Saturday, December 28, 2013

on Mogul Home Video
Directed by Al Bradley, aka Alfonso Brescia

Most eight year olds can come up with a better script for their war toy game than for what Enzo Gicca is credited here. While the Science Fiction defensive system is an interesting element, nothing is done with it, and Gicca's idea of characterization is to have people argue pointlessly.

Peter Lee Lawrence plays Lt. Stroebel, a former Broadway actor, who, along with an American Nobel-Prize winning scientist (The Allied Command sends a Nobel scientist on a commando mission?) and a driver, infiltrates the bunker controlling the Burning Fountain defense system for Omaha Beach. The bodies of the men they replace are discovered, so Stroebel fights his way to freedom, the scientist is captured (and cared for by a Nazi scientist he befriends) and the driver is killed. Helga Line plays Denise, a French resistance fighter who hides Stroebel in her father's barn, where they fall in love.

Guy Madison plays Captain Murphy who, along with half of his commando squad, have already parachuted before word comes that the mission has been postponed along with the D-Day invasion. Luckily Stroebel (who never takes off his German uniform) hides them in Denise's barn. When a German patrol comes by, the Americans hide in a huge pile of cow dung. Denise's father tells them to get out of his barn, and then sets off to inform on them. Stroebel and Murphy try to stop him, but fail, and the farmer reaches a small German patrol. Luckily, an American soldier, referred to as "the crazy one", attacks and kills the farmer and the Germans before getting himself killed.

Hearing that D-Day is on again, Murphy waits for the rest of his men and supplies to be dropped, but they don't arrive. What to do? Well, Denise explains, the Germans keep some explosives in a nearby castle. Thankfully all of the recent violent incidents haven't alerted the Germans to be more vigilant.

When the Americans are ready to again storm the Burning Fountain bunker, the Nazis are carrying out the Nobel scientist on a stretcher. Since the door's open, the Americans attack, and Germans don't close the door again because the scientist valiantly holds it open - an effort that costs him his life. Inside, Stroebel throws one grenade to blow up the controls and Murphy is killed by a German. D-Day begins and the Omaha Beach landing occurs easily.

Most of this film, especially the battle scenes, take place at night and the poor transfer on Mogul Video makes it almost impossible to see what is going on. Seeing Peter Lee Lawrence, Guy Madison and Helga Line working has value, but none of them look good with this material. The music is from the C.A.M. library and is not memorable.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An update from Italy by the author of JONATHAN OF THE BEARS.

Lorenzo de Luca, the author of a number of books on Italian Cinema as well as the screenwriter of a number of movies, sent in this e-mail on October 28, 2013:
"Ciao Bill, come stai? As you know it is a bad moment for Italian cinema. Historical director Luigi Magni (the screenwriter of LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLA and director of FAUSTINA) died yesterday at 85. Recently we'd lost Giuliano Gemma, not only an icon of Spaghetti Cinema but also a  friend of mine. We shared the same agency. He died in a car accident because of the delay of the ambulance. I went to the funeral and it was almost a Spaghetti Western reunion including Franco Nero, Bud Spencer, Terence Hill, George Hilton, Fabio Testi and several stuntmen including the Dell'Acqua Brothers.
"Neorealism director Carlo Lizzani died by suicide few days ago, at age 91. And Manolo Bolognini and Damiano Damiani has died not too far ago. Well, that's how it goes. I think the next one will be Monica Vitti, who has suffered from Alzheimer syndrome for many years.
"Talking about the living, Franco Nero recently completed an Horror movie in Montenegro titled MAMULA, that means MERMAID. About me, I wrote a two part book along with Bud Spencer that is a best seller in Germany.
"I've read that actor Tony Norton, real name Antonio Malasensi (of the two TRINITY Westerns), runs a boxing gym at age 77."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FULL SERVICE, My Adventures In Hollywood And The Secret Sex Lives Of The Stars

