Here’s a wonderful documentary about the making of The Misfits, a classic B&W film. What an amazing collection of talent! Arthur Miller, John Huston, the cast, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Monty Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter, the brilliant crew including the genius cameraman Russell Metty and the spectaculer editor George Tomasini.
Russell Metty with Orson Welles
The Great George Tomasini
What a group. Out in the middle of nowhere making an existential Western. Wow, I wish I could have been there. I first saw this film back on the WOR Million Dollar Movie, it fascinated me as a young movie nut. I loved Marilyn and I had never seen Gable in a movie like this. The incredible cinematography blew me away, especially the mustang catching sequence. Metty had shot such masterpieces as Orson Welles Touch Of Evil, Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession, Kubrick’s Spartacus, to name a few. George Tomasini was best known for his work with Hitchcock, including, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window and North by Northwest. One of the greatest editors of all time. Anyway here is Part one of the doc. Check it out.
This is a classic movie, iconic L.A. locations, a twisted noir plot, amazing San Francisco street footage, a crazy bebop Jazz sequence and Neville Brand. Where to begin? Well I had a friend in town visiting frome Rome, Italy that is, Trevi Fountain, Cinecitta. Anyway I wanted to show him around downtown L.A. and one of our stops was the amazing Bradbury building. Most people recognize it as the location in Blade Runner, where Harrison Ford fights Rutger Hauer but I think equally as important a use for this location was in D.O.A.
I recommended to my Italian friend that he watch D.O.A. and see how the building we just visited was used in that film. I wound up watching it again and I realized that Russel Rouse was one of the writers and Harry Popkin was the producer.
These guys were responsible for some of the hippest 50’s noir to hit the silver screen of your local drive in. I did not know they were part of the D.O.A. team. Popkin and Rouse worked on The Well, a searing indictment of racism, ahead of it’s time and The Thief. Rouse made Wicked Woman, a film I recently wrote about. So that got me re-interested in D.O.A. , Let me just vsay it right out front I am not a big fan of Edmund O’Brien, but his scene chewing style works pretty well at times in this film and he runs like no one in Cinema! His frenzied run for your life performance on the streets of San Francisco, crashing into innocent bystanders is a highlight of the film.
Other wonderful elements include an incredible sequence aboard a city bus, where the gangsters that want to kill O’Brien are following the bus he’s on and you can see them out the window of the bus at night as they stalk him. A beautiful nightmarish sequence. Actually the nighttime photography of downtown L.A. is particularly great, Neville Brand taking O’Brien for a ride especially. There is a great wild man jazz sequence that has frenetic performances of Black Jazz musicians that is outstanding. I love musical sequences and this one is a doozy.
I think it would be educational to compare this sequence to some that Robert Siodmak did, like the crazy jazz jam session in Phantom Lady or the dance scene in Criss Cross. The D.O.A. scene is really great performances, great shots and great editing, Siodmak’s reveal a planned out sequence that works beautifully, it was created in the director’s mind while the D.O.A. scene was put together in the editing room.
Rudolph Mate’ the director of D.O.A. started as a camerman in Europe, shooting such masterpieces as Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, this is the movie that Anna Karina watches in Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie. Mate’ also directed a film that was a location on another stop of my downtown tour, Union Station, a noir that takes place at perhaps the most iconic downtown L.A. location.
Rudy at the camera films Dietrich
Mate’ was director of photography on many, many classic Hollywood films, Pride Of The Yankees, Dante’s Inferno, Foriegn Correspondent, Stella Dallas, Sahara, Gilda and The Lady From Shanghai, to name just a few. He delivers a fast paced ( 83 minute) gem that never let’s up and has many especially well directed scenes, take for example the final confrontation, at The Bradbury Building. It is shot just like a classic shootout from a Western, incredible.
Whenever a director can put another subtext or layer of meaning onto a scene and it is harmonius with the action not obtrusive, it’s a wonderful thing. Watch it for yourself, a film class in 2 minutes. Then there’s Neville Brand, so over the top as Chester the thug or maybe goon is better, Sadistic, simple minded, evil but with a lot of personality.
