February & March at The Movie Morlocks

eastwoodvcI’ve been neglecting Cinebeats again. Having a hard time getting back into the swing of things around here and other endeavors are keeping me from the blog. But I thought I’d finally update with a quick list of some highlights from my February & Mach contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below.

Wanna Rumble?
Excerpt: “I usually go out of my way to avoid ruffling the feathers of my fellow film fanatics but there are plenty of things that get me riled up on a monthly basis. Sometimes a girl’s just got to let off a little steam . . .”
Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of TCM with a free screening of CASABLANCA
Excerpt: “What fires up my imagination (about CASABLANCA) are the peripheral characters that linger around the film’s rough edges. The shady rogues, crooked cops, war criminals and usual suspects are the glue that holds this movie together for me.”
Play it Again, Morricone: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)
Excerpt: “While Leone’s camera lovingly lingers on dust covered streets, decaying buildings, weather worn leather boots, gleaming gun barrels and the expressive faces of the actors that make up his cast, Morricone breathes life into them through his music and sound design. Together they’re one of cinemas most extraordinary and ingenious duos and it’s become impossible to think of one man without acknowledging the talents of the other.”
Unfinished Films: Where Can I Buy My Ticket?
Excerpt: “Jodorowsky’s story isn’t uncommon and there are thousands of forgotten unmade movies that we’ll never get the opportunity to see although they may not have had the same ambition or scope as the long lost DUNE. With this in mind I decided to compile a list of some particularly intriguing film projects that never made it to the big screen. These are the forgotten dreams of frustrated directors and writers but from time to time I find them unspooling in my head…”

Ancient Evil is Now a Modern Industry: THIRST (1979)
Excerpt: “Few film subjects have been as exploited, examined and scrutinized as vampires. These blood sucking monsters are a favorite topic of horror filmmakers and fans, morbid romantics and angst-ridden pubescent teens. In recent years the vampire has lost some of its bite thanks to a spat of predictable and tired films made for kids and indiscriminate adults but this wasn’t always the case. The 1970s was a particularly inventive time for our fanged friends…”
The Nightmarish World of Maya Deren
Excerpt: “MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON appears to take shape within the troubled mind of its doom-laden female protagonist. It’s propelled by dream logic without any familiar narrative structure but it contains elements and visual metaphors found in countless horror movies beginning with a locked door that leads viewers into a vacant house that seems alive with apparitions..”

Jacqueline Susann’s Love Machine (1971)

The Love Machine (1971)

The Love Machine (1971)

The Love Machine (1971)

The Love Machine (1971)

I recently got the chance to review the Warner Archive DVD release of THE LOVE MACHINE (1971) based on Jacqueline “Valley of the Dolls” Susann’s book and naturally I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve mentioned the film at Cinebeats before during my farewell post to John Phillip Law, which was written after he passed away in 2008. I think it’s a great film so I went to bat for it at the Movie Morlocks this week. It’s not an easy movie to recommend. It’s been mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000, bashed by an endless parade of critics over the years and celebrated as a kitsch classic worthy of cult camp status and not much else, but I think it’s got more to offer than unintentional laughs. Few films feature three leading men that I absolutely love (John Phillip Law, Robert Ryan AND David Hemmings!) as well as Hammer glamour girls, Mary and Madeleine Collinson (TWINS OF EVIL), Anitra Ford (INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS) and ’60s beauty icon Lynda Moran just to name a few of the lovely ladies in this film. THE LOVE MACHINE also contains lots of fabulous ’70s fashions, plus stylish decor by the likes of Burke and inspired by designer Eero Saarinen. Do I need to say anymore? If you’re a Cinebeats’ reader chances are you’re going to enjoy this film as much as I do. An excerpt from my post:

“Taken seriously, THE LOVE MACHINE could be seen as an interesting predecessor to NETWORK (1976), which depicted the drama unfolding in the boardrooms and backrooms of high-powered television networks. The film also smartly critiques our blind fascination with popular news personalities who often manipulate the public trust for their own gain. Like Mark Robson, who adapted VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, director Jack Haley Jr. was obviously inspired by filmmakers like John M. Stahl and Douglas Sirk who created shrewd and stylish melodramas in the 1940s and ‘50s such as MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN and ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. And although I wouldn’t categorize THE LOVE MACHINE as a “woman’s picture” it was based on a woman’s novel that appealed to a large female audience. As a period piece, THE LOVE MACHINE is an unusual time capsule. It’s of its time and yet totally outside it. But as pure entertainment I think it has lots of visual interest and an oddly involving (and at times convoluted) plot. However you decided to approach the film, I think it makes for some unforgettable viewing.”

