Rambo featuring Jake La Botz

Written by Joe D on January 26th, 2008

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I went to see the new Rambo movie. It was pretty good! Stallone is powerful as Rambo. He’s like Frankenstien or King Kong, a monster that is charmed by a beautiful woman. And for me the power of the film lies in that archetype. The structure of the film is sort of unique. It starts off normally, (actually it starts with documentary footage of dead bodies, my least favorite part of the movie) the predictable story kicks in but Stallone has reduced Rambo to a pure icon, almost like the stenciled logo on the poster. He hardly speaks, he just is. The way a movie hero should be. Like Clint Eastwood in the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. And in spite of his taciturn behaviour (or maybe because of it) you can’t help but feel for this poor guy, turned into a killing machine by a country that threw him on the garbage heap once his usefulness was finished.
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And when a self sacrificing woman sparks a glimmer of empathy from this monster, you can’t help but be moved. The story precedes as expected with the missionaries being captured and Rambo having to rescue them. This is where the mercenaries come into the picture. And this is why I saw the movie. My friend Jake La Botz plays Tombstone, a young mercenary. He gets to sing an original song of his own composition as they travel up river on Rambo’s boat. By the way Jake plays Eddie in my film One Night with You and does it amazingly well.

But back to Rambo. Once they get the missionaries out of the prison camp, the film drops all story elements and becomes pure iconography. There is almost no dialog. It’s pure action, pure images and sounds. Even the end where you’d expect some sappy dialog is shorthanded to looks and monumental close ups of Rambo. And sort of like Hitcock’s trick in North By Northwest where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are hanging off Mount Rushmore cut to them making out on a speeding train, Rambo is standing on a Burmese riverbank surrounded by hundreds of dead soldiers, the aftermath of a savage battle, cut to him walking along a road in Arizona, the mailbox says R. Rambo, he’s home after all that time, he walks onto a farm ,complete with green grass, horses, mountains clouds. I’m reminded of Sterling Hayden’s return to his Kentucky farm at the end of The Asphalt Jungle. He returns to his home so he can die. There’s a cool nightmare featuring old clips from the other Rambo films that feels like Stallone is looking back on his life, there’s also a great scene of Rambo forging a machete, Stallone looks like Hephasteus , the blacksmith of the Gods, hammering a chunk of glowing metal. Here’s a video of Jake on his Tattoo across America Tour.

Anthony Zerbe, Billy Zoom, Citroen DS & SM, Fender Pro

Written by Joe D on January 22nd, 2008

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Mr. Z

A few years back( like 15) I was coming out of my friends apartment when I noticed a trashed Fender amp in the back of a pickup truck. I asked my friend about it, he said it belonged to his neighbor and would ask him about it. The guy said “your friend can have it.” It was a 1954 tweed Pro. I brought it to former X guitarist Billy Zoom.
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Another Mr. Z

He was living in Silver Lake and fixing amps to make some cash. A great guy by the way, generous, talented. He repaired my amp and it sounded amazing! Billy walked me out to my car, a Citroen SM. He said “My neighbor had a citroen.” “Yeah” I said. “He was an actor, Anthony Zerbe.” “Really.” I said. ” Yeah, I could always tell when he was working.” ” How.” said I. ” His car would be running, otherwise it sat there leaking hydraulic fluid.”
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Citroen DS Pallas, Francis Coppola has one of these
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My SM

Due to the Writer’s Strike, my car is sitting in my driveway, it needs a minor repair but I can’t fix it till I get a gig. The Eternal Hollywood Cycle. There my car sits, looking like a stranded UFO, waiting for the spare parts from Alpha Centuri to arrive. Anthony Zerbe, Omega Man co-star, I salute you!
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Here’s a clip of Burt Reynolds driving an SM from The Longest Yard.

The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Peter Yates, Robert Mitchum, Bob Marcato

Written by Joe D on January 18th, 2008

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Thanks to the crazy cats at Popcorn and Sticky Floors I found this trailer from The Friends Of Eddie Coyle which by the way I feel is Peter Yates best film. I like it better than Bullitt. Robert Mitchum is great in it , an incredible understated performance complete with believable Boston accent. Peter Boyle is excellent as well. This is a gritty crime film with great acting, how can you top that! Kind of a cross between a John Huston film and an Umberto Lenzi politziotto! I worked with Peter Yates a few years back, travelling with him to Chicago to preview Suspect, he’s a real gentleman and he said he had a great time making this film. It was edited by the cigar smoking ex-wife of Roy Schieder, Cynthia Schieder. The trailer brought back some memories for me, hearing that snarling rasp of the narrator I immediately recognized him as Bob Marcato. I worked as an editor at a trailer company in NYC back in the 80’s and used Bob all the time. His voice is plastered all over exploitation trailers from the 70’s. He has such a distinctive snarl once you hear it you can never forget it. For some reason (probably a contractual thing) this film has never been released on dvd, I’m not sure if it ever came out on VHS! I had a copy somewhere but it was made from Peter’s own transfer. Maybe through my pals at Triage Motion Picture Services I can ask a mucky muck at Paramount what’s up with this unreleased gem and if I get any news I’ll post it here.

