Thursday, June 30, 2022

Thriller Thursday: THE GUILTY MEN

The Guilty Men

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



Season: 1, Episode: 6.
Airdate: 10/18/1960


Director: Jules Bricken
Writer: John Vlahos
Cast: Everett Sloane, Jay C. Flippin, Frank Silvera, John Marley.
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: John L. Russell




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Three boys from the slums. One wanted to be a doctor, one wanted to be a lawyer, and the third... he just wanted to be Mr. Big. All three achieved their ambitions with surprising results, as sure is my name is Boris Karloff. They are the guilty men, and that’s the name of our story. That sound you hear is a heart beat. A heart beat that held together a fantastically powerful organization dedicated to big business. The big business of crime. Let me assure you my friends, this is a thriller.”

Synopsis: Kind of a precursor to GODFATHER and GODFATHER 3, the story begins with a boy names Cesare is running down a city street at night, then climbing a fire escape to a New York City rooftop that looks a lot like the rooftop set from VERTIGO... where two other boys are hanging out. The other boys ask what happened when they hear the police sirens from below, and Cesare tells them he got the money to pay for their father’s funeral... $400. His brother Tony is outraged, but Lou asks if he’s going to need an alibi. Cesare says no alibi required, he’s a clever kid and got away clean. Tony doesn’t think their father would want to be buried in a fancy coffin bought with dirty money. Papa wanted the boys to get good jobs and be decent people. Brother Cesare disagrees: “I don’t want the neighbors to laugh, we couldn’t give the old man a decent funeral, capice? We needed the money so I got it, it don’t matter how.”. “It matters to Papa, how many times he tell us a man who lives by violence, he dies the same way.” “I gotta wise saying, too: He who takes gets, and it don’t matter how. You just take and take and take.” These three boys in the slums of New York in the 1920s talk about their futures... Tony dreams of being a doctor, Lou dreams of being a lawyer... and Cesare dreams of being the biggest mobster ever known.



Now we get a montage of Cesare Romano’s rise from that kid on the rooftop to crime kingpin through stock footage and newspaper headlines. As prohibition comes in, he rises to the top, and when prohibition is voted out he organizes all of the other bootleggers into a crime syndicate that controls all of the illegal vices people crave. When the feds begin cracking down, he turns his front businesses into *real* businesses and is able to walk away from Senate hearings a free man because his hotels and shipping and other businesses are legit... they make a ton of money (even though they are still used as fronts from some criminal enterprises). Which takes us to 1960, present day...

An aging “Charlie” (Cesare) Romano (Frank Silvera) is meeting with all of the mob bosses beneath him who form The Syndicate, and some are angry that they so corporate that they are no longer criminals. Leading the pack is Gans (Jay C. Flippin) who thinks they should focus on heroin and other hard drugs before someone else moves in. Charlie says they made record profits *legally*, why push their luck? Mob Lawyer Lou (Everett Sloane) agrees. But Gans is the up and comer, like Mantegna’s Joey Zasa in GODFATHER 3, and thinks heroin is the new Prohibition... and they could become so powerful the government couldn’t touch them. Charlie gets angry and... collapses to his chair, grabbing for his heart pills.



At Charlie’s estate, doctor brother Tony (John Marley... from THE GODFATHER) attends to Charlie as Lou looks on. Charlie and Tony are hardly on speaking terms these days, but Tony is still his doctor. Tony tells Charlie he needs to get his anger under control, that’s what triggered the heart attack today... and then calls his bother scum for being part of the drug trade and says goodbye to Lou and goes back to the hospital. When he’s gone, Charlie and Tony discuss their heroin business... should they drop it? Tony says they should either drop it or get into it 100 percent. Charlie wants desperately to be legitimate, to put his criminal past behind him and decides to get out: *not* allow any part of the syndicate to import or sell drugs.

At the next meeting, Charlie proposes they stop being part of the drug traffic... Gans argues that it’s millions of dollars being thrown away, and they should *focus* on the heroin business and make even more money. Lawyer Lou offers to mediate the dispute between the two men, and most of the other mobsters are dismissed from the meeting. Charlie and Gans face off, the argument becomes heated, comes to blows... and Charlie has another heart attack, reaching for his pills. Gans pulls them away. Charlie reaches, reaches, reaches for his pills. Can’t get them. Dies of a heart attack.



Twist: Lawyer Lou was in on it... afraid that Gans *would* take over the mob, and the mob is 98 percent of Lou’s business. He couldn’t survive if Charlie lost control, so he went along with Gans and kept his job.

Charlie’s funeral: all three boys together again, but one is dead.

Gans in now in control... and wants to go full force into the drug business. When some of the legit business guys and Lawyer Lou think they should not get into it, or at least be very very cautious, Gans rubs out one of them making it look like suicide. The problem with the suicide? It splashes mud on everyone else in the syndicate including Lawyer Lou. For Lou the plan has backfired: he never really wanted to be *Gans* lawyer. In trying to save his income he has sold his soul and is liable to go down with *Gans*. He decides to turn states evidence against Gans and the mob... not knowing that Gans has his phones tapped, and after cutting a deal, leaves to turn himself in... and is shot dead in the street by Gans. But the police arrive and shoot it out with Gans and his men, the end. Everyone who lived by violence has died by violence.



Review: There are a handful of THRILLER episodes that are crime dramas and seem like rejected episodes of THE UNTOUCHABLES that found their way to THRILLER. This is one of them. Many TV shows take a while to figure out what they are, and that must have been even more difficult with an anthology show like THRILLER. There are no continuing characters and no continuing storyline, and for a while no specific *genre*. Hitchcock has a history of films which set the tone for his show, but even that show had occasional episodes that didn’t seem to fit. Hey, it’s television, we have to make a one hour show every single week! Eventually THRILLER would find itself and center on suspense with a touch of weird tales thrown in, but this week it was a crime drama.

And the accent is on the *drama* here, as most of the episode takes place in the mob’s boardroom with dangerous men... talking. This episode could easily have been a stage play about corporate politics instead of organized crime. So it seems slow and stagey, and they chunk of stock footage from some other gangster movie or show with all of the car chases and explosions and tommy gun fights looks even more like stock footage because of it. And doesn’t really inject any action into the episode. Even the three murders on screen, Charlie’s and the other mobster who doesn’t go along with Gans and Lou’s, don’t have any have action. Lawyer Lou’s is the only one with the kind of action you’d expect in a gangster story: he gets plugged in a drive by. Charlie’s comes closest to being suspenseful (THRILLER material) because they have to hold him away from his pills long enough to die. Actually an okay scene. The other murder is off screen, with only the discovery of the body on screen. Imagine THE GODFATHER without the violence or the pageantry.

The scene with Charlie and his pills comes in the last half of the episode! That gives you an idea of how much talk there is. And after Charlie is dead... more talk!



One of the great things this episode does is give us a “bridge” between the boys and their adult counterparts, most notably with Cesare/Charlie who slaps his hand on a table hard when making a point. We end with the boy Cesare slapping his hand down and, after the credits and montage, begin with Charlie slapping his hand down on the board room table. Easy for the audience to understand that the boy is now this man. Things like this are part of old school screenwriting and I fear are being lost these days.

It’s great to see John Marley in a GODFATHEResque story made almost 15 years before that film... but his character vanishes at the end. After Charlie’s funeral he isn’t in a single scene. I would have squeezed him in at the very end, just because he *is* the surviving brother. Technically fine, and watchable. But the *next* episode gets us back on course to what THRILLER would become.

FADE OUT

Bill

Buy The DVD!



Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Game Of Cages by Harry Connolly

From 2010 at around this time...

