Sunday, March 6, 2016

RONDO AWARD NOMINATIONS!

A few photos of my Rondo Award-nominated article When Famous Monsters Gave In To The Force: Star Wars & The End Of The Classic Monster Magazine, which appeared in issue #23 (December 2015) of Monster! This article looked at that period between 1977-78 when the highly influential Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine kicked the actual monsters to the backseat and became a virtual Star Wars fan magazine, reaching such a saturation point that even interior ads hawking new Star Wars products for sale received their own front cover headlines! Still stunned and surprised but very honored and excited by the nomination (as well as this blog receiving a nomination in the Best Website/Blog category for the second year running!

Visit the Rondo website for all the nominees and details on how to vote:
www.rondoaward.com







Saturday, March 5, 2016

70s MONSTER MEMORIES

Currently writing a review for Weng's Chop of this magnificent new 400 page full-colour UK softcover which is pretty much like a time capsule of everything that made being a horror and monster movie fan growing up in the 70s so much fun. An expensive volume but well worth every cent.

www.webelongdead.co.uk


THE CHINA SYNDROME

Saturday matinee viewing. Been an age since I watched this 1979 movie from James Bridges all the way through. It's a pretty taut and nicely constructed conspiracy/thriller which also dances on the outskirts of the disaster genre so popular that decade. Great performances from Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon (both Oscar-nominated) and Michael Douglas (who also produced). Fonda's role, as TV newswoman who investigates the cover-up of a near-disaster at a nuclear power plant in California, certainly suited the actress during her years of political activism, and the film received a huge profile boost being released only a week before the infamous near-nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Some parallels to the mysterious 1974 death of nuclear facility health activist Karen Silkwood can be seen in the screenplay (in fact, this and Mike Nichols' 1983 film Silkwood would make a great double-bill).




Thursday, February 25, 2016

STARMAN

Decided to take another look at John Carpenter's Starman (1984) last night. Never one of my favourite Carpenter films but not having seen it for many years I have to say I really enjoyed it. A movie that had been in development for some years, apparently John Badham was originally slated to direct but left the project after he saw E.T. and decided the stories were too similar, leaving the door open for Carpenter to come in and direct a somewhat different film than he was known for at the time (after helming the likes of Halloween, The FogChristine and The Thing). It's certainly a simplistic story, but works wonderfully due to its lead performances. Jeff Bridges earned a deserved Oscar nomination for his role as an alien visitor who comes to Earth and assumes the form of a deceased person and slowly discovers what it is like to be human, but he is matched by Karen Allen, who is also terrific as the young widow coming to grips with seeing the form of her recently-killed husband suddenly walking around and talking again, and learning how to fall in love once more. Great performance also by Charles Martin Smith as a government scientist trying to help the Starman avoid capture and probable vivisection. One of Carpenter's last really great films before things started to slowly go south for him.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

L.A. STRANGLER

A great old true crime magazine I was happy to find the other day for a couple of dollars. Put out in April of 1978 by exploitation publisher Myron Fass, it covers the notorious Hillside Strangler case which had been terrorising women in the Los Angeles area throughout the previous six months. At the time of its publication, it was still assumed that a lone killer was responsible, but when the case was finally cracked in early 1979 it was revealed that it was a pair of cousins, Angelo Buono and Kenneth BIanchi, who had been abducting and murdering the women while presenting themselves as undercover cops. This magazine is fairly typical of the lurid true crime tabloid magazines that were popular on the newsstands for decades.
The Hillside Stranglers case was the subject of several movies, one of which, the 1989 telemovie The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (starring Dennis Farina, Billy Zane and Richard Crenna) I have reviewed as one of my contributions to the upcoming Headpress book on American TV movies of the 1970's - 90's, which should hopefully appear later this year.


