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

Posts tagged “Piranha

John Sayles

John Thomas Sayles (born September 28, 1950) is an American independent film director, screenwriter and author. Sayles was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Mary, a teacher, and Donald John Sayles, a school administrator.

Like Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, among others, Sayles began his film career working with Roger Corman, scripting Piranha. In 1979, Sayles funded his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7, with money he had in the bank from writing scripts for Roger Corman. He set the film in a large house so that he did not have to travel to or get permits for different locations, set it over a three-day weekend to limit costume changes, and wrote about people his age so that he could have his friends act in it. The film received near-unanimous critical acclaim, and in November 1997, the National Film Preservation Board announced that Return of the Secaucus 7 would be one of the 25 films selected that year for preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Sayles wrote, Alligator and Battle Beyond the Stars (both 1980), before writing The Howling (1981) for Joe Dante. In 1983, after writing/directing the films Lianna and Baby It’s You, Sayles received a MacArthur Fellowship. He used the money to partially fund the fantasy The Brother from Another Planet, a film about a black, three-toed slave who escapes from another planet and finds himself at home among the people of Harlem.

Sayles wrote the scripts for The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) and Wild Thing (1987), before directing the excellent Matewan (1987) and Eight Men Out (1988). In 1989, he created and wrote the pilot episode for the short-lived television show Shannon’s Deal. Sayles received a 1990 Edgar Award for his teleplay for the pilot. The show ran for only 16 episodes before being cancelled in 1991.

Sayles has funded most of his films by writing genre scripts such as Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and The Challenge, having collaborated with Joe Dante on Piranha and The Howling, Sayles acted in Dante’s underrated 1993 movie Matinee. In deciding whether to take a job, Sayles reports that he mostly is interested in whether there is the germ of an idea for a movie which he would want to watch. Sayles gets the rest of his funding by working as a script doctor; he apparently did rewrites for Apollo 13, and Mimic. 

One such genre script, called Night Skies, inspired what would eventually become the highly successful film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That film’s director, Steven Spielberg, commissioned Sayles to write a script for Jurassic Park IV. 

He has directed the dramas, City of Hope (1991), Passion Fish (1992), The Secret of the Roan Inish (1994), Lone Star (1996), Men with Guns (1997), Limbo (1999), Sunshine State (2002), Casa de los Babys (2003), political comedy Silver City (2004) and musical Honeydripper (2007). Sayles 17th and latest feature film, was the historical war drama Amigo. 

In February 2009, Sayles was reported to be writing an upcoming HBO series based on the early life of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The drama, tentatively titled Scar Tissue, centers on Kiedis’s early years living in West Hollywood with his father. At that time, Kiedis’s father, known as Spider, sold drugs (according to legend, his clients included The Who and Led Zeppelin) and mingled with rock stars on the Sunset Strip, all while aspiring to get into showbiz.

His novel A Moment in the Sun, set during the same period as Amigo, in the Philippines, Cuba, and the US, was released in 2011 by McSweeney’s. He should belt out a few more cheesy-pulp-scripts, we could do with them about now.


Roger Corman – Part 2

The late 1960s saw Corman and his films give a voice to the counter-culture of the time. In 1966, Corman made the first biker movie with The Wild Angels. It starred Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, and opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival. In 1967, The Trip, written by and starring Jack Nicholson, began the psychedelic film craze of the late 1960’s and was the American entry at Cannes that year. Joan Didion said she went to see The Wild Angels because, “there on the screen was some news I was not getting from the New York Times. I began to think I was seeing ideograms of the future.”

In 1970, Corman founded New World Pictures which became a small independently owned production/distribution studio, making many cult films such as Women in Cages (1971), Death Race 2000 (1975), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Children of the Corn (1983), and the Joe Dante film Piranha (1978). Corman’s distribution side of New World brought many foreign films to mass audiences in the United States for the first time, including the works of Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. In a ten-year period, New World Pictures won more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film than all other studios combined. Corman eventually sold New World to an investment group in 1983, and later formed Concorde Pictures and later New Horizons.

Corman’s penultimate film as director was 1971’s Von Richthofen and Brown (he had always wanted to make an aviation movie, being a pilot himself). He then returned to directing once more with 1990’s Frankenstein Unbound. In total, Roger Corman has produced over 300 movies and directed more than 50.

In 2009, Corman produced and directed alongside with director Joe Dante the web series “Splatter” for Netflix. The protagonist of the film is portrayed by Corey Feldman, and the story talks of the haunting tale of rock-and-roll legend Johnny Splatter. He also started contributing trailer commentaries to Dante’s web series, Trailers From Hell.

Corman most recently produced the 2010 films Dinoshark and Dinocroc vs. Supergator for the Syfy cable television channel. Dinoshark premiered on March 13, 2010. Sharktopus, his latest Syfy production, had premiered in September 2010.

