Genre film lost one of its most influential forces last week when author and screenwriter Richard Matheson passed away. Whether writing originally for the screen, as with the STAR TREK episode, “The Enemy Within,” adapting his own work, which he did for such classic TWILIGHT ZONE episodes as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and the archetypal 50’s horror film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, or adapting others, including bringing Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife to the screen as BURN WITCH BURN (a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE EAGLE), Matheson was able to embue his scripts with a contemporary outlook and an incisive inquest into the human condition that helped define genre film for the latter half of the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first.
Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons sit down to discuss Matheson’s contribution to the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, weigh his overall influence on popular cinema, and discuss favorite examples of his work. Also in this show: Steve and Dan discuss the recent limited releases BYZANTIUM and 100 BLOODY ACRES. Plus: What’s coming to theaters next week.
Despite a trailer that features Santa Claus being shot out of the sky, a stop-motion animated sequence, a baby so stoned that it can crawl on the ceiling, and Neil Patrick Harris insisting he’s straight, we weren’t secure enough in A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS’ genre bona-fides to dedicate an entire episode to it. So instead, Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French and Dan Persons reached some fifty-years deep into the vault to take a look at a television institution whose credentials are unassailable: Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Come join Steve, Larry, and Dan as they each pick an episode (all of which are available on Netflix Instant View) to celebrate, compare and contrast, and discover in the selections legendary screenwriters, top-level acting talent, a penchant for creeping paranoia, and the tubbiest alien invaders ever.
Also in this episode: A discussion of the CG animated film PUSS IN BOOTS and Pedro Almodovar’s THE SKIN I LIVE IN, both starring Antonio Banderas. Plus: What’s coming in theaters.
Winner of this year’s Ironic Film Title ribbon (SARAH PALIN: THE UNDEFEATED was disqualified for failure to complete a term — talk about ironic) DREAM HOUSE marks director Jim Sheridan’s attempt to explore the world of the psychological thriller, with a few surprising twists thrown in along the way. The tale of man whose family life begins to crumble with the revelation that the beautiful house they’ve just moved into was the scene of an horrific crime, the film has the atmosphere, has affecting performances by stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, — backed up by Naomi Watts as a sympathetic neighbor — and lays its story out in a way that casts events already witnessed in new lights as secrets are progressively revealed, but does its old-school approach still have relevance? Join Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons as they root around the cellar of a beloved genre and try to sweep away the cobwebs to find what works and what doesn’t in this latest attempt to draw chills from the infinite convolutions of the human mind.
Also: a discussion of the announced short-list of directors for Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming TWILIGHT ZONE project; and what’s coming in theatrical and home video releases.
Cliff Robertson (Clifford Parker Robertson III) , known to most modern fans as Uncle Ben in the SPIDER-MAN films, passed away Saturday, September 10th. He was 88.
Also known for playing John F. Kennedy in P.T. 109, Robertson had some significant genre roles in his career.
In 1954, he hit the early television airwaves as the lead in ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS, on CBS.
Co-starring Jack Weston and Arthur Batanides (later in STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), it featured the adventures of the young crew of the rocket Beta.
Sadly this series is considered lost, as the makers of its predecessor on the network, TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET won their legal case that branded ROD BROWN a direct steal of their show. Apparently all kinescopes of the live series’ 58 episodes were destroyed.
Robertson appeared on two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE ( ‘The Dummy’ and ‘One Hundred Yards Over the Rim’) and starred in the pilot to THE OUTER LIMITS, ‘The Galaxy Being’.
In 1961, Cliff Robertson starred onTHE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR in ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon’ based on the the classic science fiction tale, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Hugo Award, Best Short Story 1960), later extended into the (Nebula Award-winning ) 1966 novel of the same name.
Taken by the ulitmately tragic tale of a mentally retarded man given enhanced intelligence, he bought the film rights. In 1969 he starred in the feature film version CHARLY, and won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Robertson guest-starred on four episodes of BATMAN in the 60’s as the crooked cowboy Shame. The show was produced by William Dozier, who had also produced ROD BROWN.
In the TV movie RETURN TO EARTH (1976), he played astronaut ‘Buzz” Aldrin.
As a character actor, he appeared in Doug Trumbull’s BRAINSTORM (1986), John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM LA (1993), and on the revived OUTER LIMITS (‘Joyride’, 1999).
In 2002 he starred in SPIDER-MAN, and also starred in the “Jersey Devil” film THE 13TH CHILD. He reprised the role of Ben Parker for flash/dream sequences as Ben Parker in SPIDER-MAN 2 and 3.
Looking for new horror, fantasy, and science fiction films on home video? Then look no farther than this week’s Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast, in which Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski run down the latest releases on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD: DRIVE ANGRY, TRUEBLOOD: THE COMPLETE THRID SEASON, SGU: STARGATE UNIVERSE – THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON, STANLEY KUBRICK: LIMITED EDITION COLLECTION, STANLEY KUBRICK: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION, CAT O’NINE TAILS. Also this week: news of the upcoming Blu-ray release of THE TWILIGHT ZONE’s fifth season, including 20 new audio commentaries not available on previous DVD releases.
Other genre related roles included live TV dramas such as TALES OF TOMORROW (1952), several episodes of SUSPENSE (The Invisible Killer), plus THE TWILGHT ZONE (Caesar and Me), CIRCLE OF FEAR, TV movies SHADOW ON THE LAND (1968) and THE ASTRONAUT (1972), the apocalyptic suspense film CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974), and guested on THE INVISIBLE MAN TV series (1975) and BEASTS (1976).
Anne Francis, best known to most readers as Altaira ‘Alta’ Morbius in 1956’s SF Classic FORBIDDEN PLANET, passed away Saturday, January 1st 2011. She was 80.
