‘Judex,’ The Roots of Revenge [DVD review]

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Start with a classic tale of revenge, spin in some mysticism and a pinch of science fiction, mix well with some classic early 60’s expressionistic filmmaking and you end up with Judex, a wonderful film that nicely illustrates how everything old is new again.

Shot in 1963, it stars Channing Pollock as Judex, a shadowy avenger who sends powerful banker Favraux a note threatening to kill him if he doesn’t repay all the money he swindled from his victims over the years. When Favraux drops dead at a dinner party at exactly the time foretold by Judex, the tale begins to branch out into some interesting and complicated subplots of conspiracy and straight-up payback.

710_DF_box_348x490_originalBased on Louis Feuillade’s twelve part silent film series from 1916 (which was incredibly popular in France), director Georges Franju’s 1963 film distills the key elements of the story and weaves through them enough expressionist imagery to keep the film just one or two degrees away from reality; it’s akin to that hypnopompic state where we stumble partway out of sleep and out of dreams and are not quite certain which world we still occupy. Should we take the film seriously or are we to treat it as a high camp tribute? Franju maintains such a tight control over how the elements connect that he never tips his hand, never hints at a bluff and ultimately leaves us to decide the right emotional tone for viewing.

And it plays out perfectly. Since the original serial ran over 5 hours, Franju takes a few shortcuts and doesn’t delve too deeply into the details and that’s the only area where the remake could use some shoring up. What comes across as convenience or coincidence in the 1963 version is better explained as having purpose in the 1916 episodes. At the same time, Franju occasionally does the opposite; one major character who is a victim of banker Favraux is dealt with in a “why the hell did they do THAT?” headscratcher in the 1916 serial but in the remake the character presents a specific threat to Favraux, making his actions (which are identical to what the character did in the original) understandable. Still, that’s Franju’s style; he didn’t feel the need to ground his version too closely to our reality. In fact, it’s obvious that Judex isn’t really the character he’s most interested in; rather he spends more screen time exploring the actions of character Diana Monti (played by Francine Bergé) than Judex himself (in an interview with Francine Bergé included in the extras, she laughs at how the extent of her direction from Franju was “be evil”). Franju is more interested in manifestation than intent, in effect than cause but ironically uses the excuse of cause (revenge on Favraux for the evil he did) to explore effect only. Well played, Mr. Franju. Well played.

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All that having been said, if you can spare the time, watch the 1916 serial first and then watch the 1963 remake. That way the gaps in Franju’s version won’t really distract and it makes it easier to settle in and let the visuals wash over you.

What’s also fascinating about the story is how similar so many of our twentieth century archetypes are to Judex…while watching Judex (the character’s portrayal in both the 1916 serial and the 1963 remake is the same with the exception that Franju gives Judex the gift of sleight of hand) we can see the seminal beginnings of such characters as the Shadow, Batman, the Green Hornet, etc. and I wonder how many of those character were inspired by Feuillade’s original serial. We have a mysterious, cloak-shrouded hero who lives underground in a distant ruin along with his sidekick (Judex’s brother) using technology and science to avenge a wrong that ruined his parents and for the suffering of which he vowed revenge. He uses his secret identity to move in and out of society while trying to also protect the woman he’s fallen in love with. Where have we heard THAT story before?

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If the characters mentioned above did have any inspiration in Judex, they also embraced the fantastic elements more wholeheartedly, placing them firmly in the pulp genre. Both Feuillade and Franju, on the other hand, merely use those facets to assist Judex whereas the others couldn’t exist without those props. Judex could easily complete his mission without his tools; they assist him, they don’t define him.

While Criterion has released the film on both DVD and Blu-Ray, the DVD was the version sent for evaluation. The 1.66:1 transfer is clean and sharp with deep blacks and clear highlights that nicely display cinematographer Marcel Fradetal’s outstanding imagery consistently throughout the entire film. Film grain is clear without distracting. According to the booklet that accompanies the release:

“This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for flicker, jitter, grain management, and small dirt. The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.”

And the clean-up is outstanding with no digital artifacting to mar or distract from the visuals (duh, it’s Criterion after all). The audio track is clean, well-defined, and nicely balanced.

The extras include:

•Interview from 2007 with the film’s cowriter Jacques Champreux, the grandson of Louis Feuillade, cocreator of the silent serial Judex

• Interview from 2012 with actor Francine Bergé

Franju le visionnaire, a fifty-minute program from 1998 on the director’s career and imagination

• New English subtitle translation

•Two short films by Franju: Hôtel des Invalides (1951), about the Paris military complex, and Le grand Méliès (1952), about director Georges Méliès

Two additional extras, The Secret Heart of Judex, an essay by Geoffrey O’Brien and Meet Channing Pollock, a video by Glenn Kenny, are also available free of charge on the Criterion website.

The Making of ‘And So It Goes’ – An Interview with Director Rob Reiner, Part 2

Director Rob Reiner.
Director Rob Reiner.

Rob Reiner’s new film, And So It Goes, is now playing at Boston-area theaters.

For Part 1 of our interview with Mr. Reiner, please click here.