CVH 1st CLASS GROUP Interview

As work continues at a good pace on the Marneen L. Fields autobiography which I am helping her to write and design (Cartwheels & Halos), a terrific and in-depth interview with Marneen has just been published in the London-based CVH 1st Class Magazine, in which Marneen discusses her life, career and work, as well as the forthcoming book. The interview ends with a little contribution from myself, discussing what initially drew me into the project. You can access the article/interview, which starts on page 46, at the following link:

http://www.youblisher.com/p/1326541-CVH-1st-Class-Group



































Wednesday, February 17, 2016

42nd STREET MEMORIES

Last night's viewing was Calum Waddell's 2015 documentary 42nd Street Memories: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Street, which is included as one of the special features on the new Grindhouse blu-ray release of Pieces. I'd love to see a documentary someday that actually focuses on the people who ran and supplied films to those great 42nd street cinemas, but 42nd Street Memories was a fine and entertaining 80 minute documentary that has various notables sharing their stories of visiting the area and the movie palaces there during its seedy heyday of the late-1960's to mid-1980's, with lots of great photos and vintage film clips (mostly sourced from old exploitation films that were shot in the area). Some of the talking heads sharing their amusing and/or interesting memories and observations include Richard W. Haines, Greydon Clark, Joe Dante, Jeff Lieberman, Frank Henenlotter, Lynn Lowry, Debbie Rochon, Veronica Hart, Roy Frumkes, Buddy Giovinazzo and others. I felt like taking a long cleansing bath after watching it, so I guess the documentary did its job.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

DEAD KIDS COVER ART

A look at Stephen Romano's terrific cover art to Glass Doll Films' upcoming blu-ray release of Antony I. Ginnane's Dead Kids (1981), for which I have written the booklet liner notes. Due out in Australia next month!


BRONSON'S LOOSE AGAIN!

Recently finished working my way through Paul Talbot's latest work, Bronson's Loose Again!, and found it an enjoyable and more than worthy follow-up to his highly-regarded 2006 tome Bronson's Loose: The Making of the Death WIsh Films.
Clocking in at nearly three times the length of its predecessor, Bronson's Loose Again! adds some new information and interviews regarding the Death Wish films, but also covers a range of the actor's other works, including some of his 1970s films like Hard Times, 90s telemovies and, the highlight and real meat & potatoes of the book for me, his violent 1980's action and cop/vigilante films which he made for Cannon and other independants. My favourite chapter in the book is the one which deals with the production of the sleazy 1983 Cannon film 10 to Midnight, in which Talbot tracks the development of the film (presold with a mock-up poster plugging it as a film about an international terrorist plot rather than the psycho-sexual thriller it turned into), details scenes from the screenplay which were cut from the film, and interviews Gene Davis, who was so memorable at playing the handsome but creepy killer in the film.
Definately a must-have for Bronson enthusiasts, particularly those who favour this era in the actor's long and prolific career.
Bronson's Loose Again! is avaialble from Amazon and the publisher, Bear Manor Media, at: 
http://www.bearmanormedia.com/bronsons-loose-again-on-the-set-with-charles-bronson-softcover-edition-by-paul-talbot


Saturday, January 30, 2016

STRIPPED TO KILL

Late Sunday afternoon viewing. Am only five minutes into this Roger Corman-produced erotic thriller from 1987 and so far I have already had a great cheesy 80's rock ballad playing over the opening credits ('Deny the Night' by Larry Steicher), Norman Fell as a cigar-chomping owner of a sleazy L.A. strip club, and such great lines of dialogue as "One nipple's hard, but the other one isn't". I feel like I've already gotten more than my money's worth, and with star Kay Lenz yet to show up, things can only get better.


