Lip-Syncing to a Different Tune

In the wake of Heaven’s Gate (1980), the $38 million dollar epic by director Michael Cimino that become one of the most expensive box office disasters in movie history, every studio in Hollywood began to carefully monitor their production costs. This was especially true at MGM, which had recently acquired United Artists, the producer and distributor of Heaven’s Gate. You would think in this financially conservative new climate, created by near-bankruptcy conditions, MGM would have steered clear of producing a risky commercial venture like Pennies From Heaven (1981), based on the critically acclaimed six-part British TV mini-series by Dennis Potter. Yet, despite the odds, the studio took a chance on this dark and disturbing tale of a traveling sheet music salesman who escapes the daily drudgeries of his job and miserable married life through fantastic daydreams set to popular songs.

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Comic Strip Addiction

If you went by title alone, Alain Jessua’s Jeu de Massacre (released as The Killing Game in the U.S. and as Comic Book Hero in other territories) suggests it might be a murder mystery or a James Bond-like spy thriller which was still in vogue at the time of the film’s release in 1967. Instead, the film is a witty black comedy about the addictive power of pulp fiction – in this case, a superhero comic book – to ignite dangerous fantasies in readers whose grasp on reality is fragile.   Continue reading