Last year, the official book of my long London plane trip was CHILD OF FIRE, my friend Harry's first published novel... except it was released the day of my flight and I had to wait to buy it until I got back home. The book was great - Dash Hammett meets H.P. Lovecraft - and was one of Publisher's Weekly's Best Books Of 2009. It got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, too... and many other great reviews.

I am not an Urban Fantasy reader, I read crime fiction... but CHILD OF FIRE reminded me so much of Hammett's RED HARVEST and THE GLASS KEY and Jon Latimer's SOLOMON'S VINEYARD - real hardboiled stuff. Brutal, tough, and sparse writing that packs a punch. If anyone can get through the first few pages of COF without gasping, they're blood runs cold.

Well, Harry has been busy writing, and has two sequels to CHILD OF FIRE on the way, and GAME OF CAGES hits bookstore on Tuesday... and also got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and is getting great reviews from everyone else, too.

I pre-ordered through Amazon, and just got the e-mail that it shipped. Cool!

The next book in the Twenty Palaces series will come out next year... but it's too early to pre-order that one.

Couldn't be coming at a better time for me - I have been re-reading the Richard Stark Parker books as they are reprinted from Chicago University Press (my old copies from the 70s have fallen apart from re-reading) and just began reading PLUNDER SQUAD again... but the next batch of Parker reprints won't come out until March 2011, so this will help take care of my fiction addiction.

There is also a Kindle edition...

(click the cover.)

For those of you who are aiming for a paperless office and a paperless life (how does that work in the bathrooms?).



OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:
A secret high-stakes auction:

As a wealthy few gather to bid on a predator capable of destroying all life on earth, the sorcerers of the Twenty Palace Society mobilize to stop them. Caught up in the scramble is Ray Lilly, the lowest of the low in the society—an ex–car thief and the expendable assistant of a powerful sorcerer. Ray possesses exactly one spell to his name, along with a strong left hook. But when he arrives in the small town in the North Cascades where the bidding is to take place, the predator has escaped and the society’s most powerful enemies are desperate to recapture it. All Ray has to do is survive until help arrives. But it may already be too late.

“Connolly keeps you turning the pages and wanting more.” —C. E. Murphy

"Connolly doesn't shy away from tackling big philosophical issues--whether good ends justify evil means, how many civilian deaths can be justified in the pursuit of creatures that can destroy the world--amid gory action scenes and plenty of rapid-fire sardonic dialogue." --Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

"This has become one of my must read series." Carolyn Cushman, Locus Magazine


Hey, if you enjoy action packed books that take no prisoners, check it out! On bookstore shelves tomorrow.

To order GAME OF CAGES on Amazon (or for more info) CLICK HERE.

To order CHILD OF FIRE on Amazon (or for more info) CLICK HERE.

So now that my order has shipped, I am busy watching my mail box...

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:
TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Negative Goals - how can you show someone trying *not* to do something?
Dinner: Hummus sandwich at Togos.
Pages: Nada - read action script for rewrite assignment.
Bicycle: No.
Bicycle Accident Recovery: Feeling much better. Giant elbow scab looks awful. Wrist is better - there are ways of bending it that hurt, and too much weight on thumb or fingers hurts, but I forget it's injured until I do something like grab some heavy grocery bags with a couple of fingers... ouch. Still wearing the wrist brace to prevent myself from doing anything stupid and making it worse. Also works as a reminder not to carry heavy grocery bags with two fingers on that hand. I'll live.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Trailer Tuesday: PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE

Directed by: Brian DePalma.
Written by: Brian DePalma, music & lyrics by Paul Williams.
Starring: William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, Paul Williams.


He sold his soul for rock and roll...

A few years ago Edgar Wright hosted the 40th anniversary of Brian DePalma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE to a sold out crowd in the massive Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Most of the surviving cast was there, but star William Finley had recently passed away; so this was also a bit of a memorial for him as well. Since PHANTOM is one of my favorite movies, one that I saw in its brief initial run back in 1974, and several times since then... I was in that packed cinema. Wait, you’ve never heard of the film? That’s great! You have something to look forward to!

Buy the border Brian DePalma is one of my favorite directors, and most people know him from BLOW OUT or maybe CARRIE... but those films were made in the middle of his career. He began making odd arthouse films and comedies... and discovered Robert DeNiro (as well as many other actors who would later become famous). His first successful film was an anti (Viet Nam) war comedy starring Robert DeNiro, Gerrit Graham, and Jon Warden called GREETINGS (1968) about three friends who get their draft notices at the same time and each figures out a way to avoid being sent to Viet Nam where they will likely return in a body bag. It’s kind of a series of skits with these three characters that lampoons the time period and the social turmoil in the United States surrounding the war. Jon Warden was the star, with DeNiro and Graham as his sidekicks, and by the end of the film DeNiro is the only one who gets sent to Viet Nam... to return in the sequel HI MOM! (Introducing Charles Durning) which looks at the early 70s, and everything from Organic Food to the Black Power Movement (“Be Black Baby!”).

After a string of successful comedies, they gave DePalma a comedy studio film starring Orson Welles and The Smothers Brothers... which flopped. DePalma went back to indie films and played around with Hitchcock and horror (he had previously done a comedy with Hitchcock overtones called MURDER ALA MOD, starring William Finley... who was a member of his stock company of actors).



His brilliant Hitchcockian horror flick SISTERS was a big hit (I have the Critereon edition) and his next film was going to be called PHANTOM OF THE FILMORE, starring Finley in a mash up of every classic horror movie ever made, plus a satire of the music industry. After writing the script, he approached Paul Williams to write the music figuring he’d start at the top (Williams had written a string of hits at this point) but to his surprise this was *exactly* what Williams was looking for, When you’ve written a string of hit pop songs, you want to try the exact opposite. A rock opera that makes fun of the music biz? Sign him up! Williams also ended up playing the villain, Swan, who has made a little deal with the Devil to look forever young and be incredibly successful. Somewhere along the way, promoter Bill Graham had a lawyer inform them that they couldn’t use the name of his Filmore club, and the film became PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

This film came *before* ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and just about everyone believes it’s better... but it flopped, as did ROCKY HORROR. The difference? ROCKY HORROR’s distrib played it at midnight shows where it became the phenomenon that it is today. PHANTOM was distributed by 20th Century Fox and they didn’t even know what a midnight show was! So everybody was doing the Time Warp Again and nobody remembered PHANTOM. Well, that’s not exactly true. Those who had seen it the first time it came out kept it alive in revival houses where the introduced their friends to the film. I know I dragged friends to it whenever it played in Berkeley. I had the soundtrack on vinyl and played it frequently, and can sing along with every song if required. I also probably know every line of dialogue. Too bad they didn’t do midnight shows back in the day because then *everybody* would know about this film rather than ROCKY HORROR (though we wouldn’t know about Tim Curry, so maybe it’s good things turned out as they did). But what about the story?

Well the story is about a very talented artist who gets ripped off by The Man... something that screenwriters can identify with.

Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a struggling composer working on a rock opera version of Faust who manages to get a gig playing music between shows (when people are leaving the venue, glorified Muzak) for the multi platinum 50's nostalgia band The Juicy Fruits. Mysterious music producer Swan (Paul Williams) who represents the Fruits is about to open a new rock venue and is looking for a new sound... and when he hears Winslow’s music he thinks this may be it. He orders his tubby underling Philbin (the amazing George Memoli, who is also in Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS, ROCKY, Paul Schrader’s BLUE COLLAR and a bunch of other great 70s stuff) to grab the music and ditch Winslow. Buy the border After “submitting his music to Swan” through Philbin and not hearing back, he tries Swan’s office building, where he’s on a “beat up on sight” list, and after recovering tries Swan’s mansion where he discovers a long line of female singers practicing one of his songs. The best of the bunch is the beautiful and talented Phoenix (introducing Jessica Harper) and Winslow learns from her that Swan has stolen his music, claimed it as his own, and is auditioning females singers for the opening of the Paradise Club. Winslow tries to see Swan (by dressing up as a female singer) and gets beaten up and dumped on the street, where a pair of cops plant some heroin in his purse and arrest him.

