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Friday, May 29, 2009

Jean Rollin Home Video Designs: The Night of The Hunted

A kind reader recently sent me a scan of this very rare, and quite disturbing, VHS cover for The Night of the Hunted and it seemed worthy of its own post.

The Sam Peckinpah Film Poll Results

Okay, so The Wild Bunch finishing strongly in first place might not be surprise but look at Warren Oates and the decaying head of Alfredo Garcia making a strong showing at number two. I would have put money on Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid coming in at two so its fourth place showing was the most surprising part of the poll for me. Thanks to everyone who voted and I hope the results prove interesting for those who did.

1. The Wild Bunch 72 Votes (69%)

2. Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia 49 Votes (47%)

3. Straw Dogs 42 Votes (40%)

4. Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 36 Votes (34%)

5. The Getaway 29 Votes (27%)

6. The Ballad of Cable Hogue 19 Votes (18%)

7. Junior Bonner 17 Votes (16%)

8. Ride The High Country 16 Votes (15%)

9. Cross of Iron 15 Votes (14%)

10. The Osterman Weekend 9 Votes (8%)

11. Convoy 8 Votes (7%)

12. The Killer Elite 7 Votes (6%)

13. Major Dundee 7 Votes (6%)

14. The Deadly Companions 4 Votes (3%)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sam Peckinpah's Forgotten Masterpiece: Noon Wine (1966)

An often overlooked and sometimes completely unknown chapter in Sam Peckinpah’s influential and impressive career, 1966’s Noon Wine is one of his most haunting, important and resonate productions. Virtually unseen in the forty plus years since it was broadcast on ABC TV as part of the Stage 67 series, Noon Wine is a mesmerizing and moving near fifty minute work that stands as the equal of many of Peckinpah’s more known and celebrated big screen productions, and its relatively lost in time status is extremely unfortunate.
Based on an acclaimed short story by Katherine Anne Porter, Noon Wine concerns a farming family who hire on a strange Swedish man to help out and board with them. Things go well for several years until another stranger arrives with some news about the mostly silent Swede that alters everyone’s life forever with most tragic results.
Scripted by Peckinpah himself and starring Jason Robards, Olivia de Havilland, Theodore Bikel, Per Oscarsson, and in two smaller roles Peckinpah favorites Ben Johnson and L.Q. Jones, Noon Wine is an astonishingly adult and challenging work that is as far away from the trash TV culture we find ourselves surrounded by these days. Charged with the humanity and heart that had fueled his earlier Ride the High Country and later masterpieces like The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner, Noon Wine stands as one of the most subtle and sincere works of Peckinpah’s career.
Shown in stark black and white and featuring a mesmerizing score from none other than Jerry Fielding, Noon Wine will come as something of a shock to film fans who only know Peckinpah through his blood drenched reputation as the director of works like The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs. And yet, it was the success of Noon Wine that directly led to Peckinpah to be able to shoot the string of films that would make him such a legend over the few years after its television premiere.

By pretty much every account Sam Peckinpah was finished in Hollywood by 1966. The disastrous production of Major Dundee and his firing from The Cincinnati Kid had made him all but un-hirable, and it is was these factors that made Noon Wine such a redemptive prospect for the uncompromising Peckinpah. Marshall Fine writes in his excellent Bloody Sam that it was television producer Dan Melnick who extended a helping hand to the down on his luck filmmaker in 1965 by offering him a shot at Noon Wine. Peckinpah was certainly no stranger to television, as fans will know, but Melnick’s offered surprised even him considering the troubled state of his career. Fine wrote that, “when Melnick called Peckinpah, the director seemed cautious to the point of being defensive. Peckinpah said, ‘You ought to know I’ve been blacklisted. I’ve recently been fired from The Cincinnati Kid. No one’s going to want you to hire me.’” Melnick persevered and ABC gave in giving Peckinpah the shot he needed at a much-deserved comeback.
Noon Wine began shooting in the fall of 1964 from a script from Peckinpah’s own pen that none other than Katherine Anne Porter herself and given an enthusiastic recommendation to. Fine wrote that, “Peckinpah insisted on two weeks of rehearsal”, something that was a bit uncommon for these sort of short television films, and something that no doubt helped give the performances the push that made them so strong across the board. Robards would be quoted as saying in Fines book that, “we could work like it was a play.” The inspiring actor would reportedly be so proud of his performance in the film that he kept his own private copy for years after.
According to Fine, “the production was shot in color on videotape and film” and that Melnick remembered that, “Sam shot Noon Wine like a film”, and actor Theordore Bikel recalled that, “there seemed to be a great deal of stress on him” during the shoot, which no doubt gave the proceedings an air of necessity. Because of this, and due to his inability to compromise, Melnick said, “He was very tough on the crew always” but it paid off and by the time it was ready to air Noon Wine was nothing short of a masterpiece, and it would give Peckinpah the chance to make The Wild Bunch just a couple of years later.
Fine wrote that Noon Wine was, “broadcast in November of 1966” and that it “won good reviews and put a new spin on Peckinpah’s career.” Melnick would take it even further and say that, “Sam was a hero again” after Noon Wine. Sam would receive nomination from The Writers and Directors Guild but he came home empty handed both evenings. It didn’t matter though, Sam Peckinpah was back in the game and for the next nearly ten years he would produce one of the most iconic body of works in American film history..
The holy grail of lost Peckinpah works, Noon Wine has been traded from collector to collector for years, and it can currently be screened at The Library of Congress and the Museum of Broadcasting. It is far too powerful a work to not be more readily available though and it desperately needs a proper re-release. My own experience watching Noon Wine proved to be quite a devastating one. I found it to be one of the most moving television works I had ever seen, and I will not soon forget it.
Even though Sam Peckinpah is one of the most legendary American filmmakers of the past fifty years, his career has still not been put in the proper perspective. Infamous tales of cocaine and alcohol binges combined with the overwhelming violence found in some of his most famous works have pigeonholed Peckinpah into a particularly dark corner. Noon Wine shows him as less an out of control madman and more a visionary poet…he entered his house justified.