You can find my full post about THE LOVE MACHINE at The Movie Morlocks:
Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I also created a Flickr Gallery for THE LOVE MACHINE that you can view here.

VOICES (1973) or The Other OTHERS


If there’s a couple that was more modtastic and appeared in more outstanding horror films & thrillers than the fabulous David Hemmings and the vastly underrated Gayle Hunnicutt, I don’t know who they are. Hemmings and Hunnicutt were married between 1968 and 1975. During that brief period of time they made FRAGMENT OF FEAR (1970) and VOICES (1973) together (as well as THE LOVE MACHINE, which I’ll be writing about soon). They also individually starred in such noteworthy films as EYE OF THE CAT (1969), UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO (1971), NUITS ROUGE (1974), THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1974) and DEEP RED (1975).

David Hemmings & Gayle Hunnicutt (1967)
Note: Gayle’s holding David’s LP!

Speaking of Hemmings & Hunnicutt, I’m taking a lengthy look at the spooky supernatural thriller VOICES (1973) at the Movie Morlocks this week, which features the real-life couple as a husband and wife haunted by ghosts and plagued by their own personal demons. I recently watched VOICES for the first time and was very impressed with this vastly underrated – and undeniably influential – little horror film. I was also surprised by the lack of available information about VOICES. I scanned my personal library and did extensive research online but solid facts and important figures were incredibly hard to come by. I decided to try and remedy the situation by writing a dissertation piece about the film for the Morlocks, which hopefully shines some much needed light on the movie and encourages more horror enthusiasts to seek it out. Unfortunately it’s currently only available on VHS legally but bootleg DVDs are floating around online. You can also watch VOICES on Youtube, which is where I saw it. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post:

VOICES is based on the work of accomplished horror author, Richard Lortz (Lovers Living Lovers Dead, Bereavements, Dracula’s Children, etc.) and it explores the life of a young couple (David Hemmings & Gayle Hunnicutt) whose idyllic existence is turned upside down when their young son accidentally drowns. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that the mother, Claire Williams, was deeply traumatized by the loss of her child and after numerous suicide attempts she was finally hospitalized. Her husband Robert has been trying to cope with the stress as well as but it’s apparent that the situation has become increasingly difficult for them both. After Claire is released from the hospital the couple plans a trip to the country where they can relax in a large manor house that was left to Claire by her recently deceased aunt. It seems like the perfect setting for the couple to rekindle their romance but things begin to disintegrate quickly after their trip becomes hindered by the foggy weather, which makes finding the house almost impossible. The situation reaches a breaking points after Claire begins hearing strange unidentifiable voices in the house. Eventually the voices take shape and Claire comes face to face with the ghostly figure of a young girl playing with a toy ball who doesn’t seem aware of the couple’s presence. But she isn’t the only ghost haunting the old house and before the film is over both Claire and her husband Robert will experience a series of unexplained supernatural events that leave them questioning their sanity as well as their very existence.”

For more (much more!) please continue reading at The Movie Morlocks:
“The Voices of Terror – Twisting Two Minds!” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Celebrity Vinyl


My latest post at TCM’s Movie Morlocks takes a look at some of my favorite celebrity albums recorded by classic film stars. Did you know Robert Mitchum recorded a calypso album? Have you ever heard Eddie Albert sing a Bob Dylan song? Or listened to Dirk Bogarde talk his way through “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”? These are just a few of the celebrity albums you’ll find if you make your way over to the Movie Morlocks!