THE GLITTER DOME

Really glad I decided to re-watch my old VHS of The Glitter Dome (1984) last week, and want a DVD or BR release of it even more now. Forgot what a great seedy little 80s cop noir thriller it is. Set in Hollywood (though filmed in British Columbia) it is a fairly sordid trip through the L.A. gutters filled with murder, child pornography and snuff movies. Great performances from Margot Kidder, John Lithgow and James Garner, who plays a cop that is very much like a more world-weary and beaten Jim Rockford. The similarities to The Rockford Files are compounded by the fact that one of the co-stars in the film is Stuart Margolin, who played Angel on many episodes of that television series. In fact, the whole movie is something of a Stuart Margolin project, as he also directed the film and composed the film's score!

For a made for HBO movie at the time, the film is pretty confronting in some of its themes and language (with Kidder dropping the C-word at one point). I need to track down a copy of the 1981 Joseph Wambaugh novel that it was based on someday.


Monday, January 25, 2016

THE 70's UK HORROR HARDCOVERS

Cool Andy Ross art on the cover of Monster! #25, due out at the end of this month - this issue features my article on the 1970's UK hardcover horror movie books that influenced me and fed my monster addiction when I was growing up.


 


THE HATEFUL EIGHT: THE 70mm ROADSHOW HITS TOWN

Quite enjoyed the 70mm Roadshow screening of The Hateful Eight at the Astor this afternoon. I am not a huge fan of QT but I thought this was his best film for some time, possibly since JACKIE BROWN. I loved the original Ennio Morricone score, what little there actually was of it, and nice to hear the late David Hess - star of Wes Craven's infamous The Last House on the Left (1972) - on the film's soundtrack (Now You're All Alone, which the musician/actor originally wrote and performed for the Last House soundtrack ). Cool to get a free little 12-page Hateful Eight souvenir booklet upon entry. I used to love buying the movie programs they sold at the cinema when I first started going to the movies - in those pre-internet days, they were one of the few ways to get any kind of production info on a movie, even it was often fairly superficial.


SICARIO

I missed seeing Denis Villeneuve's Sicario (2015) during its brief local cinema run, but caught up with it on blu-ray this evening and wasn't disappointed. It's a tense and pretty uncompromising and tough crime thriller set amongst the brutal but almost casual everyday violence of the Mexican drug cartels and the blurring of legal and illegal lines in the government's fight to bring them down. Terrific performances by Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, but the real surprise of the film for me was the stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins, who captures some amazing and almost other-wordly Mexican vistas, many of them from high in the sky. A great modern crime flick that I imagine I will find myself watching again soon.


Friday, December 25, 2015

CARTWHEELS & HALOS Excerpt

As a little Christmas treat for readers, Marneen Lynne Fields and I have decided to give you a little sneak peek at what we have been cooking up for Marneen's upcoming autobiography, Cartwheels & Halos, which I am helping her co-write, with an eye to publication in late-2016.

This excerpt deals with the filming of Marneen's hair-raising stunt on The Gauntlet, and also provides a great example of some of the terrific photos the book will contain.

**********
THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET

In mid-1977, I packed my travel bags and headed for the dry air and sunny climate of the Arizona desert to film one of the stunts which I became best known for within the industry, getting punched off a moving train by Clint Eastwood in his classic action film, The Gauntlet. I landed the job after receiving a call from Clint’s stunt double and coordinator, Buddy Van Horn. He had been given my number and asked if I would be prepared to do this rather risky stunt. Though I was quite apprehensive about it, it was far too good an opportunity to turn down, and I had about two weeks to get ready before I was due on location in Arizona, so I spent that time practicing in the playground at the local beach, where I would stand up on the moving swings and leap off of them while they were still in motion.

In the movie, Clint – who also directed as well as starred in alongside his future wife Sondra Locke – plays Ben Shockley, an alcoholic and down on his heels cop from Phoenix, who is given the seemingly simple task of travelling to Las Vegas to escort a troublesome female witness named Gus Mally (Locke) back for a court case. Of course, this "nothing witness" for a "nothing trial” ends up instigating a white-knuckle fight for survival, as the cop and his witness are chased across the desert by corrupt officials who are determined to kill them both before they reach their destination.

