Recent Posts from my Official Site

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nastassja on eBay

This rare Show magazine cover just popped up over at eBay and I wanted to share it here:

KInski Show Magazine

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Moon in the Gutter is coming to Region 1 DVD


A kind reader has brought it to my attention that Cinema Libre has signed up with Jean-Jacques Beineix to re-release his historic catalogue of films in the United States. This group includes my beloved The Moon in the Gutter, as well as Betty Blue and several of his other films. DVD's are expected to word on extras yet but, since Beineix is directly involved, I suspect we might get some real special treats. I am thrilled at this news and am so grateful that these incredibly special films are reappearing again, especially Moon in the Gutter, which hasn't been available in the States for more than twenty years.

Recently at Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience

Jean Rollin Requiem for a Vampire 5

I have just completed my look at Jean Rollin's fourth feature film, 1971's Requiem for a Vampire, over at Fascination and invite anyone interested over to check out my multi-post tribute to the film. I will be beginning my look over there at the incredible The Iron Rose (1973) later this week. Thanks to everyone so far who has visited my side project dedicated to one of my favorite filmmakers.

The Cinema of Jean Rollin: Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

Eloquent, expressive and altogether haunting, Jean Rollin’s fourth feature film,
1971’s Vierges et Vampires (Requiem for a Vampire) shows him as an artist totally in control of his own art and totally separate from anyone else in cinema before or since.

Rollin admitted in his introduction to Requiem for a Vampire in Virgins and Vampires that by 1971 he was, “used to the critics insults, the public outcry” and that with the film he, “started shooting for (his own) personal pleasure exclusively since the others had rejected” his past works. It’s that striking spirit of independence that finds its way into every frame of Requiem for a Vampire, a totally secure and confident work that has our guy making one of the purest Jean Rollin films imaginable.

For fans of Jean Rollin’s oeuvre, the images in Requiem for a Vampire are legendary. The opening shots Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent dressed as clowns in a never explained high speed shoot out to the many shots of the two of them walking alone and in silence through fields, an empty cemetery and a ruined castle will be chill inducing for admirers of Rollin. A friend once spoke of Requiem for a Vampire reverentially by stating that in the hands of anyone else it would have been an incredibly boring and poor piece of filmmaking, but Jean Rollin’s uncompromising and beautifully singular style makes it all seem so profound and moving.

Attempting to replay the minimal plot of Requiem for a Vampire is a bit senseless. Rollin stated in Virgins and Vampires that the work was “an attempt to simplify the structure of a film to an extreme” and it does so with remarkable veracity. One can imagine the film set to an unwritten opera by Philip Glass or Terry Riley as it contains so many of the repetitive and hypnotic methods inherent in much if the minimalist music that was beginning to come out of the period. Along with being a love letter to a particular style he had perfected, Rollin is clearly building his own mythology with Requiem for a Vampire and he would recount to Peter Blumenstock in Virgins and Vampires as well as Video Watchdog that he was more and more making, “references to (his) earlier films” and that he was looking to, “connects dreams and stories like a construction system and (that) the audience can make their own thing out of it.”

Requiem for a Vampire is a bit of a hard film to nail down. Cohill and Tombs would state the film works as a, “straight horror film and an exploration of personal mythology.” in Immoral Tales but it strays as far from the idea of a ‘straight horror’ film as possible at times. Surprisingly comic (an early sequence involving Castel and an outdoors street vendor is one of the silliest and most infectiously fun moments in Rollin’s canon), undeniably erotic and strikingly mournful, Rollin’s fourth film is a work that defies categorization. Perhaps Rollin himself placed it in the best context when he wrote in Virgins and Vampires that, “excluding the timid erotic scenes”, the work, “could be a film for children made by children”, and that finally it is very much, “a fairy tale.”

Shot quickly in and around the ruins of a dungeon owned by the Duchess of Roche-Guyon, Rollin recalled in Encore’s booklet for the film’s special edition DVD release that it had all come from a spidery script, “written naively without thought, almost in automatic writing, without prior idea and above all without reflection. It’s nothing else but a simple stream of ideas out of an unconstrained imagination.” While the film is controlled by the lovely team of Castel and Dargent (whom Rollin recalls on Encore’s commentary track as two girls he loved that hated each other) other familiar faces pop up throughout its less than ninety minute running time including the hypnotically strange Dominique and musician turned actress Louise Dhour (featured in a terrific interview on Encore’s set), who would be so memorable in Rollin’s 1974 production, Demoniacs.