Celebrity Vinyl: Classic Actors Sing @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)




It’s a rare occurrence when I come across a movie I’ve never heard of before or seen. Such is the case with John Mackenzie’s Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971). I sought the movie out because the title was intriguing and it caught my attention when I was scanning David Hemmings’ filmography on IMBD. After hunting around a bit I discovered that the film was available to watch at Amazon so I purchased it for a number of reasons. First of all, I love Hemmings and enjoy watching him in just about anything. I also love British cinema and I’m especially fond of horror films, mysteries and thrillers. Unman, Wittering and Zigo isn’t a typical horror film and I hesitate to call it one since it relies on mystery more than outright fear to unnerve its audience but debating genre labels is tiresome. You can call Unman, Wittering and Zigo whatever you want and I’ll just call it a damn good movie that genuinely surprised me.

Read my take on this unusual British film at The Movie Morlocks blog.
Authority Is the Child of Obedience @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Looking Into the Eye of the Devil

Eye of the Devil (1966)

Eye of the Devil (1966)
Sharon Tate and David Hemmings in Eye of the Devil (1966)

Halloween is fast approaching and over at the Movie Morlocks blog we’re counting down the days with an “obscure and offbeat” horror movie blogathon. All week long my fellow Morlocks and myself have been writing about some of our favorite lessor known films and I decided to tackle J. Lee Thompson’s Eye of the Devil (1966), which also became available on DVD this week from the Warner Archives. It contains one of my favorite opening montages and it’s just a great undervalued occult thriller that deserves a wider audience. It also features some of my favorite actors including a very young and very handsome David Hemmings, the amazing Deborah Kerr, a stunning Sharon Tate and the dapper David Niven. With a cast that good you just know the film is worth a look… or two!

More images from Eye of the Devil can be found in my Flickr Gallery.

I hope to share my thoughts about one more “Bewitching Movie” before the month ends so keep an eye on Cinebeats for further updates. In the meantime I hope I’ve given my faithful readers a few good recommendations for Halloween viewing. I’ve really enjoyed the last month but I’m not really looking forward to Halloween. I wish October could last forever. Saying goodbye to my favorite month always hurts a little.

I also thought I’d mention that one of my fellow Morlocks has written about another one of my favorite “Bewitching Movies,” the incredible Night of the Demon (1957). If you haven’t had the chance to see the classic supernatural thriller yet I highly recommend giving it a look. TCM is showing Night of the Demon tomorrow (Friday, October 29th) followed by a mini Hammer film marathon featuring my favorite monster and mad doctor, Frankenstein. For more information on all the horror films being shown this Halloween weekend visit the official TCM site.

Looking Into the Eye of the Devil @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

My Top 20 Favorite Films of 1968

At the Britannica blog Raymond Benson has finished listing off his Top 10 Favorite Films of 1968 so if you’re interested in the final results stop by and give them a look. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I dislike making lists of favorite films myself since they’re limited by what I’ve seen and are subject to change at anytime. Roger Ebert recently asked his blog readers to “. . . agree that all lists of movies are nonsense.” I agreed with him wholeheartedly at the time, but in the process of watching Raymond Benson share his list favorite films from 1968 I naturally began thinking of my own favorite films released the same year.

Compiling a list of favorite films restricted by their release date without implying that they’re “the best” (whatever that means) started to seem like a fun exercise. And while reading the complaints and reservations about Raymond Benson’s own selections I even suggested that it would be interesting if all the participants of the Britannica blog “round-table” supplied their own list of Top 10 Favorite Films for 1968 so we could compare them. I figured that if we were going to scrutinize Raymond Benson’s selections we might as well scrutinize each other. I also thought that it would probably enrich the discussion. No one else seemed willing or able to share a list of there own picks, but for the past two weeks I’ve been quietly compiling a list of my own favorite films from 1968.

I wasn’t planing on sharing my own list with anyone, but over the weekend I listened to an interesting discussion between Greencine’s David Hudson, Film Comment‘s Gavin Smith and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about the current state of film criticism that got me contemplating my list again. During the discussion Jonathan Rosenbaum smartly pointed out that, “People love lists now because they need to. There’s too much to navigate through.” In my own experience I’ve found this to be very true. Since I started blogging my “Favorite DVDs of the year” lists for 2006 and 2007 have become some of my most popular posts and they’ve generated some lively discussions and lots of email. I think other people appreciate them because they offer a brief look at some films I’ve enjoyed and recommend. And in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum, the lists are easy to navigate through.

