Magazines 1990-1999

THE PROLIFIC YEARS

In 1987, after five years as managing editor at Habitat, I decided I wanted to do more freelance writing. I worked out an arrangement with publisher Carol Ott in which I worked as an editorial consultant to the magazine (meaning I would write a feature, edit some stories, and give advice/input every month, for a regular stipend) and would have more time to write freelance. The next ten years, from 1987 to 1997, were my most prolific years as a writer. I wrote film and TV analysis pieces for Entertainment Weekly, Diversion, Video, Video Times, Movie Times, and Empire; wrote media business stories for Backstage, Shoot, Wrap, INTV Jourmal, and View; and wrote real estate stories for New York Newsday. Then, in 1998, I signed a contract to write my second book, Investigating Couples, which was published in 2001.

Annabella Sciorra

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"I ALWAYS FEEL THAT MY CHARACTERS are more interesting than I am," muses Annabella Sciorra somewhat modestly. "I am shy but I always feel that my characters can express themselves. They are a part of me, you know, but for some reason I feel more comfortable expressing myself through a character than as me. " The characters that the second-generation Italian actress normally portrays are, of course, the nice trusting Woman type, capitalizing on her darkly appealing, traditionally unglamorous – some would call them "normal" – looks. Small roles in The Hard Way, Reversal Of Fortune and Internal Affairs led to her playing a naive office temp who becomes sexually involved with angry young architect Wesley Snipes in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever; the yuppie mother who almost loses her life, limbs, family and inhaler (though not necessarily in that order) to straitjacket case Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand that Rocks The Cradle; a standard Hollywood psychiatrist who gets to involved with patients and may be in love with a killer in Whispers In The Dark; and now, in The Night We Never Met, released this month, a bored suburban housewife with an unfulfilled and burning ambition – paint. 

"I think Annabella's look is unusual, attractive, not glamorous in the same way," offers Whispers director-screenwriter Christopher Crowe. "What's good about her is that she's a very instinctual actress," adds actor Anthony LaPaglia, who co-stars with her as a hard-drinking cop in the film. "When she works with you you're not sure what's going to happen. She has great eyes. When I look at her eyes there's always something going on, even if she's not saying anything. It's a gift for other actors to have that because it all gets very connected. The belief level of the scene goes way up." 

Sciorra, personally, is something of an enigma - at times she's quite personable, rambling on about her close bond with her parents (dad is a veterinarian, mum a fashion stylist) and three brothers ("I talk to them two or three times a day"); at others she becomes decidedly Garboesque in her aloofness ("I do not discuss by personal life," she retorts when asked, quite simply, if she is married). Born in Connecticut, Annabella studied acting with Dennis Moore. She lets on that she lives in New York City and says she's proud of her Italian heritage. She's unsure about how she selects roles – "It depends on the writing, maybe; on how the meeting goes" – and denies that there was any friction with Spike Lee, as the press claimed in its many accounts of Jungle Fever

"Spike allowed me to express myself completely. Not only on the set but in the dining room. He gave me my moments. He really gave it to me. He didn't Cut anything. When I saw that movie 1 thought, 'Wow, it's all there. Everything I wanted to be there, everything I wanted to communicate, it was all there.' I'm proud of being a part of that movie."

Her next adventure in innocence, Mr. Wonderful, will find her sleeping with William Hurt while still in love with ex-husband Matt Dillon. "It's a very romantic story," she claims. And for Sciorra it will be another chance to do what she's happiest doing. "I've always wanted to act – always, always, always," she gushes. "I love to act."

EMPIRE, August 1992

Arnold Schwarzenegger (1)

 

His Body of Work  

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The Complete Arnold Schwarzenegger:An Action Aficionado's Guide 

• NEWLY ARRIVED IN America, Arnold was a bulging Austrian babe in the woods when his bodybuilding mentor Joe Weider helped him land the title role in Hercules Goes to New York (1970), a low-budget oddity also known as Hercules Goes Banamas. The body is definitely Arnold's, but the unaccented voice isn't in this ridiculous adventure involving a toga-clad Herc on the loose in modern Manhattan. From this embarrassing beginning, Schwarzenegger worked his way up to muscularly mute bit parts to sword-and-sorcery epics to action and comedy to whatever else he wants to do. Here's a guide to Arnold's evolution as an actor.

STAY HUNGRY (1976)

• Arnold's big-screen "introduction" finds him playing the part of Joe Santo, a-what else?-bodybuilder competing for the Mr. Universe title. Also starring in Bob Rafelson's quirky comedy-drama are Sally Field, as Schwarzenegger's exsweetie, and Jeff Bridges, as the ne'erdo-well scion of an old Southern family. B

Charming moment: Arnold playing the fiddle with a hillbilly band.

Beefcake special: Arnold's choreographed posing at the bodybuilding contest.

Arnold as philosopher: "I don't like to be too comfortable. Once you get used to it, it's hard to give up. I like to stay hungry."

Arnold said it before Jane: "Make the thighs burn."

Must see: A herd of bikinied bodybuilders chasing the bad guys through the streets of Birmingham, Ala.

 

PUMPING IRON (1977)

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• George Butler's documentary on bodybuilding liberated Arnold from the confines of his sport's limited appeal. Despite his heavy accent, Schwarzenegger's charm and wit were immediately apparent. Some of the best scenes feature Arnold needling rival Lou Ferrigno-making remarks that Arnold has recently shrugged off, claiming he was d~ttberately being outrageous simply to sell it. Whatever, his description of "the pump" remains a ribald classic: "The most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let's say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles, and that's what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, you know, it's really tight .. .it's like somebody blowing air into your muscle .... It feels fantastic. [Arnold flexes.] It's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is. You know, as, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am, like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a gym; I'm getting the feeling of coming at home; I'm getting the feeling of coming backstage, when I pump up-when I pose out in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling. So I am coming day and night .... " A

 

THE JAYNE MANSFIELD STORY (1980)

Loni Anderson and Arnold team up in a simpleminded TV movie that'portrays Marilyn Monroe-knockoff Mansfield as a tragic figure kept from the beefcake she loves, strongman Mickey Hargitay, by the evil studio. C-

Best line: "It's like my English ... something gets lost in the translation."

Best scene: An angry Arnold smashing his free weights.

Arnold as analyst: "It really mattered to her to be a success. I always wondered what was it replacing in her life? What needs did it meet?"

 

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)

• Schwarzenegger's breakthrough as an action hero found him battling the leader of a nasty snake cult (James Earl Jones at his Darth Vader-voiced best). The plot seems to have something to do with Conan's struggle to solve "the riddle of-steel," which will confer "ultimate power." John Milius, director, and Oliver Stone teamed up for a heavy-handed adaptation,. of this sword-is-mightier-than-anything romp. When the picture grossed more than $50 million, Hollywood took notice. A-

Best line: (Arnold enumerating life's pleasures) "To crush your enemies, see them die before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women."

Best romantic interlude: In the middle of some epic lovemaking, Arnold's beautiful partner turns into a vicious snake. He strangles it and tosses it in a fire.

Blazing Saddles rip-off: Arnold punches out a camel.

Don't miss: Tied to a cross, Arnold bites off the head of a marauding vulture.

Arnold as supplicant: "[God] grant me one request ... revenge. And if you do not listen, to hell with you."

 

CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984)

• Blood, gore, evil queens, beautiful princesses, juvenile humor, and a climactic battle with a grisly monster designed by E.T. creator Carlo Rambaldi mark Arnold's less successful sequel to Conan. Singer Grace Jones looks mighty fetching as Conan's scantily clad buddy; basketball great Wilt Chamberlain makes a scary foe. B

Blazing Saddles rip-off II: Arnold apologizes to the camel he clocked in the original, then punches it out again after it spits on him.

Cheapest special effect: The sinking of an obviously miniature ice castle.

Beefcake special: Arnold twirls his two-ton sword for no apparent reason while flexing for the camera.

Arnold's laconic humor: Girl-"I suppose nothing hurts you." Arnold -"Only pain."

Best line: "It's bad luck to kill a wizard."

Least threatening action: The Demon tries to crush Conan's skull.

 

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THE TERMINATOR (1984)

• Arnold's best picture so far, and the only time he has played a villain. Director James Cameron's powerful sci-fi shoot-tern-up centers on two visitors from the future who materialize in contemporary Los Angeles: a badass cyborg (Arnold) out to kill an innocent woman (Linda Hamilton) and a man (Michael Biehn) sent to stop him. Arnold is truly menacing as the nearly indestructible killing machine. A+

Signature line: "I'll be back." (Said to a policeman by Arnold before he returns and destroys the station house.)

Second most memorable line: "F--- you, asshole." (When presented with five options in his memory bank, Arnold picks the appropriate response.)

Third most memorable line: "You're terminated, f----" (Said by the pursued woman when the cyborg, now reduced to a metal skeleton, finally bites the dust.)

Is it real or is it Arnold: After Arnold loses his protective shell in a car chase and explosion, an animated puppet replaces him for the last 15 minutes.

Beefcake special: Arnold arrives in the present completely naked (side and rear views) during the film's opening moments.

 

RED SONJA (1985)

• This disappointing movie cured Arnold of sword and sorcery forever. A pre-pneumatic Brigitte Nielsen plays the title character opposite Arnold's Kalidor, the only male warrior who can match Sonja's combat prowess. The almost identically dressed pair join forces to thwart yet another evil queen threatening to rule--or destroy-the world. C

Most appropriate line: "In life, all is not swordplay."

Arnold as chauvinist: "You didn't want a man's help, but you needed it."

Most gruesome scenes: Arnold cuts off a villain's arm. A severed head floats thl'tlugh the air in arty slo-mo.

Best action: Arnold wrestling with the Killing Machine, a mechanical alligatorlike creature.

 

COMMANDO (1985)

• Total action from start to finish, with Arnold playing Col. John Matrix, ultimate soldier and one-man gang, who has to rescue his young daughter after she's snatched by a fully equipped private army. A-

Let's get on with it: An opening montage shows Arnold and his daughter fishing, swimming, and eating ice cream together before all hell breaks loose.

Most exciting scene: Arnold exits a jetliner during takeoff by climbing onto the landing gear and jumping to safety.

Arnold's signature line II: "I'll be back, Bennett."

Best pause between machine-gun bursts: Arnold tosses a buzz-saw blade like a Frisbee with predictable results.

Action humor at its finest: "You're a funny guy, Sully. I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last."

Obligatory beefcake: Arnold strips off his shirt for the final shoot-out.

 

RAW DEAL (1986)

• Arnold plays disgraced ex-FBI agent Mark Kaminsky, who tries to work his way back onto the force by infiltrating the Chicago mob. Blood, gore, and 'stunts are up to par, but Arnold's 007- style one-liners fall flat. B

Arnold's silliest llne.. "Who do you think I am? Dirty Harry?"

Most embarrassing moment: Arnold as a slobbering drunken lover.

Obligatory beefcake: The camera caresses Arnold flexing his glistening pecs while strapping on enough weaponry to invade Panama.

Arnold as rock & roller: He machineguns everyone in sight as the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" blares away on his car radio.

 

THE RUNNING MAN (1987)

• Arnold plays Ben Richards, a 21st century policeman wrongly convicted of slaughtering 1,500 innocent people. He winds up on TV's most popular show, The Running Man, where inmates can win freedom by making their way through a "playing field" filled with vicious killers dubbed Stalkers. A

Best supporting actor: Popular real-life game-show host Richard Dawson is terrific as the show's smarmy emcee.

Funniest moment: The commercial for another program, called Climbing for Dollars, which features a man with money in his mouth trying to escape snarling dogs by climbing a rope.

Most gruesome scene: Arnold buzzsaws an assailant in two from the groin up. (His quip: "He had to split.")

Signature line III, punctured: When Arnold says, "I'll be back," Dawson replies, "Only in a rerun."

 

PREDATOR (1987)

• Another sci-fi actionfest, but set in the present. Arnold leads a crack military outfit stationed in Central America that has the misfortune of running into an extremely unfriendly alien. A-

Most clichedline: (After spraying the alien with bullets) "Nothing on earth could have lived at that range."

Best scene: Arnold's mano-a-alieno noholds-barred showdown.

Hide your eyes: Arnold's men are found skinned and hanging from trees.

Hide your eyes II: Arnold's macho buddy Carl Weathers has his arm cut off by a laser.

Butch Cassidy award: Arnold's double falls from a cliff into a waterfall and is swept away.

Best dialogue: None. (But who cares?)

 

RED HEAT (1988)

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• Jim Belushi teams up with Arnold in an East-West addition to the-odd-conple-cop genre. Arnold is believably stone-faced as a highly disciplined Soviet cop teamed with slob Chicago detective Belushi to track down Russian drutg dealers. B

Beefcake special: An artfully shot nude Arnold battles artfully shot nude villains in a Turkish bath.

Beefcake special II: The combatants continue their bare-skinned, bareknuckled brawl in the snow.

Most obvious statement: After a dozen or so people die violently, Arnold reveals, "I'm not on holiday here."

Action orgy: Arnold and the bad guys chase each other in buses and destroy much of Chicago in the process.

 

TWINS (1988)

In his first outright comedy, Arnold is cast as Danny De Vito's twin brother-the result of an ambitious genetic experiment gone wrong. As a highly educated but naive giant; Arnold has some fine comic moments as sleazeball De Vito introduces him to life's seamy side. Twins grossed more than $110 million, making it Arnold's biggest film to date. A-

Most labored joke: Arnold seeing a Rambo poster and shaking his head in disbelief at Sylvester Stallone's muscles.

Arnold against type: "I don't know what the problem is, but I'm sure it can be resolved without resorting to violence."

Arnold, reverting: "For the first time in my life, I'm pissed off." (He kicks a door off its hinges.)

Obligatory beefcake: Arnold tears his shirt and has to strip down when he buys a new one.

Cute gag: The grin on Arnold's face after he makes love for the first time.

Variation on signature line: "If you're lying to me, I'll be back."

Most charming moment: De Vito teaching Arnold to dance.

Arnold as philosopher: "No one ever said being good is easy."

 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY JUNE 8,1990

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Arnold Schwarzenegger (2)

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HIS BODY OF WORK

Tom Soter takes you on the ultimate guide to The Complete Arnie.

 

Arriving in America at the end of the 60s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bulging Austrian babe in the woods when his bodybuilding mentor Joe Weider helped him land the title role in 1970's Hercules Goes To New York, a low-budget oddity also known, aptly enough, as Hercules Goes Bananas. The body on display here is most definitely Arnold's, but the unaccented voice clearly belongs to someone else in this quite ridiculous adventure involving a toga-clad Herc on the loose in modern Manhattan. From here on, though, Arnie worked his way up from such clinkers as 1979's Cactus Jack (aka The Villain) and 1980's The Jayne Mansfield Story to action and comedy to anything now that he wants to do.

 

1976  STAY HUNGRY

Arnold is Joe Santo, a –what else? – bodybuilder competing for the Mr. Universe title. Also starring in this Bob Rafelson quirky comedy-drama are Sally Field as Schwarzenegger's ex-sweetie, and Jeff Bridges, as the ne' er-do-well scion of an old Southern family.

Best moment: Arnold playing the fiddle with a hillbilly band.

Best Arnie line: "Make the thighs burn."

Must see: A herd of bikinied body builders chasing the bad guys through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama.

 

1977 PUMPING IRON

Despite the heavy accent, Arnie's charm and wit are immediately apparent in this George Butler documentary on ... bodybuilding.

Best moment: Arnold seriously needling his then-rival Lou Ferrigno, a scene now disowned by Arnie who claims he was iust trying to sell the movie.

Best Arnie line: Arnie describing his feelings on gym workouts thus: "It feels fantastic, it's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is. You know, as, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. So I am coming day and night...

Must see: Arnie delivering the above passage.

 

1982 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

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Arnie's big breakthrough as an action hero battling the leader of a nasty snake cult Wames Earl Jones (at his Darth Vader best). John Milius and Oliver Stone teamed up for this heavy-handed adaptation of the sword-is-mightier-than-anything romp. When it grossed $50 million, Hollywood took notice.

Best moment: Arnie punching out a camel.

Best Arnie line: (enumerating life's pleasures) "To crush your enemies, see them die before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women,"

Must see: Arnie, tied to a cross, biting the head off a marauding vulture.

 

1984 CONAN THE DESTROYER

Blood, gore, Juvenile humour and a climactic bottle with a grisly monster mark Arnold's less successful sequel to the original Conan. Grace Jones does, however, look mighty fetching as Conan's scantily-clad buddy.

Best moment: Arnie apologising to the camel, then punching.it out again.

Best Arnie line: "It's bad luck to kill a wizard."

Must see: Arnie twirling his two-ton sword for no apparent reason while flexing for the camera.

 

1984 THE TERMINATOR

Arnie's best picture yet, and the only time he has played a villain. James Cameron's powerful sci-fi shoot-em-up centers on two visitors from the future who materialise in contemporary L.A. and Arnie is truly menacing as the nearly indestructible killtng machine.

Best moment: Arnie arriving completely naked (side and rear views only) in the film's opening minutes.

Best Arnie line: ''Fuck you, asshole!"

Must see: Arnie losing his protective shell and being replaced by an animated puppet for the last 15 minutes.

 

1985 RED SONJA

Disappointing, but had the advantage of curing Arnie of sword and sorcery forever. A pre-pneumatic Brigitte Nielsen is the title character opposite Arnie's Kalidor, the only male warrior who can match her prowess.

Best moment: Arnie wrestling with the Killing Machine, a mechanical alligator-like creature.

Best Arnie line: "In life, all is not swordplay."

Must see: Severed head floating through the air in slo-mo.

 

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1986 COMMANDO

Total action from start to finish, with Arnie as Col. John Matrix, ultimate soldier and one-man gang who has to rescue his young daughter after she's snatched by a fully equipped private army.

Best moment: Arnie getting off a jet-liner by climbing onto the landing gear and [umpinq to safety.

Best Arnie line: "You're a funny guy, Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last."

Must see: Arnie stripping off his shirt for the final shoot-out.

 

1986 RAW DEAL

Arnie is disgraced ex-FBI agent Mark Kaminsky who tries to work his way back onto the force by infiltrating the Chicago mob. Blood, gore and stunts are up to par, but Arnie's one-liners lack their usual zip.

Best moment: Arnie machine-gunning everyone in sight as the Stones' Satisfaction blares away on his car radio.

Best Arnie line: "Who do you think I am? Dirty Harry?"

Must see: Arnie flexing his ever-glistening pecs while strapping on enough weaponry to invade Panama.

 

1987 THE RUNNING MAN

Arnie is Ben Richards, a 21st century policeman wrongly convicted of slaughtering 1,500 innocent people. He winds up on TV’smost popular show, The Running Man, where inmates can win freedom by making their way through a "playing field" filled with vicious killers.

Best moment: Arnie buzz-sawing an assailant in two from the groin up.

Best Arnie line: (while he performs the above act) "He had to split.”

Must see: The commercial for another programme, Climbing For Dollars, which features a man with money in his mouth trying to escape snarling dogs by climbing a rope.

 

1987 PREDATOR

Arnie leads crack military outfit stationed in Central America that has the misfortune of running into an extremely unfriendly alien. Yet another sci-fi action fest, but this time set in the present.

Best moment: Arnie's mono-a-alieno no-holds barred showdown.

Best Arnie line: None (but who cares?)

Must see: Arnie's men skinned and hanging from trees.

 

1988 RED HEAT

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Jim Belushi teams up with our boy in this East-West addition to the odd-couple-cop routine. Arnie is believably stone-faced as a highly disciplined Russkie 'tec teamed up with slob Chicago cop Belushi to track down drug dealers.

Best moment: Arnie and the bad guys chasing each other on buses and destroying most of Chicago in the process.

Best Arnie line: (after wiping out about a dozen people)

"I'm not on holiday here."

Must see: Artfully-shot nude Arnie baffling artfully-shot nude villain in Turkish bath.

 

1988 TWINS

Arnie's first outright comedy, cast here as Danny DeVito's twin brother. As the highly educated but naive giant, Arnie has some fine comic moments as sleaze ball DeVito introduces him to life's seamy side. At a gross of more than $110 million, Arnie's biggest film to date.

Best moment: DeVito teaching Arnie to dance.

Best Arnie line: "I don't know what the problem is, but I'm sure itcan be resolved without resorting to violence."

Must see: The grin on Arnie's face after his first-ever bonk.

EMPIRE, JULY 1990

Cartoons

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When MGM/UA senior vice president and general manager George Feltenstein decided last year that he wanted to reissue old "Looney Tunes" cartoons in a deluxe laserdisc collection, his colleagues laughed. "No one thought there was any value to them," he says. The company laughed all the way to the bank, however, when sales for the $100 five-disc set went through the roof: "When we put out the first set, I would have been happy if we sold 3,000," he notes. "We sold 14,000."

And that's not all, folks.

Long considered kid stuff, animation has become the art form for just about everyone. How else to explain the theatrical gold uncovered by Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, even The Jetsons (which earned $5 million its opening weekend)? Or the new 24-hour Cartoon Network on cable TV? And what about the proliferation of cartoon memorabilia, from the Fantasia animation "eel" Sotheby's recently sold for $93,500 to the Mickey Mouse watches, Popeye mugs and Bugs Bunny designer jackets that permeate suburban malls?
Cartoons are hot - but they're absolutely sizzling on videocassette and laserdisc, their new and well-deserved homes. From Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse to Wild Japanese animation like Akira, there are so many current titles, it takes 97 pages of the Whole Toon Catalog (plus regular supplements) to keep up with the releases. MGMIUA has issued four $100 "Looney Tunes" laser disc boxed sets, as well as similar packages like The Compleat Tex Avery and The Art of Tom and Jerry Part I and Part II. Disney's Beauty and the Beast has sold 25 million copies, making it the most popular home video ever, followed by the 53-year-old Fantasia, which has clocked in at 14.2 million videos sold.

The variety of animation titles currently on video is astonishing. There are environmentally conscious tapes like Picture Start's Greentoons; sophisticated antiwar dramas such as Central Park Media's Grave of the Fireflies; weird experimental collages like those
presented on Lumivision's Animation Celebration Laserdisc Collection; such wacky sci-fi comedies as U.S. Magna's Project A-Ko; and even violent, NC-17-rated cartoons like the controversial Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, from Anime 18. Whatever your tastes, there's now an animated title at the local video store with your name on it.

Animation has been popular ever since film's earliest days, when newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay's Little Nemo wowed audiences in 1911. But it took Walt Disney and a rambunctious mouse named Mickey to bring cartoons to the fore with Steamboat Willie (1928). "[Walt Disney] did not invent the mediurn," observes film historian Leonard Maltin in his book Of Mice and Magic, "but one could say that he defined it."

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:296:]][[wysiwyg_imageupload:297:]]Disney institutionalized the form, building a creative factory that scripted and storyboarded cartoons as no one had done before. He added sound and then Technicolor when none of his competitors saw the need. He created the first full-length animated feature - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs despite widespread skepticism from the film industry, which dubbed the project "Disney's Folly." And throughout his career, he developed new processes that enhanced perspective and added to the believability and fluidity of his company's cartoons.

Walt Disney Home Video has also been among the first to realize the tape and laserdisc potential of its huge cartoon library. In the early '80s, the studio released many of its classic short cartoons on "Limited Gold Edition" tapes, cleverly marketing them as collectors' items that would only be sold for a limited time. Since then, Disney has perfected the "buy now or miss it later" hype, limiting availability on such popular titles as The Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians and Pinocchio.

Pinocchio provides a good example of Disney's marketing approach: Though the company denied it would ever be released on video - a claim now being made for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, despite rumors of a 1994 video release - the tape hit the shelves for a short time in 1985 and quickly went on "moratorium." This meant that stores could sell off remaining stock but could not reorder after a specified date, thus inflating demand for the title. Seven years later, Disney trumpeted a new, restored version of Pinocchio on tape and disc, again warning that it would be pulled and "not available again in this century."

Despite their tremendous success on video, these good-natured, sentimental Disney pictures are primarily aimed at children. It took Warner Bros.' "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons of the late '30, '40s and '50s to add an adult sensibility to Disney's techniques. The six-minute Warner shorts use jazz, be-bop and classical music as the backdrop for wacky tales full of chases, literate gags, reality-breaking humor, slapstick violence and outrageous puns.

Unlike the Disney material, however, the Warner library has had a scattershot history on tape and disc, partly because of a tangled ownership situation, Most of the cartoons from 1931 to 1948 were sold in the 1950s and are now distributed by MGM/UA; post-'48 shorts are still controlled by Warner.

Until George Feltenstein took over at MGMIUA, most of that company's releases were packaged under the "Viddy-Oh! for kids" label, and were often poorly edited. Feltenstein noted the success of Warner's 1985 "Golden Jubilee 24-Karat Collection" series (still available at $12.95 apiece), which compiled eight-cartoon collections centering on individual characters like Porky Pig's Screwball Comedies and Elmer Fudd's Comedy Capers, and included notes by film historian Leonard Maltin.

Feltenstein soon put together the "Cartoon Movie Star" series of tapes that included Warner characters and also such MGM stars as Tom and Jerry and United Artists' Pink Panther. That, in turn, led to The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, which Feltestein initially planned as a disc-only series. (MGM/UA began releasing tape versions in 1993. The  first ten tapes, available at $12.95 each, duplicate the material on the initial laserdisc set; more are promised.)

Warner Home Video has taken a different tack: in addition to the "24 Karat" series, its cassette releases include such theatrical compilation movies as The Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie ($14.95), For laserdisc, the company shunned MGM's boxed-set approach in favor of six single-platter releases, grouped by character or subject. Daffy Duck in Duck Victory ($34.98) is a typical 14-cartoon Warner laser set, and features Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century, an inspiration of sorts for Star Wars.

That success has led to other tape and disc releases which reflect animation's less-than-golden years, the 1950s..With rising costs and competition from television, theatrical shorts moved to the cheaper venue of TV, but suffered from inferior scripts and less fluid or "limited" animation.

The big exception was Jay Ward. He used the limited animation to its best advantage by relying not on action but talk: witty parodies of films, television, and society itslef. His "Crusader Rabbit," "Rocky and Bullwinkle," and "Fractured Fairy Tales"cartoons were designed for adults as well as kids. Adults could appreciate the satire, while kids saw the stories as fanciful tales. Spoofing was the name of the game. "Fractured Fairy Tales," for instance, featured a Prince Charming who looks like Walt Disney and who decides not to wake Sleeping Beauty with a kiss but instead turns a profit by displaying her in a theme park dubbed "Sleeping Beauty Land."

