Posts Tagged ‘Cinema Retro’

Retro Rocket

I’ll have more to say when I’m holding a contributor’s copy in my hot little hands, but in the meantime, if this news flash from Cinema Retro doesn’t send you zooming like a rocket for your wallet, checkbook, or credit card, then you are no true fan of the self-appointed multi-media legend that is Matthew R. Bradley.  There have been issues of Filmfax and Outre in which my story was featured on the cover, but I don’t remember ever seeing my name emblazoned on one before, which I think I would.  Plus I have the honor of sharing cover space with FrenzyDeliverance (which means Fred may even buy it), and Gene Hackman—and whose article did they choose to illustrate, with that wild shot of Big Don Pleasence as Blofeld?

In the immortal words of Felix Unger, “This is it—this is the big one!”

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Part of my “day job” as Copy Specialist for the PCS Stamps & Coins division of MBI, Inc. is to license images for use on our various collector panels and other products, so I had occasion today to contact the New York Public Library in that capacity for the first time. Lo and behold, the guy whose own day job is Manager of Rights & Permissions for the NYPL, Tom Lisanti, is not only a fellow McFarland author (e.g., Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach and Elvis Movies; Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films & TV 1962-1973), but also a fellow contributor to Cinema Retro whom I met in Manhattan at a delightful get-together for Retro writers hosted by our own “Dear Leader,” Lee Pfeiffer, at the Players Club (founded by 19th-century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes) a couple of years back. Tom is a capital fellow who helped me with some advice while I was writing Richard Matheson on Screen, and duly appears in my acknowledgments. Those interested in the skull-splintering output of quintessential shlockmeister Larry Buchanan–and who isn’t?–will enjoy this article on Creature of Destruction from his website. Great to renew your acquaintance, Tom!

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My Favorite Year

I was so busy working on You Only Live Twice on Sunday that I forgot to check out my Snapshot for 1975 on Marvel University, and for me not to swoon narcissistically over my own work is pretty serious, especially when it’s so beautifully illustrated.  A gentleman named Jack Seabrook–and you know he’s a good guy, because he’s chosen to represent himself onscreen with a photo of Tony Randall as Felix Unger–is a contributor to and enthusiastic commentator on the many fine Enfantino/Scoleri blogs.  He begins by saying, “WOW!  Now I know what my favorite Marvel year was.  I turned 12 in 1975 [as did this writer] and I guess that was the prime age for loving these comics.”

Jack segues into a rant about Frank Robbins (whose disastrously cartoony pencils blighted the pre-resurgent-Kirby Captain America and, worse, the first few years of Roy Thomas’s cherished Invaders), which is then echoed by none other than Peter Enfantino himself.  Other than to express my appreciation and agreement, and without meaning to turn this into some sort of self-referential circle-jerk, I have a reason for bringing this up.  These Snapshots represent my favorite era of Marvel Comics, but in reading them over before submitting them to M.U., I started to wonder if I could pinpoint an actual favorite year.

Certainly in terms of creators represented (e.g., Englehart, Mantlo, Wolfman, Buscema, Conway, Wein, Thomas, Andru, Claremont, Gerber, Buckler, Brown, Byrne, Cockrum, Starlin…God, what a crew) and new books introduced, I might have to agree with Jack.  Peter and John lead off with the cover of what was, in retrospect, surely the most important release of the year, Giant-Size X-Men #1, which introduced the new team whose popularity eventually dominated the whole Marvel Universe.  But 1975 also saw the advent of such BOF faves as The InvadersThe Champions, Super-Villain Team-Up, the Claremont/Byrne Iron Fist, and Starlin’s revived Warlock solo title, and the frissons I was getting from seeing some of these books illustrated certainly supported the ’75 thesis.

