Thursday, February 19, 2009

"New York's Toughest Against the Gang That Can't Be Stopped!"

Keeping that Warriors theme going:

video

"And, next Sunday, Lauren Hutton and Lee Majors are trapped in space."  Now, if that teaser doesn't get your heart racing...

Somehow the producers of Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land (really rolls off the tongue) wrangled Star Wars effects supervisor John Dykstra and Terry Frazee, who worked on Blade Runner, to perform the same tasks here.

You can find more of this stuff at RetroJunk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not So Obscure Trailer, but still MIA on DVD in Widescreen: Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)

This one was rated PG?!  Amazing, and something that could only happen in the '70s...


Much ink has already been spilled about the merits of William Friedkin's mammoth vanity project Sorcerer.  In 1977, the nature of that verbiage was not so good.  But, in the more than thirty years since its initial release, it's regarded less as a bloated, unnecessary remake, and more as one man's skillfully-crafted ode to one of his cinematic heroes, Henri-Georges Clouzot and his masterpiece The Wages of Fear.  I like the idea of the mysterious title ('Sorcerer' is painted on one of the trucks in the film), but in hindsight a more literal title probably would have helped the film's business.  

One couldn't blame the trailer, however, which is a superb example of movie marketing. The voiceover explains that Friedkin hasn't made a film since 1973's The Exorcist (the trailer says '74) because he's "spent over two years, in five countries, on three continents creating his latest film, an unusual adventure into the realm of suspense." The phenomenal music is a track from the film's original score, "Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme)" by legendary Krautrock band, Tangerine Dream (here, working on their score for a Hollywood production).  The folks cutting the trailer for 1979's The Warriors liked the music so much they used the same track.  

So why no widescreen DVD?  The story is that when the film was prepared for laserdisc in the early '90s, Friedkin objected to widescreen presentations on home video and so the film went out full-frame.  In the early days of DVD, Universal simply ported over the old laserdisc transfer for their budget line DVD.  Friedkin has promised a special edition DVD with all the trimmings, but it is as of yet only a rumor...

One last bit of marginalia for the Friedkin followers out there: Friedkin claims, on the French Connection audio commentary track, to have wanted Francisco Rabal for the part of Charnier ("Frog 1") in French Connection, after seeing him in Bunuel's Viridiana. Due to some bizarre mix-up, Friedkin ended up with Rabal's co-star in that film, Fernando Rey.  The irony, of course, is that neither man is a Frenchman.  Rey proved an able villain in French Connection and its underrated sequel.  Meanwhile, Friedkin finally got his man, Rabal, for the role of Nilo in Sorcerer.



The Warriors trailer with Sorcerer score:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hickey and Boggs (1972, Robert Culp)

Obscure Insert, for a change:

I'm finally getting around to writing about Robert Culp's one attempt at directing a feature film, Hickey & Boggs.  The film is still not legally available on any home video format in this country, however I burned a DVD from an airing on MGM HD a few months back and the film looked great.  Although I was disappointed in the film overall, the increased clarity and appropriate aspect ratio made it all go down a lot easier.  Based on the evidence here, actor Culp is a fine visual director and it's a shame he didn't direct any further feature films (he did direct for television).  It certainly must have helped to have the assistance of reliable d.p. Bill Butler (here credited as Wilmer Butler) who would soon go onto photograph Jaws, The Conversation, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did since I am a big fan of Walter Hill, but as has been the case with most of his other pre-directing assignments (The Drowning Pool, The MacKintosh Man, The Getaway), I haven't been nearly as keen on these as I have been on his directorial efforts (The Warriors, Hard Times, Streets of Fire, Johnny Handsome, The Long Riders, et al.).  Interestingly, even though Hill broke through as a writer (he worked as 2nd Unit Director first, in the late '60s), his most enduring works (other than Hard Times) have been when he's functioned solely as director or in tandem with someone else on the script (David Giler, Larry Gross).