[divider]

STEPHEN SLAUGHTER HEAD: Is there anything in the film that perhaps you could say, “This is you”? Like perhaps elements of Michael Douglas’s character? Is there something of you there?

REINER: Well, there’s something of me in all of the things I do, in that these are things I think about. I mean the whole idea for this film was based on the experience I had when I made The Bucket List. When we did it we had the press check it and everybody asked what’s on your bucket list? And whenever they asked Jack Nicholson he said, “One more great romance.” So I thought that’s a great idea for a movie – two people who were basically finding each other later in life. So that became the basis of this film. Then we hired Mark Anders to come in and write it. When I turned 60 all these things that you kind of think about intellectually “you” start internalizing, which is that your life isn’t going to be forever and that it is precious and that you have to make the most of every little moment. And when I turned 60 that started hitting me, you know I was like very … I realized I was like a very very young old person. You know what I mean, so I started thinking about that stuff and that’s what gave birth to this. You don’t know how long you’re going to live and you want to be able to embrace life as best you can, as long as you can.

MICHEL: You mentioned that the germ of the idea came while doing The Bucket List. Did you ever consider using Jack for this film?

REINER: Well Jack had quit acting.

MICHEL: Right.

REINER: He quit acting. He said he doesn’t want to act anymore. I mean, obviously if he wanted to be in the movie I would’ve. (he laughs)

MICHEL: I mean, but did you try?

REINER: Well no. I mean, with Jack it’s like, he makes up his mind. You go where he goes, you know?

MICHEL: Do you really think he’s done?

REINER: I hope not, boy. I really hope. I mean the guy is one of the greats.

MICHEL: And Gene Hackman.

REINER: And Gene Hackman. He said that’s it for me. But Jack is one of the great film actors of all time. I hope he wants to do more.

Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in AND SO IT GOES.
Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in AND SO IT GOES.

HEAD: How did Diane Keaton get involved? The way that Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton relate to each other in the film is very comfortable, we worried about this chemistry.

REINER: It’s amazing.

REINER: Sure you are because they’ve never worked together and that’s unusual because you’ve got these two Academy award-winning iconic actors and they always wanted to work together and they haven’t. They have very different styles. Michael is very, you know, he’s got his craft. He’s learned his craft from doing The Streets of San Francisco all the way through and he’s like out there on the set, he’s a guy that knows the drill. He knows how to help you make today. Diane is a completely distinctive actress and she’s actually more like the way I am. She actually said before we started shooting, that she doesn’t act. She said, “I don’t act. I just am what I am and I just do it,” and I said that’s great, whatever it is, it’s great what you do. She takes the dialogue and she makes it her own and then that’s what she does. This is the way I worked in my life from being an improvisational actor and she’s very much that way. So it was great for me to work with her and Michael. It’s such a solid rock that you know, it’s like he’s is the rock in the water and things are falling around him, and he can plow through and it doesn’t matter. You can throw anything at him and he’ll be fine.

HEAD: Can I ask you a fun question? As a kid did you get to visit some of the sets that he (Carl Reiner) worked on like It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World or in his other things?

REINER: Yeah, as a kid, when I was 14, 15, 16 years-old, and I was in school when summer came around, they were shooting The Dick Van Dyke Show. I went every single day, all day, for my entire summer vacation. I spent it with them watching my dad work with the actors and the writers and seeing how the directors stage the actors and how to use the cameras and so forth. I was totally taking all that in, you know, when I was young. So I thought I saw a lot.

HEAD: Nothing scarring?

REINER: No, no. [He laughs] The only thing that was scarring was … I’m not telling tales out of school, because Mary Tyler Moore has this in her book. And that is, I did grab her by the ass when I was 14 years-old. I didn’t know what came over me, but I remember she was so pretty and she wore these Capri pants. She was 24 you know, and she was wearing these Capri pants, tight and everything, and I don’t know what possessed me, but I grabbed her and she told my dad on me. Then my dad called me in the office and said, “Let me ask you something.” He said, “Did you grab Mary Tyler Moore’s ass?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, with a big smile on his face, “Don’t ever do that again!” You know, and then she did talk about it. She said it on The David Letterman Show, so I’m not making that up.

Diane Keaton, Michael Douglas and Rob Reiner on the set of AND SO IT GOES.
Diane Keaton, Michael Douglas and Rob Reiner on the set of AND SO IT GOES.

HEAD: So it was flattering. She was flattered?

REINER: I don’t think she was flattered, but I don’t think she was flattered at the time, although this is a great thing. Years later they do reunion show of The Dick Van Dyke Show and my dad was producing and I’ve already become a star from All In The Family. I was visiting the set and Dick was in a tuxedo and Mary was in an evening gown and they were coming back from some formal thing. And they’re standing on the set and they just finished talking so I told the camera guy to just keep rolling. So I walk out onto the thing and I’m standing there and I said, “Mary, I’ve just got to tell you, I want to apologize. You know it’s old after all these years. I never said I’m sorry for what I did when I was 14, but I couldn’t help myself. I was young and you were so beautiful. And I said, not that you’re not beautiful now … I mean, if you were in … I’m in. I would, and she bends over and I grabbed her by the ass, and she goes, “Oh Rob!” like this. Which was what she did on The Dick Van Dyke Show. So I thought it was a great payoff. It was a payoff from something like 30 years later.