So without further explanation, here’s a list of some of my own favorite films from 1968. I couldn’t manage to narrow all my choices down to a mere Top 10 so I just decided to share my Top 20 list instead. I purposefully left off documentaries so you won’t find any listed and four of the films on my list were also on Raymond Benson’s list. The numerical order doesn’t mean much and naturally my list is subject to change at anytime since I’m continually being exposed to new movies. It also should be noted that after looking at various print and online sources I’ve come across different release dates for some films. As far as I know, the following 20 films were originally released in 1968.


1. If…. (Lindsay Anderson; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about If…. can be found HERE and HERE.

Black Lizard (1968)
2. Black Lizard aka Kurotokage (Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Black Lizard can be found HERE.
I’m currently working on a much longer article about the film and its star that I hope to share here soon.

Spirits of the Dead (1968)
3. Spirits of the Dead aka Histoires Extraordinaires
(Federico Fellini, Louis Malle & Roger Vadim; 1968)

Some of my thought about Spirits of the Dead can be found HERE.

Teorema (1968)
4. Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Teorema can be found HERE.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick; 1968)

Diabolik (1968)
6. Diabolik aka Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava; 1968)
Some of my brief thoughts about Diabolik can be found HERE.

Succubus (1968)
7. Succubus aka Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (Jesus Franco; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Succubus can be found HERE.

8. The Great Silence aka Il Grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci; 1968)
Some of my thought about The Great Silence can be found HERE and HERE.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
9. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski; 1968)

Petulia (1968)
10. Petulia (Richard Lester; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Petulia can be found HERE.

11. Blackmail Is My Life aka Kyokatsu koso Waga Jinsei ( Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Blackmail Is My Life can be found HERE

Boom (1968)
12. Boom! (Joesph Losey; 1968)
My lengthy look at Boom! can be found HERE.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
13. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero; 1968)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
14. The Thomas Crown Affair (Norman Jewison; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about The Thomas Crown Affair can be found HERE.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
15. Girl on a Motorcycle aka Naked Under Leather (Jack Cardiff; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Alain Delon and Girl on a Motorcycle can be found HERE.

16. Once Upon a Time in the West aka C’era una volta il West
(Sergio Leone; 1968)

Some of my thoughts about Once Upon a Time in the West can be found HERE.

17. Death Laid an Egg aka La Morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi; 1968)
I briefly mentioned my fondness for Death Laid an Egg HERE.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)
18. The Devil Rides Out aka The Devil’s Bride (Terence Fisher; 1968)

19. The Party (Blake Edwards; 1968)

Barbarella (1968)
20. Barbarella (Roger Vadim; 1968)

Honorable mention goes to the wonderful Yokai Monster films that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

The Mod Musicals of Lance Comfort

Top: David Hemmings and Steve Marriott
Bottom: Jennifer Moss and Heinz Burt

I recently watched two entertaining and important musicals directed by British B-movie maven Lance Comfort called Live It Up! (1963) and its sequel Be My Guest (1964), which are currently available on DVD from Guillotine Films. After my failed attempts at finding any good articles about these films available online I figured I’d try and compile something for Cinebeats. I hope readers will find these films as interesting as I did and enjoy the results of my rather lengthy investigation into the mod musicals of Lance Comfort.

Director Lance Comfort is mostly known for the dark melodramas, crime pictures and low-budget thrillers he made in Britain during the ’40s and ’50s but late in his career he was hired to direct two films that shined a spotlight on some of Britain’s up and coming musical acts. These films also showcased some of the fashions, style and stars that would go on to shape and influence pop culture for decades to come.

I’ve only seen a few other Lance Comfort movies myself so my experience with the director’s work is minimal at best, but from the accounts I’ve read and the informative commentary made available on the DVDs by the film’s executive producer, it seems that Lance Comfort was mainly acting as a “director for hire” on these films even though he also helped co-produce them. Live It Up! and Be My Guest were both low-budget promotional films created by the Film Music division of the British entertainment company known as The Rank Organisation. At the time it was run by producer Harold Shampan who made these movies in an effort to sell more records. Much like the music videos found on MTV today, during the late ’50s and early ’60s numerous bands and musical acts appeared in similar films with the hope that it would give them an opportunity to be heard by a much larger audience. In 1963 BBC Radio ruled Britain’s airwaves with an iron fist and it only offered listeners minimal access to popular music. These films often provided young audiences with their first opportunity to see and hear new recording artists.