In Sing Sing Prison (everything in this film is musical) Winslow is volunteered against his will for a medical experiment funded by Swan’s company where they extract every tooth in your mouth and replace it with stainless steel.

Winslow escapes prison, discovers that the Juicy Fruits have recorded an album of his music done 50's style, goes to destroy all of the vinyl record at Swan’s factory... but trips and his head lands in the record press... smashing his face and leaving the offensive album permanently engraved in his skin.

After recovering, Winslow goes to the Paradise Club where the Fruits are rehearsing for opening night (as a new group: the Beach Bums, doing early 60s style music)... and dons a costume and mask from the costume storage room (becoming The Phantom) before planting a bomb that injures the Fruits and stopping them from desecrating his music. Buy the border Winslow is captured by Swan, who locks him away to complete the rock opera for Phoenix to sing... except Swan has no intention of having Phoenix open the club, she’s way too wholesome. And when Winslow has finished his rock opera? Swan walls him into the room faster than you can say Poe’s Cask Of Amontillado.

So Swan has to find a new opening night act for the Paradise in a great *one shot* audition scene that features a dozen music acts so unbelievable that they’re believable... and settles on glam rocker Beef (Gerrit Graham, stealing whatever movie he is cast in). One of the great things about this film, which came up in the panel discussion afterwards, is how well it *predicts* new music trends and even specific bands. It’s kind of like NETWORK in that regard, you see it now and think they are making fun of KISS when they use the Juicy Fruit band members dressed in black with patterns painted on their faces in black and white... but KISS didn’t even exist when this film was made! Though this is a satire of the music business, it’s crazy creations would eventually come true! Buy the border On opening night for the Paradise, Winslow as the Phantom breaks out and threatens Beef, telling him that only Phoenix can sing his songs, and anyone else who tries dies. Beef doesn’t want to go on, Philbin insists... and in the middle of Beef’s CALIGARI style opening number the Phantom zips a neon lightning bolt down at Beef, electrocutes him, and Beef fries on stage... while the audience calls for an encore. Swan has Phoenix go out and sing to calm the crowd... and she’s a massive hit!





Realizing it will take something really amazing to top a rock star burning alive on stage, Swan decides he will *marry* Phoenix on stage, and then have a sniper kill her dead. That’s entertainment! Now Winslow/Phantom must stop this from happening, even though he knows that the woman he loves has willingly agreed to marry Swan in exchange for stardom. No matter what happens, things will not end happily ever after.

Buy the border

After the film, the panel spent about an hour talking about the making of the film (in Dallas Texas standing in for New York City) where their production designer Jack Fisk (his first film) had an assistant named Sissy Spacek who would later star in the movie CARRIE for DePalma after starring in some film called BADLANDS. Jack and Sissy married and are still together, and I bumped into them and chatted at some low rent Oscar party that made the mistake of inviting me. Jack and Sissy were not on the panel, but hammy GerritGraham, still hot Jessica Harper, Paul Williams, Juicy Fruits Harold Oblong and Jeffrey Comanor (who was carried onto stage, then got up and jogged around a little), plus the film’s editor Paul Hirsch, who learned how to edit films with DePalma who then introduced him to his Hollywood Brats friends where Lucas hired him to edit STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and he later edited MISSION IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL and SOURCE CODE and RAY and a zillion other big films, and William Finley’s widow Susan joined the panel later (she’s in the movie as an extra!). The always amazing Edgar Wright moderated. They had all kinds of great stories about making the film, and Williams talked about making this crazy decision to write music which was the opposite of what he was known for while trashing the industry he was a part of.

It was an amazing night, and the film is just as funny as the day it was made. A real gem waiting to be discovered by any of you who haven’t seen it yet. The songs have great pop hooks and subversive lyrics... you’ll be humming them later. Because it’s DePalma it is filled with all kinds of crazy film experiments and homages, including a recreation of the opening scene from TOUCH OF EVIL as a musical number with the Beach Bums band!



The Panel Discussion (someone videoed it!)

Bill

Buy the border

Friday, June 24, 2022

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Robert Rodriguez on Spellbound

Fridays With Hitchcock this week features the director of EL MARIACHI Robert Rodriguez on that wacky dream sequence in SPELLBOUND:





And here is that dream sequence:





Bill



Of course, I have a couple of books about 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!

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



ON SALE!!! $2 OFF!

Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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

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

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

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

SALE: $3.99

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

- Bill

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thriller Thursday: Child's Play

CHILD’S PLAY




Season: 1, Episode: 2.
Airdate: 9/20/1960


Director: Arthur Hiller.
Writer: Robert Dozier (THE CARDINAL and the Ryan O’Neal version of Elmore Leonard’s THE BIG BOUNCE.)
Cast: Frank Overton (Dad), Bethel Leslie (Mom), Tommy Nolan (Hank).
Music: Pete Rugolo.
Cinematography: Bud Thackery.




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Sometimes children become so lost in a world of imagination, they’re unable to find their way back. Then there is only danger before them, sure as my name is Boris Karloff. We’re concerned now with a boy whose imagination brings him to a crisis involving not only himself but also his family. A crisis that begins, but does not end as child’s play. Let me assure you my friends, this is a thriller!”



Synopsis: Kind of a scaled down version of THE SHINING, minus the supernatural elements. An ignored, love starved wife (Bethel Leslie) makes a last ditch attempt to save her family by insisting that her cold, self centered, workaholic husband (Frank Overton) and their completely neglected son Hank (Tommy Nolan) spend three weeks vacation in a remote mountain cabin where they will have no choice but to bond and heal. Great plan, but ahole Dad claims one room as his office and spends the whole time working (he’s a writer, like Jack from THE SHINING) and forbids any disturbance for the entire three weeks (though demands that his wife keep his coffee cup full). So, no healing for the family again this year.

While the wife sulks, the son (who is used to being completely ignored by his parents) spends his day imagining epic adventures outdoors... playing cowboy sheriff chasing an evil desperado named Black Bart. The episode begins in media res with an incident from close to the end of the episode where Hank points a *real* rifle at a terrified fisherman...

But our story opens with Hank playing with a toy six shooter and pretending that a fallen tree near the cabin is a dangerous cliff he must balance on the edge of wile chasing his quarry... as his Mom calls him in for lunch. She comes out and asks him what he’s doing, he explains the perils of falling off the end of a cliff, and she tells him he needs to hurry up and get across or he’ll miss lunch. That’s when Dad comes out, and orders him to come in right this very minute... and Hank falls off the log, screaming all the way down...

This is a great way to show the family dynamics and set up Hanks’s underlying motivations throughout.

Mom pulls Dad aside and explains the reason why Hank is spending this vacation in his imagination is because Dad is completely ignoring him. Dad says he’s very busy, doesn’t have time for this, and Mom suggests he take a break and take Hank hunting this afternoon. Dad says he’s too busy this afternoon... but maybe tomorrow. Which is what he says *every day*. They go in for lunch...



Hank tries to engage his Dad in conversation... but Dad is pretty much a dick. When Mom suggests Dad take Hank hunting this afternoon, Hank gets excited and starts talking about the animal tracks he spotted this afternoon... Then Dad says he’d like to take Hank hunting, but can’t: has too much work. Hank is broken hearted, excuses himself. Dad lashes out at Mom for putting him on the spot like that. An argument begins that will last the rest of the episode.

Hank puts on his toy gun... then sees the real rifles in the gun rack. Grabs one, fills his pockets with shells, and goes out to play.

