Archive for the Obituaries and Appreciations Category

Farewell to RICHARD MATHESON

Posted in 2013, 60s Movies, 70s Horror, Appreciations, Based on a Classic Novel, LL Soares Reviews, Movie History, Obituaries and Appreciations, Richard Matheson Movies, Steven Spielberg, TV Miniseries, TV-Movies, Vincent Price with tags , , , on June 30, 2013 by knifefighter

richard-mathesonWriter RICHARD MATHESON died this week. I can’t imagine anyone who’s a fan of  horror or science fiction who hasn’t been touched in some way by Matheson, even if they didn’t know it was him. From writing classic episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (he wrote 16 episodes between 1959 and 1964, including such standouts as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel“), to scripts for tons of movies including the classic original TV-movies THE NIGHT STALKER and TRILOGY OF TERROR, and many of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe movies of the 1960s, to writing classic novels like I AM LEGEND, THE SHRINKING MAN, HELL HOUSE, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, STIR OF ECHOES and many more, several of which were adapted into movies, Matheson seemed to be everywhere when I was growing up in the 70s, and I for one was pretty thankful that he was so prolific. Every new Matheson project, whether it was a book or a movie or a TV episode, was a reason to celebrate.

Hearing earlier this week that he had passed away on June 23rd at the age of 87, was awful news. But he has left us with so much to remember him by.

Just some of the movies that he either wrote the screenplays for, or which were based on his fiction, include:

  • THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957) – he wrote the screenplay based on his novel, “The Shrinking Man”
  • THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) – the first of many Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that Matheson would write for director Roger Corman, this one, like many of them, starred the great Vincent Price.
  • MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961) – based on the novel by Jules Verne, also starring Vincent Price.
  • THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)
  • BURN, WITCH, BURN (also known as NIGHT OF THE EAGLE) (1962) – Matheson’s screenplay was an adaptation of the novel “Conjure Wife,” by Fritz Leiber.
  • THE RAVEN (1963)
  • THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)
  • THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) – the first movie version of his classic novel, “I am Legend.” He also wrote the screenplay, using the name “Logan Swanson.” This one also starred Vincent Price.
  • THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) Based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley
  • THE OMEGA MAN (1971) – the second adaptation of Matheson’s “I am Legend,” this time with the vampires swapped out for mutants, and starring Charlton Heston.
  • DUEL (1971) – Matheson wrote the screenplay, based on his story. This was the first feature film by Steven Spielberg.
  • THE NIGHT STALKER (1971) – the TV-movie that introduced the world to reporter Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin.
  • THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973) – TV-movie sequel to THE NIGHT STALKER.
  • THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) – feature film based on his novel, “Hell House.”
  • TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) – TV-movie based on three Matheson stories, the most famous segment was the last, “Amelia,” based on Matheson’s story “Prey,” about a “Zuni warrior figurine” that comes to life. All three stories starred Karen Black.
  • THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1980) – TV miniseries based on the classic book by Ray Bradbury
  • SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980) – Matheson wrote the screenplay, based on his novel, “Bid Time Return.”
  • WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998) – based on his novel of the same name
  • STIR OF ECHOES (1999) – based on his novel of the same name
  • I AM LEGEND (2007) – the third film to be based on Matheson’s novel, and arguably the least successful. Starring Will Smith.
  • REAL STEEL (2011) – based (sort of) on his short story of the same name

He leaves a large and wonderful legacy behind.

Farewell, Mr. Matheson.

~LL Soares

Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 - June 23, 2013)

Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013)

FAREWELL TO RAY HARRYHAUSEN

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2013, 60s Movies, Giant Monsters, LL Soares Reviews, Michael Arruda Reviews, Mythology, Obituaries and Appreciations, Special Effects with tags , , , , , on May 14, 2013 by knifefighter

(The following tribute to Ray Harryhausen is appearing both on my blog and here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.—Michael Arruda)

A Tribute to RAY HARRYHAUSEN
By Michael Arruda

Special effects master Ray Harryhausen with some of his creations.

Special effects master Ray Harryhausen with some of his creations.

Ray Harryhausen, the greatest stop-motion animator in the history of motion pictures, passed away on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.  He was 92.

