Wednesday, January 30, 2019

I Will Talk to You of Dick Miller, for there is nothing else to talk about

The immortal Dick Miller in his signature role, Walter Paisley in A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959).

This was news I was hoping I wouldn’t have to report, but actor Dick Miller - who turned 90 years old last Christmas Day - has passed away, one week after suffering a heart attack while being treated for pneumonia.

How to explain the singular phenomenon of Dick Miller? He was truly the Everyman of the Seventh Art. In his first movie, Roger Corman’s APACHE WOMAN (1955), he was literally the Cowboy and the Indian he shot! He contained multitudes, as the saying goes. He was everybody who had ever been around the block, who had been through the school of hard knocks, who ever dreamed of going to Hollywood and having a career in the movies. We could recognized ourselves in him, and some of the people we loved. He's often thought of as a character actor, maybe America's greatest, but he was actually a character who acted. Because he was leading man material; he could carry a movie, and did a few times: A BUCKET OF BLOOD, ROCK ALL NIGHT, Joe Dante’s Showtime remake of RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS. He made bad movies fun, good movies better, and great movies... great movies with Dick Miller in them! Simply put, he was somebody we were always happy to see.

Dick meeting Robby the Robot in a Joe Dante-directed scene for HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD (1976).

I’m sorry I never had the chance to meet him, but I couldn't be more proud of my Associate Producer credit on Elijah Drenner's documentary THAT GUY DICK MILLER (2014), a fine tribute I’m glad he was around to see. There was actually a very warm sense of closure around his last birthday, which coincided with the publication of Caelum Vatnsdal's aptly-titled biography YOU DON'T KNOW ME, BUT YOU LOVE ME and two signings at Dark Delicacies, and a birthday celebration attended by some friends of mine who sneaked out some touching photos of Dick (in true sartorial splendor) dancing with with wife Laine, not far from his senior nonagenarian Roger Corman and his wife Julie. 

Richard Miller, 1928-2019.
My deepest sympathies to Lainie Miller and everyone in their family; also to Roger Corman, who gave him so many classic roles; to my friend Joe Dante, who kept a place for Dick in all his works and did much to extend the lifetime of his fame; and to Dick's many friends, fans, and collaborators, in and out of the business, the met and the unmet. 

There goes Dick Miller. There goes greatness. 

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 28, 2019

From Denmark with Love, Eddie

For no special reason, other than love of life and cinema, I thought I would share this gallery of Danish poster and program book cover art featuring one of my favorite stars, Eddie Constantine. Of all the international film posters I have seen on Eddie, Danish artists - like Aage Lundvald, who is responsible for much of the work shown below - seem to have had a unique grasp of iconography and the special brand of fun his films imparted. See if you agree. Enjoy!

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

In the Labyrinth: THE FIFTH CORD (1971)

Yesterday I watched Luigi Bazzoni’s THE FIFTH CORD, which is coming out imminently (February 5) in a spectacular Blu-ray edition from Arrow Films. The notes on the back cover describe it as “arguably the most visually stunning giallo ever made,” which certainly primed me for an argument - but this is Vittorio Storaro, folks, before the mainstream discovered him, and a thoroughly evolved example of his impeccable cinematography. I would even call this a sterling example of what I’ve called Continental Op - that is, Op Art-influenced European cinema. The characters consistently occupy abstract, mesmerizing, geometric backgrounds and settings, all remarkably natural and which conjure the feel of a labyrinth in which protagonist Franco Nero must find and confront his Minotaur.

The disc is fully outfitted with appreciative extras, including a restored deleted scene; an audio commentary by Travis Crawford; a video essay on the film's visual style by Rachael Nisbit; and interviews with star Franco Nero, editor Eugenio Alabiso (he also cut Sergio Leone's classic Westerns and Sergio Martino's best gialli), and author and critic Michael Mackenzie.   

Coming out the same day is Bazzoni's previous giallo, THE POSSESSED (1965), a head-scratching English title for a film more accurately titled La donna del lago, or "The Lady of the Lake," in Italian. I provided the audio commentary for this one and, unusually, I came to the project with no prior knowledge of Bazzoni or his work. I came away from the experience with absolute respect, and also considerable regret that he directed so few films (only five dramatic features, and some shorts and documentary work) before his death in 2012. He subsequently directed another giallo (1975's FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON aka La orme), which I haven't seen, but these two gialli alone secure his place as an almost singular master of the form, yet also a perverse one because he so willfully raises it to a higher level. In both cases working from a novelistic source, Bazzoni was able to propose the giallo as something befitting mainstream or even art cinema, devoid of its epidemic, often charming quirks of casting, scripting and behavior - the kind so outrageously nailed byAdam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy's parody THE EDITOR (2014).

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Misadventures in Advertising

THE BOSTON GLOBE, July 19, 1972.

Kids will be reaching for that "Soothing Candy" when the whimpering little girl is shown hugging her mother on the train and being covered by the blood of her decapitation by the undead Templar knight!

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.