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:298:]]Ironically enough, Disney's Buena Vista label acquired the Bullwinkle series in 1990 and released six tapes in 1991 at $12.99 apiece; six more followed last year. The company restored the 30-year-old cartoons enhancing both color and sound, but purists were dismayed to find the series' rambling storylines had been severely edited to fit one complete story onto each tape. Image Entertainment has released four double-length Rocky and Bullwinkle laserdiscs at $39.39 each. Few other cartoons from the period are worth noting, as the form deteriorated into "hour-long commercials for toy companies," according to Doug Ranney, publisher of the Whole Toon Catalog

TOON REVIVAL
Two turning points helped revive animation's reputation after its low point in the '50s and '60s, and eventually led to the current boom on tape and disc. The first was the huge theatrical success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), which combined human and cartoon characters in a huge box-office smash. "Suddenly the word 'toon' became apopular part of the vocabulary," says MGMIUA's Feltenstein (Ironically, because Rabbit was distributed by Disney, the video editions have disappeared from store shelves.)

The second key event in the cartoon renaissance was the arrival of adult-oriented Japanese animation in theaters and on video. Violent, witty, sexually explicit and often very bizarre,. it brought the mythos of adult comic books into the video world. Japanimation, or Anime, runs the gamut from action-adventure and action;comedy to erotic sci-fi violence and intimate human drama. It is largely based on Japanese comic books, which account for 60 percent of the magazines sold in that country.

Extremely popular among adults in Japan - where 100 animated titles are released on video each month - these' cartoons rework old movie and story themes, sometimes in original and disturbing ways. Central Park Media's Project A-Ko ($29.95), a sci-fi thriller set in a girls' school, has a lesbian subtext and an incomprehensible plot, while Urotsukidoji: The Legend of the Overfiend ($39.95) couples disturbing erotic images with graphic violence. The animation itself has a stylized - if not terribly fluid - punch.

Overfiend set house records at one New York City theater, selling out 24 , weekends in a row as a midnight movie. By the time the cartoon came to video, it had been shown theatrically in 48 other cities and had been chosen as one of the lead titles at the Montreal Film Festival in October '93. Project A-Ko, was premiered at the Dallas Museum of Art, while Akira became the ,first and only animated film to find a place in Voyager's hallowed Criterion Collection laserdisc series

Such respectability for cartoons has opened many doors and given, a wider outlet to independent animation. The Tune, Bill Plympton's bizarre feature about a songwriter in search of a' song, has just been released on tape by Tribobo Entertainment. Plymptoons ($34.95), a compilation of the animator's shorter works is out on laserdisc from Lumivision. It features his award-winning shorts, TV commercials and even a failed sitcom.

Lumivision has released a wide variety of disc-only independant animation titles, generally priced at $34.95. Included are the Japanese-made Twilight of the Cockroaches, a surreal composite of live action and animation that tells the saga of life in a cockroach 'family;" Ardman Animatians, five shorts from England, including the Academy Award-winning Creature Comforts, about a philosophical puma and his friends; and Brnno Bozzetto Animator, featuring the work of an Italian animator dubbed the "Walt Disney of Europe."     ,
"A lot of the populadty has to do with accessibility," says Jamie White, president of Lumivision. "Laserdiscs and tapes are creating more of a demand for animation. The more people see, the more they want to know about it. Seeing it often piques one's interest in classic animation, too. They're all replayable. Even some of the stuff from the '20s is fascinating."    

Yet there is more to animation's popularity than history, accessibility or even collectability. "As the baby boomers progress demographically into a higher age group, the stuff they've always liked enters the mainstream," observes Whole Toon Catalog's Ranney. "Our generation grew up watching cartoons," adds John O'Donnell, managing director at Central Park Media, which distributes much of the Japanimation. "I read Marvel Comics, which are more adult-oriented than Archie or Casper. The baby boomers have the attitude that comics and, cartoons are fun."

There's an even simpler reason for the new popularity of animation, however. Beyond the anarchy, the color and the music, cartoons appeal to the rebellious Everyman in all of us, to the little boy or girl who wants to have the last word. "They are mirrors of what we do," observes animator Chuck Jones in his autobiography Chuck Amuck. "Or, in the case of the comic hero, what we would like to be able to do. We are all Daffy Ducks inside:"

Tha - tha - that's all, folks!


 VIDEO NOVEMBER 1993
 

Class Acts

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New York is a living classroom comprised of motivated students of all ages. Driven by curiosity about the world they inhabit, a desire to be creative, or a yen to make more money, Manhattan’s continuing ed students are taking advantage of both degree and non-degree programs that promise to expand their knowledge years after college.

Returning students, generally in their 30s and 40s (and increasingly in their 50s and 60s), are electing to take a range of classes, from creative writing, internet skills, and wine tasting to public speaking, graphics, and interior design.

So, if you're looking to master a new skill, enhance your job peiformance, or re-charge your creative batteries; read on.

Lee Seham was a lawyer who wanted to make people laugh. James Rottner was a social services employee who wanted to sharpen his job skills. And Miriam Sirota was an actress who wanted to avoid waiting tables to pay the rent. What did they all have in common? They went back to school.

Seham, 34, studied stand-up comedy at The New School and honed an act that nearly got him an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show(the taping was canceled because of a monster Chicago snowstorm). Rottner, 44, spent every Saturday for two years at Baruch College earning a degree in public administration. And Sirota, 26, bypassed the waitress route by becoming a real estate salesperson through New York University School of Continuing Education's accelerated New York Real Estate Salesperson's Course. She closed over $1 million dollars in sales last year.

"I was trying to find something that would work with my acting career," recalls Sirota. "I didn't want to wait tables, and it was always difficult at office jobs to get away for auditions. I needed flexibility but also wanted something creative."

Some students desire to experiment with an artistic outlet or hobby. "I wanted to do something creative after hours," says Seham about his stand-up stint. "I was forced to expend creative juices that normally would expire by coming home and watching TV"

Many enroll for professional reasons. Rottner, an operations manager in the AIDS services division of the Visit1ng Nurse Service of New York, earned a master's degree through Baruch's accelerated weekend program, and gained the tools to increase his job productivity.

For others, the love of learning is an ongoing commitment to personal development-from learning to whip up a perfect souffle to mastering a foreign language, to earning a professional degree. What follows are popular courses in the top four areas:

 

Performing Arts

Have you ever wondered: Am I funnier than Jerry Seinfeld? A better actor than Meryl Streep? A more spirited dancer tha Mikhail Baryshnikov? If you've always harbored a secret desire to perform, you can test your artistic ambitions in a friendly forum: a classroom. New York is a mecca for starving artists of all disciplines. Here, you will find superior classes in acting, comedy, improvisation, music, dance, and other performance fields. The Lucy Moses School for Music and Dance, a division of Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center, is one of many venues that offer a testing ground for would-be-stars. "Kaufman Kabaret," for example, allows students to put on their own cabaret show of Beatles tunes, while the Drama Group features public performances of scenes from great dramas and comedies.

"It's a big thing for people who did creative work in grade school or high school and don't have a career in it," explains Sean Hartley, acting director of education at Lucy Moses. "These individuals like to sing or perform but don't have an outlet. Here they get a little coaching, a little focus, and then they can invite their friends to see them perform."

 

Fine Arts

Courses in interior design and computer graphics are among today's more practical fine arts offerings. The New York School of Interior Design is one of many institutions offering degree and non-degree courses for the professional hoping to expand his or her knowledge. "CAD Level" is typical: an introduction to the use of the computer as a design and drafting tool for interior design.

"There is a wide range of applications for interior design work," saysInge Heckel, president of the school. "Interior design is not just about doing a living room. There is a whole gamut of careers possible designing hospitals, schools, even space stations."

Fashion design is also in vogue, with professionals signing up to gain new skills and amateurs carving out new careers. The Fashion Institute of Technology has 8,000 part-time students who study tailoring, jewelry design, menswear, photography, textiles, and pattern-making. "There are a lot of people coming back for refresher courses and others who come for personal development," says Stayton Wood, vice president for student affairs at FIT.

Computer graphics courses are also on the upswing. Parsons' "Exploring the Digital Canvas," for instance, offers lessons in drawing, painting, and special effects on the Photoshop software program to experienced professional artists. "No two people's work looks the same," says instructor Mark Kaplan. "The glory of it is you're not looking at scanned images. This is a good course for experienced fine artists who are looking to make the transition to computers."

Pratt Institute has an array of contemporary computer graphics and design programs, too, including the popular "Multimedia," a course that shows students how to work with text, graphics, animation, and sound to create cutting-edge two-dimensional presentations.

Those who want to try their skills with a camera often end up at the School of Visual Arts. Award-winning photographer Jay Manis teaches "Basic Photography," a popular introductory course in which novice students learn the difference between an F-stop and

an F train, as well as the ins and outs of dodging, burning, bleaching, and archival processing. Say Cheese!

 

Culinary Courses

Many budding chefs or gourmands enjoy cooking and wine, but feel a need to learn more before dining at Lutece, Nobu, or many exalted Manhattan eateries. Luckily, excellent courses about food and wine abound.

"We teach mostly young consumers," notes instructor Harriet Lembeck about "Wine for Dummies," a course offered by The New School. "Our courses try to take the mystery out of choosing a wine."

Hands~on culinary courses, including those at Peter Kump's School of Culinary Arts and The French Culinary Institute, provide practical skills such as knife-handling, pastry-making and advanced culinary arts. The New School's culinary curriculum includes the ethnic offerings, "Introduction to Sushi" and "The Cooking of Malta" as well as "Low-Fat Spa-Style Cooking" and "Culinary Walking Tours."

The walking tours feature food history and, in the words of instructor Annie Hauck-Lawson, "help students look for the relationship between food and culture. When I do a walking tour of Polish Greenpoint in Brooklyn, I talk about how the neighborhood developed both historically and in terms of food. We talk about food symbols in the Polish-American community and how they are manifested in homes, churches, and stores."

 

Job Skills

Courses that impact career advancement are experiencing increased attendance. The "Media Management Program" at Audrey Cohen College is the first MBA program to focus exclusively on entertainment and media management. It is designed to prepare students for a foray into film, broadcasting, music, and multimedia through the planning, production, and promotion of a new media venture.

Those seeking certification ski1ls often turn to Pace University. According to Bill Clutter, executive director of adult outreach programs, Pace's courses "help people who are sitting down for certification exams." Good at accounting? Try the CPA certification course. Need to learn the latest payroll procedures? Pace offers a certification class from the American Payroll Association. "For years, Pace trained the majority of accountants in New York," notes Clutter, who adds that many in other professions return for refresher courses.

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Public speaking is the No. 1 phobia for most Americans. No wonder TalkPower's 19-hour weekend "Stress Seminars for Public Speaking" have found a growing adult audience. "We offer a series of sequential exercises that develop neural patterns in the brain," notes Natalie H. Rogers, TalkPower president. "This helps people to focus on themselves rather than on their fear of the audience. This process was developed over 20 years, and will transform a nervous, uncomfortable speaker into a fluent, confident presenter. It works for speeches, meetings, job interviews, even parties where you don't know anyone. It really can transform you."

Which is appropriate since, in the end, transformation is what most continuing education is all about, isn't it?

New York Magazine, January 13, 1997   

Credit Report

 

FRONT DESK 

Credit Where It's Due 

Modesty, the old pal's act or simply owing someone a favor - what's the beef on the unbilled cameo?

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WHO'S THAT MYSTERY BLOKE IN ALIVE,BURBLING on about how he found God on the' mountain but then kind of lost him again? Blimey, if it's not old John Malkovich. And what about the TV station chief doling out the big reward in Accidental Hero? Blow me if it isn't Chevy Chase. But hang on a minute, they're not in those films _ both released this month - are they? At least, it doesn't say anywhere that they are, especially not in the credits. So what is it that possessed those hardly publicity-shy types to give of their services for bugger all acclaim? 

Whether done as a favor to a friend, owing someone a few bob or blind terror that said movie will turn out to be a bit of a bummer - "He just thought it'd be fun, I guess," trills Chase's enthusiastic L.A. publicity person - it would seem that unheralded appearances are as old as Hollywood itself, as Tom Soter and Jeff Dawson discover ... 

Laurel & Hardy in Pick A Star (1937) The studio Stuck in "unacknowledged" Laurel and Hardy between scenes of this Hal Roach production to beef up a rather lame comedy about a smallt own girl (Rosina Lawrence) and her rise to Hollywood stardom ... 

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Gene Kelly, Milton Berle, and Bing Crosby  in Let's Make Love (1960) Multi-millionaire Yves Montand, fed up with women chasing him just for his wad, tries to impress showgirI Marilyn Monroe by hiring an uncredited Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby and Milton BerIe to teach him how to dance, sing and" make people laugh." Her heart, how. ever, belongs to daddy ... 

Glenda Jackson in The Boy Friend (1971)  "Be so good I'll hate you," blubs the Member For Hampstead, star of Ken Russell's jazz musical, twisting an ankle and missing her stab at stardom when a vIsiting Hollywood director selects understudy Twiggy for the big picture instead. There's no 'cialism like so-cialism ... 

Robert Duvall in The Conversation (1974) Duvall shows his face as "The Director," hiring ace wire-tapper Gene Hackman to get information on his unfaithful wife. Like most of the people in Coppola's story, he's a mysterious cipher: tense, menacing and, quite possibly, planning a murder ... 

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Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein (1974)  Hackman is Harold the blind hermit who prays for a "friend" and ends up with big bolted Peter Boyle instead in that spoof of The Bride Of Frankenstein. "You see how heaven plans? Me a blind man and you a mute, " yells Hackman, pouring soup in the lap of the Doc Martened brute. "An incredibly big mute" 

Elizabeth Taylor in Winter Kills (1979)  Years before cameoing as Michael Jackson's besl mate on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Liz was honing her "guesting" skills in this Kennedy conspiracy comedy. In a voice-over sequence, Taylor is the Washington hostess supplying bedmates for the bullet-friendly Premier ... 

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Jenny Agutter in Darkman (1990)  Twenty years on from flagging down the 5.20 from York with her bright red bloomers, "doctor" Jen pops her head round the door at the burns unit where Liam Neeson is first brought in, probably having worked her way up from "nurse" in An American Werewolf In London ... 

F. Murray Abraham in The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1991)  "F" plays the disgruntled D.A. who - some say fortuitously - takes his moniker off the credits when a namecheck reveals that he's way down the pecking order when it comes to the billing ... 

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Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)  Kept in anonymity to preserve a surprise finale to Costner's" swashbuckler," King Sean, as Richard The Lionheart, steals the show by donating his $300,000 fee to his pet charity, the Scottish Educational Trust ... 

Robin Williams in Dead Again (1992 The funny man goes all noble, not wishing his stature to dwarf this Branagh/Thompson noir homage. The discredited shrink, dispensing advice from the supermarket refrigerator, is thus struck off the register ... 

EMPIRE, 1993

Dave

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Kevin Kline has played a variety of parts - including his AcademyAward-winner as the deranged Otto in A Fish Called Wanda- but none was as bizarrely demanding as the lead in Dave (Warner Home Video) as both a George Bush-like President and his look-alike. Playing an actor playing a president partially based on a real leader could get confusing, especially when Kline and his colleagues were invited by Bill Clinton's camp to view the election night returns at Democratic headquarters. 

 

To Kline, however, politics, playacting and reality have all been commonplace in Washington for a while ... at least since an actor named Reagan took over the White House ("Very sobering thought, an actor in charge," says Kline), Although he admits Dave is a fantasy, Kline feels the movie is not too far from the times in its depiction of an idealist who tries to make the government work for the people.

 

"The character overcomes all the powers that are against him because he stays true to himself," notes the actor. "The movie dares to not be cynical. It dares to not be hip. It says that if you have a president who genuinely wants to do something, you can get a lot of work done. 

 

"And finally," he adds in typical comic deadpan, "we have a man in the White House who can string dozens of words together: a verb, a noun, a full sentence. It's been years since we had one like that." 

 

VIDEO DECEMBER 1993 

EW

Add Image: 

Epics (2)

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In the beginning (sort of) was The Robe. And Hollywood said, "Let it have stars and spectacle and Romans. Let it have CinemaScope." And so it was so. And the public said that it was good. And 10, Hollywood said, "Let there be The Ten Commandments." And The Ten Commandments begat Ben-Hur. And Ben-Hur begat El Cid. And Hollywood never rested. For though the epics were not always highbrow, they were extremely profitable.

Nothing is as reassuring as an epic, those large-scale tales of swords, sandals, and morality as practiced by ancient Jews, Christians, and Romans. When the form was born in the 1950s, American values were supposedly under attack by left-wingers and communists. The epics helped reinforce the belief that virtue in the face of adversity is rewarded and that love of God and family prevails.

The movies were astonishingly successful on many fronts: Ben-Hur (1959), for example, won critical praise and a record 11 Academy Awards, and The Ten Commandments took in $34.2 million in its initial 1956 release, about $170 million in 1990s dollars. Children dressed up as gladiators, teens watched the movies at drive-ins, and scholars cited the films' educational benefits.

Epics are worth seeing again today, not only because many are so arch that they have become delightfully campy, but also because the best are engaging movies about real people facing moral dilemmas. Fortunately, there's no shortage of epics, especially around Easter and Passover, when the films pop up constantly' on TV. In addition, FoxVideo recently released 13 movies in its "Films of Faith" series; MGM/UA has issued The Greatest Story Ever Told in a special letter box laser disc version; The Ten Commandments is out in a 35th anniversary remastered cassette and disc; Criterion just put out Jason and the Argonauts on laser disc; Video Yesteryear has released The Avenger, a rare Steve "Hercules" Reeves f'ilrn; and the Great Religious Epics Video Series is available from the Columbia House Video Library.

 

Tinseltown Versus Television

Sword and sandals epics initially got their start because of competition. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the movie industry grew concerned that television was drawing audiences away from theaters. To retaliate against TV's studio-bound black-andwhite dramas, Tinseltown mounted a series of brightly costumed, widescreen adventures, shot in full color. Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949) was the first tentative effort, but it wasn't until The Robe (1951) that epic-mania took off.

The Robe set the stage for future epics: Morality and immorality went hand in hand with violence, virtue, and visions of God. Based on a book by doctor-turned-writer Lloyd C. Douglas, the story relates the adventures of Roman centurion Marcellus (Richard Burton), who through Jesus' teachings changes from a drunken playboy to a freedom-fighting Christian. Along the way, he meets the Christlike' Michael Rennie as Saint Peter (Rennie played a similar role in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a 1951 science-fiction epic about a messiah).

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Although Burton seems uncomfortable through most  of the film, which includes such bizarre touches as an eloquent Judas mournfully talking about his betrayal of Jesus, audiences lapped it up. The sequels soon followed: guts-andglory Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), featuring Victor Mature as a slave who finds faith, loses it long enough to slaughter a platoon of people, and then finds it again; The Egyptian (1954), about an ancient doctor-hero (Edmund Purdom) with a vision of racial tolerance; and The Land of Darkness (1955), an Italian knockoff that features the Sons of Hercules, who, in the words of the title song, "roam the earth righting wrongs, helping the weak and oppressed, and seeking adventure" (translation: dumb action scenes, thoroughly inane plot).

Victor Mature was the crown prince of such second-strjng epics. Known for his hambone performances, the Kentucky-born actor made his debut in a 1939 comedy but found his true calling ten years later in DeMille's Samson and Delilah. As the hirsute Samson, he wrestles lions and brings the Philistine temple down around him, but he often earned more notice for his offscreen brawls. Silver Screen magazine related how he "thrashed the living daylights out of a celebrated playwright rash enough to call him an 'adenoidal Adonis."

Mature was matched in popularity by Steve Reeves. A former Mr. America and Mr. Universe, the Montana-born bodybuilder hit it big in Italy, where he appeared as the title character in Hercules (1957). When American producer Joseph Levine released a  dubbed U.S. version in 1959, the movie made a fortune and Reeves became an international star. The muscle man appeared only once more as Hercules (in 1960's Hercules Unchained), but he was essentially the same character in The Trojan Horse (1962) and The Avenger (1962), among others. Although Reeves' dubbed voice was deep, rumors floated about that the big guy actually had an oddly high-pitched voice.

Of course, Mature and Reeves eventually took a backseat to Charlton Heston, who became the acknowledged king of the form in The Ten Commandments, which set new standards of opulence and corniness. It followed the basic DeMille epic formula, which usually involved a virtuous hero, incredible odds, a noble quest, fortune-cookie dialogue ("Have the days of darkness not made you see the light?"), romance, and a whole lot of carnage.

And then there was the film's collection of great ham actors (Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson, Yul Brynner) and the rendering of the Bible as soap opera. Love triangles and sibling rivalry abound as the hero gives up fame, wealth, power, even the love of a sultry Egyptian princess ("Moses, Moses, you splendid, stubborn, adorable fool") to follow his God..

The Ten Commandments was a box-office smash, but it was Ben-Hur that gave respectability to the form. The movie is the tale of Judah BenHur (Heston) and his boyhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd), who feud over the Romans' treatment of the Jews and eventually fight it out to the death in a chariot race. Like many epics, the movie is episodic: Ben-Hur is imprisoned, meets Jesus, spends three years as a galley slave, fights in a sea battle, becomes a Roman citizen, takes on Messala, rescues his family from a leper colony, and witnesses the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ.

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But unlike more ponderous epics, the film's religious events are trimmings that help focus the story on its theme: the danger of becoming what you hate. The movie concentrates on two issues: the transforming effect of Ben-Hur's hatred of Messala, and the forgiving power of love, as epitomized by Christ. Heston justly won an Academy Award for his complex portrayal of a flawed, driven man. He went on to star in El Cid (1961) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

Appropriately, Heston recently appeared in a cable TV series, "Charlton Heston Presents the Bible." But he has a rueful attitude about his reputation. "I met a woman who told me she had named her child after me," he once recalled. "I said, 'What a terrible thing, to be named Charlton.' She said, 'No, no, I named him Moses.' "

With the success of Ben-Hur, complexity soon became a feature of the best epics, with many filmmakers using them as a means to disguise social messages. In Spartacus (1960), screenwriter Dalton Trumbo promoted trade unionism (although most people prefer to remember Laurence Olivier's lecherous, decadent Roman commander). Of course, complexity could also be an albatross. In El Cid, the viewer has to be a Spanish-history major to folLow most of the plot, involving King Alfonso, Al Kadir, Don Diego, and other unknown notables.

Cleopatra (1963) was complex in a different way. Begun in 1958, the movie ceased production four times before it was finished. It had two different directors, two Caesars, two Anthonys, but only one Cleopatra: Elizabeth Taylor. She received $25,000 for every week work that went over schedule (104 weeks), $3,000 a week for expenses, and 10% of the gross. (Her third husband, Eddie Fisher, was also paid $1,500 a day to see that she showed up.) The result was a glitzy dud, dominated by the title Queen of Egypt, a spoiled fashion plate with 58 costumes.

Cleopatra nearly bankrupted its studio and was the beginning of the end for the traditional epic. The death blow came from The Greatest Story Ever Told, director George Stevens' dull-as-sandal-dust retelling of the life of Christ. Here, Jesus (Max Von Sydow) is a sensitive bore, and the only real miracle is the number of stars Stevens crammed into inappropriate bit parts (Pat Boone? Shelley Winters?). Even John Wayne turns up, drawling "Truly this man wuz the son of Gawd."

After that, the successful epic was forced to take on new forms. There were such delightful special-effects fantasies as Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which offered the 50- foot bronze giant Talos, flying Harpies, a seven-headed Hydra, and sword-wielding skeletons. There was also the excellent TV miniseries "I, Claudius" (1976), an intimate drama about intrigue in ancient Rome, and the not-quite-as-excellent Moses (1975), with Burt Lancaster.

Finally, providing the last word on epics, there was an amusing "Star Trek" episode from 1967 in which Captain Kirk et al. turn up on a planet that seems to be a 20th-century version of ancient Rome, complete with television broadcasts of gladiators locked in combat. Beam me up, Scotty.

 

MARCH 1994 • DIVERSION  

 

VIDEOS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

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All you need for an epic screenfest is a VCR and some popcorn (and perhaps that old gladiator costume). Here are a few suggestions.

THE FIVE MOST STIRRING EPICS

Ben-Hur (MGM/uA Home Video) 

The Egyptian (FoxVideo)

Jason and the Argonauts (RCA/Columbia)

Spartacus (MCA/Universal)

The Ten Commandments (Paramount Home Video)

THE FIVE MOST CAMPY EPICS·

The Avenger (Video Yesteryear)

Cleopatra (FoxVideo)

Erik the Viking (Orion)

The Greatest Story Ever Told  (MGMlUA)

The Passover Plot (Cannon Video)

Film Therapists (1)

Unlkely shrink: Dr. Fred Astaire analyzes Ginger Rogers in Carefree.

Unllkely shrink: Dr. Fred Astaire analyzes Ginger Rogers in Carefree.

NOTE: Editors often rewrite stories, and I occasionally found myself rewritten. Sometimes, it was necessary - I might not have hit the mark – other times it was silly (adding the word "living" to the phrase "everyone in the world knows James Bond"), and then there were instances where it was done to catch a different idiom. That was usually the case with EMPIRE, a British film magazine that printed my work in the early 1990s. I recently came across an original draft of a story that was rewritten by EMPIRE (adding British slang). Here's a chance to see what was done and to choose whose prose you prefer. Tom Soter, July 3, 2011.

 

SHRINK-WRAPPED

PSYCHIATRY AND FILM: A GUIDE

By TOM SOTER from EMPIRE, 1993 (Original version)

Looking for a good shrink? Don't go to Hollywood. If recent flicks like Basic Instinct, Final Analysis, The Prince of Tides, and The Silence of the Lambs are any clue, most screenwriters must go to therapists who are either sex-crazed narcissists or hot-headed loony-toons ready to shoot, stab, or eat them if they don't give out the right answers. Surprising? Not really. As long as there have been movies, there have been movies about psychiatrists. Good, bad, or indifferent shrinks, audiences have seen them all, from the bonkers analyst in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) to the seductive New Yawker with the six-inch fingernails in The Prince of Tides (1991). "There's not much subtlety from a psychiatric point of view," Dr. Harvey R. Greenberg, a New York psychiatrist told the New York Times when they asked him about Streisand's portrayal of Dr. Susan Lowenstein in Prince. "Her techniques are largely reassurance and ventilation. This movie rests largely on the dramatic idea that unburdening yourself about the past will cure everything from neurotic alienation to schizophrenia." Well, maybe, but we think it all depends on what shrink you rap with. Since 1906, when Dr. Dippy's Sanitarium offered a lighthearted view of a madhouse, there have been over 300 movies with analysts of some sort or another, and sometimes it's hard to tell the doctor without a scorecard. Tom Soter provides some help with an Empire guide to movie therapists you may (or may not) want to avoid...