Inspired by the paintings by Paul Delvaux, and working with a young but stylish cinematographer named Renon Polles, Jean Rollin injects every frame of Requiem for a Vampire with a striking and languid authority. Not in a hurry and delighting in capturing moments that other filmmakers would scoff at, Jean Rollin has by this point totally perfected the deliberately slow and mesmerizing pace that so many of his fans have come to worship and revere over the years. The director himself would state in Encore’s booklet about his most “childish and personal” film that he “was beginning to obtain a certain authority” in his command of the medium, and it's not a stretch to say that every film he has made since owes at least something to the evocative images of Marie-Pierre Castel and Mireille Dargent running from something unseen throughout this, one of his most iconic and necessary works.

The near silent (dialogue wise) Requiem for a Vampire would have a fairly successful run in France and throughout parts of Europe but not surprisingly it was butchered for its US release, and retitled with the wincingly exploitative Caged Virgins moniker. Widely considered one of the best Rollin films, the film is available on a bare bones Region 1 DVD from Redemption (featuring a solid visual presentation) as well as several varying DVDs throughout England and Europe.
Collectors and lovers of Rollin’s work should seek out Encore’s impressive three disc box set which features a beautiful print (I have read some complaints stating that the picture is slightly squeezed but honestly on my player and computer it looks just beautiful) and a terrific set of extras (many of which I have already highlighted in previous posts). Hardcore collectors are advised to seek out the old Something Weird VHS under the title of Caged Virgins, which features some needless additional footage that all but destroys Rollin’s deliberately maintained and incredibly effective pacing.

Called, “a definitive work of French fantastic cinema, post 1970.” By Tim Lucas in the pages of Video Watchdog 31, Requiem for a Vampire is one of the most ideal introductions to Jean Rollin’s filmography to newcomers. It is also one of the most representative and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a person who isn’t won of by the delightfully different and distinctive images in Requiem for a Vampire will sadly always probably fall outside of the circle of Jean Rollin fans.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Royal Tenenbaums: Five Covers

Royal Tenenbaums 2

The Royal Tenenbaums struck a deep emotional chord in me when I saw it opening day in 2001, and it has continued to resonate since. Wes Anderson's (and Owen Wilson's) moving family story of betrayal and redemption will be near the top of my list of favorite films of the decade when I present it at the end of 2009.
I adore the inventive covers that pop up throughout the film, and since I didn't include any in yesterday's post, I thought I would present five favorites now.

Royal Tenenbaums 4

Royal Tenenbaums 5

Royal Tenenbaums 8

Royal Tenenbaums 11

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

James Bond in the Sixties (Poll Results)

Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll based around James Bond in the sixties. I am surprised and thrilled to see that I am not the only one who considers On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to be among the great Bond films, as it did indeed finish number one. I would have ranked Thunderball much higher but otherwise the results are pretty spot-on with my tastes. Thanks again to those who participated and here are the final results:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service 48 (44%)
Goldfinger 46 (42%)
From Russia With Love 40 (37%)
Dr. No 36 (33%)
Thunderball 33 (30%)
You Only Live Twice 27 (25%)
Casino Royale 26 (24%)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Return of Odessa

The Bee Gees stunning 1969 double album Odessa is finally getting the treatment it deserves early next year in a sure to be essential 3 disc set from Rhino. The reissue of one the most majestic albums of the sixties (or any other decade you care to name) contains the original iconic album in mono and stereo formats and has a bonus disc featuring a whopping 23 unreleased tracks. The unreleased material consists of demos, alternate mixes and some promotional material. Rhino's previous Bee Gees reissues of their masterful first three albums are among the most loving and comprehensive in my collection and I expect the same from Odessa. I just hope it doesn't take Rhino as long to deliver their work from the early to mid seventies, including what I think is The Brother Gibbs greatest triumph, 1971's Trafalgar.

***As a side note, if you have only heard the Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever period do yourself a favor and check out their pre 1977 material for some of the most sublime and moving British pop music of the rock era.***

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Marie-Pierre Castel)

Whether she is going by the name Pony Castel or Pony Tricot, Marie-Pierre Castel remains one of the most bewitching and memorable figures in the world of French film in the seventies. Lovely, graceful and endearingly witty, several of Jean Rollin's key works are unthinkable without her striking presence.
Information on my favorite Castel is a bit hard to come by. She was born in 1950 and between the years 1970 and 1977 she appeared in just eleven features, sometime with her twin sister Cathy and sometimes without. Of these eleven films, seven were directed by Jean Rollin. The remaining features have for the most part unfortunately been all but lost in time, with the exception of her final film, 1977's Rene The Cane, a film directed by Francis Girod starring Sylvia Kristel and Gerard Depardieu.
These behind the scenes shots from Requiem for a Vampire capture Marie at her peak, filming what would become her most famous and iconic role. More to come on Marie-Pierre here in the future.