Hickey & Boggs are Los Angeles private investigators who have seen much better days. Clients are not banging down the doors of their no-frills office.  They wear the same suits day after day.  Their romantic relationships are a shambles; Hickey (Bill Cosby) tries to win over his estranged wife (Rosalind Cash) who has no more patience for him and remain active in his young daughter's life; the perpetually drunk or hung over Boggs (Culp) spends a good deal of time in a club being berated by his stripper ex-wife.  Detectives (Vincent Gardenia, James Woods) would like to lock them up for repeatedly fouling up police investigations.  Most importantly, the criminals they pursue are seemingly one or two steps ahead of Hickey and Boggs at all times. The criminals are organized and efficient, "soldiers," as Boggs says, while Hickey and Boggs repeatedly stumble into leads and fall into traps.  Nothing symbolizes the disparity between the crooks and the detectives better than their respective arsenals: Hickey and Boggs fire .44 Magnums, the gun of Dirty Harry, yes, but no match for the machine guns and cannons that the mob enforcers shoot back with. Hickey and Boggs are truly men out of time.  


For most of Hill's minimalist screenplay, Hickey and Boggs are relatively meaningless pawns in a power struggle between a mob syndicate, Chicano activists, and a Black power group over the rights to $400,000 stolen in a Pittsburgh bank robbery.  Ultimately, the private investigators prevail, but with the sad knowledge that their efforts had little effect on the whole affair; Hickey and Boggs know time is passing them by and they are becoming irrelevant.


Stars Bill Cosby and Culp have an amazing rapport and onscreen chemistry going back to their salad days as the stars of television's I Spy.  This familiarity with each other serves them well in Hickey & Boggs, but they're let down by Hill's deliberately opaque screenplay. On his first few screenplays, Hill tried to emulate the minimalist nature of Alexander Jacobs' masterful script for Point Blank.  The latter is a brilliant template to be sure, but Hill's script comes off as overly regimented and deliberate.  I appreciate Hill's attempts to make things challenging, but I had an incredibly difficult time following plot developments and character relationships and motives. I had a similar feeling when watching The MacKintosh Man, which Hill wrote a year later for John Huston and Paul Newman.  That film, for all its murkiness, had some amazing individual set pieces.  



I did not find nearly as much in Hickey & Boggs to keep me interested.  True, it is a kick to see Cosby and Culp together again and using their unique collaborative abilities toward something a lot darker and more provocative than I Spy.  And, I loved the use of evocative, often seedy L.A. locations (Hickey and Boggs' favorite watering hole; a hot dog joint where Hickey and Boggs' order four of the nastiest looking chili dogs; the cliffside home base of the Black revolutionaries) and the fact that the production also manages to capture both a Dodgers game and a Rams game.  When all is said and done, however, the film does not play out as well on screen as it does on paper.  Hill keeps the motives and backgrounds of the supporting players so close to the vest that their potentially interesting characteristics are left unexploited.  The repeated ineptitude of Hickey and Boggs becomes exhausting.



I'm not sure why this one has never hit video in this country.  There were not a lot of popular music tracks, or score for that matter, so I don't think music rights were/are an issue.  Not surprisingly, the film was not a box office hit, so it is entirely possible that MGM simply does not see a sizable market for the film.  However, the presence of Cosby, albeit in an uncharacteristically downbeat role, would seem to negate this argument.  Perhaps a grief-stricken, revenge-seeking Cosby gunning down thugs is too disturbing a sight for those accustomed to the lovable Cliff Huxtable .  Regardless of its absence on home video, Hickey & Boggs enjoys a solid critical reputation and has played successfully on several occasions at the American Cinematheque (Read about it at Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur).  As for me, I'm glad to have finally seen the film, particularly in such a splendid presentation and hope that MGM follows up its HDTV presentation with a proper DVD and/or Blu-ray release.  

Eddie Coyle Officially Re-Classified!