It should be noted, however, that many of these books were just getting off the ground by year’s end, meaning that 1976 was when they were first in full swing, and sadly, many outlived it barely or not at all (like don’t-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ’76 newcomer Black Goliath).  Also, I’m fairly certain that ’76–at least in terms of the calendar year, if not necessarily cover dates–marked the seismic shift between my buying comics at convenience stores on a catch-as-catch-can basis and getting them religiously via subscription.  Add to that the fact that I associate 1977 with such disappointing debuts as Godzilla and The Human Fly, and I think I have to give ’76 the edge, but you can read all about that this coming Sunday at M.U.

In closing, I would also like to thank Cinema Retro for linking to my Live and Let Die post, and all of the Retro readers who were kind enough to visit this site.  I hope my series of Bond posts will whet your appetite for my Retro article about his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, on page and screen, which–God willing–will run next year during the 50th anniversary of 007 on the big screen.  In the meantime, y’all come back, now, hear?

A grateful Bradley out.

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One of the things I’ve hoped to do with my new “What I’ve Been Watching” posts is to entertain readers with the eclectic nature of my viewing habits, and although I won’t devote separate posts to the individual items, this weekend’s programming achieves that objective admirably. Kicking off my research on a new project for Cinema Retro (which recently gave such a nice presentation to the William Peter Blatty interview I did with main man Gilbert Colon), I reread Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, on Saturday. While I was at it, I took another look at the 1954 adaptation done as an episode of the live CBS anthology series Climax!, even if it seemed a bit superfluous to watch the love-it-or-hate-it 1967 spoof, which I adore, for the umpteenth time.

Fleming’s primary narrative thrust is retained, as Bond survives several attempts on his life and defeats Le Chiffre (a subdued Peter Lorre) at baccarat in the eponymous gambling house, thus preventing him from replacing the funds he has embezzled from his Soviet bosses. The teleplay by Anthony Ellis and Charles Bennett (the longtime collaborator of Hitchcock and Irwin Allen) does monkey around with the characters and their relationships, e.g., Bond’s American friend, Felix Leiter, is now Clarence (Michael Pate). To accommodate the casting of the decidedly non-British Barry Nelson as “Jimmy” (!) Bond, their respective employers are reversed, with Leiter reporting to the British Secret Service and Bond to the U.S. “Combined” Intelligence Agency.

More important, they have conflated Bond’s Secret Service colleague and love interest, Vesper Lynd, and his French ally from the Deuxième Bureau, René Mathis, into Valerie Mathis (Linda Christian). Here she is an old flame rather than a new acquaintance, and instead of an unwilling Soviet double agent whose suicide ends the novel, she is a crony of Le Chiffre’s who is revealed as a Deuxième operative and survives to enjoy the final clinch with Bond. It’s easy to mock the casting of Nelson, but the novel was only published the previous year, so 007 was not the iconic figure we know today, and his final confrontation with Le Chiffre (restored in the video version hosted by Retro’s own Lee Pfeiffer) avoids Fleming’s long, and rather melodramatic, anticlimax.

More on Casino Royale.

Just for fun, Madame BOF and I have been slowly working our way though a budget 50-movie pack from Mill Creek Entertainment called Horror Classics, a misleading moniker if ever there was one, since many of the films fail to meet one or both criteria. On Saturday night we watched a film that I didn’t remember ever hearing about, Maniac (1934), and while it wouldn’t rank as a classic of anything other than Bad Cinema, it was certainly an unforgettable viewing experience. Unlike The Mad Monster, which I slept through in its entirety on Friday night (and although I did go back and watch it mostly in its entirety, I will direct you to the review by the ever-entertaining El Santo for that little lycanthropic opus), Maniac held me riveted—in jaw-dropping amazement.