Top: The Outlaws (with Ritchie Blackmore)
Bottom: The Nashville Teens

The groundbreaking British record producer and songwriter Joe Meek was the real driving force behind Live It Up! and the film features many of Meek’s original songs as well as live performances by some of the artists he produced including The Outlaws (featuring Ritchie Blackmore), The Saints, Kim Roberts and Sounds Incorporated. The film also features Meek produced recording artists Jennifer Moss and Heinz Burt who both have lead roles in the movie. At the time Joe Meek was rather obsessed with the tall blond German born musician Heinz Burt. Burt had been a member of the Joe Meek produced band The Tornadoes but Meek thought Heinz Burt was worthy of a solo career and he was spending a lot of his time and energy focusing on launching Burt’s career at the time that Live It Up! was made. After Joe Meek’s unfortunate suicide in 1967, rumors about Meek and Burt’s romantic relationship spread but they were always denied by Burt, which probably had more to do with the social pressures placed on both men in the early ’60s than the actual truth.

Live It Up! also features memorable performances by trad jazz artist Kenny Ball, popular singer Patsy Ann Noble and American rock and roll pioneer Gene Vincent. Gene Vincent had recently moved to England after facing tax problems in the U.S. and he was enjoying a sort of career revival there among British youth who were still excited by early American rock and roll. Dave Clark (of The Dave Clark Five) also makes a brief appearance in the film but he doesn’t perform any songs.

Besides showcasing various styles of popular music, Live It Up! also features cutting-edge fashions by important designers of the period such as Mary Quant and John Stephen who had both recently opened up shops on London’s infamous Carnaby Street. Even the hairstyles in the film were provided by Vidal Sassoon whose modern recreation of the “bob cut” would become a staple of sixties fashion. The young people in Live It Up! are also seen driving scooters and motorcycles, which became popular modes of transportation associated with the mod and rocker scenes in Britain.

Live It Up! (1963)

Live It Up! (1963)

Live It Up! (1963)

Live It Up! provides viewers with a brief but unforgettable glimpse of a more innocent time just moments before pirate radio, drugs, shorter skirts, Beatlemania and the merseybeat sound would transform the capital city into “Swinging London.” From pop music to beat, trad jazz and American rock-n-roll, Live It Up! is a fascinating concoction of sounds and styles aimed at Britain’s youth during a pivotal point in pop culture history. Soon after Britain’s youth culture would begin to fragment more into different groups (rockers, mods, hippies, etc.) with different haircuts, different fashion sensibilities and different social concerns and attitudes. Of course most individuals during this period combined their various interests in music and fashion and rarely fell into easily defined categories usually created by the media in order to sell newspapers and magazines.

Female Reporter: Are you a mod, or a rocker?
Ringo Starr : Um, no. I’m a mocker.

– from A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Be My Guest is a little less interesting than its predecessor but it’s still well worth a look. The film’s musical score was compiled and co-written by the celebrated American producer Shel Talmy who’s mostly known now for his groundbreaking work with British bands like The Kinks and The Who. The film contains some worthwhile musical performances from acts that Talmy worked with including The Zephyrs, Kenny and the Wranglers, The Plebs (featuring Danny McCulloch from The Animals) and most notably The Nashville Teens and American rock-n-roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, who just about steals the show with his performance of “No One But Me.” Like other American rock-n-roll artists such as Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis was enjoying a career revival in Britain at the time and he really kicks the film into high gear with his energetic performance. The talented composer John Barry also provides some of the songs and background music in Be My Guest, including a quirky pop song called “Gotta Getaway Now” that is sung by the singer and dancer Joyce Blair.