Chester doesn’t like Bigelow. He’s soft in the belly!
I like Neville Brand, check him out in the underrated Eaten Alive by Tobe Hooper. And as Quentin Tarantino once told me, the second most decorated soldier of WWII after Audie Murphy. So check out D.O.A. then go down and visit the Bradbury building, you can park across the street at the Grand Central Market and have lunch.
Here’s a noir bombshell from1949. Byron Haskin directed it, he was a special effects guy at Warner Bros. and later directed The War Of The Worlds for George Pal. He also directed some of the best episode of The Outer Limits, Demon with A Glass Hand, and The Architects of Fear. Hunt Stromberg produced this “cookie full of Arsenic”. He had a long run as a successful producer at MGM, he came up under Thalberg and worked with Selznick, then he got into a beef with Louis B. Mayer and went independent. This is one of his independent creations. The script was by Roy Huggins, based on his novel and it’s a winner, great characters, excellent dialog, everything top notch except the very end, oh well. Huggins went on to be a giant among TV creators/Producers with such shows as The Fugitive, Run For Your Life and The Rockford Files.
But the real heroes of this opus are Lisabeth Scott as the one of the coldest killers ever to grace the silver screen and Dan Duryea, the slime king. Best known for slapping women onscreen, the poster for this film is Dan slapping Lisabeth! They marketed the film on his woman beater appeal.
I have a theory about noir, WWII is over, soldiers are returning home, a lot of G.I.s got Dear John letters, their wives left them while they were at war. Tokyo Rose would broadcast stories of infidelity by Statebound brides to the soldiers overseas. This led to the creation of the Noir Femme Fatale, the false female, who’ll smile , seduce, and kill without missing a beat, sure they can turn on the waterworks, shed tears at the drop of a hat, but underneath, all business. So here is the returning soldier’s nightmare come true. What’s the one thing a desperate soldier, far from home could think about to give himself some relief from killing, mayhem, explosions? Little Sally Jean, the girl he left swinging on the garden gate. What if Tokyo rose was right? She’s evil, corrupted. His dreams are all Lies! Well, here she is, the beautiful blonde with the morals of a scorpion. Lisabeth Scott is amazing in this film. She turns from a bitchy but seemingly happily married woman in an instant all because of money, the old do re mi, a lot of it that drops in her lap. I don’t want to ruin the story but there are some depraved scenes of her and Dan Duryea getting it on just because he can make her do it, they hate each other! It’s deliciously perverse! According to Eddie Muller, the czar of noir, almost all of the budget went to the two big stars, they were worth it!
It was later re-released under this title
So the production of the film was low budget, a lot of the action takes place in Scott’s apartment but it makes the film psycologically more real in a way. You feel trapped in that nest of evil. There are some scenes in Dan Duryea’s flop, it’s perfect as the dump a small time creepy crook would hang his hat in. Another couple of great locations are Union Station, maybe the most beautiful building still left in L.A. and the lake at McArthur Park, called WestLake Park in the movie. A one time high rent district that’s now kind of funky. Silent Film director William Desmond Taylor was murdered in his bungalow just around the corner. Anyway the film is in poor shape, Eddie’s Noir Foundation did a restoration with UCLA but I don’t think that’s out on video yet so you have to make do with what’s available. But next time it screens at the Noir Festival, I will be there.
Here’s the best looking Youtube version I could find.
I’ve always loved this movie ever since I saw it on ABC’s afternoon movie or whatever that show was called. I watched it again recently and I still dig it. First off the music of Fred Katz, kooky, idiosyncratic Jazz brilliantly arranged and a lot of fun. And unique I can’t think of any other music that sounds like it. The credits are sort of animated to the music with theses appearing, disappearing dots and then this pan of a gigantic drawing of skid row in a kind of Gottlieb style, super cool.