BASIC INSTINCT (1992) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Love Thy Patient FIRST SESSION Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), sex kitten as shrink, ends a session with her patient (Michael Douglas), by saying, "I still miss you." SHRINK RAP "Fuck off, Martin." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE After violently attacking her patient because he has sexually insulted her, she pulls herself together and says, "I'm sorry. I don't usually act like that." SEPARATION ANXIETY - NOT After the patient violently makes love to the therapist, she says, "You've never been like that before; why?" To which he replies, "You're the shrink. You tell me." She throws him out.

FINAL ANALYSIS(1992) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Aren't I Handsome? FIRST SESSION Dr. Isaac Barr (Richard Gere) is aloof loner absorbed by work – except when he meets steamy potential patients with long blond hair, sensuous mouths, and voluptuous figures (Kim Basinger) SHRINK RAP "People stop surprising you." GET OFF THE COUCH – OR ELSE Dr. Barr wears Armani suits and sleeps with accused murderers. SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT The therapist never saw Double Indemnity or Body Heat, and is much top passionate and trusting.

PRINCE OF TIDES (1991) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Long Fingernails Help Get to the Point FIRST SESSION Dr. Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand) can help others, but is unable to help herself: her marriage is sterile, her son is bitter and uncommunicative, and her husband likes to insult jocks SHRINK RAP "Face the pain." (Subtext: sleep with me.) GET OFF THE COUCH – OR ELSE She holds sessions with her patient's brother, but never seems to charge him – and then pays him to teach her nerdy son football. SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT She apparently cures her suicidal patient by sleeping with the patient's brother (Nick Nolte).

WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY I Me Mine FIRST SESSION Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) is a neurotic narcissist who knows a lot of theory but seems to cares more about his Vacation, reputation, and fees than the problems of his seriously disturbed, yet charming patient (Bill Murray), who later becomes a therapist himself. SHRINK RAP "I don't get angry," he says seething with anger. "I don't get upset. I don't see patients on vacation." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE The doctor talks to his children via hand©puppets. SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT The shrink attempts to strangle and then dynamite his patient, and ends up in an asylum. His patient becomes a therapist.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1990) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY To know me is to eat you FIRST SESSION Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lektor (Anthony Hopkins) is every analysand's nightmare doctor, able to destroy you with a word, to enter your mind, even to eat you if you let down your guard. SHRINK RAP "All good things to those who wait." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE The therapist rarely moves except when hungry; likes to stand under spotlights and stare directly into the camera. SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT Dr. Lektor is on the loose at the end. Moral: Evil is still out there, waiting to strike, and therapy is a constant, ongoing battle.

HOUSE OF GAMES (1987) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY It takes one to know one. FIRST SESSION Dr. Margaret (Lindsay Crouse), pop psychologist, the author of a best©selling book on compulsive behavior, is herself a compulsive thief and obsessive personality, sexually drawn to a con man and thief (Montegna) who threatens the life of her patient and cons her out of thousands. SHRINK RAP Thief sums up therapist's strongest personality trait: "You're like a dog coming back to its own vomit." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE Doctor has close-cropped, mannish haircut and is so busy taking notes during her sessions that she often misses the point of what people are saying. SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT She shoots her lover, which seems to relieve her guilt complex. By managing to evade capture, she also has time to write another best©selling book.

THE HOWLING(1981) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Hairy Problems Must Be Confronted FIRST SESSION A smooth-talking werewolf shrink (Patrick Macnee), argues that the modern werewolf must repress his base instincts (and fangs) if he is to survive in modern times SHRINK RAP "We must never deny the animal within us." (He should know.) GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE One of the therapist's patients is horror movie icon John Carradine, who says, "You can't tame what's meant to be wild, doc. It ain't natural." SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT Macnee says, "Times have changed. We can fit in," moments before the heroes trap all the werewolves in a burning barn

HALLOWEEN (1980) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Speak manically and carry a big gun FIRST SESSION Dr. Sam Loomis (named after the dumbell hero of Psycho) has a glint in his eye and a noble purpose in his heart: confine psycho Michael Meyers or blow him away with a .44 magnum. SHRINK RAP "I spent eight years trying to reach [murderer Michael Myers] and then another seven trying to keep him locked up...[He is] purely and simply Evil." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE Loomis has a moralistic fervor and a dedication to the job that are laudable; he gets to the point quickly; however, he seems to have no other patients and difficulty with small talk SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT He shoots his patient – but is unable to completely separate (see Halloween II and V)

DRESSED TO KILL (1980) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Norman Bates School of Double Identity FIRST SESSION Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) is calm, cockney, dedicated, and keeps referring to a wife no one ever sees. He also "keeps his nights open for returning phone calls or in case a patient needs extra help" – a sure sign that he's nutty. SHRINK RAP Elliott's insight: "There are all kinds of ways to get killed in this city if you're looking for it." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE He has professional ethics unusual for a Hollywood therapist, refusing to make love with a patient who strips to her undies in front of him. His reason: "I'm a doctor." SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT He kills his patient.

BEDTIME FOR BONZO (1951) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY You Make a Monkey Out of Me, I'll Become President FIRST SESSION Psychology professor (Ronald Reagan) attempts to prove a monkey named Bonzo can act like a man (which he proved years later in another context) SHRINK RAP "I'm trying inverted psychological domination." GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE Professor Ron tries to explain his housekeeper's affection for Bonzo: "It's a sublimation of transferrance." SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT The professor marries his housekeeper and takes the monkey with them on their honeymoon.

SPELLBOUND (1945) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Love Will Keep You Out of Jail FIRST SESSION Frigid therapist (Ingrid Bergman), who wears glasses and grey suits, proves she is all-woman when she falls in love with an amnesiac murder suspect who looks like Gregory Peck. SHRINK RAP Therapist to her patient: "Darling, you musn't be frightened. We're making progress. GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE The shrink explains why her amnesiac, constantly fainting patient is innocent: "I could not fall in love with a murderer." SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT She solves a murder, causes a suicide, and marries her patient, even after she discovers he can't ski very well.

THE LOCKET (1945) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY Marry Your Patient Before You Learn Too Much About Her FIRST SESSION Shrink (Brian Aherene) marries mysterious woman (Laraine Day) who turns out to be a kleptomanic widow who marries men and then drives them to insanity and/or death SHRINK RAP Therapist offers piercing advice: "Doubt is a symptom. When we are prone to doubt, it indicates that we are unsure of ourselves" GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE Therapist is prone to sappy speeches: "Nancy never got her locket as a child and because it meant so much to her, she paid a terrible price. But bracelets are only symbols. It was love she needed. It's love she needs now. Pity won't help." SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT Therapist ends up in an insane asylum when he learns too much about his wife.

CAREFREE (1938) THERAPIST'S PHILOSOPHY I Won't Dance (Don't Ask Me) FIRST SESSION Hoofer-turned-therapist Fred Astaire (convinced by analysis that he should give up dancing) talks of his patients scornfully as silly women who have nothing better to do with their money then spend it on sessions with Mr. Foggy Day in London Town SHRINK RAP "I used to be color blind (until I met you)" – sung to patient in her dream GET OFF THE COUCH - OR ELSE Doctor can hypnotize patient into loving, hating, or shooting him SEPARATION ANXIETY – NOT Therapist marries his patient, after punching her in the eye and singing, "Change Partners."

Film Therapists (2)

 

NOTE: Editors often rewrite stories, and I occasionally found myself rewritten. Sometimes, it was necessary - I might not have hit the mark – other times it was silly (adding the word "living" to the phrase "everyone in the world knows James Bond"), and then there were instances when it was done to catch a different idiom. That was usually the case with EMPIRE, a British film magazine that printed my work in the early 1990s. I recently came across an original draft of a story that was rewritten by EMPIRE (adding British slang). Here's a chance to see what was done and to choose whose prose you prefer. Tom Soter, July 3, 2011.

 

SHRINK TO FIT

The revenge of the Hollywood therapist

LOOKING FOR A GOOD THERAPIST? AVOID HOLLYWOOD. IF RECENT FLICKS LIKE Basic Instinct, Final Analysis, The Prince Of Tides,and The Silence Of The Lambs are anything to go by, Hollywood shrinks are either sex-crazed narcissists with the serious hots for the patient's sister, or major league nutters prepared to shoot,

stab, or even eat their patients if they give out the wrong answers.

Surprising? Not really. As long as there have been movies, there have been movies about psychiatrists - more than 300 in fact - with filmmakers just unable to resist those good old plot twists such as amnesia, mad twins and mind control. From the weirdo-analyst in silent screen classic The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1919), to the helpful doc who pops up at the end of Psycho (1960to explain quite calmly just why it is that Norman Bates has kept his dead mother in the basement, there’s just no stopping them.

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With child psychologist John Lihgow continuing he psycho-fruitcake tradition in Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain, released next month, Tom Soter reclines on the psychiatrist couch to provide the Empire guide to therapists in the movies…

 

FILM   BASIC INSTINCT (1992)

IN THE WHITE COAT Jeanne Tripplehorn

FIRST SESSION  Dr. Jeanne ends the session with patient Michael Douglas by rather unethically informing him, “I still miss you.”         

SHRINK RAP  “Fuck off, Martin!” she yells as “Shooter” squares up for some barroom fisticuffs with our Marty.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  “I’m sorry, I don’t usually act like that,” she tells Douglas, pulling herself together after beating him up.

STRUCK OFF  “You’ve never been like this before/ Why?” she asks Douglas nakes violent love to her. “You’re the shrink,” he retorts. “You tell me.”

 

FILM  FINAL ANALYSIS (1992)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Richard Gere

FIRST SESSION   Dr. Dick is a loner absorbed by work, until, that is, he meets a patient’s steamy sister who’s eager to get her kit off.

SHRINK RAP “People stop surprising you.”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  Dr. Gere wears Armani suits and sleeps with accused murderers. Oh dear.

STRUCK OFF  The trusting therapist has spent too much time preening himself in front of the mirror to have seen Double Indemnity or Body Heat.

 

FILM  THE PRINCE OF TIDES (1991)

IN THE WHITE COAT Barbra Streisand

FIRST SESSION Dr. Babs can help others, but not herself: her marriage is sterile, her son is uncommunicative, and her husband is an arrogant shit.

SHRINK RAP  “Face the pain. Let I go…”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD Babs counsels Nick Nolte, but instead of charging the usual hourly rate, she pays him to teach her weedy son football.

STRUCK OFF  She miraculously cures her suicidal patient by bedding the patient’s brother…

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FILM  WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Richard Dreyfuss

FIRST SESSION  Dr. Dreyfuss is a neurotic narcissist who cares more about his vacation than the problems of the marble-free Bill Murray.

SHRINK RAP  “I don’t get angry,” he seethes. “I don’t get upset. I don’t see paients on vacation,”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  This doctor talks with his kids via hand-puppets.

STRUCK OFF  The good nut-doctor attempts to strangle and then dynamite his patient, ending up in an asylum himself…

 

FILM  THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Anthony Hopkins

FIRST SESSION Mess up on your word associations and this doctor and it’s fava beans and Chianti time…

SHRINK RAP  “All good things to those who wait.”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD “You want the lambs to stop screaming, don’t you, Clarice?”

STRUCK OFF  Where do you start?

 

FILM  HOUSE OF GAMES (1987)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Lindsay Crouse

FIRST SESSION  The Good Doctor, pop psychologist, and bestselling author, is an obsessive personality, sexually drawn to con man Joe Mantega.

SHRINK RAP  “You’re like a dog coming back to its own vomit,” she is rather unflatteringly informed by the object of her desire.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  The Doc is so busy taking notes during her sessions that she misses the point of what people are saying.

STRUCK OFF  She shoots her lover, relieving her guilt complex. By managing to evade capture, she also has time to write another bestseller. Hurrah!

 

FILM  HALLOWEEN (1980)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Donald Pleasence

FIRST SESSION  Dr. Don has a noble purpose in his heart: confine loony Michael Meyers or blow him away with a .44 Magnum

SHRINK RAP  “I spent eight years trying to reach Meyers and then another seven trying to keep him locked up. He is purely and simply Evil.”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  Pleasence has a laudable moralistic fervor and a dedication to the job. He does, however, seem to have, er, no other patients.

STRUCK OFF  Shooting your patient is an unusual form of therapy.

 

FILM  DRESSED TO KILL (1980)

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IN THE WHITE COAT  Michael Caine

FIRST SESSION  Caine is calm, cockney, dedicated, and constantly refers to a wife no one ever sees – a sure sign he’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

SHRINK RAP  “There are all knds of ways to get killed in this city if you’re looking for it.”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  His ethics are unusual for a Hollywood shrink, refusing he advances of a patient who strips to her undies. His reason: “I’m a doctor.”

STRUCK OFF  Slashing your patient’s throat is an unusual from of therapy.

 

FILM  SPELLBOUND (1945)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Ingrid Bergman

FIRST SESSION  Frigid therapist Bergman wears sensible glasses and grey suits and falls in love with amnesiac murder suspect Gregory Peck.

SHRINK RAP  “Darling, you mustn’t be frightened,” she reassures him. “We’re making progress.”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  “I could not fall in love with a murderer,” she explains. Conclusive proof that her amnesiac, constantly fainting patient is, indeed, innocent.”

STRUCK OFF She solves a murder, causes a suicide, and marries her patient.

 

FILM  CAREFREE (1938)

IN THE WHITE COAT  Fred Astaire

FIRST SESSION  Hoofer-turned-therapist Dr. Fred talks of his patients scornfully as silly women who have nothing better to do with their money.

SHRINK RAP  “I used to be colour blind (until I met you)” ­– sung to patient in her dream.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD  This quack can hypnotise patients into loving, hating, or shooting him.

STRUCK OFF  Therapist marries patient after singing, “Change Partners” and punching her in the eye.

EMPIRE, December 1992

HDTV Comes to U.S.

 

Rebo's HDTV Paints 

the Town and Climbs Video Walls

 

 

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Barry Rebo introduces Lone Star Roadhouse for his hi-def "Manhattan Music Magazine" series. 

 

Barry Rebo's thoughts on high-definition were always lofty. In 1986, before most people were even aware of the prospect og high-definition television, Rebo had set up a hi-def production truck and studio in New York City. He shot music videos and even a feature film in HDTV. Now, with three affiliated operations – Rebo Research, Rebo High Definition, and BRT High-Definition Network – Rebo seems to be reaching his eye-definition plateau.  

 

But Rebo, who just returned from Japan to pick up the Hi-Vision '90 award for his research company's work in developing U.S. software, is not stopping there. He is now pushing a new project called "Manhattan Music Magazine," a package of 26 half- hour shows being taped in R&B, jazz, country and pop clubs. The series is produced for the international market and is being shot with three Sony HDC-300 cameras and HD-I000 VTRs. The soundtrack is recorded on 24 tracks of two 48-track Sony PCM- 3348 digital audio recorders. 

 

"We are making it as high-quality as we can," observes Steve Dupler, Rebo Studio's VP of music, and music producer of "Manhattan Music." "High-definition is coming in this decade, and this is a way to build up a library of programming. You can exploit [the library] in NTSC and other formats, and then re-release it when high-definition is widely available." Dupler says it is not unlike the strategy of 1950s TV producers who shot programs like "Superman" and "The Cisco Kid" in color, even though black and white was the standard. "They had the foresight to look ahead, and therefore increased the shelf life of 

their programming," he says. "We can do the same, releasing [the tapes] in analog now, and holding onto the hi-defmasters for the future." 

 

Rebo Studio is shooting at the clubs using a 45-foot Air-Ride Semi that belongs to Effanel Music (whose principal, Randy Ezratty, was involved in taping the recent "Rolling Stones Steel Wheels" special). The director is Sandy Dorfman, who supervised "Top of the Pops," the BBC music series, for 16 years.

 

The job is made easier by the three new HDTV cameras which Dupler says are lighter (the head is about 40 pounds) and faster (in the 100-125 ASA range, compared to the 60-80 ASA of the older versions). "With these, you can model the light a little more or stop down and hold your depth offield," Rebo notes. That, combined with the wider aspect ratio of high-definition, translates into fewer camera setups, according to Dupler.' "You can see two musicians interacting in one shot without having to have a camera covering each of them," he says. "It's like looking at a show through a glass window, like you're in the audience." 

 

Rebo is also hoping to set up a "Rebo Software" label by 1993, marketing programs like "Manhattan Music Magazine" on hi-def laserdisc. "There is a lot of interest in laserdisc technology now," he observes. "Basically, it's the best picture quality you can get for home video. It really ties in with things we're interested in here. We want the best visuals and the best audio. With laserdiscs and compact (MISSING CONCLUSION)

 

TELEVISION ENGINEERING August 1990 

His Master's Voice

When the star is dead, incapacitated, or just plain incomprehensible, it's time to send for Rich Little. Tom Soter talks to the king of the Hollywood mimics and picks out the edited highlights from 40 glorious years of looping stars ...

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"ANY GREAT ACTOR WHO loses his voice, it's a great honor to do them," says master- impressionist Rich Little, the man who, on various occasions, has taken over voice-looping duties for, among others, Liberace, Tony Curtis, David Niven, and Gene Kelly. Looping, of course, is nothing new in Hollywood, traditionally available for directors who missed that mumble or lost out to the jumbo jet flying overhead first time around. Now, with the increasing demand for the director's cut version of major films – often years after the original print was released – there is the added problem of having to put words into mouths no longer with us. Enter, on all such occasions, Mr. Rich Little.

"I did Stacy Keach (TV's Mike Hammer) when he was in jail," recalls Little. "They tried his brother but he wasn't very good, so they hired me. It was tough because Keach just has a typical husky male voice. That one worried me a lot; I just listened to him before I did it and tried to get the same resonance. I really can't do him that well, but I don't think people know what he sounds like anyway, so It was kind of a hit and miss situation. I faked it."

In the case of David Niven in Curse of the Pink Panther, things were yet more delicate. Niven, suffering terribly with throat problems from cancer, had valiantly attempted to talk his way through the film, with results that were generally deemed to be far from satisfactory.

"When Niven arrived on the set," remembers Little, "they said, 'Oh my God, we can't even understand him. How do you tell him to go home? So they said, 'Well, we'll get him back in, and we'll go through each line in a little booth somewhere, where there's plenty of hot tea, and we'll get it.’ Well, they went back to the recording booth, and it was no better."

Little, who had done Niven as part of a comedy act on stage, was hired to sub, one of Hollywood's few well-kept secrets until after the actor's death. "It kind of ages you, and makes you sound like you're through in the business, you know," is Little's explanation for Niven wanting to keep the whole business so quiet. "David Niven just didn't want me to let that information out at the time, because he wanted to go on working, and if I kept dubbing for him, then maybe no one would ever know, you know? So I said to Blake [Edwards, the director], 'Well, tell David I'll come over to Spain and follow him around, and we'll go into stores and I'll order things for him. I'll just stand behind him. We'll go to a restaurant, and I'll be under the table, ordering as Niven."

In addition to his work for Hollywood, Rich Little is also called in to dub TV programs, standing in for Gene Kelly when the actor was in the uncomfortable position of simultaneously hosting a TV Christmas special and suffering with a throat infection. And then, of course, there was Liberace.

"On one Jack Benny TV program, Liberace was supposed to be talking on a radio program that Benny was listening to," laughs Little. "They actually got Liberace to do it, but they didn't like the way he sounded. So they hired me. I guess I was able to sound more like Liberace than Liberace…”

 

THOSE CLASSIC DUBBED MOVIES IN FULL

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LARRY PARKS in The Jolson Story (1949) Parks performed well enough in the thespian department, but when it came to singing, in stepped Al Jolson himself to dub over Larry's off-key crooning.

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JAMES DEAN in Giant (1956) When it came to the looping of the Rock Hudson-Elizabeth Taylor-James Dean triple-header, there was a slight problem with the youthful Dean - he had, sadly, gone to meet his maker, courtesy of a high-speed pile up just after finishing the movie. In stepped bit-actor Nick Adams to re-dob Jimmy's many mumbles for the release.

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URSULA ANDRESS in Dr. No (1962) Although Ursula Andress may have looked stunning in her bikini, the producers sadly felt she "sounded like a Dutch comic," and had her part dubbed by an actress who, if not possessing Andress' physical charms, could at least make herself understood.

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CHRISTOPHER LEE in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) This German-made addition to the Holmes legend has a curious history: Lee, in his first appearance as the detective, delivered his lines in English, was then dubbed into German and way then – for the American release – dubbed back into English by a deeply untalented voice-over "artiste." Not a success.

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BURT LANCASTER in The Leopard (1963) Lancaster plays an Italian aristocrat in Luchino Visconti's melodrama, butchered by censors in the U.S. on its first release. Lancaster's English dialogue was dubbed into Italian and then back again into English – without Lancaster's assistance –for its British release.

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GERT FROBE in Goldfinger (1964) Herr Frobe made a striking American film debut as James Bond's most telling nemesis –"'the man with the golden touch," Auric Goldfinger. Although the German actor could speak fluent English, the Bond producers thought his accent too thick and had his voice re-dubbed by an anonymous voiceover actor. By the time of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Frobe had enough of a "handle" on the accent to – hurrah! – use his own voice.

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JACK HAWKINS IN Shalako (1968) When Jack Hawkins was plagued by throat problems, Charles Gray, the evil Blofeld in James Bond's Diamonds Are Forever took over on the looping. The pair worked together again for Young Winston (1972), as well, and while they do have similar voices, even the cloth-eared will realize that this is not the same Hawkins who commanded troops in The Bridge on the River Kwai.

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ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER in Hercules in New York (1970) The body is Arnie's, but the voice most certainly isn't in this ridiculous adventure involvinq a 1090- clod Hercules on the loose in Manhattan. It would, indeed, be several years before Arnie's mastery of English allowed him to speak for himself in 1976's breakthrough Stay Hungry.

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ROBERT SHAW in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) Shaw died soon after completing his stint for this sequel, and although Shaw had done most of his lines, Rich Little was brought into dub some sequences. "I remember them sending me the movie," says Little, "and asking me if I could do Shaw. He's not an easy voice because he's not distinctive, but they just needed a couple of things. I remember having to dub him yelling, 'Get on board!' which I could do because that didn't have to match up with any other line. I remember looking at that picture a dozen times trying 10 get his voice right and thinking how bad it was."

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MEL GIBSON in Mad Max (1979) One of the biggest money-makers in Australian film history, and the movie that made Mel a star has one unusual distinction: the great man doesn't actually say a word in it. Extraordinary though it may seem, his Aussie accent was considered too strong for the international market, and was redone (badly), like those of the rest of the cast, by an anonymous voice-over actor.

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KLINTON  SPILSBURY in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1980) First-time actor Spilsbury had the thankless task of replacing long-time Lone Ranger Clayton Moore in this big-budget turkey. The producers earned a hefty dose of negative publicity when they sued to keep Moore from appearing in public as the Ranger (which he'd been doing since the TV series ended in 1957), and then had to eat humble pie when they asked him to dub Spilsbury who sounded like no one's idea of a hunky righter of wrongs. Moore suggested where they might stick their idea, and an anonymous hack did the imitation. (Spilsbury later turned up as a stand-in for Warren Beatty when the actor refused to model for coffee mug pictures and other Dick Tracy merchandising last year.)

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ANDIE MACDOWELL in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes (1983) Six years before sex lies and videotape, the model-turned-actress made her screen debut as Jane in Hugh Hudson's version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes. On "reflection", Hudson considered her voice simply "not educated enough," and brought in the deeply cultured Glenn Close to re-dub MacDowell’s voice throughout the entire movie.

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DAVID NIVEN in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) The first is a collection of outtakes from previous Panther films, cobbled together after Peter Sellers' death, the latter an attempt to go on without him. Niven, suffering with a throat malady, reprised his role from the original Pink Panther (even though his part had been played by Christopher Plummer in The Return of the Pink Panther), with a voice supplied by Rich Little. "It was sad," recalls little, "because he couldn't pronounce anything. I had to match with his lip movements, but he really wasn't saying anything. I was doing a younger Niven than I would normally do, even though he did look kind of frail." While Little was in the dubbing studio on Trail of the Pink Panther, the producers asked him to try a few spot -lines for the deceased Sellers. He did, and so can be heard conversing with himself throughout the film.

Originally appeared in EMPRE, British film magazine, 1992

John Cleese

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For some of us, it's impossible to envision John Cleese, the Minister of Silly Walks, taking anything seriously. But before he made his mark with Monty Python's Flying Circus, he went through the very regimented English public-school system and then on to Cambridge to study highly unsilly subjects like math, physics and chemistry. The intense pressure of his upbringing spawned Cleese's sense of humor, he believes, but boarding-school life also took a toll on his psyche: "You form a rather brittle personality, because you're trying to be independent and tough, but of course you don't have the nurturing to be able to get away with it."

In his view, his best-known characters-pompous bureaucrats, longwinded attorneys and acerbic psychiatrists-each have a dark side. They are bitter men, simultaneously fighting off a maddening world and their own repressed feelings.

Following two failed marriages, Cleese decided to examine his own inner workings. In 1983, he collaborated with his therapist of 3'1z years, Robin Skynner, on Families and How to Survive Them, a self-help book in a question-and-answer format. "The reception was exceptionally good," says Cleese, "especially in England, where trying to sell self-help books used to be a pretty unrewarding enterprise. In fact, of all the things that I've done, this one gives me a special kind of pride that I haven't gotten from my other projects."

Now he's at work on a sequel, due later this year. Tentatively titled Life and How to Survive It, it asks the question "What is healthy behavior?" and applies some answers to areas ranging from love to work to politics and religion. One of the book's main themes is the continuing need for both independence and interdependence, which Cleese claims is present in every significant relationship.

 

Q. We usually think of women as the steadfast ones in relationships and men as the ones who stray. Yet many of us want our relationships to endure and can't seem to figure out how to do it. Where do men go wrong?

A. Men often try to be independent, but aren't really up toit, so it's all a bit of an act. They use their machismo to keep women at a distance, because they're terrified of intimacy.