Criterion Collection details.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Prime of Frank Perry: MIA on DVD


Husband and wife team Frank and Eleanor Perry achieved tremendous success with their first feature film, the independently-produced David and Lisa.  Frank was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and Eleanor for Best Adapted Screenplay.  In 1962, this was unprecedented territory for an independent production.  The Perrys would hit a rough patch in 1966 when they were removed from their first Hollywood production, The Swimmer, by producer Sam Spiegel and star Burt Lancaster.  However, after the release of The Swimmer in 1968, Frank would go on to the most fruitful period of his career beginning with Last Summer in 1969 and culminating with Rancho Deluxe in 1975.  The Perrys ended their marriage and creative collaboration after Diary of a Mad Housewife.  Of the films in the 1969-1975 period, only Rancho Deluxe is available on DVD. Frank Perry worked on several television projects following Rancho Deluxe before having his biggest commercial hit, Mommie Dearest.  

Bilge Ebiri has written an insightful essay on the works of Frank and Eleanor Perry over at Moving Image Source.

Recently, there was a wonderful suggestion over at the Home Theater Forum for an Eclipse box set of Frank Perry's work.  The problem with this idea, which was mentioned in a reply to that post, is that Perry's films were produced at many different studios making licensing all of the films for one collection cost prohibitive. However, since Diary of a Mad Housewife and Play It As It Lays are both Universal's, the studio could package a Perry double feature, as Sony has done recently with two Michael Powell films.

The following newspaper ads are preceded by original distributor information.  DVD distribution rights, if they are determined, are in parentheses:

Ladybug Ladybug, 1963, Frank Perry Films, distributed by United Artists 


Truman Capote's Trilogy, 1969, Allied Artists [Warner Home Video]


Last Summer, 1969, Allied Artists [Warner Home Video]



Diary of a Mad Housewife, 1970, Universal [Universal]


"Doc", 1971, United Artists [MGM]


Play It As It Lays, 1972, Universal [Universal]


Man on a Swing, 1974, Paramount [Paramount]


13 People Who Should Have Won an Oscar (Or At Least Been Nominated) Meme

With another frenzied Oscar season upon us, I've come up with a meme inspired, in part, by Danny Peary's Alternate Oscars.  

*The idea is to choose 13 people (performers, directors, cinematographers, writers, editors, composers, etc.) who have never won a competitive Academy Award, that you believe should have been properly recognized by the Academy with a statuette or, at the very least, a nomination.  You may still include figures who have been bestowed with an honorary award (e.g. Cary Grant).  If you want to restrict your list only to those who have never received any recognition from the Academy, that's fine.  Same goes for inactive v. active, living v. dead.

*I know everyone's lists could go on infinitely, but 13's always been my lucky number so this meme goes to 13. 

*Along with the name and picture of your picks, you should mention if they received any nominations or honorary/posthumous awards.  

*Include the categories your picks are/were eligible for.

*List up to five films, per pick, that represent her or his most significant work.

*Make a point to include a mix of people across different categories (don't have a list of only actors or only directors).  

*Tag 5 other people to participate in this meme.

*Link back to the blog that tagged you.

*(Please) link back to this page.

I'm tagging:
1. J.D. at Radiator Heaven
2. Jeremy at Moon in the Gutter
3. Steve at Last Picture Show
4. Pam at Scarlett Cinema
5. Keith at The Dino Lounge

My boiled-down-to 13 list, containing both living and dead, those with nominations and/or honorary awards, and those without, in no particular order:

Joan Blondell, Supporting Actress, 1 Nomination, Highlights: Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Bullets or Ballots, The Blue Veil, Opening Night


Ennio Morricone, Composer, 5 Nominations, 1 Honorary Award, Highlights: Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Mission, The Untouchables


Peter Lorre, Supporting Actor/Leading Actor, 0 Nominations, Highlights: M, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Arsenic and Old Lace, Crime and Punishment


Nicholas Ray, Director/Writer, 1 Nomination, Highlights: Rebel Without a Cause, In a Lonely Place, Bigger Than Life, Johnny Guitar, On Dangerous Ground


Montgomery Clift, Leading Actor, 4 Nominations, Highlights: From Here to Eternity, Wild River, A Place in the Sun, Red River, The Young Lions


Robert Aldrich, Director/Writer/Producer, 0 Nominations, Highlights: Kiss Me Deadly, The Dirty Dozen, Ulzana's Raid, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Emperor of the North


Barbara Stanwyck, Leading Actress, 4 Nominations, 1 Honorary Award, Highlights: Baby Face, The Lady Eve, Ball of Fire, The Furies, Stella Dallas