A number of noted film directors worked with Corman, usually early in their careers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne and Timur Bekmambetov. Many have said that Corman’s influence taught them some of the ins-and-outs of filmmaking. In the extras for the DVD of  The Terminator, director James Cameron refers to his work for Corman as, “I trained at the Roger Corman Film School.” Cameron, Coppola, Demme, Hanson, Howard and Scorsese have all gone on to win Academy Awards. Ron Howard was reportedly told by Corman, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.”

Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicolson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha (1972) and went on to star in Death Race 2000, later noted: “It’s almost as though you can’t have a career in this business without having passed through Roger’s hands for at least a moment.”

In 1964, Corman was the youngest producer/director to be given a retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise, as well as retrospectives at the British Film Institute and the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1998, he won the first Producer’s Award ever given by the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2006, Corman received the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America. Also in 2006, his film Fall of the House of Usher was among the twenty-five movies selected for the National Film Registry, a compilation of significant films being preserved by the Library of Congress.

In 2010, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Corman with an Academy Honorary Award at the inaugural Governors Awards, on November 14, 2009.


Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL is a tantalizing and star-studded tribute to ROGER CORMAN, Hollywood’s most prolific writer-director producer, and seminal influencing force in modern moviemaking over the last 60 years.  Featuring interviews with Hollywood icons and cinematic luminaries, some who launched their careers within Corman’s unforgettable world of filmmaking, including PAUL W.S. ANDERSON, PETER BOGDANOVICH, ROBERT DE NIRO, PETER FONDA, PAM GRIER, RON HOWARD, JACK NICHOLSON , ELI ROTH, MARTIN SCORSESE, WILLIAM SHATNER, along with many others,  this documentary chronicles how Corman created his cult film empire, one low-budget success at a time, capitalizing on undiscovered talent, and pushing the boundaries of independent filmmaking.

Director ALEX STAPLETON weaves archival footage following Roger’s illustrious career:  From his early days of genre-defining classics including Fast and Furious, the original Little Shop of Horrors, The Crybaby Killer, The Intruder, House of Usher, and The Wild Angels (which at that point in 1966 was his 100th film) — to present day video of him and his wife Julie on location, still at work as they continue to produce and distribute films outside the studio system: fast, cheap and out-of-this-world!

Sounds and looks awesome, check out the trailer HERE.


Joe Dante

Joseph “Joe” Dante, Jr. (born November 28, 1946) is an American film director and producer of films generally with humorous and science fiction content. His films are well known for their movie in-jokes and their special visual effects.

Dante began his movie career working for Roger Corman, similar to Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, however unlike those directors, Dante has always maintained hi love of the ‘B’ movie. He worked as an editor on films such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’ before codirecting ‘Hollywood Boulevard’ with Allan Arkush.

His films include ‘Piranha’ (1978) and ‘The Howling’ (1981), both from scripts by John Sayles. Though the film has been noted for its semi-humorous screenplay, it began life as a more straight forward 1977 novel by Gary Brandner. After drafts by Jack Conrad (the original director who left following difficulties with the studio) and Terence H. Winkless proved unsatisfactory, director Joe Dante hired John Sayles to completely rewrite the script. Sayles rewrote the script with the same self-aware, satirical tone that he gave Piranha, and his finished draft bears only a vague resemblance to Brandner’s book.

After the release of The Howling, he was noticed by Steven Spielberg for whom he directed the third segment of ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’ (1983), wherein a woman is ‘adopted’ by an omnipotent child. His first really big hit, Gremlins, which was also produced by Steven Spielberg, was released in 1984. ‘Gremlins’ (1984), his first major hit. The first Gremlins film is about a young man who receives a strange creature—called a Mogwai—as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. Gremlins was a huge commercial success and received positive reviews from critics. However, the film was also heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences. In response to this, and to similar complaints about other films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), Steven Spielberg suggested that the MPAA reform its rating system, which it did within two months of the film’s release.

He would work with Spielberg again on Innerspace and a Gremlins sequel, ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch’, released in 1990. In contrast to the lighter sequel, the original Gremlins opts for more black comedy, which is balanced against a Christmas-time setting. Both films were the center of large merchandising campaigns.

Films of varying success followed, ‘Explorers’ (1985), ‘Innerspace’ (1987), ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ (1987); ‘The ‘Burbs’ (1989), ‘Matinee’ (1993), ‘Runaway Daughters’ (1994), ‘The Second Civil War’ (1997), ‘Small Soldiers’ (1998), ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action’ (2003), and ‘Homecoming’ (2005). In 1995–1996, Dante worked on ‘The Phantom’, and when he was removed from the film, he chose screen credit (as executive producer) rather than pay. He was creative consultant on ‘Eerie, Indiana’ (1991–1992) and directed five episodes. He played himself in the series finale.

In 2007, Dante launched the web series, Trailers From Hell, which provides commentary by directors, producers and screenwriters on trailers for classic and cult movies. His last major release was the excellent, ‘The Hole’ (2009) which did quite well in the UK but was otherwise generally overlooked.