Javier Fuentes-León on UNDERTOW: Fantasy Film Podcast

Torn Between Two Worlds: Ghost lover Manolo Cardona (center of image) and pregnant wife Tatiana Astengo (far right) put the pressure on Cristian Mercado in UNDERTOW.
Torn Between Two Worlds: Ghost lover Manolo Cardona (center of image) and pregnant wife Tatiana Astengo (far right) put the pressure on Cristian Mercado in UNDERTOW.

The triangles just keep getting more complicated, don’t they? In the new Peruvian film, UNDERTOW, fisherman Miguel (Cristian Mercado) is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his child by his wife Mariel (Tatiana Astengo), while at the same time carrying on an affair with his male lover, the artist Santiago (Manolo Cardona). But when Santiago dies in a swimming accident and returns as a ghost who can only be freed when Miguel formally sets him loose, issues of love, identity, and one’s perception within a closely knit community rise to the surface. (Fitting, I guess, for a nautical community.)
Director Javier Fuentes-León is making his feature film debut here, and is employing a healthy dose of magical realism to tell his tale, giving the film as a whole a spare but appealing naturalism and imbuing the love-making sequences with a compelling sensuality. It’s a distinctive and affecting addition to fantasy film.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Javier.

What's Coming from Anchor Bay – New York Comic Con Special Podcast

Manga's REDLINE.
Manga's REDLINE.

We wrap up our sadly-too-brief coverage of New York Comic with a quick duck into the floor booth of Anchor Bay Entertain- ment. There, after gorging ourselves on copious free buttons and fliers (we’re all about the gimmes), we sat down with the company’s Kevin Carney and Erin Carter to find out what’s in store via their Manga anime division and live-action home video arm. Find out more about REDLINE, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and the homevid release of AMC’s eagerly awaited THE WALKING DEAD by clicking on the player.

Gaspar Noé on ENTER THE VOID: Fantasy Podcast Interview

I Sing the Afterlife Electric: A trippy moment from ENTER THE VOID.
I Sing the Afterlife Electric: A trippy moment from ENTER THE VOID.

Kinda sorry I’m going to see LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS in IMAX 3D this weekend, and not Gaspar Noé’s new film, ENTER THE VOID. This is the movie that could benefit from the full, immersive, 3D treatment: a swirling, gliding, electric voyage into life and death, with sex, drugs, and a dynamically surreal Tokyo thrown in for good measure.
That all this is conveyed through the viewpoint of a mere blip on the universe’s map — a low-level drug dealer, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), who comes a-cropper of a botched drug bust and ends up on the wrong end of a cop’s gun — lends what follows no little ironic impact. As he lays bleeding on a lavatory floor, the camera takes the vantage point of Oscar’s soul as it rises, experiencing the transition to the next world in a manner that closely resembles The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In a sinuous, seamless camera track, we see Oscar’s life — particularly the bond he has with sister (Paz de la Huerta) — played out as grand, psychedelic pageant. The experience is mesmerizing and surprisingly poignant — certainly one of the most intense and seductive experiences I’ve had this year.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Gaspar Noé.

Josh Brolin discusses Jonah Hex with Jay Leno

On THE TONIGHT SHOW Monday, Josh Brolin read from his journal, written while working on JONAH HEX with John Malkovich and Megan Fox. The plot has the U.S. government hiring the titular bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) to confront a terrorist (John Malkovich) who is threatening to a Hellish apocalypse. Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Aidan Quinn, and David Patrick Kelly co-star for director Jimmy Hayward, working from a script by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, based on a story developed with William Farmer, inspired by the DC comic book character created by John Albano and Tony Dezuniga. Warner Brothers releases the film this Friday, June 18.


Sir Christopher Lee on The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Christopher Lee as Saruman the White in LORD OF THE RINGS
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White in LORD OF THE RINGS

In Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND  Christopher Lee has a brief one line “cameo” as the voice of  the dragon-like Jabberwock, so it was interesting to note that Lee himself  has recently suggested  he might play the voice of Smaug, the dragon,  in the upcoming two-film adaptation of  THE HOBBIT,  being produced by Peter Jackson in New Zealand.  Unfortunately, with the recent departure of  director Guillermo Del Toro it now appears a start date for the filming of  THE HOBBIT will  be delayed for some considerable time, so as the  88-year old  Lee noted in a previous interview at CFQ about HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, if they want to use his voice in THE HOBBIT, “they better hurry up.”
I recently re-viewed the three extended LORD OF THE RINGS movies on Hi-Def  which has inspired me to post Christopher Lee’s extensive comments about his work on the THE LORD OF THE RINGS  trilogy that first appeared in a drastically edited version in the December, 2003 issue of CFQ,  which did not even include Mr. Lee’s reaction to the unpleasant shock he received in  late 2003 when he first discovered that Saruman’s important death scene was being removed from the theatrical version of  THE  RETURN OF THE KING.  Ironically, Lee was the most vocal cast member when the first two movies  failed to win the best picture Academy Award, a mistake that was finally corrected when RETURN OF THE KING won a record 11 Oscars in 2004. Unfortunately, Christopher Lee was no longer a part of the third movie (although his footage was eventually restored in the extended DVD version).