***These shots are all taken from the incedible slideshow on Encore's Requiem for a Vampire box set. Please buy the set to the many others.***

Requiem for a Vampire: Alternate Scenes

Encore's box set of Requiem for a Vampire presents three alternate 'clothed' scenes shot to battle possible censorship problems. Here are three stills to highlight these intriguing moments.

Requiem for a Vampire Alternate Scene 1

Requiem for a Vampire Alternate Scene 2

Requiem for a Vampire Alternate Scene 3

Friday, November 21, 2008

Into the Restricted Zone

Escape from New York

Ah, that first R-Rated film in a theater. It’s kind of a defining moment in every kids life…sort of like some early introduction to adulthood or, at the very least, something to brag about to the other kids at school. My memories of my first venture into the restricted zone have been on mind after a conversation I had with my mom recently, so I thought I would share a few memories here.

It’s always been my memory that my first R on the big screen was none other than John Carpenter’s Escape from New York back in 81. Yep, I was kicking it with Snake Plissken just a month after my eighth birthday. The memory is forever cemented in my brain, as is the bragging I did to any kid I could get to listen to me for months after.

My mom alerted me to the fact recently that I actually saw The Exorcist as an infant with her and my father, so technically my first R in a theater was Friedkin’s classic shocker. The Exorcist, can you imagine? The news thrilled me, but I just wish I had known it sooner. Imagine the bragging I could have been doing all these years…


A few other early R memories are seeing Sudden Impact with my Aunt Kathy just past the age of ten in 83. Outside of being my introduction to Dirty Harry, the trip also marked the first time I had ever had what would eventually become my movie candy of choice, the mighty Milk Dud.

The first R rated film I ever snuck into alone was 1985’s terrific Creator, a film that remains among my all time favorites. My parents had dropped me off to see something else (a dreaded PG film no doubt) and while I can’t recall what that was, I can most definitely recall the impact Virginia Madsen had on my twelve year old eyes that day…I have still yet to fully recover from it.

Virginia Madsen, Creator

Growing up in a very liberal house had its benefits, so by 13 or so there wasn’t much off limits (although I do remember getting in trouble for a late night viewing of De Palma’s Body Double in 86 or so). I always get a kick out of hearing recollections from folks about their first ventures into R rated features on the big screen, and still never tire of bragging of my time with Snake and The Duke back in the day.

***Partially inspired by Roger Ebert's reprinting of a moving article he wrote on Virgina Madsen and her family a year or so after Creator came out***

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Moon in the Gutter and other Jean-Jacques Beineix Classics are Coming Back to America


A kind reader has brought it to my attention that Cinema Libre has signed up with Jean-Jacques Beineix to re-release his historic catalogue of films in the United States. This group includes my beloved The Moon in the Gutter, as well as Betty Blue and several of his other films. DVD's are expected to word on extras yet but, since Beineix is directly involved, I suspect we might get some real special treats. I am thrilled at this news and am so grateful that these incredibly special films are reappearing again, especially Moon in the Gutter, which hasn't been available in the States for more than twenty years.

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Mireille Dargent)

Requiem for a Vampire BHS 11

Mireille Dargent is another one of those very special performers who almost exclusively only worked with Jean Rollin. Her career in front of the camera, made up of only half a dozen films, was unfortunately very short but her work in four of Rollin's greatest films will always be treasured by fans. Here are some quotes from Rollin taken from Encore's Requiem for a Vampire booklet, as well as the audio commentary, on Mireille. The behind the scenes shots are from Encore's set as well.

Requiem for a Vampire BHS 12

"An agent introduced me to Mireille Dargent who would play Pony's partner, due to Cathy being busy or pregnant again. This agent was a crook. He used to collect Mireille's wages filling his own pocket without giving anything to her. I hired a lawyer and the agent hopped it. Mireille was grateful for me for taking care of her...A great friendship united us. She had a very round face and her plaits made her look as young as Pony. She had a plump body, very sensual..."
-Encore's Booklet-

Requiem for a Vampire BHS 14

"She was very strange...everybody was in love with her, including myself."

Jean Rollin: The Collaborators (Renan Polles)