I had the pleasure of meeting Harryhausen at a convention in the late 1990s, and the thing I remember most about the experience—besides the fact that he was a classy guy and that he brought many of his miniature creature models with him—was Harryhausen’s love for telling stories.  It wasn’t just about the special effects with Harryhausen.  It was about the story.  It was important for him that his creatures lived in a world that seemed real yet magical at the same time.  On the movies that Harryhausen worked, much time was spent hammering out background stories, imaginative settings, and exciting conflicts.

Harryhausen’s genius wasn’t only that he was a master of stop-motion animation effects, but that the creatures he created using these effects lived and breathed in stories that were as memorable as the creatures themselves.  Of course, it helped that he was a master animator.  His movie creations are like no others.  He gave them sculpted bodies, facial expressions and incredible movement, bringing them to life long before CGI technology.

To watch a movie with special effects by Ray Harryhausen is to enter another world.

From MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), the first major movie he worked on, under the direction of his teacher and mentor, King Kong creator Willis O’Brien, to CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981), Ray Harryhausen’s movie magic has no equal.  O’Brien may have created the most memorable stop-motion effects ever in KING KONG (1933), but by sheer volume alone, Harryhausen is king.  He dominated the special effects scene from the 1950s through the 1970s, and during these decades, no one else came close to achieving the consistency and quality of stop-motion animation effects.  Simply put, he was the best at it.

Harryhausen working on the model for MIGHT JOE YOUNG (1949)

Harryhausen working on the model for MIGHT JOE YOUNG (1949)

And the argument can be made that in a couple of his films his animation rivals O’Brien’s work in KING KONG, in films like THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) (arguably his best), and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1962).  The sword fight between Jason and his men and the army of skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS  is one of the most exciting and ambitious stop-motion effects sequences ever put on film.

Here’s a partial look at Harryhausen’s movies:

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)—Other than Kong, Joe is the most remarkable giant ape in the movies. The fiery climax, in which Joe rescues children from burning building, is must-see cinema!

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) —rivals GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956) as one of the scariest prehistoric-beasts-on-the-loose movies ever.  Memorable conclusion involving Coney Island roller coaster.  That’s Lee Van Cleef as the marksman at the end taking aim at the monster. 

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) —Ray Harryhausen destroys Washington D.C.!   See his alien spaceships attack the nation’s capital!

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) —Attack of the Ymir!  Yep, that extraordinary monster from Venus is one of my favorite Ray Harryhausen creations. The Ymir was unnamed in the movie, and only picked up the name “Ymir” later from fans.

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) —My pick for the best Ray Harryhausen movie of all time.  It contains his finest special effects, one of his most memorable creations, the Cyclops, it’s briskly directed by Nathan Juran, has a phenomenal villainous performance by Torin Thatcher as Sokurah, the magician, and a rousing music score by Bernard Herrmann.

The Cyclops from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

The Cyclops from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) —That animated crab is the real thing!  Harryhausen used a real crab in the giant crab sequence, animating it like one of his models.

-JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) —My second favorite Ray Harryhausen movie.  The sword fight with the skeletons is spectacular!

FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964) —I’ve always loved this story by HG Wells, and Harryhausen’s effects here don’t disappoint.

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966) —Harryhausen joins the Hammer Films family and animates dinosaurs that chase scantily clad Raquel Welch in this Hammer prehistoric adventure.

THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) —in the subgenre of horror westerns, this film ranks among the best. 

THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) —Harryhausen’s follow-up to THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD is nearly as good and contains some of Harryhausen’s best special effects, including a great sword fight between Sinbad and the goddess Kali.

Sinbad vs Kali. One of the best scenes in 1974's THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD.

Sinbad vs Kali. One of the best scenes in 1974’s THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD.

SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) —Released the same year as STAR WARS (1977) it was criticized for having outdated special effects.  Suddenly, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation was passé. 

CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) —Harryhausen’s last feature, one of my least favorites, yet still features some fine moments, including a very creepy Medusa sequence. 

In my family, we all know who Ray Harryhausen is, but it pains me that Ray Harryhausen is not a household name.  He should be.

For me, there are few moviemakers who have been as influential as Ray Harryhausen.  The movies he’s worked on have been some of the most imaginative innovative creative films I have ever seen.  They are the real deal.  Movies that captivate fascinate and entertain.

