Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for February, 2012

Ken Foree

Kentotis Alvin “Ken” Foree (born February 29, 1948) is an American actor probably most famous as the hero Peter in the George Romero classic ‘Dawn of the Dead’.

Foree was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He began acting in the 1970s, appearing in the 1976 film ‘The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings’ (No, I haven’t seen it), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) and ‘The Wanderers’ (1979). He also had roles in the films ‘Knightriders’ (1981), ‘From Beyond’ (1986) and ‘Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III” (1990). In 1995 he starred in an X-Files episode.

He had a cameo in the remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004. In 2005, he played Charlie Altamont in the Rob Zombie film ‘The Devil’s Rejects’, starring opposite Sid Haig and Bill Moseley, as the adopted brother of Haig’s character.

He appeared in director Rob Zombie’s 2007 film, ‘Halloween’ a remake of the 1978 classic horror film. Foree’s upcoming roles include another appearance for Zombie in ‘The Lords of Salem’.

He has appeared in numerous low-budget horror over the last few years, ‘Brotherhood of Blood’ (2005), ‘The Devil’s Den’ (2005), ‘Splatter Disco’, ‘Black Santa’s Revenge’, ‘Brutal Massacre: A Comedy’ and ‘Live Evil’ (all 2007); as well as ‘Dead Bones’ (2008) and ‘Zone of the Dead’ (2009).

The horror film comedy ‘Shaun of the Dead’, a parody of the zombie movie genre, has a subtle reference to him. The film’s main character is an employee of “Foree Electronics”. He regularly appears at horror festivals and even has an event named in his honour: Foree Fest

Ken Foree appeared as himself in the 2008 novel Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry. Foree is one of several real-world horror celebrities who are in the fictional town of Pine Deep when monsters attack. Other celebrities include Tom Savini, James Gunn, Debbie Rochon and blues man Mem Shannon.

Dick Smith – Honorary Academy Award

The most important Oscar awarded at this years ceremony was an Honorary Award for Dick Smith.

The haunting leer of a demonically possessed girl in “The Exorcist” (1973) is one of the more terrifying examples of the work of makeup artist Dick Smith. Widely considered the 20th century’s maestro of movie makeup and affectionately called the Godfather of Makeup, Smith has influenced and inspired generations of artists. He has gladly shared his secrets with up-and-comers in the field as well as elevated the standards of the craft, both of which helped to establish makeup as a respected discipline of the cinematic arts.

Filmmakers have consistently turned to Smith for persuasive renderings of time’s effects on the human body.  For artfully aging F. Murray Abraham from his forties to his eighties in “Amadeus” (1984), Smith shared the Academy Award® for Makeup with Paul LeBlanc. He earned his second Oscar® nomination for making a spry 65-year-old Jack Lemmon a persuasive octogenarian in “Dad” (1989), and created an iconic masterpiece with the jowly look of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” (1972).

Though his fantastical creations for such films “Altered States” (1980), “Scanners” (1981) and “Starman” (1984) pack a punch, Smith steadfastly believes in making movie magic look natural. His artistry is often unnoticed – and that’s just the way he wants it. “A good makeup doesn’t look like makeup,” he has said.

After spending his early childhood in suburban Larchmont, New York, Smith was pre-med at Yale University, majoring in zoology. In his sophomore year, his life took a dramatic turn when he happened to pick up a textbook detailing makeup tricks used in Hollywood. Smith began doing makeup for the theater group at Yale and roamed the campus at night in comical monster makeup of his own design, giving the unwary a playful scare.

Smith got his professional start as the first staff makeup artist for the fledgling NBC television network, pioneering techniques using foam latex and plastic for what were initially live broadcasts. His tenure as makeup director spanned from 1945 to 1959 and he expanded from a staff of one to 25.

After 14 years, Smith moved on to movies. In short order he was sculpting the face of Anthony Quinn’s battered boxer in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), making a dozen stunt doubles resemble the stars of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963) and helping Peter Sellers become strikingly handsome for “The World of Henry Orient” (1964). Remarkably, for almost 40 years he would create all of his effects in his basement studio in Larchmont, flying to the set with the makeups whenever shooting began.

In 1965, Smith penned the seminal Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-up Handbook, which protégé Rick Baker credits as inspiration for his own illustrious career. By 1967, Smith had returned to television, working on such projects as Dan Curtis’s classic vampire series “Dark Shadows.”

Smith’s method of gluing on multiple foam latex appliances in overlapping pieces permits actors their full range of facial expressions. His technique was demonstrated to marvelous effect in “Little Big Man” (1970), which transformed Dustin Hoffman from a man in his early 30s to age 121. At that time, single-mold masks were still widely used and Smith became a Galileo of sorts, shunned within the insular community of professional makeup artists. Today, he is recognized as one of those rare artists who opened new avenues of expression for others.

Ali Larter

Alison Elizabeth “Ali” Larter (born February 28, 1976) is an American actress. She is perhaps best known for playing the dual roles of Niki Sanders and Tracy Strauss on the NBC science fiction drama ‘Heroes’ as well as her roles in several horror films.

Born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; she attended Carusi Middle School and later graduated from Cherry Hill High School West during her time as a model. Larter began her modelling career at the age of 14 when a modelling scout discovered her on the street and was asked to star in a Phillies commercial, this led to a modelling contract with the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency in New York. Larter subsequently skipped her senior year to model in Australia, Italy and Japan.

While modelling in Italy, Larter met fellow model and aspiring actress Amy Smart and the two “became instant friends”, according to Larter. A modelling job later took her to Los Angeles, whilst there, she decided to take acting classes with Smart.

Larter’s screen debut came in the 1999 film ‘Varsity Blues’, followed by the horror films ‘House on Haunted Hill’, the movie was panned by critics, but grossed $15 million on its opening weekend and went on to earn over $40 million overall. This was followed by ‘Final Destination’.

Larter starred as one of the main characters, Clear Rivers, in the teen supernatural horror film; the movie’s premise followed several teenagers who survive a plane crash but are stalked and killed by death itself. Final Destination made $112 million by the end of its theatrical run which ensured 4 sequels! She reprised her role as Clear Rivers in the immediate sequel ‘Final Destination 2.’

Larter moved back to Los Angeles in 2005. Her first audition was for the NBC science-fiction television series ‘Heroes’. Larter played the characters of Niki Sanders, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, and Tracy Strauss. Larter’s initial character Niki Sanders, was a wife, mother, and a former internet stripper from Las Vegas who exhibits superhuman strength and alternate personalities who go by the names of Jessica and Gina. The series collected a number of accolades in its first season including a Peoples Choice Award and nominations from the Emmy and Golden Globes.

Larter achieved wider fame after her portrayal of video game heroine Claire Redfield in the successful Resident Evil franchise, co-starring in the films, ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ and ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’.

The latter movie was not well received by critics with the Philadelphia Enquirer stating the movie “lacks the humanity – interesting characters, funny one-liners – that made its predecessors enjoyable B-movies.” The movie was an international success nonetheless, earning $296 million worldwide and becoming Larter’s highest grossing picture to date

The Moth Diaries – Trailer

Since the release of American Psycho in 2000, director Mary Harron has made only one feature, the 2005 release The Notorious Bettie Page. She’s hardly been idle, and has put a great amount of television work on her resume in the past decade. But now Harron returns to the big screen as the director of a gothic thriller called The Moth Diaries.