JOURNALIST: Have you ever thought about directing yourself in a starring role?

REINER: Not the starring role, I’ve been in Spinal Tap, and this thing, and I was in The Story of Us. I’ve done little bits of things but I don’t like it because it gets confusing I guess. I don’t like it, I mean I like acting in other people’s movies. That’s fun.

MICHEL: Did you improvise much when you were doing Wolf of Wall Street?

REINER: Yeah, I was completely … I mean they had a script and it was good, but then we went off and Marty (Scorsese) always let us just go in and it works. It works if you have people who can do it. I mean like when we did Spinal Tap, the whole thing is improvised, but you have actors who feel so comfortable in that. With Jonah Hill it’s easy – with someone like that – and Leo was great at it. But it doesn’t always work. Some actors don’t like doing that. If you don’t have actors who are like that, then it’s not good. But if you have actors who are willing to try it, then it’s great.

JOURNALIST: Which kind of actors do you prefer to work with?

REINER: Both. I’ve worked with the ones who were buttoned-down and I’ve worked with the ones who like to improvise, and it works. I mean with Morgan Freeman I couldn’t have had a better experience. He likes to do (improve). I mean he’ll do whatever you want to do. He’ll do what’s there so you know, whatever, either way.

HEAD: Why Bridgeport, Connecticut?

REINER: Tax breaks actually were all over Connecticut. We were in Greenwich, Bridgeport, Southport, Bristol.

MICHEL: You never really identify the location in the film.

REINER: But it was not supposed to be anything but Connecticut, and then Tex-Mex.

MICHEL: So it’s really tough to get your financing.

REINER: It’s really really hard.

HEAD: If you had your preference you really would stay with California?

REINER: Sure it’s my home, so I’m near family. Absolutely.

HEAD: I’m curious of some of the reactions you got from my girlfriend Sarah, she cried. Maybe it was Judy Collins?

REINER: It was a great story about that too, because we recorded Both Sides Now for the film and she sang and her voice is still incredible. She’s in her 70s and she had sung it so many times. It was a big big hit so she sings it at every concert … a thousand times … so she’s now found ways of making it more fun for herself. I said, “No Judy, I want it to sound like that iconic thing that we always heard” … So actually I’m sitting there singing it to her, and she said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll do it that way.” She could do whatever you want.

The Making of ‘Sound and Chaos’ – An Interview with Record Producer Martin Bisi, Part 1

Martin Bisi
Martin Bisi

Sound and Choas: The Story of BC Studio will screen tomorrow, Saturday, July 26th, at 2pm the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square. The documentary tells the story of Brooklyn’s most influential, and unusual, recording studios – a place where artists such as Sonic Youth, The Swans and Afrika Bambaataa, led by producer and recording engineer Martin Bisi, came up with sounds that defined underground, alternative music from the early 80s onward.

I recently spoke with Mr. Bisi about his career and the creation of BC studios.

[divider]
SARAH PEARLSTEIN: One of the things I thought was interesting is that I thought you could make something at will, and that you were basically just a kid with tech stuff. To what do you attribute this kind of chutzpah?

MARTIN BISI: Well, it’s funny, as I’ve gotten older and I look at some of my craziness and naïveté of when I was very young, I kind to realized that, here and there, I Kinda didn’t have a clue. It was just by my really being eager. But I still have, or had I guess by instinct, some of the same attitudes and perspectives as I do now. It’s just more … I’m just a little more informed now.

Looking back at some of the stuff I did his teenager, it’s actually … some of my ideas kind of actually made sense. The whole thing about my feelings of just doing something by will really was … yeah, I did think like that. At the time I just thought I was being, I don’t know, maybe funny or something like that. I don’t know. It’s strange world. Maybe I just didn’t think it through. And that became just sort of a defense mechanism where I knew I wanted to do certain things and maybe the best approach was to just cop that attitude and roll with it. Because if I talked about it too much, maybe I wouldn’t go into certain sessions. But I did definitely in my mind grab onto basically this fiction that all I had to do is have the right attitude I can do it. And there were times when that definitely fell short. And I think that actually did fall short [working] with Brian Eno a little bit because that was kind of serious. That was like months of intense recording sessions, pretty much six days a week, and the whole thing with my going in an attitude was really more for like individual sessions.

PEARLSTEIN: Interesting. I wondered, you know, how much of the having the right attitude and just sort of going against the grain came from the environment you grew up in. How much of that was a rebellion against the bourgeois environment of the upper East side?

BISI: Yeah, I felt that.

PEARLSTEIN: Part of this is not just the environment, but that your mother was an upper Eastside pianist, and she taught you something about skill and the ability to be professional. but there’s also the side which could’ve been a rebellion against that.

BISI: The whole idea of just going in with attitude, just throwing that into it, just obviously in retrospect has a real sort of Zen kind of angle to it. At the time I wouldn’t of explained it that way. It was more about just rebelling against an orthodoxy; an orthodoxy in general about art. And also just sort of this very complex society that that thought I could go to’s school for 30 years to be considered educated. And I didn’t go to college. I rebelled against that. I kind of felt like just by hook or crook and by rebelliousness I would just by sheer attitude make it.