Immediately following the credits, I realized why I’d never heard of Maniac, because its horrific goings-on are intercut with pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, which purports to explain that these scenes exemplify various types of mental illness. Yes, children, we’re in the realm of that special kind of exploitation movie in which all sorts of unsavory stuff is given socially redeeming value, so-called, by being “educational” or a cautionary tale, sort of like a sex-hygiene film without the hygiene. Suffice to say that director Dwain Esper and his wife, screenwriter Hildegarde Stadie, were also the perpetrators of Narcotic, Marihuana (“Weed with roots in hell!”), and the immortal How to Undress in Front of Your Husband, to which she presumably brought real-world insights.

Vying for the scenery-chewing honors are Dr. Meirschultz (Horace Carpenter), a Depression-era Herbert West who has invented a serum that can raise the dead, and his assistant, Don Maxwell (Bill Woods), an impersonator on the lam whose special abilities come in mighty handy. They revive and steal a chick from the morgue, with Don posing as the coroner, and then Meirschultz wants to go to the next level: he produces a gun and urges Don to kill himself with it, so that he can replace Don’s heart with one he has beating away in a jar. Perhaps understandably, Don is less than keen on this plan, so he grabs the gun and shoots the doc instead, but is forced to cover this up by assuming his identity after Mrs. Buckley (Phyllis Diller—no, not that one) barges in.

Seems Madame B is a bit distraught because her hubby (Ted Edwards) thinks he’s the orangutan from Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and if you think that’s the last we’ll hear of Poe, you have another think coming. Intending to give Buckley a harmless injection of “sedatives” (i.e., water), Don shoots him up with “super-adrenaline” by mistake, and Buckley joins the overacting derby as he goes totally off the deep end, carrying away the attractive revenant for unspeakable purposes. Don, meanwhile, gets a rude shock when he finds the lab’s black cat, Satan, nibbling on that experimental heart; taking a leaf from Poe’s “The Black Cat,” the incensed Don pops out one of Satan’s eyes (which he then eats), inadvertently walling him up in the cellar with the doc.

Things get really weird when Don’s estranged wife, Alice (Thea Ramsey), learns that he’s just inherited a fortune from a distant relative, and decides this might be a good time to patch things up between them. The increasingly paranoid Don hits on the idea of pitting Alice against Mrs. Buckley, who has her own poorly defined evil schemes afoot, and locks the two of them in the cellar, where they proceed to start beating the crap out of each other. All of this ruckus finally draws the attention of the cops, and the final resolution, if nothing else, is faithful to Poe, despite the fact that in his wildest nightmares, ol’ Edgar could never have conceived of anything like this film’s indescribably bizarre plot, impoverished production values, or over-the-top performances.

Interspersed among this other viewing, since my schedule often forces me to see films in bits and pieces, was The Informers, about which I knew little more than its stars, Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Basinger, and alleged genre (per the usual minimalist description in the satellite-dish guide), crime drama. In contrast to Did You Hear About the Morgans?, I would have been less likely to watch it if I’d known that it was co-written, and based on the book, by 1980s literary “Brat Pack” member Bret Easton Ellis. I absolutely loathed the adaptation of his novel Less Than Zero (thus permanently souring me on stars Andrew McCarthy, Jamie Gertz, and Robert Downey, Jr.), and although American Psycho made a slightly more interesting film, they both defied any empathy.

The Informers returns to the style and drug-soaked ’80s milieu of Less Than Zero, epitomizing what I call the “turning over a rock” film, in which we gaze at the vermin squirming underneath like some kind of alien life-forms. Hollywood mogul William Sloan (Thornton) tries to reunite with wife Laura (Basinger), despite having no intention of giving up newscaster Cheryl Moore (Winona Ryder). Meanwhile, Peter (Mickey Rourke in full slimeball mode, making us long for his wholesome international terrorist in Double Team) kidnaps a boy for unspecified nefarious purposes; Les Price (Chris Isaak) tries vainly to connect with son Tim (Lou Taylor Pucci) on a trip to Hawaii; the lead singer of the titular rock band behaves badly; sex is had; AIDS looms…