Chuck Griffith about to be eaten, he also supplied the voice of the monster plant
The writing of Chuck Griffith is at it’s off beat comic peak, so many bizarre character names, so much wordplay, really inspiring and funny. It’s kind of a re-tread of Bucket Of Blood, a nebbish becomes a famous Artist but has to kill people to create his Art, that character Walter Paisley is portrayed by Corman stalwart Dick Miller, who appears in LSOH as a flower eating buddinski Burson Fouch. There is some great wriying in BOB as well especially the Beatnik poetry that opens the film. Another thing about LSOH, the wonderful Bunker Hill locations featured in the scenes outside Mushnick’s Flower Shop.
“Bunker Hill is old town, lost town, shabby town, crook town.” Raymond Chandler.
Chuck’s real life Grandmother,Myrtle Vail, played Seymour’s mother
Seymour Krelboyn’s rooming house is right out of Kiss Me Deadly, the scene where Seymour meets Leonora Clyde, the hooker, looks like it was shot at the top of Angel’s Flight.
If you look closely you can see Seymour getting off an Angel’s Flight car.
“My name is Leonora Clyde”. Mel Welles (Gravis Mushnick’s) real life wife, Meri Welles.
Then Seymour runs by a bar on a corner at the top of a steep hill, the bar has glass brick windows and I’m sure it’s in either Act Of Violence or Cry Danger, I’ll check and see.
It’s funny when I was a kid I loved certain movies and always tried to catch them on TV, LSOH, Kiss Me Deadly, The Indestructible Man, all shot on Bunker Hill! The neighborhood that got erased. Anyway give yourself a Halloween Treat and watch Little Shop of Horrors, check out Jack Nicholson’s appearence as the maschostic mortician. Crazy Man.
Added Halloween Bonus - Color Still from Griffith and Corman’s Attack Of The Crab Monsters
Finally! I have been waiting for a good copy of this film for a Loooong time. Masters Of Cinema has put out a beautiful presentation of this great film, Fuller’s personal favorite. I love newspaper movies and this is one of the finest examples of the genre. Right up there with Deadline U.S.A. another masterpiece. Fuller spent his own money to make this film and I for one am glad he did, he survived and the resulting work of art is immortal. I really admire artists, especially filmmakers who pay for their own projects and make something great! Francis Ford Coppola has been doing this for his past few films and I say “Bravo”. Fuller was a maverick when they’re weren’t any maverick’s, maybe Jean Pierre Melville but he was in France. He wanted to make this film and Darrel Zanuck said OK, in Technicolor, a musical comedy. “No” screamed Fuller. “The paper is grey, the ink is black, it has to be B&W!” “It won’t make a dime.” Zanuck sneered. Well maybe DZ was right but at least Fuller got to make his film his way and we get to enjoy it, thanks to Masters Of Cinema! There are some amazing tracking shots in this film, and long takes where the camera follows actors from one building, down the street to another building and the scene continues, really cool Orson Welles kind of stuff. It also reminds me of some of the classic Playhouse 90s, long takes , great scripts, great actors. Not an easy way to make a film, it takes vision and preparedness. But you should see it for yourself, Fuller grew up working on newspapers in NYC, they shaped him, this film is his love letter to the newspaper business that took a kid in off the street and turned him into a great storyteller. It’s especially poignant right now, with the state of the Press today, we need to cherish and protect our free press, the barrier between us and Fascism.
Once I borrowed a VHS of this film from Quentin Tarantinio, I watched it but it suddenly stopped before the film was over! I checked the tape, it was a 60 minute VHS ! The movies 84 minutes! Thanks a lot! So now I have my own copy , he can borrow it from me if he wants.
As promised, I’m posting a scan of another article about the great Val Lewton. This one is from Liberty magazine back in 1946. This was just after Lewton left RKO for Paramount, where he would be morassed in political intrigue and backbiting. It was not a good move for Val. This article is sort of an overview of the Horror film genre with special emphasis on Lewton. By the way I just got another old film magazine with an article on Curse Of The Cat People and a remembrance by DeWitt Bodeen, writer of said film. I’ll post that one soon as well.
