Monday, August 29, 2011

Two from '68

I own the first insert and just saw the second one on an online auction.  The colors, fonts, and illustration were too similar to my eyes to not call attention to them.  Interestingly, Sweet November was a Warner release and Pretty Poison a Fox.  I thought for sure they'd have been done by the same house designer.  Anyone have any idea if these were designed by the same artist and, if so, who that is?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trailer Not on the DVD: Night Shift (1982, Ron Howard)

The guy who uploaded this trailer of Ron Howard's best film--well, it's this or Splash--apparently transferred it from his personal 16mm print; deep catalog 35mm prints from the studios are becoming so scarce, let alone 16mm ones, it's hard to believe they once struck 16mm trailers.

Soundtrack on the trailer features Burt Bacharach's eminently hummable "Night Shift" instrumental (the vocal version was performed by Quarterflash) and Al Jarreau's "Girls Know How."

Revisiting this one recently, I was reminded of what a treasure trove of gritty early '80s NYC footage we get here (it seems a few exteriors were filmed in L.A., however, and I think I spotted 'em all).  Its New York street cred is bolstered by an appearance by the one and only, Joe Spinell, as, what else, a sleazy gentleman's club operator.  During one of several Times Square drive-bys, we see a marquee boasting Sharky's Machine (putting at least some of the filming in very late '81 or early '82; Night Shift was released in Summer '82, while Sharky's was a Christmas '81 release). 

UPDATE: Found a version of this trailer that appears to be sourced from an old VHS tape. During the age in which they still packaged their videos in large, clamshell boxes, WHV sometimes stuck trailers at the end of the tape, following the feature presentation:

Trailer Not on the DVD: Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, John Hughes)

A collection of music-filled trailers and a tv spot from a Paramount Picture that are also not available on the DVD or Blu-ray.  I'm guessing the shorter trailer may be a teaser trailer and the longer one is the regular trailer.  The real point of fascination here is a clip of one of the younger Bueller children, roles that were cut from the final film:

Trailer Not on the DVD: Saturday Night Fever (1977, John Badham)

Paramount has been pretty bad about putting original theatrical trailers on their DVD and Blu-ray releases.  I've heard that music in trailers also needs to be cleared for home video and this may be why so many vintage Paramount trailers remain absent from DVD.  Still, I find it doubtful that all the other studios are clearing music rights for the original trailers on their disc.  An interesting example of this sort of thing is the Last American Virgin DVD, which is missing Human League's "Love Action" (replaced by another go round of "Whip It") because the band refused to re-license it for the film.  However, the DVD also contains the original theatrical trailer, which includes a portion of "Love Action."  I'm guessing no one was paying too much attention to the content of the trailer.

This trailer, which probably came from an old VHS, runs fairly long and has a promo for the soundtrack album at the tail end. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not So Obscure Trailer, but Still MIA on DVD: The Wild Life (1984, Art Linson) OR..."It's casual."

Most likely a victim of short-sighted music licensing agreements, The Wild Life remains m.i.a. on DVD shelves nearly 15 years into the format's lifespan.  "Even faster" than Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Wild Life was written by Fast Times scribe Cameron Crowe and directed by Art Linson, who produced the earlier film.  Something of a quasi-sequel to Fast Times, its primary protagonist is Bill Conrad (Fast Times alumnus Eric Stoltz), a recent Los Angeles-area high school grad whose main goal within the film's timeline is moving into and maintaining an apartment in a singles complex (managed, incidentally, by the late, great Robert Ridgely).  Problems arise when Bill can't make rent on his own and must enlist a roommate (a wild Christopher Penn) to share the burden.

The film famously--or, in the minds of most critics in 1984, infamously--co-stars Christopher Penn as wrestling star, party animal, and all around goofball Tom Drake.  At the time, most observers couldn't get past the fact that Penn's role was a rather transparent attempt to create another Jeff Spicoli, the character made legendary by older brother Sean in Fast Times.  No, Drake is no Spicoli or Blutarsky, and his "It's casual" catchphrase did not enter the lexicon as "Hey bud, let's party" did, but Chris Penn brings a great energy to the part and gets laughs from me whenever I revisit the film.

With this film, veteran producer Linson makes one of only two trips behind the camera (earlier helming Where the Buffalo Roam) and I can't help but think that he came into to replace another director...Crowe, perhaps?  Since the film is rarely mentioned by Crowe or any of the principals, which also include Lea Thompson, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Jenny Wright, production back-stories are scant.  By no means a classic, The Wild Life, like its predecessor, does boast a fine acting ensemble (more great work from Fast Times casting director Don Phillips) with Hart Bochner, Rick Moranis, Randy Quaid, the aforementioned Ridgely, Sherilyn Fenn, Michael Bowen, Ben Stein, Jack Kehoe, Fear frontman and '80s stalwart Lee Ving, Predator Kevin Peter Hall, and Tony Montana "yes man" Angel Salazar ("Tony, open the door!!!") filling out the cast.  They're thrust into many stock situations, culminating with the type of house party blowout that featured in so many teen comedies of the time.  Much of what seemed very fresh just two years earlier with Fast Times, is decidedly less revelatory here, with an air of been there done that.

That's not to say there aren't some very original creations in Crowe's script with Mitchell-Smith's Vietnam-obsessed teen taking top prize in this category.  In a plot development that would probably have current studio execs nervous, Mitchell-Smith and his sidekick (Brin Berliner) visit the decrepit pad of a Vietnam vet (Randy Quaid) more than likely suffering from PTSD.  In what may be the film's most affecting and effective moment, Quaid tells the kid in no uncertain terms that he's lucky to have missed Vietnam and to appreciate the preservation of his average suburban existence.  I have to believe that Mitchell-Smith's Jim Conrad is inspired by the late Chris Penn's own teenage years, a time in which he soaked up any and all Vietnam minutia he could while making a Vietnam-set Super 8 film (said film featured boyhood pals Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez in its cast).  Sadly, the world lost the youngest Penn way too soon...based on the bulk of his performances and his youthful forays into filmmaking, it's clear he had a lot more to offer, more than he was usually given credit for anyway.

The soundtrack that is most likely keeping The Wild Life from DVD and Blu-ray includes an entirely original instrumental score by Eddie Van Halen (with music that foreshadows some future tunes such as "Right Now") and pop songs by Madonna, Buffalo Springfield, Billy Idol, Human League, Bananarama, Steppenwolf, Huey Lewis and the News, Peter Case, The Three O'Clock, Little Richard, and others.  Earlier home video versions omitted some of these songs, as many MCA / Universal releases of the era were wont to do, and had a "Home Video Version" tag printed on the back cover.  The original theatrical version has aired on Encore in recent years, however.

 Chris Penn with then girlfriend Sherilyn Fenn in May '84.

It's no Fast Times and, in fact, it ain't faster, clocking in a full six minutes longer, but for those '80s nostalgists, like me, who prefer to see the decade through a non-Hughes prism, The Wild Life remains essential viewing...if you can get a hold of it.