Most of the rest of the episode focuses on the argument between Dad and Mom, with a few shots of Hank wandering around in the woods with a loaded rifle, chasing “Black Bart”. Dad wants to know why Mom doesn’t punish Hank more often, why she allows him to play let’s pretend instead of dealing with reality. The more Dad says things like this, the more we realize that he’s the reason why Hank is this way. Dad just wants to be left alone for the rest of the vacation so that he can work. Unlike Jack’s novel in THE SHINING, this Dad writes completely accurate technical articles... and has no understanding of imagination. At one point the argument escalates so that Mom admits she has been considering divorce, and this vacation was supposed to get the family back together... which leads Dad to snap back that she hates his job. Hates that he works. Why can’t she just raise the kid and do the housework and leave him alone!



Dad asks Mom why Hank is even here, why didn’t he go to the summer camp he went to last year, so that he’d be out of their hair and Dad could get some work done? Well, it seems that Hank has been kicked out of the summer camp for acting out last year. He tried to play William Tell by shooting an apple off another kid’s head! Dad asks why she didn’t tell him so that he could punish Hank? Mom says that may not have been the best solution to the problem, and Dad says he’s punish Hank when he gets back from playing. This guy is never going to win Dad Of The Year or Husband Of The Year.

Meanwhile, Hank has happened upon a Fisherman (Parley Baer) and aims his rifle at him. Fires a couple of shots when the Fisherman starts towards him. Then they both sit down while Hank figures out what to do next.

Mom and Dad’s blow up leaves Dad alone in his office... finally realizing that his family is disintegrating and maybe he should stop being a major dick. He decides maybe he will go hunting with Hank afterall, goes to grab the guns... and realize that one is missing! Mom and Dad are worried, Dad says he’ll go out and get Hank... and loads up the other rifle. Um, WTF? Dad is going to shoot his son? Mom mentions the rifle may not help the situation, so he reluctantly puts it back on the rifle rack and they go to find Hank together.

Meanwhile, Hank has gotten the Fisherman to put an apple on his head, and the Fisherman is doing everything in his power to talk Hank out of shooting at it. The whole thing ends up about the William Tell trust test thing, and Mom and Dad find Hank in time for Dad to offer to take the Fisherman’s place and put the apple on his own head. Hank shoots it off, and the family hugs each other. Oh, and Dad’s name is *Bart*.



Review: Unlike the first episode which had too much happening for an hour long show, this episode is simple and direct... but suffers one of the same problems that first episode had: basically a drama until the end, when everything happens at once (and it feels rushed). For a show called THRILLER, these two first episode manage to spend 3/4 of the show on the build up (without suspense or thrills) and then try to cram in all of the thrills at the end. Though this show is about a kid trapped in fantasy world running around with a loaded rifle, the majority of the running time is that argument between Mom and Dad. When we get a shot of Hank with the rifle, he’s just walking around. (Though, at one point they have him cross a waterfall which is dangerous.)

It’s more than halfway through the running time when Hank stumbles on the Fisherman... and then they just sit down on the ground while Hank figures what he’s going to do with him. The last ten minutes (of a 50 minute episode) is when we get the William Tell Apple On The Head thing... and it’s only the final 7 minutes where we have Mom and Dad and Hank and the rifle (and the Fisherman, of course) all in the same scene! So, 7 minutes with some thrills in a 50 minute episode! Oh, wait, I forgot to subtract the family hug screentime.

The problem is, instead of focusing on the kid with the loaded rifle wandering around (and eventually holding a man hostage) which is suspenseful, they focus on the husband and wife arguing... which is boring. This argument doesn’t even work as a discussion of baseball statistics while a bomb ticks under the table, because there is no bomb until the last 10 minutes! The suspense stuff is rushed instead of stretched until it becomes unbearable. That’s how suspense works: because it is the anticipation of an event, we want to stretch out that anticipation. So instead of Hank trying to shoot the apple of the Fisherman’s head in the last 10 minutes, that should have been bumped forward. Instead of being in the last quarter of the episode, it should have been either at the halfway point... or maybe at the end of the first quarter. The show should have focused on the suspense of the kid with the gun rather than the bickering parents.

Frank Overton who plays the Dad is all one note ahole, even after they are out searching for Hank together at the end. It’s as if he’s still an ahole, and after this hug he’s gonna paddle the hell out of Hank. The performance needed to better show Dad realizing the errors of his ways and softening, the Overton didn’t do that. Overton was the Sheriff in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD who says “Let the dead bury the dead” at the end and lets Boo Radley off the hook... a compassionate performance. So maybe it was Arthur Hiller’s direction, though Hiller is a damned good director. The Dad character just never changes, when that is kind of the point of the story.



Also, the child actor who plays Hank is *way* too old. He’s a teenager, in a role that seems written for some one younger.

Music by Pete Rugolo is great this time around, lots of primal percussion instruments.

By the way, I really dislike stories that equate an active imagination with being violent and dangerous. Why do writers write stuff like this? There are freakin’ serial killer scripts (and movies) about kids with imagination who take it too far and kill a bunch of people. Um, I have an active imagination and am one of the least dangerous people I know. I kind of suspect those without imaginations are more dangerous, they may lack empathy. I can imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, they can’t. It almost seems like this episode was written by the Dad character at times!

The show will *soon* find its footing and live up to its name (episode 5, ROSE’S LAST SUMMER has some great hints of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, and episode 7, THE PURPLE ROOM, is great stuff!), but these first couple of shows are not the best examples of the show I fell in love with as a kid.

FADE OUT.

Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Scene Of The Week: The Wind And The Lion

One of my favorite films is John Millius's THE WIND AND THE LION, and here's a great scene with Brian Keith as Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting trip in Yosemite talking about a grizzly bear he's just killed...


The bear is part of the character's story thread - and shows up in several later scenes as it is stuffed and posed and eventually Teddy has his picture taken with it. Each scene with Teddy has some small bit about the bear - or maybe a large bit. He jumps up on his desk at one point to show the pose he wants for the stuffed bear.

The great thing about this "bear subplot" is that it allows the character to talk obliquely about elements of the main plot (a kidnaping in Morocco that may start a war) without being obvious or on the nose. In some ways, the dead grizzly is a "code" or a symbol that allows him to speak about the political situation without ever talking politics. I have a script tip about "symbolic dialogue" - when a character talks about one thing but is actually talking about something else.

This is a great technique to use if having your character talk about the plot situation would result in dull or obvious dialogue. Let them talk about something else... and let it have a second meaning about the plot situation.

Many people think that after the dark films of the 70s, STAR WARS came along and changed everything with its rousing story of adventure. But adventure was already a major component of 70s films, with John Huston’s epic adventure THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and this fun swashbuckler which were released a couple of years before STAR WARS and written and directed by one of Lucas’ friends, John Milius. There are sword fights and romance and cliff hangers and fantastic stunts and it all takes place in a world far away and many years ago.

It is a great film for 12 year olds of all ages - filled with larger than life characters and all kinds of romance and adventure.

John Milius is one of my favorite directors, and when I met him this was the film I mentioned loving - even though many of his other films are also among my favorites. I start every day listening to the Basil Poledouris theme to CONAN THE BARBARIAN, and I thought PUBLIC ENEMIES paled big time in comparison to DILLINGER. They remade CONAN and RED DAWN and neither worked. His movies were usually about two strong people in combat - and the respect the combatants had for each other and the honor of a good fight. In RED DAWN the Cuban villain allows the Wolverines to remove their wounded in one scene - even though he could easily kill them and end his problems. But he is a man of honor - even though he is the villain. Even though Milius and I have completely different political beliefs, he never demonizes the other side. Though he may not agree with the opposing government’s goals (or maybe even the hero’s government’s goals - governments are usually corrupt), the warriors on the battlefield are not evil guys. His antagonists are not two dimensional mustache twirlers, they are real people.