I was brought up in an atmosphere where it was simply felt that a chap had to grow up by the age of 16. When you lack good nurturing, you form a protective shell around your personality. You become more and more intellectual, but also more and more bitter and negative.

In my own therapy, what helped me more than anything was the idea that there can be a balance between intimacy and independence in a relationship-that you can be, for some of the time, very close, and for some of the time, very separate. That appeals to me on a gut level without my quite understanding why it feels so right, but I love the idea that you can switch from intimacy to independence and back again.

Q. What happens to men who don't know how to make this switch? What are they afraid will happen?

A. They're very frightened that if they ever once let their defenses down there would be such a bottomless well of need they'd never get out.

Q. What advice will you offer them in your next book?

A. Men have simply got to understand that they almost certainly need nurturing some of the time. It depends, of course, on how much stress they've been under. If they've been under a lot, they'll need a lot of nurturing. If they're having a pretty good time, they probably won't need much, or any.

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But, whereas macho people have got to take on board their need for nurturing, men who are permanently in a dependent state need to work themselves a little bit more toward independence. They should not be in a continual state of need. There have to be times, even if they find it a little difficult at the beginning, to say, "Okay, now I'll get on with things independently. This is my life, and I want to make the best of it I possibly can. "

Q. How should dependent types do this?

A. Perhaps they can be a little bit tougher with themselves, pushing themselves into the discomfort zone.

Q. You're talking about making some rather big changes. Where does a man start and how does he do it?

A. At the beginning, it's very difficult. If we can't seem to get nurturing that we need, it's often because we've fixed ourselves up with a partner who isn't very good at giving it. That way, we can kind of stay where we are, not perhaps very happy, but at least extremely familiar with what's going on.

Q. Why would it be more comfortable to be in a less nurturing relationship?

A. If a fellow hasn't had a great deal of good mothering, he'll get with women who are not awfully good at nurturing so that he can stay in the same pattern and not have to change. That's the terrifying thing, you know, doing something different.

Q. So what can you doto break out of that rut?

A. You just try and talk about it with your partner, and become more and more aware of it and try and catch it.

Q. You suggest that your own problem is a difficulty accepting nurturing fr-om your partner. What do you do about it?

A. My girlfriend can always tell when I'm in a bit of trouble emotionally, because I tend to start making all my own food. "Oh, you're in that mood, are you?" And I answer, "What?" innocently. She says, "You don't want any nurturing." And there I stand, holding a frying pan.

Q. So when you're talking about communicating, it’s not just verbal.

A. That's right. You just begin to spot each other's signs. When my girlfriend and I are working at our best, it's as though the healthier parts of ourselves are in alliance trying to· work against the less healthy parts. So, if she says, "You don't want any nurturing" to me, the healthy part of me can say, "Hey, she's right, I'm up to my old tricks again." Of course, if I'm not in the right mood, I may take it as criticism.

Q. And get ticked off at her?

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A. Yeah, I'll feel that she's getting at me in some way. The reverse happens as well. A couple of days ago, I suggested she watch a bit of a tape I was watching, and she thought I was criticizing her for not watching it, whereas all I was saying was, "Hey, I think you'd find this interesting." But sometimes you can talk about the problems you have in a non-critical way. I think change is all to do with awareness. It's about saying, "Oh, here I go again."

Q. How does a couple prevent these self-criticism sessions from degenerating into fights? A. It all depends on how healthy the relationship is, but sometimes a little gentle teasing can point something out. If the relationship is already good, these kinds of criticisms become very easy; in f

act, it's a lot of fun because it's a sort of mutual exploration.

Q. What if the relationship isn't so healthy?

A. If things have got a bit scruffy between the two of you, a bit nasty, it's awfully difficult. That's when I think it's good to have some sort of counselor who can sit there in the middle. If there's a misunderstanding, the therapist can say, "No, actually what she said. Just now was very fair, but you took it in a very critical way. You weren't really quite hearing what she said."

Q. It sounds as if you're saying that  achieving a healthy relationship is more an ongoing process than a finite goal.

A. All of us hate feeling bad. So, if somebody says something to us that makes us feel bad, we can almost never take it on board. But sometimes we can hear the criticism and still feel good about ourselves.' It's incredibly delicate. It's a matter of mood-and just working hard - to achieve that difficult balance.

Q. How does being a comedian help or hurt the way you deal with a long-term relationship?

A. I don't think the comedian aspect of it has a great deal to do with it, quite honestly. But I think being well-known causes all sorts of problems.

Q. In what way?

A. The whole business of being a celeb- . rity tends to move you into the more external and trivial parts of your personality, into the parts that are most interested about your "image," you 'know? This kind of thinking is fundamentally destructive to mental health.

I'll give you a perfect example. During the selling of A Fish Called Wanda-a few years ago, I did 64 days of interviews. And when you're being interviewed six or seven hours a day, people are asking you a lot of personal quest ions. And you are giving them a favorable version of yourself, just as we do' when we meet anyone for the first time. We want them to think we're nice and civilized rather than awful and disgusting. If you do this over a period of days or v weeks, you can just feel yourself becoming all trivial. You can feel yourself being pushed further and further into the outside of your personality, further and further away from Who you really are at the center, And after the publicity finishes, it takes some time to get back there.

People who take their "career" and their ''public'' seriously, I think, go mad quite rapidly. I don't wish to name names,· but you can think of anyone who's constantly the focus of public interest, you know, Who uses their publicity machine relentlessly to publicize themselves. I can't think of anybody who's been doing that for more than five years who isn't batty. They start to believe their own press, or their own surface image. That way, I think, lies madness.

MEN'S HEALTH, August 1991

Kathleen Turner

 

KATHLEEN TURNER

 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:278:]]" IT'S AMAZING. A MAN GOES AND GAINS weight or changes anything, and people say, 'God, what a commitment as an actor.' A woman does it and it's, 'Ah. She's losin' it...' It's not fair."

Kathleen Turner, for it is she, is clearly unhappy with Tinseltown's inability to grasp the fact that, for the part of a dowdy housewife in House Of Cards, as yet unreleased in the UK, she piled on the pounds deliberately. She can rest assured, however, that in the comedy Undercover Blues, released in the UK this month, in which she plays one half of a renowned secret agent team (with Dennis Quaid) that has semi-retired to bring up a baby, she looks fighting fit - making it hard to believe that it's now 12 years since a 27-year-old Turner slinked her way through her film debut Body Heat as the sultry siren luring dumb lawyer William Hurt to his doom, and bagging herself a Golden Globe and BAn A award for her trouble.

Since then this fidgety bundle of manic energy - constantly gesturing, crossing and uncrossing her legs and shifting in her seat - has played a collection of memorable femmes in a string of hit movies, including three with Michael Douglas: Romancing The Stone, its sequel, The Jewel Of The Nile, and The War Of The Roses. In fact, Danny De Vito, who co-starred in those first two and directed her in Roses, has been trying to reunite the threesome for a third Romancing movie.

"He's been calling a lot lately," she giggles. "Michael thinks that maybe he's just tired of directing and wants an easy job. But I love those guys and, you know, we're good together. We had a script about two-thirds done that Warren Skaaren wrote but then he died.

"You know, all of the Romancing writers die, don't they?" ,she continues, lowering her voice. "It's weird. Diane Thomas died, too. Spooky thought. But there's a premise there we can work on and it takes place in Hong Kong. I thought, 'God, I'm not going back to any country with an M in it - that's the kiss of death. I'm not going to Morocco, I'm not going to Mexico. Not again'."

After her Body Heat debut, Turner continued to gain attention by playing bad girls to perfection in John Huston's Prizzi's Honour (which won her a second Golden Globe), with Jack Nicholson; The Accidental Tourist, once again with William Hurt; The Man With Two Brains, with Steve Martin; and as. the sultry, uncredited voice of sexpot Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She has played good girls too, of couroe - in Francis Ford Coppola's sentimental Peggy Sue Got Married which earned her an Oscar nomination and Switching Channels, but then came V.L Warshawski. Turner should have secured herself a role for life as the eponymous tough detective in a film that, had it been any good, would have spawned a whole series.

"1 was so disappointed," she confesses.

"But I think that's a rather grandiose world view if I were to assume responsibility for its failure. I wish I could have fixed it. It's not a question of just the script - the script was all right. It's a question of all the other elements as well. I don't think we had a strong enough central vision. Perhaps the director, God bless him, couldn't protect it from the other pressrtes that are imposed upon a film. I've always had some fantastic directors - Coppola, Ross, Zemeckis, Kasdan, Huston, and that's where I went wrong. I've got to have a strong director."

As well· as her maternal role in the aforementioned House Of Cards, Turner will next be seen in saucemeister John Waters' comedy Serial Mom. "I'm a mother in all my movies now (she is, in real life, the mother of a five-year-old daughter). I think it's just where I am in society's ranking of women. I'm 39, so I must be a mother. " She gasps in mock exasperation. "But in Undercover Blues I made sure my legs were out," she guffaws. "I think they're my best part. Good gams ... "

EMPIRE, February 1994

Kevin Kline

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"IRONICALLY, I WAS A GREAT BUSH SUPPORTER and mourned the loss of our great conservative administration. I don't endorse the politics of the movie at all," intones Kevin Kline somberly - and rather disappointingly - pausing just long enough to cause consternation before a huge grin breaks across his chops. "Of course I endorsed the movie's politics! How could I do the movie if I were a Republican? Hahahahaha! "

Kevin Kline. What a card.

A card and, of course, a man of many parts, although none of Kline's roles have been as bizarrely demanding as the lead in Dave, the political comedy that arrives in Blighty this month having scored remarkable sleeper success in the US. It's the story of an innocent dogooder and part-time Presidential impersonator who gets duped into replacing the Pres - yep, that old movie staple - when the real McCoy inadvertently croaks en sac with his secretary, and Kline plays both parts. It's not the first time an actor has been in the White House, of course, or indeed in politics generally but, warm-hearted and honest, good old Dave Kovic from Baltimore, the kind of bloke who likes to wrestle with his dog on the White House lawn, displays so much enthusiasm for the job that he soon has America falling at his feet.

Despite the fact that he will probably stick in most people's minds for his Oscar-winning turn in A Fish Called Wanda, Kline - trimmer at 46 than many 20 years his junior - has only recently made a foray into the world of comedy.

"1 had done comedy on the stage for years but because I made my film debut in Sophie's Choice, studio people thought that the potential audience would not see me as a comedian," he explains. "You know, 'Oh, Kevin Kline, whom you saw play in Sophie's Choice, is now doing this rollicking comedy,' and you'd go, 'I don't want to see him - I want to see Bill Murray in a comedy. I want to see Eddie Murphy.' "

The versatile actor, performing with consummate ease - with or without a moustache - is, of course, neither comedian nor tragedian, 'but a strange mixture of both, having run the gamut of emotions in such dramas as Cry Freedom, Consenting Adults, Grand Canyon and The Big Chill, bringing his dramatic intensity to comedies like Soapdish and, er, I Love You To Death and combining all to perfection for his seemingly tailor-made performance as Douglas Fairbanks in Chaplin. But it was his doppelganger performance in Dave that really tested his mettle.

"I play two men who were at once identical and yet strikingly different was intriguing," smirks the man who's married to actress Phoebe Cates. "I also loved the interplay between the comic and the dramatic elements. It was different from other roles I had played. Rather than sort of an outrageous character, which is what I had in A Fish Called Wanda and Soapdish, this was an ordinary guy in an outrageous situation and so the comedy came out of that. 1 had to keep him life-like to be attractive."

Kline, in fact, as the old showbiz legend goes, fell into acting by accident, leaving his home in St. Louis, the heart of middle America, for the prestigious Indiana University School of Music where he studied the piano. He stumbled upon the joys of thespianship by way of hamming it up in the school theatre, ultimately moving to New York to study drama, and making his Broadway debut in 1978,

Then Hollywood beckoned - 1982's Sophie's Choice earned him a BAFTA and a Golden Globe - and so the two disciplines of stage and screen coexisted, Kline returning to Broadway despite the success of his next movie, The Big Chill, and appearances in Silverado (1985) and Cry Freedom (1987). The scales finally tilted firmly back in the direction of comedy with A Fish Called Wanda though few of his films since - The January Man, I Love You To Death, Consenting Adults - have had the same impact, it could have been worse, given that he very nearly took the Bruce Willis part in Death Becomes Her. And while Kline is currently working with Cleese and company on a follow-up to Wanda - "Not a sequel. It's the same actors in a different movie, with different characters but the same wacky humour" - he hopes that Dave will finally put previous glitches behind him.

"The movie is disarming and I think it does touch in you the idea that, 'Hey, democracy can work if we can get through all that political machinery,' " he declares. "The movie dares to not be cynical. It dares to not be hip. It dares to say that if you have a president who genuinely wants to do something, you can get a lot of work done. And I think with Clinton we're closer to that now than we have been in a long time. Finally, we have a man in the White House who can string dozens of words together at one go - a verb, noun, even a full sentence. It's been years since we've had a president who can do that .. ."

EMPIRE, December 1993

New York New York

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A NOTE: I wrote this story for the British film magazine EMPIRE some 20 years ago. And although much has changed since then, much has stayed the same. On re-reading it two decades on, I'm impressed by two things: the amount of research I put into it in those pre-Google days (when research meant a lot of visits to the library) and how many times British idioms and phrases (like "cloth-eared") were worked into my copy. A side note: the BBC was apparently so impressed by this piece that they had the cast and crew of one of their morning chat shows come over from London to New York so that they could film me acting as their tour guide to movie locations. Was I any good?Alas, it was in an era before YouTube. I never saw it.

The star of so many classic movies over the years, New York City remains a tantalizing mystery to the visitor searching for those memorable locations. Where exactly does Marilyn let the wind blow up around her from the subway? And in which Manhattan hostelry is The Godfather's Luca Brasi finally condemned to sleep with the fishes? Tom Soter  – Empire's man in Manhattan and native New Yorker – supplies the ultimate moviegoer's guide to the city that never sleeps ...

NEW YORK

NEW YORK 

...or rather its principal borough, the island of Manhattan – so good to movie-makers it's even been described as a huge backlot that people rather inconveniently live in. A few movie folk, like Woody Allen, work there simply because it's home, with the little man admitting that, "I am serene in the knowledge that, if I want to, I can always go home and get a sweater." Others, from Scorsese to Spielberg, find the city to be a veritable Aladdin's cave of back-up services, among them more than 6,000 businesses directly engaged in assisting the film and tape industries, some 100 sound studios, 200 sound stages, 75 camera lighting companies, and nearly 200 editing facilities. And, of course, the grand old city itself has doubled up onscreen for locations as diverse as Washington D.C., Maine, Florida, the Midwest, and, er, Czechoslovakia.

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For some, such as the aforementioned Mr. Allen, the physical depiction of New York City is an essential ingredient in any serious appraisal of their work. Other supposedly classic Manhattan stories – New York New York, Once Upon A Time In America, GoodFellas – were, by contrast, shot in Hollywood, Brooklyn, and Queens respectively.

The major task, however, for any movie-lover visiting the heart of New York City, is finding out exactly what happened where. Today's tour, ladies and gentlemen, begins at the southernmost tip of the island they call Manhattan. . .     

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THE STATUE OF LIBERTY Lady Liberty, situated just off the southern tip of Manhattan, has, of course, been used in just about every epic immigrant drama ever made to signify that, yes, the action has now moved to New York City, USA, land of the free, etc. Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) is notable for its use of a Hollywood stand-in for the famous landmark as villain and hero fight out the battle in the torch that supposedly symbolizes the struggles of World War II. The real thing can be seen, however, in the somewhat less memorable Remo - Unarmed And Dangerous (1986) in which the "hero" has a battle on the scaffolding that surrounded the then 100-year old statue at the time, while the statue itself comes alive in Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and is also the monument at which Daryl Hannah first arrives on land in 1984's Splash.

THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY Until the opening of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in 1964, the Staten Island Ferry was the only means of contact between New York's fifth borough and the island of Manhattan. Seen at its best in Mike Nichols' Working Girl (1988) and 1937's Shall We Dance? when Fred Astaire serenaded Ginger Rogers onboard with “They Can't Take That Away From Me,” the ferry is still the best and cheapest way of seeing the island, with the 30-minute scenic ride costing just 50 cents.

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BATTERY PARK Located where the Staten Island Ferry begins its Journey, Battery Park is the scene of the amnesia sequence in 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan when Rosanna Arquette meets up with motorcycling Aidan Quinn and a group of thugs. Also glimpsed in one of the many car chase sequences in Freejack (1992).

LOWER MANHATTAN (From Wall Street to Tribeca)

WALL STREET The street itself doesn't amount to much, except it does of course house the New York Stock Exchange, seen as the symbol of 80s greed and excess in John Landis's Trading Places (1983), Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987) and Brian De Palma's The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990). Also used in 1948 gritty police drama The Naked City.

THE WORLD TRADE CENTER  The famous pair of 110-story towers made a major appearance in 1976's King Kong remake as a poor substitute for the original's decidedly phallic Empire State Building, with the ESB' s management so outraged at being passed over this time around that they staged a protest outside the WTC in the shape of a picket by men in monkey suits. Also appeared as the landing pad for Kurt Russell's helicopter in 1981's Escape from New York and supplied Cliff Robertson's office in 1975's Three Days of the Condor.

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NEW YORK COUNTY COURTHOUSE (60 Centre Street) This 1926 New York classic serves as the location for Kris Edmund Gwenn's trial in 1947's Miracle On 34th Street, the epic jury deliberations in 1957's Twelve Angry Men, the legal shenanigans of Redford and Winger in 1986's Legal Eagles and the antics of James Woods in 1988's Fighting Justice (a.k.a. True Believer). Worth a visit too to see city documents dating back to the 18th century.

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE  Designed by German engineering wizard John Augustus Roebling and completed in 1884, the 1,595-foot long bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn was, at the time, the longest suspension bridge anywhere in the world and the first to be constructed of steel. It has since entered New York – and movie – legend, serving as the location for a whole host of movie escapades, among them the apeman's escape in 1942's Tarzan's New York Adventure, Michael Jackson's "ease on down the road" in 1978's The Wiz, Meryl Streep's champagne drinking in 1982's Sophie's Choice, and, of course, the quite extraordinarily silly chase sequence in 1991's Hudson Hawk.

THE TWEED COURTHOUSE (52 Chambers Street) Built between 1861 and 1871, this four-story New York City courthouse got its name from the notoriously corrupt Boss Tweed, the man who dominated city and county politics at the time. Used in the movies to double up as the Great Hall of Ellis Island in 1974's Hester Street, a mental institution in 1980's Dressed to Kill and a Boston courthouse in 1982's The Verdict.

THE HALL OF RECORDS (31 Chambers Street) The lobby and bathroom of this elegant 1906 home of the city's Surrogate Court can be seen in the fantasy sequence in 1989's Married to the Mob in which Dean Stockwell has nightmares about getting wasted in the we.

CHINATOWN The central Mott Street and other locations in the area seemed to crop up all over the place in Michael Cimino's Year Of The Dragon (1985), although the actual locations were, in fact, built in North Carolina. Still, this tightly knit enclave just next to Little Italy does feature heavily in 1988's Fighting Justice, including a brutal murder on Pell Street.

LITTLE ITALY This legendary part of town, seen in The GodfatherThe Freshman, and just about every Martin Scorsese movie, begins at Mulberry Street and is notable for its late 19th century tenements, those eminently filmable six-story buildings containing the “railroad flats,” apartment after apartment arranged in a straight line, not unlike a whole series of railroad cars (hence the name). As recently as 1932, 98 percent of the residents of this area were of Italian origin, with a spillover from neighboring Chinatown cutting heavily into that figure in the years since World War II.

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SOHO (South of Houston Street, bounded by Broadway, Canal Street, and Sixth Avenue)

104 PRINCE STREET Part of Soho's famous cast-iron loft district, this is where Patrick Swayse shuffled off that mortal coil – sort of – in Ghost.

TRIBECA (The triangle below Canal Street)

14 NORTH MOORE STREET The exteriors for 1984's Ghostbusters and its 1989 sequel were all shot in New York, most notably the old firehouse on 14 North Moore Street, part of the triangular neighborhood bordered by Canal Street, West Broadway, and Washington Street. The interiors, however, were shot back in L.A., officially because the firehouse was still in daily operation at the time, more likely because everybody wanted to get the hell back to the coast.

151 HUDSON STREET Home to, at various times, Martin Scorsese, Harvey Keitel and local boy made very good Robert De Niro.

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289 HUDSON STREET The exact location of Club Berlin, the bar in which Griffin Dunne ends up in Scorsese's After Hours (1985). Originally called The Blue Note, the building is now a working deli, although Scorsese fans can still visit the Emerald Pub on 308 Spring Street, an Irish taproom which doubled up as the leather bar in the movie.

375 GREENWICH STREET  Formerly an impressive old coffee factory, this corner building is now The Tribeca Centre, unofficial home of New York's movie community, housing, among others, De Niro's Tribeca company, the offices of sex lies and videotape's producers, Miramax, and, of course, the rubberneckers' paradise of the Tribeca Bar and Grill.

GREENWICH VILLAGE (From Sixth Avenue to the Hudson, bounded by West 4th Street and West 14th Street)

THE BACKLOT STREETS This cluster of small, winding streets in the village – Bedford, Grove, Barrow and Commerce – is full of ivy-cloaked brownstones and townhouses, complete with courtyards and mews, and is thus a near-permanent haven for filmmakers and TV directors (hence the name). Chumley’s, at 86 Bedford Street, for example, was used in 1981's Reds and in Bright Lights Big City seven years later, while The Cherry Lane Theatre on 38 Commerce Street, was also in Reds as the site of the Provincetown Playhouse.

57 MINETTA STREET Only one block long, Minetta Street is easy to block off and thus a favorite among the city's cinematographers, especially as it curves, meaning there is no chance of accidentally including the large, very modern Avenue of  the Americas which runs parallel. The house at 57 Minetta Street is home to Serpico in the 1973 film of the same name.

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119 MACDOUGAL STREET Home of the Caffe Reggio, the dark, smoky coffee house that serves as a location and song title in 1971's Shaft, the aforementioned Serpicoand 1973's Next Stop Greenwich Village. Still there, still serving damn fine coffee.

SHERIDAN SQUARE/ WEST 4TH STREET The southwestern corner, featuring a Village Cigars storefront, appeared in 50s get-up in Paul Mazursky's aforementioned Next Stop Greenwich Village, later reverting to itself for 1988's Fighting Justice.

16 WEST 11TH STREET The home address of ambitious young actor Dustin Hoffman in the late 60s. The little fellow quickly moved out in March 1970, however, when the house next door, home to radical political outfit The Weathermen, went up in smoke after the group's store of explosives suddenly ignited.

EAST VILLAGE (East from Sixth Avenue to the East River, bounded by Houston Street to the south, 14th Street to the north, and the Bowery on the West.)

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KATZ’S DELICATESSEN (205 East Houston Street) An old-style, non-kosher Jewish deli, this 104-year-old Manhattan favorite had its most memorable movie moment with Meg Ryan's fake orgasm in Rob Reiner's aforementioned When Harry Met Sally. "We get a lot of tour groups coming in to see the place," says manager Kevin Albinder. "We even have a marker on the table where Billy [Crystal] and Meg were sitting."

THE EAST BROADWAY SUBWAY STATION (Rutgers Station) Amy Irving's self-reliant artist is seen leaving this funky old station in Joan Micklin Silver's Crossing Delancey (1988), itself something of a paean to the delights of life in the Big Apple.

238 ELIZABETH STREET One of the many turn-of-the-century small streets in the East Village, this particular address was home to the butcher shop run by Peter Riegert in the aforementioned Crossing Delancey.

UNION SQUARE/GRAMERCY PARK/CHELSEA

(East 14th Street to West 25th Street)

THE CHELSEA HOTEL (222 West 23rd Street) Opened in 1884 as one of the city's first owner-occupied apartment houses, the Chelsea has been a hotel since 1905, serving as a temporary home to, among others, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, Sid Vicious, and Arthur C. Clarke, the latter writing 2001: A Space Odyssey in his room. In the movies, Andy Warhol's The Chelsea House (1966) was shot here, while, true to life, this is the final check-in address for Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy(1986).

THE FLATIRON BUILDING (175 Fifth Avenue)  

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Built in 1902 as The Fuller Building, this oddly shaped structure was given the nickname of The Flatiron Building for its iron-shaped facade and now lends its title to the district immediately to the south, a lively community of photographers, residential loft-owners and adverting agencies. This Manhattan landmark's first role in the movies came just three years after its construction in the little-seen but exciting short, The Flatiron Building on a Windy Day (1903), while James Stewart and Kim Novak kiss on its roof in 1958's Bell Book and Candle.

THE METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE BUILDING (11 Madison Square) The location of the second Madison Square Garden (1890-1925), this open in 1932 as The Metropolitan Life Insurance Building and has since featured in After Hours as Griffin Dunne's office, in 1987's Radio Days and 1981's Eyewitness.

STUYVESANT PARK This pleasant city park directly in front of the Beth-Israel Hospital is the very park where Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand share a therapuetic hot dog in 1991's Prince Of Tides.

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN (34th Street to 59th Street)

MACY'S (34th Street at Herald Square) Built in 1901, the self-proclaimed world's largest store runs from Sixth to Seventh Avenue and features most memorably in 1947's Miracle on 34th Street in which department store Santa Edmund Gwenn must prove he is the real Kris Kringle to avoid a spell in the crazy house. Rosalind Russell also had stab at selling roller skates here in 1958's Auntie Mame.

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THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING (350 Fifth Avenue) The classic 102-story built in just eight months, opening on May 1, 1931, and attaining legendary status just two months later as the building which King Kong climbs with lady love Fay Wray. The 18-inch model monkey never went near the building, of course, although a balloon version of Kong was finally attached in 1981 as part ESB's 50th birthday celebrations. Alas, he stayed up for just a few hours as the nylon balloon kept leaking, leading the gradual deflation of the eight-story-high model ape.

GRAND CENTRAL STATION (9 East 42nd Street) Modeled after the Louvre and with railing higher than the nave of Notre Dame, Grand Central has always attracted filmmakers, from 1959's North By Northwest through to 1991's The Fisher King, via 1982's A Stranger Is Watching, 1984's The Cotton Club and 1988's The House on Carroll Street. Visitors on the Manhattan movie trail are strongly advised to sample the oyster stew in the basement.