Paul Schrader, Writer/Director, 0 Nominations, Highlights: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Blue Collar, Mishima, The Last Temptation of Christ


Sergio Leone, Director/Writer/Producer, 0 Nominations, Highlights: Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America, Duck, You Sucker, For a Few Dollars More


Ernst Lubitsch, Director/Writer/Producer, 3 Nominations, 1 Honorary Award, Highlights: Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, Ninotchka, To Be or Not to Be, The Smiling Lieutenant


Edward G. Robinson, Leading Actor/Supporting Actor, 0 Nominations, 1 Honorary Award, Highlights: Little Caesar, Dr. Ehrlich's Magic BulletThe Sea Wolf, Two Seconds, Scarlet Street


Michael Chapman, Cinematographer/Director, 2 Nominations, Highlights: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Fugitive, The Wanderers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)


Dede Allen, Editor, 3 Nominations, Highlights: Dog Day Afternoon, Bonnie and Clyde, The Hustler, Night Moves, Serpico

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Gravy Train/The Dion Brothers (1974, Jack Starrett)

Today, be on the lookout for the Dion Brothers. They are armed with a lobster and considered dangerous.
Looting, pilfering, plundering, robbing, and generally having the time of their lives.
A magnum farce.

The key art is reminiscent of Columbia's California Split (1974).

Released in New York in June of 1974, Jack Starrett's madcap caper film The Gravy Train received a fairly even mix of good and bad reviews.  The film must not have done very good business because when it re-emerged in Los Angeles in November of that year, it was as The Dion Brothers.  Since its original release, the film, under either title, has been quite elusive. It had a primetime network airing in 1978 and was a late night television staple for the next decade or so.  In the late 90s it received a boost from Quentin Tarantino who included it in his one of his "neglected 70s" film festivals and, more recently, David Gordon Green cited it as a major influence on his Pineapple Express and featured it in a film series that he curated at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 


Co-written by Terrence Malick (under the pseudonym David Whitney), the film is something of a mess structurally, but it contains a raucous energy and a genuinely zany, and deceptively simplistic, sense of humor.  Small town West Virginia brothers Calvin (Stacy Keach) and Rut Dion (Frederic Forrest) quit their factory jobs, which they despise, to make their fortunes as armed robbers in Washington D.C. The more worldly Calvin leaves first and hooks up with a gang led by the twitchy Tony (Barry Primus).  Tony plans to rip off an armored truck and enlists the help of Calvin, Carlos (Richard Romanus), Rex (Denny Miller), and Rut.  Tony double-crosses Rex and the Dion brothers, but fails to finish off Calvin and Rut, who spend the rest of the film hunting for Tony and their cut of the heist.  Along the way, the brothers convince Tony's girlfriend, Margie (Margot Kidder, post-Sisters and looking quite lovely), to help them track him down.

Note the last minute nature of the film's re-titling.

Director Starrett is very adept at filming the action sequences as he had cut his teeth on motorcycle epics such as The Losers and Blaxploitation hits Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones.  The pleasant surprises are the absurd touches-- the film opens with a shirtless Calvin quitting his job at a canning factory and maniacally screaming, "Look at me!  I got the makings of a Kirk-fucking-Douglas!!"  Where most movie crooks seek sex, or drugs, or their own criminal empire, all Calvin wants is to open a fancy seafood restaurant that serves things like escargot.  At one point, the brothers impersonates cops, steal a squad car, and find "one of them funny cigarettes" in the glove compartment.  Calvin tells his brother, "Light that sucker up and let's take a cosmic ride." Keach and Forrest are a winning team and their engaging performances take the characters beyond standard Southern caricatures.  


I've read that Malick was removed from the film as director (explaining his pseudonymous credit) here, but cannot locate any further documentation to elaborate on or corroborate it. The famously elusive and reclusive Malick is no help in the matter, and it's unclear how much of the film, and which parts, should be attributed to Malick, co-screenwriter Bill Kerby, or Starrett. Whatever the behind-the-scenes machinations, Keach, who remains criminally underrated in film circles, was said to be so happy about his performance and the film, that he wrote executive producer Roger Gimbel to tell him he thought it was his best screen work up until that time.  This is saying something when one considers the powerhouse performance Keach gave in John Huston's late career classic Fat City.