And it was this sort of academic side about making music was just unbearable to me. I mean, I can’t even go into it. I couldn’t really be schooled in music. I couldn’t take lessons. My mom had me studying piano and violin and reading music and I just couldn’t go there. I pretty much had to abandon all of that. So even with art, I took classes and I couldn’t draw. I could pretty much just do graffiti. Because of all that, I just fell into a place which was almost like a very aggressive attack on things. I think still to this point I rarely use the word ‘good’ when I think of records and recording, even in the studio. Sometimes people say, “We have to make it good.” And I just rolled my eyes a little bit because I don’t think it’s really about good. I’ve had times where it was really like … I’m going with an attitude and we’re going to get something that’s good. I wasn’t necessarily suggesting that that’s what would happen. I was just always going in [to a recording session] and that’s what would happen.

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At the studio, Martin Bisi with thereminist Dorit Chrysler.

PEARLSTEIN: Prior to establishing BC Studio, did you have anything recordings you could show people?

BISI: That’s the thing that might not be 100% clear and the documentary. It was a handful of sessions. I’m actually talking about a very brief moment in time but important. Time in 1979 actually 1979 and 80. So I guess starting sometime in the fall of 79, in the fall of 80, there were a handful of sessions. While I was building the studio with Brian Eno’s money, that also wasn’t a matter of snapping my fingers. That also took a couple of months. So in the course of the year and a couple months as I was actually preparing the studio, there were a couple of sessions I think, maybe there were six or seven sessions, and those were the ones that I definitely felt that I can just go in there with just an attitude. I mean, I was not stressed out at all with Eno even on the first day of work. It wasn’t thinking, Will I be good? Will we get good results? I can get stressed out, but I actually had no stress about [recording with Brian Eno]. all which actually was remarkable in retrospect. I wish sometimes that I could kind of had that attitude now.

PEARLSTEIN: I interpret that as you’re living in the space you’re supposed to be. This is what you’re supposed to do. Like, if you’re really doing what you love to do, there’s no fear.

BISI: Yeah, that was a big part of it. It was like this is what was going on. Also it was just a lot of a big sense of righteousness, and I mean that in a positive sense. Everyone around me, we just really thought – and maybe it sounds terribly arrogant say now, but I really thought that what was happening in my immediate circle; I was working with the most amazing people – that what we were doing was extremely important. And also it was this youthful attitude. It wasn’t all about this impression that we like,
“Let’s fuck it up!” I had a very much sort of In The Now kind of attitude. I think that with more experience I might’ve had more doubts about where [the studio] was going and our being able to “take it all the way” … but I was pretty much in the time, pretty much in the moment. It’s this feeling of fate or something, like I came into this and here it is and it’s really great and essential. I’ve actually felt like, in a global since, this was the most important thing on the planet that was happening. And this is what it was like within my somewhat immediate circle of acquaintances. I know that sounds terrible terribly arrogant, but it was just my instinctive feeling about it. It actually encouraged me not to go to college because I was thinking, “Why would I bother with that because this was just better.”

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The early days of BC Studio.

 

PEARLSTEIN: What was the whole scene in the 80s art world like, other than this this wonderful way of thinking of it as it’s found in the movie with John Lydon staring down Basquiat? What did all this represent?

BISI: I think with Michael Holman, the person in the film who’s talking about that, what he was talking about was there’s kind of this cliché New York – being that it’s extremely democratic; not so much that it’s about class but, the class is really rubbed elbows and occupied some of the same spaces. That’s been something that all my life I’ve thought of as being very New York, and the thought of some of this disappearing in the last few years. A lot of that has to do with public transportation. We used to have that with Michael Bloomberg, the mayor. We used to take subway to work at City Hall, a subway comes from the Bronx. So all those people from the Bronx right there going to the upper East side and a millionaire standing right there with everyone else.

It’s like that scene in Midnight Cowboy, the scene in which Dustin Hoffman is at very fancy fashion world kind of party, and he’s there stealing from the food table. There have been times where I thought, “Oh my God! I’m Dustin Hoffman! I’m stealing food from the table!” I mean I’ve kind of felt that way. And the reason it’s in the movie is because it’s something people were observing in New York. You know had parties where a graffiti artist from the South Bronx, or from the worst ghettos of the industrialized world at the time, were at the parties. They were opening up galleries. So there was a lot a very democratic, class neutral kind of stuff. It definitely defied a sort of exclusion.

PEARLSTEIN: Yeah, it’s like when everyone goes out there’s a kind of class neutrality, and when everyone goes home it may not be the same, or isn’t the same, but the fact that there is some of that at all, given the little world that we live in, is extraordinary.

BISI: Yeah, and I’m not sure that that’s unique to New York, but it sure was at the time. New York was at the forefront of that. New York was at the forefront of culture coming up, with Manhattan being just a small island and all these people rubbing shoulders; the fashion District right next to Times Square, which is very hard knocks and dangerous. So, all these things. You could say it was the danger of the time. It mixed people together. And that’s maybe how you get Basquiat, John Lydon and Afrika Bambaataa in the same space.

