survivor. Gallen has them loot the bodies. They find documents on the dead Union soldiers - the war is over, and has been for a month. Gallen thinks there’s still some raping and looting left to do. Pike says if the war is over, he’s going home... and walks away. Gallen shoots him in the back, killing him.



Gallen and the two other soldiers (Bullock and McBride) go looking for a house where they can rape and loot, when they’re fired upon... and captured. They’re taken in a wagon to an old house named Oldfield with a bunch of children in the yard. Some of the children have been mutilated in the war - missing limbs or eyes or parts of their face. A little boy in a Union Army uniform, Andrew (Tommy Nowell), comes out of the house and tells Gallen that he is their prisoner now. Gallen can’t take this little boy seriously. Bullock (Tim Wingard) tells them their just a bunch of kids... and gets stabbed in the balls with a knife. Suddenly Gallen is taking this seriously. He tries to convince the boy that the war is over... but little Andrew does not believe them. Andrew takes the three Confederate soldiers into the house and warns them that the Magistrate will decide their fate. The Magistrate taught them everything they know - how to fight.

Soldier Bullock who was stabbed in the balls? They don’t expect him to last the night, so they’ll prepare a game for him. The other soldier, McBride (Leon Edwards), is in a different room, so he won’t be able to conspire with Gallen to escape.



A little girl with only one leg and only one eye, Amanda (Ashli Bare), brings Gallen dinner. He tries to talk her into letting him go when the ball rings - the Magistrate is calling a meeting. She leaves.

Andrew tells Amanda that he has a surprise for her, and takes her into the room where they have McBride. The Confederate soldier is now strapped to a table. Andrew tells Amanda to take off her eye patch... and then he inserts one of McBride’s eyes into her socket. McBride screams - and we see that his eye has been cut out.

When Amanda brings his next meal, Gallen convinces her to untie him... he’s adopt her and be her daddy. She untie him... Then he gives her a full on kiss... which is just wrong. She fights him. And he kills her and escapes... to find the kids playing a game in the front yard.

Pinata with meat hooks and the body of dead soldier Bullock. You know, for kids!



Gallen gets the hell out of there - running through the woods at top speed. Until he runs into Pike, who wasn’t killed by Gallen’s shot in the back. Pike knocks Gallen to the ground. Gallen says - you have to help me get away, those kids are going to kill me!

And Andrew has discovered Amanda’s body and the kids *are* chasing through the woods to find Gallen. But Andrew doesn’t help Gallen... he turns him over to the kids.



Gallen wakes up in the Magistrate’s Room. Andrew tells him they don’t murder people, they take them before the Magistrate and the Magistrate passes sentence. Then Andrew pulls aside a curtain so that Gallen can see the Magistrate: a Frankenstein’s monster made of the body parts of these kid’s parents... who were murdered in the war.

And the sentence for Gallen? Barbecue. They cook him up and eat him.

And that’s where the town of Oldfield came from - those cannibal kids.



Mr. White tells Beth that Poe and Lovecraft’s monsters where inventions of their imaginations, but here in Oldfield they walk the streets. Beth asks how Mr. White managed to survive this town, and he answers: “How do you know that I did?” Beth reaches into her purse and touches the handle of her knife... Mr. White smiles and tells her that he managed to just remain an observer of the parade of violence, but his niece Katherine became part of the parade. Beth says that she reported on Katherine’s murders, then after the arrest became Katherine’s pen pall while she was in prison... and learned all about this town and how Katherine was brought up... by Mr. White. And now she’s here to deliver Katherine’s parting gift to the man who raised her - pulls out her knife and stabs Mr. White, who dies saying: “Welcome to Oldfield.”

One of the final credits on the film: “When In Tennessee Visit Oldfield”!

