Friday, July 30, 2021

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Sean Connery on MARNIE

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

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



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

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

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

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

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

369 pages packed with information!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

And...




HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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

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

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

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

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

- Bill

Thursday, July 29, 2021

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, July 28, 2021

Flashback: My First Agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Bill

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Trailer Tuesday: THE DELPHI BUREAU (1972)

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

THE DELPHI BUREAU (1972)

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DELPHI BUREAU:
MERCHANT OF DEATH ASSIGNMENT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Bill


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Friday, July 23, 2021

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Robert Towne on REAR WINDOW

Robert Towne was the top screenwriter in the 1970s, doing uncredited rewrites on BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE NEW CENTURIONS before breaking out with THE LAST DETAIL in 1973, THE YAKUZA and CHINATOWN in 1974, SHAMPOO in 1975, and uncredited rewrites on a bunch of big films after that. In the 80s he gave us TEQUILA SUNRISE and then THE TWO JAKES in 1990... followed by DAYS OF THUNDER, THE FIRM, LOVE AFFAIR, and the first MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie - which was a Hitchcock homage. A few years back he sold his remake of Hitchcock’s THE 39 STEPS for a small fortune. Though I always think of him as that 70s screenwriter who was the go to writer for both Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, like almost everyone in the film business he is a fan of Hitchcock. So here he is talking about one of my favorite Hitchcock films REAR WINDOW....



Of course, The Washington Post called me "The Robert Towne of made for cable movies" and I have a couple of books about Hitchcock, one that includes a hefty chapter on REAR WINDOW...

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, July 22, 2021

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, July 21, 2021

Surreal July

My Life 15 Years Ago...

I’m in Las Vegas on "vacation" for two weeks. When you’re a self employed screenwriter who is behind deadline on a script, "vacation" means you wake up in some hotel room, find a place to write your pages for the day, and if you manage to finish your day’s work... you’re in Vegas, baby!

The whole Vegas thing began years ago with the Las Vegas Screenwriting Conference. The guy who ran the Cripple Creek Film Festival realized he could do a similar event in Las Vegas and get a lot more people to come. So he asked myself and a bunch of others if we’d like to be on panels in Vegas... and we all said yes. They were buying my airplane ticket and putting me up at a hotel on the strip (usually Treasure Island) and paying me to sit on a panel with Shane Black and a bunch of other name screenwriters. But the guy always seemed to screw it up - he’d buy the plane ticket at the last minute and have to FedEx them to us. You can fly LA to Vegas for next to nothing on Southwest if you buy your ticket 21 days ahead of time. When you buy the tickets 2 days ahead of time, you pay a bundle. But I would have him give me an extra week in Vegas before my return flight, and just stick around and have a vacation. The Video Software Dealers convention takes place in mid-July, and I’d usually hang around for that.

By the time the Las Vegas Conference crashed and burned last year (he always lost money because he’d make deals at the last minute and forget to publicize the event), doing a couple of weeks in Vegas in July was kind of a tradition. I had friends who came for VSDA, and we’d hang out and have dinner... then I’d stick around for a while and write in a different city. Also, my friend John Hill lives here - he wrote QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER and some other movies and ran LA LAW and QUANTUM LEAP TV shows. Always good to see John.

Yesterday I’m walking back to my hotel from a local Starbucks after finishing my 5 pages and notice a bunch of grip trucks and cables in front of my hotel. When I get to the entrance, there is Curtis Hanson talking to Drew Barrymore. I kind of nod to Curtis (we talked for about 30 seconds at a screening of his first produced script when American Cinematique was at Raleigh Studios), and walk in, wondering if it’s some sort of heat related vision... but it’s not. They’re filming a movie outside my hotel. Even in Vegas, I’m having a surreal Hollywood experience.

I am a working screenwriter, not a famous one... and not even a well paid one. I earn a living writing screenplays - quit the day job working in a warehouse about 17 years ago and haven't punched a time clock since. But I still kind of think of myself as a guy who does shipping and receiving and drives forklift. I hate valet parking. I’d rather eat at Sizzler than some overpriced place where you need a microscope to see the portions. I street park. I go to a barber shop and pay $10 for a haircut. I know a little about wine, but mostly drink beer. I buy my shoes on sale at Big 5. The shirt I’m wearing came from Sears. I am a normal guy. If you’ve met me, you know that I’m down to Earth. I’m the guy who helps you move.

On July 1st I went to my friend Darin’s 4th Of July Barbeque. That time I saw Curtis Hanson at Cinemateque? Darin was sitting behind me. He’s great guy who is part of he Thursday night gang - a bunch of genre writers, directors, actors, stunt guys, make up guys, FX guys who usually go to Residuals Bar. Most of these guys I met at Fangoria Conventions and American Film Markets. Someday I’ll do an entry on them, but this is about July. This very month. And all of these folks who usually drink at Residuals on Thursday were drinking in Darin’s back yard on Saturday... and eating a pile of food that Darin provided. Oh, yeah, and we were congratulating Darin.

