Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shatter Deux

An afternoon of record shopping in the city today unearthed a couple more appearances of the shatter font, both associated with Bay Area proto-punk outfit the Flamin' Groovies.  The compilation Still Shakin' uses the font for the title of the album.  Later, Groovies co-founder Roy Loney broke out the shatter for his 1979 effort, Out After Dark.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spinell: King of Dirty New York

He had a face (pockmarked, craggy, and often greasy) and a voice (shrill and heavy on the New Yawkese) that you couldn't forget and which he lent to over 60 films and television programs.  He made films all over the country, probably most famously as Gazzo in the Philly-filmed Rocky and Rocky II and sometimes even trying on an accent (as in the Alabama-set Stay Hungry), but it's the gallery of New York sleazebags, cops, mafiosi, cabbies, and psychopaths that Joe Spinell so memorably essayed throughout the '70s and '80s that are his greatest legacy.  The man was prolific in his prime--aside from their Academy Award competition, Taxi Driver and Rocky don't share much...except for Joe Spinell.  All of this support work was leading to his pièce de résistance, Frank Zito, the title character in William Lustig's infamous Maniac, a labor of love co-written by Spinell, filmed on the pre-gentrified streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, and targeted (upon its release) as an object of everything wrong with cinema and current societal mores by media figures such as Siskel and Ebert.  (Of course, this now seems rather hyperbolic and humorous, especially when one views all of the related, vintage news reports collated on the Maniac special edition Blu-ray and DVD.)

But personal issues, health problems, and addiction slowed him down and eventually killed him at 52, when he tragically bled to death alone in his Sunnyside apartment due to his hemophilia.

This video is a short tribute to this fine character actor and uniquely New York personality.  It contains only scenes from his NYC movies and opens with part of Patrolman DiSimone's (Spinell) brilliant diatribe at the start of Cruising, which taken either within or outside of the film, functions as a fascinating statement on the ugly, decaying New York of the time (a place which many New Yorkers bemoaned then, and which, conversely, many now mourn the loss of). There are a few more relevant clips I plan to add when I have access to them on DVD.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dirty Old New York Taxi

This is one installment of a planned multi-part video project devoted to depictions of New York on film from the late '60s to early '80s--mostly '70s--"Fun City" years from the time of Lindsay to Koch.  Music is Bernard Herrmann's "Thank God for the Rain" from the Taxi Driver soundtrack.  For more of these types of images, check out Dirty Old 1970s New York City.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lombard and Laughton: '32 - '33

Fell in love with Carole Lombard when I saw Virtue (made on a loan-out to Columbia) and White Woman on a double bill at Film Forum, in the summer before 9/11, during one of their many pre-Code retrospectives.  Unfortunately, '33's White Woman didn't make the cut in 2013's ode to that year at the same venue.  Virtue finally came out on DVD recently, but White Woman remains m.i.a. on any home media format.  With megalomaniacal Charles Laughton once again controlling a jungle empire, it would pair pretty well with the previous year's Island of Lost Souls.

Orion's Got Gang Fever in '79

Rubber Duck and Carrol Jo

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Any Kennedy.": R.I.P. Alan Sharp

Alan Sharp, the Scottish screenwriter and novelist who passed away on February 8, had one of the more impressive runs of anyone working in Hollywood in the '70s, with The Last Run, The Hired Hand, Ulzana's Raid, and Night Moves, in particular, registering quite strongly.  I plan to finally watch his Billy Two Hats, written in the midst of this run and directed by Ted Kotcheff, which has been sitting on my shelf forever.  I have yet to see his one directorial effort, Little Treasure, a film that was unfortunately marred by an ugly on-set incident between stars Burt Lancaster and Margot Kidder. 