‘Visitors’ Literally Stares Into Your Soul [DVD Review]

©Cinedigm
©Cinedigm

Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors has a lot to say, yet says nothing at all. Much like his past “Qatsi” trilogy, this collage-of-a-film (literally) stares into the souls of the viewers. There is no story, there are no characters, and no color, yet it’s still somewhat brilliant in its own way.

 ©Cinedigm
©Cinedigm

Especially the music. Some will recognize the beautiful compositions of Philip Glass from Reggio’s past work, but those unfamiliar with such avant-garde films may still recognize the heavy, dramatic tones from the movie Watchmen, which borrowed a couple songs from Koyaanisqatsi for its soundtrack. At its peak, the music draws you in and adds drama to simple images. The only downside is it’s easy to get lost in the music’s hypnosis and drown out the images altogether. Which is a pretty big downside when Reggio really wants the audience to pay attention.

As for the film itself, there are only 74 shots in its 87-minute runtime. Most of it consists of heads seemingly floating in a dark abyss, juxtaposed with desolate locations with an effective time-lapse. The juxtaposition of images is left to the audience’s interpretation. Perhaps it is about the phasing out of human life and what they will leave behind? There are even a couple shots, towards the beginning and end, of a sad-eyed gorilla—almost judgmental. Could it be a giant ad for the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film?

One of the biggest things going for this film is that it’s darn beautiful. Use of 4K to bring the scenes to life couldn’t have been a better choice. Even just watching the DVD, it’s easy to see all the details in the faces as they slowly zoom in, and the hands as they dance around like ballerinas. Just imagine how striking the images would look on an 80 inch UHD screen.

The DVD comes with a few special features including interviews with director Godfrey Reggio, composer Philip Glass, and producers, Jon Kane and Steven Soderbergh. There’s also “The Making of Visitors-The Creators Project” and “Behind The Scenes Of Visitors,” which works as both supplemental features for fans, and a sort-of preparation for viewers not sure of exactly what they’re getting into.

In the special features, Reggio explains that his purpose with this film is to achieve a “visceral form of cinema” that is “aimed at your solar plexus.” Steven Soderbergh claims that “if monks can sit at a bench and make a movie, this is what it would look like.” Really, there’s not much difference between the “The Making of Visitors” and “Behind the Scenes,” but learning the process of how the film was made and why exactly they chose 4K adds dimensions to the film that the viewers might not have realized were there.

Visitors isn’t for everyone and it’s certainly not aimed at the average movie-goer. If you’re looking for adventure, horror, romance, or comedy, you won’t find it here. Or maybe you will. There’s a different kind of adventure, a hidden horror, a unique intimacy between audience and screen, and maybe even a little irony if you’re perceptive enough to find it on your own.

Scream Factory Ups Clive Barker’s ‘Nightbreed’ Limited Edition Blu-ray to 10,000 Units

One of the year’s most anticipated Blu-ray releases just got a little more cooler. The deal is, Scream Factory’s release of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut Limited Edition 3-Disc Set ($79.97), which will be released on Oct. 28, 2014, is now a 10,000 unit run – a good 9k more than the originally announced 1,000 unit run.

©Scream Factory
©Scream Factory

Regarding the increase, Scream Factory reported on their Facebook page

Hello all! We have some news today regarding our Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut (Limited Edition) release that we hope will make many of you happy.

To say that we were caught by surprise over the frenzied demand for it would be an understatement. Preorders across the board went so quick that we almost had to post soon that we were sold out of the original 5,000 units. We sensed your concerns that would happen too.

We want to give as many fans of Clive Barker’s exceptional film the opportunity to purchase the set and so we went back to Warner Bros (since they have the rights to theatrical cut) and explained the situation. They graciously understood and so we can now officially tell you that we have expanded the number of units for the Limited Edition set to 10,000 total–which will all be numbered. Once they are sold out though, that will be it.

We are taking pre-orders again on our site at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nightbreed-directors-cut-deluxe-edition and they should also be available soon to pre-order on other fine online retailers.

The limited edition set includes…

  • For the first time on home video, you can experience Clive Barker’s original director’s cut of Nightbreed with over 40 minutes of new footage, all mastered in high definition from the original camera negative
  • Disc 1: Unrated Director’s Cut of the film on Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The 1990 R-Rated theatrical version of the film on Blu-ray (through a special licensing agreement through Warner Bros.)
  • Disc 3: Exclusive-to-this-set bonus Blu-ray disc packed with extras (details forthcoming)
  • Collector’s Book with an essay and rare photos
  • Slipcase includes newly designed artwork by Les Edwards and approved by Clive Barker
  • Special offer: Order this limited-edition set directly from ShoutFactory.com and receive one of the first 3,000 numbered copies, an exclusive 18″x24″ poster featuring our newly commissioned artwork (available while supplies last)

Cool New Special Features for ‘Pumpkinhead’ Blu-ray

Scream Factory announced today, via their Facebook page, the final special features line-up for their forthcoming release of Pumpkinhead on Blu-ray.