I saw this film as a kid on The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling really dug it so he made it into an episode of his show, the only time he ever did such a thing. It was made as part of an omnibus film, Chickamauga, a film comprised of three short films based on the writings of Ambrose Bierce. I’ve never seen the other two parts of this film but I will track them down one day. An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge should be studied by young filmmakers, it offers many insights into economy of style, simplicity, artistry. It’s beautifully made, a study in tension and fantasy. And thanks to the miracle of Youtube you can see it as it was presented on The Twilight Zone oh those many years ago.
Here’s a TV movie from the 70’s that is a classic. The Night Stalker is about a vampire in 70’s Vegas, how cool is that? The score by Robert Cobert is super funky, wah wah guitars, jazzy drums, just great, one of my personal favorites. Check out the free form jazz when the cops are fighting the vampire by the swimming pool, it’s like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew! The film has some real talent attached, Darren McGavin stars as Kolchak, The lovely Carol Lynley appears as well. Not to mention Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, and the perennial favorites Ralph Meeker and Charles McGraw! And by Golly Elisha Cook, Jr. is in there too!
The script is by the genius Richard Matheson. And the DP is a man I once took a cinematography class from , one Michel Hugo. A very nice French exile living here shooting TV movies, I looked him up and was sorry to see that he recently passed away. He had been teaching cinematography at a college in Vegas, the site of his greatest artistic triumph.
Unsung hero of Low Budget Cinema! Beatnik wordsmith riffing like Charlie Parker high on Dexedrine, O Charles B. Griffith we salute you. Roger Corman always gets the credit for these way out films, he deserves some of it, he directed them but they originated in the feverish brain of mastermind C.B. Griffith. Chuck created the characters, Walter Paisley, Seymour Krelboin, Audrey Jr. He even voiced the flesh eating plant, his grandma appeared in both films and C.B. played a hapless burglar in LSOH. He should be lauded, he should be crowned with the laurel wreath and given the Keys to the Kingdom.
Charles B. Griffith about to be eaten by the plant with his voice
A Bucket Of Blood starts off in a coffee house, a poet reciting an Ode to Art, Creativity is King, All Else is nothing! “Where are Joe, Jim Jack, jerk, dead!” he intones as Paul Horn improvises along on his Alto Sax.
Walter Paisley is a nebbish busboy working at the joint, desperately wanting to be an artist so he can be in with the other cooler cats and so he can get with the hot art babe he pines for.
So he tries creating some sculpture and in the process accidentally kills his landlady’s cat. He gets results, attention from the hipsters, all he has to do is keep creating but in order to do that he must commit murder. The end justifies the means in Walter’s limited mind, at first he’s forced by circumstance to kill, he even mumbles Seymour Krelboin’s mantra “I didn’t mean it!” and here’s the point I’ve been wandering up to. These two films are almost exactly the same. They both take place in a ” store”, a commercial space where money is made from the public. Art vs. Commerce, the Eternal Conflict. The main characters are nebbishes desperate for attention, success, so they can “get married”. (The goal of almost every silent comedy).
They achieve this through murder. They each have an avaricious boss who becomes aware of his hired hands nefarious antics but because business is good and the coffers are filling decides to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans. Gravis Mushnik meet Leonard DeSantis. Both films have a climactic chase through nighttime crummy L.A. neighborhoods and both end with suicide by becoming part of their Art , Walter hangs himself after turning into a sculpture/Seymour jumps into his plant creation Frankenstein ostensibly to kill it but ultimately becoming one of its blossoms. They both feature a score by the amazing Fred Katz, actually they both feature some of the exact same cues, re-cycled by Corman.
Bucket didn’t perform very well at the box office and Corman had to be convinced to try another comedy but didn’t he know he was making the same film? Maybe the addition of a man-eating plant made the project appear more commercial. Dick Miller star of Bucket was offered the role of Seymour Krelboin in Little Shop but turned it down. I think the failure of BOB was such a disappointment to him, he couldn’t go through it again. Miller believed in Bucket Of Blood, he blamed it’s flopping on the cheap production value and when he heard Corman made a bet he could shoot Little Shop Of Horrors in two days he passed. He did appear in the film as flower eating Burson Fouch. A few other Charles Griffith notes, the wheat germ bagels and odd health food favored by the Beatniks and Seymour ’s mother’s medicinal cuisine. Jack Nicholson skimming through PAIN magazine at the dentist office. Griffith had funny fake magazine in his opus Dr. Heckle and Mr. Hype. So here’s to Charles B. Griffith as Quentin Tarantino dubbed him, The Poet Laureate Of The Drive-In.