The great thing about having two strong forces locked in battle is that you get to explore each character... and there’s no shortage of action.




Here we have a story loosely based on an actual historical event - the kidnaping of an American in the middle east and the quest to get them back unharmed. In real life it was 64 year old American citizen Ion Perdicaris and his son, kidnaped by Berber warrior Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli and his horsemen from his villa in Morocco to secure a ransom and political power from the Sultan... and President Teddy Roosevelt famously said: “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!” and moved in the Marines. As a romance between a dashing Berber warrior and some 64 year old dude probably wasn’t going to play in 1975, Milius changed the 64 year old man into an attractive young woman with her two children and has the story seen through the eyes of the boy. Not accurate history, but it’s an adventure film not a documentary. Most of the other characters and even some of the dialogue remains true.

The film is a true epic - big action, big emotions, big romance, big stars and an amazing Jerry Goldsmith score. It’s like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA meets RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Sean Connery plays the Raisuli as a handsome sheik on horseback, a young Candice Bergan played Eden Perdicaris, and Brian Keith steals the show playing Teddy Rooselvelt. The film is filled with great sword fighting scenes and some of the most amazing horse stunts you will ever see - lots of horses *indoors* on stairways and rooftop chases!




When the film came out I was a teenager and movies still opened on Wednesdays and only opened in major cities... played there for a month or two, then opened in the suburbs (which used to be called “Roadshow”). So, to see the movie on opening day, my friend Dave and I drove all the way to San Francisco and saw a matinee. Not packed. But afterwards, we pretended to sword fight all the way back to the car. I saw the film one more time in San Francisco, then once when it played “roadshow” in Concord. This was one of those movies that got me excited about making movies when I grew up. I wanted to do big, exciting, swashbucklers like this!

The film was not a big hit, nor was it a flop. It did okay. What I always find strange is how people will find fault with some movie... and then ignore the same problem in some movie they like. The two big things critics disliked about this film were Sean Connery’s Middle Eastern accent (which sounded Scottish) and that they changed the kidnaped dude to a kidnaped chick. Has Connery ever had an accent in a movie that wasn’t Scottish? Did we ever care? And how many movies based on some true event stay completely true to what happened? They all dramatize things! Were there major complaints about SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE bending the facts? No - it was a movie! I think the critics thought it was *fun* when movies had been gritty and serious for the past few years. The year WIND came out was the same year ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and DOG DAY AFTERNOON and SHAMPOO came out. Nobody could see STAR WARS in the crystal ball. WIND AND THE LION wasn’t one of the top ten films that year, though a film Milius did some uncredited writing on called JAWS was #1. THE WIND AND THE LION is one of those films that people fall in love with. I still love the film and watch the DVD probably once a year.

Milius Interview:


If WIND AND THE LION pops up on TCM, check it out. It might make you feel like a 12 year old again, and you might sword fight with a broom... and break something.

I love the Goldsmith score, but also love the cinematography and direction. Just in that Grizzly clip, there are some images so beautiful they could be paintings. Millius is one of those directors who is kind of forgotten now, but made some amazing films... and needs to be rediscovered by a new generation.

- Bill

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Trailer Tuesday: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

Covid numbers are starting to climb in Los Angeles...

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, Patrick Magee.
Written by: Charles Beaumont and R. Wright Campbell, based on Poe's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and HOP FROG.
Directed by: Roger Corman
Produced by: Roger Corman
Cinematography: Nicolas Roeg




After the success of FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, the next film in Roger Corman's Poe series was originally going to be RED DEATH, but the story of a hooded Death seeking out victims during the plague was deemed too much like Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL about a hooded Death seeking out victims during the plague. So the project was shelved at that time, and Corman went on to make PIT AND THE PENDULUM. But a few years later, everyone had forgotten that silly Swedish film and they decided to make RED DEATH, with R. Wright Campbell rewriting Beaumont’s original screenplay. Campbell had just written SECRET INVASION which Corman made for Allied Artists in Dubrovnik for $600k. Corman was often hired by studios to make big films on a small budget. Campbell went on to become a best selling novelist, and I have a bunch of his mysteries on my shelf.

Unlike the earlier films in the series, this was shot in England (due to a production incentive) on left over sets from BECKET, which would be nominated for 12 Oscars... including sets. So they ended up with Oscar winning sets... from another movie! The film also used one of the British stars of BECKET, David Weston, as the romantic lead Gino. The cast is filled with great British actors, many before they became famous. It’s weird to see M from the James Bond movies, Robert Brown, playing a *guard* in a couple of scenes!



One of the great things about making films on a budget is that you end up hiring young talent before they become famous, and the director of photography on this film is Nicolas Roeg. This film was fairly early in his career, though he had already done 2nd unit work on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and the next year would do some 2nd unit work on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Roeg would eventually become a famous cinematographer, and then a famous director - he directed another great Halloween treat DON’T LOOK NOW. He’s one of my favorite directors because his films are “unstuck in time” and often smoothly bounce between time periods using match cuts.

Though this is a beautiful movie, it is more intellectual and less visceral. Where the first two Corman Poe movies were filled with dread and spooky scenes and disturbing situations and all kinds of great scares, this film is a “thinkie”. It’s all about people’s religious beliefs and the ability for humans to be cruel. Not as much about the cruelty itself. So where PIT may have had audiences screaming in terror, this film was more likely to have them discussing the meaning of life. It really is similar to THE SEVENTH SEAL!



A desolate landscape. An old woman gathering firewood is beckoned by a Man dressed in a long red cloak - The Red Death. He holds out a white rose to her, but in his hands the rose turns blood red. “Take this to your village and tell the people: The day of their deliverance is at hand.”

In the village, Prince Prospero’s carriage roars in at high speed... almost running over a toddler playing in the road. Prospero (Vincent Price) thanks the village for their taxes of grain and meat and invites them to his annual ball... where they will be confined to the courtyard and thrown table scraps (as one villager says). Another villager (Nigel Green from IPCRESS FILES) says that an old woman met a holy man who said their day of deliverance is at hand... deliverance from Prospero’s tyranny. Prospero orders the two men killed, but a young woman, Francesca (Jane Asher) begs him to spare them. Prospero gives her a Sophie’s choice - pick one to die. One is her fiancé Gino (David Weston), the other her father. Interrupted by the old woman’s screams - she is dying of the plague... the Red Death. Her face covered with hideous bloody sores.



Prospero asks if either of the men or Francesca touched the old woman? No. So he takes the three with him and orders the village burned to the ground.

At the castle: Francesca is stripped and thrown in a bathtub. Prince Prospero orders his wife Juliana (Hazel Court and her freckled cleavage) to dress her in a fine gown and instruct her on being a lady so that she may attend the party as a guest. She shouldn’t worry - her lover and father ad safe.

In the castle’s ballroom, Alfredo (Patrick Magee from CLOCKWORK ORANGE) and Prospero discuss terror. Then Prospero introduces, for your pleasure, the dancers (both little people) Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw) and HopToad (Skip Martin)- she does a graceful dance, but accidentally knocks over Alfredo’s wine goblet so he slaps her to the floor. HopToad goes to comfort her. Prince Prospero announces to his guests a masquerade ball at midnight Sunday... but do not wear red. He tells them that the Red Death has reached the village - the plague is just outside the castle walls - but here they are safe.



That’s when Francesca enters - she cleans up well. Prince Prospero takes her on his arm as he ridicules and insults his guests... and the other guests laugh.