-Jeremy Richey, 2009-

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Great Video Store in the Sky: A Dario Argento Double Feature

It's late and the night has been filled with drink and disillusion. You stumble into an all night video store and make your way to the Italian horror section. You come away with two Dario Argento films that you haven't seen in awhile. The next morning your head will be stinging from the disappointment of The Cat o' Nine Tails, but your mind will still be thoroughly blown by Inferno.



Monday, May 25, 2009

Brigitte Lahaie on The Night of the Hunted (Post 2 of 2)

One of the best features on Encore's special edition of The Night of the Hunted is the commentary track with Rollin and Brigitte Lahaie. Here are a few brief thoughts from Brigitte on the film, her performance and Rollin's direction:

On Her performance in Night of the Hunted:
“It was my first real role in a part that had structure. In Fascination I just had to be there…I had to look as spaced out as possible by taking on this vacant look.
I’m better in this film than I was Fascination.”

On her Character:
“She doesn’t remember the past but is capable of interpreting the present.”

On Rollin’s Direction:
“The Mise-en-scene was different…a bit static.”

Final Thoughts:
“I have very good memories of Night of the Hunted.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Favorite Closing Shots: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Lucio Fulci's Zombie

Brigitte Lahaie on The Night of the Hunted (Post 1 of 2)

Encore's incredible special edition of The Night of the Hunted contains many special features. One of the best is a near twenty minute interview with Brigitte Lahaie, where she discussed The Night of the Hunted among her things. Here are a few quotes by Brigitte on The Night of the Hunted from that special interview.

"I liked fantasy films a lot; even horror films…Jean introduced me to to films that were truly great fantasy films.
I was happy in front of the camera, that was important to me.
In Night of the Hunter Jean used my natural shyness, which I had…which I still have and he knew how to implement it.
I had seen Fascination at several festivals but not Night of the Hunted…I have recently rediscovered it, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The film has a good ambiance…it’s very spare and different and it holds up.
The Night of the Hunted is not beautiful, the setting is not beautiful. There’s a coldness that puts you off, but that’s what they intended. That’s what makes the film what it is.

I hope the public will rediscover The Night the Hunted."

The Cannes Winners (Congratulations Charlotte)

For those who haven't it yet, here is a listing of the major awards given out earlier today at the Cannes Film Festival:


Palme d'Or
DAS WEISSE BAND (The White Ribbon) directed by Michael HANEKE

Grand Prix
UN PROPHÈTE (A Prophet) directed by Jacques AUDIARD

Lifetime achievement award for his work and his exceptional contribution to the history of cinema


Best Director

Jury Prize
FISH TANK directed by Andrea ARNOLD

BAK-JWI (Thirst) directed by PARK Chan-Wook

Best Performance for an Actor

Best Performance by an Actress
Charlotte GAINSBOURG in ANTICHRIST directed by Lars von TRIER

Best Screenplay
MEI Feng for CHUN FENG CHEN ZUI DE YE WAN (Spring Fever) directed by LOU Ye

Prix Vulcain: Artist-Technician
Aitor BERENGUER, sound technician of the movie MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO directed by Isabel COIXET.