LAWRENCE FRENCH: What do you think accounts for the tremendous interest in fantasy films these days?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: I think it’s because we all love to dream. We don’t live in a particularly attractive world. I don’t really remember, except as a small boy, anything but a pretty grim world. I’m old enough to have seen Hitler in the flesh. I’m old enough to have been in Munich in 1934, on the night of the long knives, when Hitler butchered so many of his own people. I’m old enough to remember the Second World War and all the other things. So I’m not being a Cassandra, who prophesied nothing but evil and misery; I’m simply facing reality. So, yes, let us not lose faith, let us be optimistic, let us believe in the good things, but we still have to face the world as it is.  When you live in a world like that, what do you want? You want to escape, to get out of this world from time to time, into another world, a magical world, an enchanted world, where things happen we dream about, a world of fairy stories and wizards. It is like the conjurer, the enchanter, or magician who says, “Look, nothing up my sleeve. When I do this, you will come into my enchanted world!”  Dreaming, escaping, that is what we’re talking about. I firmly believe that is why this kind of film is so universally popular, and always will be, because people like to get into another world.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You first read THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING when it came out in 1954?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, and I was immensely impressed with what I read. I still think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is the greatest literary achievement in my lifetime. Like so many other people, I couldn’t wait for the second, and then the third book. Nothing like it had ever been written. Other authors like T. H. White and Lewis Carroll invented imaginary worlds, but Tolkien not only invented an imaginary world, he invented imaginary races, which you can easily believe in. And he created very long appendices with all the family trees and the names of the previous Kings and so-forth. It’s quite incredible, really, the scholarship and imagination that went into the writing of it. And what is even more remarkable is that Tolkien, who was a professor of philology, invented new languages. The Elf languages are two: Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is based on Finnish, and Sindarin is basically Welsh. Most of the Elves speak Sindarin. And if you want, you can learn to read it, to write it and to speak it, just like English or any other language. I always thought the books would make a wonderful film, but I also felt it would probably never happen, because of the enormous amount it would cost to make. But if they ever were made, I dreamed that I would be in them. It just goes to show you, that sometimes dreams do come true.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You actually met J. R. R. Tolkien, didn’t you?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, quite by chance, really. I met him with a group of other people in a pub in Oxford he used to go to, The Eagle and Child. I was very much in awe of him, as you can imagine, so I just said, “how do you do?” I also met T. H. White who wrote The Once and Future King.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Having read the book so many times, you must have had a thorough understanding of Saruman’s history and his place in the story.
Gandalf and Saruman battle
Gandalf and Saruman battle

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, from reading the books I naturally knew Saruman and all of the other characters intimately. And the way he is presented in the scripts is the way he is presented in the books. Saruman is one of the great Wizards. When they first came to Middle-earth there were five Wizards. Two of them, the Blue Wizards, are not mentioned. The other three are Saruman the white, who is the greatest of them all. Then, there is Gandalf the grey and Radagast the brown. We don’t see Radagast in the book or in the movie. So basically we have two wizards, Gandalf and Saruman. They have human bodies, but they are immortal. They were sent to Middle-earth by the Valar, who are the creators and guardians of the world. Saruman is number one, the most powerful and the most brilliant of them all. And at the very beginning, Saruman was a good Wizard. He was given the land for his tower at Isengard, and he is the head of the order of Wizards, the Istari, as they are called. He also has one of the seven great seeing stones, a Palantír. He and Gandalf have been friends for hundreds of years. But, as Gandalf first discovers in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, he has been corrupted by the dark power of Sauron. Saruman’s ambition causes him to think he can take over as the Lord of the Rings, because at some stage, he feels that he is more powerful than Sauron. But it’s the biggest mistake he makes in his life, which is many thousands of years. So it’s a question of a great Wizard, one of superior intellect and brilliance, being tempted until the temptation finally overcomes him. He of course pretends to be a servant of Sauron, but Sauron sees through this. It’s a very complex character, superbly written by Tolkein, although a lot of people don’t realize whom the actual Lord of the Rings is. Who do you think it is?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, absolutely, but a lot of people don’t realize that. It is Sauron, because there were many rings made, and as the poem says, “One ring to rule them all… and in the darkness bind them”. Sauron forged the one ring and it’s when Sauron discovers that Frodo now possesses the ring that he attempts to recover it. Saruman knows this and he wants the ring for himself.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: What do you think accounts for Saruman turning to the dark side and joining Sauron in a union of the two towers?
Saruman is corrupted by the power of Sauron
Saruman is corrupted by the power of Sauron