The new campaign's artwork emphasizes the brotherly bond and lets the critical raves speak to the film's comedic side.

For all the film's laughs and hijinks, however, a sense of sadness pervades the film, especially with concern to the fate of the brothers, because it is clear from the start that they are in way over their heads.  Fittingly, as the films winds to a close, Starrett plays to his strengths, emphasizing action, while downplaying the humor and ending on a sober note.  This all-over-the-map approach, from social critique to comedy to action to drama surely drives many critics and viewers nuts, and numerous films that attempt it fail in one aspect or another, but The Gravy Train/The Dion Brothers is able to navigate those waters and succeeds in spite of its limited budget and general messiness.  It is easy to see where the film has influenced the likes of Tarantino who repeatedly pays loving homage to Gravy Train and its ilk, albeit with more money and in a slicker form.  However, with hindsight, Gravy Train's lack of spit and polish, an aspect which is rarely, if ever, imitated by the younger generation, is a significant part of the film's overall appeal.


My DVD of the film, which comes from an Encore Action airing, is noticeably without any type of studio logo.  The film was originally distributed by Columbia Pictures, however, it was independently produced by Jonathan Taplin, who'd previously served as tour manager for Bob Dylan and the Band and produced Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, and was financed by Tomorrow Entertainment, a subsidiary of General Electric.  An April 1974 article in the Los Angeles Times identifies The Gravy Train as the first in a ten-picture deal between Tomorrow Entertainment and Columbia.  I'm not certain this deal was ever completed. Regardless, the film's somewhat convoluted production and ownership history, might explain its complete absence from any legitimate home video format. Hopefully, whatever legal ends need to be cleared up, will be, sometime soon.  If the film is ever to be released to home video, the only remaining question will be which title to release it under--The Gravy Train or The Dion Brothers?

Here's the pre-credit "Kirk Douglas" sequence. "Busy, busy, busy, busy, busy.":

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not So Obscure Trailer, but still MIA on DVD: Carny (1980, Robert Kaylor)

When you're young and going nowhere...the Carny looks like a good way out.

This one showed up in one of those Warner Home Video/Amazon DVD voting promotions, but, alas, it was not selected by the public.  Even though Warner vowed that all titles on the ballot would be released on DVD, Carny still has not appeared on this format. It's an oddball film, to be sure, and seems to have been left over from the '70s.  In another year or so, small films like this were summarily swept out by the likes of Simpson and Bruckheimer.  It's about carnival workers Frankie (Gary Busey, in one of his pre-wack job performances) and Patch (Robbie Robertson, ex-Band member and friend of Scorsese), and the young runaway (Jodie Foster) who comes between them.  


The sublime supporting cast includes the aforementioned Kenneth McMillan, Elisha Cook Jr. (what self-respecting carny movie would not utilize Cook if he were living), Meg Foster (one-time Cagney & Lacey co-star and possessor of the most hauntingly blue eyes), Tim Thomerson (of Trancers fame),  Fred Ward (what else needs to be said?), the much-maligned Craig Wasson, Bill McKinney (the scariest Mountain Man you'll find), and Bert Remsen (who also appeared in Brewster McCloud).

I've always had a fascination with carnival life and carnies (along with truckers) and maybe that's why this film appeals so much to me. Plus, I love films that are set in a milieu we don't often see depicted in the movies.  Director Robert Kaylor previously made a well-received documentary on the roller derby craze titled, appropriately, Derby.  His only subsequent credit is the 1989 Chad Lowe comedy Nobody's Perfect (of course, this one is on DVD).  I haven't seen the latter, but it does not look very promising.  I would hope that the presence of Foster would be enough to release Carny on DVD.  Maybe it'll happen if Busey does something crazier than, say, molesting Jennifer Garner on the red carpet...

