Jake Rossen tells the story of the unlikely battle for control over the rights to Manos: The Hands of Fate, a three-way struggle between the idealistic young cinephile who spearheaded the restoration drive (““I wanted to make the best version of the worst movie ever made”); the son of the late director, claiming copyright without legal precedent (“J.R.R. Tolkien’s kid catches shit… but he just wants to protect his father’s work. Same thing.”); and the requisite wildcard, a mysterious fan who so identifies with the film his biggest claim to fame is a series of youtube videos in character as Torgo. Via Movie City News.
With The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrating its 40th anniversary, David Hudson points out a few articles celebrating the film. For Variety, Tim Gray does what you’d expect a Variety writer to do, crunch the box office numbers to prove and congratulate 20th Century Fox for having made a shrewd investment on a stealth hit. While Judy Berman gets to the utopian vision embraced by the fans that led to such success. (“At the time, I believed Rocky Horror felt like home to me because I was a freak craving the company of other freaks…. What must have truly captivated me was the attractive worldview embedded in this exuberantly bad, comically decadent, painfully low-budget—but somehow perennially watchable—movie and the four decades’ worth of traditions its fans have built around it.”)
“There are moments in Mr. Dorsky’s work where you may not be sure what you’re looking at (a flower, a light, a person?) and you find yourself leaning toward the image. To a degree, this searching encapsulates the very experience of movie-watching itself and how we piece together cinematic images to create meaning. For decades, Mr. Dorsky has been on a great search, going out with his 16-millimeter film camera and astonishing eye and bringing back the kinds of humble, rapturous images that many of us forget to see….” Manohla Dargis is at her most impassioned and lovely describing the films of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, in advance of a retrospective of the couple’s experimental films.
“There’s no way to gain any distance from the film, or hold it at a remove. Rather, watching it means being seduced by it. We can tell ourselves we’d never be as cold and abusive as [Casino’s] Ace Rothstein, but who’s to say we wouldn’t stand by like Jack and cause suffering through our inactivity or hesitation? We think of ourselves as above average, of having been smart enough to really figure things out. Croupier tears a hole in that notion.” In the decades since it spurred talk of a comeback for Mike Hodges and the start of great things for Clive Owen (one of which worked out), Croupier has mostly gone without notice. Daniel Carlson astutely suggests the reason for the neglect all go to the movie’s credit.
Proving his unparalleled ability to spin a small detail into consideration of larger issues, David Bordwell picks up on an odd bit of business in Nightmare Alley—whether the sound of an ambulance is real or not—and covers everything from how ’40s films cued us to subjectivity to what authorship of a film means when a detail like this (and another odd, recurring audio cue) might well have been added anonymously in post.
In the lead up to Halloween, Moviemaker is surveying horror directors for their choice of the scariest scenes of all time. So far, Cooties co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion opt, respectively, for a harrowing bit of NC-17 brutality and a memorable villain from a children’s film; while Joe Dante chooses a classic (no surprise) that gains its unsettling power from ambiguity (a slight surprise, I confess).
“So give me a stage where this bull here can rage, and though I could fight I’d much rather recite, that’s entertainment.” Art of the Title talks with Dan Perri about his credit sequence for Raging Bull. (“I thought, he’s not a raging bull he’s a RAGINGBULL. He moves so fast—he’s violent, he’s so driven, he’s so obsessed—that when we do the title there shouldn’t even be a space between the words to illustrate his maniacal quality, his lunatic personality, the way he treats his women, and so on.”)
“Then, in 1964, I got this letter. You won’t be surprised that I kept it. ‘Dearest Keith, Listen boy, why don’t we go quietly ahead sometime this year with our own family-sized production of Chimes? There probably wouldn’t be sixpence in it for any of us, but it would certainly be fun and, I think, worthwhile. Always remember, your heart is God’s little garden. Orson.’” For Wellesnet, Brice Stratford (no, really) transcribes Keith Baxter’s opening remarks and a Q&A session from a recent screening of Chimes at Midnight. Which not only offers a delightful portrait of the making of that masterpiece, but passes along Welles’s intriguing (given Oja Kodar’s parentage) commiseration with John Gielgud over his partner’s anxieties: “If you have a Hungarian for your lover you don’t need any enemies.”
“We wanted to be surprised by mistakes and then curate the mistakes. So I think the vibe of the film in the end as a meeting of mistakes chattering to each other. And Guy shoots like that—where there’s lots of things, things are always falling over and you’re tripping while holding the camera, actors are flubbing their lines because you’re shouting at them while they’re trying to talk….” “I’ve always needed mistakes. The happy accident was my first and most loyal collaborator. Now Evan is my favorite. But I haven’t turned my back from the happy accident, and I really have learned that I’m just not good enough to plan the best things I’ve made.” Guy Maddin’s latest collaborator can more than hold his own with the director’s po-faced tongue-in-cheek, based on his and Evan Johnson’s discussion of The Forbidden Room and Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton with Nicolas Rapold.
“We were supposed to shoot in Palos Verdes, but at the last minute they told us we couldn’t because of environmental concerns or something—they were afraid of us blowing up stuff and it going into the water—so we went to the Hearst people and they let us do it on their private beach. We were all wandering around looking at Hearst’s artwork. A lot of it’s still boxed up in crates, like something out of the end of Citizen Kane.” Talking with Jim Hemphill about the making of Commando, Mark L. Lester displays the genre- and business-savvy intelligence that no doubt served him well when he turned his back on Hollywood to become an independent self-distributor.
“How I started to cry/Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.” The book’s been out for a while, but Judy Berman’s article above introduced me to photographer Lauren Everett’s People Like Us, and its documents of Rocky Horror fans, so with the anniversary just past, one last celebration of those who don’t just dream it.
Adrian Curry’s annual roundup of movie posters from the New York Film Festival shows once again that great design can be inspired by productions ranging from the most outré and avant-garde to the largest of Hollywood blockbusters.
British-born director John Guillermin apprenticed on low-budget British films and TV shows before making his name with such films as I Was Monty’s Double (1958), Waltz of the Toreadors (1962) with Peter Sellers, and the World War I drama The Blue Max (1966), not to mention a pair of Tarzan movies (Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, 1959, with Gordon Scott, and Tarzan Goes to India, 1962, with Jock Mahoney). After directing the Airport knock-off Skyjacked (1972) he made the two biggest films of his career: the all-star disaster extravaganza The Towering Inferno (1974) and Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong. After making the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile (1978), his career took a downward trajectory with Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (1984) and the ill-judged sequel King Kong Lives (1986), which was his final big screen feature. He passed away this week at the age of 89. More from Ben Child at The Guardian.
Catherine Coulson became a cult figure playing The Log Lady in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. She had a long creative relationship with Lynch, serving as assistant director on his debut feature Eraserhead (1977), and in 1994 became a regular performer at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, appearing in more than 50 productions since 1994. She was set to reprise her role in the new Twin Peaks series for Showtime. She passed away at the age of 71 at her home in Ashland, Oregon. More from Kristi Turnquist at The Oregonian.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.