- Bill

Buy the pit



Friday, October 15, 2021

Hitchcock 20: BREAKDOWN (s1e2)

There's a great new documentary video series focusing on the 20 TV episodes that Hitchcock directed called HITCH 20. This episode of the show is a great HITCHCOCK PRESENTS episode called BREAKDOWN with Joseph Cotten as a ruthless businessman who downsizes a loyal long time employee... and then ridicules him for breaking down and crying. It's really a lot of fun, so take a look:





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

Bill

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

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

Only 125,000 words!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:
(links actually work now)

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.






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.

Price: $5.99

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thriller Thursday: THE PURPLE ROOM

The Purple Room

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



Season: 1, Episode: 7.
Airdate: 10/25/60


Director: Douglas Heyes
Writer: Douglas Heyes
Cast: Rip Torn, Richard Anderson, Patricia Barry.
Music: Pete Rugolo
Cinematography: Bud Thackery




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Don’t be alarmed. The woman who just screamed is perfectly quiet now, as sure as my name is Boris Karloff. You see, she’s been dead for nearly a hundred years. Her bed is empty, and whatever it was that seemed to frighten her so is gone. *Seems* to be. But I can tell you this much: that bed won’t be empty much longer and other screams will soon be heard. Whose? Perhaps yours. Or those who will join us here: Mr. Rip Torn, Miss Patricia Barry, Mr. Richard Anderson, and... Well, it seems the rest of our cast can not be raised. They’re dead, you know. Spend a night with us in the Purple Room, if you dare! Let me assure you my friends, this is a thriller!”

Synopsis: Born skeptic Duncan (an impossibly young Rip Torn... who you know as the gruff boss from MEN IN BLACK) has just inherited an old house in Baton Rouge which has been in the family for years... and is supposedly haunted. Duncan doesn’t care, the house is on valuable property some big company wants to buy so he figures he’ll flip it and make a fortune. Nice plan, but the will requires him to live in the house for one year before he can sell it... and stay in the house one full night along with the other heir... his cousin Oliver (Richard Anderson from SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN) and his wife Rachel (Patricia Barry). If he can not spend the full night in the haunted house his cousin Oliver gets it. So there’s a bit of a competition involved: who can stay the whole night in the house, Duncan or Oliver? Since Duncan believes in money but not ghosts, he sees no possibility of losing.



Oliver, Rachel and Duncan drive to the house, in a remote area near a swamp... heck, it’s the PSYCHO house on the Universal backlot along with the swamp from the film... the art of using existing sets. They enter the house, which has no electricity and no phone and hasn’t been lived in for decades. Candles do little to illuminate the house. It’s spooky as heck. They climb the stairway to the bedrooms, and Oliver dares Duncan to sleep in the Purple Room... where all of the deaths have taken place including that most recent one 100 years ago. Duncan isn’t afraid of no ghosts, so he takes the room, even after Oliver relates the legend of the room...

A hundred years ago Captain Jeremy Ransom and his wife of only seven days were alone in the house on honeymoon, when they heard strange sounds from downstairs. Ransom gave his gun to his new bride for protection and then went downstairs to investigate. After more strange noises, the new bride hears footsteps coming up the stairs... a strange shuffling and dragging that was *not* her husband. As the thing came closer and closer to her in the darkness, she fired the gun again and again... killing her own husband... who had been stabbed by a burglar downstairs and was staggering upstairs for help. Then she went mad and spent the rest of her life in an asylum.

Oliver smiles: “This place is all yours... and everything it contains.”



In the middle of the night Duncan hears strange noises from downstairs and wakes up. After he lights the candle, it blows out... and all kinds of weird things begin happening in the Purple Room. Things move all by themselves. Duncan believes it’s Oliver and his wife trying to scare him, they’ve just rigged the room ahead of time. When things keep happening and he sees a picture on the wall move, he pulls the picture away... and there is just the wall behind it. The *solid* wall. WTF? He hears more noises downstairs, grabs his gun and heads downstairs.

Where something lurks in the shadows.

