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

Deaths

R.I.P Dick Miller

dick miller - after darkDick Miller, prolific screen actor and B-Movie legend, best known for his role as Murray Futterman in the 1984 classic horror film Gremlins, has died. He was 90.

With a career spanning more than 60 years, Miller has made hundreds of on screen appearances, beginning in the 1950’s with legendary director and producer Roger Corman. It was then that he starred as Walter Paisley – a character the actor would reprise throughout his career – in the cult classic “A Bucket of Blood,” before going on to land roles on projects such as The ‘Burbs, Fame and The Terminator.

Miller also boasts a long history of high-profile director partnerships, working with the likes of James Cameron, Ernest Dickerson, Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and, perhaps most notably, Joe Dante, who used Miller in almost every project he helmed.

In one of Dante’s earlier films, Piranha, Miller played Buck Gardner, a small-time real estate agent opening up a new resort on Lost River Lake. The only catch? A large school of genetically altered piranha have accidentally been released into the resort’s nearby rivers. Next up was a police chief role in the 1979 film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School before reprising the Walter Paisley mantle as an occult bookshop owner in Dante’s 1981 horror film The Howling.

Other notable appearances include the 1986 cult favorite Night of the Creeps, where he shared the screen with Tom Atkins as a police ammunition’s officer named Walt – he supplies Atkins with some necessary firepower in the face of an alien worm-zombie invasion – and a pawnshop owner in James Cameron’s 1984 hit The Terminator; the same year he appeared in yet another of Dante’s films, Gremlins.

Most recently, Miller reprised the role of Walter Paisley for a final time as a rabbi in Eben McGarr’s horror film Hanukkah.

Miller is survived by his wife Lainie, daughter Barbara and granddaughter Autumn.

joedanteDante called him “one of his most treasured collaborators,” writing, “I ‘grew up’ (kinda) watching Dick Miller in movies from the 50’s on and was thrilled to have him in my first movie for Roger Corman.”


Nicolas Roeg R.I.P

Nic_RoegI love Nic Roeg movies. Along with Ken Russell he was an artistic touchstone in the British film industry through the 70’s and 80’s, they were provocative, original, broke new ground, caused trouble and most important, were never boring. Nic Roeg died on Sunday aged 90, rest in peace.

From his early years as a clapper boy, Roeg had progressed to world-class cinematographer, working for second unit camera under Freddie Young on David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Roeg’s work on this led to important credits including Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and on John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd (1967).

By the late 60s, after a career in cinematography which would have been quite enough for most mortals, he came to directing remarkably late: Performance (1970) Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Bad Timing (1980). And even after that he continued to make excellent movies, including Eureka (1983), Insignificance (1985), the fantasy of Marilyn Monroe meeting Albert Einstein, Track 29 (1988), the sensually charged Dennis Potter drama with Gary Oldman and Roeg’s partner Theresa Russell, and his excellent Roald Dahl fantasy The Witches (1990) with Anjelica Huston.

After his run of brilliant films in the 70s, the British antipathy to experimentation, and films lacking conventional narrative-based realism, resulted in the comparative neglect of Roeg had no liking for self-publicity, which resulted in some projects falling to other directors. As he remarked, he “refused to join the club”.

What an extraordinary film-maker Nic Roeg was, a man whose imagination and technique could not be confined to conventional genres. He should be remembered for a clutch of masterly films, but perhaps especially for his classic Don’t Look Now, not merely the best British scary movie in history, but one infused with compassion and love.


Burt Reynolds R.I.P

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Burt Reynolds, the mustachioed megastar who first strutted on screen more than half a century ago, died Thursday, according to his agent, Todd Eisner. He was 82.

The Michigan native, whose easy-going charms and handsome looks drew prominent roles in films such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Boogie Nights,” suffered a cardiac arrest, Eisner said. A call for an ambulance came from his estate in Martin County, Florida, 911 records show.

