Screenwriter Ivan Goff is dead at 89. He had Alzheimer's
Disease. With his longtime writing partner, Ben Roberts,
Goff penned 25 films including the Cagney classic, "White
Heat," ("Top of the world, Ma!"), "Captain Horatio Hornblower,"
"Band of Angels" and others. He may be best known to genre-film
fans for co-scripting, with Roberts and R. Wright Campbell,
the Lon Chaney biopic "Man of a Thousand Faces," which starred
Cagney as the legendary silent-film actor. The script was
nominated for an Academy Award. Goff and Roberts later produced
the "Mannix" TV series and co-created "Charlie's Angels."
Screenwriter/director Abraham Polonsky is dead at 88. Polonsky's
screenplays included two of John Garfield's best-known films,
"Body and Soul" and the film noir classic "Force of Evil"
which he also directed. Polonsky was an avowed communist
sympathizer and was blacklisted in the 1950s because of
his politics. Using the pen name John O. Killens, he wrote
"Odds Against Tomorrow" in 1959 before leaving film work
for 10 years. He returned to screenwriting under his own
name in the late 1960s, writing and directing "Tell Them
Willie Boy Is Here," and scripting "Madigan" and "Avalanche
Express," among others.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: The credits of one of my all-time favorite hot-rod
flicks, Dick Contino's "Daddy-O," lists a John Williams
as musical director. Is it THE John Williams?
A: Yep! Long before "Star Wars," "Close Encounters," "Raiders
of the Lost Ark" and the mantel full of Oscars that came
with them (not to mention his auspicious leadership of the
Boston Pops Orchestra), Williams wrote tunes such as "Rock
Candy Baby," "Angel Act" and "Wait'll I Get You Home" for
Contino to croon.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
SPACED OUT OF IDEAS
Fear-stricken Hollywood big shots are scraping the bottom
of another barrel. Terrified of possible commercial failure
(ergo, new ideas), they resort to remakes and hope to play
upon our nostalgic impulses. It won't wash this time. That
cute Drew Barrymore, soon to be one of the new "Charlie's
Angels" (yet another barrel scraped), is slated to star
in a big-budget remake of "Barbarella." To whom is this
supposed to appeal?
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TOO MUCH INFORMATION
Gloria Stuart, star of the classic films "The Invisible
Man" and "The Old Dark House" (not to mention the movie
about the big boat and the chunk of ice) has recently released
her memoirs entitled "I Just Kept Hoping" (which the New
York Post was quick to rechristen "I Just Kept Humping").
An advocate of free love, Stuart recounts her many sexual
encounters, and ruminates on her passion for -- um -- self-gratification.
MANUAL LABOR OF LOVE
National Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin introduced
a special screening of the Robert Forey-directed shocker
"The Beast With Five Fingers" at The American Film Institute.
Slatkin's uncle doubled for the detached, piano-playing
digits in the 1946 film, while his mother performed as part
of the studio orchestra. When announcing the event in typically
condescending fashion, The Washington Post referred to Peter
Lorre's performance in the classic film as "campy" and "googly-eyed."
AND YOU THINK WE'RE TOUGH?
We've often hammered home the point that modern sci fi is
stale, cliched and derivative, but get a load of what The
Washington Post's Tom Shales has to say about the WB's new
teen sci fi series, "Roswell": "It's not just a bad show,
it's a destroyer of brain cells. It's pernicious, it's atrocious.
It's not even smart enough to be called mindless. It's a
seething, gurgling, boiling-hot cauldron of noxious, molten
pus! No, wait -- that makes it sound too entertaining."
SINBAD SAILS AGAIN
Ray Harryhausen's Dynamation spectacle, "The 7th Voyage
of Sinbad," will be released on DVD on November 30. For
any fan unfamiliar with Harryhausen's work (there may be
three left on the planet), this is a terrific way to acquaint
yourself. The fun-filled flick would be enough, but get
a load of the goodies that come with the DVD version: "The
Ray Harryhausen Chronicles" documentary, interviews concerning
"Voyage" and "Jason and the Argonauts," the "This Is Dynamation"
featurette, the original theatrical poster and trailers
touting Harryhausen's best-known films, including "Earth
Vs. the Flying Saucers," "20 million Miles to Earth" and
"It Came From Beneath the Sea."
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TRULY BAD IDEAS
Two legends of screen comedy have surely commenced rolling
in their graves with the release of "The All-New Adventures
of Laurel and Hardy: For Love or Mummy." The "film" stars
Bronson ("Perfect Strangers") Pinchot and Gabriel ("Hee
Haw") Sartain as Stan and Ollie respectively. This is not
a joke. Next up: "African Queen 2: The Further Adventures
of Charlie Allnut" featuring Gary (Radar) Burghoff as Humphrey
Bogart. (Okay, that was a joke, but no so far-fetched in
MOVIE MUSIC MASTERS
Six of Hollywood's finest composers, Max Steiner ("King
Kong," "Gone With The Wind"), Erich Wolfgang Korngold ("The
Adventures of Robin Hood"), Alfred Newman ("All About Eve"),
Franz Waxman ("Bride of Frankenstein," "Rear Window"), Bernard
Herrmann ("Citizen Kane," "The Day the Earth Stood Still")
and Dimitri Tiomkin ("The Thing From Another World," "High
Noon"), are now honored with postage stamps bearing their
likeness. The unveiling took place in a special ceremony
at the Hollywood Bowl hosted by film historian Leonard Maltin.