Carny Theatrical Trailer:
video
Busey Goes Crazy at the Oscars:
video

Obscure One-Sheet Awarded With Premio Dardos Award


Blogger extraordinaire
Jeremy over at Moon in the Gutter has been kind enough to award Obscure One-Sheet with a Premio Dardos Award.  Jeremy's blog is the one that got me started on this little venture and continues to inspire me to try and keep updated regularly.  So it means a lot coming from him and will hopefully mean more visitors to the site.

"The Dardos Awards is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.



The Rules are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award."

Here goes, in no particular order:
1. Pam at Scarlett Cinema
2. Eric at Marathon Packs
4. Marty McKee at Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot

Monday, February 2, 2009

M.I.A. on Region 1 DVD Tribute: Chilly Scenes of Winter (aka Head Over Heels, 1979/1982, Joan Micklin Silver)

Love does strange things to people.  And Charles is a little strange to start with.
As part of Jeremy's month-long celebration of worthy films not yet available on DVD, over at Moon in the Gutter, I'm contributing a few words about Joan Micklin Silver's Chilly Scenes of Winter (aka Head Over Heels).  When Robert Osborne introduced the film before a recent airing on TCM, he explained that several years earlier he'd been invited to select a film for inclusion in a festival recognizing films that were "woefully overlooked and under-appreciated."  His choice: Chilly Scenes of Winter.  I couldn't agree more and hope that its recent addition to the MGM HD line-up is a sign that a DVD is forthcoming.  


Based on Ann Beattie's first novel of the same name, Chilly Scenes of Winter was originally released by United Artists under the title Head Over Heels.  It's the story of Charles (John Heard), a civil servant in an unnamed northeastern city (relocated to Salt Lake City for the film) who falls for married co-worker Laura (Mary Beth Hurt), and has a brief affair with her, before she returns to her husband. Charles, who's love has turned to obsession, is determined to get her back.  Laura is not so sure of what she wants and the question is whether she will stay with a man "who loves her too little" or return to Charles, who "loves her too much."  

The film hews closely to the novel, retaining its intimate scope, the biting wit of its protagonists, and their sense of ennui, bitterness, and dissatisfaction.  They are casualties of the 1960s, what one Boston critic dubbed, "The Beattie Generation."  Beattie rejected the assertion that her stories, particularly Chilly Scenes of Winter, were some kind of commentary on the '60s and the generation that came of age during that time.  "Charles is the not the result of the '60s.  In any year, he'd be more affected than others by this experience."  And, yet, despite Beattie's disavowal, this element gives the story an added resonance and weight.

Charles is sarcastic and self-deprecating, sometimes a little nasty to those around him, and increasingly unhinged as his longing for Laura grows. He lives with his best friend, wise-cracking, unemployed jacket salesman Sam (Peter Riegert) and spends a good deal of time looking after his nutty mother (Gloria Grahame in a marvelous comeback appearance) who regularly makes half-hearted suicide attempts.  She has a well-meaning husband (Kenneth McMillan) who tries desperately to win over his stepchildren Charles and Susan (Tarah Nutter).  Charles' boss (Jerry Hardin) enlists him to cure his college-aged son's sexual problems (Charles recommends the Janis Joplin song "Get It While You Can") and his smitten co-worker Betty (Nora Heflin) tries to help plan the hors d'oeurves menu for a non-existent "get-together" at his home.  I'm charmed by this offbeat universe created by Beattie and shepherded to the screen by Silver and producers Amy Robinson, Mark Metcalf, and Griffin Dunne, but concede that many viewers are probably made uncomfortable by these characters, who despite their "weirdness," are very true to life, often painfully so.  That humor, tinged with sadness and pathos, is what brings me back to the film again and again.


The acting, across the board, is superb, with special plaudits reserved for Heard, Hurt, Grahame, McMillan, and Riegert.  Heard is one of the finest actors of his generation and it is a shame that he is known as "the dad from Home Alone" to a great majority of the public. Hurt's role is difficult because she has less screen time to show to the audience that she is all that Charles believes she is (impossible, really).  Grahame is heartbreaking, particularly when she talks to her son about the premature death of his father.  She passed away far too young as did McMillan, who was too often cast in villainous roles. He's a joy to watch here singing "Blue Moon" while twirling an unsuspecting nurse .  Riegert is hilarious as Sam, a character who's taken to spending the day in pajamas, but is still able to chastise breadwinner Charles for his inability to forget Laura and move on his with his life.  In smaller roles, producers Metcalf and Dunne offer amusing turns as Laura's husband Ox and Susan's uptight med student boyfriend, respectively. 