[divider]

“As many of you know already, Director Stan Winston’s cult favorite tale of demon vengeance is getting the deluxe treatment from us as a “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray release on Sept 9th. Today we are happy to report the final list of bonus features that will be on it!. Order now at www.screamfactorydvd.com and receive an 18” x 24” limited edition poster of the newly-designed key art too. (While supplies last!)” – Scream Factory

pumpkinhead

Here’s the deal…

• NEW “REMEMBERING THE MONSTER KID: A TRIBUTE TO STAN WINSTON” featuring new interviews with actors Lance Henriksen and Brian Bremer, special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and Shannon Shea
• NEW interviews with producer Richard Weinman and actors John D’Aquino and Matthew Hurley
• PUMPKINHEAD UNEARTHED (now in HD) – a documentary on the making of PUMPKINHEAD featuring Evolution of a Demon, The Cursed and the Damned, The Torture Soul of Ed Harley, Constructing Vengeance, Razorback Holler
• Audio Commentary by Co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature & FX Creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis
• Featurette: Demonic Toys
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Still Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

15 Rare and Astonishing Movie Standee Displays from the 1930s – ‘White Zombie,’ ‘Freaks,’ ‘Dracula’

1. Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise

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2. The Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers

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3. Clara Bow’s Call Her Savage

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4. The Mummy

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5. White Zomebie

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6. Dracula

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7. George Cukor’s Girls About Town

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8. Bring ‘Em Back Alive

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9. The Lost Squadron

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10. Tod Browning’s Freaks

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11. Madame Butterfly

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12. Clinton Child’s The Blonde Captive

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13. Harold Lloyd’s Movie Crazy

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14. King Vidor’s Bird of Paradise

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15. Harold Lloyd’s Feet First

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And a couple more oddities…

Street Scene

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“Ask the Iron Man”

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“Bachelor Apartment”

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The Planet of the Apes: Evolusions

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Polish poster for THE PLANET OF THE APES. ©Twentieth Century Fox

They say you can’t go home again. And while that’s not completely true (unless your home was paved over to build a Burger King or something), you may find upon returning that the house and its furnishings don’t really fit your life too well anymore.

Movies and TV shows are a lot like that. As all fans of sci fi and horror know, our favorite genres are ripe for a constant stream of reboots, reimaginings and remakes, some good and some best left unseen (that’s right 1999’s Wild Wild West, I’m lookin’ at YOU). The good ones will bring an updated or unique approach to the source material that creates a new experience that often compliments the original while at the same time moving it in a different direction. But more often than not, the newly created material focuses solely on the events of the original tale, stripping away or ignoring the updates needed to set those events in a different context (2002’s Rollerball, you may now leave the building. By serving as example for this article you have finally fulfilled any value you may have once tried to offer us).

The Planet Of The Apes franchise is an excellent example of this and rather than go into a long essay on the concept of why some remakes work and others don’t we’re going to briefly focus on why the current reboot of the franchise was the right way to go and why—simply put—the original stories in the original films simply could not be remade with the same impact in today’s culture. And we’re going to do that by quickly looking at the social events that were integral underpinnings of the original films.

Planet Of The Apes – Written by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, the film borrowed only the barest premise from Pierre Boulle’s novel—that three astronauts would end up on a planet dominated by apes. Beyond that, the film is really a metaphor for the McCarthy era and the entertainment world’s persecution and ostracization of its own members (a fate suffered by screenwriter Wilson). The humans represent those accused of communism, the chimpanzees those who sympathized with the accused, the orangutans represent the zealots in the entertainment world who cooperated with McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the gorillas are acting as the government (Wilson literally based the trial scene where Taylor tries to defend himself for being a human on the McCarthy trials of the era). While not intended to go too deeply into the symbolism of everything that was wrong with McCarthyism, the film was made at a time when the industry had largely realized how irresponsibly it had acted and was beginning to reach out to the accused for forgiveness (or at least pretending nothing had happened and started to let them work again).

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Japanese poster for THE PLANET OF THE APES. ©Twentieth Century Fox

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes – Screenwriter Paul Dehn (who wrote the following three films and largely re-wrote the final film in the series) was told to write a script that would preclude any sequels. Richard D. Zanuck, one of the film’s producers, had grown angry at the constant bickering among the board at Fox and wanted to kill the series off which of course, didn’t happen. The heart of the conflict is straight out of the headlines of the late 1960’s and early 70’s and America’s shifting attitudes towards the Viet Nam war. If we look at the Forbidden Zone as an analogy for Viet Nam (filled with “mutants” who are militant, merciless, aggressive and share a hive mind, largely the way a lot of middle class Americans viewed Asian culture), the film gets very interesting, indeed. Though the gorillas of Ape City are hawks who want to invade the Zone, most of the apes are hands-off and don’t see the value of getting involved in the war, with the younger generation going so far as to protest the approaching conflict in a not-so-subtle nod to the student activism taking place in America at the time. When the apes get to the mutants home turf, conventional warfare quickly falls apart and the detonation of the doomsday device destroys the planet (nicely pulling into the mix the growing anti-nuke sentiments).