Prospero takes Francesca into an apartment where she will stay and they discuss cruelty, and the cruelty of God for bringing famine and pestilence and death. Francesca believes God balances out those things with love and hope... but Prospero thinks there is little hope in this world. When Francesca moves to open a door in the apartment, Prospero blocks her - she is forbidden to go into that room. Tomorrow she can see her lover and her father.

That night, a shadow falls over Francesca as she sleeps... a noise awakens her. She lights a candle and searches the bedroom... a dark figure in the corner! Just her robe on a coatrack. She puts on the robe and follows the noise - echoes of Prospero doing some sort of incantation - through the dark, empty castle. To a pair of golden doors. She opens the doors, moving deeper and deeper into a dark room, to a final set of black doors. Beyond them - Juliana on a strange throne in a trance, Prospero seemingly dead on a slab. She goes to touch Prospero - and his eye blast open. She screams and runs out of the room, through all of the doorways, through the dark castle... where she bumps into a dark figure! Alfredo. “Did I startle you, my dear?” She runs away.



Next morning, Prospero shows Francesca how his falcon hurts and kills other birds... and explains how to turn a falcon into a slave (which is all subtext, baby!). And lets slip that where she worships God and is a Christian, he worships Satan the Lord Of Flies.

A carriage arrives - a late party guest Scarlotti and his wife. Prospero denies them entrance to the castle because the Red Death is upon the countryside. Scarlotti begs to be allowed in, tells Prospero he can screw his wife if they’d just let them in. Prospero says he’s already had that doubtful pleasure... then shoots him with an arrow and tells the wife she should kill herself before she succumbs to the Red Death and throws a sword down to her...

Great Nic Roeg match cut as the sword falls into Gino’s hand in the caste’s prison where a Knight (Robert Brown from the James Bond movies) explains that he will have to fight Francesca’s father to the death - only one will survive. So he’d better get to training. And Gino and the Knight sword fight. The Knight thinks this will be easy, but Gino has some skills. Prospero takes Francesco down to watch this sword fight. She sees that the two men in her life are alive... but for how long?



As they leave the prison, Francesca takes a wrong turn in the dark tunnels and Prospero corrects her, “This way my dear, it would be better.” She hears screaming from that wrong turn destination... the torture chamber. Prospero says his distant relative used that torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition in the name of God (making Prospero some relative of Medina from PIT AND THE PENDULUM?). We get more discussion of religion... “I don’t want to hurt you my dear. I want to save your soul so that you can join me in the glories of Hell. I will take you by the hand, and lead you through the cruel light into the velvet darkness.”

Meanwhile, jealous Juliana decides the way to keep Prospero’s hands off Francesca is to go all the way with Satan, and gives her vows at a Satanic altar to give her soul to Satan... and seals the deal by branding her boobs with his symbol. Ouch!



In another part of the castle Alfredo and HopToad have a conversation about full sized women and HopToad’s interest in finding other employment... he fears for Prospero’s rein. HopToad is a clever and cunning man... a manipulator. He convinces Alfredo not to dress in his demon costume for the masquerade ball, but as a gorilla - there is an actual stuffed gorilla in a trophy room in the castle that no one has been in for decades. While all of the other guests are dressed in simple costumes designed to show off their bodies, Alfredo will be able to frighten them with his performance as a beast.

Francesca is awakened in the night by another noise... someone is trying to break into her room! She hides behind the curtains as the door bursts open! Juliana enters, and Francesca comes out from the curtains. Then notices Juliana’s boob brand - WTF? She says she has only one more rite and then she will be wed to Satan - and Prospero and eternal life will be hers. Then she gives Francesca a key - so that she can escape the castle. Take Gino and her father and leave now!



Francesca creeps through the dark tunnels under the castle to the prison area... sneaking past the guards to their cells. Through the spider webs, she looks through each cell door - a nice jump moment as a prisoner’s face pops into the cell window. She finds Gino and her father and rescues them... now they must sneak out of the prison. They are caught be the prison guards and there is a fight, Gino shows his sword skills - killing the three guards - and they escape. They get to the side door of the castle where Juliana has bribed the guards, and Francesca taps on the shoulder of the Guard, who spins to face her - it’s Prospero dressed as a guard!

Captured.

Francesca says that Juliana set them up, betrayed her! Prospero says Juliana betrayed *him*... and she will pay, as will Gino and her Father. She begs him, but Prospero says that Gino and her father killed three guards, that’s a sin in *her* religion, is it not? So they must pay for their sins... and fight each other to the death as an exhibition before the masquerade ball.



The big feast before the ball: Prince Prospero gives an anti-toast as he throws daggers into the massive dinner table, saying that not only will Scarlotti and his wife not be attending the celebration because they’re dead; there are people in attendance who have plotted against him... and will be punished as the party goes on. Guests begin looking at each other wondering if it’s them. Tonight’s festivities begin with two men fighting to the death. Francesca gasps as Gino and her father are brought into the room by guards. Prospero explains that these two men have refused to fight each other, since their religion tells them to love thy neighbor; but he has devised a way to allow them to save the other’s life. “There are five daggers here, one of them is impregnated with a poison that kills in five seconds. Each man in turn will cut his forearm. Shall we begin? Will you not lay down your life for your brother?”



Her father selects a knife and slices his arm... tick tick tick... five seconds later he is still alive. “Next.” Gino selects a knife and slices his arm... tick, tick, tick... everyone watches and suspense builds. Gino does not die. “Next.” Her father selects a knife and slices his arm... tick, tick, tick... guests eat and watch the show, but five seconds later her father still stands. “Next.” Gino selects one of the last two knives, sealing either his fate or Francesca’s father’s. He slices his arm... tick, tick, tick... big suspense build... but he is still standing after five seconds. All eyes are now on Francesca’s father and that last dagger. He smiles, pulls it from the table and says, “Five seconds” before stabbing the dagger at Prospero! But Prospero is faster with his sword and runs it through Francesca’s father before the poisoned blade can touch him. She screams as he father falls to the floor, dead. Prospero says the game was not played properly, so Gino will die as well. But not by Prospero’s hand, by *God’s hand* - Gino will be sent back to his plaque ravaged village. Francesca begs him to spare Gino, if Prospero does... she will do anything he wants. Anything. Prospero is pretty sure that will happen whether he saves Gino or not.

He dismisses all of the guests - return at midnight in costumes and let no one see you between now and then.

Then Juliana removes a red flower from the front of her gown to expose her branded boob and tells Prospero that she is ready.



The guards dump Gino in the woods, where he can hear the echoes of a woman’s scream coming from the castle. Francesca or Julliana? He runs through the dark and foggy woods where he bumps into... The Red Death. No chess playing, but a nice discussion with death about life, and how Gino can possibly rescue the woman he loves. The Red Death gives him a Tarot card... tells him this is the answer. But what is it? Gino hears a noise in the woods and runs towards it...

In the castle, HopToad dresses Alfredo in the gorilla’s skin. “Sure it’s hot, but after the unmasking you can take it off... the game will be over.” What is HopToad up to?

In the woods, Gino finds some surviving villagers going to the castle to beg forgiveness for whatever they have done to bring on the red death. Gino tries to stop them, fails.

In the castle, Juliana and her branded boob is in the Satanic Temple portion of the castle taking unholy communion... after she drinks the potion, she has a psychedelic dream (in tinted and warped images): Dancing Aztecs looking for a sacrifice, all kinds of other evil dudes looking for sacrifices... ending with her screaming. Waking up to Prospero’s laugh. “I am betrothed of the death, and I have seen the terror.”



She follows his echoing voice into the clock room of the castle, where a razor sharp pendulum also reminds us of PIT AND THE PENDULUM. The voice says the clock is like the beating of the heart, the footsteps of the assassin... destiny! And then the falcon attacks Juliana and tears away at her face as she screams! Since this isn’t a Hitchcock film it does not peck out her eyes (missed opportunity). She falls to the floor, dead... just as the guests show up for the masquerade ball! Much screaming ensues.