THE CHRYSLER BUILDING (405 Lexington Avenue)  The world's tallest building for one year only before The Empire State Building opened acted as the unlikely nesting place for the flying Aztec dinosaur in 1982's Q: The Winged Serpent, features in 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters, and provides the impressive opening shot for 1990's The Bonfire of the Vanities, shot from atop one of the building's chrome gargoyles.

THE ALGONQUIN HOTEL (59 West 44th Street) Opened in 1902 and later home of Dorothy Parker's Round Table, the Algonquin can be seen in 1963's Wives And Lovers, 1982's Rich And Famous, and, of course, in 1987's erotic caper 9 1/2 Weeks.

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THE DIAMOND DISTRICT (West 46,47 and 48 Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) In John Schlesinger's 1976 thriller Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier's Nazi orthodontist flees from his assailants on 46th Street, one of Manhattan's three bustling, crowded thoroughfares that have housed the stores of predominantly Jewish diamond merchants for decades. 

ROCKEFELLER CENTER (48th to 52nd Streets) Composed of 21 buildings, among them the main General Electric building – seen to good effect in 1949's On the Town  Rockefeller Center is used briefly for establishing shots of New York in 1937's Nothing Sacred, 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire, and, inevitably, 1979's Manhattan. 

THE TRANS LUX THEATER (52nd Street and Lexington Avenue) The theater which Marilyn Monroe stands in front of when her skirt is memorably blown upwards in 1955's The Seven-Year Itch. The theater, unfortunately, is now an office building. The subway grating, however, still remains firmly intact.

THE WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL (301 Park Avenue) Built in 1931, this luxurious 1,800-room hotel has appeared in 1969's The Out-of-Towners, 1974's The Great Gatsby, and 1982's My Favorite Year.

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F.A.O. SCHWARTZ (767 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street) Billed as The Ultimate Toystore, this 130-year old kiddies' mecca was immortalized in the movies by Tom Hanks’ duet with Robert Loggia on an oversize piano in 1988’s Big.

BLOOMINGDALE'S (1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street) This definitively chic department store for posh East Siders is the new home for Robin Williams in 1984's Moscow on The Hudson, and, more memorably as the place where Daryl Hannah manages to explode a line of TV sets in 1987’s Splash.

THE PLAZA HOTEL (Fifth Avenue at 59th Street) Built in 1907, the 18-story Plaza has long been hailed as the world's most luxurious hotel, boasting 1,100 rooms, private suites comprising 17 rooms in all, marble fireplaces and staircases, ten elevators and two entire floors of public rooms. Not surprisingly, the Plaza has long been a popular choice for movie-makers, popping up in, among a host of others, 1968's Funny Girl, 1970's Midnight Cowboy, 1973' s The Way We Were, 1981's Arthur, 1985's Brewster's Millions, and 1986's Crocodile Dundee.

CENTRAL PARK (60th Street to 110th Street) Built in 1856 on the site of squatters' hovels and marshy land, the 840-acre Central Park is a movie maker's dream, comprising footpaths, waterways, hills, woods and lakes, all slap bang in the middle of Manhattan. In addition to its central role in 1991's The Fisher King, Central Park appears as a doorway to the past in 1948's Portrait Of Jennie, as a cyclist's paradise in 1949's On the Town, as a deadly place to spend the night in 1969's The Out-of-Towners, as a deadly place to take a jog in 1976's Marathon Man, and as a bizarre paradise of free love and 60s ditties in 1979's Hair. On a lighter note, Kermit jogs through Central park in the aptly titled The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984).

UPPER EAST SIDE (60th Street to 96th Street, York Avenue to Fifth Avenue)

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FRIDAY'S (1152 First Avenue at 63rd and 1st) Not to be confused with TGI Friday's, this popular bistro is the scene of Tom Cruise's frantic bartending antics in 1988's Cocktail, with all the interior filming done in just one evening and the bar itself then being recreated in, er, Canada. "They were so detail-orientated," sighs manager Diane Radovich. "They even called us to ask for a listing of the songs on the jukebox."

P.J. CLARKE'S (913 Third Avenue) The pub made legend in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend (1945) with the fame brought about by the movie ensuring that P.J.'s still survives in a neighborhood now dominated by office towers.

800 PARK AVENUE  The address from which Tom Hanks takes his reluctant mutt for a windswept walk in 1990's The Bonfire of the Vanities. Posh Park Avenue pops up in any number of features as an establishing shot that we have now moved distinctly upmarket on the Manhattan trail.

171 EAST 71st STREET The home of Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Still an exclusive Upper East Side address some 30 years on.

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (Fifth Avenue at 81st Street) The largest art museum in the world refused Brian De Palma permission to shoot inside the 1.6 million square foot building for his seduction scene in 1980's Dressed to Kill, forcing the director to shoot just the outside and substitute the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art for his interiors.

UPPER WEST SIDE (60th Street to 125th Street, Central Park West to Riverside Drive)

LINCOLN CENTER (Columbus Avenue, 62nd to 66th Streets) The world's first formally designer cultural center opened in 1966 at a cost of $185 million, built on the site of the condemned tenements that supplied a number of the locations for 1961's seminal West Side Story. The Center's most notable movie credit in its own right is in 1968's The Producers, with all lights and fountains springing to life in celebration of Zero Mostel's scheme to raise cash via Springtime for Hitler. Most memorably, the Metropolitan Opera House – the huge-windowed front of the Center – was the place where Cher and Nicolas Cage met for their first date in 1987's Moonstruck.

55 CENTRAL PARK WEST This Art Deco cooperative is the building in which the spooks appear in 1984's Ghostbusters, with residents sharing the $100,000 payment for five days of filming after the folks at 1 Fifth Avenue – the original choice turned it down.

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THE DAKOTA (1 East 72nd Street) Built in 1884, the Dakota building comprises 85 suites, each consisting of between four and 20 separate rooms, and has played host to, among others, Lauren Bacall, Jaek Palance, Gilda Radner, Boris: KarlofF, and, of course, John Lennon, assassinated in the entrance archway in December 1980. In the movies, The Dakota is most famous as the creepy love nest for Satan and his witches in 1968's Rosemary's Baby.

THE ANSONIA (2107-2109 Broadway) A 16-story Beaux Arts building that opened in 1903, The Ansonia was the site of the Continental Baths, the gay spa at which Bette Midler first found an audience in the 70s, and pops up in the movies as Walter Matthau's home in 1975's The Sunshine Boys and as the location of the initial, brutal murder in 1975's Three Days of the Condor.

THE APTHORP APARTMENTS (2207 Broadway/390 West End Avenue) This 12-story 1908 building features a striking limestone entranceway and interior courtyard and was once home to Nora Ephron, author of Heartburn and When Harry Met Sally and, more recently, director of This Is My Life. Features, naturally enough, in Heartburn, as well as in 1976's Network and 1984's The Cotton Club.

SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY (2259 Broadway, between 80th and 81st) This popular West Side bookstore occupies two stories in the heart of New York's liberal intellectual neighborhood and was thus the perfect setting for Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's surprise meeting in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally (1990).

THE CLAREMONT RIDING ACADEMY (175 West 89 Street) Built in 1889 and home to, among others, Jackie Onassis and Diana Ross' offspring, the Academy can be spotted in 1981's Eyewitness when William Hurt, stalked by a killer inside the four-story barn, saves himself by – hey! – releasing the horses.

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404 RIVERSIDE DRIVE This 48-unit housing cooperative, built in 1909, can be seen dressed up as a 30s Fifth Avenue hotel in 1991's Billy Bathgate, and as itself in 1983's Strange Invaders.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY (114th-120th Streets, Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue) Founded in 1754 as King's College, the old ivy-encrusted campus makes its debut movie appearance as the set for the black protest scenes in Spike Lee's forthcoming Malcolm X.

125TH STREET The unofficial border into Harlem and the more exciting route out to the airports, 125th Street is the central locale for all the action in 1971's Shaft.

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THE SUBWAY  With more than 700 miles of track beginning at the Brooklyn Bridge and South Ferry and running up the East Side and West side tracks, the New York subway system is the largest in the world and has been used extensively in movies over the years, including, among others, Enemies: A Love Story, State of Grace, When Harry Met Sally (West 96th Street), Ghost (West 40th and 8th Avenue) The Taking of Pelham 123, and Coming to America, which spent a total of six days shooting underground. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, administrators of the subway, prefers filmmakers to use one of two locations, either the East Side-West Side shuttle because it is a dead-end train and thus does not tie up the regular traffic, or else the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station which is an inactive stop and the site of the subway's own museum. Outside of Manhattan, the elevated section of the system provided the scenes for the memorable final chase in 1971's The French Connection.

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The Godfather and New York  FOR THE 1972 ORIGINAL installment of Francis Ford Coppola's epic gangster saga, the Paramount chieftains back on the west coast initially insisted on keeping costs on the troubled production to a minimum by shooting all the required New York scenes on the studio backlot in Hollywoodland. The decision was promptly reversed, however, just as soon as production designer Dean Tavoularis threatened to add two stories to each backlot in order to replicate the look of the city. Eventually, more than 100 locations in and around Manhattan were used by Coppola, with the half-dozen detailed below comprising six of the very best. For the 1974 sequel, Sixth Street, in between Avenue A and Avenue B, was dressed up as Little Italy circa 1917, with the production crew spending six weeks in the area, repaving streets, removing lamps, and blocking out storefronts. Finally, The Godfather Part III (1990) used just a few New York locations, most notably the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and, in Little Italy, the old St Patrick's Cathedral on Mott Street and, just a few blocks away, the annual San Gennaro festival on Elizabeth Street ...

SIX LOCATIONS HE COULDN'T REFUSE

LOUIS' RESTAURANT IN THE BRONX (At the "El" Trestle of The White Plains Road Subway) Okay, so it's not strictly speaking in Manhattan, but hey, who cares just so long as the gun's securely fastened to the back of that old-fashioned john with the pull thing?

THE EDISON HOTEL (228 West 47th Street) The scene of Luca Brasi's violent death after the big man goes to try to infiltrate the Sollozzo clan. Have your hand stapled to the counter by a scheming barman! Blow your cheeks out at the same time! Have a fish sent to your family!

THE CAVALRY CEMETERY (Queens) , The final resting place for the Don lies outside Manhattan limits in Queens, also the borough used for the majority of Scorsese's scenes in 1990's GoodFellas.

RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL (1260 Avenue of the Americas) The Bells of St. Mary's is the movie that Michael and Kay have just visited at the old music hall whenMichael spots the newspaper report of his father's assassination attempt. Ring up Sonny from the telephone kiosk nearby! Learn how to make a stew for 15 guys! Shoot McCluskey in the throat!

THE NEW YORK EYE AND EAR INFIRMARY (310 East 14th Street) The old hospital to which the Godfather is taken after his nearfatal shooting at the fruit and vegetable store. Stand on the steps where Michael and Enzo the baker pretended to be bodyguards! Visit the room where the Don lay unattended until Michael came to his rescue. Have your jaw broken by McCluskey!

110 AND 120 LONGFELLOW ROAD (Staten Island) These two Tudor homes were used by Coppola for the Long Island estate of the Don and his clan. Connie's wedding to Carlo Rizzithe man later seen having the contents of a bin emptied over his head by a rather over-exuberant Sonny-was shot at 120 Longfellow, took four days to shoot and featured more than 700 extras.

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Chapter One: He Adored New York City

ANNIE HALL (1977) Woody and Diane Keaton sit in front of the sea lion pond at the Central Park Zoo as they carryon their running commentary on various passers-by ("He's in the Mafia -linen supply business or cement contracting"). Later, they go to the South Street Seaport and kiss before the panoramic view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Still later, they argue in front of the redbrick town-houses Henry James wrote about off Washington Square Park. Their last (film) moment together is at the northeast corner of 63rd Street by the Lincoln Center, when Woody's voiceover delivers his famous "I need the eggs" gag.

MANHATTAN (1979) The classic opening scene is a montage of famous Manhattan sites, accompanied by Woody's voiceover ("This was still a town that existed in black-and-white"): there is the skyline as seen from Brooklyn, the 59th Street Bridge, where Woody and Diane Keaton later sit watching the sun go down, the Empire Diner, the Staten Island Ferry, the Plaza Hotel, Central Park at sunset. Allen and Diane Keaton have their first kiss in the Hayden Planetarium on Central Park West and 81st Street, while the Russian Tea Room, at 150 West 57th Street, is the renowned eatery – also featured in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman meets Sydney Pollack - where Woody takes his son for dinner and is asked by the maitre d', quite properly, to put a house jacket over his t-shirt,

BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984) The Brill Building at 1141 Broadway, named after the two haberdashers who built and occupied it from 1929 onwards, is where theatrical agent Woody tries to book his clients (a one-legged tap dancer, a one-armed juggler, and the unusual Eddie Clark and his Penguin Who Dresses as a Rabbi). This legendary factory of hit tunes over the years can also be seen in 1945's The House On 92nd Street and 1957's The Sweet Smell of Success. The other prominent landmark is the Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant, at 854 Seventh Avenue, where the story opens and closes.

THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) The Jewel Movie theatre, central to the story, does not actually exist, being especially built in a parking lot near to the Hudson River village of Piermont.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey hole up in the St. Regis hotel at 2 East 55th Street, while Mia Farrow's apartment at The Langham on 135 Central Park West is the real-life apartment where she still lives to this day. Sam Waterson, meanwhile, escorts Dianne Weist and Carrie Fisher into the private walk of cottages at Pomander Walk on 260-266 West 95th Street.

RADIO DAYS (1987) The fast food joint Woody visits is Horn & Hardart at 200 East 42nd Street. Radio City itself, meanwhile, is at 1260 Avenue of the Americas, while two locations already mentioned, the St. Regis Hotel and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building, are used for Mia Farrow's nightclub and the radio network's office HQ respectively.

Preston Sturges

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It is a scene that takes place in the small-town setting relished by Frank Capra, the director whose films unabashedly celebrate American virtues. A father is having a heart-to-heart talk with a potential son-in-law about his daughters: "Let me tell you," he says, "they're a mess no matter how you look at 'em, a headache till they get married-if they get married-and after that, they get worse .... Either they leave their husbands and come back with four children and move into your guestroom or their husband loses his job and the whole caboodle comes back."

We are, clearly, not in the world of Capra, but, instead, in the realm of Preston Sturges, the savvy yet sentimental realist who wrote and directed eight cinema classics in only four years, each toppling one sacred cow after another. It is a world rich in witty dialogue and slapstick, in romantic interludes and tirades.

No other movie director had a style – or a life – quite like Sturges's, and, for whatever reason, 1991 seems to have brought a burst of Prestomania: MCA/Universal has released Hail the Conquering Hero and The Great Moment on videotape; CBS/Fox has issued The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend; Sandy Sturges, the director's widow, has adapted and edited his memoirs (originally titled The Events Leading Up to My Death); and a new biography is in bookstores, Madcap: A Life of Preston Sturges, by Donald Spoto.

Born Edmund Preston Biden in 1898 (he later took the name of his stepfather, Solomon Sturges), Sturges spent his first 16 years traveling throughout Europe and America with his mother and her friend, the dancer Isadora Duncan. From age 16 to his mid-30s, his life was as fast-paced and changeable as some of his later movies. He became a flyer in the Army Air Service, a songwriter, and the manager of his mother's cosmetics company. He ran a restaurant, created kiss-proof lipstick, and invented an early mimeograph device. He had dramatic ups and downs, and by his 40th birthday was collecting $1,000 a week as a screenwriter. Yet he yearned to direct, calling it "the only job worth having."

A Not-So-Wonderful Life

He soon became Hollywood's first hyphenated writer-director. .His initial picture, The Great McGinty (1940), was a smash, earning Sturges an Academy Award and the right to make seven more films in four years. Most about wild success and failure, something he knew well: When he became a playwright at the age of 31, he had a huge Broadway hit, followed by three equally huge flops. By 1948 the IRS had labeled him the third-highest-paid man in America, but in 1959 he died broke, his last three films disasters.

If his life was unusual, so were his movies, an odd mixture of erudite dialogue and lowbrow pratfalls. In a typical Sturges script, a little guy has "greatness thrust upon him" through incredible luck, an accident, or a well-meaning lie. He is then set up for a fall, watching as events spin out of control. In The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) and Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) attempt to untangle an ever-growing mess, which has been precipitated by Trudy's spending the night dancing with a group of soldiers. She is pregnant but doesn't remember the name of the father ("Ratsky Ratsky, or something like that," says she) or where and if she was married. Things go from bad to nightmarish before it is all resolved by a typically Sturgian deus ex machina.

Anything goes in Sturges, and his plots are punctuated by circuitous smart-guy dialogue, often de1ivered at a dizzying pace (He: "I thought he was kind of uneven"; She: "He's more uneven some times than others"; He: "Well, that's what makes him uneven"); by bizarre barbs ("I need him like the ax needs the turkey"); brilliant aphorisms ("Chivalry is not only dead, it is decomposed"); and off-the-wall metaphors (He: "You can't ignore it anymore than you can ... "; She: " ... a horse in a bedroom?").

Eleven Rules

Above all, the films have a literacy rare in Hollywood-a chauffeur explaining the term "paraphrase," or a politician debating the proper use of compound subjects-and yet they also feature the wildest collection of prat:g falls this side of the Three Stooges. Sturges once concocted a list of 11 ules for box office appeal, which neatly summed up his freewheeling approach. According to him:

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          A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.

A leg is better than an arm.

A bedroom is better than a living room.

An arrival is better than a departure.

A birth is better than a death.

A chase is better than a chat.

A dog is better than a landscape.

A kitten is better than a dog.

A baby is better than a kitten.

A kiss is better than a baby.

A pratfall is better than anything.

He left out his love for the little guys-the oddball eccentrics who populate his films, such as the detective in Unfaithfully Yours (Edgar Kennedy), who becomes passionate about classical music ("No one handles Handel the way you handle Handel!"). Or the wealthy hot-dog manufacturer (Robert Dudley) in, The Palm Beach Story who doesn't hear well, but speaks to the point: "I invented the Texas Wienie. Layoff them-you'll live longer."

In Sturges's best work, the stars may be the focus but the supporting players supply the texture. As critic Andrew Sarris observed: "Sturges created a world of peripheral professionals-politicians, gangsters, executives, bartenders, cabdrivers, secretaries, bookies, cardsharps, movie producers, doctors, dentists, bodyguards, butlers, inventors, millionaires, and derelicts. These were not the usual flotsam and jetsam of Hollywood cinema, but self-expressive cameos of aggressive individualism."

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A Repertory Company

From the blustery Raymond Walburn to the nasal Al Bridge, the whiny Jimmy Conlin to the pompous Franklin Pangborn, Sturges's people are very distinct types. Although he had a group of ten actors he constantly used, none was more consistently entertaining than gruff, thick-headed William Demarest. As the politician in The Great McGinty, he delivers topsy-turvy insights ("They forget that if it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics"), and as the Amazon explorer Muggsy in The Lady Eve, he offers nothing but disgust for the effete eating habits of the rich ("Give me a spoonful of milk, a raw pigeon's egg, and four horseflies. If you can't catch any, I'll settle for a cockroach.").

There are also marvelous one-shot appearances: Akim Tamiroff as the flamboyant political boss in McGinty ("In this town, I'm all parties. You think I'm going to starve every time they change administrations?"); Charles Coburn as the suave cardsharp in Eve ("Let us be crooked but never common"); Diana Lynn as the savvy daughter in Miracle ("Father, you have a mind like a swamp"); Rex Harrison as the excitable concert conductor in Unfaithfully Yours ("You dare to inform me that you have had vulgar footpads in snapbrim fedoras sluicing after my beautiful wife?"); Mary Astor ("I grow on people. Lik~ moss.") and Rudy Vallee ("It might be her tailor, too; she goes out with anything.") as the zany brother and sister millionaires of Palm Beach; and Eugene Pallette as the clearheaded brewer in Eve (Woman: "Anybody's apt to trip"; Pallette: "Not over a sofa!").

And the plots: Only in a Sturges production would you see a film about a dumb advertising slogan ("If you can't sleep at night, it's not the coffee, it's the bunk") or a comedy director of such fictitious hits as Hey, Hey in the Hayloft and Ants in Your Pants of 1939 wanting to make a drama called Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Only in Sturges, too, would marriage be labeled as unnecessary (The Palm Beach Story), heroes a sham (Hail the Conquering Hero), and small towns hotbeds of unthinking prejudice (The Miracle of Morgan's Creek).

In Sturges's films, however, cynicism can quickly tum misty and the satire sentimental. "Fish and guests stink after three days," he once wrote. "Your wife isn't a guest, but she definitely is a part of you-your other half, for better or worse ... and you die without her." His romanticism is constantly battling with his cynicism and that struggle is what gives Sturges's best work a powerful, unique resonance. When all the pratfalls are over and the smart lines done, it is the romance that remains. "Why didn't you take me in your arms that day? Why did you let me go?" cries Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) to her lover Charles (Henry Fonda) at the conclusion of The Lady Eve. "Why did we have to go through all this nonsense? Don't you know you're the only man I ever loved? Don't you know I couldn't look at another man if I wanted to? Don't you know I waited all my life for you ... you big mug?" •

FEBRUARY 1991 DIVERSION 

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Saturday Night Sell

For 15 years, Saturday Night Live has been giving it right back to advertisers with its commercial parodies. And nothing is sacred.

from SHOOT, September 14, 1990

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THE SCREEN IS black. Suddenly, these words appear: "When you do only one thing, you do it better." The words fade out and a young, well-dressed woman is seen talking against a dark background: "I needed to take a bus, but all I had was a five-dollar bill. I went to First Citiwide and they were able to give me four singles and four quarters." Another fade out, another title: "At First Citiwide, we just make change." Then fade up on an earnest, young executive, who, a title informs us, is Paul McElroy, Service Representative: "At First Citiwide, we'll work with the customer to give that customer the change that he or she needs. If you come to us with a 20-dollar bill, we can give you-two lOs, four fives. We can give you a 10 and two fives. We'll work with you. "

It is a spot for First Citiwide, a mythical bank that's as pretentious as any real one, but which could actually only exist in the world of NBC's Saturday Night Live. "Parody is in some ways the easiest kind of comedy to do," admits Matthew Meshekoff, a director with Image Point Productions in Los Angeles, who has directed about 30 spoof spots for SNL. And no one does it better than SNL.

Saturday Night Live has been honing its attack skills for 15 years. Where else, for instance, would you find the pointed (both literally and figuratively) parody of "CharPalace," whose grisly owner promises viewers, "your own cow. You stun it, you cut it, you charbroil it. You make it as thick as you want. Only at Mel's Char-Palace. " Or the seductively shot spot for "Hey You," the perfume "forthat special someone you never expect to see again. The perfume for onenight stands."

It's an art that begins, of course, with the original commercial and then gets twisted through the imagination of the creative team. At the start of each season, the writers will brainstorm with each other, the directors and the producers, batting around topics to spoof or commercial styles to lampoon. "We would do it at the beginning of the year, which was good because all the writers were fresh,' recalls Mary Salter, formerly the head of SNL's film unit and currently executive producer at the HA! comedy channel. "The head writer and I, or [executive producer jLorne [Michaels] or [producer] Jim 'Downey would pick out the ones with the most potential. "

Change Bank

The criteria for that choice is simple: how well-known a parodied commercial is, how much it would cost, would it get by NBC's standards and practices department and is it funny? Meshekoff recalls cost as one element that attracted him to the First Citiwide "Changeback" spot: "Jim Downey had the concept for the piece and I sat down with him. We were trying to do something about the pretentious, serious spots that were the vogue in advertising. I love to do real performance pieces and 'Changeback' is about great dialogue, great performances. It's a dead-on piece. And it was cheap to shoot. It's just talking heads against a black background. We shot it [in 16-millimeter] on Tuesday and it was ready by Saturday."

'Some spots are proposed but are unexecutable," admits Salter. "A boatsinks under water. Woe have no time for model-making or animation. " Producing one :60 piece could run anywhere from $17,.000 to $70,000. "Those high-end ones were frowned upon," notes Salter. "They were grotesquely expensive."

Not frowned upon, however, were risque topics, such as Leslie Nielsen hawking the "Geritech Line Of Products," including Blotch Off (liver spot remover), Bun-King (hemorrhoidal cream), Solidex (for diarrhea) and Drip Master (for loss of bladder control). "Now imagine doing a scene with some lovely young actress and soiling both your costume and hers," says the actor in the spot. "Now that can be embarrassing. That's why I wear Drip Master, the undergarment from Geritech that takes the worry out of walking around, In fact, I'm relieving myself right now.”

"We never really had problems with the censors because both Lome and [former executive producer] Dick [Ebersol] were very skillful with standards and practices issues. It's' all about information. They would communicate what was going on and it was so obviously a joke. I think it's the rule of fair parody." Agrees Meshekoff: "In the whole time I did commercials for the show, only one was rejected, regarding masturbation. Standards and Practices felt that the masturbation was gratuitous, which is funny coming from Standards and Practices."

Once the cost, time, and censorship ~rdles have been leaped, the execution takes place. In a season of 17 shows, roughly 13 spots will be produced, usually in-house by NBC director Jim Signorelli. In past years, however, some of the parodies were farmed out to commercial houses. Chuck Pfeifer, executive producer at pfeifer/lopes productions in New York, worked with Salter and director Mark Story, now of Mark Story Films, a satellite of Crossroads Films in New York, to create a spot about men hunting women in fur coats. "You would do it for the love of it, not the money," says Pfeifer. "You would just cover your production costs.' Of course we shot in 35, and we always got interesting stuff for our reel."

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The actual production doesn't differ much from teal ad work. "It's exactly the same, " claims Victoria Jackson, one of the show's current cast members. "I did a lot of commercials before I did the show and it's the same except there are rats at my feet, rmean, it was this spot about a powder that would make rats fall asleep. So it was just the same as a real one: you had the set, the wardrobe, lunch hour, the script, and you had to look smiley and happy, except there were these rats at my feet."

Aping the Look

Yet Meshekoff notes that there are some differences, Since the commercials are for one- or possibly two-time use, they don't need to be as polished. "You never go over two or three takes. Real clients demand a level of production that we didn’t need on the show. If 1 did a real commercial,and said I was only doing three takes, they’d say, ‘No, do 73.'

Because the look of  parody is based on an existing spot, the SNL team can essentially skip the design stage, simply aping the look of the original. There’s also less concern with making the physical product look good on the screen: there’s no need to spend hours lighting a box  of corn flakes to get it just right. But there are still the kind of delays you would find in any real d. Jackson recalls appearing in a piece for “Handioff,” a hand cream that removes unwanted fingers.