Requiem for a Vampire’s beautiful, poetic and stately photography is credited to Renan Polles, a talented French cinematographer who sometimes goes under the name of Jacques Flood. Astonishingly Requiem for a Vampire marks just the second major photography credit the gifted Polles, with the first being a 1969 short for director Jean-Michel Barjol.
Polles had worked previously with Rollin as part of the camera crew on Le Frisson des Vampires. Sadly, despite the excellent work he does on his first feature as cinematographer, Requiem for a Vampire would mark the last time Polles would work with Rollin, as the director would return to Jean-Jacques Renon soon after.
While Polles’ work on Requiem doesn’t contain quite the degree of fantastical greatness (especially in the lighting) that Renon had delivered for Le Frisson, there is still no denying that Polles work is quality stuff. Rollin himself would remember Polles fondly in Encore's Requiem for a Vampire booklet by saying that he, "was pleased with the work made by Polles, who'd taken Jean-Jacques Renon's place because the latter was unavailable." Polles balances the film’s wide open early outdoor daylight shots with the film’s later more interior and nightime atmosphere spectacularly well and his work helps make Requiem for a Vampire one of Rollin’s most distinctive looking films. Much more naturalistic than Renon, it’s no surprise that one of the filmmakers Polles is most associated with is Jacques Doillon, a director very much removed from the fantasy and horror genre that Rollin specializes in.

Polles filmography includes films with Doillon and Yvan Lagrange and he has continued to work prolifically in French and film and television. Despite only collaborating twice with Rollin, his work on Requiem for a Vampire makes him an important contributor to the French horror genre and a key, if relatively minor, player in Jean Rollin's canon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

John Schlesinger's Far From the Madding Crowd to finally hit DVD

John Schlesinger's extraordinary 1967 Thomas Hardy adaptation Far From the Madding Crowd is finally set to hit Region 1 DVD on January 27th in a Widescreen, uncut version. No word yet on any extras but the welcome arrival of this gorgeous Nicolas Roeg photographed film starring Julie Christie and Terence Stamp in their prime is cause for celebration.
Speaking of the wonderful Thomas Hardy, it's terrific that several of his finest books have been given such fine screen adaptations. Schlesinger's film stands along with Polanski's Tess (1980) and Michael Winterbottom's Jude (1996) as bona-fide masterpieces in my book. I wish someone would tackle a big screen version of Hardy's haunting short story "The Withered Arm", as apparently there has only been a small screen BBC go at it so far.

The Rather Odd Case of Gerald Arthur Otley

Otley poster

The prolific writing team of Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais got their start in the mid sixties on such cult British television series as The Likely Lads and The Further Adventures of Lucky Jim. Their first screenwriting credit for a major motion picture came with 1967's The Jokers for director Michael Winner, which garnered them much acclaim. Nowhere near as notable, but still worth a look, is their second feature film together, 1968's Otley.

Otley 1

Otley, a film Clement handles directorial duties on, tells the strange tale of Gerald Arthur Otley, a man perpetually out of work, out of money and, as the movie begins, without a place to live. Otley, played by the always excellent Tom Courtenay, drifts from one friend's pad to another and has no qualms about freeloading his way completely through life. One morning though he wakes up in the grass near an airport runaway and soon finds out that he is being framed for the murder of one of his hospitable friends. Soon after he finds himself caught up in a complex web of espionage, lies, and betrayal.

Otley 8

Otley is a comedy, or at least that is what it mainly attempts to be. It's not all that funny though, and mostly it just succeeds on its strangeness factor. Widely veering between satirical spy thriller, pedestrian romance, and droll character study, Otley attempts to squeeze a lot into its ninety minute running time.

Otley 3

The then novice director Clement is a better writer than filmmaker and Otley is rather flat feeling. Clement handles the material capably but his first film fails to ever really distinguish itself and is short on style throughout its running time. Luckily though the impressive cast keeps it compulsively watchable throughout.
Courtenay, an Oscar nominee and one of the great British actors from the past several decades, handles the material with ease and controls nearly every frame of the film. His witty performance manages to make Otley sympathetic and pathetic often at the same time and watching him is a pleasure.

Otley 4

While she is billed second in the film and before the title, lovely and talented Romy Schneider is virtually not in the first half and then only sporadically pops up in the second. Still, she shares a couple of terrific moments with Courtenay and, as always, is a wonder to watch.

Otley 5

Filling out the cast are a number of instantly familiar faces for fans of British cinema including the unforgettable Freddie Jones and future cult actress Fiona Lewis. Otley as a film never totally gels but the cast is impressive and all are in fine form.
Otley benefits from a nice relatively early score by future Deer Hunter composer Stanley Myers, and former Stanley Donen collaborator Austin Dempster captures the London of 1968 very well, especially with shots inside Notting Hill Gate's Tube Station and even a brief bit in London's Playboy Club.

Otley 6

Clement and le Frenais have continued to work together throughout the years and have delivered a lot of solid work. Their most recent film, The Bank Job, features one of the most enjoyable and tightest scripts of the past few years.

Otley 9

Otley isn't any kind of major lost classic but it's enjoyable and a DVD version would be welcome. Fans of British spy films in the sixties or admirers of Courtenay and Schneider will absolutely want to seek it out. My copy, from which these screenshots were taken, comes from an older British VHS and to my knowledge a DVD has never been released.

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.