Aldrich x 2

This week in the New York Times, serendipity brings the Blu-ray release of two game-changing films by Robert Aldrich, made back-to-back near the beginning of his career: the proto-Spaghetti western “Vera Cruz” (1954) and the apocalyptic film noir “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), which among many other distinctions served as an example of feisty independent production for the gathering forces of the Nouvelle Vague. The latter arrives in a magnificent Criterion edition with inky blacks and an almost tactile grain structure, along with an essay by J. Hoberman adapted from his superb, recently published history, An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War.

This seems also a good time to mention Peter Tonguette’s scrupulously researched, elegantly written The Films of James Bridges, which has just been published by McFarland. Here is a close, sensitive (and admirably fact-based) reading of the career of one of the most powerful and personal filmmakers of the 1970s and 80s, whose work merits much wider recognition.

On a lighter note, let us also salute the release of Trailers From Hell! Volume Two, a second DVD spawned by our friends at the infinitely entertaining website Trailers from Hell.

Here are 20 more coming attractions trailers with commentary, including Roger Corman on “The Premature Burial,” Joe Dante on “Donovan’s Brain,” Gullermo de Toro on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Mick Garris on “Fire Maidens from Outer Space” and John Landis on “Gorgo!”. All this, plus the best transfer I’ve ever seen of Corman’s much-abused public domain classic “Little Shop of Horrors,” presented in anamorphic widescreen. Thanks, Joe!

60 comments to Aldrich x 2

  • joe dante

    Wow, I never thought I’d see the day when “Amazon Women on the Moon” turned up on the lost continent of cinephilia!
    Thanks, Robert!
    Especially in the midst of a really interesting thread on Aldrich, who has more titles on Trailers from Hell than anybody but maybe Roger Corman.

    I was particularly fond of the “Amazon Women” segment(shooting title: “Untitled”–I wanted to call it “Free Beer”, or maybe “Best Picture of the Year” so that whoever reviewed the picture could be quoted in the ads: “‘Best Picture of the Year!’–Roger Ebert”, etc.) I did starring Dick Miller as a Vegas ventriloquist who finds his dummy switched at the airport with a dummy that only speaks French. It got cut out, but it’s on one of the dvds with, unfortunately, a screwed-up sound mix. But Dick is wonderful in it.

    And count me as a “Mad World” fan who finds the film compelling for too many pop cultural reasons to enumerate.

  • Dan C., glad to hear of your enthusiasm for MIKE’S MURDER – a truly great American film. THE BABY MAKER isn’t on the same level, but it is distinguished by brilliant performances (especially by Barbara Hershey and the late Collin Wilcox), wonderful dialogue, and subtle direction. THE BABY MAKER is available from Warner Archive.

    Joe D., I think of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON as an important picture in your career because, if I recall correctly, it was the first time you worked with editor Marshall Harvey, who has been your go-to guy ever since, as you told me when I interviewed you (and Marshall and Tina Hirsch) for a piece in CinemaEditor magazine in ’09.

  • Barry Putterman

    Joe, your meditation on titling is fantastic. And it reminded me of reading that when it was suggested to Amy Heckerling that LOSER might be a commercially dubious title, she replied that she was tired of being referred to as “CLUELESS director Amy Heckerling” and wanted to become known as “LOSER director Amy Heckerling.”

    While I can’t quite join in the MAD WORLD mania, I certainly understand and share in the notion of appreciating certain films for their cultural connections rather than their aesthetics. And I can at least say that no film which has Dorothy Provine in the cast can be considered a total loss.

  • The Fanciful Norwegian

    Re: It’s a Mad Mad etc.

    The attempt to reconstruct a roadshow print during the 90s was only partially successful, used for the laserdisc pressing, but apparently abandoned thereafter, which is ashame.