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Any pleasure I would have taken in reporting this news has been largely dampened—in every sense of the word—by the discovery (literally as I sat down to begin writing) of a new leak, in our bedroom ceiling this time, followed by the resurgence of an old leak in the basement, and a fruitless session of chopping away at the ice in the gutters.  Madame BOF and I were left feeling utterly hopeless, with two more months of winter yet to come and the second storm in a double-header hitting tonight.  Be that as it may, however, issue #19 of Cinema Retro, that outstanding magazine devoted to the true cinematic Golden Age of the ’60s and ’70s, is a veritable goldmine for those who follow the careers of yours truly and my main man Gilbert Colon with any interest.

The cover story is a ten-page “Film in Focus Special” occasioned by the Blu-ray release of The Exorcist (1973), most of which is devoted to pertinent passages from the 1996 interview Gil and I did with its original author, screenwriter, and producer, William Peter Blatty.  Portions of said interview were published in Filmfax, but Retro will supposedly publish the whole enchilada over a series of issues; this installment is beefed up with color photos, sidebars by editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer, and Gilbert’s preview of Bill’s new novel from Tor, Crazy.  And, as if all that weren’t enough to entice you, Lee was able to squeeze in a last-minute review of Richard Matheson on Screen, opining that, “If you admire Matheson’s work, this book can be considered as essential.”

Meanwhile, as if this year didn’t suck enough already, John Barry has left us at the not-terribly-advanced age of 77.  Since his name will be familiar to BOF readers, I will not regurgitate what I’ve already written here about his place among my top ten favorite film composers, his seminal contributions to the James Bond series or, most recently, his work on the late Peter Yates’s The Deep (1977).  I will mention his Academy Awards for Born Free (1966)—for song and score—The Lion in Winter (1968), Out of Africa (1985), and Dances with Wolves (1990), as well as his nominations for Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) and Chaplin (1992), because even though none of them is a personal favorite, they surely display the length and breadth of his extraordinary career.

My choices are, as usual, a bit more eclectic, like Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965), from the novel by Len Deighton.  Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman intended to establish Deighton’s nameless and bespectacled spy (dubbed “Harry Palmer” and brilliantly played by Michael Caine in the film) as the anti-Bond, and despite Barry’s already strong association with the Bond series, Saltzman wisely allowed him to score the film.  One need only contrast the moody, world-weary main title theme from The Ipcress File with the dynamism of, say, Barry’s first full Bond score, Goldfinger (1964), or his pulse-pounding instrumental main title from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) to see how, even within the espionage genre, he could vary his work accordingly.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Barry composed a theme of suitably heartbreaking beauty for Nicolas Roeg’s solo directorial debut, Walkabout (1971), a unique tale of two children forced to undergo a coming-of-age odyssey through the Australian Outback.  With his seemingly effortless artistry, Barry captures both the lyrical majesty of the film’s setting and the bittersweet ache of its storyline.  Finally, as the author of the Matheson tome cited above, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Barry’s work on Somewhere in Time (1980), a lush, romantic score that incorporates Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43, Variation XVIII), proved to be one of his biggest-selling soundtracks, and was born out of the pain of losing both his parents.

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The life part is easy, because it being the wee hours of Christmas Day as I write this, we’re now celebrating the birth of J.C., despite being the least prepared for this holiday we have ever been.  Kicking off a ten-day vacation, I slept until 10:00, finished writing a Matheson post for Tor.com, and availed myself of the last opportunity for some, uh, “quality time” with the wife before our daughter and her boyfriend fly in from Oregon.  Then we gorged ourselves on corned beef (an unusual gift from the senior Mrs. B., who sent us a Box o’ Ruben Fixin’s from Zabar’s in New York) and I slipped in a nap, with Mina sleeping on my lap, and a workout on my exercise bike, while embarking on Kurosawa’s The Idiot (1951), before I had to shower and change for church.