Harron scripted the film based on Rachel Klein‘s 2001 novel in which the boarding school friendship of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucy (Sarah Gadon) is fractured by the arrival of Ernessa (Lily Cole). Adolescence is and always will be a time of intense emotional confusion, especially if you spend it in a closed environment. That’s the case with Rebecca, a young girl haunted by her father’s suicide, who is a student at an exclusive female boarding school. She pours her heart out in a diary, much of it focused on Lucy, her beloved roommate. Their relationship changes drastically with the arrival of a mysterious new student, Ernessa. As Lucy abandons her for this new girl, Rebecca becomes consumed with thoughts of jealousy and suspicion — Ernessa is dangerous, evil, a vampire. Is there any truth to all this or is Rebecca slipping into insanity?

Dante Ferretti

Dante Ferretti (born 26 February 1943) is an Italian production designer, art director and costume designer for film.

In his career, Ferretti has worked with many great directors, in America and hos native Italy; such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini, Terry Gilliam, Franco Zefferelli, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Anthony Minghella and Tim Burton. He frequently collaborates with his wife, set decorator Francesca lo Schiavo. Ferretti was a protégé of Federico Fellini, and worked under him for five films. He also had a five collaboration with Pier Paolo Pasolini and later developed a very close professional relationship with Martin Scorsese, designing seven of his last eight movies.

Among his major triumphs include the movies: Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, commonly referred to as Salò, a controversial 1975 Italian film written and directed by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. It is based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. Because of its scenes depicting intensely graphic violence, sadism, and sexual depravity, the movie was extremely controversial upon its release, and remains banned in several countries to this day. It was Pasolini’s last film; he was murdered shortly before Salò was released.

The Name of the Rose, a 1986 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco. Sean Connery is a Franciscan friar who are called upon to solve a deadly mystery in a medieval abbey. The sets add to the sense of dread and deception.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a 1992 American Gothic-horror-romance directed and co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel by Bram Stoker. Gary Oldman apart, the movie is laden with wooden performances, however the sets and look of the movie are exceptional.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles is a 1994 American horror-drama directed by Neil Jordan, based on the 1976 novel by Anne Rice. The film focuses on the homo-erotic relationship between vampires Lestat and louis, beginning with Louis’ transformation into a vampire by Lestat in 1791. The film chronicles their time together, and their turning of a twelve year old Creole girl, Claudia, into a vampire. The narrative is framed by a present day interview, in which Louis tells his story to a San Francisco reporter. Once again, beautiful art direction and sets dominate the film.

Gangs of New York is a 2002 historical drama set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of New York City directed by Martin Scorsese. Made in Cinecitta Studios in Rome, and nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. In order to create the sets that Scorsese envisioned, the production was filmed on the largest stages in Cinecitta. Production designer Dante Ferretti recreated over a mile of mid-nineteenth century New York buildings, consisting of a five-block area of Lower Manhattan, including the Five Points slum, a section of the East River waterfront including two full-sized sailing ships, a thirty-building stretch of lower Broadway, a patrician mansion, and replicas of Tammany Hall, a church, a saloon, a Chinese theater, and a gambling casino. For the Five Points, Ferretti recreated George Catlin’s painting of the area.

In 2008, he designed the set for Howard Shore’s opera The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg, at the Theatre du Chateletin in Paris.

Ferretti won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction for The Aviator and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He is nominated at this years awards for Hugo, he has had nine previous nominations. In addition, he was nominated for Best Costume Design for Kundun.

LEGO – Bill the Butcher

Cool LEGO model of Bill the Butcher from Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

Anthony Burgess

John Burgess Wilson (25 February 1917 – 22 November 1993) – who published under the pen name Anthony Burgess – was an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic.

The dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange is Burgess’s most famous novel, though he dismissed it as one of his lesser works. It was adapted into a highly controversial 1971 film by Stanley Kubrick, which Burgess said was chiefly responsible for the popularity of the book. Burgess produced numerous other novels, including the Enderby quartet, and Earthly Powers. He was a prominent critic, writing acclaimed studies of classic writers such as William Shakespeare, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway. In 2008, The Times newspaper placed Burgess number 17 on their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Burgess was also an accomplished musician and linguist. He composed over 250 musical works, including a first symphony around age 18, wrote a number of libretti, and translated, among other works, Cyrano de Bergerac and Carmen.

His dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962. It was inspired initially by an incident during the Second World War in which his wife Lynne was robbed and assaulted in London during the blackout by deserters from the U.S. Army. The event may have contributed to her subsequent miscarriage. The book was an examination of free will and morality. The young anti-hero, Alex, captured after a short career of violence and mayhem, undergoes a course of aversion therapy treatment to curb his violent tendencies. This results in making him defenseless against other people and unable to enjoy some of his favorite music that, besides violence, had been an intense pleasure for him.

In the non-fiction book Flame Into Being (1985) Burgess described A Clockwork Orange as “a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence.” He added “the film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die.” Near the time of publication the final chapter was cut from the American edition of the book. Burgess had written A Clockwork Orange with twenty-one chapters, meaning to match the age of majority. “21 is the symbol of human maturity, or used to be, since at 21 you got to vote and assumed adult responsibility,” Burgess wrote in a foreword for a 1986 edition. Needing a paycheck and thinking that the publisher was “being charitable in accepting the work at all,” Burgess accepted the deal and allowed A Clockwork Orange to be published in the U.S. with the twenty-first chapter omitted. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was based on the American edition, and thus helped to perpetuate the loss of the last chapter.

In Martin Seymour-Smith’s Novels and Novelists: A Guide to the World of Fiction, Burgess related that he would often prepare a synopsis with a name-list before beginning a project. Seymour-Smith wrote: “Burgess believes overplanning is fatal to creativity and regards his unconscious mind and the act of writing itself as indispensable guides. He does not produce a draft of a whole novel but prefers to get one page finished before he goes on to the next, which involves a good deal of revision and correction.”

LEGO – The Avengers

More cool LEGO images, this time for the forthcoming movie of ‘The Avengers’ from

Terence Fisher

Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a film director who worked for Hammer Films. He was born in Maida Vale, a district of London, England.

Fisher was one of the most prominent horror directors of the second half of the 20th century. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and the sexual overtones and explicit horror in his films, while mild by modern standards, were unprecedented in his day. His first major gothic horror film was ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957), which launched Hammer’s long association with the genre and made British actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into leading horror stars of the era.

Fisher’s career and Hammer would become inextricably linked. When Hammer decided in the mid-1950s to remodel itself as a horror factory, Fisher became its main director. He was part of the team that produced all the ‘classic’ Hammer horrors – including the aforementioned The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), as well as ‘Dracula’ (1958), ‘The Mummy’ (1959), ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (1959) and ‘The Curse of the Werewolf’  (1961).

Given the low budgets involved and the breakneck production schedules, the quality of these films was inevitably uneven, but some of them, and especially Dracula, were remarkable achievements, albeit ones that were not generally feted by critics at the time of their initial appearance. After the box-office failure of The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Fisher worked less often for Hammer, although his later Hammer films arguably comprise his best work, reflecting as they do both a technical maturity and a willingness to innovate. Although Fisher is regularly accused of representing a conservative moralistic force within British horror, films like ‘Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1967) and ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1968) show a tentative and questioning attitude to social authority and morality.