Added bonus! Here’s a link to Whitey Watch, a fascinating study of Boston organized crime and the elusive fugitive Whitey Bulger.

Il Boss vs. Mafioso

Written by Joe D on January 17th, 2008

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I picked up a copy of Peter McCurtin’s 1970 pulp novel Mafioso. This is the book Fernando Di Leo adapted for his 1973 film Il Boss(USA Wipeout). The main reason I got it was to see if the story continued beyond the ending of Il Boss, because at the end of Il Boss, there’s a title that says CONTINUA (to be continued).
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I figured the story in the book must go on for a while to a conclusion. But I found out, although it has a different ending, the film actually has a few more scenes than the novel. Let’s start at the beginning. Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva in the movie) is a rising star, ultra cold blooded killer, his first hit, blowing up a rival gang in a movie theater with a grenade launcher fired from the projection booth, is lifted right out of the book, the main difference being in the movie the Don and his cohorts are watching a porno film, in the book a gangster film. By the way the book takes place in Brooklyn and the author uses a lot of real locations, I lived there for a while and could easily picture where things were happening, the movie takes place in Sicily. The other main differences are, the head of the rival gang is a black guy named Coakley, in the movie he’s an Italian named Cocchi. Don Corrassco (Richard Conte in the movie) does not want to make peace with the rival gang because they’re not Sicilian, in the book because they’re black. In the movie the corrupt cop (Gianni Garko) wants to maintain order in the mafia that’s why he helps them, sort of a proto-fascist. In the book the corrupt cop is an old Irish guy, he’s just looking for some extra money.
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Pignataro Kills Don Corrassco. This is where the film really differs from the novel and for my money the film’s ending is vastly superior.

The main differences are at the end. In the book Lanzetta and his lieutenant, Pignataro recruit the other gang members and do a air/ sea assault on the Don’s Long Island compound. It’s the worst thing in the book. Di Leo’s denouement is far superior. Then Di Leo goes one step further, he has Pignataro try to kill Lanzetta, egged on by the lawyer who seems to represent the Pope! In the book Lanzetta and his men kill Don Corrassco and Lanzetta assumes control of Corrassco’s family. I think Di Leo found this unbelievable to an Italian audience. In America you can fight your way to the top of the heap, a guy starting out with nothing can become rich and powerful. In Italy with all the centuries of family history, it’s much more difficult to jump above your station. Case in point, when I was in Rome I met a lot of up and coming directors. A few complained to me that they couldn’t get their films produced while their contemporaries, whose families had been in the film business for generations got theirs produced right away. It’s just the way it is. Also I was surprised at how similar the scenes between Lanzetta and Daniello’s daughter Kate were. The arguments they have while shacked up in Lanzetta’s apartment are almost verbatim in the film and they’re great.
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Silva and the Dead Don’s Daughter

Great Art often comes from transplanting an idea from one culture to another and back again. This is an interesting study in cross cultural fertilization. Comparing the film and the novel was fascinating and I recommend the book to any fan of the film.

R.I.P. Vampira

Written by Joe D on January 16th, 2008

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Ciao baby, you were one hot wasp waisted Vamp! You scared the Hell out of me when I was a lad with your appearance in Plan 9 from Outer Space and maybe you even had sex with James Dean.
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Check out Those Claws!

Here’s the opening to WPIX’s Chiller Theater that you figured so prominently in. Sexy and Scary what a great combination for a little kid to be exposed to. Give ‘em Hell up in Heaven, Vampira!

Man, Was She Sexy!

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?

Fernado Di Leo, Il Boss

Written by Joe D on January 10th, 2008

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Maestro Fernado Di Leo between the two babes from Avere Vent’anni

I just watched an Italian language version of Fernando Di Leo’s great poliziotto Il Boss (Wipeout USA). A very cool film, I had the good fortune to see it on a double bill with Montaldo’s MachineGun McCain at Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse Film Festival. The Italian version is a bit different, for one thing a lot of subtlety is lost in translation, at least it seemed that way to me, the Italian language version created an overall impression of more political corruption and intrigue. It seemed more real in a way. commissario Torri (Gianni Garko) is in bed with local Mafiosi,
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Gianni Garko, commissario Torri, Order in the Mob!

informing them of police action, he has a house and bank accounts given to him by the Mob but he justifies his activities by saying he’s all about “Order”, and only the Big Bosses can maintain order among the Underworld. Is this a rationalization? does he really believe he’s helping Society with his proto Fascist philosophy? The film doesn’t give any definite answers but it’s the questions I find fascinating. Lanzetta (Henry Silva in one of his most iconic performances) is a ruthless, cold blooded killer.
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Henry Silva, looking like an Incan head carved from Stone

A monster raised by a Mafia don, almost like Frankenstien, except this monster succeeds in destroying his creator. The dialog between Lanzetta and Rina Daniello (Antonia Santilli) has more dimension in the Italian version.
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Have a shot of the Italian Gangster’s Favorite, J&B!