FULL SERVICE by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg is a very entertaining memoir about a Mid-Western farmboy who was introduced to sex by a friendly neighboring father as a pre-adolescent and when the circumstances of the Depression moved his single parent family to Chicago, found that men, including priests, would augment the money he made from delivering newspapers and shining shoes inorder to fondle him. Bowers never complained about or begrudged anyone who wanted to have sex with him, and was quite pleasantly surprised to discover that he had reached adolescence when he ejaculated for the first time while a fellow was giving him oral sex. Later on, when another fellow paid him to have sex with the fellow's wife, he discovered that while sex with men was fine, sex with women was preferable. World War 2 happened and Bowers joined the Marines. On leave in Southern California, Bowers had his first experience of life in Hollywood. He liked it so much he decided to move there after the war - which included being among the first ashore during the Battle of Iwo Jima - where his younger brother was killed. Discharged in Seattle, Washington, where he met a young woman who became a life-long companion (and mother of his daughter) though they never married, Bowers moved to Hollywood and got work at a gas station on Hollywood Blvd. At the gas station, he had his first experience of being picked up by a movie star who gave him $20 for "a trick". Never using the words "whore", "gigolo", "hustler" or "prostitute", Bowers would get paid for "tricks" by "tricks", or find friends interested in "tricking". Insisting that he never took money for introducing "tricks" to people he knew who were interesting in "tricking", Bowers became the go-to guy for not only movie people but others in the know who were looking for uncomplicated sex. Tennessee Williams wanted to write a book about Bowers, saying that he was the fairy godmother for gay sex in Hollywood, but Bowers objected to being portrayed as a queen and got Williams to promise to never publish what he wrote. When the L.A. Vice Squad began to notice all of the late night activity at the gas station, Bowers quit to begin a career as a waiter and bartender at private parties. At such a party, he met Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who had just created a thunderstorm of controversy with the publication of SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN MALE. Kinsey complained of not being able to find women willing to talk about their sex lives, and Bowers told him that he could help. And so Bowers became an uncredited research assistant on SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN FEMALE.

The advent of AIDS ended "tricking" for Bowers, and now in his 80s, he decided to tell his story and related some of the show business stories that he knew.

There are three myths which Bowers destroys in his book: 1) that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were lovers, 2) that King Edward the Eighth abdicated the throne for the love of Wallis Simpson, and 3) that Clark Gable got George Cukor fired from directing GONE WITH THE WIND.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Age and Scarpelli and Hitchcock


by Francois Truffaut

with the Collaboration of Helen G. Scott

[After MARINE, director Alfred Hitchcock considered three projects which were never made before he actually produced TORN CURTAIN. The projects were THE THREE HOSTAGES, MARY ROSE and R.R.R.R.]

F.T. Your third project is an original screenplay, which you assigned to the writing team of Age and Scarpelli, the writers of BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET.

A.H. That one I just now abandoned. Definitely. It was a story of an Italian who immigrates to America. He starts out as an elevator boy in a big hotel and eventually becomes the general manager. He brings his family over from Sicily. It turns out they are a gang of thieves, and he has to try to prevent them from stealing a collection of precious coins that are on display in the hotel. I dropped the project because it seemed to be shapeless. Aside from that, you know that Italians are very slipshod in matters of story construction. They just ramble on.

[Age and Scarpelli would soon go to work with Sergio Leone on IL BUONO, IL BRUTO, IL CATTIVO, aka THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY.]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

13. The "Second Wave" of Comedy Actors part eleven


by Ernesto G. Laura

Similar is the case with Mariangela Melato and Giancarlo Giannini, who became popular in the movies thanks to the light comedies of Lina Wertmuller (in which they formed a pair) that are, however, impossible to confine exclusively to the comedy genre. Melato, born in Milan in 1945, has an intensely active background as a dramatic stage actress; Giannini, born in 1942, in La Spezia, in Liguria, but raised in Naples, was an outstanding Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli's 1964 production of ROMEO AND JULIET in Verona. Both first appeared in the movies in important roles, but not enough so for their artistic personalities to be immediately discerned.