    The laserdisc wasn’t really an attempt to reconstruct the roadshow print. They found twenty minutes of cut footage (much of it B-roll) in a warehouse and more or less threw it in there, with occasional re-editing (new cutaways and such) to integrate it with the general release version. There was no effort to faithfully represent the roadshow version, and most of the restored footage had been removed by Kramer before release. Robert Harris has been trying for years to properly reconstruct the roadshow version, but it’s been stalled for lack of studio support. All but a few minutes of the roadshow footage is accounted for, but MGM won’t put up the money to finish it.

  • Charlie Largent

    I think MAD WORLD is a terrible movie, klutzy and obvious beyond belief (though the untameable Dick Shawn and Jonathan Winters manage to seize the day).

    Usually, when I do think of something remotely funny in it, I realize I’m recalling a scene from THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING.

    But whenever it’s on TCM, I can’t take my eyes off it. Go figure.

  • Robert Regan

    Our host’s Film Comment article on John Auer can be read on their site and is, not surprisingly, excellent.

  • Great article, but I was wondering if one of the photographs was mislabeled. The still for City That Never Sleeps looks like a movie from the 1930s, but the film came out in 1953.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    On It’s a Mad (4) World -

    Per IMDb – original running time 192 minutes
    laser disc – 182 minutes
    restored video – 174 minutes
    post-roadshow theatrical – 154 minutes

    I have the laser disc buried someplace (not accessible)

    The TCM presentation has 175 minutes of film + 7 minutes of entr’acte + intermission, coming to 182 minutes.

    I bow to others with better information, but it wouldn’t surprise me if TCM isn’t showing the laser disc version, and if the DVD is shorter, it’s because the entr’acte and end music were truncated.

    In any events it appears about 10 minutes from the initial engagements have been excised (not an unheard of event – 2001 was cut by Kubrick after it opened, early in the run, and has never been restored to my knowledge).

    Further information from the AFI Catelogue:
    On release, published review running times ranged from 190-197 minutes.

    Continuity sheets list 162 minutes for 70mm prints, 154 for 35mm ones

    The 70mm prints had 8 minutes of extra music, 16 minutes of intermission built into the 70mm roadshow running time.

    So: Again, those with better knowledge check in, but it is quite possible the idea that the film was cut, except initially between road show and wide release, might be confusion over the loss of only music interludes, and not footage, which has since been restored. Not saying this is the case, but there is evidence for that. And it seems likely the laser disc version is the same one TCM plays, and might be the same as the DVD.

  • Rick K.

    Re: MAD MAD WORLD, didn’t realize that the “restored” laserdisc version was using alternate takes rather than actual roadshow footage. The hyperbole on the laser cover states “restores sequences missing from the film since its 1963 premiere”.

    The dvd and blu-ray versions are of the general release version + intermission and exit music (blu-ray added entrance music). My unreliable memories of seeing it theatrically during re-release indicate that theaters didn’t even bother with the intermission, trimming the music bookends as well. I DO remember seeing it once at a Cinerama revival, having many extra scenes, including one with Tracy and Buster Keaton setting up their meeting during the final chase, more with Dick Shawn and Barrie Chase, more scenes at the “Big W” etc. etc. none of which were included in the laserdisc version.

    Tonight I’m going to watch THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS, with cinematography by Hal Mohr and make-up by Jack Pierce … does anybody wish to join me?

  • Richard T. Jameson

    Back at Vera Cruz, where this all started, let me retrieve a cultural moment from the past.
    I watched the movie first-run with my parents, a rare occasion when they saw fit to attend a Western rather than license me to go alone. Lancaster has this running bit whereby he sizes up a scene and then pronouces, “Well I’ll be a son of a….” 1954 being 1954, the actual pronouncing stopped there, but Lancaster–already notorious for bravura displays of his teeth–flashed them as a substitute for the missing word; I swear the glint almost became an audible click. The chuckles of the Saturday night full house audience were more deeply appreciative each time he did it. And on the drive home my mother insisted, “I think he really said it that one time.”