Paul Newman’s directorial debut, Rachel, Rachel

Written by Joe D on October 13th, 2008

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Newman Directs Woodward

Although there are probably millions of words being written about Paul Newman this very second due to his recent passing I felt inspired by seeing his 1968 directorial debut last night on TCM, Rachel, Rachel. Starring his wife Joanne Woodward and a lot of other great actors, most noticeably Estelle Parsons and Frank Corsaro, I mention Corsaro not only because of his fine acting but also because this is his only film role! He achieved fame as a stage director and as head of The Actor’s Studio, a legendary character.

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Newman and Estelle Parsons on the Set

The story goes that Newman and Woodward shopped around for a director and didn’t get any takers. Newman had studied directing at Yale and decided to go for it. He created a rare and wonderful film, the sum effect being so much greater than all it’s parts. By this I mean that as I watched the film, there were parts that I thought great, parts I thought OK, maybe the direction seemed a little naive but at the end I was overwhelmed with the sensation of having just watched a great film. Due in a large part to the performance of Joanne Woodward, It is literally unlike any other film acting I have seen. She is such a unique talent, so unaffected, so true, it’s hard to put into words the way she works in this film. Once again at the end of the film I was overcome at how great she was in it. Not any one scene but the whole cumulative effect of the film, it’s magical. This is the kind of film that I wish would get made here in America more often, real people, real parts, no explosions or car chases. Just great characters struggling with their existence here on planet Earth at a particular time in a particular place. The stuff Life is made of, in this case in Connecticut in 1968. And it’s not just acting that makes this film great, there are some wonderful images as well, a date at his family’s dairy farm that James Olson takes Joanne woodward on, he makes her drive the tractor, she forks some hay on him from the hayloft. Things youngsters would do and here she is a middle-aged woman on her first date. Also the end sequence of Joanne and a baby at the beach , so beautiful, so moving. And a flashback scene of Woodward as a young girl sneaking into the basement where her father worked as a mortician. Seeing her father prepare a young boy’s body for burial. The way he tends to the dead boy, incredible. Paul was ably abetted by the great editor Dede Allen, here at the peak of her creative powers and it shows. Joanne Woodward was angry that Paul did not get nominated for an Academy Award for this film, she threatened to boycott the ceremony (She was nominated) but Paul talked her into it. Let’s all praise Paul Newman, he could have just acted in films and raced cars and enjoyed his life but he was an Artist, he had to struggle and make films and I salute him for that.
p.s. Here’s an article about the shooting of Rachel, Rachel, reminisces by the towns people that were there. It sounds like they had a great time. Article
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2001 to screen at The Edison

Written by Joe D on September 18th, 2008

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They’re screening Stanley Kubrick’s mega opus 2001 at the Edison as part of the Jules Verne Fantasy Film Festival right here in downtown LA. Info here. I saw this film in a re-release in 1975 at the Bellvue Theater in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. It was projected in 6 track 70mm. I went to a matinee show with my girlfriend and when we got to the box office the ticket seller said “Wait a minute.” Then she came back and said “OK, the manager said we’ll run it.” We were the only people at that screening! Just the two of us in the gigantic theater with an enormous screen! It was incredible. I knew the editor of 2001. A guy named Ray Lovejoy. This was the first film he edited! He had been 1st Assistant editor on Dr. Strangelove and Lawrence Of Arabia. He told me that Kubrick basically lost his mind making this film. Before 2001 he was a fun guy, great to hang out with. But 2001 was such a gigantic, complicated project and Kubrick was such a perfectionist he lost himself in the overwhelming tide of technical details, personally overseeing every aspect of the film, even ( so I’ve been told) calling every first run theater the film was shown in to make sure it was presented properly! Yow! Oh well, hats off to Stanley Kubrick, Ray Lovejoy, Arthur C. Clark and everybody else who worked on this film and passed on through the Stargate or obelisk or whatever portal to the next dimension.
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P.S. I met this guy at the Chelsea Hotel back in the 70’s