It is only in recent years that Fisher has become recognised as an auteur in his own right. His films are characterised by a blend of fairy-tale, myth and sexuality. They may have drawn heavily on Christian themes, and there is usually a hero who defeats the powers of darkness by a combination of faith in God and reason, in contrast to other characters, who are either blindly superstitious or bound by a cold, godless rationalism (as noted by critic Paul Leggett in Terence Fisher: Horror, Myth and Religion, 2001). For a detailed discussion of Fisher’s works, see The Charm of Evil: The Films of Terence Fisher by Wheeler Winston Dixon.

Dwight Frye

Dwight Iliff Frye (February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943) was an American stage and screen actor, noted for his appearances in the classic horror films ‘Dracula’ (1931), ‘Frankenstein’ (1931), ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933), and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935).

Frye was born in Salina, Kansas. Nicknamed “The Man with the Thousand-Watt Stare” and “The Man of a Thousand Deaths”, he specialized in the portrayal of mentally unbalanced characters, including his signature role, the madman Renfield in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Later that same year he also played the hunchbacked assistant in the film Frankenstein. (This character, named Fritz, is often mistakenly referred to as Ygor, a character originated by Bela Lugosi in the later film Son of Frankenstein.)

Frye also portrayed Wilmer Cook (the “gunsel”) in the original movie version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon in 1931, the role later played by Elisha Cook, Jr. in the remake a decade later.

Frye had a prominent role in the horror film ‘The Vampire Bat’ (1933), starring Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Fay Wray, in which he played Herman, a half-wit suspected of being a killer.

He also had memorable roles in The Invisible Man (1933) as a reporter, The Crime of Dr. Crespi (1935), and in the classic Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in which he played Karl. The part of Karl was originally much longer and many extra scenes of Frye were shot as a sub plot but were edited out of the final version to shorten the running time as well as to appease the censor boards. The most memorable of these “cut scenes” was that of Karl killing the Burgomaster portrayed by E. E. Clive. No known prints of these scenes survive today, but photographs of the scene were used to illustrate the scene’s synopsis and are included in the recent Universal Studios DVD release of the film.

During the early 1940s, Frye alternated between film roles and appearing on stage in a variety of productions ranging from comedies to musicals, as well as appearing in a stage version of Dracula. In 1924 he played the Son in a translation of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. There was a Dwight Frye Fan Club at one time, but it is currently dormant. He also made a contribution to the war effort by working nights as a tool designer for Lockheed Aircraft.

Frye’s strong resemblance to former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker helped land him what would have been a substantial role in the biopic Wilson (1944), based on the life of U. S. President Woodrow Wilson, but he died of a heart attack while riding on a bus in Hollywood a few days before filming was to have begun. Frye was interred in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Sam Peckinpah – The Autumn Years

Based on the screenplay by Rudolph Wurlitzer, ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’ offered Peckinpah the opportunity to explore themes that appealed to him: two former partners forced by changing times onto opposite sides of the law, manipulated by corrupt economic interests. Peckinpah rewrote the screenplay, establishing Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid as friends, and attempted to weave an epic tragedy from the historical legend. Numerous production difficulties, including an outbreak of influenza and malfunctioning cameras, combined with Peckinpah’s growing problems with alcohol, resulted in one of the most troubled productions of his career. The film finished 21 days behind schedule and $1.6 million over budget. Enraged, MGM head James Aubrey severely cut Peckinpah’s film from 124 to 106 minutes, resulting in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid being released in a truncated version largely disowned by cast and crew members. Critics complained that the film was incoherent, and the experience soured Peckinpah forever on Hollywood. In 1988, however, Peckinpah’s director’s cut was released on video and led to a reevaluation, with many critics hailing it as a mistreated classic and one of the era’s best films.

In the eyes of his admirers, ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ (1974) was the last true “Peckinpah film.” The director himself claimed that it was the only one of his films to be released exactly as he intended it. An alcohol-soaked fever dream involving revenge, greed and murder in the Mexican countryside, the film featured Warren Oates as a thinly disguised self-portrait of Peckinpah, and co-starred a leather bag containing the severed head of a gigolo being sought by a Mexican patrone for one million dollars. The macabre drama was part black comedy, action and tragedy, with a warped edge rarely seen in Peckinpah’s works. Generally hated by the critics, the film’s reputation has grown in recent years, with many noting its uncompromising vision as well as its anticipation of the violent black comedy which became famous in the works of such directors as David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.

His career now suffering from back-to-back box office failures, Peckinpah once again was in need of a hit on the level of The Getaway. For his next film, he chose ‘The Killer Elite’ (1975), an action-filled espionage thriller starring James Caan and Robert Duvall as rival American agents. Peckinpah allegedly discovered cocaine for the first time, this led to increased paranoia and his once legendary dedication to detail deteriorated. Through it all, the film was completed and did decent box office business, though critics panned it. Today, the film is considered one of Peckinpah’s weakest films, and an example of his decline as a major director.

Peckinpah was offered the opportunity to direct the eventual blockbusters, but he turned them down and chose instead the bleak and vivid World War II drama ‘Cross of Iron’ (1977). The screenplay was based on a novel about a platoon of German soldiers in 1943 on the verge of utter collapse on the Crimean Peninsula. While not suffering from the cocaine abuse which marked The Killer Elite, Peckinpah continued to drink heavily causing his direction to become confused and erratic. The production abruptly ran out of funds, and Peckinpah was forced to completely improvise the concluding sequence, filming the scene in one day. Despite these obstacles, the film’s war footage was stunning and James Coburn, in the lead role of Rolf Steiner, gave one of the finest performances of his career. Cross of Iron was noted for its opening montage utilizing documentary footage as well as the visceral impact of the unusually intense battle sequences. The film was a huge box office success in Europe, but performed poorly in the U.S., eclipsed ultimately by the space adventure Star Wars, though today it is highly regarded and considered the last gasp of Peckinpah’s once-great talent.

Hoping to create the elusive blockbuster, Peckinpah decided to take on ‘Convoy’ (1978). The film was an attempt to capitalize on the huge success of Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Addictions or not, Peckinpah still felt compelled to turn the genre exercise into something more significant. Convoy turned out to be yet another troubled Peckinpah production. The director’s health became a continuing problem, so James Coburn was brought in to serve as second unit director, and he filmed many of the scenes while Peckinpah remained in his on-location trailer. The film wrapped 11 days behind schedule and $5 million over budget. Surprisingly, Convoy was the highest-grossing picture of Peckinpah’s career, notching $46.5 million at the box office. But his reputation was seriously damaged. For the next three years, Peckinpah remained a professional outcast.

