Any Port in a Storm

sailor from Gibraltar (fra) posterAlong with his film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark (1969), Tony Richardson’s The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967) is probably the most obscure and rarely seen film from the director’s middle period, a time when he was floundering and unable to match the earlier critical and commercial success of his 1963 Tom Jones adaptation. There are many reasons for that, of course, and Richardson would probably admit it was one of his biggest disasters, if not the biggest. It also wasn’t intended for the average moviegoer and was much more attuned to art house cinema patrons with its enigmatic story based on the novel Le marin de Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras, whose screenplay for Hiroshima, Mon Amour received an Oscar® nomination in 1961 (even though the film was released in 1959). To date, The Sailor from Gibraltar is still missing in action with no legal DVD or Blu-Ray release available. Continue reading

Double Trouble

Wicked, WickedSometimes a great promotional gimmick is reason enough to make a movie and this certainly proved to be a successful strategy for director William Castle who made box office hits out of low-budget horror thrillers such as Macabre (1958, admission included an insurance policy from Lloyds of London against death by fright), House on Haunted Hill (1959, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton swooped over the audience at a key point in the movie) and The Tingler (1959, selected seats were wired and vibrated when the title creature got loose in a movie theatre). Not all promoters have been as lucky as Castle though and Wicked, Wicked (1973), produced by William T. Orr and writer/director Richard L. Bare, features one of the best movie gimmicks of its era but was poorly distributed and has languished in obscurity for years…until the Warner Archive Collection released it on DVD in November 2014.  Continue reading

Stanley Kubrick’s 1951 Knockout Punch

Day of the Fight 1951If you go back and look at the very first film that Stanley Kubrick made – a twelve-minute short subject entitled Day of the Fight (1951) – it is obvious that the former photographer for Look magazine already had a striking visual aesthetic and strong sense of narrative technique. Together with his friend and collaborator Alexander Singer, an employee at Time Inc., where The March of Time newsreels were produced, Kubrick decided to create a short film in the style of the popular newsreel based on his photo essay for Look, “Prizefighter,” which profiled middleweight boxer Walter Cartier in the January 18th issue of 1949. Kubrick had learned that a typical eight to nine minute segment for The March of Time cost approximately $40,000 to produce and vowed he could do it more effectively for only $1,500 and make an enormous profit on the film sale.   Continue reading

What Triggers an Obsession?

Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez and Geraldine Chaplin in Peppermint Frappe (1967), directed by Carlos Saura

Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez and Geraldine Chaplin in Peppermint Frappe (1967), directed by Carlos Saura

One of Spain’s best known and critically acclaimed filmmakers in his own country, Carlos Saura is less well known in the U.S. where his mentor Luis Bunuel and his predecessor Pedro Almodovar are more famous. Yet, Saura was one of the guiding lights of the Spanish New Wave movement in the early sixties, beginning with his neorealistic social drama The Delinquents (1960). Saura would hit his stride with his two subsequent features, La Caza (1966, aka The Hunt) and Peppermint Frappe (1967), both of which explored the political, social and sexual repression of the Franco regime through the guise of allegory and psychological melodrama, respectively.     Continue reading

Truckin’ With Jean Gabin

Jean Gabin plays a world weary trunk driver in Henri Verneuil's Des gens sans importance (1956, aka People of No Importance).

Jean Gabin plays a world weary trunk driver in Henri Verneuil’s Des gens sans importance (1956, aka People of No Importance).

One of the great stars of French cinema, Jean Gabin was also an unofficial film culture ambassador for his country whose career can be divided into five distinct phases; the first would be a brief stint in silent films and playing secondary roles in the first French “talkies” and the second would be as a ruggedly handsome, melancholy anti-hero and acclaimed actor who reached a career peak in the late thirties with Port of Shadows (1938), La Bete Humaine (1938), and Le Jour se Leve (1939). The third phase, the years between 1939 and 1953, are generally considered a fallow period in which he attempted an unsuccessful bid for Hollywood stardom and experienced equal disappointments in the French film industry.   Continue reading

The Pinku-Yakuza Eiga Combo That is Something Else Entirely

Hitman Sho (Yuichi Minato) fantasizes about killing his rival Ko (Shohei Yamamoto) in Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967, aka Dutch Wife in the Desert)

Hitman Sho (Yuichi Minato) fantasizes about killing his rival Ko (Shohei Yamamoto) in Sex Doll of the Wastelands (1967, aka Dutch Wife in the Desert)

Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands sounds like a make-believe movie title but it actually exists. Made in 1967, this genuine head scratcher that is also known as Dutch Wife in the Desert (Koya no Dacchi waifu) has elements of two popular genres in Japanese cinema – softcore erotic films (Pinku eiga) and gangster dramas (Yakuza eiga) – but is unlikely to please fans of either due to its fragmented narrative structure and emphasis on style at the expense of delivering the expected goods (sex and violence) in a logical linear progression. In other words, it’s chaotic, rude, goofy, pretentious, misogynistic (big surprise), and unafraid to be boring or narcissistic.    Continue reading

A Lost Version of Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith is Discovered

Buster Keaton in the two-reeler The Blacksmith (1922)

Buster Keaton in the two-reeler The Blacksmith (1922)

Often ranked by silent film historians as one of Buster Keaton’s lesser efforts when compared to his other two-reel shorts such as One Week (1920) or Cops (1922), The Blacksmith (1922) is now enjoying a major critical reassessment because of a remarkable turn of events. Film collector Fernando Peña who, in 2008, uncovered the original, uncut version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Argentina, discovered a remarkably different version of The Blacksmith that same year through fellow collector Fabio Manes who purchased a 9.5mm print of it online. Released by the Pathé company in France in 1922 with French intertitles, this previously undiscovered version includes missing material totaling more than four minutes of sight gags, settings, and characters not featured in what was considered the original American version of The Blacksmith.     Continue reading