Palme d'Or
ARENA directed by João SALAVIZA

Special Distinction


SAMSON AND DELILAH directed by Warwick THORNTON (presented at Un Certain Regard)

Caméra d'Or – Special Distinction
AJAMI directed by Scandar COPTI, Yaron SHANI (presented at Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)


Prix Un Certain Regard - Fondation Gan pour le Cinéma


Jury Prize

POLITIST, ADJECTIV (Police, Adjective) by Corneliu PORUMBOIU.

Special Prize Un Certain Regard 2009


LE PÈRE DE MES ENFANTS (Father of My Children) by Mia HANSEN-LØVE

I am absolutely thrilled to see that Moon in the Gutter favorite Charlotte Gainsbourg was honored for her work in Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, a film that I am truly aching to see. The complete list of winners can be found here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Femme Fatale at Film for the Soul's Counting Down the Zeroes

Film for the Soul, one of the most insightful and intelligent stops on the net, is currently having an ambitious series focusing on the key works of the decade. Made up of great contributions from many of the web’s most articulate film lovers, the series is proving to be a really enlightening and fascinating venture. My tribute in stills to Brian De Palma’s ferocious and brilliant Femme Fatale is currently being featured in the series at Film for the Soul, and I am proud to be a part of it. Here is the link to the post over there, and I hope everyone will check out the other entries that have been submitted so far for this splendid project. Thanks to the always great Film for the Soul for letting my little tribute to De Palma’s work be a part of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Joe Dallesandro on Film: Vacanze per un Massacro (Madness)

The follow up film to his notorious and rather haunting Avere vent’anni (To Be Twenty), Fernando Di Leo’s 1979 production Vacanze per un Massacro (Madness) is one of his oddest and most peculiar films. A strange mixture of Last House on the Left and The Desperate Hours, Madness is not one of Di Leo’s strongest works but, like many of his films, it has a quality about it that lingers long after the credits have rolled.

Joe Dallesandro stars as Joe Brezzi, a career criminal who escapes from a maximum-security country prison as the film opens. Brezzi makes his way to a house where he stashed some stolen funds before he was sent away only to find a vacationing family residing there. The family is terrorized and manipulated by Brezzi who enlists them to help him find the treasure that has been buried under the fireplace in the house. Brezzi doesn’t know what he is for though as the family, made up of two sisters and one man they are both involved with, has their own catastrophic drama going on.

Di Leo’s surprising directorial choices, the intense performances of lead actors Dallesandro and Lorraine De Selle, and the wild adventurous score from famed Luis Enriquez Bacalov control Madness at every turn. If the film is finally a flawed work then it is mostly due to Di Leo’s script, adapted from a story by fellow genre director Mario Gariazzo, which never fully escapes the trappings of its more than slightly ‘been there-done that’ origins.

Despite the problems with the script, Di Leo manages to make Madness a rather sharp commentary on sexual manipulation and domination through his clever use of framing and shot selection, and with these always interesting choices Madness becomes a much more attention-grabbing work than it would have been in less intelligent hands. Shot on a shoe-string budget in a house Di Leo found in the Abruzzi Mountains, Madness is never less than compulsively watchable in its slim just under ninety minute running time.

Di Leo had just come off a stunning string of Italian police thrillers and both Madness and To Be Twenty seem to be deliberate steps away from that genre, as the truly versatile Di Leo was becoming pigeonholed in it. In Madness Di Leo is less interested in the mechanisms of the crime, as he was a production like the breathtaking Milano Calibro 9 (1972), and he is more interested in the corrupted psychologies of each one of his characters, especially De Selle’s Paola, the adulterous sister who stands as one of the most fascinating creations of Di Leo’s career.

Lorraine De Selle is one of Italian cinemas most interesting, if under-discussed, figures. Working these days as a successful producer, the uncompromising De Selle proved a rather unforgettable character in many of Italy’s most intense and controversial productions of the late seventies and early eighties. Her brave and sometimes shocking work is on hand in everything from Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle in America, to Bruno Mattei’s S.S. Extermination Love Camp, to Ruggero Deodato’s House on the Edge of the Park to perhaps most memorably in Umberto Lenzi’s grueling Cannibal Ferox. De Selle was an extremely interesting actress, and Di Leo brings out the best in her as she delivers an emotionally (and physically) stripped and complex performance that elevates Madness at every turn.

Joe Dallesandro is just as good as the sociopath Brezzi. The final film in Joe’s impressive time as a key player in Italian genre film, finds him at his seductive and snarling best. He also brings a vulnerability and confusion to the role, something that is especially played well in the film’s most misogynistic and savage moments. Joining Dallesandro and De Selle in the film’s smaller roles are Gianne Macchia as the conniving and sex starved husband Sergio and Patrizia Behn as the smarter than she seems wife Liliana. Both are good, but the film finally belongs to Dallesandro and De Selle, and it is at its most successful in their scenes together.