The masque begins!

The village survivors arrive at the castle gates and beg the Night Watch guards for mercy... they decide to inform Prince Prospero of this, it might amuse him. Gino tries to encourage the villagers to die like men. Gino walks away from them. Prospero listens to their pleas for sanctuary, and refuses - telling them to return to their village. “But we will die if we return.” So Prospero saves them a trip and has the archers shoot them all... except for the child.

Prospero joins the party in progress, telling the guests that only 6 people from the village survived the Red Death, but because his guests are within the castle walls there is no possibility of them contracting the plague. Francesca asks what happened to the six survivors, and Prospero said he had them killed... better than starving to death or dying of the plague, right? Now that Juliana is dead, Prospero plans on hooking up with Francesca.

Gino scales the castle walls to rescue the woman he loves... and when he drops within there is someone in the shadows watching him... Mr. Red Death himself. He orders Gino to go no further, and at the stroke of 1am, he will send Francesca to him. Gino doesn’t want to wait, but he has no choice.

In their chambers, HopToad tells Esmerelda that they will escape the castle tonight - Prospero is a larger threat than the plague. Then he leaves to accompany Alfredo to the party... as the gorilla’s trainer.



Alfredo is grabbing random women as the gorilla, he throws one to the floor and prepares too mount her. HopToad lowers the chandelier until it just over Alfredo, ties him to the chandelier and hoists him above the ballroom. Everyone laughs, HopToad splashes brandy all over Alfredo - as Alfredo splashed his wine on him once. Of course the brandy and the candles of the chandelier are a bad combination, and soon Alfredo is burning alive as the other guests watch. Prospero has the guards clear away the burned Alfredo’s corpse, and find HopToad... to give him 5 pieces of gold for providing the excellent entertainment.



Then Prospero notices a guest dressed in red, and he forbid them from wearing red! He goes to investigate - crossing the busy dance floor with Francesca. Chases him into the Satanic Temple. Prospero tries to guess the identity of the guest...
“Is my costume such a disguise that you don’t recognize me?”
Then he recognizes him, “So you have come. The Prince Of Darkness.”
“I am death.”
“Who do you come for? All?”
“Not all.”
Prospero smiles, “I knew I was right, I have won!”
“It is the time of unmasking,” Red Death returns to the ballroom, Prospero and Francesca follow. “It is time for a new dance to begin.”



In the ballroom, as Red Death walks past dancers they grow ugly red sores... until all of the guests have the sores of the plague. Prospero smiles, “Our master will be pleased. I brought all of these souls to him. I taught them his worship. I corrupted them for him. I knew he was supreme when no one else did. I built a chapel to Satan and I prayed to him and I made a pact with him and these, all of my friends, I promised them safety.” Prospero thinks his promise is the kind of joke Satan will appreciate. Red Death orders Francesca to go to the fortress wall, go now. Prospero says, “Yes, go... and I will join you when this is over,” and kisses her. Francesca leaves.



When she’s gone, Red Death says that Satan is not his master... Death has no master. Prospero tries to argue that Satan is the supreme God, but Death tells him that each man creates his own God, his own heaven, his own hell. Prospero demands to see Red Death’s face and yanks off the mask... exposing his own face covered with bloody sores. “No! No!” he runs away... across the dance floor of the damned. The dying guests reach out to grab Prospero, getting their blood all over him! When Prospero reaches the other side of the dance floor, Red Death is there waiting for him. You can’t escape death. And soon, all of the guests lay dead on the floor at Prospero’s feet.

Prospero runs back into the Satanic Temple... where Red Death waits for him. And Prospero’s face erupts in bloody sores and he falls to the floor dead.

The only survivors of the Red Death: HopToad and Esmerelda, Gino and Francesca, and the child from the village who was not shot by the castle archers.

- Bill



Buy the pit



Friday, June 17, 2022

Fridays With Hitchcock:
Mike Leigh on REAR WINDOW



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



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

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

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

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

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

369 pages packed with information!

Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

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HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



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HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

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

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

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

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

SALE: $3.99

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- Bill

Thursday, June 16, 2022

THRILLER Thursday:
WHAT BECKONING GHOST?

What Beckoning Ghost?

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



Season: 2, Episode: 1.
Airdate: Sep. 18, 1961

Director: Ida Lupino
Writer: Donald Sanford based on a story by Harold Lawlor.
Cast: Judith Evelyn, Tom Helmore, Adele Mara, Frank Wilcox.
Music: The great Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography: John F. Warren
Producer: William Frye



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Imagine entering a room and discovering your own coffin? And a wreath inscribed: “To My Dear Wife, Rest In Peace”. Now, then: would you believe your eyes, or would you think, perhaps, that you have actually caught some glimpse into the future. Or, perhaps you might suspect some grisly plot against your sanity. Now please - no snap judgements. You might be right, and then there would be no need for you to suffer through the frightening ordeal as time runs out for... Mildred Beaumont, played by Judith Evely, her husband Eric played by Tom Helmore, and her young sister Lydia as played by Adele Mara. What’s that? You think you have the answer? Don’t be too sure, because I warn you as sure as my name is Boris Karloff you’re in for a terrifying surprise. And if you’re tempted to scream, just sit back and follow this advice: Rest In Peace.”



Synopsis: A luxurious estate, middle aged Mildred (Judith Evelyn) a famous concert pianist and her once pretty boy boozer husband Eric (Tom Helmore from VERTIGO) are celebrating her release form the hospital. He wants her to take it easy, her heart is still fragile. But she insists on celebrating and goes downstairs to fetch a bottle of champagne while he lights the bedroom fireplace. Downstairs she hears a noise, goes into the dark drawing room - and what she sees shocks her! A coffin with a funeral wreath which says: “My Dear Wife Requiescat In Peace”. She staggers out of the room... falls to the floor.

Mildred wakes up on the sofa to find Eric and her younger sister Lydia (Adele Mara) over her - but where the coffin was there is now a table. Has she gone crazy? They call for her doctor...



Mildred wakes up the next morning, and Eric has pills ready - the doctor said she must take them. Not her doctor - he’s on vacation - Dr. Bartoli who is looking after his patients. Lydia comes in with coffee and where Eric is protective of Mildred, she is more compassionate. They have two very different ways of caring for her - and are often fighting each other over her. Husband and sister do not get along, but her illness has placed them all under the same roof to take care of her. Mildred has no memory of the doctor coming... though she has a perfect memory of the coffin and funeral wreath. When Eric leaves she looks at the pill vial - prescription by Dr. Bartoli. Why can’t she remember him?



Lydia wakes her up for dinner... but Mildred thinks it’s still morning and this is breakfast. She has no memory of the entire day... and Dr. Bartoli’s visit. Lydia asks if she remembers Dr. Bartoli’s visit this afternoon, and Eric tells Lydia not to badger her - of course she remembers... she’s had no sedation today. Mildred lies and says she remembers. Lydia replies, “See? You’re just as sane as I am.” The phone rings, it’s Dr. Bartoli... Eric says he’ll take the call in the next room so that Mildred can rest. The moment he’s out of the room Mildred picks up the bedside phone and listens in - Eric tells the doctor she seems to have had another memory lapse, and Bartoli replies that if this continues she will have to be institutionalized. When she hears Eric hang up, she does as well. Dr. Bartoli is real - why can’t she remember him? Is she crazy?