She keeps calling him “Larry” which pisses off Lanzetta to no end. Their conversations seem almost improvised, very natural. The sequence where they shack up in Lanzetta’s apartment is one of the strangest in all Crime Cinema! A full blown Mob War is raging in Palermo and right at the height of it, the guy who started it all is locked away screwing his brains out with the daughter of his ex-boss! He even complains to her that he’s spending too much time in bed with her. It’s like it’s the first time this monster has had sex. Another point that struck me more forcefully in this version is this: the film opens with one of the greatest hits in all Mafia Films, Lanzetta fires a grenade launcher from the projection booth into a theater full of Mafia dons about to watch a Swedish porno film. It’s as if the projector literally becomes a Death Ray! The Power Of Cinema!
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Coldest Killer in Cinema!

But my point is this, in the aftermath of the killing, at the morgue, one guy is hysterical, screaming for revenge, nothing will satisfy him but blood!
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First To Rat!

This is Attardi (Gianni Musi), later when the gang has kidnapped the daughter of the Don responsible for killing half their family, Attardi wants to kill her with his bare hands, he has to be restrained by his brothers. But Attardi is the guy who rats out the family! He tells Lanzetta where they’re holding the girl! This strikes me as so true, the over dramatic guy, screaming for revenge is the one who rats out his family! Di Leo’s crazy characters really ring true! I also noticed a funny thing, when Lanzetta is in the projection booth preparing to send the audience to Hell, the projector is running but there is no film in it! The reels are empty! Check it out.
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The Boss Never Sleeps

Richard Conti is great as the insomniac Boss of Bosses and Pier Paolo Capponi is excellent as Cocchi, the rival hitman, he is like a tough Italian John Casale.
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Cocchi, Casale’s Cousin From Palermo

And here’s another strange thing, at the end of the film in the Ameriacan version it ends with Lanzetta walking off down a road, in the Italian version it cuts to the lawyers office where he gets a phone call and a title appears, Coninua, to be continued. What ever happened to Part Two? I guess it never got made, too bad, I’d love for this film to keep on going!
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I Wish!

I had dinner with the lovely, eternally young Barbara Bouchet during the Grindhouse festival. I asked her about working with Di Leo, she said she loved it, that when they made a film it was like one big happy family, a joy to be involved with. I was happy to hear that. As I watched Wipeout at the New Beverly Cinema Quentin was sitting next to me, he leaned over and told me that Di Leo is one of his, maybe his favorite director of all time. He also said he heard an interview where Di Leo was asked ” Are there any directors working today that you admire, or that remind you of your own filmmaking?” Di Leo replied, ” Yes, Quentin Tarantino!” It made Mr. Tarantino very happy.

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.

New video store downtown-Old Bank DVD

Written by Joe D on January 8th, 2008

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What a Deal!

My pal Mark Boone Junior turned me on to a great DVD store, Old Bank DVD. It’s down on 4th and Main and it has a great selection of films to check out. I’ve been in need of a new place to rent stuff since Jerry’s video closed a few months back. It’s next door to a great little cafe where they make excellent coffee, have an impressive selection of wines by the glass, and make a mean panini. The Banquette Cafe, very nice. But check out what I got at Old Bank DVD, 3 dvds for $10, on a table by the front door are some on sale specials from an Art Walk or something. I got Hercules Unchained, Italian peplum starring Steve Reeves and photographed by the great Mario Bava, Crime Boss, directed by Alberto DeMartino and starring Telly Savalas, and Deep Red by the master of Italian horror, Dario Argento! What a deal! I haven’t watched them yet so I can’t speak for the quality but still, $3 and 33 cents each! Score! I was talking about Bava to the guy running the place and two other guys asked if I liked Bava. They turned out to be filmmakers from Italy and we had a great conversation about Italian film, Cinecitta, and Bud Spencer! How cool is that! I’ve found my new video spot, I can get there on my scooter in 10 minutes and pick up a DVD. So head down to 4th and Main across from The Barclay Hotel, have a glass of wine and check out the excellent selection at Old Bank DVD. I’ll post some photos soon.