Both Live It Up! and it’s sequel Be My Guest star a very young David Hemmings as a guitar playing lad named Dave Martin along with a very young Steve Marriott as a drummer named Ricky. In the films they play friends and bandmates who are trying to form a beat band called The Smart Alecs and make it big in Britain’s burgeoning music scene. Both men started acting early in life and had previously appeared on stage in musicals before making Live It Up! together. David Hemmings’ first role was in Benjamin Britten’s well-received 1954 opera The Turn of the Screw, which was based on Henry James original story. Steve Marriott’s first big break came in 1960 when he got the role of the Artful Dodger in the extremely popular British musical Oliver!, which was later made into a film by director Carol Reed. The role of the Artful Dodger was played by many talented British boys who would later go onto bigger and better things including Genesis’ Phil Collins and The Monkees’ Davy Jones. But it was young Steve Marriott who was asked to provide vocals on the Artful Dodger’s songs for the original stage recording and it’s easy to understand why. Right after filming Live It Up! and Be My Guest Steve Marriott would go on to help form one of the most important and influential bands that has ever come out of Britain, The Small Faces. Phil Collins and Davy Jones are both good vocalists and by all accounts they were also impressive child actors, but neither of them could match Steve Marriott’s powerful vocal talents when he was at his peak.

Live It Up! (1963)

Live It Up! (1963)

Live It Up! (1963)

David Hemmings has been one of my favorite actors for many years and I’ve seen most of the films he made after 1966, but I had only previously had the opportunity to see one of his “pre-Blowup” films (Eye of the Devil, 1966). Even as a young man Hemmings was clearly a better actor than the material he’s working with in Live It Up! and Be My Guest, where he spends a majority of his time arguing with his fictional mum and dad. Hemmings’ youthful enthusiasm is extremely appealing in both films. He projects an easygoing personality on screen, which makes him appear very modern and just plain cool in the role of young Dave Martin. The actor seems to sum up everything that was wonderful, carefree and even dangerous about British youth at the time. It’s easy to see why Michaelangelo Antonioni would cast Hemmings in his seminal film Blowup (1966) just a few years later where the actor’s good looks and natural charm made him perfect for the role of a British photographer working in swinging London. It’s hard to measure the impact that Hemmings’ character in Blowup had on a generation of British youth but it’s safe to say that he’s one of most important style icon of the ’60s. His defining roles in films like Live It Up! and Be My Guest undoubtedly helped shape public opinion about popular music and fashion during that decade. And they also helped make David Hemmings the important pop culture figure he became a few years later after starring in Blowup.

I was unfamiliar with Steve Marriott’s early film roles before watching Live It Up! and Be My Guest, but Marriott is very good in both movies and incredibly cute with his big eyes and wide smile. He seems to enjoy playing comedic scenes and acting like a clown whenever the opportunity presents itself. His natural charisma is impossible to overlook. It’s a shame that the talented singer was forced to act as if he was playing the drums in both films and wasn’t given an opportunity to show the world his amazing vocal abilities. But if you’re a Marriott fan these films are an absolute must see just to get a glimpse of young Steve before he formed The Small Faces and made music history.

The young female stars of these film are often reduced to girlfriend roles or nonspeaking parts, which is unfortunate considering some of the talented women involved with both movies. As I mentioned above, Live It Up! features the talented Australian singer and actress Patsy Ann Noble (aka Trisha Noble) as well as Jennifer Moss who later gained recognition on the popular British drama Coronation Street. Patsy Ann Noble has no dialogue in the film and Jennifer Moss isn’t given much to do as David Hemmings’ girlfriend. Moss spends most of her time moping over the fact that Hemmings’ character shows little interest in her and seems to prefer hanging out with his bandmates. The female actresses don’t fare much better in Be My Guest, which features a little-known cute and spunky American actress named Andrea Monet who doesn’t do much except kiss David Hemmings. Joyce Blair has a somewhat meatier role in the film as a bad girl called Wanda who seems to enjoy using her sexual prowess to get ahead in life but overall the women in these films are reduced to playing stereotypical roles or providing some occasional eye and ear-candy.

Patsy Ann Noble and Joyce Blair

Both films are very formulaic and director Lance Comfort didn’t make many creative directing choices while he was behind the camera. But the movies do include some nice exterior shots and the musical performances have a lot of energy considering that the artists had to pretend that they were performing live. There are also some nice set designs, which should probably be credited to the talented art director Jack Shampan who is better known for his work on films like Modesty Blaise (1966) and popular British television shows such as Danger Man (1964) and The Prisoner (1967). My fellow film buffs might also get a kick out of seeing the outside and insides of legendary Pinewood Studios in Live It Up! since the British studio is used a lot in the film. In the ’40s Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger shot many of their most celebrated films at Pinewood Studios and in the ’60s the James Bond films were shot there. Interestingly enough, the second Bond film From Russia with Love (1963) was being filmed at the studio at the same time that Lance Comfort was shooting Live it Up!