Considering the film is essentially a four-character piece, Di Leo does a remarkable job at keeping it from feeling at all stage like. It’s a quick moving cinematic production that Di Leo simultaneously brings a claustrophobic and wide-open feel to. This is a smart director at work in this film, and it is a shame the rather weak storyline gets in the way of the considerable film making skills on hand. Di Leo is said to have considered this a minor work in his filmography but despite some flaws, Madness is a fascinating late period work from the director, and a Region 1 DVD would be extremely welcome.

Vacanze per un Massacro was available (it is apparently out of print at this point) on Italy’s RaroVideo label in an okay print that is cobbled together from a couple of different sources. Colors are faded and it isn’t one of Raro’s better discs but it is uncut, and it isn’t a bad way to view what is an extremely rare film from one of Italy’s most missed directors.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Italian TV Special on the Making of Dellamorte Dellamore (A Moon in the Gutter Video Upload)

Michele Soavi's masterful 1994 film Dellamorte Dellamore has my vote, along with Dario Argento's disturbing The Stendhal Syndrome, as the best Italian genre film of the past twenty years. Soavi's film remains as fascinating, mesmerizing and haunting as it seemed when it hit American screens as Cemetery Man almost 15 years ago, perhaps now even more so.
Shot for, and aired on, Italian television before the film's initial release, here is a thirty minute program on the making of Dellamorte Dellamore. I believe part of this appeared on one of the film's import DVD versions, but this is the full special. The quality is only fair and it is sadly only in Italian so it will probably only be of interest to the film's hardcore fans, but a lot of the footage is priceless. The shot of stunning Anna Falchi in full costume talking to a little dog makes it one of my favorite rare videos in my collection. I've broken it up into three parts, and I hope one day it appears subtitled on a better release than Anchor Bay's all too bright version that is currently out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vintage Viewings

I've been trying to catch up on some recent films lately that I have missed so this Vintage Viewings post will be a bit short. I've also been watching a lot of TV surprisingly with reruns of Lou Grant on American Life, a new season of Mary McCormack in In Plain Sight and the very funny Parks and Recreation providing the biggest pleasures. I have had time for some older works though and here are some thoughts on the more recent that I've had in my player:

1. Born Innocent: Fascinating 1974-television film starring a tremendous Linda Blair. Surprisingly rough in spots, the film will be extremely interesting to fans of The Exorcist as this was the first picture Linda shot after it. Keep an eye out for Janit Baldwin, seen here the same year she shot Gator Bait with Claudia Jennings!

2. The Rocker: Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott: I’ve been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy lately, and in no way is that a bad thing. This engrossing 60 minute documentary on their legendary founder is filled with killer clips of live Lizzy, vintage interviews as well as insightful commentary from the surviving band members, peers, family and friends.

3. Murder Obsession: The final film from important Italian director Riccardo Freda is a fairly flawed affair at best. Featuring lovely Laura Gemser as well as Anita Strindberg and John Richardson, Murder Obsession is a confused late period Giallo that never really comes together. It has its moments and includes an interesting score from Franco Mannino, but it is nowhere near Freda’s better works.

4. Return of the Ewok: An odd little documentary shot during the making of the thrilling Return of the Jedi featuring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher (in her Jedi bikini gear), Mark Hammill as well as some other familiar faces from the original Star Wars saga. Nowhere near as embarrassing as the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, I found this short little film sort of sweet and it would make a nice bonus feature to a future Jedi DVD release.

5. Smile Jenny You’re Dead: The best thing about this boring 1974 TV film starring David Janssen is getting to see a young Jodie Foster together with Barbara Leigh in a couple of scenes. Otherwise this Harry-O mystery is pretty limp stuff although anything with both Zalman King and Victor Argo on hand isn’t all a bad thing.

6. Super Fly TNT: I’ve wanted to see this sequel to one of my favorite films from the seventies for years, but unfortunately it is about as bad as its reputation suggests. Despite being scripted by none other than Alex Hailey, Super Fly TNT is just bad throughout. Ron O’Neal was an incredibly talented actor but his direction here is flat at best. A solid cast is wasted and this film film deserves to be just a footnote to Gordon Park Jr’s landmark work.

7. The Buddy System: A fairly dreadful 1984 film starring Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon and Nancy Allen from director Glenn Jordan. I admittedly just watched it for Allen, who is wasted in a supporting role.

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.