A film by Ettore Scola represented the turning-point for Giancarlo Giannini, namely DRAMMA DELLA GELOSIA: TUTTI I PARTICOLARI IN CRONACA (DRAMA OF JEALOUSY: ALL DETAILS IN THE NEWS, 1970) based on the original idea of transferring a super-bourgeois love triangle to characters who are dirty and ragged outcasts, placing the emphasis on human sentiments. The disputed woman was Monica Vitti, Giannini's rival, Marcello Mastroianni. None of the three was a romantic "hero", the two men in particular seemed a little stupid, but it was precisely the disparity between the modest, indeed wretched reality and the lofty words of love uttered that gave rise to the humorousness of the film.

It was however the director Lina Wertmuller who turned Giannini into a reliable mainstay of Italian-style film comedy. MIMI METALLURGICO FERITO (METALLURGICAL MIMI, OFFENDED IN HIS HONOR: 1972) tells about another love triangle, but in a working-class environment, confirming the mimetic talents of Giannini who, starting off as a romantic matinee idol, comes up with flawless impersonations of proletarian figures, adapting himself to manners and dialects that are not his own, in this case Milanese. Mariangela Melato, in her interpretation of a certain kind of sentimental adn sharp-tongued Lombardy woman, strong-tempered, aggressive and caustic, seems to draw upon the heritage of one of the greatest actresses in the Milanese dialect theater, who in the '30s became a famous film comedy star: Dina Galli. Moving from Milan to Rome, Giannini and Melato were directed by Wertmuller in 1973 and in TRAVOLTI DA UN INSOLITO DESTINO NELL' AZZURO MARE D'AGOSTO (SWEPT AWAY BY AN UNCOMMON FATE IN THE BLUE SEA OF AUGUST) in 1974.

Giancarlo Giannini creates an extraordinary character in another Wertmuller film, PASQUALINO SETTEBELLEZZE (SEVEN BEAUTIES: 1975), where, shifting skillfully from the initial farce to tragedy, the story is told of a nondescript "guappo" (second-rate gangster in the local underworld) from Naples who ends up in a Nazi concentration camp. To introduce humor into such a serious subject was a risk which only a few people could pull off, as the director does through the use of a grotesque expressionistic style.

As to Melato, aside from completely dramatic films (DIMENTICARE VENEZIA, FORGET VENICE, by Brusati, GESU, JESUS, by Zeffirelli), mention may be made of her witty appearance as a hair-dresser in LA CLASSE OPERAIA VA IN PARADISO (THE WORKING CLASS GOES TO HEAVEN: 1971) by Elio Petri and in LA POLIZIOTTA (THE POLICEWOMAN), directed by Steno in 1974 on a script by Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati, where she was a woman policeman in a small town who dares to create trouble for the local powers that be, in agreement with a judge (Orazio Orlando).

At the beginning of the decade, 1980-1990, certain model which Italian-style comedy has lived on till now have run their course, like the so-called rosy neo-realism of the '50s. Several directors have passed away, others have changed their narrative style, sensitive to new tastes. The Comencini who in 1980 produced VOLTATI, EUGENIO (TURN AROUND, EUGENIO), a bitterish comedy about the break-down of relations between parents and childre, in which realistic accents are intermingled with symbolic imagery, time present and time past, even some surrealistic touches, is undoubtedly a far cry from the Comencini of 1952, who directed PANE, AMORE E FANTASIA (BREAD, LOVE AND FANTASY).

New directors, new script-writers, new actors have come to the fore; no limitations exist any more on the subjects to be handled. So comedy is in the process of revising and transforming its traditional image. In the new decade before us everything can be different, everything must be original.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