If you’re familiar with Franc Roddam’s film Quadrophenia (1979) you might be as surprised as I was to discover how much Live It Up! and By My Guest may have influenced that film. Quadrophenia was based on the 1973 rock opera written by Pete Townshend and The Who. It chronicled a few days in the life of a mod youth during the infamous mods vs. rockers fight known as the “Second Battle of Hastings” that took place in 1964. Live It Up! and Quadrophenia both feature young men working as mail carriers or company “runners” who want something more out of life and it seems impossible that anyone could watch lanky Heinz Burt playing Ron in Live It Up! and not be reminded of Sting’s character Ace Face in Quadrophenia. The bleached blond hair and leather coats obviously link the two memorable characters together but I seem to be in the minority since I haven’t been able to find any other critical information about these films that connects them to Qaudrophenia. It’s also worth noting that Be My Guest was made in Brighton in 1964 where the real “Second Battle of Hastings” happened. I don’t know if the film’s crew or cast was aware of the events but they must have taken place around the same time that Lance Comfort started shooting Be My Guest. As I mentioned earlier, The Who’s one time producer Shel Talmy helped write and compose music for Be My Guest so I’m sure members of the band must have been familiar with both of these Lance Comfort films before they wrote and recorded Quadrophenia.

Live it Up! and its sequel Be My Guest make for a fun and entertaining double feature if you happen to enjoy music, fashion and pop culture from the early ’60s as much as I do. Both films were released on DVD in late 2005 from Guillotine Films with interesting commentary tracks from the film’s executive producer but they’re currently out of print. You can still find used copies of both films selling at Amazon for about $10 (or $5 a piece) and the movies are also available for rent from Netflix.

Some Recommended Links:
My Live It Up! Flickr Gallery
The Joe Meek Appreciation Society
Steve Marriott’s Official Site
David Hemmings, Brit Boy of the 60’s
Tribute to Heinz
The Mods and Rockers
Lance Comfort Profile at BFI Screenonline
The Patsy Ann Noble Fan Site
The Nashville Teens Official Site

Closing music clip from Live It Up! (1963).
Featuring David Hemmings, Steve Marriott, Heinz Burt and John Pike.
(Note: The music was actually performed by Heinz Burt and his band The Tornadoes).

Michelangelo Antonioni 1912 – 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni 1912 - 2007

You ask what you should watch. I ask how I should live. It’s the same thing.
– Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris) in Antonioni’s The Red Desert (1964)

Cinephiles have suffered some great losses in recent days with the death of Ingmar Bergman, actor Michel Serrault and now Michelangelo Antonioni. I was really touched by all the great tributes I read to Bergman yesterday but I never became too personally involved with Bergman’s work myself. I admired the man greatly and seriously respected his influence which was obviously enormous, but in all honesty my personal relationship with Bergman could never come close to the long lasting and personal one I share with Michelangelo Antonioni.

My first introduction to Antonioni was on a rainy Sunday afternoon when I was only about 12 years old back in the early 1980s. I was at home watching television when suddenly good old channel 2 in the Bay Area started to run Blow-up. At first I kept watching because I thought actor David Hemmings was incredibly cute, but as the film went on I became more and more drawn into the film’s mysteries and silences. While I enjoyed the swinging London setting and the sudden excitement of hearing the Yardbirds perform “Train Kept A-Rollin”, as well as the colorful and frenetic moments of Hemmings’ character shooting beautiful British models with his camera, it was really the silence and the isolation infusing Antonioni’s Blow-up that truly touched me and fascinated me in ways that few other films previously had. Once the movie had ended I knew I had seen something very special. I can remember trying to explain the film to friends and having trouble finding the words. At the time I was alone in my appreciation for the film but that was okay with me.

As the years passed I would see more of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films and I would also continue to feel more alone and isolated from a world which contained astonishing landscapes and breathtaking beauty while often remaining extremely cold and incomprehensible to me. Antonioni captured the world I saw and experienced with his camera. His films have made me appreciate and understand human loneliness and isolation in ways that few artists have. I’ve been moved and deeply touched by his work, which seemed to grasp at beauty in the most unexpected places and embrace the mystery of life that so many other artists, directors and human beings run away from or try to avoid and fill up with noise.