A knife flies at him, sticking into the floor.

The thing in the shadows moans and starts shuffling towards him. It’s Ransom’s ghost! Face rotted, knife sticking from its bloody chest. Dragging its leg as it gets closer and closer and closer to him. Duncan fires his pistol at it again and again and again... and the things keeps coming towards him!



Closer and closer and closer!

Duncan screams, clutches his chest and falls to the floor.

The rotting corpse walks right up to him... and pulls off his mask, it’s Oliver. Rachel comes out of the shadows and checks his pulse... he’s *dead*. Not part of the plan at all! They were just supposed to scare him enough that he left the house, not *kill him*. Change of plans. They carry his body out to the car, drive down the road to the swamp and drive the car off the road into the swamp, put Duncan behind the wheel, and walk back to the house. Now they can claim that Duncan got scared in the middle of the night and ran... and Oliver and Rachel had not a thing to do with his death.

Back at the house they clean up and remove all of the planted tricks and devices to scare Duncan... and then go to bed in the Purple Room. It *is* the master bedroom in *their* new house, after all. But in the middle of the night they hear strange noises from downstairs. A prowler? Oliver grabs Duncan’s gun, pours out the expended blank shells and loads it with *real* shells, then starts out of the Purple Room. But Rachel is frightened, so Oliver gives her the gun and goes downstairs to confront the prowler.



In the dark and spooky house, Oliver tries not to be afraid... but some *thing* is creeping up the stairs towards him, dragging its leg just like the Captain Ransom legend. When the thing gets closer, closer, CLOSER Oliver stumbles and falls down the stairs... the thing continues up the stairs... to the Purple Room!

Rachel is terrified as the thing opens the bedroom door and stumbles inside. She fires the gun, again and again until it clicks dry. Killing the thing. She carries the candle to the thing... and it’s *Duncan*. Not a fatal heart attack after all, he was unconscious and weak... And she has shot him six times. She goes downstairs and finds Oliver, shook up but okay. Tells him that she has shot Duncan... and that’s when the police come after finding the abandoned car and hearing the shots. Oliver and Rachel are headed to prison.

Review: Not only do we get the PSYCHO house and swamp, we get a great Weird Tales type story! After last week’s talky crime drama, the show finally seems to get on track with an episode that fulfills the promise of the series’ name. My favorite episodes of the show are thrillers filled with nail biting suspense and the Weird Tales stories that creep into horror (though usually with a twist). I want to be on the edge of my seat or scared to death, and my favorite episodes deliver on this. Though nothing from THRILLER can ever beat the Hitchcock UNLOCKED WINDOW episode for sheer terror, some get pretty close.



This one is just okay. Not enough Haunted House stuff to build our terror before Duncan comes face to face with dead Captain Ransom downstairs, it needed several more “gags” up in the Purple Room when Duncan wakes up. Since Oliver and Rachel have had plenty of time to rig the room, you’d thing they would have come up with at least as many things as in THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. I’m guessing somewhere along the line the writer/director feared there wasn’t enough time to show *how* Oliver managed to do anything really weird after Duncan supposedly drops dead. But I think the audience would have gone with it, since we went with the blown out candle gag and the moving painting with a solid wall behind it. He should have gone whole hog and had all kinds of weird stuff happening in the Purple Room. Remember, this was made at a time when film special effects where often done with thread and smoke and mirrors. The audience would accept any crazy thing happening in the room, because they really had to do it for the episode. If the writer/director thought the audience might have questioned a bunch of weird stuff, all he had to do is have Oliver say he apprenticed under a magician when he was a kid or something.

The *direction* is also not doing much to ramp up the suspense and dread. Lots of great moving camera shots, but makes the mistake of not showing the POV of the protagonist, which is where all of the suspense and dread resides. I don't understand how there can be directors out there who don't get this, but in my blog entry on THE THING prequel I noted that was the big problem with the film... and used an example of how to do it right from DIABOLIQUE. Other THRILLER episodes have some great direction that really adds suspense and dread. Ida Lupino directed a bunch of episodes and hers are awesome. That woman knew what to do with a camera! Most of the creepy stuff here is done by keeping things bathed in shadows, and that *does* work a little.