13. The "Second Wave" of Comedy Actors part ten

by Ernesto G. Laura
Other actors, some of them international stars, have not been taken into detailed consideration here because their comedy appearances fall into a larger and more complex framework of motion picture activities. Such is the case with Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti. Both have important dramatic interpretations to their credit: suffice it to remember Michelangelo Antonioni's LA NOTTE (NIGHT), in which they appeared together. As to Mastroianni, mention must be made of the Fellini films, from LA DOLCE VITA (THE SWEET LIFE) to LA CITTA DELLA DONNE (CITY OF WOMEN), as to Vitti those of Antonioni, from L'AVVENTURA (THE ADVENTURE) to IL MISTERIO DI OBERWALD (THE MYSTERY OF OBERWALD). Even so, the former's natural inclination to irony, the latter's to caricature, often made it possible to introduce moments of genuine humor into dramatic films.
In the 1950s, Marcello Mastroianni was often one of the young leads in the humorous-sentimental comedies that were in fashion. He then reappears in Ferreri's LA GRANDE ABBUFFATA (THE BIG FEED) and in many more recent comedies (among other things, he starred in the musical comedy, VALENTINO, where in the role of the famous silent film star he danced and sang).
Monica Vitti, instead, appeared more regularly in the film comedy genre. Indeed, several films were made especially to show off her particular whimsical personality. For example, the movie versions of several successful stage works: TI HO SPOSATO PER ALLEGRIA (I MARRIED YOU OUT OF MIRTH: 1967) by Luciano Salce, on the play by Natalia Ginzburg, with Giorgio Albertazzi and Maria Grazia Buccella, L'ANATRA ALL'ARANCIA (DUCK A L'ORANGE: 1975), it too by Salce, from the play by Home and Sauvajon, adapted to the screen by Bernardino Zapponi, with Ugo Tognazzi, John Richardson and Barbara Bouchet, AMORI MIEI (MY DARLINGS: 1978) by Steno, from the play by Jaja Fiastri, with Dorelli and Enrico Maria Salerno, NON TI CONOSCO PIU AMORE (DON'T KNOW YOU ANYMORE, DARLING: 1980) by Corbucci, from an old play by Aldo De Benedetti which had already been made into a film in 1936 at the time of the "white telephone" comedies. The film which revealed most completely the gifts of Monica Vitti, a modern actress who even so identifies herself with the character emotionally, from within, was LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLA (THE GIRL WITH THE PISTOL), directed in 1968 by Mario Monicelli from a story by Sonego adapted to the screen by Sonego and Magni. She is a farm girl from a small Southern town with a very closed mentality, who is "dishonored" by a local boy and goes looking for him in America to kill him and "wash away the disgrace," imagining at every stage of the journey the different ways the execution will take place. Vitti is extraordinary in depicting the various stages in the evolution of the girl, who, as the journey proceeds and she gains new experience, gradually begins to feel less and less disposed to carry out the ritual murder, more a woman, more modern, more mature.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

13. The "Second Wave" of Comedy Actors part nine


by Ernesto G. Laura

Several well-known figures, already popular on television or in the theater, sought in this period to break into movies. Such was the case with Roberto Benigni, a Tuscan cabaret comedian, who in BERLINGUER, TI VOGLIO BENE (BERLINGUER, I LOVE YOU), directed in 1977 by Giuseppe Bertolucci, he is a provincial yokel full of complexes with regard to women. Benigni revealed a sure talent in CHIEDO ASILO ("asilo" means both refuge and kindergarten, so SEEKING REFUGE or SEEKING KINDERGARTEN), directed in 1979 by Marco Ferreri, where he is an eccentric, absent-minded, unconventional and utterly engaging kindergarten teacher who, ignoring all known pedagogical methods, succeeds in capturing the attention and then the affection of his pupils. The symbolic ending provides the allegorical key to a comedy in a category by itself, where satire and irony, a sensitivity to lofty values and a deep hope for the future blend together in a memorable achievement.

Nanni Moretti (ECCE BOMBO, a distortion of the Biblical phrase, "ecco homo": Behold the man!, so BEHOLD BOMBO), Maurizio Nichetti (RATATAPLAN and HO FATTO SPLASH!, I MADE A BIG SPLASH!), Carlo Verdone (UN SACCO BELLO, A BIG DEAL) are rather more comedians in the classic tradition than light comedy actors. Situated between the comedians and the light comedy actors are Lando Buzzanca and Pippo Franco, the latter firmly anchored to the cabaret spirit.