Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"You can come and play now."

Last year, I spotted some Warriors-inspired graffiti near my apartment in Carroll Gardens.  That mural, which also included some Bruce Lee images, has since been painted over in white.

The other day in Williamsburg, I snapped some more movie-related graffiti, which I hadn't noticed before:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Lust's just a distraction."

If you're like me, music alterations in home video versions of films bother you as much as a key line of dialogue missing or an incorrect aspect ratio.  Such is the case with the DVD version of Boaz Davidson's The Last American Virgin, which removes Human League's "Love Action (I Believe in Love)" from the classic Dare LP with a repeat of Devo's "Whip It!," which appears elsewhere in the film.

Unlike some DVDs which restore original soundtrack tracks that were missing from previous home video versions--such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High--The Last American Virgin is a case of the reverse phenomenon.  The original home video release of the film from MGM/UA Home Video contains the Human League track as it appeared in theatrical and television prints of the film.  When the film was originally announced for DVD, I sold my out-of-print VHS tape in anticipation; I was sorely disappointed when I discovered this alteration in the soundtrack.  I rectified this only recently when I re-purchased the film on VHS, complete with uncut big box.

UK VHS cover.
For your pleasure, I've created a clip that marries the superior DVD image with the original audio from the VHS edition, including "Love Action":

Human League apparently objected to their song being used in a film such as Last American Virgin hence its removal from the film for the DVD; I'm a fan of the band, but I object to their "high horse" attitude in this case.  Said, the League's Phil Oakey:

"We didn't understand it in the contract but he (Virgin's Richard Branson) had the absolute right to sell us to anyone he wanted.  He signed us to A&M behind our back.  A&M sold "Love Action," a song I wrote about Joanne, for use in a crummy sex film called The Last American Virgin. I was so totally offended I took them to court...and won, I think.  As soon as I discovered what had happened, I sent A&M a telex saying, "How dare you sell our songs like a porn magazine.  Stop.  I am totally disgusted with you.  Stop.  Again.  Stop."  It was so over the top I thought they'd have to react immediately. The next day I got a telex saying, "We're not sure what you're talking about. Maybe your manager could explain."

While we're on the subject of Last American Virgin, I'm not sure what Steve Antin (Rick) had in mind when he went under the plastic surgeon's knife.  As an actor, he's best known for the smarmy, snotty, jockish rich pricks he played in films such as Virgin, The Goonies, and The Accused, as well as playing Jessie in the video of Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl."  In recent years, the now-openly gay Antin has become a writer / director of such projects as Burlesque, the WB teen tv series Young Americans, and the remake of Cassavetes' Gloria.  I can only imagine that there was some desire to distance himself from the decidedly hetero persona and look he had as a young actor.  Now, though, he's pretty much unrecognizable from the startlingly handsome young man who appeared in the above scene in Last American Virgin.

Antin with one-time boyfriend David Geffen and former Geffen squeeze and future Burlesque star Cher.  Geffen's mother famously complained that Antin wasn't Jewish when they were introduced, leaving the Jewish Antin to try convince her that he was, in fact, a fellow member of the tribe.
Antin as he appeared in his last acting appearance, a 1998 episode of NYPD Blue, as Detective Nick Savino.

Incidentally, for those keeping score, "Love Action" remains intact at the start of the official Last American Virgin trailer, which is included on the DVD.  The song also remains listed in the film's closing credits.

For the eagle-eyed, the theater marquee seen at the end of the "Love Action" scene is the now-demolished Sunset Theatre, which was located at the intersection of N. Western and Sunset.   By the end of its run, the Sunset was showing adult films, which is somewhat appropriate given the scenario / transaction that plays out in front of it in Last American Virgin.

Gary (Lawrence Monoson) and Caren (Diane Franklin) finally back together.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Manero / Balboa

It's by no means unusual for a successful film to spawn imitations, along with the inevitable official sequels, prequels, remakes, and re-imaginings...happens all the time.  So it was that the phenomenon that was Rocky inspired music impresario Robert Stigwood to quickly develop and produce his own urban, working class fable, optioning Nik Cohn's New York article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night" and enlisting Serpico scribe Norman Wexler to write the screenplay version of what would eventually be called Saturday Night Fever.  It's fitting that Rocky director John G. Avildsen was the original helmer of Saturday Night Fever before having "creative differences" with Stigwood and star John Travolta, leading to his being replaced by John Badham during pre-production.  I can only assume that the Rocky poster on Tony Manero's wall is a remnant of the production design overseen by Avildsen (additionally, there's a Serpico poster in Manero's bedroom; incidentally, Serpico is another film that Avildsen was attached to at one point).  Prior to their near-collaboration on Serpico, Wexler and Avildsen teamed on Joe, another blue collar cinematic icon of the '70s, which J. Hoberman wrote about here on its 30th anniversary.