An iconic Hollywood sex symbol in front of the camera, Reynolds also tried his directorial hand behind it, and later earned a reputation for philanthropy after founding the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre in his home state of Florida. His roles over the years ranged and pivoted from Southern heartthrob to tough guy to comedy, notably in his role as Rep. David Dilbeck in the 1996 film “Striptease,” which flopped at the box office but earned him widespread praise for his comedic prowess.

But it was John Boorman’s 1972 thriller “Deliverance,” which cast Reynolds as outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, that is widely credited for launching his early career.
Reynolds called it “by far” his best film. “I thought maybe this film is more important in a lot of ways than we’ve given it credit for,” he said in an interview years later. The movie’s infamous rape scene may have helped the public — especially men — better understand the horrors of sexual attacks, Reynolds said.
“It was the only time I saw men get up, sick, and walk out of a theater,” he added. “I’ve seen women do that (before),” but not men.
He was recently cast in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino-directed “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” scheduled for release next year. Reynolds had not yet started shooting his appearance in the film.
Rest in Peace.

Steve Ditko R.I.P

Artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died at age 90.

The New York Police Department confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was announced. Ditko was found dead in his apartment on June 29 and it is believed he died about two days earlier.

From the 1970s on, he rarely spoke on the record, declining almost every interview request. He sat out the publicity booms that accompanied the Spider-Man films and the Doctor Strange movie.

“We didn’t approach him. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger,” Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson told THR in 2016. “I hope he goes to see the movie, wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work.”

Derrickson, author Neil Gaiman and filmmaker Edgar Wright paid tribute on Twitter upon learning news of Ditko’s death.

Wright tweeted that Ditko was “influential on countless planes of existence” and “his work will never be forgotten.” Gaiman wrote, “I know I’m a different person because he was in the world.”

Rest in peace.


Bill Gold R.I.P

His résumé included ‘Casablanca,’ ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and decades’ worth of Eastwood films. Bill Gold, who revolutionized the art of the movie poster over a seven-decade career that began with Casablanca and included A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist and dozens of Clint Eastwood films, has died. He was 97.

Gold died at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, on Sunday, according to family spokeswomen Christine Gillow.

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The Brooklyn native began at Warner Bros. in the early 1940s and had a hand in more than 2,000 posters during his iconic career, working on films for everyone from Alfred Hitchcock (1954’s Dial M for Murder), Elia Kazan (1955’s East of Eden) and Federico Fellini (1963’s 8 1/2) to Sam Peckinpah (1969’s The Wild Bunch), Robert Altman (1971’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller) and Martin Scorsese (1990’s GoodFellas).

Gold, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Hollywood Reporter during its 1994 Key Art Awards ceremony, had a way of setting the mood for a movie using a less-is-more philosophy.

“We try not to tell the whole story,” he told CBS News in March. “We try to tell a minimum amount of a story, because anything more than that is confusing.”

Gold’s fruitful relationship with Eastwood began with Dirty Harry (1971), and he gave the actor a gun or a gritty countenance on posters for such films The Enforcer (1976), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), The Gauntlet (1977), Pale Rider (1985) and Unforgiven (1992).

Gold retired after working on the Eastwood-directed Mystic River (2003) but re-emerged to do the poster for the filmmaker’s J. Edgar (2011).

“With Bill, I knew he would bring great ideas, and the poster he created would be one less thing we had to think about,” Eastwood writes in the introduction to the 2010 book Bill Gold PosterWorks. “He respected the film, he respected the story, and he always respected what we were trying to accomplish.

“Four of the films he worked on won best picture Oscars, including Unforgiven. The first image you have of many of your favorite films is probably a Bill Gold creation.”

Movie critic Leonard Maltin once noted that each of Gold’s posters is “as individual as the movies they are promoting. I can’t discern a Bill Gold style, which is a compliment, because rather than trying to shoehorn a disparate array of movies into one way of thinking visually, he adapted himself to such a wide variety.”

Gold “started drawing at age 8 and never stopped,” he said in a 2016 interview. After graduating from Pratt Institute in New York City, he approached the art director of the poster department at Warner Bros.’ offices in New York.

“He sent me away on a trial to design posters for four earlier films: Escape Me Never and [The Adventures of] Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, The Man I Love with Ida Lupino and Bette Davis’ Winter Meeting,” he recalled.