By 1982, however, Peckinpah’s health was in poor shape. Producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer were undaunted, as they felt that having Peckinpah’s name attached to ‘The Osterman Weekend’ (1983) would lend the suspense thriller an air of respectability. Multiple actors in Hollywood auditioned for the film, intrigued by the opportunity. Many of those who signed on, including John Hurt, Burt Lancaster and Dennis Hopper, did so for less than their usual salaries for a chance to work with the legendary director. Peckinpah brought in the film on time and on budget, delivering his cut to the producers. Davis and Panzer were unhappy with Peckinpah’s version, which included a grossly distorted opening sequence of two characters making love. The producers changed the opening and also deleted other scenes they deemed unnecessary. The Osterman Weekend had some effective action sequences and some strong supporting performances, but Peckinpah’s final film was critically panned.

Peckinpah was seriously ill during his final years, as a lifetime of hard living caught up with him. Regardless, he continued to work until his last months. He died of heart failure on December 28, 1984. At the time, he was in preparation for shooting an original script by Stephen King entitled The Shotgunners, which later became a book called The Regulators.

Sam Peckinpah – ‘Bloody Sam’

He caught a lucky break in 1966 when producer Daniel Melnick needed a writer and director to adapt Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel Noon Wine for television. Taking place in turn of the century West Texas, ‘Noon Wine’ was a dark tragedy about a farmer’s act of futile murder which leads to suicide. The film was a critical hit, with Peckinpah nominated by the Writers Guild for Best Television Adaptation and the Directors Guild of America for Best Television Direction.

The surprising success of Noon Wine laid the groundwork for one of the most explosive comebacks in film history. In 1967, William Goldman’s screenplay ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ had recently been purchased by 20th Century Fox; Warner Bros were interested in having Peckinpah rewrite and direct a similar adventure film, The Diamond Story. An alternative screenplay written by Roy Sickner and Walon Green was called, The Wild Bunch.

It was quickly decided that The Wild Bunch, which had several similarities to Goldman’s work, would be produced in order to beat Butch Cassidy to the theaters. By the fall of 1967, Peckinpah was rewriting the screenplay into what became ‘The Wild Bunch’. Filmed on location in Mexico, Peckinpah’s epic work was inspired by his hunger to return to films and what he perceived to be the utter lack of reality seen in Westerns up to that time. He set out to make a film which portrayed not only the vicious violence of the period, but the crude men attempting to survive the era. The film detailed a gang of veteran outlaws on the Texas/Mexico border in 1913 trying to exist within a rapidly approaching modern world. The Wild Bunch is framed by two ferocious and infamous gunfights, beginning with a failed robbery of the railway company office and concluding with the outlaws battling the Mexican army in suicidal vengeance due to the death of one of their members. Irreverent and unprecedented in its explicit detail, the 1969 film was an instant success. Many critics denounced its violence as sadistic and exploitative. Other critics and filmmakers hailed the originality of its unique rapid editing style, created for the first time in this film and ultimately becoming a Peckinpah trademark, and praised the reworking of traditional Western themes. It was the beginning of Peckinpah’s international fame, and he and his work remained controversial for the rest of his life. When The Wild Bunch was re-released for its 25th anniversary, it received an NC-17 rating, proving the film’s continued impact after so many years. Peckinpah received his only Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for this film. Unfortunately a remake is in the offing.

Defying audience expectations, as he often did, Peckinpah immediately followed The Wild Bunch with the elegiac, funny and mostly non-violent 1970 Western ‘The Ballad of Cable Hogue’. The film covered three years in the life of small-time entrepreneur Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) who decides to make a fortune after discovering water in the desert. He opens his business along a stagecoach line, only to see his dreams end with the appearance of the first automobile on the horizon. Shot on location in the Nevada desert, the film was plagued by poor weather, Peckinpah’s renewed drinking and his brusque firing of 36 crew members. Largely ignored upon its initial release, The Ballad of Cable Hogue has been rediscovered in recent years and is often held up by critics as exemplary of the breadth of Peckinpah’s talents. Over the years, Peckinpah cited the film as one of his favorites.

His alienation of Warner Brothers once again left him with a limited number of directing jobs. Peckinpah was forced to do a 180-degree turn and traveled to England to direct ‘Straw Dogs’ (1971), one of his darkest and most psychologically disturbing films. Starring Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner, a timid American mathematician who moves to Cornwall, England, to live with his young wife Amy (Susan George). Resentment of David’s presence by the locals slowly builds to a shocking climax when the mild-mannered academic is forced to defend his home. Peckinpah entirely rewrote the existing screenplay, inspired by the books African Genesis and The Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey, which argued that man was essentially a carnivore who instinctively battled over control of territory. The character of David Sumner, taunted and humiliated by the town locals, is eventually cornered within his home where he loses control and kills several of the men during the violent conclusion. Straw Dogs deeply divided critics, some of whom praised its artistry and its confrontation of human savagery, while others attacked it as a mysogynistic and fascist celebration of violence. The film was for many years banned on video in the UK, although some critics have come to hail it as one of Peckinpah’s greatest films.

Despite his growing alcoholism and controversial reputation, Peckinpah was extremely prolific during this period of his life. He returned to the United States to begin work on ‘Junior Bonner’ (1972). The story covered a week in the life of aging rodeo rider Junior “JR” Bonner (Steve McQueen) who returns to his hometown to compete in an annual rodeo competition. Promoted as a Steve McQueen action vehicle, reviews were mixed and the film performed poorly at the box office. Peckinpah remarked, “I made a film where nobody got shot and nobody went to see it.”

Eager to work with Peckinpah again, Steve McQueen presented him Walter Hill’s screenplay to ‘The Getaway’. McQueen played Doc McCoy, an imprisoned mastermind robber whose wife Carol (Ali McGraw) conspires for his release on the condition they rob a bank in Texas. A doublecross follows the crime, and the McCoys are forced to flee for Mexico with both the police and criminals in hot pursuit. Replete with explosions, car chases and intense shootouts, the film became Peckinpah’s biggest financial success to date earning more than $25 million at the box office.

Sam Peckinpah – Early Work

David Samuel “Sam” Peckinpah (February 21, 1925 – December 28, 1984) was an American film director and screenwriter who achieved prominence following the release of the Western epic ‘The Wild Bunch’ (1969). He was known for the innovative and explicit depiction of action and violence, as well as his revisionist approach to the Western genre.

Peckinpah’s films generally deal with the conflict between values and ideals, and the corruption of violence in human society. He was given the nickname “Bloody Sam” owing to the violence in his films. His characters are often loners or losers who desire to be honorable, but are forced to compromise in order to survive in a world of nihilism and brutality.

Peckinpah’s combative personality, marked by years of alcohol and drug abuse, has often overshadowed his professional legacy. Many of his films were noted for behind-the-scenes battles with producers and crew members, damaging his reputation and career during his lifetime. Many of his films, such as ‘Straw Dogs’ (1971), ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’ (1973) and ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ (1974), remain controversial.

Frequent fighting and discipline problems while at Fresno High School caused his parents to enroll him in the San Rafael Military Academy for his senior year. After joining the US Marine Corps in 1943, his battalion was sent to China with the task of disarming Japanese soldiers and repatriating them following World War II. After discharge, he attended Fresno State College, studying history. In 1948, Peckinpah enrolled in graduate studies in drama at University of Southern California. He spent two seasons as the director in residence at Huntington Park Civic Theatre near Los Angeles before obtaining his master’s degree.