Even with that not so unusual production history in mind, it is interesting to see the mythos and cultural impact of a film, right down to the Rocky poster prominently displayed on Tony Manero's wall, so quickly and openly acknowledged and absorbed, in part, by another film; to put this in perspective Saturday Night Fever was being produced while Rocky was still in theatrical release.  It's this relationship between Rocky and Saturday Night Fever, Rocky Balboa and Tony Manero, that I play with a bit in this short video essay:

Continuing this Balboa - Manero strand, Rocky writer and star and Sylvester Stallone would direct Saturday Night Fever's inferior sequel Staying Alive (complete with theme song by Stallone frere Frank). 


Completing this circle, over thirty years later, Saturday Night Fever would inspire the fascinating Chilean film Tony Manero, darker and more disturbing than anything on screen in either Rocky or Saturday Night Fever.

Friday, June 8, 2012

1983 / 2006

Her,Suzanne76 pointed this connection out to me at a recent screening of The Keep so she gets full credit for this, whatever that's worth.  Obviously the stills aren't quiet as effective as seeing the scenes play out in motion, but there is certainly something familiar about the Miami Vice scene that feels like it may be some kind of an acknowledgement of the earlier film.  Whether this is an intentional nod to The Keep on Mann's part or not, it's worth pondering.  It should, of course, also be noted that Mann has not kept his negative feelings about The Keep secret and has "disowned" it to a degree.  To date, The Keep remains unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray, no doubt due to Mann's antipathy towards the finished film, though it can be found streaming, in widescreen, on Netflix Instant.

Scott Glenn's Glaeken Trismegestus travels by fishing boat from Greece to Romania in Michael Mann's The Keep (1983).

Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) pilots a speedboat with Isabella (Gong Li) from Miami to her Cuban home in Mann's Miami Vice (2006).

Addendum: it seems I had a different scene in mind than Her,Suzanne76 when she whispered to me during the "boat scene" in The Keep, "Like Miami Vice."  We have a pretty good shorthand going, but sometimes even our signals can get crossed.

More nautical stuff from Mann's Miami Vice, most of it at night, the sky taking on some of the same purple and orange hues as in the scene in The Keep.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Filmways Pictures

Formed when Filmways, Inc. purchased Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures (AIP) in 1979, Filmways Pictures released several films of note before it went into bankruptcy and was absorbed by Orion Pictures in 1981.

This rare first Filmways logo comes from the beginning of the Dressed to Kill letterboxed laserdisc issued in '93 by Image.  The DVD and Blu-ray replace this logo with MGM and Orion logos.  Dressed to Kill was probably the company's most successful film in terms of box office and critical reception, in addition to the controversy and word-of-mouth that it generated.  De Palma's expensive follow-up, Blow Out, while recognized now as one of his finest achievements, was a big money loser in the Summer of '81 and a crushing blow to the company's survival.  Based on the unscientific IMDb numbers, Death Wish II, released in early '82, was likely the company's only other box office winner.  Other worthwhile titles in the Filmways stable included Arthur Penn's Four Friends, the cult classic post-punk concert film Urgh! A Music War, The First Deadly Sin (Sinatra's last starring role), and the final film to go out with the Filmways imprimatur, Summer Lovers.  Most of these films appear on DVD with newer Orion logos rather than the Filmways logos that were originally attached.

I have not seen the above logo on a DVD or Blu-ray, but if someone has I would be interested to hear about it.

Judging by this industry ad, things could have been much different for film history, if Filmways had stayed afloat a little longer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'70s and Beyond Studio Logo Mashup #2

Here's a second video tribute to some of those opening logos of yesteryear.  This one is set to the "United Artists Logo Theme" by Joe Harnell that was composed for use with the studio's 1981 logo, music I heard every time I popped in that Rocky III tape into the VCR, which was a lot.  I don't know too much of Harnell's music, but he composed 2 of the most memorable themes of my childhood: the aforementioned UA theme and that of the Incredible Hulk television series.  The Hulk theme is a piano piece also known as "The Lonely Man."

There are several other logos I would have liked to include in one of these videos, but was unable to locate good quality versions (or, I ran out of running time)...