Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Soundtrack Jukebox Vol. 1

Inspired by my compadre, Rupert, I've put together a mix of favorite songs written for, or strongly associated with, a particular film. In some cases, the song was released on a proper LP at or around the same time as the film it was used in. So as to retain some semblance of focus, I am not including score tracks...that is for another set of jukebox selections. These are mostly songs that were not in regular radio rotation and, if they were, they have not transitioned into "oldies" or "classic rock" playlists. I have many favorites that were and remain big hits, but am eschewing those here in favor of some "cult" favorites.

I have listed prominent composers where they had a role in writing the tune and the original composer / artists in the case of a cover version.

In no particular order (feel free to shuffle):

1. "Drifting and Dreaming" - Valerie Carter, White Line Fever
2. "I Am the Future" - Alice Cooper, Class of 1984 (Lalo Schifrin)
3. "But I Might Die Tonight" - Cat Stevens, Deep End
4. "The Good Times Are Comin'" - Mama Cass, Monte Walsh (John Barry)
5. "Cosmopolitan" - Joe Jackson, Mike's Murder
6. "Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)" - Don Felder, Heavy Metal
7. "Night Shift" - Quarterflash, Night Shift (Burt Bacharach)
8. "Number One" - Chaz Jankel, Real Genius
9. "Help Me Make It Through the Night" - Kris Kristofferson, Fat City
10. "In the City" - Joe Walsh, The Warriors
11. "Loco De Amor (Crazy For Love)" - David Byrne y Celia Cruz, Something Wild
12. "Phantom's Theme (Beauty and the Beast)" - Paul Williams, Phantom of the Paradise
13. "Goodbye Horses" - Q. Lazzarus, Married to the Mob / The Silence of the Lambs
14. "Why Is It So Hard?" - Talk Talk, Firstborn
15. "They Won't Get Me" - Roger Miller, Superman III (Giorgio Moroder)
16. "Johnny and Mary" - Tina Turner, Summer Lovers (Robert Palmer)
17. "This Day Belongs to Me" - Seals & Crofts, One on One (Charles Fox / Paul Williams)
18. "Gold" - Jimmy Helms, Gold (Elmer Bernstein)
19. "Thank God It's Friday" - Love and Kisses, Thank God It's Friday
20. "Deep Down" - Christy, Danger: Diabolik (Ennio Morricone)
21. "To Live and Die in L.A." - Wang Chung, To Live and Die in L.A.
22. "Love Kills" - Freddie Mercury, Metropolis (Giorgio Moroder)
23. "It's So Easy" - Willy DeVille, Cruising
24. "Thief of Hearts" - Melissa Manchester, Thief of Hearts (Giorgio Moroder)
25. "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" - Fire, Inc., Streets of Fire (Jim Steinman)
26. "Turn Out the Night" - Amy Holland, Scarface (Giorgio Moroder)
27. "Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)" - Eurythmics, 1984
28. "Argomenti (The Burglars)" - Astrud Gilberto, The Burglars (Ennio Morricone)
29. "Surrender" - Cheap Trick, Over the Edge
30. "Bit By Bit" - Stephanie Mills, Fletch (Harold Faltermeyer)
31. "Blue Balloon (The Hourglass Song)" - Robby Benson, Jeremy (Joseph Brooks)
32. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" - David Bowie, Cat People (Giorgio Moroder)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Clancy Brown's finest moment?

Perhaps. Well, not really. Wherever you rank it in the Brown oeuvre, I think you'll get a chuckle out of this video loop set to Little River Band's "Man on Your Mind," which peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in '81. Often, during production, the music in a scene hasn't been set and the actors must dance or perform to a different song or nothing at all. I'm not sure if Clancy was actually groovin' to the tunes of Australia's greatest soft rock export, but I was convinced. In this case, Brown, sporting a ridiculous blow-dried blonde 'fro, gives his all and shows no fear of looking the fool...traits that are vital for any actor worth his salt. Never a household name, Brown is one of the better American character actors of the last 30 years. Often cast in villainous roles, as he did so well in Bad Boys, his debut, Brown has also proven adept in less nasty roles when given the opportunity, as in SpongeBob SquarePants and as Rawhide, Buckaroo's cowboy sidekick, in Buckaroo Banzai.

Not So Obscure TV Spot, But Still MIA on DVD: Night of the Juggler (1980, Robert Butler)

It's a shame that Night of the Juggler, a taut thriller that revels in late '70s NYC grime, remains unavailable on DVD, and, in fact, has been out of circulation since long-defunct Media Home Entertainment released it on VHS in the mid-'80s. Based on a novel by William P. McGivern, the story is one of those that follows the tried and true method I call "All in one day (or night)." As another oft-mentioned "all-in-one-night" film of the era did, Night of the Juggler takes full advantage of sweltering, smelly, sleazy summertime New York to tell its story. New York City cop turned long-haul trucker James Brolin goes through all sorts of hell, including a maniacal Dan Hedaya, as he tries to rescue his daughter from a revenge-minded mama's boy with pedophilic impulses (Cliff Gorman).