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Tolkein never explains that. Possibly it is the Palantír and the all-seeing eye of Sauron. Saruman thinks, “if Sauron can do this, so can I” although I don’t’ think Saruman fully realizes that Sauron is always one step ahead of him. But when we first see Saruman, you think he is a very agreeable character. He meets Gandalf in the garden at Isengard with a smile and when they start talking about the ring, he says, “Are you sure about all this—the ring of power has been found?” There is absolutely no indication at all of Saruman’s true character to the audience. He only reveals it in his chamber at Orthanc, when he says, “why don’t we join Sauron” and Gandalf is so horrified. Up until then, Gandalf has not even remotely thought about Saruman going over to the dark side. He still regards him as his superior and as the head of the order. That scene was also my first day on the picture and it subsequently had to be done over, because when we did it the first time there were some Orcs in the garden. Gandalf is surprised by this and he says, “Orcs in Isengard?” So that was re-shot to show it without the Orcs.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Before doing THE LORD OF THE RINGS you played another Wizard in a television series, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: That’s right, and the only reason I did that was to show anyone who was watching that I could play a Wizard and that I would be ideal casting for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: And you sent a photo of yourself as the Wizard from ROBIN HOOD to Peter Jackson?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I sent him a picture of myself all made-up in the Wizard’s role, but it was more in the nature of a joke, really. “This is what I look like as a Wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.” It wasn’t me putting myself forward at all, because I think Peter had already made up his mind. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway, that he never thought of anybody else for Saruman, except for me, so it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
LAWRENCE FRENCH:  Had you met Peter Jackson before that?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I first met Peter when I was the President of the Jury at the Avoriaz Film Festival in 1993. Peter Jackson’s movie, BRAINDEAD was in the competition, and I thought it was very funny, very humorous, very close to the Monty Python kind of comedy. As I was head of the jury, we decided to award BRAINDEAD the grand prize. Since then, I think his career has gone through a constant artistic growth. He started with these bizarre horror-splatter movies, and then he made HEAVENLY CREATURES, which was beautifully done. He’s a great director, who improves himself each time he makes a movie.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So Peter Jackson eventually contacted you about appearing in THE LORD OF THE RINGS?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, he asked me if I would do a reading. Some people would have said no, but I certainly didn’t. I met with Peter here in London, in the back room of an old Church. He was there with a casting director and Fran Walsh, his partner, who is also one of the screenwriters on the movies. They asked me to read a scene in front of a video camera, and I read a scene between Gandalf and Frodo. It was one of the first scenes in the book. I think he was just asking me to read something from the book to give him a general idea, and my passion and love for the work was quite obvious to him. Of course I would have loved to play Gandalf, but I don’t think he ever had me in mind for Gandalf, because but that time I was too old.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You must have enjoyed working with Peter Jackson, since he knew the books so well and he wanted it to be as faithful as possible to what Tolkien wrote.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, he certainly shares my passion, as indeed we all did. The whole cast and the whole crew had such a dedication to this work, I’ve never experienced anything like it. And Peter knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. I’ve very seldom met a director who was so absolutely convinced about what should, or should not appear on the screen. He always seemed to know exactly what he wanted and he wasn’t going to let a shot go until he got it exactly as he wanted. Sometimes this meant a lot of takes. But it could be the pace of the scene, it could be the inflection of the dialogue, it could be many things. Peter’s intuition is extraordinary, in terms of how to deliver dialogue and how to play the scene. When he finally got the shot and said, “right, let’s print it,” you knew that was as good as it was ever going to be, which is very encouraging. A good director is someone who cares about what the end result is going to be, and Peter Jackson is certainly a director who cares. So what was on the printed page is what I did. And if Peter Jackson wanted to change any of it, I did so. If he wanted a different interpretation or a different meaning or a certain emphasis given to a line, or a phrase, or even a word, I did it. To me, he always seemed to be right.
ChristopherLlee and Brad Douriff
ChristopherLlee and Brad Douriff

LAWRENCE FRENCH: In THE TWO TOWERS we are introduced to your new accomplice, Grima Wormtongue, played by Brad Dourif.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, Brad Dourif is a brilliant actor. He plays my right hand man, you might say, who is spying for me, while advising King Théoden of Rohan. He gives a wonderful performance, as he did in films like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and MISSISSIPPI BURNING. He’s a marvelous person to work with and tremendously enthusiastic about everything he does.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: In THE TWO TOWERS although you don’t have as many scenes, you are a bit like Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN, since all the other characters are constantly talking about you and what you are planning to do.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, Saruman does hover over everything like a kind of menacing dark cloud. Everyone talks about Saruman’s armies and Saruman’s forces. They talk about him all the time, so although there isn’t as much of me as there was in the first film, where you had to establish the character, the shadow of Saruman still looms large over everything that happens. So even though he is something of an invisible presence, when you do see Saruman, he is immensely powerful and he still goes through all the emotions that are in the book: the feeling of power, the actual power, the hypnotic effect of his voice and what he says and does. THE TWO TOWERS is really a kind of confirmation of Saruman’s downfall, which is achieved partly by his losing the power after which he lusts so much. Also, several of my scenes that were cut out of THE TWO TOWERS are now restored in the extended DVD. You now see me meeting with the leader of the Wild Men and Grimma telling me about yet another ring, the ring of Barahir that is worn by Aragorn. Barahir was one of the great lords of the north in the first age. He had this ring that was handed down over thousands of years and eventually it came into the possession of Isildur.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It must have been exciting to work with Ian McKellan on the three movies.  He said he was really thrilled to be working with you.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Ah, Ian is such a nice man. He always said very nice things about me and I’m happy to return the compliment. Not only is he a very distinguished and eminent actor, with a wonderful record—mainly in the theater—but also to a certain extent in film. He is a major actor and if you find yourself, as I did, playing scenes with him and he’s already had some weeks to get into his part while I’m doing my first day, it can be difficult, to put it mildly. My introduction to the picture was the scene in the garden at Isengard, where I come down the stairs and meet Gandalf. I was up until three in the morning that day, working with Ian McKellen. But Ian was immensely supportive and very encouraging. That doesn’t happen very often these days, where you’re working with a major actor, and they help you and guide you along. But that’s exactly what Ian did with me at the beginning of the film.  I was so glad that most of my scenes were with Ian, especially after I got quite badly injured, when a door slammed on two of my fingers.  My hand was all bandaged and bloody, so I had to hide it and if you look very carefully, you can see that in the film. It was really very difficult, because I was in extreme pain, but Ian was enormously helpful, very encouraging. He’s a tremendous person to work with and you don’t find that very often these days. People are so concerned about what they consider to be rivalry, or confrontation.  They only think about themselves, and they don’t give a damn about the other people who they are working with. But the word is collaboration, not confrontation, and Ian McKellen is a shining example of that.  So many people think another actor might be some sort of threat to them, in terms of performance. There are some big stars that won’t have anybody else in the film with them, because they are so unsure of themselves and you can see that in their films.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Ian McKellan said you startled him in one scene, where you sneaked up behind him and snarled at him, as if you were playing Dracula.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, not at all. That’s quite a good story, but I didn’t sneak up behind him. What he said was to be within three feet of a Lee snarl is rather unsettling.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: So you didn’t try to scare him by playing Dracula?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, not at any time. That part was last played by me over 30 years ago! I have no connection with it whatsoever. Nor do I wish to have.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Actually, I thought it would have been marvelous if Francis Ford Coppola had used you to play Dracula at the beginning of his movie version. You could have played the Count in Transylvania, exactly the way Stoker described him, as an old man with a mustache. Then, when Dracula arrives in London and starts drinking blood, he would grow younger and be transformed into Gary Oldman!
Christopher Lee looking as Bram Stoker described Dracula
Christopher Lee looking as Bram Stoker described Dracula