Enzo G. Castellari

Written by Joe D on July 30th, 2008

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Enzo G. and Q.T.
I attended Enzo G. Castellari’s 70th birthday party at the Italian Cultural Institute last night and it was a blast! I got to talk for quite a while with Enzo, a true maestro and a real gentleman. This was kind of amazing since it was a party in his honor and everyone was there to see him. We were interrupted several times by actors from his films, including Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson who appear in the original Inglorius Bastards akaQuel maledetto treno blindato. Lou Ferrigno ( the Incredible Hulk) , Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, Pia Zadora and John Saxon were there as well. I tried to complement John Saxon on his work in Mario Bava’s La Ragazza Che Sappeva Troppio, or The Girl Who Knew Too Much, or The Evil Eye, but he didn’t want to hear it. I guess he was in a hurry to get back to The Planet Of Blood . But Enzo really got excited when I asked him about his working as an editor. His father, Marino Girolami, directed over 100 films and Enzo told me that he grew up in the editing room. That’s how he got to spend time with his father, by hanging around the editing room. Also he’d go to the cutting room every night after shooting and tell the editor how to cut the scene he’d shot the day before. He loves editing and tells his students at the Arte Institute, ” If you want to be a director you must first learn editing!” Any way it was a great evening, honoring this giant of Italian Film, It made everyone there happy, seeing how happy Enzo was at being honored for his birthday and for the DVD release of his great Inglorius Bastards! Go out and buy it! From Severin Films!
Here’s the trailer!

Once Upon A Time In The West Screens at The Academy

Written by Joe D on June 21st, 2008

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They screened the recently restored print of Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece at The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences last night. All I can say is “It was magnificent!” The crew at Triage Motion Picture Services went all out. Paul Rutan flew to Rome and got a 2 perf Techniscope Interpositive made from the original camera negative. Then they borrowed Martin Scorsece’s IB technicolor print from the original theatrical release and timed to that. I must say it looked like Technicolor! They got great saturation that comes close to IB Technicolor. It was amazing.
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The sound was restored as well and the mono mix sounded great. Did you ever notice in this film, whenever somebody is shot and killed a horse whinnys immediately afterwards and really loudly. Check it out. Also this is the epic Leone Western that features a powerful female character. Claudia Cardinale is as big a character as Bronson, Robards, and Fonda.
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It’s in…
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The Eyes, Chico…
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They Never…
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Lie!
These beautiful giant faces filled the enormous screen at the Academy in Incredible Leone Close Ups and the magnificent vistas of Monument Valley never looked so good as photographed by Tonino Delli Colli on 2-perf! You can really see the attention to detail Leone and his crew put into the sets and costumes by watching this film on a big screen. The pace may be slow compared to films made today but it gives you time to look around the frame and see all the beautiful objects, textures, lighting. Leone did scrupulous research on Western costumes and props and it comes through.
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One Of The Greatest Flashbacks In All Of Cinema

When you top it all off with the music of Ennio Morricone it’s an unbeatable combination. The movie is really incredible images accompanied by soaring emotional score, wonderfully arranged and performed by great musicians, interspersed with great dialogue, not many words but all carefully chosen, it was a revelation to hear how many laughs the dialogue got. The audience was right there with the film for the entire time. Thanks also in part to the masterful editing of the great Nino Baragli. If you get a chance to see the restored version of this film in a good theater, I urge you to go and see it. It will be a revelation.