To watch a Ray Harryhausen movie is to arouse your imagination.

Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation, maker of movie monsters and fantasy worlds, of movies that will live in imaginations for years to come, thank you for sharing your genius with the world. 

You will be missed.

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

 *****

Ray HarryhausenRAY HARRYHAUSEN: SOME AFTERTHOUGHTS
By L.L. Soares

Harryhausen was one of the best. CGI may have made his style of effects seem outdated and quaint, but it wouldn’t exist without his pioneering stop-motion process. Back when it took incredible amounts of time and effort to create even a few minutes of film, Harryhausen had incredible reserves of patience and talent.

The cool thing about Ray Harryhausen was not that he just did effects, but that most of the movies he worked on REVOLVED AROUND his effects. How often did that happen, where the special effects guy was the dominant figure in movies? And not just flimsy plots to keep the action going, but decent storylines, that made his creations shine.

Michael has touched upon some of the highlights. I’d like to give my personal take on these as well.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) —I remember seeing this one as a kid and being blown away by it. Harryhausen’s dinosaur on the loose was remarkable and effective, especially to a child’s eyes. And this one featured a rare collaboration between the two Rays – Harryhausen and Bradbury – as the movie was based on Bradbury’s story, “The Foghorn.”

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) —This was one of my favorites, involving a gigantic octopus that rose from the ocean depths to cause havoc on the surface world of humans. The way the octopus moved was uncanny, and convincing. A really underrated entry in the 1950s “giant animals” genre.

The giant octopus from IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)

The giant octopus from IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) —Sure, it might look a little dated now, but it also is immediately recognizable as the work of Harryhausen. I still think that ten minutes of this movie is more visually interesting than all of the similarly themed  INDEPENDENCE DAY(1996)

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) – My favorite Harryhausen film. I loved the story that this movie told, as well as the monster at its heart. The Ymir was a vaguely humanoid, prehistoric-looking creature from the planet Venus. In this one, Harryhausen made us care about the monster, and believe in him. The scene where the confused Ymir fights an escape elephant remains a classic.

The "Ymir," one of Harryhausen's best creatures, from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957)

The “Ymir,” one of Harryhausen’s best creatures, from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957)

THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) —I remember seeing stills from this one in issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine, and hoped I’d finally get to see it for real. Back when I was a kid, a lot of these movies showed up on television, but you never knew where or when. It wasn’t like video and Netflix where you just call it up and watch it. It was a crapshoot. I remember watching this movie on a Saturday afternoon on a tiny black and white television, with fuzzy reception, and being astounded by it. The amazing Cyclops became one of my favorite fantasy movie creatures, as well as the two-headed giant bird, the Roc.

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) —Like Michael, this is my second favorite Ray Harryhausen movie, too. It didn’t have the heart of a creature like the Ymir, but it featured some of Ray’s most iconic effects. The sword fight with the skeletons might just be Harryhausen’s most memorable scene ever. I bet this one influenced a whole generation who would grow up to give us the computer effects that replaced it. But this movie had to come first.

The unforgettable battle with the skeletons from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

The unforgettable battle with the skeletons from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966) —Sure it makes no sense historically; dinosaurs and cavemen never existed at the same time—but this one is a classic, and was a pretty big hit at the time. The cool-looking dinosaurs almost diverted my attention away from the curves of star Raquel Welch. Almost.

THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) – Long before COWBOYS AND ALIENS (2011), there was this classic “Cowboys and Dinosaurs” film. Cowboys lassoing a Tyrannosaurus Rex never looked so good.

THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) —I think I liked the story of this one even more than THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Not only did it feature such amazing creatures as the flying homunculus and the living ship’s figurehead, as well as the amazing Centaur and the Griffin (their fight is legendary), but it also starred such genre legends as the beautiful Caroline Munro and, arguably the best Dr. Who ever, Tom Baker, as the villain. The sword fight between multi-armed Kali and Sinbad is my favorite scene though, and is almost as iconic as the skeleton sword fight in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) —Starring John Wayne’s son Patrick as Sinbad and another former Dr. Who, Patrick Troughton. It also features such Harryhausen creatures as the Troglodyte (a giant, fur-covered caveman with a horn on his head), a sabre-toothed tiger and a giant walrus. The Troglodyte model Harryhausen used for this one was used again (with slight changes) as Calibos in Harryhausen’s last feature, CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981).