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, there’s no point in going over the past. These things either happen or they don’t and it’s too late now. I did see Coppola’s version, and while he’s done some wonderful films, his DRACULA was not the Stoker novel. Nobody has ever made a movie about Dracula, from the book, exactly as Stoker wrote it. They’ve come close at times, but it’s never been done. The nearest I ever got, was when I did COUNT DRACULA in Spain, with Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski. I had a mustache and I even managed to say some of Stoker’s lines, but it was a mess, for production reasons. In Coppola’s movie, Gary Oldman did not have a mustache, and he was wearing what looked to me like a red dress! He also had a hairstyle that I thought was absurd. It certainly wasn’t how Stoker described the character. In the book, Stoker describes Dracula as wearing black from head to toe, without a single speck of color about him. But as far as I’m concerned, that character is very much in the past for me, and I’m really not all that interested in talking about the past, only the present and the future.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You were widely quoted as saying you just wanted to still be around in 2003 to be able to see the final part of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy…
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, that’s quite true.
LAWRENCE FRENCH:  …Which is why it was obviously upsetting for you when you found out that Peter Jackson had cut your final death scene from THE RETURN OF THE KING.  Production designer Grant Major told me that the scene was originally supposed to appear at the end of THE TWO TOWERS and after it wasn’t used, Peter Jackson put it at the beginning of THE RETURN OF THE KING, then decided to cut it out because he thought it slowed down the opening of the picture:

GRANT MAJOR: Producer Barrie Osborne and I came up with the idea for Saruman’s death scene. As you know, Christopher Lee is very well known for his parts in the various Dracula films, and of course, Dracula traditionally gets done in by driving a stake through the heart. So Barrie and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to quote that same sort of death for Saruman?” The death of Saruman was written in the script to happen at Isengard, where Grimma Wormtongue actually stabs him in the back and he falls off the top of Orthanc tower and goes all the way down to his death, landing on this treadmill structure of his own devising which has these large spikes sticking out of it. So Saruman is impaled on this huge spike. That was originally going to happen at the end of THE TWO TOWERS, as sort of a finale, but it didn’t appear, so now I suspect it’s going to be used in THE RETURN OF THE KING.