Once Upon A Time In The West Trailer

Frank Host, The Noah, Daniel Bourla

Written by Joe D on May 28th, 2008

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I finally watched The Noah, a film I had heard about many years ago. The Noah is directed by Daniel Bourla, it stars Robert Strouse in a one man tour de force performance. He plays an Army Sergeant, who also happens to be the last man on Earth after a nuclear holocaust. Strauss washes up on an island that was once a Chinese communist military base.
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He immediately begins taking inventory and building a latrine. His Army training keeping him active in the face of his insane predicament. I think the film was shot in Puerto Rico on the island of Vieques, the same island Peter Brook shot Lord Of The Flies on a few years earlier.
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Strauss invents an imaginary friend named Friday, all is well until Friday comes up with Friday Ann, an imaginary girl friend. Then all bets are off, Strauss is jealous of Friday and his girl and so they disappear, leaving Strauss alone.
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Happy Birthday Noah!
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All Alone
Here’s the thing about this film. When I first started working in Editing, it was through the auspices of a guy named Frank Host, one of the nicest people ever to grace our planet. Frank was Afro American, he grew up in Harlem. A super intelligent, talented person, he was working in an office when some of the filmmakers working there noticed him and gave him a shot at working in a cutting room. Now this was back in the 50’s. There were very few, probably no Afro American film editors at that time. But some progressive minded filmmakers had recently moved to N.Y.C. from Hollywood to get away from the McCarthyistic Communist witch hunts and some of these open minded people were willing to give a young Black man a chance. Frank told me he worked for a guy named Irv Fagin, an editor who had been a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and fought the Fascists in Spain.
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Maos in The Moonlight
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Noah Or Moses?
Anyway there were three Black editors of that period that I knew of, Frank, John Carter ( who’s still going strong) and Hugh Robertson ( a good friend of Frank’s who worked with DeDe Allen among others). Frank told me about this film he worked on called The Noah. He described scenes from it and talked about the director, Daniel Bourla, and what a talented guy he was. How he had struggled to make this independent film, against enormous odds and in a constant state of financial turmoil. Frank finished working on the film, I guess Mr. Bourla ran out of cash and the film languished in obscurity. But then I see from the IMDB that it was finished in 1975, I’m not sure when Frank worked on it but I think it was a few years earlier.
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So when I see the film Frank is mentioned as a member of the editorial staff but the main credit goes to another guy. He probably was the last guy to work on the film. Did he undo all of Frank’s work? Re-cut the film from dailies? Was any of Frank’s editing used in the final film? Mysteries of the Film Credit Process. As with many things on Planet Earth the guy who gets the credit is not always the guy who did the work or had the idea.
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The Late, Great Frank G. Host at the Moviola

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly to screen at the NuArt

Written by Joe D on May 1st, 2008

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Tomorrow, Friday May 2nd Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo will screen at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles. They will show the uncut version with 20 minutes of deleted footage. The original cut of the film was 3 hours long. Chris Mankiewicz told me that he was a VP for United Artists at the time and it was his job to cut the movie down for an American release. He went to Leone and gave him the bad news. Leone grudgingly gave his OK but only on the condition that Chris use Nino Baragli, the film’s original editor. Chris agreed and made the cuts with Nino. Leone approved and that’s the version we all grew up with.
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The Circle Of Death
Cut to a few years ago, John Kirk head of restoration for MGM contacted Triage Motion Picture Services, it seems an original uncut print of GBU had turned up at a Customs House in Italy. A print of a film had to be submitted to a government office to get a stamp of approval so it could be distributed. So using this as a guide I was called in by Triage to recreate as closely as possible to the original a new version of the film, using the best elements available and putting it in synch. Also rescoring one scene with a cue from an LP of the soundtrack. It was a real puzzle but I got it put back together with John Kirk, Tony Munroe, and Paul Rutan Jr. of Triage. That’s the version screening at the NuArt tomorrow. So go check it out and look for my name in the end credits!