For me, the film's best moments are separate from the central love story: Charles' slow, ultimately touching acceptance of Pete (McMillan, who livened up any production he was involved with); a lovely scene in which Charles assures his mother that he's doing his best to find a wife; the constant banter between Charles and Sam (Charles:"We never went to Woodstock." Sam:"Yeah, but we could have.").  Protagonist Charles is resolutely single-minded and focused and Silver does a wonderful job maintaining this theme by keeping the focus squarely on the key figures and their immediate surroundings, so much so that, except for a brief mention of Utah, it's never clear where exactly the story takes place.  We know that's it wintry and that's all that is necessary.  I really like the way Silver utilizes the subjective voiceover to reveal Charles' inner thoughts (a reminder of the story's literary roots) and how she has him break the fourth wall and converse with the audience as a way to segue into a flashback.  The humor is smart, albeit dark, and, for such a "simple" story, the dramatic moments, are quite moving.  I think the film's power is due, in part, to what a lot of crew members kept telling Silver as she was making the film: "This is the story of my life."


The film opened on one screen in New York and then moved to Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles.  Though she was more than pleased with the film adaptation of her book (a rare occurrence for an author), calling it "a knockout," Beattie was less impressed with the studio-mandated title change.  "It's deplorable. It sounds like Fred Astaire will dance across the credits," she said.  Aside from a few positive reviews, most critics categorized the film as insubstantial and meandering.  Perhaps due to the unfortunate title or mediocre reviews, or a combination of both, Head Over Heels, was not a financial success. After three different ad campaigns and a gross of approximately$250,000, the film's first run was over.


However, the film made an impression in certain markets.  A rave review in the Boston Phoenix (which was the basis for the alternative Boston weekly depicted in Silver's previous film, Between the Lines [also airing on MGM HD] ) led to good business in Boston and a cult following.  The film's plucky producers (former actors Robinson, Dunne, and Metcalf) continued to push the film and United Artists Classics (a division of UA) took notice.  UA Classics' head honcho Nathaniel Kwit had previous success with two recent revivals, New York, New York and Cutter's Way (also, coincidentally, starring John Heard and the subject of a good article by J.D.), and decided to re-release the film in August 1982 under its original title and with a new ending.  


Where Beattie's novel ended with a tentative reconciliation between Charles and Laura, Head Over Heels' ending was less ambiguous and concluded on a triumphant embrace between the two lovers, something which was not consistent with the character of the rest of the film.  The new ending was different than the novel's, but close to it in spirit, and reviews the second time around were, on the whole, excellent.  This is the version that circulated on VHS and now appears on cable.  The film maintains a very good critical reputation, yet more than ten years into the DVD age, the film remains unavailable in that format in any region.  


Hopefully, if a DVD is released, it will retain the original "happy ending" and original Head Over Heels title cards as bonus features. I'm fairly certain that this version has aired on television, but as is/was the case with other films that have been recut (i.e. Blade Runner), this "non-Director's cut" is very scarce.


The film's production team Triple Play, reduced to Double Play after Metcalf departed, would go on to produce another story of troubled lovers, Baby It's You.  Silver subsequently directed mostly for television, but had feature film success with 1988's Crossing Delancey starring Riegert and Amy Irving.  Hurt divorced William Hurt and married Paul Schrader.  A stage actress first, she continues to act in film and television, and was very well-received in The World According to Garp.  Heard remains a very busy actor with leads in independent films and guest spots on high-profile television shows.  After starring in Chilly Scenes, Heard chewed up the screen as Alex Cutter in Cutter's Way (aka Cutter and Bone), but he has not had many subsequent opportunities for top billing in a feature film, which is unfortunate.  Hollywood has not, as of yet, produced another film from an Ann Beattie novel.

1982 Reissue Trailer:

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