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I was really outraged when Barrie Osborne called to tell me I wasn’t going to be in the third film.  He told me they were worried about keeping my scene in the third film because everybody would think it was a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS, after you see me and Grimma on the balcony of Orthanc looking horrified as everything around us is being flooded. They felt if they included it in the opening of THE RETURN OF THE KING it would seem like a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS.  I thought that was rather strange, because it is a continuation of THE TWO TOWERS and it’s a crucial part of the story. You can’t have Saruman looking frantic on a balcony while everything in Isengard is being destroyed and then never see him again! The audience needed and indeed, they demanded to know what happened to Saruman!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: The restored scene in the extended DVD is quite marvelous, because after you vainly attempt to persuade King Théoden to make peace, you become enraged, shouting at him, “What is the house of Rohan but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor with the dogs,” which is dialogue taken straight out of the book.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, and even in defeat Saruman can still exert his power and that makes them uneasy. You see, I had to make the audience believe that Saruman is still a very considerable hypnotist, particularly with his voice. There’s a chapter in The Two Towers called The Voice of Saruman and Tolkien describes Saruman’s voice as “low and melodious—its very sound an enchantment.” Saruman is able to hypnotize people with his voice and at first he succeeds. People fall under his spell, but not King Théoden and not Gandalf. They now see him for what he is. He then says to Gandalf, “Oh, you want information do you. I can give you some. You are all going to die!” That is, of course vicious and sarcastic. Later, in the book, Gandalf finally laughs at Saruman, and then the other side of his character is revealed: the hatred and the fury when something doesn’t go the way he wants it too. So part of it is savage and harsh, part of it is sarcasm and contempt and part of it is “I know things you don’t, things you have failed to see.”
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Since you knew so much about the Tolkien books, did you have any kind of capacity on the film as an unofficial advisor?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: No, I don’t recall that. But members of the cast and crew where always trying to catch me out. They’d ask me questions like, “what was the name of Frodo’s father,” or “what was the name of this or that sword.” Things like that. Well, they never caught me out—not once! They tried, but they never did.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You had to go back several times to shoot additional scenes for all three movies?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I went back to New Zealand four times to shoot pick-up shots. I think everybody else went back, as well, with the possible exception of Cate Blanchett and Ian Holm. But everybody else went back at one time or another, because they can’t take any chances. They can’t take risks. Once they start editing the picture, if they feel an extra scene is needed, or additional bits of dialogue or action are needed, then they have to call us back. It’s in our contract.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: It must have been hard on you having to fly back to New Zealand so many times.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, that’s the downside of shooting there. The tremendous length of the journey, even if you break it up, is 25 hours in the air, which is very tiring, particularly to someone of my age. The other thing is that we seemed to have done most of the pick-up shooting in our summer, which is their winter. Many people don’t realize this, but New Zealand is south of the equator, so they were bang in the middle of winter. Before I arrived there in June, they had several weeks of sunshine, but I’m afraid I brought gales and sheeting rain with me. There were 70 mph winds and bitter cold. On the southern island, in places like Christchurch, there were blizzards and vicious cold, because the further south you go, the closer you get to Antarctica. So many of us got sick with the flu, or something like it. Most of the cast, in fact, since if you are working on a set that is hot and dusty and anybody has anything wrong with them it’s going to go around very rapidly. So if you walk out of the set to go to your caravan or to make-up, into the kind of weather we had to put up with, it was murder!
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did you have to re-dub a lot of your dialogue?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I did most of it here in London, because it is very difficult to use direct sound in New Zealand, as the studio was a former paint factory that was not sound proofed. It was right bang by the airport runway, so there were planes all over the place and that meant we had to re-record all of the dialogue afterwards in a sound studio. Some members of the cast did their ADR afterwards in a sound proof studio in New Zealand, as hardly any of the direct sound could be used. For people playing major roles that go through all three films, like Frodo, Sam and Gandalf, it means they have to do their entire roles all over again in the sound studio.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Would you prefer not having to re-dub your dialogue?
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, I’ve done it for years and years, so the technical aspects of re-recording doesn’t disturb me at all. The problem, which is the same for everybody, not just for me, is that it’s not just a question of getting the right lip-sync to the lines, which even experienced actors find difficult. It’s also a question of getting it right in terms of the atmosphere, the tone, the pauses, the voice going up, or going down. You’ve got to repeat all that in a sound studio, following the original soundtrack, which you can hear of course, but it can’t be used. Sometimes you can improve on it, but the problem is, that you’re there alone. If you were playing scenes with other people, which one does all the time, they are no longer there! And the same thing applies to them. I’ve never in my life done any looping or post-synching with another actor, because you can’t get them together at the same time. I think that is the most difficult thing: not having anybody to act with. What must be absolute hell is when somebody has to play a quiet romantic scene and the woman is there without the man, or vice-versa. That is really difficult, although it didn’t apply in my case.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Besides being cut from the RETURN OF THE KING, I was rather surprised your name wasn’t mentioned as best supporting actor in any of the trade ads New Line Cinema ran for the first two films.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Well, that didn’t bother me, because it’s not a question of whether I’m mentioned, or whether my name is in a certain position in the credits. It’s what’s on the screen that is far more important than any critical reviews. You were saying some very nice things about my performance in the film. Well some people have agreed with you and some people haven’t even mentioned that. But it’s what’s on the screen that counts. I keep saying that, because it’s true. It is what’s on the screen that the audience looks at, what the industry looks at  and what the Academy members looks at.  Isn’t that the really important thing?

Lee starred as Count Dooku in two STAR WARS prequels
Lee starred as Count Dooku in two STAR WARS prequels

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Yes, exactly.  And now after your roles in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the two STAR WARS movies all you need is a part in one of the HARRY POTTER pictures to complete a triple-crown of the three top-grossing  fantasy series of the new millennium.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: It’s funny you should say that, because after my agent had seen the script for the first HARRY POTTER movie, she was talking to one of the producers  and said to him, “there’s a part in the film that would be ideal for Christopher Lee.” Well, this producer gave her a look of absolute horror and said, “oh, but he’s already played a Wizard.” Now wouldn’t you think that a smart producer might say, “oh, he’s going to play a Wizard in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, that’s going to be an enormous success, let’s get him for HARRY POTTER.” I’ve read the first HARRY POTTER book and it seems to me that it is really for children, although I think grown up people can enjoy it as well. On the other hand, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is not for children, and when I say children, I mean younger children, those under nine or ten years old, although some of them will undoubtedly still go to see it.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: Orson Welles talked about being what he called a “King actor.” He felt he was an actor who did his best work when playing people of great power, whether they were Kings, Prime Ministers or Wizards.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, these kinds of parts are very definitely a challenge to the actor. In the case of Saruman you have to make the audience believe in his immense power. You have to make people believe that here is a man who is an immortal in a human body. The question is, what’s he going to do with that power? Does he control it? Does he believe in his own destiny, or are there any doubts? All of these things are in the books.
LAWRENCE FRENCH: You’ve said several times that you think THE LORD OF THE RINGS will go down in cinema history.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, I said that on my second day of work on the film, when the executives from New Line Cinema arrived in New Zealand and asked me how I thought everything was going. I said, “You are creating cinema history!” I think everyone connected with the pictures has. These films will be seen for years and years, long after the HARRY POTTER films have—I won’t say faded away—but perhaps, have lost their appeal. It is the soul of Tolkien on the screen. This film is a modern miracle and it will be remembered for a long, long time. Professor Tokien had a vision for a very long period of time. Peter Jackson had a vision. And I have my own vision: I see Professor Tokien walking over to Peter Jackson, shaking his hand and saying, “well done my boy, well done.”