Although I’m technically an agnostic, Madame BOF and I attend a local Congregational church and are in the choir, singing on Christmas Eve at 7:30 and 11:00.  In addition to the traditional carols for which we join the congregation (e.g., “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night, Holy Night”), this year we did a pretty French carol, “Saw You Never, in the Twilight,” and a rousing English one, “Masters in This Hall.”  In between the two services, we repair to the home of a fellow choir member for potluck food and drink—albeit hopefully not too much of the latter—and a nicer bunch of people to sing or socialize with cannot be imagined.

The death part is a little trickier, and I’ll state at the outset that this is going to be one of those I’m-not-really-crazy-about-So-and-So-but-feel-I-must-acknowledge-their-passing posts, in this case (belatedly) that of writer-director Blake Edwards, who left us on the 15th at 88.  Without wishing to speak ill of the dead, especially on Christmas, it’s become a running gag among the Movie Knights that our Host with the Most will not allow any Edwards films to be shown, yet he takes his Hostly duties seriously enough that more than once he’s made exceptions for a Knight to see his favorite Pink Panther film.  Gilbert loves A Shot in the Dark (1964), I favor The Return of… (1975), and the mighty Turafish comes down squarely on the side of …Strikes Again (1976).

I’m sure part of Gil’s fondness for Shot is due to the fact that William Peter Blatty, whom people forget worked in comedy before he struck gold with The Exorcist (we’re still waiting to receive the new issue of Cinema Retro featuring our interview with Bill), co-wrote that and three other films with Edwards.  Yet I’ve seen two more, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966) and Darling Lili (1970)—the latter starring Julie Andrews, who married Edwards the year before—and didn’t care for either of them.  I haven’t seen Gunn (1967) or the Edwards-created private-eye TV series that spawned it, although I absolutely adore the driving theme song (especially the Art of Noise version) by Henry Mancini, his longtime, and perhaps most valuable, collaborator.

Interestingly, as much as I admire Peter Sellers (TCM’s star of the month for January), I also saw the only non-Inspector Clouseau movie he made with Edwards, The Party (1968), and found that painfully unfunny.  This suggests that Clouseau created a special alchemy among Sellers, Blatty and/or Edwards that may not have existed elsewhere, just as director Jack Arnold and producer William Alland seemed to do better work together than apart.  And because the Edwards/Sellers relationship was a fractious one, it also calls to mind a milder version of the almost murderous love-hate bond between director Werner Herzog and star Klaus Kinski, which was documented in Herzog’s My Best Fiend (1999), and nonetheless produced some brilliant work…but I digress.

Edwards worked as an actor and screenwriter before graduating to director, making several films with Tony Curtis:  Mister Cory (1957), The Perfect Furlough (1958), and Operation Petticoat (1959); in spite of Cary Grant’s presence in the latter, I think that as an undiscriminating teen, I actually preferred the TV spin-off.  Now, I’m not dumb enough to say that I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) isn’t a good movie, but I will say it wasn’t my cup of tea, nor was I crazy about his other pre-Panther successes such as Experiment in Terror or Days of Wine and Roses (both 1962).  I’ll also freely admit that my feelings toward Days have since been colored by my loyalty to John Frankenheimer, who directed the Playhouse 90 version and was passed over for the film.

The Pink Panther (1963) changed everything, giving Mancini his second immortal theme, and if the scenes involving top-billed David Niven and his aspiring jewel-thief nephew Robert Wagner have aged less well, Sellers steals the film with no less aplomb.  The eponymous diamond did not appear in many of the sequels, but as with The Thin Man (1934), the inaccurate name stuck, eventually becoming synonymous with Clouseau himself.  It’s clear from his contemporaneous work with Stanley Kubrick on Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) that when Sellers was on, nobody could touch him as a comic genius, and the early Clouseau films bear this out, but I would agree with Hostly that they—selectively, at that—are the only Edwards movies to watch.