ANY SIMILARITIES ARE PURE B.S.
A New York lawyer, who also happens to be a practicing witch,
has pressed to have Artisan Entertainment attach a disclaimer
to their smash hit "The Blair Witch Project," claiming the
film misrepresents witches in general as killers of children.
"[It] both exploits and reinforces negative stereotypes
about witches: that they are evil murderers of children
and adults,'' says Phyllis Curoff. Artisan risked the witches
wrath and released the film on video, sans disclaimer.
FLOATING TO A CITY NEAR YOU
AMC's Halloween MonsterFest campaign is heralded by a gigantic
hot-air balloon shaped like Paul Blaisdell's classic "She-Creature,"
Cuddles. According to the publicity, "The She-Creature can
be seen prowling the skies all over the U.S.A during the
MonsterFest balloon tour! The magnificent She-Creature will
touch ground for Local Community Events in every town she
visits. Don't miss your chance to meet Cuddles in the goose-flesh!"
Let's be clear: We love the "She-Creature," surely the most
memorably looney of all Blaisdell's creations. But why,
of all monsters, would AMC choose Cuddles as a mascot? Anyhoo,
our hat's off to 'em (and that's not just hot air).
ENTER THE MILLENNIUM WITH ALTAIRA
"Forbidden Planet" fans
can start the next millennium in style with the new "Anne
Francis Year 2000" limited-edition calendar. On the all-color
cover, the "Forbidden" star is seen in several scenes from
the MGM space classic, on "FP" poster art and in a more
recent shot, being reunited with co-star Robby the Robot;
the b&w interior features 12 vintage publicity shots
of the cult actress (each appropriate for that month) and
a dozen of her poems. A portion of the proceeds will go
to charity. $30 (money orders) to PO Box 3282, Palm Desert,
CA 92260, or check out Anne's website: http://www.annefrancis.net
CAN THE CORN
Taking up space in a video store near you is a little film
called "Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return." Because
I'm not a "Children of the Corn" completist, I have to ask:
Is the numeric title a Satanic reference or the actual number
of films in the series? If you're interested, this one stars
Nancy Allen and Stacy Keach. I'll admit I've not yet seen
the film as I'm waiting for the "Children of the Corn" DVD
box set containing all 666 "Children of the Corn" films.
Fox TV has yanked producer Chris ("X-Files") Carter's Harsh
Realm series. In fact, they've scrapped their entire Friday
night lineup after it produced the network's lowest ratings
ever for original Friday night programming. "Harsh Realm,"
based on the comic book by James Hudnall and Andrew Paquette
(who had to fight to get screen credit), saw its numbers
plummet from 7.5 million viewers one week to 3.7 million
the next. Are fans finally tiring of the paranoia-fueled,
dark and dreary bit?
MOTION TO ADJOURN?
As "The Blair Witch Project" makes its way into video release
in time for Halloween, it remains to be seen whether the
film's phenomenal success will inspire a spate of hand-held,
herky-jerky, cinema verite horror flicks. If you've put
off viewing the film for fear of the much-publicized motion
sickness it reportedly inspires (which, we're told, is strictly
a large-screen phenomenon), now you can watch in the comfort
of your own home with a bucket nearby.
REVIEWS UNLUCKY NUMBER
"The Thirteenth Floor," a convoluted,
unnecessarily dark thriller that whisked in and out of theaters
some months back, makes its way into video release this
month. Built around star Craig Bierko (who?), it has something
to do with time travel (via some sort of virtual-reality
contrivance) and identity-swapping, and manages to be confusing
and predictable simultaneously. What's more, it wastes a
performance by one of today's most dependable character
actors, Vincent D'Onofrio. There's a reason elevators don't
list this floor. Skip it.
Promising the "untold story," ABC's flashy, trashy "20/20
Downtown" revealed absolutely nothing that fans didn't already
know about the death of George "Superman" Reeves. Following
a segment about India's eunuchs, the piece played like one
of "The Daily Show's" parodies of such journalism, complete
with grainy "re-enactments," "pop-up" factoids ("George
Reeves and Christopher Reeve are not related." Really? Maybe
the different last names were a giveaway) and reporter Bill
Ritter practically insisting that one talking head use the
word whore to describe a key player, even as it was painfully
obvious she was trying to avoid the term. In short, the
kinds of stories we've laughed at in the National Enquirer
for years are now what pass for TV news.
The upshot of the segment (cribbed from the books "Speeding
Bullet" and "Hollywood Kryptonite")? Some think Reeves committed
suicide, some don't. Viewers were afforded the chance to
chat online with Noel Neill and Jack Larson (TV's Lois Lane
and Jimmy Olsen, respectively) following the program.
50 FEET OF OLD-FASHIONED FUN
AMC officially launched its Monsterfest '99 campaign with
the original, hour-long documentary clumsily titled "Attack
of the 50 Foot Monstermania." As narrated by "Lost in Space's"
Bill Mumy, the program managed to do a decent job of encapsulating
the history of the giant monster sub-genre, with many original
trailers employed to good advantage ("Imagine a rooster
six feet tall!"). The usual talking heads were rolled out
for commentary, and it was especially good to see and hear
from Ray Harryhausen and Bob Burns, who were actually around
when the films were being made. Burns wistfully summed up
the charm of the cheaper flicks that came under scrutiny:
"There's something about a guy in a monster suit ..."
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Bob Madison, whose books are available through Midnight
Marquee Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"She had to kill the thing her husband had become!" -- The