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes – The film always struck me as an interesting analysis and satire of American middle-class society shortly after the civil rights movement of the early sixties. The culture’s previous perceptions (up until the late 50’s) of African Americans as buffoons and caricatures is nicely illustrated in the way humans perceive and embrace Cornelius and Zira: they’re really just animals who amuse and delight and so long as they maintain that role of clown and offer no threat, they’re accepted…albeit on a low and demeaning level. But as soon as they begin to assert their rights as living, intelligent creatures who demand to be treated as equals, things turn dark and threatening. So begins the persecutions and pursuit; they’re now a threat to the established order who must be confronted with violence and immediate extermination.

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Half-sheet poster for ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES. ©Twentieth Century Fox

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes – There is absolutely no subtlety in the symbolism of this film (which is fine). Expanding on the idea of Escape with the apes representing African Americans, the film is about the race riots and racial violence of the mid and late 60’s, confirmed by such lines as Caesar’s when he addresses Macdonald, the African American chief aide to Governor Breck:

By what right are you spilling blood?” – MacDonald
“By the slave’s right to punish his persecutor.” – Caesar

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes – Though this film preceded the resignation of Richard Nixon by a year, it was made in the thick of the Watergate scandal and I see some interesting parallels in how the blind trust America had previously held in the government had so fatally cracked and begun to collapse. Once again we have a depiction of the mutants from Beneath but in an early stage of their development; wearing black and being little more than savages (echoes of the Viet Cong), they seek to attack and destroy the apes. At the same time, Aldo, the gorilla leader of the military, is furious that Caesar wants peace with the humans and plots a coup and Caesar’s assassination (echoes of JFK and the emerging conspiracy theories, perhaps?). Though the symbolism in this film seems disconnected to any thematic thread running through the film, we have elements suggesting the Viet Nam conflict, a military out of control that is content to doom everyone in pursuit of the annihilation of its enemy and a fractured society trying to sort out and organize some very disparate elements that threaten each other’s stability…a perfect snapshot of the early 1970’s.

With the exception of the McCarthyism of Planet and the race wars of Conquest, I freely admit that many of these perceptions and translations are mine and I’m NOT stating unequivocally that the series’ creators implicitly intended for the stories to be received on the level I’ve described above. But to me, these thematic elements fit nicely with the conflicts that were defining the culture at the time. While some of these bits could be shoehorned into current events, I feel that if someone were to film these scripts today, they would not be as well received. There’s a context to these tales and the way they’re told that are deeply enmeshed in the social events of that era…if you weren’t there, you may still be able to enjoy the films for the purely wonderful storytelling they are, but many of the delightful subtle touches that drive them and the characters will be missed.

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Japanese poster for BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. ©Twentieth Century Fox

Though I haven’t seen Dawn yet, I was pleased with Rise and how the creators did a reboot the right way: by taking the ingredients of a tried and true recipe and creating a whole new series of dishes that are better suited for a different meal and a different crowd, allowing a new experience to exist that respects the older one that inspired.

So yeah, I think you CAN go home again…but only to visit for a while. Sometimes it’s better to build a new house on a new lot and simply admire from afar the place you grew up. And let it be what it was while you enjoy your new digs.

The “Queen” of Horror – An Interview with Brinke Stevens

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.”

How true this is, especially in the film industry. Would the horror film even exist without a damsel in distress? Predators and their prey are a constant theme throughout horror novels and movies. Would King Kong have been so tragic without Fay Wray? Would Psycho have been so nerve-racking without Janet Leigh? Femme fatales are an essential part of the horror genre. As the home video market gained strength in the 1980s, small studios frantically produced scores of lower budget films, or B-Movies, to satisfy the ravenous fan base. The actresses who pioneered this new age of horror and comedy in the home video entertainment became known as “Scream Queens”. At the peak of the B-movie revolution, Director Donald Farmer interviewed many of the hottest scream queens in the industry for his documentary Invasion of The Scream Queens. Fans of Brinke Stevens and B-movie fanatics can now see these rarely seen interviews thanks to Wild Eye Releasing’s new 20th Anniversary DVD release of this sought-after documentary.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, eager young horror fans rented scores of direct-to-video movies and stayed up all night watching cable TV to catch the latest offerings by their favorite actresses and directors. With titles like Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Slumber Party Massacre and Teenage Exorcist, a cult movie craze had exploded. One of the most admired stars of the genre is Brinke Stevens, a petite, raven-haired beauty with an uncanny ability to portray predator, prey and girl next door with ease. Not limited to acting, Brinke has also worked behind the scenes as a producer and director, with several screenplays to her credit. She has even written and appeared in her own comic book series, “Brinke of Eternity” and “Brinke of Destruction”, as well as modeling for everything from magazines to trading cards to art prints. We asked Brinke about her start in the movie industry and find out what’s been keeping her busy lately. Join me on this Brinke of discovery

JOHN HUMPHREY: Considering you have a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology from Scripps Institute and are a member of Mensa, my first question would have to be: Brinke, when did you begin your film career, and what was your motivation for working in the film industry?