Although I seem to recall that a case could be made for Victor Victoria (1982), my impression is that most of his subsequent non-Panther films—although, God knows, I didn’t subject myself to all of them—relied overmuch on slapstick, toilet humor, mean-spiritedness, or some combination thereof.  I’m thinking particularly of 10 (1979), despite the frenzy over cornrowed Bo Derek, and S.O.B. (1981), for which he persuaded wholesome spouse Julie to bear her breasts.  But his worst sin was milking the Panther series beyond Hollywood’s most avaricious dreams, descending into first a patchwork quilt utilizing outtakes of Sellers from …Strikes Again (Trail of…, 1982), and then a pair of films in which Clouseau does not even appear (Curse of…, 1983; Son of…, 1993).

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Tor.com has posted the latest installment of my “Richard Matheson—Storyteller” series today, and it was quite a challenge tackling his miniseries The Martian Chronicles, because despite its many detractors, I think he did a superb job adapting Ray Bradbury’s book.  In other Matheson news, the first trailer for Real Steel (a remake of his Twilight Zone episode “Steel”) is making the rounds and getting raves for the filmmakers’ wise decision to use motion-capture—coached by Sugar Ray Leonard, yet—to create its robot boxers.  Finally, I’ll hold off on a formal publication alert until it’s in my hot little hands, but the official word is out from Cinema Retro that the cover stories in their Exorcist issue include the William Peter Blatty interview I did with Gilbert Colon.

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First of all, humble thanks to Cinema Retro for mentioning this blog on their site (http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php), as well as giving readers another look at my article about the relationship between superspy Matt Helm’s appearances on page and screen.  It’s equally humbling to remember that when the piece debuted back in 2007, award-winning author Ed Gorman—a contributor to The Richard Matheson Companion—wrote the following on his own blog (http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/):  “Even though I’m no fan of Dean Martin or the Matt Helm movies, Matthew Bradley, one of the best of all writers on popular culture, manages to make both subjects a lot more interesting than they deserve to be in his long piece now available on Cinema Retro.”  You couldn’t ask for a more supportive group of guys, and I’m endlessly grateful to them all.

As long as we’re digging into the archives, here’s a piece I wrote on that dark day of July 7, 2005,  back when I had no forum other than e-mail to disseminate it.  Old news, obviously, but the opinions and information are, I hope, timeless.  Seems a shame to waste them…

Two titans of the typewriter have left us vastly poorer by their passing, and by a curious coincidence had connecting links with not one but two of our greatest directors:  The Great John Frankenheimer (aka TGJF) and Alfred “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Adjectives” Hitchcock.  First, in order of both birth and death, was Ernest Lehman, whose talent was equaled by his diversity.  His first major screen credit was also his first of four collaborations with editor-turned-director Robert Wise, and the films they made show both men at their protean best.  Executive Suite (1954) was a knockout boardroom drama with the kind of powerhouse cast one only dreams of today:  William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon, and Shelley Winters. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) featured knockouts of another kind, a biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano that gave Paul Newman one of his first star-making roles.  Then came the mammoth musicals that won Wise a Best Director AND Best Picture Oscar apiece, West Side Story (1961)—for which Lehman was also nominated—and The Sound of Music (1965). 

That quartet alone would have ensured Ernie immortality…but we’re just warming up here, folks.  Along the way, he earned his first nomination for Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (1954), with Humphrey Bogart (as uncomfortable in that role as Harrison Ford was in the 1995 remake), Audrey Hepburn, and Holden, and worked on another big Broadway musical, The King and I (1956). Lehman was also a published author whose works formed the basis for a memorable episode of Playhouse 90, “The Comedian” (directed by TGJF, and scripted by his frequent collaborator, Rod Serling), and one of the great warts-and-all showbiz stories, Sweet Smell of Success (1957).  Lehman later worked with Frankenheimer directly on one of the latter’s best films, Black Sunday (1977), based on the first novel by a pre-Hannibal Thomas Harris.

