Joshua Logan’s Fanny in Cinemascope and Stereophonic Sound

Joshua Logan, director of the Broadway stage musical and the 1961 film version of Fanny, based on the famous Marcel Pagnol trilogy.

The Way It Was Meant To Be Seen! This was allegedly Logan’s proposed marketing tag line for his 1961 film adaptation of Marcel Pagnol’s famous trilogy which included Marius, Fanny and César. More grounded in urban myth than reality, this silly anecdote does call into question how audiences responded to movie marquees displaying the title Fanny. The expensive Warner Bros. production turned out to be a boxoffice hit but it might have sold even more tickets if Logan had called it Leslie Caron’s Fanny. At least in France there was nothing funny about the name. It was in their cultural DNA and was a name with a beloved literary pedigree that went all the way back to 1929 when Pagnol first premiered his play Marius which introduced his colorful cast of characters from the Marseilles waterfront.  Continue reading

Elio Petri’s Portrait of the Artist as Mental Patient

Italian director Elio Petri is probably best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), which won the Oscar for Best Screenplay (by Petri and Ugo Pirro) in 1972. Yet, most of his other work, with the possible exception of the cult sci-fi satire The 10th Victim (1965), remains overlooked or forgotten when film historians write about the great Italian directors of the sixties and seventies. And 1968’s A Quiet Place in the Country (Un Tranquillo Posto di Campagna) is easily one of his most intriguing and visually compelling films.

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Defiantly Abnormal

(from left to right) Paul L. Smith, David Carradine, unidentified child actor, Brad Dourif) in Sonny Boy

(from left to right) Paul L. Smith, David Carradine, unidentified child actor, Brad Dourif) in Sonny Boy

Occasionally a movie comes along that is so unclassifiable and non-mainstream that you have to wonder who the filmmakers were targeting as their intended audience. Sonny Boy (1989), directed by the virtually unknown Robert Martin Carroll, is a remarkable example of this quandary. Is it an exploitation movie with art-film aspirations? The casting alone – David Carradine, Brad Dourif, Paul L. Smith, Sydney Lassick and Conrad Janis – has built-in cult appeal but the highly eccentric storyline and grotesque characters are completely polarizing. Either you’ll tune out immediately or watch in fascination and disbelief. It is hard to imagine an indifferent viewer.   Continue reading