Does this peep show also appear in Cruising? Seriously.

At first, director Butler, a fellow best known for The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and a lot of episodic television, might seem the wrong man for the job. On closer inspection, however, much of that television was Westerns and cop dramas, experience that surely helped keep Juggler's fast-moving narrative humming along seamlessly. Perhaps more of a pleasant surprise is the fact that tv vet Butler does not shy away from the cruder aspects of the exploitation trade, specifically: violence, nudity, profanity, and a pervasive seediness in all aspects of the mise-en-scene.

Brolin, looking as if he went directly from the
Amityville Horror
set to Night of the Juggler

Unfortunately, the crappy VHS-sourced bootlegs cannot do justice to the film's production design by Stuart Wurtzel (who would, most fittingly, also perform this duty for the same year's Times Square) and photography by veteran lenser Victor J. Kemper, a man who was no stranger to urban dramas (Dog Day Afternoon, The Eyes of Laura Mars, The Gambler, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Shamus) and who also shot Cassavetes' Mikey and Nicky and Husbands. The music is by Artie Kane, who didn't rack up too many feature film credits; however, those few credits also include Looking for Mr. Goodbar and The Eyes of Laura Mars, which, when added to Juggler, comprise a dark disco-era urban troika. The supporting cast is a veritable who's who of East Coast character actors and theater vets and includes the aforementioned Gorman and Hedaya, as well as Richard S. Castellano, Marco St. John (Tightrope's psycho killer), Steve Inwood (a "go to" character guy for early '80s New York films), Barton Heyman, Sully Boyar, Mandy Patinkin, Tony Azito, Samm-Art Williams, Richard Gant, Julie Carmen, and porn star Sharon Mitchell (as a stripper, fancy that).

A New York street gang that doesn't wear make-up

Released theatrically by Columbia, Night of the Juggler was an early production for Arnold Kopelson; another 1980 Kopelson production, Foolin' Around, was also distributed theatrically by Columbia. As with Night of the Juggler, it was released on video by a separate distributor (Embassy, prior to that company's acquisition by Columbia). In short, it's not clear who controls Night of the Juggler now (Edit: I'm told that after the film's financer, General Cinema Corporation went belly-up, some assets, including the aforementioned films, went to a soap company who are seeking beaucoup $$ for Juggler). Perhaps an enterprising outfit such as Shout Factory!, Synapse, Severin, or Code Red, who seem to specialize in this sort of thing, can sort this out, i.e. pry it loose from the soap company, and license Night of the Juggler for DVD so that it can be properly seen by the wider audience it deserves.

This glorious, if brief, tv spot will remind anyone who grew up in the New York area of a time when WPIX Channel 11 was "New York's Movie Station." It's surprising that the film, which was released in 1980, didn't make its broadcast premiere until '86. Perhaps network television premiere is more accurate, as I would imagine the film must have aired on at least one of the pay cable channels after its theatrical run. In any event, a lot must have been lost in the translation from R-rated original cut to television-friendly version.

When Cult Films Appear Within Cult Films

When a film scene plays out in front of a movie theater or in pre-Giuliani Times Square, I'm probably not the only cinephile who squints at the television set in order to read the marquee(s) or determine the one-sheet in the display. Of course, I really love it when the film within a film is a particular favorite of mine and /or a cult film.

Here are a couple of examples of "cult films within cult films," which I also happened to catch on 35mm within the last half year or so. Both examples hark back to a time when neighborhood theaters that played one film at a time were commonplace and the exterior and lobby were transformed into visual paeans to that film.

Darker Than Amber in Dusty and Sweets McGee:

The poster to the left of the ticket booth is different from the final one-sheet and resembles the key art in the British quad. The tagline reads, "If Travis McGee puts his life on the line, it's not going to be for free." Incidentally, we can also see a poster for what appears to be a stage production of Hair, just to the right of the man in brown leather.

British Quad (paired with Figures in a Landscape):

U.S. one-sheet:

Italian locandina:

The Warriors in American Gigolo

Most of the time, I'm sure the film advertising that appears within other films comes down to chance, but in the case of The Warriors and American Gigolo, the Warriors advertising prominently appears throughout the scene; my thought is that it's not a coincidence that The Warriors, and not The Wanderers, for example, is the film in the background given that both were produced and released by Paramount. To think I had the opportunity to ask Paul Schrader such an important question at a recent screening of Gigolo...and didn't do it.