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The Soundtrack LP

Val Lewton, Cat People, Martin Scorsesce

Written by Joe D on January 15th, 2008

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Martin Scorsesce produced and narrated a film about producer Val Lewton, Val Lewton: The Man In the Shadows. It’s very good and it’s great to see an under appreciated filmmaker get his due. TCM showed a lot of Lewton’s work, especially the RKO stuff, to complement the premier of this documentary, directed by Kent Jones by the way. So much has been written about Lewton’s films, I don’t want to repeat what’s already been said but let me throw my 2 cents in. His work especially with Touneur, wise and Robson was so subtle and atmospheric, so artfully made (Nicholas Musuraca is one of the all time masters of B&W cinematography, check out Out Of The Past and Albert S. D’Agostino , one of the greatest Production Designers ever to put a fountain on a set) There’s nothing today that compares with this quality filmmaking! Nothing!
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And here’s something I noticed in Cat People. There is a transitional device almost like a fade to black and back but it’s not, it’s an optical that mimics a shadow passing in front of the camera, like a black panther wiping the lens. I’ve never seen this technique used elsewhere and I’ve never heard mention of it made by anyone. It is very subtle and because it’s used to transition from one scene to another it’s accepted as a typical fade in/out yet it creates a sense of unease that sneaks up on you, just like the rest of the film. It slowly wraps you up in a fog of suspense so suddenly you realize you’re lost, in a dark place at night and something may be following you. The documentary also tells you how hard Lewton worked. He killed himself making these films for unappreciative assholes. It’s just not right. And then Mark Robson, the editor he promoted to director, at great personal cost, screws him out of a partnership with Robert Wise and himself! They don’t give the details in the documentary but it certainly makes Mr. Robson look like a scumbag. By the way this review is part of the Val Lewton Blogathon, hosted by The Evening Class.
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How could you do it, Mark Robson?

Forty Deuce Spotting

Written by Joe D on January 9th, 2008

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I was watching Umberto Lenzi’s From Corleone To Brooklyn when I spotted this shot of 42nd street. The film advertised on the marquee, The Brinks Job was edited by my old pal Bud Smith. Jere Huggins, another friend once told me that while they were working on it, on location in Boston, a group of Mafia thugs came into the cutting room. It seems that while filming in downtown Boston the previous day Mr. Friedkin had trained his camera on a crowded street. Somewhere on that street was a wanted Mafia capo who took umbrage at being filmed. So he sent a group of soldiers to the editing rooms where they tied up the editing crew and pistol whipped one of the unfortunate cutters. They seized the film shot the previous day and left with it. One of the trussed up assistant editors, I believe it was Ned Humphries, dialed a phone with his nose and called for help. The police came and freed them. Later a ransom demand was made for the purloined film, unfortunately for the filmnappers, the editors just ordered a new print of the missing dailies from the lab where the original negative was stored. Bud Smith was not in the editing room during this ordeal, the Mafiosi struck early in the morning while the assistants were syncing dailies and Bud was having his coffee at his hotel.

Mystery Street, The Black Dahlia, Red Manley, The Lady In The Dunes

Written by Joe D on November 25th, 2007

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Another gem from The Film Noir Collection, Vol.4, Mystery Street by John Sturges, who also directed Bad Day At Black Rock and The Great Escape. Mystery Street intrigues me for several reasons. First and foremost it’s a good film. Excellent Cinematography by that master of Noir, John Alton. Also great Editing by Ferris Webster,my friend Pablo Ferro knew Ferris and really liked him. He edited a lot of great films. The Great Escape, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot etc., etc.

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Crackerjack performances by such greats as Ricardo Montalban and Elsa Lanchester. Killer Boston locations from 1950. A lot of forensic detail since this story involves a skeleton found in the dunes of Cape Cod and a pathologist at the Harvard Medical School helps solve the case. Actually there are a lot of lurid details in this movie. It’s almost like a 50’s tabloid newspaper come to life. Several details reminded me of the Black Dahlia case which took place 3 years before this film came out. A woman’s body is found, through some sleuthing they find the guy she was last seen driving away with. Sure he spent some time with her but he didn’t kill her. He’s recently married and doesn’t want his wife to find out. Just like Red Manley, the first suspect in the Dahlia case. Manley was let off the hook but it eventually destroyed his marriage and he committed suicide.

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Red Manley. Dahlia Suspect,Family Man, Suicide Victim Gets Frisked

The newspapermen hounded Manley and his wife and they do the same here with Henry and Grace Shanway. The girl,Vivian Heldon, was a rent-a-date type who was impregnated by a rich, upper crust clown. She tried to shake down the elitist snob James Joshua Harkley, who knocked her up, and she got killed by him instead. A similar scenario to the one proposed by Donald H. Wolfe in his book The Black Dahlia Files. He claimed Betty was snuffed by Bugsy Siegal because a rich Norman Chandler had gotten Betty pregnant and she wouldn’t have an abortion. So watching this movie is kind of like looking back in time at a similar murder investigation, much more interesting than watching Brian De Palma’s film.