Francis made a good impression with audiences in the role of the intelligent, but naive and innocently sexy castaway, and became of favorite of SF film fans.
Her co-star and love interest in that film, Lesile Nielsen, died November 28th, 2010.
Born Anne Lloyd Francis, she was sometimes billed that way, particularly in later years. A good and popular performer, she appeared in many films and television shows.
In 1965, she appeared on the detective show BURKE’S LAW as HONEY WEST, soon spun off as it’s own ABC series in 1966-67.
Based on a series of novels about a female private detective by Gloria and Forest Fickling (“G.G. Fickling”), the TV version was a kind mix of James Bond and THE AVENGERS’ Emma Peel, dressing up in a black bodysuit for spying and fighting. She also used a number of then borderline science-fictional surveillance devices and weapons.
Only lasting one season of 30 episodes, it nevertheless had it’s own short-lived Gold Key comic book.
Other genere-related appearences include the live TV anthologies SUSPENSE (1949) and LIGHTS OUT, She appeared in the film THE ROCKET MAN (1954), two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (Jess-Belle and The After Hours), KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER, two connected episodes of THE MAN FROM UNCLE as a villianess, several ALFRED HITCHCOCK’s, germ warfare thriller THE SATAN BUG (1965), THE INVADERS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, supernatural TV movie HAUNTS OF THE VERY RICH (1972), KUNG FU, WONDER WOMAN, FANTASY ISLAND (both incarantions) MAZES AND MONSTERS (1982), and even an episode of the CONAN television series.
Read more about Anee Francis’s life and carreer at The L.A. Times.
Here’s the first trailer for DreamWorks SKG’s film for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, REAL STEEL.
Directed by Shawn Levy (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM), REAL STEEL takes place in the near-future, a time when robot boxers have replaced humans in the ring.
Hugh Jackman (X-MEN) plays one of these replaced fighters, now out of work and trying to bond with the son (Dakota Goyo) he barely knows. (Though you’d never guess it from THIS trailer.) Kevin Durand and Evangeline Lilly also star.
Seem familiar? It’s based on Richard Matheson’s short story Steel, which was adapted into a harrowing episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, starring Lee Marvin as the desperate former pugilist.
Screenplay by Leslie Bohem (TAKEN) and John Gatins, after a long history of revisions.
Due out October 7th, 2011.
Also on Home Video this week: THE BLACK CAULDRON, STARCRASH, RIFFTRAX, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, LORD OF THE RINGS, CARRIE, JACOB’S LADDER
A wide variety of horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles arrive in stores on Tuesday, September 14: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blu… (ray, that is). Walt Disney Video offers PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME in three formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and a 3-disc combo back with both formats, plus a digital copy. The bonus features are parceled out in a way that makes the latter the only complete edition: the DVD includes the behind-the-scenes featurette “An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia”; the Blu-ray contains the featurette and a deleted scene, “The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads”; and the combo pack includes all of the DVD and Blu-ray features, plus “CineEsplore: The Sands of Time,” interactive feature that allows you to “take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favorite scenes! Turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments – including ‘Walking Up Walls,’ ‘Filming in Morocco,’ and ‘Ostrich Jockey Tryouts’.'”
The only other new title arriving this week is FRINGE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, which shows up on DVD and Blu-ray. Bonus features include: four audio commentaries; The Mythology of Fringe; sidebar analysis on six episodes; In the Lab with John Noble and Rob Smith; a gag reel; unaired scenes; and “The Unearthed Episode,” starring Kirk Acevedo as Charlie.
On the 50th anniversary of its first appearance on network airwaves, Rod Serling’s classic television show gets the Blu-ray treatment with THE TWILIGHT ZONE: SEASON ONE. The multi-disc set will be packed with extras: audio commentaries from surviving cast members (Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Kevin McCarthy, etc); vintage audio recollections with Burgess Meredtih, Anne Francis, Richard Matheson, and more; the unaired pilot version of “Where is Everybody?” Billed as new for this edition are audio commentaries with film historians and filmmakers (Marc Scott Zicree, Gary Gerani, director Ted Post, etc); a never-before released pilot “The Tiem Element,” in high-def; a TALES OF TOMORROW episode titled “What You Need” (which was also a TWILIGHT ZONE episode); a vintage audio interview with director of photograph George T. Clemens; 13 radio dramas; and 34 isolated music scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and others.
Other oldies coming out on Blu-ray and/or special edition DVDs include the following:
- Walt Disney’s THE BLACK CAULDRON gets a 25 Anniversary Special Edition DVD release. Only two new extras have been added that were not on the previous DVD: an deleted scene and a game.
- CARRIE, the 1976 horror hit directed by Brian DePalma and based on Stephen King’s first novel, arrives in a new DVD-Blu-ray combo pack.
- JACOB’S LADDER gets another DVD re-issue.
- THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING re-appear on Blu-ray
- THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) is resurrected in a Collector’s Edition. There is a two-disc DVD and a two-disc combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD.
- STARCRASH, the Italian, 1979 STAR WARS rip-off starring Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Roger Corman Cult Classics line.
And if you’re looking for laughs, RiffTrax offers two DVD collections of short subjects: RIFFTRAX: SHORTS-A-POPPIN’ and RIFFTRAX: PLAYS WITH THEIR SHORTS.
August 22, 2010 represented fantasy author Ray Bradbury’s 90th birthday. In celebration of that event, this week’s Post-Mortem podcast examines his career, including the many film and television adaptations of his work: FARENHEIT 451, THE BEAST FROM 20000 FATHOMS, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, etc. Plus, correspondent Lawrence French fills us in on the details of the celebration in Los Angeles, which declared August 22-28 to be “Ray Bradbury Week.”