For Your Easter Viewing: Ben Hur (1907)

Just a quick post for today. this unauthorized 1907 adaptation of Lew Wallace’s famous novel Ben Hur is notable not only for being the first filmed version of the story, but also because it led to the studio being sued for copyright infringement by the author’s estate. The suit ultimately reached the Supreme court which ruled in favor of the estate and this ruling set the precedent that motion picture production companies must first secure the film rights of any previously published work which was still under copyright before they could commission a screenplay based on that work.

The film was directed by Sidney Alcott and stars Herman Rottger as Ben Hur and William S. Hart as Messala.

Saturday Double Feature: Spring Breakers (2013) and…

So here we are: Saturday again and time for another Double Feature. Once again the basic idea is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before for a Saturday Double Feature. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

Harmony Korine‘s newest flick, Spring Breakers opened wide this past week, so I figured it was ripe for pairing with a past flick, and actually, the choice turned out to be pretty easy. Ok, first off, let’s take a look at the trailer for the new movie:

So, what to pair that up with? Actually, when I sat down to think about it, the choice was pretty easy. Yep, it’s “the film that started it all”, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, and featuring music by Dick Dale, it has to be 1963’s Beach Party:

So what do you think? What would you pair up with Spring Breakers? I’m sure there are plenty of other ones. And don’t forget to pass along any ideas about other new releases that you’d like to see paired up with something from the past. Just hit that comment button below. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

So Who Is Al Pacino Going To Play In His Next Movie? That’s Easy: He’ll Be Playing Al Pacino.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino (Photo credit: Martin McKenna)

In some ways, it’s become something of a joke. There are certain actors who lose themselves so deeply into a movie role that you lose sight of the actor and see nothing but the character. These are the actors who tend to get the acclaim when it comes to awards season. As a matter of fact, all you really have to do is look at the two strongest contenders in this year’s Academy Awards Best Actor category – Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix – for examples of this. The actor somehow seems to “become” the character in a way that seems almost incredible.

Pacino turns it up...

Pacino turns it up…

Then there are the other actors. The ones who have become so recognizable for playing a certain type or for something that is so inherently “them” that it’s become impossible for them to really take on any role other than themselves, or at least the onscreen persona they have developed over the years. Again, all one has to do is look at last year’s Lincoln for a perfect example of this. Whereas Day-Lewis seems to become Lincoln to the extent that you have to look for the actor behind the character, Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Thaddeeus Stevens, could be no one but Tomyy Lee Jones. He has become a Type. As in “if you can’t get me Tommy Lee Jones for the role, get me a Tommy Lee Jones Type.”

...and UP....

…and UP….

Other actors who fit this category are people like Nic Cage and Jack Nicholson. When you see their name on a poster or in the credits for a movie, you know precisely what you’re going to get from them. They have become predictable, they have, in a way, lost the ability to surprise us in any role. Oh, sure, there are the occasional exceptions, but for the most part, that’s just the way it is. And in a lot of ways, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Going to see a Nicholson movie can be like putting on a well-worn but beloved pair of shoes. You do it precisely because they’re comfortable and you know they’re going to be without having to think about it.

Which brings us to Al Pacino. There was a time when Pacino still had that ability to surprise, and if you look at some of his early work, it’s obviously there. But after awhile – I’d say most likely after Scarface – Al Pacino became known mostly for playing “Al Pacino”. Again, if you talk to somebody who has seen the latest Al Pacino movie – whatever it might be – and you ask them how Pacino was in the flick, you’re going to get the answer “He was Pacino”.

...AND U!!!!

…AND U!!!!

So what is it that makes Pacino “Pacino”? Well, there are a number of things, I’m sure, little ticks and quirks, a certain way of talking, of carrying himself, that simply cannot be hidden or disguised. But whatever other things might encompass a Pacino role, one thing you can be sure of: at some point, Al’s gonna lose it. He’s gonna start yelling. He’s gonna start cursing. And from there on out HE’S GONNA F#^@*ING BE F#^@*ING AL PACINO AND THERE’S GONNA BE NO F#^@*ING COMING BACK DOWN!!!

And that’s what today’s video is about. In it, Nelson Carvajal has compiled a great sequence of scenes that show exactly those moments in Pacino’s movies where he cranks up the intensity and the volume, and you know that, once again, no matter what the character’s onscreen name may be, you are watching Al Pacino. Here, take a look:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these are bad movies or that Pacino is a bad actor. Far from it. I love Pacino, and I almost always enjoy seeing him turn it up. Sure, there are times lately when it’s seemed more like he was “phoning it in”, and there are times when I wish a director would try to get something more from him, that he would surprise us with something new and different, but at the same time, like that well-worn pair of shoes I mentioned earlier, there’s something comforting about knowing what your going to get from a particular actor before you walk into the theater or pop in that DVD or Blu-Ray disk.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m off to watch an Al Pacino flick.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Check Out This Great Interview with Writer Richard Matheson

Cover of "The Incredible Shrinking Man"

Cover of The Incredible Shrinking Man

While looking at various things while working on a write-up about a recent viewing of the 1957 film version of novelist/screenwriter Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (which, due to a number of factors may not actually get posted until tomorrow) I happened to run across this 3-hour long interview with the legend himself. The interview took place in 2002 in Hidden Hills, California and is conducted by Karen Herman.