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Vivian Heldon, Pregnant Murder Victim, I told you this Film Was Lurid

Ricardo Montalban is excellent and it’s really cool to see a Latino lead in a movie from that time. Especially since he’s not playing Zorro or a Mexican Spitfire or some other stereotype. Montalban is a detective, hard nosed, dedicated, an asshole at times as he digs for the truth. He’s even convinced the wrong guy did it, an accurate portrayal, cops think everybody’s guilty. I guess that comes from spending so much time with criminals. The fact that the woman was murdered on Cape Cod and her remains discovered in the dunes reminded me of another real life case. The Lady in The Dunes, a famous unsolved case from 1974. An unknown woman’s body was discovered, her head was smashed in and almost severed. They couldn’t ID her from fingerprints because her hands had been chopped off and were never found.

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Reconstructed Face of The Lady In The Dunes
The psycho that did this was never found. He or She could still be around today, it’s highly unlikely that whoever did the Dahlia is still kicking. I guess it’s possible but they’d have to be around 80 or 90. If you’d like more info on The Lady In The Dunes click the link below.
http://www.doenetwork.org/

The Hustler, Robert Rossen, Eugen Schufftan, Dede Allen

Written by Joe D on July 30th, 2007

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I wanted to talk about The Hustler. A great film, just look at the talent involved, Robert Rossen, a genius socially conscious writer/director.

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Smilin’ Bob Rossen

“Dede, stop pishing with the mustard!”

He battled back from the Blacklist and made some excellent films. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie, all tremendous in this film. Eugen Schufftan, the great cinematographer, inventor of the Schufftan process, an in camera special effects technique used on Metropolis and many other films.
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The Man Who Shot Detour

Eugen Schufftan
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Lang’s Metropolis

Dede Allen, this was the first film where her incredible talents as an editor were clearly on display, as a matter of fact I would nominate this film as the greatest editing job in Cinema! It is that good!

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DeDe Allen

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Where’s that trim!

The incredible plasticity of Schufftan’s images, the atmospheric pool games, the glowing, magical cue ball dancing on the velvet felt of the table, cracking at just the right moment, then freezing on a heart pounding emotional note from Newman. Jumping back to life and swinging us into this irresistible story of a young man’s talent and drive to be the best.
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Killing The Dragon

Then once you’re hooked, Rossen steps in with his monsters, George C. Scott, an evil wizard from a psychaitrist’s couch, putting a spell on Newman, controlling him, destroying his relationship with Piper Laurie.
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Scott and Gleason- The Sorcerer and his Golem

Jackie Gleason, a dragon breathing smoke in the dungeonlike pool halls. When Paul Newman as Fast Eddie comes back to do battle with him, he looks like a knight with his lance, St George, vanquishing the Serpent.

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Newman Pays The Piper

Also the montages are among the best ever put together, little camera moves from clocks dissolving to pool balls dissolving to the incredible faces of the rouges gallery watching the game, pure visual poetry. Everyone involved at the top of their game. I’ve heard Rossen asked Dede to watch Godard’s Breathless and the liberating editing techniques of that film inspired her to towering heights of creativity. Dede had just finished Odds Against Tomorrow for Robert Wise before starting this film and it is interesting to compare the two in terms of editing. Odds is a great film, cited by Jean Pierre Melville as a personal favorite, the editing is excellent but only in some unorthodox(for it’s time) sound cutting( prelapping incoming sound on scene transitions for ex.) does it hint at the revolutionary brilliance of The Hustler. If you’re interested in editing The Hustler is a must see film, it was shot in CinemaScope so hopefully a museum or revival house will screen it and you can see it as it was meant to be seen.