Peckinpah began working as a stagehand at KLAC-TV in the belief that television experience would eventually lead to work in films. In 1954, Peckinpah was hired as “dialogue director” for the film Riot in Cell Block 11. Director Don Siegel’s location work and his use of actual prisoners as extras in the film made a lasting impression on Peckinpah. He worked as an assistant to the director on four additional films including Private Hell 36 (1954), An Annapolis Story, (1955), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Crime in the Streets (1956). Peckinpah’s association with Siegel established him as an emerging screenwriter and potential director.

On the recommendation of Siegel, Peckinpah established himself during the late 1950s as a scriptwriter of Western series of the era; he also wrote a screenplay from the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, a draft that evolved into the 1961 Brando film ‘One-Eyed Jacks’. His writing led to directing, and he directed a 1958 episode of Broken Arrow (generally credited as his first official directing job) and several 1960 episodes of Klondike).

In 1958, Peckinpah wrote a script for Gunsmoke that was rejected due to content. He reworked the screenplay, and it became the television series The Rifleman, starring Chuck Connors. Peckinpah directed four episodes of the series, but left after the first year. During this time, he also created the television series The Westerner. From 1959 to 1960, Peckinpah acted as producer of the series, having a hand in the writing of each episode and directing five of them.

After cancellation of The Westerner, series star Brian Keith was cast as the male lead in the 1961 Western film ‘The Deadly Companions. He suggested Peckinpah as the director and producer Charles B. Fitzsimons accepted the idea. By most accounts, the low-budget film was a learning process for Peckinpah, who feuded with Fitzsimons over the screenplay and staging of the scenes. Reportedly, Fitzsimons refused to allow Peckinpah to give direction to star Maureen O’Hara. Unable to rewrite the screenplay or edit the picture, Peckinpah vowed to never again direct a film unless he had script control. The Deadly Companions passed largely without notice and is the least known of Peckinpah’s films.

His second film, ‘Ride the High Country’ (1962), was all Peckinpah’s work. He did an extensive rewrite of the screenplay, including personal references from his own childhood and he based the character of Steve Judd, on his own father David Peckinpah. In the screenplay, Judd and old friend Gil Westrum are hired to transport gold from a mining community through dangerous territory. The film initially went unnoticed in the United States but was an enormous success in Europe. The film was hailed by foreign critics as a brilliant reworking of the Western genre. By some critics, the film is admired as one of Peckinpah’s greatest works.

Peckinpah’s next film, ‘Major Dundee’ (1965), was the first of Peckinpah’s many unfortunate experiences with the major studios that financed his productions. The sprawling screenplay told the story of Union cavalry officer Major Dundee who commands a New Mexico outpost of Confederate prisoners. When an Apache war chief wipes out a company and kidnaps several children, Dundee throws together a makeshift army, including unwilling Confederate veterans, black Federal soldiers, and traditional Western types, and takes off after the Indians. Dundee becomes obsessed with his quest and heads deep into the wilderness of Mexico with his exhausted men in tow. Filming began without a completed screenplay, and Peckinpah chose several remote locations in Mexico, causing the film to go heavily over budget. Peckinpah reportedly drank heavily each night after shooting. Shooting ended 15 days over schedule and $1.5 million more than budgeted with Peckinpah and his producer no longer on speaking terms. The movie, was taken away from him and substantially reedited. An incomplete mess which today exists in a variety of versions, Major Dundee performed poorly at the box office and was thrashed by critics (though its standing has improved over the years). Peckinpah held for the rest of his life that his original version of Major Dundee was among his best films, but his reputation was severely damaged.

Peckinpah was next signed to direct The Cincinnati Kid, a gambling drama about a young prodigy who takes on an old master during a big New Orleans poker match. After four days of filming, which reportedly included some nude scenes, Ransohoff disliked the rushes and immediately fired him. Eventually directed by Norman Jewison and starring Steve McQueen, the film went on to become a 1965 hit. Peckinpah found himself banished from the film industry for several years.

Richard Matheson

Richard Burton Matheson (born February 20, 1926) is an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror and science fiction genres. He is perhaps best known as the author of The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, I Am Legend, and Hell House, all of which have been adapted as major motion pictures. Matheson has also written for several episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’ such as  “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, and adapted his 1971 short story Duel into a screenplay later that year for the Steven Spielberg directed television movie of the same name.

Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn where he graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.

His first short story, “Born of Man and Woman”, appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950 and is the tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents’ cellar told in the first person as the creature’s diary. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, making important contributions to the further development of modern horror.

Several of his stories, like “Third from the Sun” (1950), “Deadline” (1959) and “Button, Button” (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like “Trespass” (1953), “Being” (1954) and “Mute” (1962) explore their characters’ dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as “The Funeral” (1955) and “The Doll that Does Everything” (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson’s usual pared-down style. Others, like “The Test” (1954) and “Steel” (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as “Hell House” (1953), “The Curious Child” (1954) and perhaps most of all, “Duel” (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote 14 episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including “Steel” and the famous “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (both mentioned above), plus “Little Girl Lost”, a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension. On all of Matheson’s scripts for The Twilight Zone, he also wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by host Rod Serling. He adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films. He also wrote the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within”.

In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for ‘Fanatic’ (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!).

Matheson’s first novel, Someone Is Bleeding, was published in 1953. His novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson’s own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, (filmed as ‘The Last Man on Earth’ (1964), ‘The Omega Man’ (1971), and  ‘I Am Legend’ (2007)). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include ‘What Dreams May Come’, ‘A Stir of Echoes’, ‘Bid Time Return’ (as ‘Somewhere in Time’), and ‘Hell House’ (as ‘The Legend of Hell House’), the last two adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as ‘Trilogy of Terror’ (1975), including “Prey” (initially published in the April 1969 edition of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior doll. Matheson’s short story “Button, Button”, was filmed as ‘The Box’ in 2009, and was also adapted for a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone.

In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. It was filmed in 1967 as ‘The Young Warriors’ though most of Matheson’s plot was jettisoned. During the 1950s he published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun); and during the 1990s he published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun YearsThe GunfightThe Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok and Shadow on the Sun. He has also written a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It…, aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels 7 Steps to Midnight and Hunted Past Reason.

According to film critic Roger Ebert, Matheson’s scientific approach to the supernatural in I Am Legend and other novels from the 1950s and early 1960s “anticipated pseudorealistic fantasy novels like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Exorcist’… High praise indeed.

Ray Winstone – Part 2

Winstone was asked to appear in Mr Thomas, a play written by his friend and fellow-Londoner Kathy Burke. The reviews were good, and led to Winstone being cast, alongside Burke, in Gary Oldman’s drama ‘Nil By Mouth’. He was widely lauded for his performance as an alcoholic wife-batterer, receiving a BAFTA nomination (17 years after his Best Newcomer award for That Summer). He continued to play “tough guy” roles in the likes of ‘Face’ and ‘The War Zone’ — the latter especially controversial, as he played a man who rapes his own daughter — but that obvious toughness would also allow him to play decent men softened by love in romantic comedies like Fanny and Elvis and ‘There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble’. In Last Christmas, he played a dead man, now a trainee angel, who returns from Heaven to help his young son cope with his bereavement, written by Tony Grounds, with whom Winstone worked again on Births, Marriages & Deaths and Our Boy, the latter winning him the Royal Television Society Best Actor Award. They worked together again in 2006 on ‘All in the Game’ where Winstone portrayed a football manager.

In 2000 Winstone starred along side Jude Law in the hit cult film ‘Love, Honour and Obey’, then snagged the lead role in ‘Sexy Beast’ that brought him great acclaim from UK and international audiences, and brought him to the attention of the American film industry. Winstone plays “Gal” Dove, a retired and happily married former thief dragged back into London’s underworld by a psychopathic former associate (Ben Kingsley, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance).

After a brief role alongside Burke again in the tragi-comic ‘The Martins’, he appeared in ‘Last Orders’, where he starred alongside fellow British stars Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings and Tom Courteney. Next up, Winstone would get a prime part in ‘Ripley’s Game’, the sequel to ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’, in which he once again played a gangster. He followed up with Lenny Blue, the sequel to Tough Love, and the short The Bouncer.

In 2000, he also starred on stage in To Green Fields Beyond at the Donmar Warehouse (directed by Sam Mendes). In 2002 he performed at the Royal Court as Griffin in The Night Heron. Two years later, he joined Kevin Spacey for 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic, a series of productions that were written, rehearsed and performed in a single day. Now internationally known, Winstone was next chosen by Anthony Minghella to play Teague, a sinister Home Guard boss, in the Civil War drama ‘Cold Mountain’.

Perhaps inspired by Burke and Oldman, Winstone has now decided to direct and produce his own movies, setting up Size 9 and Flicks production companies with his long-time agent Michael Wiggs. The first effort was ‘She’s Gone’, in which he plays a businessman whose young daughter disappears in Istanbul (filming was held up by unrest in the Middle East). He followed it up with ‘Jerusalem’, in which he played poet and visionary William Blake. 

Winstone made his action movie debut in ‘King Arthur’, starring Clive Owen, directed by Antoine Fuqua. In that film, Fuqua proclaimed him as “the British De Niro.” He then provided the voice of Soldier Sam in the screen version of ‘The Magic Roundabout’. 

In 2005, he appeared opposite Suranne Jones in the ITV drama ‘Vincent’ about a team of private detectives. He returned to the role in 2006 and was awarded an International Emmy. In 2005 he also portrayed a 19th century English policeman trying to tame the Australian outback in ‘The Proposition’. A complete change of pace for Winstone was providing the voice for the plucky Mr. Beaver in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, also in 2005.

Winstone appeared in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film ‘The Departed’ as Mr. French, an enforcer to Jack Nicholson’s mob boss. He also provided motion capture movements and voice for the title character in the Robert Zemekis’ film ‘Beowulf’. He then co-starred in the awful ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull’. He returned to television drama in ‘Compulsion’, originally shown in May 2009. He followed that up with ‘The Tracker’ as ‘Arjan’ with Temuera Morrison. His latest releases included ’44 Inch Chest’, alongside John Hurt, and Ian McShane; and a role as CIA agent Darius Jedburgh in the ‘Edge of Darkness’ remake, as a late replacment for Robert De Niro. 

He is set to play the role of iconic Detective Inspector Jack Regan in a remake of ‘The Sweeney’ and star in the slasher-thriller film ‘Red Snow’, directed by Stuart St. Paul and based on a short film by Adam Mason. Whatever he does next, he’ll be as watchable as ever… “Who’s the Daddy?”

Ray Winstone – Part 1

Raymond Andrew “Ray” Winstone (born 19 February 1957) is an English film and television actor. He is mostly known for his “tough guy” roles, beginning with that of Carlin in the 1979 film ‘Scum’ and as Will Scarlet in the cult television adventure series ‘Robin of Sherwood’. He has also become well known as a voice actor. More recently he has branched out into film production. His film résumé includes ‘Cold Mountain’, ‘Nil By Mouth’, ‘King Arthur’,  ‘The Proposition’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Beowulf’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and ‘Edge of Darkness’. 

Winstone was born in Hackney Hospital, London, the family moved via Plaistow to Enfield when he was seven, and grew up on a council estate just off the A10. Winstone had an early affinity for acting; his father would take him to the cinema every Wednesday afternoon. Later, he would witness Albert Finney in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ and the bug would bite: “I thought ‘I could be that geezer'” he said later. Other major influences included John Wayne, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. 

Winstone was also a fan of boxing. At the age of 12, Winstone joined the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club and, over the next 10 years, won 80 out of 88 bouts. At welterweight, he was London schoolboy champion on three occasions, fighting twice for England. The experience gave him a perspective on his later career: “If you can get in a ring with 2,000 people watching and be smacked around by another guy, then walking onstage isn’t hard.”

One of his first TV appearances came in the 1976 “Loving Arms” episode of the popular police series ‘The Sweeney’ where he was credited as “Raymond Winstone” and played a minor part as an unnamed young thug.

He went up to the BBC, where his schoolmates were involved in an audition, and got one of his own by flirting with the secretary. The audition was for one of the most notorious plays in history – Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ – and, because Clarke liked Winstone’s cocky, aggressive boxer’s walk, he got the part, even though it had been written for a Glaswegian. The play, written by Roy Minton and directed by Clarke, was a brutal depiction of a young offenders institution. Winstone was cast in the leading role of Carlin, a young offender who struggles against both his captors and his fellow cons in order to become the “Daddy” of the institution. Hard hitting and often violent (particularly during the infamous “billiards” scene in which Carlin uses two billiard balls stuffed in a sock in order to beat one of his fellow inmates over the head) the play was judged unsuitable for broadcast by the BBC, and was not finally shown until 1991. The banned television play was entirely re-filmed in 1979 for cinematic release with many of the original actors playing the same roles. In a recent director’s commentary for the Scum DVD, Winstone cites Clarke as a major influence on his career, and laments the director’s death in 1990 from cancer.

Winstone’s role in Scum seems to have set a mould for many of his other parts; he is frequently cast as a tough or violent man. He has also been cast against type, however, in films in which he reveals a softer side. He had a comedic part in ‘Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence’, and played the romantic lead in ‘Fanny and Elvis’. His favourite role was in the television biopic on the life of England’s most notorious monarch, King Henry VIII.  Helena Bonham Carter co-starred as Henry’s most well-known queen, Anne Boyleyn; Emilia Fox played Jane Seymour, the stellar cast was rounded out by Charles Dance, Emily Blunt, David Suchet, Joss Ackland and Sean Bean. 

After a short run in the TV series ‘Fox’, and a role in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ (alongside Diane Lane, Laura Dern and a host of real-life punks like Fee Waybill, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Paul Simonon.). It was at this time that Winstone got another big break, being cast as Will Scarlet in ‘Robin of Sherwood’. He proved immensely popular and enjoyed the role, considering Scarlet to be “the first football hooligan”

During this period, he was increasingly drawn to the theatre, playing in Hinkemannin 1988, Some Voices in 1994 and Dealer’s Choice and Pale Horse the following year.

Miloš Forman

Jan Tomáš Forman (born February 18, 1932), better known as Miloš Forman is a Czech-American director, screenwriter, professor, and an emigrant from Czechoslovakia. Two of his films, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Amadeus’, are among the most celebrated in the history of film, both gaining him the Academy Award for Best Director. He was also nominated for the same award for ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’. He has also won Golden Globe, Cannes, Berlinale, BAFTA, Cesar, David di Donatello, European Film Academy, and Czech Lion awards.

Forman was born in Caslav, Czechoslovakia (present-day Czech Republic), the son of Anna, who ran a summer hotel, and Rudolf Forman, a professor. His parents were Protestants. During the Nazi occupation a member of the anti-Nazi Underground named Forman’s father as a member of the Underground while being interrogated by the Gestapo. His father was arrested for distributing banned books and died in Buchenwald in 1944. His mother died in Auschwitz in 1943. Forman has stated that he did not fully understand what had happened to his parents until he saw footage of the concentration camps when he was 16.

After the war, Forman attended King George College public school in the spa town Podebrady, where his fellow students included Vaclav Havel, and Ivan Passer and Jerzy Skolimowski. He later studied screenwriting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Forman’s first important achievement is the documentary ‘Audition’ whose subject was competing singers. He directed several Czech comedies in Czechoslovakia. However, during the Prague Spring and the ensuing 1968 invasion, he was in Paris negotiating the production of his first American film. His employer, a Czech studio, fired him, claiming that he had been out of the country illegally. He moved to New York, where he later became a professor of film at Columbia University and co-chair of Columbia’s film department.

His debut feature, ‘Loves of a Blonde’ is one of best–known movies of Czechoslovak New Wave and has been rewarded on the Venice and Locarno film festivals. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967; as was his next film, ‘The Fireman’s Ball’, Forman’s first colour film.

The first movie Forman realized in United States, Taking Off was rewarded at Cannes Film Festival. However, his next film is one of the greatest film’s of all time, and the one for which he will always be remembered, the adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. The film won five Oscars, winning (as one of only three in history, (with It Happened One night and The Silence of the Lambs) in the five most important categories: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, which firmly established Forman’s reputation.

The success of One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest allowed Forman to direct the long-planned film ‘Hair’ a rock opera in 1979, based on the Broadway musical.

Forman’s next important achievement was the adaption of Peter Schaffer’s ‘Amadeus’ in 1984—retelling the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The film starred Tom Hulce and (for this role rewarded Oscar) F. Murray Abraham. This brought him his second Oscar for Best Director and numerous other awards. The movie won eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Forman and Shaffer call their movie fantasy inspired life and magical death of Mozart.

‘Valmont’, Forman’s adaptation of the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses had its premiere on November 17, 1989. Another film adaptation by Stephen Frears had been released the previous year and received much acclaim. The film starred Colin Firth, Meg Tilly and Annette Bening. It did not earn favorable reviews. However, ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’ a 1996 biopic of pornographic publisher Larry Flynt brought Forman another Oscar nomination. The film starred Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton.

The biography of famous actor and comic Andy Kaufman (Golden Globe winning Jim Carrey) had premiere on December 22, 1999. The film starred Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito,  Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti. Goya’s Ghosts, followed, this free biography of Spanish painter Francisco Goya, the American-Spanish co-production premiered on November 8, 2006. The film starred Natalie Portman, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard and Randy Quaid.

The premiere of Forman’s newest historical drama, The Ghost of Munich, in France based on the novel by Georges-Marc Benamou and written by Forman and Georges-Marc Benamou is expected in 2012. The central topic is the Munich Agreement. The movie follows an investigative journalist who, thirty years after the conference, sets out to locate Edouard Daladier, the former French Council president.

Redd Inc. – Premiere

Redd Inc. It’s about a warped office where six people are chained to their desks by a demented boss… sound familiar? Nicholas Hope (Bad Boy Bubby) is outstanding as Redd, the boss from hell.

Redd Inc. the film will be released theatrically in late April/early May but there’s a special chance to see it in its very first public showing (world premiere) coming up in Sydney next month. Saturday March 17th the movie will close the Australian Film Festival at the Randwick Ritz. Click on this LINK to buy tickets:  They have an early bird price of only $13 each until March 1st. Check out the trailer here.

There will also be a Q&A afterwards with producer Jonathon Green, colleagues and cast (including Mr Hope) as well an after party.

Be warned! There are a number of gory scenes (it IS a horror movie) it’s unrated but treat it as borderline MA15+ / R18+. You may want to look away at times but for the most part you should be entertained by a creepy but fun story that rocks along with twists and turns and a satirical undertone. Although if you just absolutely HATE horror movies then you probably shouldn’t come.

Iain Banks

Iain Banks (born on 16 February 1954 in Dunfermline, Fifie) is a Scottish writer. He writes mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, including the initial of his adopted middle name Menzies. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of “The 50 greatest British Writers since 1945”.

Banks’s father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was a professional ice skater. Banks studied English, philosophy, and psychology at the University of Stirling.

Bank’s debut novel, The Wasp Factory is written from a first person perspective, told by sixteen-year-old eunuch Frank Cauldhame, describing his childhood and all that remains of it. The ‘Wasp Factory’ of the title is a huge clock face encased in a glass box and salvaged from the local dump. Behind each of the 12 numerals is a trap which leads to a different ritual death (for example burning, crushing, or drowning in Frank’s urine) for each wasp that Frank puts into the hole at the center within tubes. Frank believes the death ‘chosen’ by the wasp predicts something about the future. Frank observes many shamanistic rituals of his own invention, and it is soon revealed that Frank was the perpetrator of three deaths within his family – all other children and all before he reached the age of ten. The murders are described in an honest and matter-of-fact way, often with grotesque humour; what may be more disturbing than the details of the violence itself is the depth and intensity with which Frank is portrayed.

The novel works largely as a coming-of-age story as it deals with Frank’s ability to deal with events going on around him as he has grown up. What is also most shocking about the novel is the fact that the reader actually starts to sympathise with and even like Frank despite his monstrous, psychopathic actions. As the novel develops, his brother’s escape from a mental hospital and impending return lead on to a violent ending and a twist that undermines all that Frank believed about himself.

In terms of genre it fits into the Gothic Literature due to its exploration of death, mortality and arguably presentations of the monstrous. It also deals with Banks’ sceptical attitudes towards organised religion. Frank is obsessive about ritual and the form of things; the Wasp Factory and the Sacrifice Poles (read it!) are protective talismans, and divinatory in intent.

The novel is also about power and its abuse. Frank’s father’s deception of his son (one of Banks’ central themes, which appears again in The Crow Road), and the propensity of people for deceiving themselves, are accentuated in the final chapters of the book when new facts force the reader to reassess completely the opinions formed about the narrator.

I was introduced to the novel by my friend Andrew, he also introduced me to James Robert Baker, Irvine Welsh, and Chuck Palahniuk… so I always take notice when he gives me a book. The Wasp factory blew me away on first, second and subsequent reads. it is still my favourite novel by Banks, and in my all time top 10.  The Irish Times called it “a work of unparalleled depravity,” so it was/is a must-read.

In late 2004, Banks was a member of a group of British politicians and media figures who campaigned to have Prime Minister Tony Blair impeached following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In protest he cut up his passport and posted it to 10 Downing Street. Banks is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland. He has spoken out in support of Scottish Independence. Check out his website.

John Schlesinger

John Richard Schlesinger, CBE (16 February 1926 – 25 July 2003) was an English film and stage director and actor; born in London into a middle-class Jewish family.

Schlesinger’s acting career began in the 1950s and consisted of supporting roles in British films such as ‘The Divided Heart’ and ‘Oh… Rosalinda!!’, and British television productions such as BBC Sunday Night Theatre. He began his directorial career in 1956 with the short documentary ‘Sunday in the Park’ about London’s Hyde Park. In 1959 he was credited as exterior or second unit director on 23 episodes of the TV series ‘The Four Just Men’ and four 30-minute episodes of the series of ‘Danger Man’.

By the 1960s, he had virtually given up acting to concentrate on a directing career, and another of his earlier directorial efforts, the British Transport Film’s documentary ‘Terminus’ (1961), gained a Venice Film Festival Gold Lion and a British Academy Award. His first two fiction movies, ‘A Kind of Loving’ (1962) and ‘Billy Liar’ (1963) were set in the North of England. A Kind of Loving won the Golden Bear award at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival in 1962. His third feature film, ‘Darling’ (1965), tartly described the modern urban way of life in London and was one of the first films about “swinging London”. Schlesinger’s next film was the period drama ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ (1967), an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s popular novel. Both films featured Julie Christie as the female lead.

It is Schlesinger’s next film, ‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969), filmed in the United States, for which he will be remembered, it was internationally acclaimed then and to this day. A story of two hustlers living on the fringe in the bad side of New York City, Texas greenhorn Joe Buck (Jon Voight) arrives in New York for the first time. Preening himself as a real ‘hustler’, he finds that he is the one getting ‘hustled’ until he teams up with a down-and-out but resilient outcast named  Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The initial ‘country cousin meets city cousin’ relationship deepens. In their efforts to bilk a hostile world rebuffing them at every turn, this unlikely pair progress from partners in shady business to comrades. Each has found his first real friend. it was Schlesinger’s first movie shot in the U.S., and it won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.

During the 1970s, he made an array of movies about loners, losers, and people outside the clean world. ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ (1971), ‘The Day of the Locust’ (1975),  ‘Marathon Man’ (1976), ‘Yanks’ (1979). Later, after ‘Honky Tonk Freeway’ (1981), he worked on films that attracted mixed responses from the public, and few dollars; ‘The Falcon and the Snowman’ (1985), ‘Pacific Heights’ (1990), the TV play ‘A Question of Attribution’ (1991), ‘The Innocent’ (1993) and ‘The Next Best Thing’ (2000). In Britain, he did better with films like ‘Madame Sousatzka’ (1988) and ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ (1995).

Schlesinger also directed Timon of Athens (1965) for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the musical I am Albert (1972) at London’s Piccadilly Theatre. From 1973 he was an associate director of the Royal National Theatre, where he produced Shaw’s Heartbreak House (1975). He also directed several operas, beginning with Les contes d’Hoffmann (1980) and Der Rosenkavalier (1984), both at Covent Garden.

Schlesinger also directed a notable party political broadcast for the Conversative Party in the UK General Election of 1992 which featured Prime Minister John Major returning to Brixton in South London, where he had spent his teenage years, which highlighted his humble background, atypical for a Conservative politician. Schlesinger admitted to having voted for all three main political parties in the UK at one time or another.

Schlesinger underwent a quadruple heart bypass in 1998, before suffering a stroke in December 2000. He was taken off life support at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on 24 July 2003 by his life partner of over 30 years, photographer Michael Childers. Schlesinger died early the following day at the age of 77.

The Walking Dead – Online Adventure Game

When Rick wakes from a coma, he finds his wife Lori and his partner Shane gone and the police station abandoned. (Sure, former deputy Leon Bassett is still around but he’s a walker.) Where are Shane and Lori? How did Leon end up like that? Get some real answers via the complete adventure game, The Walking Dead: Dead Reckoning. Finally, a chance to take on the role Shane Walsh as you discover… Who’s a threat? Who’s worth saving? Who must be sacrificed for the greater good?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Trailer

Produced by Tim Burton and Jim Lemley, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the Twentieth Century Fox horror-history mashup will usher in a summer of vampires, zombies, and aliens. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens June 22nd and is an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel: he’s also the credited screenwriter with Simon Kinberg. The pic stars Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, and Dominic Cooper in fiction about President Lincoln’s mother killed by a supernatural creature who fuels Abe’s passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers..

Beyond the Black Rainbow – Trailer

Beyond the Black Rainbow, written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons. Cosmatos brings a bold, Kubrickian vision to the screen in stunning detail in this sci-fi fable of a young woman imprisoned in an experimental laboratory and the enigmatic scientist who is her captor. Set in a futuristic 1983, Elena finds herself held against her will in a mysterious facility under the watchful eye of the sinister Dr. Barry Nyle. Pushed to her limits, Elena is left with no choice but to navigate an escape from her labyrinthine prison, in the process revealing its hidden secrets.

Andrew Robinson

Andrew Jordt “Andy” Robinson (born February 14, 1942) is an American film, stage and television actor. Robinson is known to specialize in playing devious and psychotic roles. Originally a stage actor, he works predominantly in supporting roles on television and in low-budget films. He is best known for his role as the serial killer Scorpio in the crime film ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971), the role of Larry Cotton in the horror film ‘Hellraiser’ (1987), and his recurring role as Elim Garak on the science fiction television series ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ (1993–1999). 

Robinson’s first feature film role was in 1971’s Dirty Harry. Don Siegel, the film’s director, and Clint Eastwood picked Robinson for the role after seeing him in a production of Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’. Robinson was cast as the Scorpio Killer, the antagonist of the film. The Scorpio Killer was heavily based on the contemporary, real life Zodiac Killer who was notorious around Northern California and the San Francisco Bay area at the time. Robinson integrated many known aspects of that serial killer’s personality into his acting, such as a disturbed sense of humour and a sadistic inclination to taunt his pursuers. In the film, his character murders several young women, a young boy and a police officer, and takes hostage a school bus full of young children. His portrayal was so convincing that he received death threats after the film’s release. Director Don Siegel noted that he cast Robinson because he had the face of “a choir boy.”

Critical reactions to Robinson’s role were generally positive. Box Office Magazine wrote that, “Andy Robinson is the maniacal Scorpio … a good blending of cunning and savagery.” His role as Scorpio gave him widespread exposure, but Robinson also found himself typecast as “psycho” characters. He has also claimed that the role severely limited his casting options, as film producers were reluctant to cast him as any “good guy” roles. Some of Robinson’s notable “psycho” roles include a demented, but ill-fated military barber in ‘Child’s Play 3’ (1991), and the character Frank Cotton (in the skin of Larry Cotton, Robinson’s actual character) in the horror film ‘Hellraiser’ (1987), in which Robinson had his first lead role in a feature film.

Hellraiser (also known as Clive Barker’s Hellraiser) is a 1987 British horror film based upon the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Critically, the film received mixed to positive reviews. The UK press championed the picture upon its release. Stephen King hailed Barker, and is quoted as saying “I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker.” However, critic Roger Ebert was less than enthusiastic, commenting “This is a movie without wit, style or reason, and the true horror is that actors were made to portray, and technicians to realize, its bankruptcy of imagination. Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker.”