BRINKE STEVENS: It was a total accident. I just wanted a quiet little lab in Hawaii where I could work with dolphins. In 1980, I married my childhood sweetheart [“Rocketeer” creator and artist] Dave Stevens and moved from San Diego to Los Angeles, California. While looking for a scientist job, I wandered past the open door of a casting office – and was immediately hired as an extra in All the Marbles. Soon, I was cast in my first major speaking role, Slumber Party Massacre (1981). I quickly landed many more film jobs, and magazines were suddenly calling me a “Scream Queen”. I always say, “My career chose me, I didn’t choose it.”

HUMPHREY: Why do you think the 1980s was such an important decade for independent horror films?

STEVENS: When the revolutionary home-video boom created a huge demand for new product, young filmmakers like Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Charles Band and Roger Corman set up their own independent studios to churn out dozens and dozens of films that went straight to video. I also think the 1980s were better known for horror comedies. Many of the films I did back then were rather innocent and fun-loving. Later, horror got much gorier and mean-spirited.

HUMPHREY: Did you take “Brinke” as your stage name after starting in the film industry, or was it a nickname prior to that?

STEVENS: My maiden name was Charlene Elisabeth Brinkman, and all my childhood friends called me “Brink”. When I married Dave Stevens in 1980, I adopted “Brinke Stevens” as my stage-name.

HUMPHREY: Of all of your films, what was your favorite movie and role, and why?

STEVENS: Haunting Fear (1990) was the biggest part I’d had so far. When director Fred Olen Ray sent me the script, I thought he had me in mind for the sexy secretary. But no! The lead, a woman whose cheating husband drives her crazy to collect her inheritance. A very complex role. On any given day, I had to ask myself, “How crazy am I today?” By the end, I played it totally insane. It was an amazing opportunity to stretch my range as an actress.

HUMPHREY: Where would you like to see the future of your career heading?

STEVENS: More of the same: acting, writing, directing, producing.

HUMPHREY: You said in an interview in Invasion of the Scream Queens that you hoped to one day “graduate” from B movies. Do you feel you achieved that goal?

STEVENS: Not at all! I was so typecast in B-movies that I was never able to break through that glass ceiling. However, there’s been a real advantage to being an indie horror star, i.e., a big fish in a small pond, like getting hired for my name-value without having to audition.

HUMPHREY: What is your definition of a “Scream Queen” and do you think there are current day “Scream Queens”?

STEVENS: By happy accident, I was in the right place at the right time. I was given that label in the late 1980s, after screaming (and usually dying) in so many horror films. It’s often said that me, Linnea Quigley, and Michelle Bauer were the three original Scream Queens. A decade later, I was also very impressed with Debbie Rochon and Tiffany Shepis. I doubt it’s even possible to follow in our footsteps anymore, because the indie studio system no longer exists. It’s a catchy title, and I don’t mind being called that. At least it’s got the word “Queen” in it. Makes me feel like horror film royalty.

John Humphrey and Brinke Stevens at Dragon-Con in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Humphrey and Brinke Stevens at Dragon-Con in Atlanta, Georgia.

HUMPHREY: Which of your films do your fans most often inquire about?

STEVENS: My favorite film Haunting Fear (1990) was never released on DVD (except bootlegged), so it’s the one movie that everyone wants to see.

HUMPHREY: What’s the one project you’ve always wanted to do but have yet to be able to?

STEVENS: A while back, I was cast in a vampire movie to be shot in the Philippines. I’d have big black wings, and flying wire-work would definitely be involved. I’ve never done that before, and it seems so very exciting! The film shoot hasn’t happened yet, due to financial setbacks… but I sure hope to play that winged Vampire Queen someday.

HUMPHREY: What do you feel has been your most important professional accomplishment?

STEVENS: All of it, really – the sum of the parts. To some people, it may not seem like a proud accomplishment to become a B-movie star. But hey, I DID it… to the absolute BEST that I could… and a lot of people were entertained. I’ve acted in almost 200 films, sold a half-dozen scripts and published my own comic book, co-produced several documentaries (like Shock Cinema), and I just directed Personal Demons, a film I also wrote and starred in. For me, it’s been a very fulfilling life so far.

HUMPHREY: What is your favorite book, and why?

STEVENS: I’ve had many favorite books over the years. One that’s remained on my shelf is “Bridge of Birds” by Barry Hughart. It’s a magical-realism novel of an ancient China that never was. He’s a wonderful writer, very evocative.

HUMPHREY: What is your favorite film, and why?

STEVENS: I enjoy many of the old classics like Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney, and Portrait of Jennie (1948) with Jennifer Jones. Those actresses were so luminously beautiful; they really stole the screen.

HUMPHREY: In your life, who has been the greatest positive influence on your career?

STEVENS: When I was a young girl, seeing Maleficent (in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty) made me gasp, “I want to BE her!” Since then, I’ve channeled that evil queen in many of my films.

HUMPHREY: What is your next project?

STEVENS: Directing The Halloween Party in Orlando, Florida for producer Rick Danford.

HUMPHREY: Who is Brinke Stevens today?

STEVENS: Older, wiser, and happier in general because I don’t stress over the little things anymore.

Brinke’s official web site: http://www.brinke.com