The best thing about the episode is the great twist where Oliver and Rachel’s attempt to fool Duncan into believing the Captain Ransom ghost haunts the house mostly backfires... but then they replicate the legend without thinking when they hear the noises downstairs. Oliver gives her the gun the same way Ransom gave his bride the gun a hundred years earlier. Love the irony! That’s what we expect from a Weird Tales type story, the scheme bites the schemers on the ass!

Weird Tales this week, edge of the seat thriller next week!

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Film Courage Plus: First Time I Got Paid To "Do It".

FILM COURAGE did a series of interviews with me at the end of 2014, and then again at the end of 2015... and that's 36 (or more) segments total. That's almost a year's worth of material! So why not add a new craft article and make it a weekly blog entry? All I have to do is write that new article, right?

The anniversary of the Big San Francisco Screening of this film is about a week away!

The First Time I Got Paid To "Do It":

This piece was from an interview in 2014, when my first produced film NINJA BUSTERS was a lost movie that could never be seen by an audience. As far as I knew, no prints of it existed. My skeletons were safely hidden in the closet. No one could ever see my baby steps as a screenwriter where I fell on my face *and* pooped my pants.

What a difference a year makes! In some weird version of STORAGE WARS, a film collector bought a warehouse full of old film cans, and one set of cans contained the only 35mm print of NINJA BUSTERS. More about that in this article by the director, Paul Kyriazi - the "official story". ** More backstory! So now the masochistic among you can see my first paid gig as a screenwriter, which has become a cult film playing around the country at Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. Yikes! I was hoping this film would remain missing!

But since it’s out there, baby, it's out there! (as Kramer on SEINFELD would say) let’s talk about first films and breaking in to the business.

If you were to ask 100 screenwriters how they broke in you would get 100 different answers. There is no one way, and there are so many variables the best thing that you can do is try as many different ways as you can and eventually one will work for you. In the clip I tell the story of NINJA BUSTERS - giving a screenplay to one of the “success stories” from my community college film appreciation class who had gone on to make kung fu movies for the drive in circuit, and how that lead to my working on the set of one of his films and eventually getting the job of doing a page one rewrite on a film for him. The challenge of NINJA BUSTERS (called FALCON CLAW when I was hired to rewrite it) was that the cast and locations and even many of the props had already been locked down, and my job was to write a screenplay that used all of those things... differently.

The original screenplay was about a pair of guys who land a job at a warehouse and discover that all of the warehouse workers are hypnotized so that they work for free and don’t ask any questions. They are some form of “zombie”. Our heroes somehow break out of the hypnosis and realize they are working for evil smugglers, and end up fighting the hypnotized warehouse workers and breaking up the evil smuggling ring.



When you are trying to land an assignment, be it for a studio based producer or some guys making kung fu movies in Oakland, CA; the first thing you do is “pitch your take” - come up with a different way to tell that story and pitch it to the producer. Sometimes it’s just finding the different angle to tell the same story, sometimes it’s finding a different story. In this case, I couldn’t find a way to make the “hypnotized dock workers” story interesting, so I had to come up with something similar... that also added more action scenes... that also used all of the same locations and actors and props they had already locked down. My story was about a pair of goofy guys who join a women’s self defense class to pick up girls and instead pick up trouble when they witness a mob murder by someone they know from their day job at a warehouse. The lead mobster uses ninjas to deal with big problems, and soon our two goofy guys and their dates are on the run from *ninjas*! The ninjas could be anywhere! I was a huge fan of SILVER STREAK, the Gene Wilder / Richard Pryor comedy chase film (a Hitchcock homage) and thought that would be a fun “model” for this page one rewrite. What if the story was a chase action film with these two guys racing across town one night to escape ninjas and rescue the women they love? Using all of the cast members, locations, props and anything else - I wrote a script in a couple of weeks I took off from my day job. And that was my first paid gig.