Harryhausen was one of a kind. And as Michael said, he will definitely be missed by fans of science fiction and fantasy cinema.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

GOOD-BYE TO ROGER EBERT!

Posted in 2013, Appreciations, LL Soares Reviews, News, Obituaries and Appreciations, Special Columns with tags on April 5, 2013 by knifefighter

GOODBYE ROGER EBERT!
An Appreciation by L.L. Soares

Roger Ebert as many of us remember him during his heydey as a popular television movie critic.

Roger Ebert as many of us remember him during his heydey as a popular television movie critic.

Roger Ebert died today in Chicago, following a long battle with cancer.  He was 70.

Ebert wasn’t just another movie critic. For his generation, he might just have been the gold standard that other critics were compared to. Most people, like me, first became aware of him around 1978, when PBS began syndicating the show he had with Gene Siskel. It was first called “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You” when it debuted in Chicago in 1974, then got its name changed to “Sneak Previews” when PBS started showing it nationally. In 1982, Tribune Entertainment began syndicating it, with a new title, “Movie Views.” And in 1986, it was syndicated by Buena Vista Television as “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.” Doing research for this article, I had no idea the show had so many names. I thought it was always called “At the Movies,” but I was wrong. The show popularized the “thumbs up/thumbs down” rating system for movie reviews, which the duo trademarked.

Ebert was the house movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1975, he was the first film critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize. His partner on TV, Gene Siskel, wrote for the Chicago Tribune, and they were competitors and sort of enemies. The idea to pair them together on a movie review show was an inspired one. People didn’t think it would work, but they stuck together until 1999, when Siskel died of a brain tumor. It was said that off-screen, over the years, the two of them became very close friends, almost like brothers.

Roger Ebert continued to review movies on TV, going through a period where he had many guest co-hosts, to see who had the most chemistry with him. This rotating co-host system lasted awhile, but eventually, Richard Roeper, another critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, became Ebert’s permanent co-host in September 2000.

A high point of his career was an unusual one for a critic. Ebert wrote the screenplay for the 1970 cult movie BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, directed by grindhouse legend Russ Meyer. Unusual because it was not a high-brow movie, but a crazed smorgasbord of sex and violence, BEYOND is revered by fans of bizarre cinema. Supposedly, Meyer and Ebert were going to collaborate on another film, with the punk band the Sex Pistols, but it fell apart before filming began. The proposed title was “Who Killed Bambi?”

The Russ Meyer film BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS has gone on to become a cult classic. Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay.

The Russ Meyer film BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS has gone on to become a cult classic. Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay.

Ebert wrote lots of books about movies, and started the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival, which has been held annually in Champaign, Illinois, since 1999.

Ebert’s long struggle with cancer in recent years included operations on his thyroid, salivary glands and chin. He lost the ability to eat, drink or speak. Recent appearances on television revealed a startling new appearance, due to the removal of much of his lower jaw, and he had taken to communicate using a computerized voice system. Despite these setbacks, he was still intent on returning to television with a new movie criticism show.

When he lost the ability to speak, Ebert also became an avid blogger, continuing to see and review movies regularly (and talk about more personal topics) at his blog .

For many of us, Ebert was someone we watched every week on TV for decades, fueling our own love of movies, and the Siskel and Ebert show was one of the inspirations for the original Cinema Knife Fight column by myself and Michael Arruda.

We here at Cinema Knife Fight will remember Ebert fondly.

Despite several health setbacks in recent years, Roger Ebert continued to see and review movies regularly for his blog. He will be missed by movie lovers everywhere.

Despite several health setbacks in recent years, Roger Ebert continued to see and review movies regularly for his blog. He will be missed by movie lovers everywhere.

The Cinematic RAY BRADBURY (An Appreciation)

Posted in 2012, 60s Movies, Anthology Films, Classic Films, LL Soares Reviews, Mars, Obituaries and Appreciations, Ray Bradbury with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2012 by knifefighter

RAY BRADBURY: AN APPRECIATION
By L.L. Soares

Yesterday’s death of Ray Bradbury was a loss to the world of literature, but it was also a loss to the worlds of movies and television. There were lots of adaptations of his works for screens both big and small, and here are just a few of the highlights:

LIGHTS OUT episode “Zero Hour” (1951) The first of Ray’s stories to be adapted for television.