In the interview, Matheson

reminisces about the first stories he wrote and getting published at the age of nine.  He recalls his early success as a professional writer with the sale of his now-classic short story, “Born of Man and Woman.”  He relates his eking out a living working at the Douglas Aircraft Company while pursuing a writing career.  He describes the big screen adaptation of his novel The Incredible Shrinking Man, which he adapted himself.  Regarding his break into television, he discusses his writing partnership with Charles Beaumont, and touches on their work together, which was frequently in the then-popular western genre.   He comments on why he and Beaumont split their partnership when they wrote for the classic sci-fi/fantasy anthology The Twilight Zone as they had already individually made a name for themselves in that genre.  He also speaks of his sole writing work in this period on the series The Lawman, outlining his real-time episode “Thirty Minutes.”

The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series)

The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series)

For The Twilight Zone, Matheson gives his impressions of series creator Rod Serling and discusses each of the sixteen teleplays he contributed to, including: “The Invaders,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and “Little Girl Lost.”  He then fondly recalls his days interacting with such stars as Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone when he was a writer for director Roger Corman at American International Pictures.  Among the 1960s television series he contributed to and looks back on are Star Trek and Combat.  He recounts how, on the day of JFK’s assassination, the idea was born for his short story and celebrated television movie Duel (and also gives his opinion of the finished product and relates his observations of director Steven Spielberg during shooting). He discusses the feature film adaptations of his novel I Am Legend, the movies: The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man.  He discusses the TV movies he wrote that led to the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  He describes several of a string of television movies he wrote in the 1970s and 80s including Dying Room Only, Dracula, Trilogy of Terror, and—in a change of pace genre-wise— The Morning After, for which he says: “That’s one of the proudest moments I have in television. I was told that they actually use it at medical schools as an authentic presentation of alcoholism.”

Cover of "A Stir of Echoes"

Cover of A Stir of Echoes

He then speaks on his writing style and writing process.  He elaborates on the production and cult following of Somewhere in Time, a feature film he adapted from his own novel Bid Time Return.  Among the later television shows he comments on are: The Martian Chronicles and Amazing Stories; he also gives his opinion of the film adaptations, by others, of his novels What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes.  Lastly, he expresses his views on larger topics such as reincarnation.

Obviously, this is an incredible and quite exhaustive discussion with the amazingly prolific writer, and makes for great viewing not just for fans of the man himself, but for sci-fi fans, movie and television lovers, and those who simply love great writing.

The interview is hosted by the Archive of American Television (which is also where the above description comes from). I’m posting part one below, and the rest can be seen by simply following the links.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

If You Think You Need Sound To Be Funny Check This Out – The Monster (1925)

Shhh... we're looking for a... well, yeah, one of those..

Shhh… we’re looking for a… well, yeah, one of those..

Just a quick post today for those who think that the horror-comedy genre began with Scream, or worse, the Scary Movie series. The truth is, the first horror comedy was likely preceded by only a few weeks or months by the first horror movie. I don’t even pretend to know. However, here’s a fine example of the genre from the early days of film. 1925’s The Monster, starring none other than Lon Chaney Sr. and Johnny Arthur. And no, you don’t need to bother checking the sound on your computer, because yes, it is a silent film. Still, don’t let that put you off, because it really is quite funny, not only in a slapstick way, but also because of the wordplay on the intertitle cards.

Ah, what am I doing talking so much about it? Just give it a look. I’m betting you’re going to enjoy it.

Oh, and be sure to check back tomorrow when I actually will have more to say about a favorite 1950s sci-fi classic that I recently had a chance to watch on the big screen.

Until then, Happy Viewing!

Saturday Double Feature: The Croods (2013) and…

So here we are: Saturday and time for another Double Feature. Once again the basic idea is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before for a Saturday Double Feature. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

This week, for the recent film, I decided to go with the animated feature The Croods which opened in theaters yesterday.

Again, as always, there were a lot of options on movies to pair it up with, from Willis O’Brien‘s The Lost World from 1925 since it’s the first real animated dinosaur feature

to Hammer’s When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,

but in the end, I decided to go with something a bit more lighthearted (or perhaps lightheaded?). So, from 1981 I give you Ringo Starr (yes, that Ringo Starr) and Barbara Bach in Caveman:

So what do you think? What are your ideas for movies that would go well with The Croods?  And don’t forget to pass along any ideas about other new releases that you’d like to see paired up with something from the past. Just hit that comment button below. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Some Would Say They’d Already Done it – Hitchcock Ad for Rear Window (1954)

Some pictures don’t really need more words:

Am I doing it right, Mr. Hitchcock?

Am I doing it right, Mr. Hitchcock?