Here is the great opening poem accompanied by Paul Horn blowing a cool Alto.
The Beautiful B.B. she looks a little like Ava Gardner
Ava in Contessa
Jean Luc Godard is getting an honorary Academy Award! How great is that, of course he won’t show up for it. Maybe this was on my mind when I started watching Joseph Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa.
Producer In Screening Room- Contessa
The films are similar, they both have Movie People as characters. There’s a director with integrity, Fritz Lang in Contempt and Humphrey Bogart in Contessa. A beautiful goddess, desired by all, Ava Gardner in Contessa, Bridgit Bardot in Contempt. They are both concerned with personal integrity in the face of a powerful prick,an American film producer that wants to control everyone, have everyone kiss his ass which they do for money.
Producer wants Sex Goddess Wife
Michel Piccoli loses his wife to Jerry the producer when he accepts the job of re-writing the script for Jerry’s production of the Odessy, he says “I’ll be able to pay off our apartment!” This theme of estrangement between a husband and wife comes from Alberto Moravia’s novel, Il disprezzo. The book was published the same year that The Barefoot Contessa was released, maybe they somehow fused in Godard’s brain. The Rich American Movie Producer, The Super Sexy Star, The Director, The Writer, The Yes Man. These are the new Mythic characters for the 20th Century. Like the Greek Gods, they live on Olympus and they have petty squabbles that effect all life on Earth. They test your souls, tempting you, like the Devil on the mountain top offering Jesus all he can see.
There’s even a big sceen in a screening room in both films, in Contempt Jack Palance (Jerry Prokosh) throws a film can at the screen like a Greek discus, expressing his displeasure at the footage screened. In Contessa Edmund O’Brien turns in a horrible over the top performance as Kirk Edwards ass licking yes man. Constantly mopping his face with a giant handkerchief, babbling like a baboon, chewing the scenery in an over the top style. Jerry Prokosh has a beautiful female assisstant that he constantly degrades, getting her to bend over so he can write a check on her back.
Degradation Of Beauty By Producer In Screening Room- Contempt
In Contessa Bogart is the man in peril of losing his integrity, the director of the proposed film. In Contempt Michel Piccoli is the writer, the man in danger of losing all to the American producer, Fritz Lang is the director but he seems above it all, like a God Of Film already up in the Celestial Movie Studio, the eccentricities of the Earth bound barely affect him. Maybe someone should make a new film about the New Gods, The New inhabiters of our Cinematic Olympus, The American Producer! The Sex Symbol, The Director in trouble, like Odysseus trying to get back to Ithica.
A black leather jacketed, sunglass wearing amnesiac Beatnik Jesus shows up in a small town in post WWII Poland and turns on the townsfolk with miracles and music. Novelist/filmmaker Tadeusz Konwicki conjurs up Salto from his novel A Dreambook for our Time. It expresses the inexpressible remarkably. Once again the proto Beatnik figure is seen as a semi Messiah, as in Cocteau’s Orphee. This was the psychic build up to the creative explosion of the 60’s. But just watch this clip, I dare you not to be impressed.
Arch Stanton, Bill Carson, Tuco Ramirez, Angel Eyes, Blondie, these are the names that only a lover of Westerns and Classic American Cinema could come up with and bring to life in a magnificent screenplay. An epic sweeping tale of Greed in the American West,our Holy Three search for Treasure, Buried Gold, and nothing, not a Prisoner Of War camp, a raging battle for a meaningless bridge, the burning sands of an impassable desert, nothing can stop them in their quest. One of the writers of THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE! has passed on. The Titans of Cinema await you Furio Scarpelli. they will take you by the hand and lead you to Paradise! Requiescat In Pace!