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) – based on Ray’s story “The Foghorn,” features a giant reptilian creature that emerges from the sea. Created (and given animated life) through the work of stop-motion effects master, Ray Harryhausen. This same year, the movie IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was also released, based on another of Ray’s story.

MOBY DICK (1956) Director John Huston hired Ray to co-write the script for his adaptation of the Herman Melville classic.  Filmed in Ireland, Ray had a lot of stories about his clash of personalities with the larger-than-life director. The film starred Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab and Richard Basehart (later in the TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) as Ishmael.

THE KING OF KINGS (1961) – Ray provided the (uncredited) narration for this epic about the life of Christ, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Jeffrey Hunter.

TWILIGHT ZONE episode “I Sing The Body Electric” (1962) – another classic Bradbury story adapted for a classic TV series.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1956 – 1962) Ray wrote several teleplays for this series, including the episodes “Design for Living” and “The Faith of Aaron Menefee”. There was also a later hour-long version of the show called THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR (1964), which adapted “The Jar,” one of my favorites of Ray’s stories.

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966) – Arguably the most famous film (and one of the best) to be based on one of Ray’s books, this one is a classic directed by Francois Truffaut, and starring Oksar Werner and Julie Christie, in a tale of a future where a fireman’s job also includes the burning of books.

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1969) –Movie based on three stories (and the wraparound story) from Ray’s short story collection of the same name. The adaptations include Ray’s stories “The Veldt, “The Long Rain” and “The Last Night of the World.” Starring Rod Steiger as the heavily tattooed title character. Directed by Jack Smight.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) – Well-regarded movie version of Ray’s novel, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Jason Robards  and Jonathan Pryce. Ray wrote the screenplay for this one, and it was produced by Walt Disney Studios. There was also a 1972 film based on the same book.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1980) – a television miniseries based on one of Ray’s most famous and acclaimed books. Directed by Michael Anderson and written by Ray and the great Richard Matheson. It was aired in three installments. The cast included Darren McGavin, Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowell and TV’s SPIDER-MAN, Nicholas Hammond.

THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER (1985 – 1992) – Considering how many stories Ray wrote over the years, it’s not surprising that there was a television show devoted completely to his work.  Ray wrote most of the screenplays for this Canadian-produced series and even appeared in a few episodes.  Many episodes were filmed in Auckland, New Zealand.

THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT (1998) – Director Stuart Gordon adapted Ray’s story about a magical white suit. Starring Joe Mantegna. Ray wrote the original story and the teleplay.

A SOUND OF THUNDER (2005) One of the last films to be based on Ray’s work during his lifetime, this one was directed by Peter Hyams and involved a time-traveling hunter who goes back to prehistoric times to hunt the ultimate prey, and who disturbs the time continuum in the process.

RAY BRADBURY’S KALEIDOSCOPE (2012) – recently completed short film based on Ray’s short story.

 

FAREWELL TO DIRECTOR KEN RUSSELL

Posted in 2011, Art Movies, Classic Films, Highly Stylized Films, LL Soares Reviews, Obituaries and Appreciations with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by knifefighter

FAREWELL TO KEN RUSSELL
An Appreciation by L.L. Soares

British director Ken Russell died yesterday (Sunday, November 27, 2011) With a long and often controversial career, Russell was definitely a one-of-a-kind talent. He began making TV movies for the BBC and then moved to features. Just some of his great films include:

WOMEN IN LOVE (1969). His adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s novel got Glenda Jackson an Oscar and featured a controversial nude wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates!

THE DEVILS (1971). His most controversial film, involving a convent full of demon-possessed nuns (or is it a case of sexual hysteria?)

TOMMY (1975). Perhaps his best-known film, TOMMY is the film version of The Who’s rock opera, in all its over-the-top glory.

ALTERED STATES (1980). William Hurt locks himself away in a sensory-deprivation tank and gets in touch with his inner ape-man and his future energy monster in this cult classic, with a script by the great Paddy Chayefsky.