Darin’s film, WAIST DEEP, was #5 over the weekend.

One of my friends has a film in the TOP FIVE in JULY (big summer movies including CLICK and SUPERMAN RETURNS). Weird!

Despite having film in the top 5, Darin is a regular guy - down to Earth, making the rounds at his barbeque to thank everyone for coming and eating his free food and drinking his free drinks... and making sure that everyone has a drink. He’s a great host, and a guy you can talk to.

Seven days later on July 8th, the Saturday before flying to Vegas, I’m in a Cocos restaurant in Newport Beach having a meal that’s half dinner, half lunch (linner? dunch?) With some friends from the Wordplay website - all of the old timers who have been on the boards since it was over at AOL as part of Follywood. After dinner we’re going to go see a movie at the cinema across the street... PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, which was written by my friends Terry & Ted (see my interview with them in the new issue of Scr(i)pt Magazine).

After dunch, Terry reads a bunch of excerpts from bad reviews that focus on how inept the script for the films was (while always saying the cast saves the film with sparkling characterization). The reviews were funny because one would say "too simple" and the next would say "too confusing". One would say "too much action" and the next would say "bogs down in talk". All of the bad reviews contradicted each other! Everyone is laughing at the reviews, and having a good time. Both Ted and Terry have been making sure that they have a real conversation with everyone. These are their friends. Oh, and they pick up the check. (Thanks!)

Then we went to the cinema - where we sat in a completely sold out house filled with kids & parents (many dressed as pirates - the kids, too) and laughed and cheered and just has a great time. We stayed for the post-credits plot twist (concerning the dog) then went to a bar next door and talked about the movie. Always great to find out the behind the scenes stuff - and Ted & I had an interesting conversation about the anti-establishment elements of the film. It’s about pirates who break laws! There’s a great line in the film when Elizabeth (Keira) tells her father that any fair trial that Will Turner receives will end in a hanging - he’s guilty of the changes. He broke the law, as did she. Edgy suff for a major studio release. Another couple of normal guys who just happened to have written a huge string of hit movies like ALADIN, MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, and the PIRATES movies.

Ted & Terry’s film, DEAD MAN’S CHEST, was #1 over the weekend. It broke all kinds of records, too. And the exit polls from Cinemascore have 97% of the audience giving it a positive review.

And WAIST DEEP was still #8 - two of the films in the top 10 were written by friends of mine. Isn’t that just weird?

And this past weekend, DEAD MAN’S CHEST stayed at #1 despite a bunch of new summer movies opening.

Today, the grip trucks are gone, along with Curtis Hanson and Drew Barrymore.

I’ve seen both WAIST DEEP and PIRATES for a second time since I’ve been in Vegas, and it’s just weird that I know the writers of both. I can’t imagine how surreal it must be to have written a movie in the top 5... but I would like to experience that sometime.

- Bill

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Make the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE book #1!

Today, July 20, is my birthday. So I am giving YOU a gift! All three of the STORY IN ACTION books are 99 cents each today... and they are on Kindle Countdown Deals - so the price goes up a buck every couple of days over a week until it they get back to $3.99. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, TERMINATOR, BOURNE. All 99 cents today! (USA Only, Sorry!) Tell your friends, your family, your enemies, the person sitting next to you on the bus, because....

I want to make the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE book #1 Wednesday! Or either of the other 2 books!

ALL STORY IN ACTION BOOKS ON SALE!

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 99 cents!


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.

STORY IN ACTION BOOKS



bluebook
Over 240 pages!
*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!

He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

Only 99 cents!


bourne

They Should Have Left Him Alone!

*** THE BOURNE MOVIES

All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

SALE: 99 cents - and no postage!



UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer "The Mask Of Zorro", "Shrek" and "Pirates Of The Caribbean".

"William C. Martell knows the action genre inside out. Read and learn from an expert!" - Mark Verheiden, screenwriter, "Time Cop" and "The Mask", head writer on "Smallville" and "Constantine".

"This book is dangerous. I feel threatened by it." -Roger Avary, Oscar winning screenwriter, "Pulp Fiction" and "Killing Zoe".

"Bill Martell is one of Hollywood's best action-adventure writers, with 19 produced films to his credit. His "Blue Books" on the art of screenplay writing are legendary and "Secrets of Action Screenwriting" is the best." - Best selling novelist Dale Brown.

"My only complaint with SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is that it wasn't around when I was starting out. The damned thing would have saved me years of trial and error!" - Ken Wheat, screenwriter, "Pitch Black" and "The Fly 2".

"There's an art to writing for guys like Chuck Norris -- thanks to Bill Martell's book, I was prepared." - Genia Shipman, screenwriter, "Walker: Sons of Thunder".

"Finally a screenwriting book written by a working professional screenwriter. Bill Martell really knows his stuff, showing you how to write a tight, fast screenplay." - John Hill, screenwriter, "Quigley Down Under" and "Closed Encounters Of The 3rd Kind".


These links all lead to the USA store, if you are in some other country and want to write a review for your country, go to your Amazon website.

Thank you all again.

- Bill

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