I was in the midst of reading a newly-acquired copy of Sharp's novelization of Night Moves and spending a few nights falling asleep to the film, when the news of his death was reported yesterday.  Sharp's scripts for the above-mentioned films are some of my favorites of the era, but it's probably Night Moves which I come back to the most, due to its brilliant central performance from Gene Hackman, playing one of his most pained characters, and Sharp's intelligent and poetic (truly) dialogue, virtually all of which has more than one meaning, but which is never too smart for its own good.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Films Within Films: The Hunting Party in The Honkers

Rodeo man Lew Lathrop (James Coburn) passes a marquee advertising The Hunting Party, produced by Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy, and Arnold Laven, in The Honkers, also produced by Gardner, Levy, and Laven (is that a law office or a producing team?)

Honkers director and co-write Steve Ihnat, best known as a '60s character actor in things like Siegel's Madigan where he played the unhinged villain, died tragically in Cannes of a heart attack while promoting one of his films, just days before the theatrical premiere of The Honkers.  As for the film, it is another in a long line of--mostly forgotten--'70s character studies of flawed or bad men who often exist, work, and play in milieus that hold onto increasingly outdated modes of masculinity.  Honkers meanders and repeats itself a little too much for my liking, but concludes in a very satisfyingly (and era-appropriate) downbeat manner.  It has some really good, but not falsely sentimental, scenes between Coburn and onscreen son Ted Eccles, along with a lot of interesting local--Carlsbad, NM--color, the exploits of real-life rodeo king Larry Mahan, the welcome presence of Slim Pickens doing what he usually does, and an extremely young, pre-Scientologist Anne Archer as an oil scion who dresses like an Indian princess and drives a Ferrari.

Both Honkers and The Hunting Party feature prolific '70s character player Mitchell Ryan, familiar mostly from Westerns and disguised Westerns such as Monte Walsh, Electra Glide in Blue, and High Plains Drifter, and other superior fare such as The Friends of Eddie Coyle.  Another of those good faces we often struggle to match with a name.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

More of that Vinyl: French Postcards (1979, Willard Huyck)

A moment from Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's woefully underrated French Postcards, treated miserably on home video with a shabbily "rescored" soundtrack.  Here, we see Joel (Miles Chapin) trying to make a date with Toni (Valerie Quennessen) via rotary telephone from what appears to be a student lounge in the dorm.   

Led Zeppelin III (appropriately with the alternate cover used for the French LP) and the Beach Boys' (sublime) Sunflower are visually represented in the background though not on the actual soundtrack.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Vintage Newspaper Ad: Southern Comfort (1981, Walter Hill)

I dig that Cinema Group logo, seen in the lower left corner of the ad, and reminiscent of the Filmways logo from the same year.

In honor of Mr. Hill's latest theatrical feature, Bullet to the Head, and the recent Blu-ray of Southern Comfort, courtesy of Second Sight.  I had the pleasure of seeing a 35mm print of the film earlier this week accompanied by a post-screening discussion and q & a with the director.

Watching this film for the first time in years the other day, I found myself thinking of my late father and how he would have enjoyed this film, its ambiance, its directness, and the perfectly attuned score by Ry Cooder.  Then I realized that I probably had watched the film, or at least part of it, in the company of Dad, via this laserdisc, which I no longer have, but which got a lot of play in my teen years. 

The screening also reminded me how much I like Powers Boothe in this film and pretty much whenever I see him on film or television.  Considering his talents and screen presence, the man did not get enough feature film (sole) lead opportunities in his prime, aside from Boorman's The Emerald Forest, a film I have strong memories of seeing tv spots and prints ads for, but which I never actually watched.  This rekindled admiration for the actor brought me back to my dad, as I suddenly had a memory of him saying something like, "I like that Powers Boothe.  Good actor."  Which brought to me to an even earlier memory (circa 1983) of watching Boothe as Philip Marlowe, with my dad, on the (first) HBO original drama Philip Marlowe, Private EyeAs I've written here before, anyone who's lost a loved one probably has one or two things they'd like to do with, or say to, that person more than anything else.  The cinephile in me just wants to sit down and watch a "Dad movie"--Southern Comfort will do--with Dad.