CRIMES OF PASSION (1984). Another underrated cult classic, this time with Kathleen Turner as a hooker and Anthony Perkins as the psychotic gentleman obsessed with her.

GOTHIC (1986). Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and friends sit around telling ghost stories (which will lead to Mary writing her novel, “Frankenstein”) in this stylized historical drama.

LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988). Amanda Donohoe as a vampire in this adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker. With Hugh Grant. Look for the game of Snakes and Ladders!

THE RAINBOW (1989). Another D.H. Lawrence adaptation, this time with young schoolteacher Sammi Davis and her sexual awakening.

WHORE (1991). Russell’s answer to Gary Marshall’s hooker fantasy, PRETTY WOMAN (1990), stars Theresa Russell and aims to show us what being a prostitute is really like.

Russell also did tons of biopics about classical composers and artists including: THE MUSIC LOVERS (1970) with Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky; MAHLER (1970) with Robert Powell as Gustav Mahler, LISZTOMANIA (1975) with The Who’s Roger Daltrey as Franz Liszt; and SAVAGE MESSIAH (1972) with Scott Antony as French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Ken Russell followed his own personal vision in everything he did, and he was definitely the kind of director you would either love or hate. Some of us here at Cinema Knife Fight thought he was pretty damn great.

He will be missed.

In Memorium: DAVID HESS (1942 – 2011)

Posted in 2011, Obituaries and Appreciations, Special Columns with tags , , , on October 9, 2011 by knifefighter

Actor DAVID HESS  has died at age 69. Despite a long career as an actor and musician (he wrote several soundtracks for low-budget films), Hess will always be best known as the villainous Krug, leader of the psychos who made the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT so intense.

Born in 1942, Hess originally started out as a songwriter, and even wrote the song “All Shook Up,” that Elvis Presley made famous. Another of his songs, “Speedy Gonzales” was covered by Pat Boone and became a Number One hit. He briefly had a pop music career under the name of David Hill. His soundtrack work included music for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and CABIN FEVER (2002).

Just some of his films include:

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK  (1980)

JACQUELINE SUSANN’S VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (TV Movie) (1981)

SWAMP THING (1982)

NUTCRACKER (2001)

ZOMBIE NATION (2004)

ZODIAC KILLER (2005)

He appeared on lots of TV shows over the years, including: BARETTA (1977), KNIGHT RIDER (1983), THE FALL GUY (1985), THE A-TEAM (1986), and most recently, the USA Network series ROYAL PAINS (2010).

He also directed the homicidal Santa Claus horror movie TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT in 1980, and the documentary short film “Steel Drums, No Guns” about teenagers in Trinidad  in a steel drum competition.

David Hess was a man of many talents and he had several films in production at the time of his death. We can only hope that a few of them were completed at the time of his death.

We’ll miss you, David!

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

 

GOOD-BYE TO ROBERTS BLOSSOM (And a Whole Lot More!)

Posted in 2011, Crime Films, Cult Movies, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Obituaries and Appreciations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by knifefighter

Roberts Blossom was the star of the 1974 classic, DERANGED, based on the life of serial killer Ed Gein.

Considering I had just reviewed his most famous role, as Ezra Cobb in the low-budget horror classic DERANGED (1974), a few weeks ago, it’s particularly sad to report that actor ROBERTS BLOSSOM has died at the age of 87. Mr. Blossom also had roles in such films as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979) and the Stephen King adaptation CHRISTINE (1983). He also played the elderly neighbor in HOME ALONE (1990). But for me, he’ll always be Ezra Cobb.

Anna Massey in Alfred Hitchock's FRENZY (1972)

ANNA MASSEY also died earlier this month at the age of 73. She was best known as Helen in the 1960 horror classic by Michael Powell, PEEPING TOM. She was also quite memorable in Alfred Hitchock’s criminally underrated serial killer flick, FRENZY (1972). Other memorable films include BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) and EC Comics adaptation, THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973), but she acted right up until her death.

Since our last Obituary column (ELIZABETH TAYLOR back in March), several other talented people have died who you might know. Here’s a brief rundown.