First, the props department had to make casts of her hands with seven fingers each. Then when the cream came out of the tube, smoke was supposed to appear and take the extra fingers off.  "We spent 12 to Jackson's hand, but it took hours before the team got it right. "It was like a real commercial because you had to keep up the enthusiasm on camera over and over again," she observes. "You didn't know which take they were going to use."

Once completed, the commercials] . are stockpiled for the season. If the live show is running long, the first thing to get axed is the scheduled spot. If it needs an extra minute, it's.., there. And if the show is weak, there's a funny backup to perk things up. Rarely are pieces shot and not shown. Meshekoff says two of his were killed after completion because the performances were soft and the execution not what Michaels wanted. And although the topical items date quickly, some actually are re-usable, like "Beauty-Bath," a bubble bath commercial in which Philippines president Cory Aquino escapes a rebel attack in order to. take a bath. Shown once when II Aquino faced rebels at home, it resurfaced months later when another rebel attack occurred.

Flattered

If imitation is the sincerest form' of flattery, most ad agencies are not' insulted by SNL's attentions, but actually take a leaf from the show's book: an Independent Life spot about a South American- dictator was indirectly influenced by "Beauty Bath," and, many agencies have hired directors, writers, and even cast members from the show to participate in real commercials. "In those, you have to sell the product but the comedy is there," remarks Meshekoff, who went on to direct pieces for Slice, Raisin Nut Bran and Isuzu. "There's no better training for comedy than Saturday Night Live. You have that constant, dayto-day exposure to the actors, the writers. You get a sense of comic timing and reading you couldn't get anywhere else. And once a week you see your stuff- play before a [studio] audience of 300 people. You can look on their races and ,see how it's working. That was my 'film school.' "

Then there's the best joke of all: the SNL spot that won a Gold Lion at Cannes. "It was nine years ago," chuckles Chuck Pfeifer. "We did that fur spot with beautiful women in fur coats being shot" clubbed, beaten, and taken away on mules. 'The' point being that that was what .was being.done to animals. Well, it got a.Iot . of· attention and a lot of controversy and this French, guy I know said, 'Chuck, you should show it at Cannes.' I said, 'But it's not a real commercial. It doesn't advertise anything.' And he said, 'So?' And the thing actually got through. The judges were askance, but it won the award. And there was absolutely no product involved.”

Steven Soderbergh

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:276:]]

from EMPIRE, 1992

"THEY DID OVERPRAISE ME FOR my first movie, and I didn't ask for that," says Steven Soderbergh quietly. "They went too far in that direction with that movie, and too far in the other direction on the second."

Indeed, the Golden Boy of Cannes, 1989, would seem to have lost a touch of his sheen of late. Feted on the Croisette as the new Boy Wonder, and awarded the Palme D'Or as Best Director, the 26-year-old Steven Soderbergh burst on the scene in no small manner with sex lies and videotape, the intimate exploration of the lies people tell. He was The Man Of The Moment, The One To Watch and - more to the point - The One To Sign Up As Director Of Your Next Production, just like Quentin Tarantino is this very minute.

Meeting Soderbergh three years later, after the US run of his second film, Kafka, earned exactly $576,431 and very few critical Brownie points, he seems an entirely relaxed - if slightly exhausted - individual, taking the beating as calmly as he took the adulation four years ago.

"It was just weird," he says of the vicious attacks by many US critics (Kafka is yet to be released in the UK). "You see article after article about how tired people are of studio movies, and then here is an independent movie that is going to live or die on its reviews and it gets flayed. I'm not saying you should say this is a good film because it was made independently, I'm saying that it should be like diving, where you get points for difficulty whether or not you accomplish the dive. A lot of the comments were vitriolic. "

    Indeed, boring," "tedious," "pretentious," and other epithets were liberally flung in Kafka's direction, but Soderbergh himself complains that no one seemed to understand what he wanted to do after sex lies and videotape. "It's not a film without flaws," he admits. ''I'm just saying that obviously my agenda for making the film was somewhat different from what people thought my agenda was going to be."

The criticism, in fact, was just one of the trials Soderbergh experienced in completing his epic, with appalling weather, Czech bureaucracy (it was largely shot in Prague), recalcitrant writers and unhelpful stars, particularly Jeremy Irons, all contributing to the nightmare. "I remember reading that Jeremy thought that Kafka was a man who wasn't sure what to do, and he equated me with being as lost as Kafka, which is possible," he chuckles. "He also admitted that he had no idea what we were doing."[[wysiwyg_imageupload:287:]]

Despite the spectacular failure of his Difficult Second Movie, Soderbergh does not seem to be in danger of being hounded out of the filmmaking world just yet, being hard at work on no fewer than three new projects. "Regardless of what people may have thought of Kafka, even the most negative reviews respected the filmmaking," he insists. "I think many people were waiting to find out if I was completely inept and had flown through sex lies on somebody else's back or something. The funny thing is since it wasn't Hollywood money, it didn't count. If it had been Fox's money, it would have been an issue. It just didn't count because it had been labelled an art movie."

So, in fact] the quality and popularity of sex lies and videotape will stand Soderbergh in good stead for some years yet, notwithstanding the odd Kafka?

''I'm lucky and I'll tell you why," confides Steven Soderbergh. "Some amount of genuine respect is still currency in Hollywood. If people really think you're a good filmmaker then you can still get things to happen. It still means that there will be producers who will want to work with you and there will be actors who want to work with you. And if the worst comes to the worst I can go home and write something along the lines of sex lies and videotape and direct that. I know I can raise a million dollars somewhere."

Corrupt Managers

GUMSHOES CAN
HELP HOMEOWNERS
(Investigating your managing agent)
By TOM SOTER
from NEWSDAY, NOVEMBER 1995

From the files of your worst nightmare department: You’re on the board of a co-op, condo, or homeowners association and keep hearing about the Manhattan district attorney’s ongoing investigation into managing agents. You worry that your regional D.A. may start similar probes and uncover corruption in your backyard. The anxiety is bad but only gets worse when you suddenly discover that your agent has a criminal record. Then you find out that he is currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for fraud.

Sound terrible? For tenants at 3 Hanover Square, that was no nightmare, that was reality. According to a self-appointed “Committee of Concerned Shareholders” in the 205-unit lower Manhattan building, their manager was convicted of selling counterfeit $100 bills and cocaine trafficking in October 1985.

“These federal criminal felony convictions were not disclosed when he was hired in 1988,” said one member of the group, a former board director. “We have his court records. He was fined $15,000, so this was not considered a light thing. The judge found him guilty and gave him three years probation. The board failed to do a basic background check.”

Such criminal breaches are not confined to New York City: This past September, the office of Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Piro announced the investigation of Westchester manager Joseph Resnick, president of RMI Management for “misappropriation of funds.” The case is pending.

Such scandals, capping a year in which the real estate management industry was rocked by charges of kickbacks, are leading many owners of co-ops, condos, and homeowner associations to wonder what they can do to protect themselves from hiring a crooked manager.

One approach is to hire a licensed private investigator. For example, one board employed a detective, who quickly discovered that their manager had spent 15 years in prison for kidnapping his employee’s son and holding him for $100,000 ransom. When applying for his current job, he had omitted his criminal record and lied about his length of time in the business.

“This is a situation where you really have to call in a professional,” said Michael Kessler, an investigator with Manhattan-based Michael Kessler & Associates. “There are a lot of data bases out there that might lead us on the trail. We look at where he worked previously, we make pretext phone calls to gain information into a man’s background, we check out previous addresses, see why he left, that sort of thing. It might take a couple of days. Everything is electronic now.”

Investigators are helped by a wide range of computerized information services. Kessler said that he spends thousands of dollars a month paying for specialized data bases. “We’re tied into the criminal history records, public documents, credit information headers,” he noted. “It’s illegal to pull a credit history report without the subject’s release, but you pull header info, such as his name address, previous addresses, sometimes his social security number and previous employers. That can be important. If he says he’s with a company for 15 years, but hasn’t been, you can start an in-depth investigation.”

Kessler said it is a good idea to research the management company itself as well as the employee who will be running the building. “We frequently check out business credit ratings, public filings against companies, that sort of thing,” Kessler said. “Many do not pay withholding taxes on time, they get liens and tax warrants. Some say they are bonded, but really aren’t. We check out the principals, and see what else they’re involved in.”

A recent investigation uncovered that the principal of a management company also owned a perfume importing business and a pool hall. “There’s nothing illegal about that,” Kessler said, “but you just might want to know how those businesses affect his management. You have to wonder where he’s spending his time and effort. Is he taking on more than he can handle? Is he involved in management because he gets a liquid cash flow?”

According to Kessler, a basic report can run from $250 to $300. “If you have to do more than that in the investigation, why are you looking twice at the guy?” he said. “If you can find something that makes the board uncomfortable, it can affect their decision whether to go forward with the person. It’s called a ‘due diligence’ check. At least you’re forewarned that there could be a problem.”

Elevators

THE BOX THAT OTIS BUILT

By TOM SOTER
from CITY LEGACY, 1996

He was an unlikely visionary, a man who tinkered and toiled with various inventions in his lifetime. And although he died long before the first skyscraper was built, Elisha Graves Otis is the spiritual architect of modern New York. In fact, the city as we know it, owes its existence to the little box that Otis built.

We’re talking about elevators, the world’s most frequently used and perhaps most underappreciated mechanical mode of transportation. There are large elevators and small ones, ornate elevators and mundane ones. There are hydraulic and electric, glass and wood. In Manhattan alone, there are about 56,000 cabs, with the fastest (in the Met Life building) traveling at 1600 feet a minute (the fastest in the world is in Tokyo, operating at 2,000 feet per minute), and the slowest -- well, who knows?

"Elevators are the safest mode of transportation per capita per mile," notes one elevator repair technician. "They're safer than walking, than running, than using the stairs." The Buildings Department reports few deaths in elevators, and those are ususlly caused by human error, not mechanical failure.

Elisha Graves Otis didn't invent the elevator -- there had been horse-drawn hoisting devices as far back as the pyramids in 2600 B.C. -- but he did make it workable by creating the first "safety elevator." No wonder, too: Otis was a natural tinkerer. Born in 1811 as the youngest of six children, he abandoned his father's farm to become a master builder in Albany. Between 1834 and 1850, he went through a succession of jobs that were all tied together by a single thread: the need to invent.

"He possessed no ordinary genius as an inventor," his son Charles wrote in 1911. "He could invent, design, and construct a perfect working machine or improve anything to which he gave his mind, without recourse to any of the modern drafting room methods. He needed no assistance, asked no advice, consulted with no one, and never made much use of pen or pencil in designing his various machines...the desired result was reached by him more as an inspiration than by a process of slow, laborious reasoning and experiment."Elisha Graves OtisElisha Graves Otis

Otis built a grist mill run by water power and worked at a carriage manufacturing plant and then a sawmill. He was hired as a master mechanic and soon devised a number of labor-saving machines. In 1850, he invented a set of safety brakes for a train company and that led him to the safety elevator. In 1852, Otis was asked to build a freight elevator for his employer, the Bedstead Manufacturing Company. Previous elevators all had a fatal flaw: when the rope broke, the cab fell. That created a widespread fear of the lifts that was hard to overcome. Even in the 1890s, when elevators were more common, many people still considered them unsafe, and some insurance policies even excluded coverage for elevator deaths.

Otis's innovations changed that. Accompanied by the motto, "Safe Enough for Grandma to Ride In," the new Otis elevator employed a brake. The inventor put a wagon spring on top of the hoist bar and ratchet bars attached to the guide rails on both sides of the hoistway. According to an account by the Otis Elevator Company, "the lifting rope was attached to the wagon spring in such a way that the weight of the hoist platform alone exerted enough tension on the spring to keep it from touching the ratchet bars. But, if the cable snapped, the tension would be released from the wagon spring, and each end would immediately engage the ratchet bars, securely locking the hoist platform in place and preventing it from falling."

The safety device was a success and the forerunner of present-day devices. Further development saw a speed governor in the control room, connected to the elevator by a rope. If the elevator goes too fast, the governor pulls on the rope, which slows or stops the elevator by released the spring-loaded wedges under the cab. These shoot out, grab onto rails in the shaft and stop the cab from falling.

The method is so surefire, in fact, that its most noteworthy failure is also its most extraordinary. In 1945, a low-flying airplane crashed into the side of the Empire State Building and sheared the elevator's cable and the safety rope. When the cab fell, the saftey wedges were not activated.

By 1854, Otis was exhibiting a working model of his invention at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York. When his rising platform, reached the top, 40 feet above the assembled crowds below, he had an assistant dramatically cut the hoist rope and, like a good showman, bow to the gasps of the onlookers when the elevator did not fall. The New York Tribune called the demonstration "sensational" (labeling Otis, "Mr. Safety Elevator Man"). In 1856, Otis erected what many consider the nation’s first regularly used passenger elevator in the new five-story E.V. Haughwought & Co. store at the northeast corner of Broome Street and Broadway. By 1861, when he died of diphtheria, Otis was doing a brisk business creating elevators for manufacturing companies. (And his legend was beginning to grow, as well, with his son claiming that his father was, improbably, a Civil War veteran and “without doubt a lineal descendant of the most distinguished family known to history, Adam and Eve.” )

The evolution of the elevator might have stalled there, restricted to manufacturing uses, had it not been for steel-frame building construction. In 1885, W.L. Jenney designed the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago. At the time, making buildings higher than six storys was impractical because of the huge brick foundations necessary. Jenney's "skyscraper" employed an iron frame to support the weight of the structure. The elevator allowed the hi-rise to be conceived. Soon, skyscrapers began rising with rapidity: the 22-story World Building in 1890; the 20-story Flatiron Building in 1903; the 41-story Singer Building in 1906; the 52-story Metropolitan Life Building in 1908; the 60-story Woolworth Building in 1912. Out of 800,000 buildings in New York, the buildings department reports that roughly 8,400 have elevators, mostly concentrated in Manhattan.

By 1929, as the Depression came down, more hi-rises seemed to be going up. Between 1929 and 1931, four of the tallest buildings in the world arose: the 71-story Bank of Manhattan (927 feet); the 66-story Wall Tower (950 feet); the 77-story Chrysler Building (1,046 feet); and the 102-story Empire State Building (1,250 feet).

As they were created, so were new laws governing the manufacture and safety of elevators. By the 1920s, there were two types of elevator in operation. The older models were generally either plunger or roped hydraulic elevators. The plunger style featured a cab built directly on a hollow piston that was moved in and out of a large cylinder by varying fluid pressures. In a roped model, ropes were linked to the elevator car and powered by a separate hydraulic piston and cylinder. Water from the water main and later under high pressure pumped by steam forced the plunger up and carried the elevator up. The relaxation of pressure allowed the plunger to sink, carrying the elevator down. (Modern hydraulic elevators use oil pumped by electricity.)

A quarter of the elevators currently in the city are hydraulic, usually found in such low-rise buildings as lofts. Hydraulic elevators were prominent at the turn-of-the-century, but controlling them was a little tricky: the water pressure could fluctuate and the elevator would bounce at the floor landing.

Traction elevators, employing electricity and counter weights, were introduced in 1889. They allowed for more precision in stopping and starting the cab, and also, eventually, greater speeds. According to the Otis Elevator Company: "The principle is similar to the operation of a locomotive pulling a train as the result of traction between the steel wheels of the locomotive and the rails. With an elevator, six to eight lengths of wire cable are attached to the top of the elevator and wrapped around the drive sheave in special grooves. The other end of the cables is attached to a counterweight that slides up and down in the shaftway on its own guide rails. The result of this arrangement is that with the weight of the elevator car on one end of the cable, and the total mass of the counterweight on the other, it presses the cables down on the grooves of the drive sheave. When the motor turns the sheave, it moves the cables with almost no slippage. The weight of the car and about half its passenger load is balanced out by the counterweight, which is [traveling] down as the car is going up. It supplies the necessary traction."

Electricity brought further modifications: the elevator relays were programmed to make multiple decisions, doors with interlocks were mandated, and door operation refined to provide safe automatic opening and closing. The last two were the biggest steps towards complete automation of elevators. In the 1890s, a number of residential buildings had self-service passenger cabs. These featured a shaftway door, and, in the elevator, a gate that the passenger would open and close himself. Locks were devised to prevent the hoistway doors from being opened if the elevator wasn't there or preventing the elevator from running if the door wasn't locked. When the inner gate was transformed into an automatic inner door in the early 20th century, safety edges were developed and added to reopen the door if anyone was in its path.

By the 1920s and '30s, fancy hi-rise apartment buildings started turning up – and with them, elevators. "American architecture as an independent school began its existence with the invention and adaptation of the elevator," observed one 19th century writer. "The architectural features of New York City are passing through a transitional period because of the demand for every possible square foot of enclosed space that can be had anywhere on Manhattan Island. The amount of business to be transacted will steadily increase, and with it the demand for more room in which to transact that business."

Since then, elevators have essentially remained the same – except for becoming sleeker, faster, and computerized. Every major elevator manufacturing company has introduced microprocessor technology for elevator buildings with large and complex traffic patterns. Computers, Westinghouse Elevator noted in a sales brochure, have become so sophisticated that "every potential corridor call in the building is preassigned to an elevator before the call is actually entered. These preassignments are reevaluated and redefined twice a second. In effect, the system is predicting, every half second, which car will be in the best position to answer any call that may be entered in the next half second, minimizing the response time of the elevator system when a call has been registered. Registered calls are instantly assigned and the system is scanned 10 times a second for new calls being entered."

As for the future, the only major difference in the box that Otis built will probably be aesthetics: glass or gold-plated, chrome or wood, plastic or formica. But the basic concept will not change much: a box hooked to a cable running over a pulley. And why should it? Simple yet brilliant, Otis’ “Magnificent Moving Machine” has helped New York City grow and prosper. Mr. Elevator Safety Man would be pleased.

How to Avoid Dismissal



TEN WAYS TO AVOID
GETTING FIRED

By TOM SOTER
from MEN'S LIVING

There is one constant in the world. “In good times or bad, downsizing is here to stay,” says Mitchell Lee Marks, an organizational psychologist who has advised MCA, the parent company of Universal Studios, and Chase Bank. “The difference is that in good times, management uses a scalpel, not an axe.”

Those who have prepared properly, however, can avoid being “downsized.” Among the steps:

(1) Volunteer. “Step up to the plate and take on extra work,” advises Don Blohowiak, a management specialist who has advised United Airlines. “When budgets get tight, management will ask, ‘Who’s essential here?’ And they’ll remember the person who was willing to do a bit more over those who only do what was required. Sticks in the mud get fired first.”

(2) Be upbeat. Those with a positive attitude have an in. “If you’re a cantankerous complainer, you may become a target,” warns Blohowiak.

(3) Don’t be a Yes-Man. Optimism is one thing; being a yes-man is another. Companies look for employees who can offer constructive criticism. “Candor is the highest compliment,” Blohowiak says. “It means, ‘I value you enough to tell you the truth.’ When the boss can count on you for an honest take, that adds value.”

(4) Make sure your superiors know what you’ve accomplished. “If you’ve done a job well, make sure people know,” advises Marks. Have your supervisor periodically blow your horn to the higher-ups, or at the end of the year write a letter sharing your accomplishments. But don’t overdo it. No one likes a braggart.

(5) Earn your paycheck. With benefits packages and salary increases, you may be costing more than you’re worth. Blohowiak advises candor: “Ask the boss, ‘Are you getting your money’s worth from me?’” One way to increase your value is to adapt to new work techniques quickly and without complaint, even training yourself on your own time if necessary.

(6) Go where the action is. If another division is growing and yours is flat, Marks says, “you might want to transfer into that division.”

(7) Prioritize. Determine what needs to be done first and do whatever it takes to complete it on time “Don’t be a 9 to 5er,” says Stephen Viscusi, host of the radio show Career Talk. “Get a sense of what’s urgent for your company. If your boss has a pet project, work on that. If it’s a busy time of year, don’t take a vacation even if your heart is set on it.”

(8) Control personal problems. In general, you should keep personal difficulties out of the workplace. But if you are facing something like a major illness in the family, be sure to tell your superior. Says Marks: “If you communicate in a crisis, they’ll be more understanding.”

(9) Listen to the office grapevine. Find out if the company is going to undergo downsizing. “You should be in tune with what’s going on,” Viscusi notes.

(10) Beware of paranoia. “Don’t go overboard and become paranoid,” says Marks. “Anxiety can work against productivity. The odds are if you’re doing the job well and meeting expectations, they’ll keep you.”

Movie Previews 1999

PREVIEWS
By TOM SOTER
from MOVIE TIMES, 1999

THE INSIDER
With: Al Pacino , Russell Crowe, Diane Venora, Rip Torn, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse, and Christopher Plummer (Touchstone)

To Lowell Bergman (Oscar winner Al Pacino), the truth is always out there. And as an investigative reporter and producer for TV’s legendary 60 Minutes, Bergman thought he had nailed the story of the year, if not the decade: Jeffrey Wigand, a scientist for a major tobacco company, had agreed to blow the whistle on Big Tobacco. His taped testimony was devastating, his story vivid television. Only one problem: CBS wouldn’t air it. And then, Bergman’s and Wigand’s worlds come crashing down. Director Michael Mann offers a remarkable true story about two ordinary people fighting extraordinary circumstances.

AMERICAN BEAUTY
With: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Peter Gallagher (DreamWorks)
Suburbanite Lester Burnham (The Usual Suspects’ Kevin Spacey) has problems. Oh yeah. His wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) hates him. His daughter despises him. And his boss is getting set to give him the boot. Well, as they say, when you’ve got nothing to lose, you might as well go for your dreams. Provoked by forbidden passions, Lester makes life changes that are less mid-life crisis and more reborn adolescence. But it’s not all fun and games, as Lester learns that the ultimate freedom may come with the ultimate price.

LOST SOULS
With Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Elias Koteas, John Diehl (NLC: New Line Cinema?)
Supernatural Thriller – A young woman (Ryder) joins forces with a cynical New York crime journalist (Chaplin) to defeat a devil-worshiping conspiracy that has made the reporter their target. Co-produced by Meg Ryan, this thriller marks the directorial debut of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

BODY SHOTS
With Sean Patrick Flanery, Amanda Peet (New Line Cinema? - NLC)
Drama – Follow eight 20-something men and women as they learn about life, love, and Los Angeles night life as they set off on a journey that takes them into the turbulent world of sex and dating in the ‘90s. The ensemble piece was co-written and directed by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Michael Cristofer.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY
With: Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Annabeth Gish, Bruce Greenwood. (Paramount)
Drama – Framed for the murder of her husband, Libby Preston (Judd) survives the long years in prison thanks to two burning desires: finding her son and locating the real killer. Standing between her and her goals is the cynical parole officer (Jones) who has plans of his own.

SUPERSTAR
With: Molly Shannon, Will Ferrell, Elaine Hendrix, Glynis Johns.
Romantic Comedy – All teenager Mary Katherine Gallagher (Shannon) wants is a hold-your-breath-till-you-think-you’re-going-to-faint, Hollywood-style kiss. And then she realizes that the only way to get a Hollywood kiss is to go Hollywood. Big time. And when a national magazine sponsors a contest that could send her to Tinsel Town, Mary sees her chance.

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD
With: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman. (Paramount)
Drama – A story with black comedy undertones, this drama depicts 48 hours in the life of a New York City paramedic (Academy Award-winner Cage) who finds himself falling prey to urban shell shock after too many years on the graveyard shift.

SLEEPY HOLLOW
With: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien. (Paramount)
Fantasy – Director Tim Burton (Batman, Beetlejuice) and Johnny Depp reunite on their third film following their work on Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, this time putting their darkly comic stamp on Washington Irving’s classic story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.

JAKOB THE LIAR
With: Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, Michael Jeter (Sony/Columbia)
Drama – In Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, poor Jewish cafe owner Jakob (Academy Award-winner Williams) battles the Nazis by offering fictitious news bulletins about Allied advances. Spirits are lifted, but soon, the Nazis begin a search for the pirate radio station.

ELMO IN GROUCHLAND
With: Kevin Clash, Mandy Patinkin, Vanessa Williams. (Sony/Columbia/Jim Henson Pictures)
Family Comedy – When Elmo (Clash) loses his beloved blue blanket, he goes on an extraordinary quest to recover it. Plunging into Grouchland – a place full of grouchy creatures, stinky garbage, and the villainous Huxley (Patinkin) – he has many wild adventures and learns an important lesson about life.

RANDOM HEARTS
With: Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles S. Dutton, Paul Guilfoyle. (Columbia/Sony)
Crime Drama – Tough internal affairs cop Dutch Van Den Broeck (Ford), involved in a major corruption case, develops an unusual bond with Kay Chandler (Thomas) a high-profile congressman embroiled in a bitter reelection campaign as the pair face a secret that threatens to destroy them.

CRAZY IN ALABAMA
With: Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, Lucas Black, Rod Steiger.
Comedy-Drama – It’s the summer of 1965 and backwoods Alabama boy Peejo (Black) gets an education in freedom for his glamorous, eccentric Aunt Lucille (Griffith), who escapes from an abusive husband and takes the boy to Hollywood to pursue dreams of TV stardom.

JOAN OF ARC
With: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Timothy West, Desmond Harrington, Faye Dunaway. (Sony/Columbia)
Historical Drama – In 1429, a 16-year-old girl from a remote village announced that she would defeat the world’s greatest army. From internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson comes the story of Joan of Arc (Jovovich), the woman who followed her own path and changed the course of history.

I DREAMED OF AFRICA
With: Kim Basinger, Vincent Perez, Eva Marie Saint, Liam Aiken, Robert Loggia (Sony/Columbia)
Epic Drama – Director Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) offers a story based on the saga of Kuki Gallman (Basinger), who sought a new life in Africa with her husband (Perez) and son (Aiken). What she found was pain, passion, joy, and hardship, as her love for her adopted homeland enabled her to overcome overwhelming personal tragedy.

NEXT TO YOU
With: Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier (Fox)
Comedy – Sunny Nicole and moody Chase live next door to each other– and that’s about all they have in common. Then circumstances force them to team up in the least likely partnership of the year. But sparks – and romance – fly in this lively comedy based on the popular novel, Girl Gives Birth to Own Prom Date.

ANYWHERE BUT HERE
With: Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Bonnie Bedelia. (Fox)
Drama – Fleeing small-town boredom, a restless mother (Sarandon) drags her reluctant teenage daughter (Portman) to Beverly Hills and a new, sometimes difficult life. Directed by Wayne Wang.

