RIP Ted V. Mikels 1929-2016

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Heartbroken to learn that Ted V. Mikels has died. I loved his work, warts and all, and have written about my appreciation for the man in the past. He was an incredibly colorful character and one of Hollywood’s last real showmen. I had the opportunity to exchange brief notes with him once and he was very warm and kind. Genuinely grateful that I took his work seriously. RIP MIkels. Your brand of B-movie magic is sorely missed.

More on his passing can be found here.

Links to some previous posts where I discuss Mikels and his films:
I Love You, Ted V. Mikels!
The Misadventures Of A Go-Go Girl
Tura Satana – An American Icon

Celebrating Gay Pride

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As a film journalist I have often tried to focus my attention on underappreciated films, actors and directors. Unsurprisingly, this has led me to write about a number of gay/LGBT films as well as gay/LGBT filmmakers and actors. So in celebration of Gay Pride weekend and the Supreme Court decision that now makes gay-marriage a constitutional right (as it always should have been) I decided to collect some of the film writing I’ve done under the banner of “Gay Interest” to share in one post.

Enjoy!
James Fox – Subverting Sexual Identity & Social Class in British Cinema (2007)
At Home With Dirk Bogarde (2007)
Massimo Dallamano’s Dorian Gray (2007)
Kerwin Mathews (1926-2007) (2007)
Introducing Jason King (2007)
The decadent world of the Black Lizard (2008)
David Bowie is The Image (1967) (2008)
A few thoughts about Anthony Perkins (2008)
10 Questions with Shane Briant (2009)
Modern Mondays: Love Songs (2007) (2009)
Spend Your Day With Dirk Bogarde (2009)
The Fool Killer (1965) (2009)
Modern Mondays: Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy” 2002-2005 (2009)
Old Rubber Lips (2010)
Seduced by Pierre Clementi (2011)
Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971) (2011)
In Search of Sascha Brastoff (2011)
Velvet Goldmine: Celluloid Pictures of Living (2011)
Reinventing Lolita (2011)
Remember My Name (1976) (2011)
The House That Screamed… “Murder!” (2011)
Derek Jarman: An Appreciation (2011)
Girls Will Be Boys (2012)
“A film is a petrified fountain of thought.” – Jean Cocteau (2012)
Dirk Bogarde – The Reluctant International Man of Mystery (2012)
Summer Reading – including a brief look at Tab Hunter’s autobiography (2012)
Telefilm Time Machine: That Certain Summer (1972) (2013)
In the Trenches with James Whale (2013)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? (2013)
Telefilm Time Machine – Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) (2013)

August & September at the Movie Morlocks

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The last couple of months have been extremely difficult. In between doctor’s appointments while dealing with some eye problems I suffered a major shake up in the Napa earthquake, which did a lot of damage to my home & neighborhood. Naturally this impaired my writing but I still managed to compile a few articles for the TCM Movie Morlocks’ blog.

Carole Lombard’s Lasting Impact … on Napa!
Excerpt: “While pursuing my personal interest in local history here in Napa I was pleasantly surprised to discover how one of my favorite funny ladies, the brassy blonde bombshell Carole Lombard, had made a lasting impression on the area when she visited California’s Wine Country in 1939 to star in Garson Kanin’s THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (1940). This notable RKO production was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Sidney Howard that chronicled a complicated love triangle between an ambitious San Francisco waitress (Carole Lombard), a simple-minded Italian grape farmer (Charles Laughton) and his affable ranch hand (William Gargan). Much of the film was shot on location in the Napa Valley and during that time Lombard, along with her costars and husband Clark Gable, toured wineries, mingled with locals and befriended some well-heeled residents who still fondly recall family stories about encountering the lovely Lombard.”

Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Excerpt: “Film fans have endured a rough summer. We’ve lost many talented people who have brought us immeasurable joy. Today I’d like to celebrate the late great Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall who mesmerized audiences with her incredible beauty, quick wit, smoky voice and sultry style. She was a beloved stage and screen actress but she was also much more including an award-winning writer, a socially conscious political activist, an avid fashion enthusiast who designed her own maternity clothes and a survivor who out-lived two husbands (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) and managed to raise three children on her own. What follows is a stunning gallery of portraits as well as a collection of personal observations about Bacall from friends, acquaintances and family members who knew her and loved her.”