APRIL 2011

FARLEY GRANGER played tennis player Guy Haines in Alfred Hitchock’s classic STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951). He was also one of the stars of Hitchock’s ROPE (1948). He died at the age of 85/ He was also in THE GIRL ON THE RED VELVET SWING (1955) and in the 80s and 90s he was a regular on the soap opera AS THE WORLD TURNS.

SIDNEY LUMET was the great director of such films as 12 ANGRY MEN (1957) FAIL-SAFE (1964) (the serious adaptation of the book that Stanley Kubrick turned into  DR. STRANGELOVE), SERPICO (1973), DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975), and perhaps his greatest film, NETWORK (1976). He died at the age of 86. His last films were the mob trial drama FIND ME GUILTY (2006) starring Vin Diesel and 2007’s BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney.

Elizabeth Sladen was companion Sarah Jane Smith to Tom Baker's Doctor in DOCTOR WHO

ELIZABETH SLADEN died of cancer at age 63 on April 21st. She acted in lots of British TV comedies and dramas, but she will be most remembered as the “companion” Sarah Jane Smith on the British sci-fi series DR. WHO, a role she originated in 1973 and went on to reprise several times, including in the series THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (2007 – 2011).

MAY 2011

Yvette Vickers

YVETTE VICKERS was one of the stars of the low-budget cult classic ATTACK OF THE 5O FOOT WOMAN (1957), a movie that continues to be discovered by audiences of bad  films. Ms. Vickers died at age 82, but her body was not discovered until a year later, in May. She was also in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES  (1959),  the Paul Newman film HUD (1963) and Curtis Harrington’s WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971),  a riff on Robert Aldrich’s WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, starring Shelley Winters and Debbie Reynolds (!). Ms. Vickers was also a pin-up in PLAYBOY at the height of her career.

William Campbell

WILLIAM CAMPBELL died at age 87. He was the Klingon captain Koloth, in one of the most famous episodes of the original STAR TREK, “The Trouble with Tribbles” (1967). He was also well-known for his resemblance to the flamboyant pianist Liberace. His genre films include Francis Ford Coppola’s early film, DEMENTIA 13 (1963), Robert Aldrich’s HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964) and Jack Hill’s BLOOD BATH (1966).

Leonard Kastle beside a poster for a his great film, THE HONEYMOON KILLERS

LEONARD KASTLE directed and wrote the low-budget crime thriller THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969), starring Tony LoBianco and Shirley Stoler as unlikely lovers who kill lonely women for their money. Despite the fact that this film is considered a classic, it was Kastle’s only directing (and writing) credit. He was 82. He should have made a lot more movies!

JUNE 2011

Gene Colan, comic book artist extraordinaire

GENE “THE DEAN” COLAN was one of the best (and most distinctive) artists in the history of comic books. His career included a famous run as the artist for Marvel’s DAREDEVIL in the late 1960s to early 70s (working with writers from Stan Lee to Steve Gerber). He also drew the classic series TOMB OF DRACULA for its complete run,  working with writer Marv Wolfman. TOMB was critically acclaimed and some consider it his best work. It was also the comic that first introduced the world to the vampire hunter, Blade (whom Wolfman and Colan c0-created). Colan also drew a lot of issues of Steve Gerber’s classic satire, HOWARD THE DUCK. Mr. Colan died at the age of 84. I for one was a fan and used collect comics specifically for his terrific artwork.

Peter Falk played his iconic character COLUMBO from 1968 to 2003.

PETER FALK was best known for playing the television detective, COLUMBO, who, despite his disheveled appearance (including a trademark trench coat) was a genius at solving crimes. Falk first played Lt. Columbo in 1968 in the TV-movie PRESCRIPTION: MURDER. The character proved to have incredible longevity and Falk played him throughout the 70s in a COLUMBO series, and then, when the series ended, continued to play him in over  two dozen Columbo TV-movies. The last one, COLUMBO LIKES THE NIGHTLIFE, aired in 2003. He also starred in several movies by John Cassavetes, whom many consider the father of independent film, including HUSBANDS (1970) with Ben Gazarra and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1974) with Gena Rowlands.

Other memorable films Falk appeared in include MURDER INC. (1960), THE IN-LAWS (1979), THE WINGS OF DESIRE and THE PRINCESS BRIDE (both 1987). He was 83.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares