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