Saying Good Night to Brian G. Hutton (1935-2014)
Excerpt: “I’m particularly fond of the two films Hutton crafted with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s during an intriguing period in her career that is often dismissed by critics as well as fickle fans. The first film Hutton and Taylor made together was a twisted love triangle with the cheeky American title X, Y & Z (1972). This blacker than black comedy pitted Taylor against Michael Caine in a sort of sexy update of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF set in swinging London. The film didn’t fare all that well with critics but audiences seemed to appreciate it and Taylor enjoyed working with the affable director who kept his two stars laughing during the shoot. Their second film was the Hitchcockian thriller NIGHT WATCH (1973), which reunited Taylor with Laurence Harvey, her longtime friend and costar from the Oscar winning BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960). Of the two films Hutton made with Taylor, NIGHT WATCH is my personal favorite for a number of reasons. First and foremost it’s a great little suspense filled feature with some surprising twists and turns that provided Elizabeth Taylor with one of her meatiest late career roles. Besides reuniting her with Harvey, the cast also includes horror film and television favorites Billie Whitelaw (TWISTED NERVE; 1968, FRENZY; 1972, THE OMEN; 1976, Etc.) and Linda Hayden (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA; 1970, THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW; 1971, MADHOUSE; 1974, Etc.) as well as Robert Lang (THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD; 1971, THE MEDUSA TOUCH; 1978, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED; 1980, Etc.).”

EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches
Excerpt:”Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds.”

A Killer Stalks the Streets of San Francisco in Edward Dmytryk ‘s THE SNIPER (1952)
Excerpt: “There’s a palpable sense of profound paranoia, lawlessness run amok, rage against social injustice and flat out despair to be found in some of Dmytryk‘s best post 1950 films including THE SNIPER as well as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), WARLOCK (1959) and MIRAGE (1965) that I really appreciate. The filmmakers most interesting work during this period also frequently featured complex and fascinatingly askew female characters trying to assert their power such as Elizabeth Taylor’s mad southern heiress in RAINTREE COUNTY (1957), Carol Baker’s boozy sexually aggressive widower in THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) and the entire female cast of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962). In this regard THE SNIPER could be seen and appreciated as a kind of warning shot to audiences signaling the direction that Dmytryk‘s career would take over the next few decades. It would make a particularly interesting double feature with the director’s stylish adaptation of BLUEBEARD (1972), featuring Richard Burton as the bearded mad man who possesses an unhealthy desire to murder his wives.”

Gordon Parks: Filmmaker, Photographer & Renaissance Man
Excerpt: “Tonight TCM is offering up a very special selection of films directed by Gordon Parks and his son, Gordon Parks Jr. for your viewing pleasure. The films include THE LEARNING TREE (1969), THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974), AARON LOVES ANGELA (1975) and SHAFT (1971) along with a making of documentary, SOUL IN CINEMA: FILMING SHAFT ON LOCATION (1971) . . . Parks Sr. is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and multitalented men who ever sat behind a camera and directed a film. He lived a fascinating life and dabbled in many arts but today he’s probably best remembered for the Oscar wining action-packed crime drama SHAFT. This Blaxploitation classic is one of my favorite films from the 70s and besides its entertainment value, SHAFT is a wonderful showcase for many of the themes, ideas and passions that motivated Parks throughout his career as an award-winning photographer…”

You’re Invited! Join the #TCMParty on Twitter
Excerpt: “A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching.”

June & July at the Movie Morlocks

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I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”

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“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe IMDB.com and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

Alain Resnais 1922-2014

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“When men die, they enter history. When statues die, they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture.” – (STATUES ALSO DIE; 1953)

I was deeply saddened to wake up to the news that director Alain Resnais has died at age 91. Resnais has continued to make movies into his 90s and just last week I made time to watch YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET (2012), which I’m still ruminating over. And the director’s film JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME (which I have never seen and has never been released on video or DVD is the U.S.) has been on my radar lately because it’s currently touring revival theaters and getting lots of critical attention.

Resnais’ obsession with memory and our shared as well as personal histories is what drew me to his work and I can honestly say that he’s one of a handful of directors who – through his films – taught me new ways of looking at my world. I’ve mentioned or written a little bit about his films HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD and MURIEL here at Cinebeats in the past and to celebrate his incredibly rich career I thought I’d share a selection of images from some of my favorite Resnais films.

At Cinebeats:
HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR appears on my List of Favorite Foreign Language Films
Art Film as Fashion Trend: LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD
Some thoughts on the DVD release of MURIEL

Further reading:
Guardian Obituary
New York Times Obituary
Fandor: Alain Resnais, 1922 – 2014

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STATUES ALSO DIE (1953)

nightandfogNIGHT AND FOG (1955)

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HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959)

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LAST YEAS AT MARIENBAD (1961)

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MURIEL (1963)

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PROVIDENCE (1977)

Ken Russell 1927-2011


The news about Ken Russell’s death hit me hard. Just last week the great man actually took the time to befriend me on Twitter (I’d been following him there for a year or more).  I exchanged a brief note with him and got the opportunity to tell him I was honored that he had taken the time to follow me. And I hope that he knew he was one of my favorite directors. He was jovial online, seemed extremely friendly and still very young at heart. I had imagined sending the 84-year-old director some interview questions soon that I hoped he would answer about the upcoming DVD release for my favorite Russell film, THE DEVILS (1971), which featured production design by Derek Jarman. He seemed very excited about that upcoming DVD release but also disappointed that his work was still being censored in 2011. Obviously that email interview wasn’t meant to be. Que sera, sera! You will be greatly missed Unkle Ken. You and your amazing movies made the world a much more interesting place to live in.

Update (12-1-11): At The Movie Morlocks I briefly memorialized Ken Russell by sharing a bunch of insightful quotes from his 1989 autobiography, Altered States: The Autobiography of Ken Russell.

Ken Russell: In His Own Words @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Some Recommended Links:
Ken Russell: A True British original @ BBC
Ken Russell Dead: Film loving stars lead tributes on Twitter @ The Daily Mirror
Ken Russell Obituary @ The Guardian
Ken Russell: A Life in Photographs @ The Guardian
Ken Russell: His Film Career @ The Guardian
The Musical Legacy of Ken Russell @ The Guardian
“Pity we aren’t madder”: Ken Russell links in his magnificent memory @ Film Studies For Free

Blake Edwards and THE PARTY (1968)

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Peter Sellers and Claudine Longet in The Party (1968)

I recently wrote a piece about The Party (1968) for the newest issue of Screening the Past that you can read online. Issue #30 of Screening the Past is a tribute to the late director Blake Edwards and The Party is my favorite Edwards’ film. I really enjoyed delving into the movie again and discussing the ways in which Edwards’ film dealt with identity and the cultural climate of the the late 1960s. I admire the way that Edwards used The Party to take a swipe at old Hollywood, which is so often celebrated as “The Golden Age of Cinema” while its worst aspects like the subtle but abundant racism, sexism and religious intolerance is too often swept under the rug although not a lot has changed really. I love old movies but I have no problem discussing their faults and The Party is a great example of why I like to refer to the ’60s and the ’70s as “The Platinum Age of Cinema.” The following link will take you to my piece on The Party:
The Party @ Screening the Past

Happy Birthday Joseph Losey!