SUNSET STRIP
With: Anna Friel, Simon-Baker Denny, Nick Stahl, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg. (Fox)
Drama – It is August 1972. And the lives of a group of young people are changed forever during a momentous 24 hours on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip. Directed by Adam Collis.

LIGHT IT UP
With: Usher, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa L. Williams, Forest Whitaker (Fox).
Drama – Following an accidental shooting in a battered inner-city high school, a disparate group of students hold a wounded police officer hostage. With media and public interest intensifying, the drama comes to an unexpected climax.

THE BEACH
With: Leonardo DiCaprio. (Fox)
Drama – Teen heartthrob DiCapiro (Titanic) returns to the big screen as an American traveler who embarks on an exotic adventure in Thailand, searching for a legendary tropical paradise known only as The Beach. But when he discovers the modern-day Eden, he also uncovers its disturbing secrets.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME
With: Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston (Universal)
Romantic Drama – Oscar-winner Kevin Costner stars as Billy Chapel, a legendary baseball pitcher nearing the end of his career who must reexamine his priorities when he faces a double dilemma: he is about to be traded after 20 years with the same team and his long-time lover (Preston) has decided to leave him. Directed by Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan).

THE BONE COLLECTOR
With: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Ed O’Neill, Michael Rooker (Universal)
Suspense Thriller – When a gruesomely mutilated corpse is found buried near the railroad tracks in Spanish Harlem, a street-smart cop (Jolie) teams up with brilliant but bed-bound forensic experts Lincoln Rhymes (Academy Award-winner Washington) in a race-against the clock to find the murderer before he strikes again.

THE STORY OF US
With: Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer (Universal)
Comedy: Director Rob Reiner returns to romantic comedy with a film that asks the question: can a marriage survive 15 years of marriage? While their kids are away at summer camp, Ben (Willis) and Katie (Pfeiffer) Jordon decide to separate because the qualities which made them fall in love are pulling them apart.

THE BEST MAN
With: Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau Jr., Monica Calhoun (Universal)
Comedy Drama – This tale of commitment, love, and marriage finds a group of successful college friends reunited at the wedding of one of their buddies. But more than marriage is on everyone’s mind, as the groom’s best man (Diggs) worries that his friend (Chestnut) will soon find out he once had an affair with the bride-to-be (Calhoun).

MORE PREVIEWS

By TOM SOTER

THE CHILL FACTOR
With: Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Peter Firth (Warner)
Thriller – Two men (Gooding, Ulrich) accidentally obtain a highly explosive substance that will ignite if its temperature goes above 50 degrees. Pursued by several different groups, the duo rush through increasingly warmer terrain in a desperate struggle to survive.

MAN ON THE MOON
With: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti (Universal)
Comedy-Drama – Funnyman Carrey stars as another wild comedian, the late Andy Kaufman, who puzzled and delighted audiences of TV’s Saturday Night Live and has often been considered one of the most innovative, eccentric, and enigmatic comics of his time. Directed by Academy Award-winning director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

THE BIG TEASE
With: Craig Ferguson, Frances Fisher, Mary McCormack, Donal Logue (Warner)
Comedy – A Rocky-with-curlers, this comedy finds Scottish hairdresser Crawford McKenzie (Ferguson, a co-star of TV’s Drew Carey Show) competing for the Platinum Scissor Award at The World Freestyle Hairdressing Championship. He vows to succeed, or go down moussing!

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
With: Geoffrey Rush, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Peter Gallagher (Warner)
Horror – To win one million dollars each, five strangers agree to spend a night in a house with a hideous past. Soon, they find death is their companion, as a mysterious murderer begins stalking them. Based on the 1958 cult classic from director William Castle.

THE YARDS
With: Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, James Caan (Miramax?)
Thriller – When Leo Handler wanted to get his life back on track, he returned to the New York City subway yards. But instead of peace of mind, he finds a world of sabotage, high-stakes payoffs, and murder. And what the secret he discovers makes him the target of the most ruthless family in the city: his own.

DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES
With: Samanatha Morton, Rupert Graves, Lee Ross, Miriam Margoyles, Frank Finlay (Fox Searchlight)
Drama – Eva (Morton) lusts after the adventurous geologist Joseph Lees (Graves). But she is also involved with the volatile, unpredictable, and very jealous Harry (Ross). When the two men connect, the love triangle careens out of control.

Movie Reviews: Mixer

REVIEWS: MIXER
July 1998

By TOM SOTER

SLAM

The winner of the 1998 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and a Directors’ Fortnight selection at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, Slam offers the affecting story of Raymond Joshua (Saul Williams), a rapper/poet in Washington, D.C. Arrested on a petty drug charge, Ray is caught in the wheels of a system that cares little for justice and more for repression. In prison, Joshua hooks up witgh Lauren Bell (Sonja John), a writing teacher who sees in the young poet a true talent. One could say the same thing about co-writer/director Marc Levin, who with his use of hand-held cameras, naturalistic acting, and funky street dialect, gives his story a documentary feel. But at times he also uses a colorful impressionistic style to capture how Joshua reflects on his experiences and translates them into poetry. Inspired by the real experiences of a 17-year-old imprisoned gradditi artists Bonz Malone, Levin’s movie is a passionate plea for understanding, showing how a cruel system turns a blind eye to those who could be its most committed, constructive, and insightful citizens if given a chance. As Ray Joshua, Williams is affecting and believable as both a poet and a leader and he makes the whole constrfuction work. There have been movies about oppression and the black experience before, but none quite as unusual as this one.

REVIEWS: MIXER
January 1999

SPANISH FLY
(Miramax)
Rating: 5
This lightweight comedy, written by and starring Daphna Kastner, is about a woman coming to terms with love and sexuality in oh-so-macho Spain. Kastner plays a youngish intellectual, unlucky in love and sex, who suffers from what might be termed “parental abandonment syndrome.” More specifically, she blames her missing father for her anger towards men and her inability to sustain and consummate a relationship. The problem faced by Zoe (Kastner) is that she always picks the wrong guys: intellectual snobs (Martin Donovan), semi-fey momma’s boys (Danny Huston), or sexually crude studs (Antonio Castro). Naturally, the true love of her life must be the macho but sensitive Antonio (Toni Canto) because, in true romantic comedy style, she bickers with him at their first meeting. The plot-line and much of the writing in Spanish Fly are perfunctory, but the beautiful Spanish scenery and the sweet performances by Canto and Kastner ultimately overcome any weaknesses in the script. And, of course, it’s always nice when true love wins out.

WAKING NED DEVINE
(Fox Searchlight)
Rating: 5
Irish blarney at its best, with a delightful cast of old codgers out to pull off the scam of a lifetime. An inveterate lottery player, senior citizen Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) discovers that one of the 52 residents of his tiny Irish village has won a gigantic lottery. He quickly uncovers the lucky man: Ned Devine, an elderly fellow who lives alone and who also happens to be dead, killed by the shock of winning (“They say money changes you,” observes Jackie’s practical wife, adding that it has certainly changed Ned). The farcical funnies follow, as Jackie and his pal Michael Sullivan (David Kelly) attempt to pass Michael off as Ned. The thin story is played out like an Irish tall tale, with a good number of twists and turns (will the lottery man discover the truth? will the townspeople join in the lie?) and amusing visuals (ever seen a naked septuagenarian on a motorcycle?) Although Waking Ned Devine is lightweight stuff, it is charmingly brought off by Bannen and Kelly, an Irish Laurel and Hardy.

ENEMY OF THE STATE
(Touchstone)
Rating: 5
The early 1970s was the last big era of paranoia in movies: The Conversation, The Parallax View, and Three Days of the Condor all posited grim worlds in which Big Brother was not only watching, but was out to get you – and did. Flash-forward to the 1990s: paranoia is in vogue again, thanks to TV's X-Files. The latest evidence of the retro trend is Enemy of the State, a paranoid thriller about a government using cameras, satellites, and recording devices to both pry into and destroy people’s lives. Will Smith plays a labor lawyer who is inadvertently drawn into an electronic web of deceit and murder, while Gene Hackman (the electronic spymaster of The Conversation) is the man who can save him. The story, fast-paced and complicated, is filled with fancy visuals, breakneck chases – and all the cliches of the genre, albeit jazzed up with fancy imagery and pump-up-the-volume energy. Smith and Hackman are an engaging team, and the ending – unlike the downbeat finales of this movie’s ‘70s predecessors – is unbelievably happy.

CENTRAL STATION
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Rating: 8
Central Station is a wonderfully acted Brazilian fairy tale about how an orphaned boy, Jose (Vincinius de Oliveira), touches and then transforms a nasty old woman (Fernanda Montenegro) into a near-saint. Set in Rio and the surrounding countryside, the movie charts as unlikely a partnership as you’re ever going to see. Dora is a bitter woman who writes letters for illiterates. Although she promises to mail the finished work immediately, she instead keeps the postage money and destroys the letters. Jose is a sharp-tongued boy whose mother hires Dora to write a note to her reclaim her estranged husband. When the woman is killed by a bus, however, a series of believable plot contrivances find Dora and Jose setting off on a bittersweet, funny, and heartfelt quest for the boy's father. Avoiding cliches and emphasizing realistic characters, Central Station is a brilliantly depicted journey of spiritual awakening as Dora realizes that she needs Jose as much he needs a father – and that the old woman and child are more alike than either realized. Not to be missed.

REVIEWS: MIXER
February 1999

RUSHMORE
(Touchstone)
Rating: 7
Rushmore is a quirky comedy about a 15-year-old go-getter named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). The teenager loves extracurricular school activities: he is the editor of the Rushmore school newspaper and yearbook; founder of the debate team, the dodge ball society, and the Max Fischer Players; and president of the French club, German club, chess club, and almost everything else. He also finds time to write and stage oddball plays about the Vietnam War, police informants, and gangsters. Problem is, Max has no time left for studying. played Schwartzman’s would-be-genius is a fast-talking con artist: an adult salesman in a teenaged nerd’s body. When he is kicked out of Rushmore, however, Max applies his skills on a sweet kindergarten teacher (Olivia Williams) who is more interested in Max's millionaire patron and gopher Herman Blume (Bill Murray), than Max. And so the battle begins. Director/writer Wes Anderson’s oddball movie amusingly depicts the birth of a hustler, dreamer, and all-around smarmy guy. With any luck, he’ll probably be working in Hollywood in a few years.

MIGHTY PEKING MAN
(Cowboy International)
Rating: 6
How’s this for a story? Some intrepid explorers head for the jungles of India (!) to trap the Mighty Peking Man (PM, for short), an ugly-as-sin giant gorilla who turns up after an earthquake. The leader of the expedition is well-known adventurer Johnny Feng (Danny Lee), who is distraught because he just discovered his girlfriend in bed with his brother (“It’s not what you think!” cries out the naked girlfriend). Feng and his pals have no idea how to capture the PM except “to use our intelligence” – but once a tiger has ripped off the leg of a porter, and one of the expedition leaders slips and fatally falls off a mountain, everyone deserts Johnny in the night. His doom seems to be sealed when he comes up against the PM. He is rescued by Samantha (Evelyne Kraft), a platinum blonde white woman who wears an animal-skin bra that covers only one of her breasts. This lady Tarzan speaks pigeon English and has the power to control the PM. With her help, Johnny takes the ape back to civilization, where he hopes to make millions exhibiting the PM. Instead (surprise!) the monster goes on a rampage. There have been bad movies, but none quite in the league of the Hong Kong import Mighty Peking Man (why the ape is called “Man” let alone named after a city in China is never explained). Don’t miss it.

VARSITY BLUES
(Paramount)
Rating: 7
Cross Rocky with Hoosiers, toss in one of the sexy hunks from TV’s Dawson’s Creek, and what do you have? A surprisingly affecting drama about coming-of-age in a small town in Texas. For 22 years. the West Canaan High School football team has won the district championship. That’s thanks to the no-holds-barred, win-at-all-costs approach of the tough-as-nails coach Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight), a man who’d make a Nazi look good. His antagonist in the quest for the 23rd championship is Jon Moxon (James Van Der Beek), who prefers reading Kurt Vonnegut to tackling people. Nonetheless, “Mox” also happens to have a good throwing arm, a good mind, and plenty of moxie. Of course, he ends up as a star quarterback. He is then faced with a series of dilemmas that come with the turf – does he cheat on his girlfriend with the school’s sexpot? does he quarterback his own way or the coach’s? – culminating in the big question: should he stand up to the unethical Kilmer and prove that it’s not whether you win but how you play the game? Varsity Blues is no Last Picture Show, but it is still a well-done drama that offers a message not often heard these days: integrity counts.

Managing Money

CASH CONCERNS
By TOM SOTER
from MEN'S FITNESS

Normally, Andy doesn’t think a lot about money. “I’m penny wise and pound foolish,” he observes. “You know, I’ll use a coupon that will save me 20 cents to buy cat litter but then I’ll spend 100 dollars on computer software that I don’t need.”

But Andy is worrying more and more about money these days. He’s about to be married and fears spending may become an issue with his future wife. “I’ve read stories about people fighting over it,” he says. “So I think I have to be more measured. I mean, we’ve talked about money. It’s much more of an emotional issue with her. She’s more careful, probably because her parents argued a lot about money. She’s always worried about not having enough.”

Andy’s situation is not unique. New York City psychoanalyst Austin Galvin points to one couple he counsels. Things were so good that they began living together. After a while, however, they began fighting – about money. “She would ask him why the utility bill was so high,” Galvin recalls. “He’d say he liked to take long, hot showers and shave. She’d say, ‘You spend too much money.’ He said she was too miserly.”

The best things in life may be free, but for many couples, you can keep them for the birds and bees. Money is what many people want – and fight over. “Money issues are becoming more and important than they once were,” observes Allen Elkin, a New York-based psychologist and director of the Stress Management Counseling Center. “With downsizing and mergers, there is more of a sense of financial insecurity in the air. In the old days, grandfather kept his job for 20 years. Now there’s more uncertainty. With that comes a lot of anxiety.”

But how much of that is a legitimate concern over a tough economy – and how much a symbolic battle over power, control, and other psychological issues?

Dollars and Sense of Worth
When men and women begin dating, money is the topic no one discusses but everyone thinks about – at least unconsciously. “We are often attracted to another person because we perceive – perhaps not consciously – that the other person has an attribute we lack to make ourselves whole,” explains Elayne Savage, a psychologist in Berkeley, California. The differing styles may complement each other since one person spends freely, while the other is frugal. But these same qualities can become points of contention when tensions rise about other things.

There are legitimate issues of finance, of course. If you are not balancing your books, there should be discussions. But what are the real issues in a budgeting mess? “When money comes up, find out what you’re really talking about,” suggests Brigitte Lifschitz, a New York City social worker. “In general, the problem usually goes beyond just money.”

For most, cash concerns are defined in childhood. Those who grew up without a lot often have a different perspective than those who did, which can create tension. “Some people have the philosophy that you don’t spend on yourself, that money should be saved or spent on important things,” Elkin says. “As opposed to the idea that you can’t take it with you, so spend it while you can.”

“Our belief system is developed when we’re growing up. It’s important to look at the original context,” adds Savage. “Maybe a major wage earner in the family lost money suddenly and everything changed: they never had enough food or clothing. I have one client who, no matter how much money she makes, has to have $1,000 in a drawer. It’s for psychological security.”

Money often represents control. Lifschitz cites a couple in its mid-30s: “If she doesn’t earn a living, she feels she has less power in the relationship. She feels like a child who has to ask permission to buy things. And even though he’s earning a very good living, he has had large debts from his own schooling, so he feels they must be careful. They come into conflict when she wants to buy clothing he thinks is extravagant. They fight; she might back down and resent it, or she might go out and buy it anyway.”

Money can also be a symbol of something lacking in the relationship. For example, if one person is tight-fisted financially, Savage notes, “it could mean they are a withholding person. So they might withhold other things, like emotions.”

Spending can be used as a way to avoid confronting difficult issues. “Often money is a way to sidestep emotional problems a couple may have,” says Galvin. “When people get to troubled times, rather than communicate, they go out and talk over a good meal and have some wine, and soon there seems to be no problem. But they really haven’t addressed anything. Spending the money has just made them feel good. The problems will return.”

If spending makes one feel good, so does having: dollars are often mixed up with a person’s sense of self-worth. “If a man feels like he’s going to lose his job, he feels like his self-esteem is at stake,” observes Rebecca Abramson, a psychologist in Hartsdale, New York. “For men especially, how much they earn is very much a part of who they are. That can lead to competition between couples over money, especially when the woman works.”

Spending can also be used as a cry for attention. If the man is being ignored in the relationship and doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants, he may make a big purchase. That could then precipitate a fight which leads to a reconciliation and affection, which is what the man wanted to begin with. “He just didn’t know how to ask for it in an upfront way,” Savage notes. “Spending money is a way to fill a hole, to ask for something you’re not getting. You’re usually filling a need for nurturing in the same way those who overeat do. In this case, the spending allows for the argument which leads to the intimacy. That could have been avoided if he knew what he really wanted. ”

Core Solutions
Once you’ve identified the core issues – not an easy task – experts suggest these steps:

Negotiate. When you discuss money issues, don’t make it an opportunity for a blaming session. Elkin suggests a “quid pro quo approach. Ask, ‘What do you want me to give up and what will you give up?’ She may say, ‘I’d like you not to spend so much on computer software,’ and then he says, ‘Okay, but you don’t spend so much on shoes.’ ”

Elkin says setting a dollar amount and value system is crucial in the process. “You have to measure how important it is to you. On a 10-point scale, how important is this purchase? Are Friday night hockey games integral to happiness? If so, it is not negotiable, so go to the next on the list, restaurants for lunch every day. Be willing to trade on that. But don’t impose your spending styles or values on your spouse; if she wants to spend money on shoes, don’t ridicule that.”

Budget. Most people don’ have – or if they do, don’t stick to – budgets. Making one up will give you a practical guide to where your money goes. “You will suddenly realize you’re spending $500 a week on lunches,” says Elkin. “That can help you in deciding, ‘Do I really need a new laptop?’ ”
Such a budget can also give you the basis for a discussion with your partner before spending becomes a major issue. Meet regularly and talk cash flow. You may even want to set limits: both parties have to consent to expenditures over a certain amount.

Communicate. As a couple, you should look at yourselves as a committee of two. “Work together,” says Elkin. “Make a collaborative effort on trying to solve the problem rather than making it into an adversarial attack.”

“The question of money is a great opportunity for couples to work out other conflicts because money is so symbolic,” Abramson observes. “If couples can work out these issues, they can work out anything.”

Take Dora and her husband Nick, a San Francisco couple who both have very different ideas about money. “He feels if you’ve got money, you should spend it,” she notes. “I’m more for putting it away and saving it. He says, ‘Let’s use the credit card for trip and worry later. Money will come.’ I think it’s because he grew up with an expectation that money would come. I grew up with the expectation that money will die. So that placed us in two different places. In the beginning, there wasn’t even a conversation; we were just talking at each other, not listening.

“But then we had to deal with monies coming in and where and how bills got paid. I ’m very much the budgeter and Nick sits there and listens and says, ‘Right.’ He has sort of a passive-aggressive stance, saying, ‘You set it up and I’ll comply.’ When we come to conflict, money and emotions are tied up. If I'm feeling anxious, I’ll focus on the budget. I’ll say, ‘These are the essentials we’ll need.’ He’ll sit with me through that and calm me down and we’ll manage.’ And over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate his lifestyle more. And to some extent, he’s learned to appreciate mine.”

Florida Commercials


You're traveling to another dimension...
NEXT STOP:
THE EMPOWERMENT ZONE

By TOM SOTER
from SHOOT MAGAZINE
FloridaFlorida: a magical empowerment zone.

To some, the area seemed like a ghost town - rundown factory buildings and hotels from the 1920s, some abandoned, all in disrepair - but to Eugene Rodriguez, president and owner of Miami's Big Time Productions, it seemed like a golden opportunity.
And why not? Just a five-minute car ride across the causeway from the bustling South Beach area, the location was Rodriguez's ticket to expansion. Big Time was growing beyond what its South Beach facility could reasonably handle and no new property was available. So, eleven months ago, the entrepreneur bought a 100,000-square foot former ice-packing plant, as well as various other properties across the causeway, and transformed them all into working studio and stage spaces.

"It just made a lot of sense," he recalls. "South Beach become very, very expensive, and there was no room for that kind of horizontal studio. We were lucky to find what we needed right across the bridge. It has a great style and the feel of South Beach in the '20s and '30s."

Rodriguez is not alone, however. If the Miami-Dade film office has its way, he will be soon be joined by many neighbors, who will also service the film and television business. Indeed, if all goes as planned, the area may well be the next production hotspot, thanks to its recent designation as an "economic empowerment zone."

An empowerment zone sounds almost magical. And to those existing within its borders, the designation does create a kind of financial enchantment, with various federal loans and subsidies becoming available to companies who open businesses in and hire people from the area.

Specifically, explains Jeff Peel, director of the Miami-Dade Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment, an empowerment zone is a designation that the community is deemed in need of economic development assistance. "The zone is geographically specific," he says. "It's not the entire community but the most economically challenged parts of the community."

He cites Times Square in New York City as an example of an area that became an empowerment zone about three years ago. "It was formerly a very vibrant part of Manhattan but it had fallen into a bad state," he observes. "With the designation, and the attraction of the incentives and resources, it once again became a focal point of Manhattan. The same thing can happen here."

Once a neighborhood is designated, different categories of financial incentives become available. The first comes from the federal government. That involves tax credits for employing people within the zone and for rehabbing an environmentally raw land or building. Besides credits, low-interest loans become available for the development of properties within the zone.

In Miami's case, the federal portion of the funding comes to $100 million over ten years. That is matched by local and state funding, also about $100 million, depending on the appropriations. "The local match can go to various programs," explains Peel, although not all of which are entertainment-based. The funds' uses include day care centers and transportation alternatives for people traveling to work.

The designation has its roots in a 1996 study by Cornell University and Florida International University. Designed to determine the best use of the downtown section for long-range strategic planning, the study found that the film and entertainment industry was fast becoming the mainstay of much of the Miami-Dade economy.

The local chamber of commerce also set up a task force called One Community One Goal, to follow up on the report's findings. "It became apparent to me that one of the things we needed to grow was the local infrastructure that supports the entertainment business," recalls Bill Randall, who served for over a year on the task force and is also the president of AFI/Filmworks in South Miami. "The empowerment zone seems to be a natural part of that."

Randall speaks from experience, since he has worked in South Miami for over 30 years. "When we started this business, Miami had been a busy production place," he recalls. "There was lots of infrastructure. More had been happening. That was the time of Flipper [, the TV series,] and the Ivan Tors Studios. Since then, except for the Miami Vice [TV series] period, it's been a boom or bust situation. Our challenge right now is going to be to encourage and help indigenous companies to grow and to get producers to come and produce product from a local base. I won't kid anyone. It's not an easy thing to do."

The designated area has many advantages, however. Only a short distance from South Beach, it features a great deal of low-rent warehouse space, abandoned property, and raw land. "Some parts of it are like the old downtown, dating back to the '20s," Peel notes. "A lot is in disrepair. But the big attraction is that it's just north of the downtown core. And we hear time and again that South Beach is where people want be. It is an international hot spot, and also an interesting place architecturally, with a great look that film people love. [For after hours,] it also has a great night life, like Santa Monica, Manhattan, or London's Soho."

In addition, the neighborhood will soon gain a new veneer of culture when the city completes its planned performing arts center, also located in the zone, in the year 2002. The complex will feature the Florida Opera and the New World School of Performing Arts, among other buildings. "This center will provide a real synergy for those in the industry," predicts Peel. "The singers, dancers, and musicians who are performing in the arts center are the same people who will provide talent for the stages."

Big Time Productions is already feeling the effects of the changing environment. The facility has been used for print and film campaigns by Burdines Department Store, Versaci, Pier 1 Imports, Slimfast, American Banana chips, and Italian Vogue. For six months, director Oliver Stone used some of the space to construct sets for a new feature he was shooting

To handle such jobs, the company purchased seven properties. One, now dubbed The Ice Palace, was a 100,000-square-foot ice packing plant from the 1920s and two others were a 40,000-square-foot hotel and a 14,000-square-foot bank. The seven-story hotel has been turned into a series of stages/studios, but some of it was also kept intact to use as, in Rodriguez's words, a "funky" location.

"Some of it looks like a set," he explains, "with a gorgeous lobby with skylights. The second floor looks like an industrial New York loft. And the third floor has cracked paint, some of it peeling. It looks like a deconstructionist set. A lot of creative people like the environment and the texture."

Other Miami companies are also looking to expand across the bridge into the new zone. For instance, Bill Randall, of AFI/Filmworks, says he is seriously interested in the area because it could attract more homegrown business.

"Our base has always been on the outside," he says. "We don't have that many agencies or large industrial companies located here. We are sort of an international production center for commercials. We get a lot of Europeans, a lot from Latin America. There is great strength in the looks we have to offer: palm trees and beaches but also New England neighborhoods. We have a few blocks downtown which could pass for New York. So we have almost everything for locations, from big city to rural farms to suburbs."

"This is an international city," agrees Peel. "Multi-national companies come here to work because they have proximity to the Latin America and the U.S. Miami is the third largest production center in the United States and we have all the components required to do virtually any kind of production: the crews, the talent, and the vendors. With the zone, we are interested in providing expansion opportunities for companies that already exist here and get companies to relocate here from out of state."

For the moment, everything is in its earliest stages. The local government is actively promoting the news that the incentives exist and is currently conducting focus groups with industry representatives - both locally and nationally - to determine the best way that dollars can be allocated to attract more entertainment companies to work and/or set up shop there. For this fiscal year, the state has pledged $3 million and the local government $3 million. A board is being set up to determine the most efficient way to use future money to spur development in the zone.

"We are asking industry people what sorts of incentives are attractive to them, what is required within the zone," Peel notes. "We want to know, what can the local community do to enhance the zone? We are looking to the industry as a growth engine for job creation in the next ten years or so."

"South Beach used to be called this area's sheekest slum," adds Rodriguez. "Now, this new area will probably get that title. It's changing so quickly. It was a dead place, but once the opera and ballet go up, things will change rapidly. You know, it's one extreme or another. The fact that it's been made an empowerment zone can only help."