Which lead to...

Nothing.

Sure, I wrote a couple more screenplays for local producers, but none of those got made. So I went back to working the day job. And eventually broke in again.

Now here’s the thing they never tell you: you will *always* be breaking in. You don’t just break in once, and you’re in... you break in just about every time you sell a screenplay or land an assignment. Because unlike working at my day job where I’d clock in every morning, work my shift, then clock out and go home; a movie is a “one off”. They make one movie at a time, and that movie is the job and when the job is over you are unemployed and need to look for work again. You need to break in again. Sure, there are times when you get some momentum going - and one job leads to the next. But eventually the momentum ends and you need to break in all over again.

You will always be breaking in. Get used to that idea.

After selling COURTING DEATH to a company who had a deal with Paramount for a couple of years worth of day job money, I quit the day job and moved to Los Angeles where I holed up in an apartment and wrote a stack of screenplays. Writers write! No longer strangled by that day job, I had enough time to do what I loved - and I wrote and wrote and wrote! Sometimes never leaving my apartment for days! Heaven!

But when COURTING DEATH was never made, I found myself out of money and out of work and I needed to break in all over again. And that’s the dirty little secret of this business - when this script job ends you have no job... and must find another screenwriting job. And that’s basically breaking in all over again. You send out screenplays and take meetings (job interviews) and do everything possible to land another job. Hollywood is both a small town and a vast town - and when you are looking for your next screenwriting job you are likely to be meeting with people and companies who don’t know you. The companies that do know you are the first places you go, and after that it’s all of those other companies... and that’s breaking in again.

There is also a lot of turnover in this town, so that great connection you had with production company A, may no longer be working there. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because they move to another production company and now you have connections at two places... but sometimes they just leave the business and you have no connections at all. You have to break in all over again as if you were that writer living in your home town dreaming of a Hollywood career. Except now you are in Hollywood and you’ve even had a career for a film or maybe two (or maybe ten). A friend of mine who had a great ten year run as a screenwriter found himself in trouble when a bunch of the projects he had been working on did not go to screen (only 10% of what you write will make it to screen, the rest will just collect dust on studio shelves), and a bunch of his great connections at production companies all retired at the same time. Oh, and so did his agent, and he was passed off to a new agent who didn’t know him. Suddenly, this guy who h written a huge hit film had to break in all over again! And that is *common*. Screenwriting is not like a day job, there are no regular paychecks, there is no time clock, there is no job security at all! Once you finish your “day’s work” you need to find a new job! You need to break in again and again and again.

So when you read how some successful writer sold their first screenplay, that’s how they broke in the first time.

But the first time you break in will not be the last!

Much like the film NINJA BUSTERS that kept crashing and burning again and again. The film went through 3 different directors - the last being Paul - and each one had to figure out how to finish the film... and rewrote the screenplay in order to do that. The two female leads that we began with were owed money (I think) and didn't come back... so two new female leads were hired. Confusing in the film! And locations and everything else were lost along the way. But instead of quitting, instead of giving up, Paul stuck in there and completed the film. Big chunks of my script remain, and what isn't mine still has the humor of SILVER STREAK instead of the dead serious tone of Paul's other films (check out DEATH MACHINES). As a screenwriter the finished film might be different, but it carries the tone and feel of your original screenplay. TREACHEROUS went through similar changes on the way to the screen, but the filmed version grew from my screenplay. Sometimes scripts and films have to keep breaking in as well!

Good luck and keep writing!

- Bill



bluebook
Only 418 Pages!
*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!

Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!
Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!
Only $4.99 - and no postage!