And then came Hitch.  Personally, I’ve always felt North by Northwest (1959) suffered by being too much a catalog of elements from his earlier films, but it’s easy to see why the project appealed to him after Vertigo (1958).  It’s been said that Hitch’s two most frequent leads—Cary Grant and James Stewart, with four films apiece—personified him as he wished he were and as he really saw himself, and since Vertigo (which I don’t think was as revered on its release as it is now) was his most naked self-expression, it was surely a comfort to return to the old Grant glamour.  Lehman received another nomination for the film and returned to write Hitchcock’s Family Plot (1976), a lesser if worthy end to the Master’s career.

Lehman made two films with Mark Robson (who, like Wise, had been an editor for Orson Welles and graduated to the director’s chair under the aegis of RKO’s legendary producer Val Lewton), From the Terrace (1960) and The Prize (1963); the latter is a Hitchcock pastiche starring other alumni from Newman to Leo G. Carroll.  Lehman produced his next three scripts:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), an early effort by masterful Mike Nichols that won Oscars or nominations in almost every major category; Hello, Dolly! (1969), which surely drove a nail into the coffin of big Broadway adaptations; and Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), which marked his one and only outing as a director, as well.  Not a bad little career, eh?

Our second subject is Salvatore A. Lombino.  Never heard of him?  Sure you have…under one or more of his pen names.  As Ed McBain, he defined the police procedural genre with his 87th Precinct novels.  I don’t have handy the statistics on this amazing series but it incorporates something like fifty books written over a period of something like fifty years, which should suffice.  Several of the earliest were turned into the largely forgotten films Cop Hater, The Mugger (both 1958), and The Pusher (1960), and there was also a short-lived 87th Precinct TV series in 1961, but by and large the men (and women) of the 87th have had spotty success onscreen, except as the inspiration for Hill Street Blues.

Fuzz (1972) was largely a misfire—with an eclectic cast headed by Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerrit, Raquel Welch (!) and Yul Brynner—in spite of being written by McBain himself under the name of Evan Hunter, which he legally adopted in 1952.  True to form, foreign filmmakers found these gritty romans policiers suitable subjects, and one of the most interesting adaptations saw King’s Ransom become Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low (1963), whereas the most recent domestic versions have been a trio of TV-movies:  Lightning (1995), Ice (1996), and Heatwave (1997).

It was under the Hunter name that he had greater success in films, as both original author and screenwriter (and in some cases both).  Writer-director Richard Brooks took one novel and turned it into a showcase for such up-and-coming stars as Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Paul Mazursky and Jameel Farah (aka Jamie Farr), namely the juvenile-delinquent classic The Blackboard Jungle (1955).  Hunter himself did the honors on Strangers When We Meet (1960), depicting an adulterous affair between Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak, and his novel A Matter of Conviction was adapted by others into TGJF’s second feature, The Young Savages (1961), marking the first of five collaborations with Burt Lancaster.  Probably his best-known work as a screenwriter was the script of The Birds (1963)…a job that some guy named Matheson talked himself out of, by telling Hitch they should show the birds as little as possible and let the audience use their imagination.  Silly boy!

Somewhat more unusual were adaptations of his novels Buddwing, filmed as Mister Buddwing (1966) with James Garner as an amnesiac, and Last Summer (1969), which if nothing else must have raised an eyebrow for its strong subject matter:  Barbara Hershey, Richard Thomas (yes, John-Boy), and Bruce Davison (yes, Willard) play bored teens who first befriend and then rape an ugly-duckling girl at a beach resort; Eleanor Perry’s adaptation was directed by her then-husband, Frank. As if that weren’t enough, McBain/Hunter’s scripts and/or stories saw the light of day on such shows as Climax!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Ironside, and Columbo.  Again, a pretty impressive oeuvre for one man.

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