Micmacs: The Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast 1:18

The Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast is back with another exciting episode! This time, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski eschew the big-time summer blockbusters in favor of the French comedy-fantasy MICMACS (Micmacs a tire-lairgot, or “Non-stop Madness”), latest surreal confectionery from supreme stylist Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who charmed audience with AMALIE). Also this week, we bring you the latest news, the Cinefantastique Calendar of upcoming events, and previews of the week’s home video releases. All in all, it’s more fun than a Jerry Lewis festival!


Sense of Wonder: Shock and Terror – Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Films of Summer 2010

Inception (2010)
INCEPTION - the most intriguing film of Summer 2010

Summer is almost here! For many people, that means fun in the sun, but for those of us at Cinefantastique – who prefer foggy moors or the darkness of outer space – the season means horror, fantasy, and science fiction films rolling into theatres on a weekly basis. I recently made a guest appearance on the Chronic Rift podcast, talking about upcoming genre films; if you note a certain lack of enthusiasm in my voice, the reason is that, unfortunately, Summer 2010 does not promise many captivating genre films on the level of last year’s STAR TREK reboot. However, among the rocks and mud Hollywood is shoveling into onto screens, we are sure to find a few golden nuggets. Take a listen to the podcast below, or check out our capsule previews.

NOTE: Technically, the first day of summer (June 21) is still over a week away, making this article a preview. However, Hollywood – true to form – launched the season early; exactly how early is subject to debate, when you consider that the big-budget effects-filled spectacle CLASH OF THE TITANS hit screens in April. For our purposes, we are back-dating to May 7, the release date of IRON MAN 2 – a crowd-pleasing blockbuster that should fit every one’s definition of a “summer move.”


Trolls? Goblins? Troblins? Fans of TROLL 2 get their gear on in BEST WORST MOVIE.
Trolls? Goblins? Troblins? Fans of TROLL 2 get their gear on in BEST WORST MOVIE.

A hit on the festival circuit last year, this documentary about the TROLL 2 phenomenon is getting a limited theatrical release in several calendar houses around the country. The idea of fashioning a tribute to an obscure schlock film from the 1980s hardly sounds appealing, but BEST WORST MOVIE turns out to be an extremely amusing look at the experiences ofa small-town dentist, whose patients discover, to their dismay, that decades ago he appeared in a movie, one that is now embraced by some camp enthusiasts as the “worst movie ever made.” Whether or not the description is warranted, it leads to a strange sort of celebrity for the former actor as he and his co-stars (along with TROLL 2’s director, who insists against all evidence that the movie is really good) travel around the country to several revival screenings, where they are welcomed like a stars. Funny stuff. Click here for a list of theatres screening the film.


In case you haven’t heard, BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is one of those movies that, almost inexplicably, becomes embraced because of – rather than in spite of – its cinematic ineptitude (which includes laughably bad CGI that wouldn’t pass muster in a kid’s videogame). The difference between BIRDEMIC and its camp movie precursors is that, whereas REEFER MADNESS, PLAN NINE, TROLL 2, and others of their ilk took years, even decades, before their badness was recognized for its entertainment possibilities, BIRDEMIC has been embraced right out of the gate. Picked up by Severin Distribution, writer-director James Nguye’s 2008 debut effort – basically a riff on Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS – has been screening to enthusiastic crowds for several weeks, eliciting derisive howls in cities across the country, and it is now expanding its reach to Canada and the U.K. (Let’s hope this doesn’t hurt international relations any.) The no-name cast includes Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Janae Caster, and Colton Osborne. Somehow, THE BIRDS’ Tippi Hedren was persuaded to make a cameo appearance. If you want to check when BIRDEMIC is coming to your town, click here for our list of theatrical play dates.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty GaloreCATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE

Warner Brothers releases this sequel to 2001’s CATS AND DOGS – which was a bit of a dud, despite what sounded like a sure-fire premise for a fun, family-friendly fantasy-comedy. This time out, Bette Midler, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Alec Baldwin, and Paul Rodriguez star for director Brad Petyon, working from a script by Ron J. Friedman & Steve Bencich. This time the plot involves a temporary truce between fueding canines and felines, who team up to stop a rogue cat with plans for world domination. In 3d.
Release date: July 30.


Universal Pictures releases this animated fantasy film about a trio of orphans who charm a deplorable villain into abandoning his attempt to steal the moon. Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, and Sergio Pablos directed, from a screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett Julie Andrews, and Danny McBride supply the voices.
Release date: July 9.

Inception (2010)INCEPTION

Warner Brothers releases this science fiction thriller from writer-director Christopher Nolan. Plot details have been kept under tight wrap, but the film is supposedly set within the “archtecture of the mind”: The poster’s tagline is “Your mind is the scene of the crime,” and advance word suggests the story is about a heist to steal technology that allows access into people’s dreams. Nolan has reassembled many of the behind-the-scenes collaborators who worked with him on THE DARK KNIGHT, so hopefully we will be seeing a film of similar quality. Of this summer’s films, this is the one we find most intriguing. Leonardo DiCaptrio, Ken Watanabe, and Ellen Page lead the cast.
Release date: July 16


Released on May 7, Paramount Pictures’ sequel to the summer blockbuster of 2008 is not quite up the original, but it is still droll entertainment. Unfortunately, it plays into the fascist undertones often apparent in superhero stories, which suggest that certain people are just…well – better than everyone else, and if the weak majority of fools would just get out of the way and let the few wise ones work unfettered, then the world would be a better place. Fortunately, the film stops short of fully endorsing this idea: te plot, such as it develops, leads Stark to finally accept assistance from a sidekick (in the form of Don Cheadle’s Colonel Rhodes), suggesting he realizes that he learns to put his ego in the back seat in favor of serving the greater good. Read more here.