Appreciating the silence in life is essential to appreciating the work of Antonioni.

I’m often astonished by the amount of talking that characters do in film after film. When I was younger I would watch movies directed by the brilliant Woody Allen, or countless wonderful Howard Hawks’ comedies and be surprised and utterly entranced by the amazing communication and humor shared between characters and the deep feelings openly expressed in countless monologues. And while I appreciate well-written dialogue, the real world around me has always been rather silent. In my experience people rarely communicate. We might chat about life, work and family but it is often just surface nonsense with very little substance to it. Real relationships are hard to foster. True friendships are rare and should be treasured. We seem to be naturally guarded creatures who roam the world alone and finally die alone, no matter how deep our relationships are with friends and family. Michelangelo Antonioni understood this like no other director I’ve ever encountered.

L' Eclisse (1962)
Monica Vitti and Alain Delon in L’ Eclisse (1962)

Antonioni often tossed out convention when he made his films and embraced ambiguity. He knew that real life was full of questions that rarely had answers and he knew human behavior was often unpredictable and motivated by the incomprehensible interior life of every individual. He brought all of this truth to his films and I love him for it. I’m grateful that the world I know was so beautifully captured and shown to me through his camera. Antonioni was able to communicate with me in ways that few other artists and human beings have been able to and I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. Within Antonioni’s silences I heard symphonies.

Unfortunately it hasn’t always been very easy to see Antonioni’s films. In recent years that has changed due to companies like Criterion which have been making Antonioni’s films more accessible to American audiences, but I’ve still only seen L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse (1962), Red Desert (1964), Blow Up (1966) and The Passenger (1975) myself. Each of his films has resonated deep within me and I’d have a hard time leaving any of them off a list of “Favorite Films” that I might put together.

With Bergman’s death and now Antonioni’s passing, critics are bemoaning the lack of respect these directors seem to have with modern audiences but I think it’s ridiculous to weigh their incredible achievements against popular opinion. Antonioni’s work is so incredibly modern that it still confounds critics and divides audiences. If that isn’t the mark of an important filmmaker who’s work is still worth exploring and has much to offer current audiences, I don’t know what is. I have no doubt that Antonioni’s films will be appreciated for years to come and new generations of film lovers will find themselves discovering his work and being as deeply moved by it as I have been.

Links to some Michelangelo Antonioni film trailers on YouTube:
L’ Avventura (1960)
L’ Eclisse (1962)
Blow-up (1966)
Zabriskie Point (1970)
The Passenger (1975)

Dario Argento News

Argento & Hemmings on the set of Profondo rosso (1974)
David Hemmings and Dario Argento on the set of Profondo Rosso (1974)

One of my favorite Italian directors has been making lots of news lately. On July 7th Dario Argento launched his first official website which is shaping up to be a really magnificent site jam packed with lots of info and eye-candy spanning Argento’s 40 year career. Unfortunately it’s only an Italian language site at the moment, but there are rumors that an English language mirror site will appear sooner or later.

Dario Argento’s Official Site

On July 8th Argento was awarded the prestigious lifetime achievement award in Italy called The Golden Pegasus Award (The Pegaso d’Oro). Argento is mentioned at the very end of the following news article.

The 2007 Golden Pegasus Awards

Last but not least, his newest film La Terza Madre (a.k.a. Mother of Tears) is set to be released on October 17th in Italy. La Terza Madre is the final chapter in Argento’s infamous “Three Mothers” trilogy, which started in 1977 with Suspiria and was followed by Inferno (1980). It’s hard not get excited about the film if you enjoyed the previous films in Argento’s trilogy. The cast, which includes genre favorites such as Udo Kier, Daria Nicolodi and Philippe Leroy, is very impressive. Lots of hype has surrounded the film, but only time will tell if it will be as good as the previous two movies. A bad quality video featuring the La Terza Madre trailer has been floating around YouTube which appears to be pirated, but it’s the only trailer online at the moment. *

*Edited! A link to the new trailer for La Terza Madre has been added below! (7.21)

La Terza Madre trailer