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Two of my favorite people: Director Joseph Losey & actor Dirk Bogarde

Today marks what would have been Joseph Losey’s 102 birthday. Unfortunately very few of us live that long and Losey died in 1984 at age 75. Lately critics around the world seem to be rediscovering his work and rethinking their opinion of the director’s impressive legacy. Joseph Losey is gaining new fans every day and it’s wonderful to see this sudden resurgence of interest in his films. As a lifelong Losey fan this makes me extremely happy! I’ve enjoyed writing about Losey’s work here at Cinebeats as well as contributing to Harkit Records release of John Barry’s soundtrack for Boom! which happens to be one of my favorite Losey films. I hope to write more about his work in the future but if you would like to read my previous posts about the director you can find them here:
Joseph Losey @ Cinebeats

‘Tis the Season

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Happy Holidays from Cinebeats & Julie Christie!

‘Tis the season. I’ve been preoccupied with home renovations, work and holiday plans lately so I haven’t had a lot of free time to watch movies or blog and I don’t think I’ll be updating much in December. In an effort to keep things interesting here at Cinebeats I thought I’d compile a bunch of brief updates into one post and wish you all Happy Holidays!

Giving Thanks
I celebrated Thanksgiving at the Movie Morlocks last week by writing about a bunch of movie related people and characters that I’m thankful for. We don’t say thank you enough anymore and I’m not sure when good manners became so passé but I suppose I’m a little old fashioned. I decided to share my thanks for a few things I’ve had on my mind lately including Joseph Cotten, Gene Tierney, Deborah Kerr, Richard Harris, director Fritz Land and Eli Wallach who recently received his first Academy Award at age 95.
Giving Thanks @ The Movie Morlocks
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Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

The Paul Naschy Blogathon
Over at Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies The Vicar of VHS is hosting a Paul Naschy Blogathon November 29 – December 3. I love Paul Naschy and I don’t know if I’ll have the time to participate in the blogathon, but you can bet that I’ll be doing a lot of reading in December! The Vicar is gathering links to all the blogathon submissions and the response has been tremendous so far. Naschy would have celebrated his 76th birthday this week and he’s still fondly remembered by his fans. It’s wonderful to see this Spanish horror icon getting so much attention and The Paul Naschy Blogathon is a great way to keep Naschy’s memory alive.
The Paul Naschy Blogathon @ Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies
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Irvin Kershner 1923-2010
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I watched a bunch of terrible new or “newer” movies including James Cameron’s ridiculously expensive cartoon Avatar (2009), Peter Jackson’s mind-numbingly bad The Lovely Bones (2009) and Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (2010), which (once again) wasted the talents of Jason Statham and Jet Li and only served to remind me why I disliked so many ’80s action movies. In the midst of all this crap I re-watched one of my favorite Irvin Kershner films, the deliciously decadent murder mystery, The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978). During the film I kept being reminded of Kershner’s talent and wondering why he never made another film as interesting and stylish as The Eyes of Laura Mars? I’ve written a little about Kershner’s A Fine Madness (1966) as well as his odd comedy S*P*Y*S (1974) but I haven’t written about The Eyes of Laura Mars or another Kershner favorite, The Flim-Flam Man (1967). Today Irvin Kershner is mostly remembered for Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), which many consider to be better than the first Star Wars film. When news spread that the director had died on November 27th after suffering from lung cancer for 3 years, The Empire Strikes Back garnered the most headlines and attention but I think of it as the movie that ended Kershner career. After making that Star Wars sequel he seemed to slowly fade away and didn’t take on any more challenging projects. I wish Kershner would have worked with director & writer John Carpenter (the writer of The Eyes of Laura Mars) again. They made a really interesting team and delivered one of the most fascinating American thrillers of the ’70s. If you want to see Irvin Kershner at his best watch The Eyes of Laura Mars.
Irvin Kershner’s Obituary @ The Los Angeles Times
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Fay Dunaway stars in The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967)

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967)

I recently watched Clive Donner’s teenage sex farce Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967) for the first time. Soon afterward I learned that the director had died at age 84 so in tribute to Donner I decided to write about the film for TCM this week. I really enjoyed Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and had so much fun taking screen grabs from the movie that I created a small gallery for them over at Flickr. If you’d like to read my piece about Clive Donner’s film you’ll find it at the Movie Morlocks Blog.