A few days later, Eric tells Mildred that he will be away for a week on a business trip, but Lydia will be there to take care of her. And he has ordered a piano for her bedroom so that she can practice... get back to normal. Dr. Bartoli doesn’t want her to go downstairs and use the piano in the drawing room due to her... incident. He has Mildred sign all of the checks to pay the bills before he leaves - which shows us that he has no access to the money. Lydia enters while she’s signing checks, and they have a heart-to-heart. Though Lydia dislikes Eric, Mildred’s control over the finances has made Eric chase all of these terrible business deals so that he can have money of his own... without going to Mildred for an allowance. She ends up paying when the businesses go bust, and sooner or later he’s going to leave her. Why not take him off the leash and let him share in her estate - let him write the checks and feel more like a man? Mildred decides to call her lawyer in the morning.



When Eric returns from his business trip her hears Mildred upstairs playing the new piano... Lydia bumps into him on the staircase and tells him that Mildred has agreed to sharing the estate with him and the paperwork has been signed. And Eric kisses her - one heck of a kiss. Twist!

Eric greets Mildred, and she tells him she has a surprise: the legal document that shares all of her wealth with him... without any conditions or exceptions. Eric takes the document, then calls her lawyer - says that the document was a mistake, and asks that the lawyer *destroy* the office copy. After hanging up he tells Mildred that he didn’t marry her for her money, he married her because he loves her - and he tears up the document and throws it in the fireplace. Mildred smiles and that night they celebrate with champagne... he loves her!



In the middle of the night Mildred wakes up - hears an organ playing a funeral dirge. She goes downstairs to the drawing room, heart pounding, and inside the room is the coffin and funeral wreath! The coffin is open for viewing... and she looks inside. At herself! She is dead in the coffin! Mildred has a heart attack and dies.

Eric comes in, checks her pulse... dead. The Mildred in the coffin rises up and steps out - it’s Lydia in make up.



Eric hides the coffin and wreath in the basement, and we see all of the elements of the scheme - including a tape recording of the false Dr. Bartoli and the bust of Mildred that they used to create the make up for Lydia to wear. After they’ve hidden the evidence, Eric and Lydia call an ambulance...

The crypt: Mildred’s headstone with birth and death date above Eric’s with only birth date. Eric and Lydia pay their respects... then return home to celebrate their new fortunes. Lydia flips through a stack of sympathy cards and laughs at one with a mistake: “Heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your dear husband Eric Beaumont,” unsigned.

Eric is surrounded by memories of his dead wife, plus some full bottles of booze...

In the middle of the night Eric hears music from Mildred’s room and staggers upstairs - he’s so drunk he can barely walk. In the bedroom he finds the piano lid open... someone steps behind him (jump moment) - Lydia. She didn’t hear anyone playing the piano - could it be that he’s drunk? She puts him in Mildred’s bed to sleep it off.



The next morning Eric goes downstairs and finds a funeral wreath by the door: “My Beloved Husband, Rest In Peace”. What? Lydia enters, has no idea where the wreath came from... but there’s a card. Inside the envelope... Mildred’s wedding ring. She was *buried* wearing the ring, how is this possible? But it *is* her ring. Lydia thinks it’s just a copy of the ring - if it isn’t it means that Mildred has escaped her grave, right?

Eric goes to the crypt - the stone vault is intact. But Eric’s headstone now has a death date engraved on it! One day from now!

The next morning Lydia prods Eric about what he found at the crypt. Eric is very calm and in control when he tells her that someone has filled in the date of his death. He accuses her of being behind it, since she was the one who convinced him to “gaslight” Mildred into having a heart attack. If Eric dies or is found legally insane, all of the money goes to Lydia. Lydia thinks Eric is just trying to blame her for his guilt... that this is his scheme to drive her crazy. If Eric did hear the piano playing, as he claimed, it couldn’t have been Lydia - she can’t even play Chopsticks. That only leaves Mildred’s ghost...



That night, Eric is drunk again... hears the piano playing from downstairs... staggers out of his room, sure that it’s Lydia playing... but he bumps into Lydia in the upstairs hallway. And Lydia doesn’t hear the piano playing. “It’s just your imagination.” It can’t be Mildred returned from the grave. It can’t be. She takes the bottle of booze away from him, says he’s drunk. Eric pushes Lydia aside - booze bottle breaking all over her - and staggers down the stairs to confront Mildred’s ghost.

In the drawing room - a coffin! The doors close behind Eric, the piano begins playing on its own!



Lydia comes downstairs - pounds on the locked door to the drawing room.

Inside the room, drunken Eric looks at the piano and says it’s not real - ghosts don’t exist - and is then *hurled* out the window to his death by... something unseen.

A Detective (Frank Wilcox) questions Lydia - who smells of booze and explains that Eric was alone in the room, doors locked, when he fell out the window. But the doors were not locked, and the evidence shows force was involved in Eric’s window exit - he had to be pushed. Lydia should just admit that they’d been drinking, fought, and she pushed him out the window. Then, Lydia hears the piano music - the Detective nor any of the other policemen can hear it. She tries to jump out the window, but the Detective stops her. Lydia is taken to an asylum... and the photo of Mildred on the piano is smiling.



Review: And we’re back! Season Two of THRILLER starts off with a solid episode that perfectly marries the thriller and horror side of the series. Where Season One was trying to find itself, trying to figure out if it was a crime drama or a thriller show or a horror or weird tales; this season the show knows exactly what it is. No more crime drama, no more mobsters, no more bland episodes.

This episode is a nice riff on DIABOLIQUE with a horror twist... directed by the awesome Ida Lupino who directed some of the best episodes of season one. The screenplay here is by Donald Sanford who wrote 15 episodes of THRILLER including MR. GEORGE. One of the best writers on the show.



Lupino always pushes the envelope technically, doing the kind of directorial work that would be impressive in a film with a long shooting schedule, let alone on a quick TV schedule. On MR. GEORGE she did that amazing POV shot on the swing - I still have no idea how she got a huge TV camera to move like that. Here she does some amazing work as well - there is an awesome shot with a three section mirror where Mildred and Lydia take different panes in the mirror and the whole shot is their reflections moving from pane to pane. Fantastic shot, and much better than just shooting the same scene without the reflection. Still an easy mostly stationary shot, but the reflection allows the shot to be broken into three sections and have the characters move between them.



But the most amazing shot of the episode is a tipsy hand held shot as a drunken Eric staggers down the stairs. It’s a single take and would be an impressive shot with today’s lightweight equipment... but with those huge heavy 1960s studio cameras? Impossible! Yet the shot remains in perfect focus - when today even stationary shots often end up soft and fuzzy. This hand held shot reminded me of some of the great stuff that Sam Fuller was doing a few years earlier in his Korean War movies with hand held camera work on rugged terrain. Though Lupino was a Don Siegel protégé, I think she pulled inspiration from everywhere... and the idea of using hand held to put us in the shoes of the character is a great way to give a film or TV show a sense of realism. Today directors use “shaky cam” for no apparent reason, which makes it pointless. It doesn’t add to the story. But here the hand held is used for a specific reason, to give the audience the tipsy feeling of trying to get down those stairs when you’re almost too drunk to stand on your own.

And last but totally not least is a great POV shot of Mildred’s ghost as she throws Eric out window. Instead of showing us the ghost, the audience *is* the ghost... and we get to get revenge for Mildred’s murder. Though I’m sure the TV censors were behind the ironic twist end, with Lydia innocent of Eric’s murder by guilty of Mildred’s murder... but it’s a great touch that she gets her just deserts in the end.

Though this is a pretty good episode, it pales when compared with the episode that comes next week!

Bill

Buy The DVD!



IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: How Much Juice Is Enough? - action scenes and other genre scenes and ATOMIC BLONDE vs. 20 year old AIR FORCE ONE!
Yesterday’s Dinner: Nations Giant Burger & Fries.
Pages/Words: 1,245 words (future tip material) plus All The Losers entries (2,238 words).

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