For my big scene, I doubled for actress Samantha Doane as one of the tough biker chicks who runs into Shockley and Mally when they jump aboard the carriage of a passing goods train. The plot set-up was that the couple had previously stolen a motorcycle from this outlaw bikie gang, which has them out for revenge. After getting rid of the two male bikers (who are busy forcing themselves lasciviously on Mally), Shockley angrily approaches the female biker, who looks at him and asks “You wouldn’t hit a lady, would you?” Shockley replies by slugging her in the face and sending her flying out of the train carriage and onto the hard and hot desert floor. I also doubled for Samantha during the fight with Clint inside the train carriage, and had a small background role as one of the female bikers in an earlier scene. I had tattoos drawn on me by one of the make-up artists for both of my roles – one on my shin for the background scene, and ones on my cheek and upper-arms for my stunt scene, along with a thick black curly wig on my head, which was not only intensely uncomfortable to wear in the Arizona heat, but gave me extra concern about the possibility of it coming loose and disturbing my field of vision during the jump.

For the leap from the moving train carriage, all I had for protection was a small boy’s football girdle and some knee pads strapped to me under the pair of grotty old blue Levis which the character wore. All movie stunts are serious and carry potential risks, but this one filled me with a particularly strong level of anxiety in the lead-up to its execution. The screenplay called for me to be standing with my back to the open train carriage, causing me to exit going off blind. When Clint throws a punch at my jaw, I had to turn to my right and leap from the train, while trying to make it look as if my body had gone limp from the punch. The scary part was, because the train was in motion, until I actually spun around and made the commitment to fall, I had no real idea of exactly where I was going to land. Clint and Van Horn had blocked out my scene with me and gone over the approximate area where I was expected to fall. I was warned by both of them that I must make sure my body moved in the same direction the train at all times (hard to do when you’re going off backwards with a half twist), or I could be thrown back under the train track wheels and squashed to death. I watched in nervous anticipation as the props department prepared the ground for my crash landing. They removed as many rocks as they could, then they rolled in a small wheel barrel of full of sand. They poured the sand around the general area I’d be landing in to help cushion my fall, but there were still a few cactus plants and smaller rocks in the area. I remember them tossing an old rusty Coke can and more cactus plants onto the sand to make it look more authentic.

One thing you have to bear in mind is, when your body leaves an object traveling at a speed like that, the gravitational pull carries you along with the object, even after you have left it. The train was travelling steady at around five miles per hour, which may not sound like much, but seems a whole lot more when you are the one who has to make the leap. As I performed the half twist to align myself with the massive train, and launched myself off the carriage, my body, unexpectedly, popped high up into the air and I flew horizontally at the same speed of the train as I was carried along the side of it. All of this happening within seconds prior to beginning my descent. While mid-air, my arms, legs, and body flailed uncontrollably for what seemed like slow, terrifying minutes rather than the few seconds it actually took to complete the fall. It was very frightening for me at that moment. In those few seconds, I had to try and muster all my strength to regain equilibrium and keep my body moving in the direction of the train as I was free falling and being pulled every which way. At the same time, I was also trying to keep a mindful eye on where I was going to land. I was certainly terrified at that moment, and wondered why the hell I was even here doing this. The noise of the train and its gravitational pull had me feeling as if I might be pulled back against the side of the carriage or, even worse, sucked under its rolling wheels and crushed to death, which added to the incredible anxiety and adrenaline that was charging through my body.