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Trailer Tuesday: Sisters (1973)

James Wan's MALIGNANT reminded me of this (better) film...

Director: Brian DePalma.
Writer: Brian DePalma & Louisa Rosa.
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, the always awesome Bill Finley.
Sound Track: Bernard Herrmann.

With the film SISTERS (2015) on video, I thought we'd look at the original film from 1973... oh, wait, it *wasn't* a remake of the 1973 movie? Then why the hell didn't they come up with a different title so people wouldn't confuse the two movies? Well, hell - here's the Trailer Tuesday for SISTERS anyway...

Brian DePalma is one of my favorite directors, and not just because he does a great job of imitating Hitchcock - I love his comedies like HI MOM! and HOME MOVIES... and his dramas like CASUALTIES OF WAR. Though he makes a mis-step or two, he's always interesting and has done some amazing visual experiments - he's the king of split screen. My favorite faux Hitchcock film of his is OBSESSION, but his film SISTERS is creepy and has enough jump moments to keep you above your seat when you aren't on the edge of it.



We basically have the old "Two sisters: One Good, One Evil" - but this time they have a deeper connection. They were conjoined twins. Danielle and Dominique. The problem is - which one is this? The nice one, or the psycho? The movie opens with a Candid Camera type TV show where a guy in the men's locker room at a gym sees a hot blind girl come in and start taking off her clothes. How long before he tells her she's in the wrong locker room? After the episode is over, the guy and the girl hook up - she's Danielle (an actress who can see) and she lives in a NYC apartment with her sister Dominique. They go back to her place, her sister is out, and make love. The next morning, the guy discovers that today is Danielle's birthday... goes out and buys a cake... but when he comes back, runs into Dominique...



The scene ends with him writing Help Me on the window in his blood, and reporter Jennifer Salt sees it and calls the police. Dominique splits, leaving Danielle with the dead guy. Great split screen sequence where Danielle's ex-husband (Bill Phantom Of The Paradise Finley) is trying to clean up the blood and dispose of the body on one side while Jennifer Salt is leading the police up to the apartment on the other side. Instead of cross cutting for suspense, our eyes do the cutting as we look back and forth between the two sides of the screen. This is split screen used to tell the story - not as a gimmick.

The great thing about this film is that it's PSYCHO and REAR WINDOW and FREAKS and EYES WITHOUT A FACE and several other flicks all put into a blender and turned into one seamless story that never seems like it rips off a specific movie. The ending is in a mega-spooky metal institution - and is ultra-creepy.

The Crazy Dream Sequence From Sisters.

Music by Bernard Herrmann, who did so many great scores for Hitchcock. DePalma uses all of *his* stock company of actors, from Jennifer Salt to Bill Finley to Charles Durning - the only guy who doesn't show up is DePalma discovery Robert DeNiro. One of the great things in the end is when Jennifer Salt is attached to Dominique in a FREAKS inspired scene... so there's kind of a PERSONA reference going on there as well. This was a drive in movie that did really well and put DePalma back on the map after GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBIT flopped big time, and though it was schlock horror back then, today it's a Critereon DVD with a bunch of extras. The music is creepy enough to give you nightmares! And a textbook on how to use split screen. You'll never sit on a sofa bed again.

- Bill


Friday, October 08, 2021

HITCH 20: REVENGE (s1e1)

There's a great new documentary series called HITCH 20 that I have been a "guest expert" on, and the new season begins in a couple of months. So here is the very first episode - the "pilot" - which is without me:

This episode is REVENGE, and the story is a corker: a man's wife is brutally raped and he extracts his revenge when she recognizes the attacker on the street. I actually prefer the remake done in the 1980s, due to casting: Where Ralph Meeker (who played Mike Hammer) seems like the kind of guy who would have no problem extracting revenge, the remake had David Clennon (who always plays geeks with triple chins) who has a great deal of trouble with the physical aspects of revenge... making it even more gut wrenching.









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.

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