Gold passed the test and was hired at age 21, and his first assignment was Casablanca (1942).

As he told CBS News, Gold laid out the poster for Casablanca and placed a gun in Humphrey Bogart’s hand at the last minute: “Somebody suggested, ‘This is Bogart. Let’s put a gun in his hand. That’s the way he acts, the way he exaggerates his action. We don’t want just a head of him. It’s too boring!’ ”

The gun was taken from another Bogie film, High Sierra (1941). Gold also was assigned work on Warners’ Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) around this time.

After enlisting and serving three years during World War II, when he made training films for the U.S. Army Air Force, Gold returned to Warner Bros. and in the late 1950s moved west to work on the studios’ Burbank lot. He started his own company in the early 1960s back in New York.

Gold’s poster for William Friedkin’sThe Exorcist (1973) — showing the priest played by Max von Sydow under a shaft of light outside the Georgetown home of the possessed young girl (Linda Blair) — was created after he was told not to “show anything that had any hint of religious connotation.”

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Gold also worked on posters for The Searchers (1956), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Funny Girl (1968), My Fair Lady (1968), Bullitt (1968), Woodstock (1970), Klute (1971), Deliverance (1972), The Sting (1973), Blazing Saddles (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), On Golden Pond (1981), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (1988).

In 2011, producer Sid Ganis, who headed advertising at Warner Bros. during the 1970s, told THR that Gold was “the maestro. He was the one directing his art directors and directing his copy writers on what to do, which was a great thing. He was also the one who communicated with the studio. He was the guy in charge of the symphony.”

Survivors include his wife, Susan, son Bob, daughter in-law Joanne, daughter Marcy, grandson Spencer, granddaughter Dylann and her fiancé Justin, great nephew Jaaron and “man’s best friend” Willoughby.


Tobe Hooper R.I.P

tobe-hooperSo soon after the passing of George Romero, it’s sad to report that Tobe Hooper, the horror director best known for helming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, died Saturday in Sherman Oaks, Calif., according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. He was 74. The circumstances of his death were not known.

The influential 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre became a seminal horror title for its realistic approach and deranged vision. Shot for less than $300,000, it tells the story of a group of unfortunate friends who encounter a group of cannibals on their way to visit an old homestead. Though it was banned in several countries for violence, it was one of the most profitable independent films of the 1970s in the U.S. The character of Leatherface was loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein.

Hooper also directed the 1986 sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which took a more comedic approach, as part of his Cannon Films deal.

The 1982 Poltergeist, written and produced by Steven Spielberg, also became a classic of the genre. The story of a family coping with a house haunted by unruly ghosts starred JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson. The film was a box office success for MGM and became the eighth-highest grossing film of the year.

After Poltergeist, Hooper directed two movies for Cannon Films, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars, a remake of the 1953 alien movie.

His 1979 CBS miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel Salem’s Lot is considered by many fans to be a high-water mark in televisual horror. Combining the intrigue of a nighttime soap opera with the gothic atmosphere of a classic horror film, the two-part program was eventually reedited and released theatrically throughout Europe.

He continued working in television and film throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, but none of the films had the impact of his early works.  His other more recent works included Toolbox Murders, Crocodile, and Mortuary.

Among his other works was the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” In 2011 he co-authored a post-modern horror novel titled “Midnight Movie” in which he himself appeared as the main character.

 

Hooper continued to work on various TV series and films up until 2013, when his last film, Djinn, set in the United Arab Emirates and produced by Image Nation, was released. He is survived by two sons.


George Romero R.I.P

RomeroLegendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead and subsequent franchise, has died at 77.

Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favourite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.

Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, which went to inspire future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. Living Dead spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead and 2009’s George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.
In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of The Walking Dead, but had no interest.

“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”

Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.
“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The LA Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them…. [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification. I just think it’s a nice reminder that they’re us. They walked out of one life and into this.”

A sad day for my fellow horror fans, Romero kick-started so much of what we have come to love over the last 50 years. Rest in Peace.