Once the centrifugal pull of the train dissipated, my body fell like a sack of potatoes, hitting the harsh Arizona floor with a force equal to the weight of my body times the speed of the object. In other words, pretty darn hard. I flipped over wildly about ten times before slamming into a cactus of all things, which halted my roll. I was rattled and bruised, but miraculously came away without a scratch on my bare arms and face. I went from incredible apprehension to feeling like a complete champion in seconds! I had conquered the jump off the moving train, and got to walk away without any broken or fractured bones, only a badly bruised left heel. It could have so easily gone the other way, though. When you watch the stunt in the film, you can see how close I came to landing on that rusty old Coke can. To think we all stood around watching the props department nonchalantly toss it into the sand, presumably to give a bit of variety to the barren landscape, my youth and inexperience making me ignorant to the damage it might have caused had I connected with it upon landing. This was still the days of the old hard tin Coke cans, not the easily-crushable aluminum ones which became the mainstay not long after. I hate to think of what might have happened if my face landed on it, or if I had hit the back of my head on it while rolling over upon landing. As I always did upon completing a successful stunt, I thanked the angel on my shoulder.

Despite the incredible risks and the immense terror which gripped me during its execution, it remains a stunt which I am incredibly proud of, and is certainly one of the defining moments of my stunt career, which was launched virtually overnight because of it. They put my jump in the trailer, a still photo of it was sent out to all the newspapers and entertainment magazines, and the Hollywood stunt community began taking real notice of me. It was one of the most dangerous stunts which a female had ever attempted on film to that point, and it looked amazing and startlingly authentic when it was seen on the big screen for the first time, and it still holds up incredibly well on home video today. People still gasp when they see that stunt for the first time, because they can see that it is real. No matter how advanced cinema special effects might look today, thanks primarily to computer technology, nothing will ever match the genuine excitement of a girl with little more than knee pads, a football girdle and a lot of heart and spirit, taking a great leap into the unknown and doing stunt people worldwide proud.

About a week after I got back from filming in Arizona, I received a personal phone call from Fritz Manes, who was Clint Eastwood's childhood friend and producer at the time. Fritz told me to come by the office at Warners to pick up some photographs he had for me. When I arrived at the studio and opened the door to Malpaso Productions, there was Clint Eastwood, standing alone in the reception area of the outer office. I kid you not, he was in a state of complete calm and deep thought, and I imagined he was either meditating or if it was his way of running and remembering lines. I wondered how he was going to react, since I had entered without knocking first, but he was fine as he shook my hand and I reminded him that I was the girl he had punched off the train. “Yes, Fritz isn't here right now”, Clint replied. “But he has some photos for you. Come in here, Fritz left them on his desk." He handed me a huge manilla envelope with my name written in black swastick pen on it. Once again, he shook my hand and complimented me on the great stunt I did, as he opened the envelope and showed me the still photos, which captured my entire sequence in a set of 8X10 shots, which I still possess and treasure to this day. Clint Eastwood was the most talented director and producer I ever worked with, no doubt. After my stunt had been completed, and I lay winded and nearly knocked-out on the hot desert floor, pain tearing at my left heel, Clint hauled himself off the train as soon as it came to a halt, ran over to me and picked me up in a giant hug. “I LOVED IT!”, he exclaimed. In 2010, Clint actually contacted me via Facebook, and was nice enough to send me a copy of a 1988 issue of Star Magazine, which ran an article on me with the headline 'Clint Eastwood’s Hug Changed My Life'.

Released in December of 1977, The Gauntlet proved to be another popular box-office hit for Clint, who could really do no wrong at this point in his career. With a production budget of US $5.5 million, the film would earn a tidy US $35.4 million during its initial theatrical run in America, which at the time was a pretty impressive figure (even more so considering Star Wars was still dominating the box-office at the time). It felt good to be involved in a project that was proving to be a hit with the public, it meant all the hard work and risks I had put myself through was being seen and hopefully appreciated by lots of people. It made the ordeal more than worthwhile.

But I have to tell you, going out that train blind and backwards with a half twist, not knowing if I I was going to end up safely on the sand or crushed under metal wheels, was absolutely terrifying. It still makes me shake just to think and write about it.

********
Excerpt from Cartwheels & Halos
By Marneen L. Fields with John Harrison
Copyright 2015