Jonah Hex (2010)JONAH HEX

Warner Brothers releases this feature film adaptation of an obscure comic book character. The plot has the U.S. government hiring the titular bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) to confront a terrorist (John Malkovich) who is threatening to a Hellish apocalypse. Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Aidan Quinn, and David Patrick Kelly co-star for director Jimmy Hayward, working from a script by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, based on a story developed with William Farmer, inspired by the DC comic book character created by John Albano and Tony Dezuniga.
Release date: June 18.


Paramount Picutres releases writer-director M. Night Shymalan’s live-action feature-film adaptation of the Emmy-winning animated series AVATAR (no, it has nothing to do with the James Cameron film). Planned as the opening chapter in a trilogy, THE LAST AIRBENDER, focuses on Aang (Noah Ringer), the titular “last airbender,” who can control one of the four natural elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). He is also the “Avatar,” who embodies the world, making him capable of controlling all of the elements, in the service of bringing about world harmony. Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone co-star; the latter must be having the biggest weekend of his career, with THE TWLIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE opening on the same day.
Release date: July 2.

The Last Exorcism (2010)THE LAST EXORCISM

Lionsgate releases this attempt to offer up horror in the mode of BLAIR WITCH and/or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – which, is to say, disguised as actual footage of a real event. Shot under the title of COTTON, the film involves minister Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who allows the exorcism of a young woman (Ashley Bell) to be filmed by a documentary crew. Daniel Stamm directed, from a script by Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland. Eli Roth served as producer.
Release date: August 27.


The newly restored version of METROPOLIS, German director Fritz Lang’s silent science fiction classic, continues its tour of art house across the country. Touted as the precursor to BLADE RUNNER, METROPOLIS is cinema’s first example of a science fiction extravaganza, using elaborate miniatures and other special effects to depict a futuristic city engaged in a class conflict between the rich, living in their lofty skyscrapers, and the workers, toiling in machinery rooms down below. Director Lang himself thought the scenario (by his wife, Theo Von Harbou) was somewhat simplistic, yet the film’s visual power has retained its reputation as a classic. Unfortunately, the restoration does not so much fix problems as simply make the film longer; in fact, some of the additions make little sense, and it is easy to see why they were excised in the first place. Still, this is a historic film from one of cinema’s greatest practitioners, and any excuse to see it again on the big screen is a good one.
Check out our list of play dates for the film.


Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009)The latest surreal confectionery from supreme stylist Jean-Pierre Jeunet (fully titled Micmacs a Tire-Larigot [“Non-Stop Madness”] in its native France) is currently in limited theatrical release from Sony Pictures classics, in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, and San Francisco. The story follows a young man, orphaned as a child, who is hit in the head by a stray bullet, then hooks up with a salvage artist who creates an underground home in a dump, filled with magical tools and sculptures crafted from discarded junk. Eventually, he sets his sights on the manufacturer of the bullet, setting in motion a series of outrageous schemes to bring accountability to the high and mighty living in the lap of luxury while remaining indifferent to the pain and suffering caused by their product. Jeunet’s remarkable visual sense if very much on display, turning what is essentially a comedy cpaer into cinefantastique by virtue of its fanciful way of looking at the world, creating stylized landscape of the imagination. Unfortunately, the shifts from satire to spoofery while often effective, undermine some of the poignancy of the story. Read our complete review here.


Universal Pictures releases this sequel to NANNY MCPHEE (2005), a sort of riff on MARY POPPINS, about a magical nanny who works miracles with difficult children (although she does not fly with an umbrella). Having written the screenplay (based on the books by Christianna Brand), Emma Thompson takes the title role, supported by Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Maggie Smith. Susanna White directed.
Release date: August 20.


Piranha 3-D (2010)Dimension Films releases this 3-D remake of the 1978 cult classic, originally produced by Roger Corman and directed by Joe Dante (GREMLINS). Sadly, the film was not shot in 3-D; it is being added in post-production (just like CLASH OF THE TITANS, and we all know how well that one worked out). This time around, an earthquake unleashes swarms (schools?) of prehistoric piranhas, who make life miserable for folks living near the local lake. Elisabeth Shue stars as the sheriff trying to contain the situation, with support from Jerry O”connell and Dina Meyer, with appearances from Eli Roth, Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, and Richard Dreyfuss. (Get it? Dreyfuss was in JAWS – don’t you feel yourself falling out of your chair with laughter?). Directed by Alexandre Aja, from a screenplay he worked on with Josh Stolbrg, Pete Goldfinger, and Gregory Levasseur. (What? No credit from John Sayles, who wrote the original?Aja still has fans based on HIGH TENSION, but one wonders who far they will follow him into the junkyard before finally giving up.
Release date: August 27.


20th Century Fox releases the latest installment in the PREDATOR franchise. Robert Rodriguez produced the film, with Nimrod Antal directing from a screenplay by Alex Litvak & Michael Finch, based on the concept by Jim and John Thomas. Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Adrien Brody, and Laurence Fishburne lead the cast of elite warriors and killers from Earth, who are alien-abducted to a planet where they serve as game for the Predators. When you stop and think about it, only the very first PREDATOR movie was any good, and the ALIEN VS. PREDATOR films were just nonsense, but this premise is good enough to raise hopes, and the trailer does generate a buzz of excitement.
Release date: July 9.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)Walt Disney Studios releasedthis big-screen adaptation of the popular videogame on May 28. Jakey Gyllenhaal is the titular prince, a rogue who teams up with a princess (Gemma Arterton) to prevent an evil villain (Ben Kingsley) from unravelling time itself. Under Mike Newell’s direction, the film is not great, but it is much more fun than one had any right to expect. The screenplay even throws in a few clever allusions to the Gulf War and the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. Read our full review here.


Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)Screen Gems releases the fourth film based on the popular video game about zombies resulting from some evil corporate malfeasance. Considering that we have already been through RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004) and RESIDENT EVIL EXTINCTION (2007), you have to wonder what’s left. Well it involves our old champion Alice (Milla Jovovich) on a mission to protect survivors from the walking dead, while also hatching a plan to destroy the Umbrella Corporation. Back in the director’s chair for the first time since the first RESIDENT EVIL (2002) is Paul W.S. Anderson, who nevertheless contributed the scripts (as he does again here). The supporting cast includes Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Spencer Locke, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Kacey Barnfield, and Boris Kodjoe. Music by tomandandy. Cinematography by Glen MacPherson.
Release date: September 10, 2010.


Scott-Pilgrim-vs.-the-WorldUniversal Pictures releases this fantasy-action-romantic-comedy. When titular Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls in love with a girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in hand-to-hand combat, fant-asia style. Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, and Brandon Routh fill out the cast for director Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD), working from a screenplay he co-wrote wtih Michael Bacall, based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Release Date: August 13.


Paramount Pictures released this fourth installment of the computer-animated franchise on May 21. This time the story has the titular green ogre making a deal with Rumpelstilskin in order to escape the drudgery of his married life and return to the glory of his earlier days. Unfortunately, Shrek ends up in a weird alternate reality, in which he and Fiona have never met, and he realizes he must restore the life he gave up. The premise – essentially the final act of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE expanded to take up the entire running time – sounds as if it has promise, but the film itself is lacking in big laughs, which arrive mostly when Puss N Boots shows up – not so much a shadow of his former self, but a balloon, fattened up from too much easy living.


Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina
Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina

Walt Disney Studios releases this live-action fantasy film, which seems to have precious little to do with its animated namesake, the Mickey Mouse sequence from 1940’s FANTASIA (an adaptation of Paul Dukas’s orchestral work, itself based on Goethre’s poem “Der Zauberlehrling”). It’s all about a sorcerer (Nicolas Cage) who is facing off against an evil nemesis (Alfred Molina), so he finds an apprentice (Jay Baruchel) to aid in the conflict. Monica Belluci, Robert Captron, Toby Kebbell, and Alice Krige fill out the cast for director Jon Turtletaub, working from a screenplay by Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard and Matt Lopez, derived from a screen story by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal.
Release date: July 16.


Splice (2010)
Sarah Polley as a genetic engineer with her creation

Warner Brothers released this nifty little science fiction-horror film from director Vincenzo Natali (CUBE) on June 4, in head to head competition with summer’s big guns.  Even if the film failed to overpower its big-budget competition, it served up intellectual satisfaction for fans who want something more than just another monster movie.  SPLICE truly is this year’s MOON (2009) – maybe not the most entertaining science fiction film of the summer, but definitely the summer’s best cinematic science fiction, one that takes its premise and uses it to thought-provoking ends. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and make the effort.


George A. Romero’s sequel to DIARY OF THE DEAD got a limited platform theatrical release on May 28, after making its VOD debut in April. It’s not up to the standards of his previous efforts (including the ground-breaking NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), but at least Romero’s old themes and ambitions are on display, as he puts the genre elements in the service of making some points humanity’s inability to find common ground during a crisis.


Walt Disney Studios releases the latest installment in Pixar Animation’s blockbuster franchise. This time, Andy is off to college, and the question is: Will he throw his old toys away or keep them as collector’s items? Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are back as Woody and Buzz Lightyear; the of the voice cast includes Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Joan Cusack, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Bonnie Hunt, Timothy Dalton, R. Lee Ermey, Don Rickles, and Ned Beatty. Lee Unkrich directed, from a screenplay by Michael Arndt (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE).
Release date: June 18.


The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)Summit Entertainment releases the third film in the TWILIGHT SAGA (and isn’t it funny that the feel the need to use “The Twlight Saga” in the title, as if fans won’t know that ECLIPSE is part of the franchise?). Anyway, the film focuses on the love triangle between human high school girl Bela Swan (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). David Slade (who helmed a considerably different kind of vampire movie with 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) directs from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer . Coincidentally, co-star Jackson Rathbone is also in M. Night Shyamalan’s THE LAST AIRBENDER, which opens the same day; we know the TWILIGHT films are proven box office winners, but is ECLIPSE really ready to go head-to-head with one of Hollywood’s powerhouse summer blockbusters?
Release date: July 2.

You can keep up to date with theatrical releases, home video, and other events in our Coming Soon section.

'Clash Of The Titans 2' Director Set?

According to The L.A. Times,
CLASH OF THE TITANS 2 is being fast-tracked, and Jonathan Liebesman (DARKNESS FALLS) is the lead contender for director.

Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures have reportedly been meeting with a number of candidates, hoping to begin production in or near January 2011.
Liebesman appears to be the front-runner. His sci-fi actioner BATTLE: LOS ANGLES, starring Aaron Eckhart (THE DARK KNIGHT) and Michelle Rodriguez (LOST) from Columbia Pictures is due to open in March 2011, and he has ODYSSEUS lined up for the future.
The need for speed? They have to make sure star Sam Worthington is free, because he’s committed to James Cameron’s AVATAR 2.
TITANS 2 would be shot in 3-D from the get-go, rather than relying on the often unsastisfactory post-production conversion process.