Television Shows




Logo

I Spy

I SPY
WONDERFULNESS
 

By TOM SOTER

from VIDEO, 1993


I Spy
1965/1966. Robert Culp, Bill Cosby, Gene Hackman, Carroll O'Connor; dir. Richard Sarafian, Earl Bellamy, Robert Butler. Two tapes, 100 min. each; $19.95 each. United American Video.

Long before Dr. Cliff Huxtable and those Jello commercials made Bill Cosby a multi-millionaire, he was appearing as Alexander Scott, partner to Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) in the groundbreaking spy series I Spy. The show, about two globe-trotting CIA men, is unique among the 1960s crop of James Bond TV clones: it was actually filmed in the foreign locations the agents visited and it paired a black and a white man as equal partners.

Besides that, the series is appealing for its fast-paced action and clever stories, and the easy rapport and insolent cool of Culp and Cosby, who often improvised their rambling exchanges. "Life is good," says Culp in one. "It's better than that, man," replies Cosby. "On a day like today there's a wonderfulness from the sky and the sea and the people that kisses you all over the neck and nose." Culp: "Name another day when such a report to the Pentagon was written by two fine American spies."

The four episodes represented here, primarily from the series' first season, are hardly representative of the show's humor and clever plotting or even its globe-hopping, since three take place in Mexico. Nonetheless, there is intrigue, beautiful photography, the snazzy I Spy theme tune, and the chance – in "It's All Done With Mirrors" – to see Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) as a Communist agent. Now that's a trip, man.

The tapes are available by mail order from United American Video (803-548-7300), which has also released classic TV episodes of Hill Street Blues, Lou Grant, The White Shadow, and The MaryTyler Moore Show.

 

NOTES FOR AN ARTICLE
I would often write a longer version of the published article and then cut it down. Here are my notes to the review shown above. Some of the material was drawn from an earlier article I had written about TV spies in 1984.

Bill CosbyBill Cosby

Part spy story, part travelogue, I Spy is unique among the 1960s crop of James Bond TV clones for a number of reasons: unlike The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Secret Agent, the series actually filmed its episodes in the exotic locations the heroes visited (not a redressed back lot). That gave the show a picturesque quality that was complemented by the other unique aspect: the first-time TV pairing of a black man and a white man as equal partners. As the duo – two CIA agents masquerading as a tennis star and his trainer – Robert Culp and Bill Cosby have a charming, improvisational rapport that makes them the height of cool.

The four episodes represented on these two tapes come primarily from the series' first season – and are hardly representative of the show's smart–aleck humor and clever plotting, or even its globe-hopping, since three of the four shows take place in Mexico.

A landmark for its use of a black man as a co-star, the show featured Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson, an international tennis champion, and Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott, his trainer. The two men roam the world playing tennis – but are really agents on
missions for the CIA.

Besides being a well-produced travelogue (shot on location), the show is fun for its characterizations. Robinson and Scott have amusing exchanges on everything from Scotty's boyhood in Philadelphia to Robinson's feelings about life in the spy business; they have a nice camaraderie that seems real.

"Life is good," says Culp in one exchange.

"It's better than that, man," replies Cosby. "On a day like today there's a wonderfulness from the sky and the sea and the people that kisses you all over the neck and nose."

Culp: "Name another day when such a report to the Pentagon was written by two fine American spies."

But the overall tone of the show is serious. Humor worked in between the cracks, as Robinson and Scott defuse tense situations with jokes. Scott is a Rhodes Scholar who speaks many languages (one of the realistic touches of the series is having foreigners speaking their own languages to each other, not accented English as some series preferred). Robinson is intelligent, athletic, and laid back. Culp and Cosby play their roles with an insolent cool, which they drop as soon as action beckons. For the duo, demeanor is a mask. Spying is necessary, but dangerous. The only way to do it is by keeping a humorous perspective, depending on their wits and their friendship.

"Prejudice is based on ignorance," Cosby noted in 1967. "Many people have preconceived ideas about Negroes. On I Spy, they've seen I'm an everyman. The fact that I'm colored is as relevant to the role as being fat, tall, or pock–marked might The Avengers≤ I Spy helped break discriminatory barriers by ignoring them. Cosby won three Emmy Awards for his performance.

The series is a story of companionship, quite unlike the Bond movies in that respect. It underlines the need for working together to solve unpleasant problems. "Kelly and Scott are equals," said Ed Goodgold, who wrote a study of the series. "If a silly question has to be asked or a silly mistake made, both are capable of making it. Neither member of the team is infallible."

The series' best qualities are encapsulated in "Home to Judgement," a third season episode which finds the agents hiding out at Kelly's uncle and aunt's, seeking shelter from a nameless, faceless foe. The episode shows the serious, dangerous quality of the spy's life: humor is not a luxury, it is a defense. The world can be ugly.

This realism is emphasized by Fouad Said's inventive photography, which often has a handheld, cinema verite look. Fights are violent, jarring, with closeups, quick cutting, and often no music. Even the opening credits come on suddenly, without the normal three©second pause between pre-credits sequence and titles. You are thrust into the story much as the spy is thrust into a mission. It gives the series a kinetic, frenzied realism from the beginning, counterpointed by the low-key Culp and Cosby.

The best is probably "Happy Birthday, Everybody," which features Gene Hackman as a lunatic demolitions expert and Jim (Mr. Magoo) Backus as his target. There's also "It's All Done With Mirrors," which finds Carroll (Archie Bunker) O'Connor as a communist expert in brainwashing.

John Cleese

Cleese: adman, madmanCleese: adman, madmanVIDEO ARTS

By TOM SOTER
from VIDEO, 1992

Fans of John Cleese's exasperated, know-nothing Basil Fawlty in the 12-episode TV Classic Fawlty Towers, take note: Basil lives! (Well, sort of). In the 1970s TV series (available on video from CBS/Fox), Cleese perfected the pompously inept hotel keeper who never got anything right. Salt in the sugar shakers, corpses in the kitchen, rudeness to the guests – you name it, Basil did it.

Cleese has learned from Fawlty's mistakes and profited handsomely in the process. In 1972, he and four partners founded Video Arts, a British-based company designed to produce humorous corporate training films. And in the last 20 years, it has done just that, creating more than 125 half-hour programs that have
been used by 110,000 organizations throughout the world. As of September 1991, worldwide sales (to AT&T, Hyatt Hotels, Federal Express, and General Electric, among others) were in excess of $26 million.

The videos (available for rental or sale from Video Arts, 8614 W. Catalpa Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60656; 1©-800-553-0091) take advantage of Cleese's reputation and comedic skills. He is often found in some very Fawltyesque situations: as a rude hotel staff member who learns about courtesy from the Patron Saint of Hospitality; as an inefficient board chairman who dreams he is hauled before a court for the negligent conduct of meetings; as a boss unable to deliver bad news; and as Charlie Jenkins, a master in the art of unselling products ("Who sold you this, then?" he remarks to a customer, undoing months of hard, patient selling). The videos, prepared with the help of management consultants, offer the dos and don'ts of the various topics (customer relations, running a company, seeking advice) and are accompanied by detailed training booklets.
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By his own admission, Cleese, a former member of Monty Python's Flying Circus and co-writer/star of A Fish Called Wanda, began the company to make a quick buck but later stuck with it because the topics interested him. Humor was always key. "The right way to use comedy is to make sure that all the humor arises out of the teaching points themselves," notes the comedian. "Every time the audience laughs, they're taking a point. And if they remember the joke, they've remembered the training point."

He must be doing something right: Video Arts has won more than 200 awards, including the National Educational Film & Video Festival's Gold Apple. To business folk, however, the real sign of VA's success would probably be its 1989 sale to an outside conglomerate. Basil Fawltys of the world, take note.

Munsters Eatery

MEAL WITH A MUNSTER
By TOM SOTER
from VIDEO, 1991

To some, typecasting and old age can be a road block. Not for Al Lewis. Four years ago, the erstwhile actor, now 81 and best known as Grampa on the 26-year-old TV series The Munsters, began a new career as the owner of a New York City restaurant called – what else? – Grampa's. Although the menu of pasta, fish, and chicken (no red meat) is for the health conscious, the eatery's initial appeal is for Munsters fans. Lewis says 99 percent of the first-timers come because of the TV connection but return for the food.

"I'm beyond famous, I'm a cult," remarks Lewis, who notes that the show is still seen in 44 countries. The actor plans to franchise his restaurant in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but scoffs at suggestions that this is a new turn in his career. "What's the difference between selling a ticket for a show and selling a ticket for a restaurant? If people like the show, they applaud and tell friends. If they like the food, it's the same thing. They come back." Can an Addams Family catering service be far behind?

Sci-fi TV



ASTOUNDING TALES

By TOM SOTER
from DIVERSION, 1996

An intrepid, multi-racial crew goes where no one has gone before, exploring the deepest reaches of space. A scientist creates life but gets more than he bargained for when his creations turn against him. A pair of detectives investigate murders of psychics, using a psychic to help them. Earthlings battle aliens in space, where no one can hear you scream.

If it all sounds new and different, yet somehow vaguely familiar, welcome to age of Science-Fiction and Fantasy television. It’s 1996, and the weird and unusual has invaded the tube: a new “Outer Limits” is back; the weirdly compelling “X-Files” is entering its third season, graduating from cult to mainstream favorite; and the latest spinoffs of “Star Trek,” “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager,” are zooming through broadcast space. Those shows are not alone, either: the fantastic in television is growing more normal every day, with such series as “Babylon Five,” “SeaQuest,” “Nowhere Man,” “Deadly Games,” “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” and “Space: Above and Beyond.” There's even a Sci-Fi cable network, featuring such golden oldies as “Twilight Zone,” “The Prisoner,” and “The Time Tunnel” (not to mention news programs and old movies).

Why science fiction and fantasy? Why now? When the original “Star Trek” premiered 30 years ago, it was an industry axiom that the genre of the fantastic was low-rated kid stuff. In fact, early TV sci-fi featured Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers in silly adventures, and such later entries as “Lost in Space” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” found its heroes battling giant carrots and gun-toting clowns.

“Star Trek” changed all that. Gene Roddenberry’s space opera was the first sci-fi series to feature regular characters facing adult dilemmas. The people were believable, the issues, thinly disguised parables about the times that were a’changing, from the war in Vietnam and race relations to state-sanctioned murder and sexism. “Star Trek,” like the earlier anthology series “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits,” used its sci-fi format to disguise controversial, thought-provoking morality plays. And in doing so, the series set the tone for many future programs by proving that fantastic television wasn’t just for kids.

The current television sci-fi and fantasy renaissance, which began with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1987, has presented a range of different series but almost all have two points in common: hi-tech, computer-generated special effects and a mile-long streak of paranoia. The latter is not surprising, either, since part of science fiction’s appeal is the way it uses the future to examine the present.

“If you look at the second season of ‘The X-Files,’ each episode of that season was supposed to be an exploration of our current political predicament,” noted Glen Morgan, a former writer on “The X-Files,” in Cinescape magazine. “Now that the Cold War is allegedly gone, are we creating are own little green men to be afraid of? Are we trying to create villains because we need some level of anxiety?”

Science-fiction is on the upswing because sci-fi acts as a barometer of the public’s basic concerns. Like the original “Star Trek,” which was born in a period of social unrest, these new series are being created in a time of radical political change. Paranoia may be in the air, but so is some of the best, and most adult, science-fiction drama on television.

Even with the success of “Star Trek,” sci-fi and fantasy TV can’t escape the stigma of the “kid’s stuff label.” For every “X-Files” and “Nowhere Man,” there is a “Deadly Games” or “SeaQuest,” aimed at kids. Some more-or-less adult-oriented shows, still make concessions to the youth market, and some are for the adult-as-child. Here’s a quick critical and demographic rundown of some of the more interesting programs:

Adult Head Games
THE X-FILES (Fox)
Probably the creepiest, scariest, and yet most adult fantasy series on the air, “The X-Files,” a Golden Globe-winner as best drama, tackles weighty issues of trust and respect but also throws in enough subtle scares to shake the most hardened horror buff. The protagonists, special FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Ducovny), are troubled seekers of truth, a pair who examine strange deaths and incidents that usually do not have a rational explanation (UFOs, the paranormal, psychic murderers, killers who use lightening bolts). A somber series in which the duo can’t even trust their own bosses to tell them the truth (“Trust No.1” is the password on Mulder’s computer), “X-Files” is made palatable by its low-key, realistic approach and no-nonsense heroes. The program mixes mysticism and the unexplained with grisly deaths and gunplay, fashioning its stories out of a public fascination with the unusual and inexplicable. A recent three-part episode took paranoia to new heights, implying U.S. government complicity in the mass extermination of Jews, genetic engineering, and murder. Some may find it Oliver Stone-ism runamuck, but is it any wonder that the series has struck a chord? With the widespread suspicion of government and government conspiracies, who wouldn’t believe? There may be things we can’t explain, but the popularity of “The X-Files” isn’t one of them.
LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (ABC)
This version of the 58-year-old super-hero mixes the romantic, slightly camp elements of “Moonlighting” with the action-adventure formula of the old “Superman” series, attempting to give the goings-on a young adult spin. Here, Superman is a 20-something reporter with an on-again, off-again romance with Lois Lane. The emphasis is on their relationship (hence the cutesy title), with adventures and super-villains taking a back seat. Clark and Lois are looking for love and companionship but find that super-powers bring only complication (when Clark proposes to Lois, she’s ticked off at him for lying to her about his secret identity). The two bicker a lot (“Is my being in danger old hat for you?” she complains when he is almost too late in rescuing her) as the program tries to handle the characters and issues realistically and wittily. Lacking the depth and sophistication of “X-Files” or even “Star Trek,” “Lois & Clark” is enjoyable as a free-wheeling romp, part-soap opera, part-action/adventure. Be warned, however: If you’re nostalgic for George Reeves’ straight-fisted heroics, this Superman isn’t for you. But if you want to smile at an interesting take on an old idea, check it out. Your kids will certainly enjoy the silly villains.

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (Syndicated)
The third “Star Trek” series is the least interesting one, although you have to give the producers credit for trying something different. Unlike its predecessors, Deep Space is not set aboard a traveling spaceship seeking out new worlds; it all takes place on a space station near a wormhole (a spatial anomaly that transports spaceships millions of miles in a second). If “Star Trek” was “Wagon Train” to the stars, “Deep Space” is “Gunsmoke,” right down to the saloon keeper, friendly doctor, and weird-looking visitors who drop in to cause mischief. The series has tried for personal, character-driven stories, but so far has failed to light the public’s fire. As a result, the fourth season has added Worf (Michael Dorn), the dour Klingon from “Next Generation,” and, if the season opener is any judge, upped the action quota. It’s my least favorite “Star Trek,” partly owing to the relatively dull characters, led off by somber Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko. The only bit of life comes from the ill-tempered security guard, an alien shape-shifter named Odo (Rene Auberjonois), who is haunted by his past as he tries to fit into a world he never made. Children may enjoy the cute aliens who drop by for a mug of tranya.deep space

Space Wars, Diverting Kid Stuff
SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND (Fox)
Some whiz-bang producers must have been looking at the most popular action flicks of the last few years when they put together this series. A combination of Top Gun and Aliens, with a little Star Wars thrown in, “Space: Above and Beyond” chronicles the adventures of a group of marine cadets in the year 2063 as they engage in space combat with a nasty, unseen alien force that destroyed an unsuspecting earth colony. The stories, a far cry from the shiny world of “Star Trek,” are somber, dimly lit tales of prejudice, fear, and violence, set in a militaristic earth of the future. “Space” uses its sci-fi trappings to touch on contemporary issues like affirmative action and feminism but also doesn’t forget what a war series is about: each episode has at least one flashy space dogfight. The characters, however, are stereotypes, designed to appeal to the teen market, and the series is most interesting when it delves into the gritty side of war. It’s a far cry from the sophistication of the old “Combat!” series, though, which used its war stories to explore human dilemmas. Now that was a great show.

BABYLON FIVE (Syndicated)
Babylon 5, a five-mile-long, United Nations-style space station in the year 2259, is the center of intrigue, aliens, and plenty of action as Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) tries to keep the peace and uncover the roots of a conspiracy against the United Earth government.There are a lot of space battles, the usual multi-racial, multi-gender, and (for sci-fi) multi-species cast, but “Babylon Five” offers nothing particularly new or different, except for how many ideas have been recycled from past movies and series, including Bladerunner, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Wars. Although the show presents a dark take on the future, Boxleitner’s hero is a true-blue action hero, ready to leap into action. Billy Mumy, Will Robinson from “Lost in Space,” co-stars as an alien. Warning! Warning! as the Robot used to say. Adults need not apply.

Star Trek

MARATHON MAN
Ten Hours of Star Trek


By TOM SOTER
FROM ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, September 27, 1991

What is the final frontier for Trekkies? Outside of meeting the entire cast or riding on the Enterprise, it would probably be luxuriating in a marathon of all five big-screen flicks. Thousands got their chance Sept. 7 when Paramount staged a 44-city, one-day screening of the film series. If you missed it, don't despair: Through the miracle of home video, I re-created the experience in the comfort of my home, compiling this viewer's log:

Hours 1-2: Star Trek-The Motion Picture. The crew is reunited in a high-tech edition of the series: Uhura's hair is a red Afro; McCoy has a beard; Kirk and Scotty are slim. The colorful TV uniforms have been replaced by gray leisure suits. The plot, about the godlike V'Ger heading for earth, is the same as for the TV episode ''The Changeling.'' A lot of talk, not much action. Chekov burns his hand and screams. Spock cries.

Hours 3-4: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Ricardo Montalban reprises his villain role from the TV installment ''Space Seed'' in a Moby Dick-inspired story about obsessive revenge and mid-life crisis. Kirk meets his son, Spock meets his maker, and Chekov has a bug placed in his ear and screams. Uhura's hair is now black and straight, Scotty is starting to lose his battle of the bulge, and the uniforms are red. Kirstie Alley is sexy as Lieutenant Saavik.

Hours 5-6: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Kirk & Co. try to revive Spock. In a parody of Star Wars, McCoy goes to an intergalactic bar; Kirk's son is randomly killed; and the Enterprise blows up. Judith Anderson plays a Vulcan priestess, Christopher Lloyd a Klingon who destroys error-prone underlings. Uhura's hair is curly. Scotty, getting bigger. My eyes are bloodshot. Did Chekov scream in this one? How and why did Kirstie Alley turn into the less-sexy Robin Curtis?

Hours 7-8: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The movie is about finding whales in the 20th century. Kirk and Spock introduce their Laurel and Hardy act, aided by Catherine Hicks as a marine biologist. Chekov falls off an aircraft carrier and screams. Kirk gets court-martialed. Spock accepts his human half. Uhura's hair is straight again.

Hours 9-10: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. A Vulcan cult leader (Laurence Luckinbill) searches for God as he cures people's ''emotional pain.'' Shatner directs. He must have been tired. I sure am. Everyone looks aged, especially Uhura, who's now silver-haired and seems attracted to Scotty the whale. Kirk and Spock perfect their Stan & Ollie act. Hey! Kirk and Spock are both captains, aren't they? So who's in charge here? What's that? He's dead, Jim? The engines can't take it anymore? The Vulcan mind meld? (Again?) Omigosh-live long and prosper, everyone, and for pity's sake, beam me up.

Terry Jones

A PYTHON REFLECTS

By TOM SOTER
from VIDEO, 1991

Monty Python is 22 this year – 22 years since Monty Python's Flying Circus changed TV history with its wacked-out, absurdist humor, from five wacked-out, absurdist Britons and one American from Wisconsin. Monty Python's Flying Circus – following Vols. 1-21, though with Python, you never can tell – has
also just hit the racks, bringing to an end the complete release of the complete televisual works (two episodes per tape, except for the last which has three) of the Python troupe. Also out: a re-release of the group's best film, The Life of Brian, and a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

"The Life of Brian was a great experience," remarks ex-Python Terry Jones, now living in a suburb outside of London, writing children's books, directing films like Personal Services and Erik the Viking, and feeding olives to his tiny dog. "We had about two weeks together in a house in Barbados, sort of getting out the shape of it, and it really came out right at the end. I liked it."

Not so Monty Python's Meaning of Life, the sextet's last group effort. "It was very difficult getting everybody together to do Meaning of Life. It was a less happy writing experience, I must say. We're just so different, we couldn't get everybody together, whereas in the past we'd sort of meet, discuss things,go off write for a couple of weeks, come back together again, weed out stuff. We'd spend two or three days together, or a week together, then go off and do it again. So it was all sustained. With Meaning of Life, we'd meet, we'd disappear again, we'd maybe meet up again two months later or something. We just couldn't keep everybody together, and it just went on and on and on. Then we went over to Jamaica to get the script together. It was a disaster. And then, it was the first two days, talking and talking and talking, and trying to get a structure. And it was just hopeless, we just couldn't go anywhere. I remember waking up Wednesday morning with this sinking feeling in my stomach I remembered having during exams, and I thought, Jesus Christ, this isn't working. It's all going to fall to pieces."‘

The Fugitive

David JanssenDavid Janssen

 A MODERN MORALITY TALE

 VIDEO, May 1992

The Fugitive Collectors Anthology 1991 Compilation. Volume 1: "The Girl from Little Egypt" (1965). David Janssen, Barry Morse, Ed Nelson, Pamela Tiffin, Diane Brewster; dir. Vincent McEveety/"The End Is But the Beginning" (1965). Janssen, Morse, Barbara Barrie, Andrew Duggan; dir. Walter Grauman. 104 min. Ten tapes with two episodes each, available through mail order (1-800-333-0113). $24.95 each. Nu Ventures Video Library, 7930 Alabama Avenue, Canoga Park, CA 91304.

Call it a Christian Crime Drama, but don't call The Fugitive a flop. Twenty-nine years ago, Dr. Richard Kimble began running. And when he stopped, on August 29, 1967, the largest TV audience in the world watched him prove his innocence by confronting the man who had killed his wife.

A huge success in its initial "run" (excuse the pun), The Fugitive followed the adventures of Dr. Kimble (David Janssen) as he criss-crossed the country searching for the One-Armed Man who could clear him. It inspired a slew of imitations (The Invaders, Run for Your Life, The Incredible Hulk) and homages (frequent references were made to it on Twin Peaks) but no equal. And no wonder. It was an odd combination of morality and melodrama, cleverly dressed up as an action series.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1353:]]

"The Girl from Little Egypt" sets the pattern for the 119 other episodes: Kimble accidentally gets involved in a sordid drama of infidelity but manages to set a young girl on the right path before fleeing the police. Although thin by Fugitive standards, it does contain footage – via flashbacks – showing how the Kimbles fought, wife Helen died, and the doctor began running. "The End Is But the Beginning," from the second season, explores Lt. Philip Gerard's (Barry Morse) obsession with catching Kimble in a storyline that finds the Fugitive trying to convince the detective he was killed in a truck wreck. Based on Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and the real-life case of falsely accused Dr. Sam Sheppard, The Fugitive succeeds not because of its improbable premise, but because of its acting, writing, and underlying message of hope. The series is a fable of redemption through suffering: in spite of the abuse he receives, despite an uncaring system attempting to crush him, Kimble always returns love for hate, concern for callousness, truth for lies. In a world of "Me Firstism," deceit, hopelessness, and despair, The Fugitive's message is endlessly appealing. It is a modern morality tale – and fun, to boot.

The Fugitive Fan

FUGEFAN

By Tom Soter from VIDEO, 1993 To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, some fans see shows and say "wow," others see them and say, "Why can't I do that?" People like "Texas Bob" Reinhardt of Austin, Texas. He isn't just a fan of the 30-year-old David Janssen video series The Fugitive – he is a follower, a believer, a high-priest at the shrine of the late actor, best known for his role as Dr. Richard Kimble, the man falsely convicted for the murder of his wife. Janssen spent four years hunting the real culprit – a one-armed man – and his role will be reprised this summer in a big-screen version starring Harrison Ford.

Texas Bob got there ahead of Ford, however. Founding a fan club and issuing a newsletter ( The Stafford Chronicle, named for Kimble's mythical home town of Stafford, Indiana) wasn't enough – after all, Rusty Pollard in nearby Garland, Texas, had already started his own "Fuge" newsletter, On the Run. Reinhardt staged a Fugitive convention in Janssen's home town, at which the late actor's mother, Berniece, spoke, and then fulfilled every Fugitive fan's dream: he actually portrayed Dr. Kimble in a half-hour video.

Billed as the "first new episode in 30 years," Texas Bob's "Fear in a Pioneer Village," employs the titles, music, and voiceover narration familiar to fans of the show, as well as its trademark chases and moral dilemmas. Janssen's aunt and uncle appear in small parts, with Reinhardt himself essaying Kimble, imitating the mannerisms Janssen made so distinctive: the nervous glance, the half-smile, the slight hunch. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1343:]]

Reinhardt claims "Fear," which features fellow fan club members in key roles, has been selling well via mail order (one viewer called it "absolutely terrific"), but he is also not surprised: "I think Kimble was one of the last real heroes. He was persecuted for what he didn't do, but helps people in spite of that. There was a high moral and ethical value to the series. Personally, there are no other TV shows I like as much. When The Fugitive went off the air, TV ended for me. I never missed an episode." 

"Fear in a Pioneer Village," paired with footage of the first Fugitive convention, is available for $23, including postage, from: Memory Lane Video Services, 511 Stillmeadow, Richardson, Texas 75081. To join The Fugitives, Texas Bob's club, send $12 to 507 B. Bellevue Place, Austin, Texas 78705-3109.

 

The Lone Ranger


THE LONE RANGER

By TOM SOTER
from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY MAGAZINE
LONE RANGERHi-yo, Silver: Clayton Moore was that masked man.

To the strains of Rossini's "William Tell Overture," over images of a masked man riding a majestic white stallion, a narrator breathlessly speaks the words that thrilled a generation: "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty 'Hi-Yo, Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!"

The Lone Ranger was a landmark show in two mediums: on radio from 1933-1956, it was so successful that it became the basis for a radio network, while on television from 1949-57, it marked the first bonafide hit for the fledgling American Broadcasting System. No wonder. The program's appeal is as timeless as that of Robin Hood and Zorro, with whom the Ranger had much in common.

The series, which followed the adventures of a former Texas Ranger who wore a mask and battled evil, may have been kid stuff but it was loaded with adult messages: the Ranger was friends with Tonto, a Native American, before it was fashionable; he always shot to wound, never to kill; and he spoke with perfect diction. And, like the heroes of The X-Files, the masked man believed in truth and justice, helping the underdog without asking for anything in return.

The show had its appealingly operatic touches: a silver bullet was the hero's calling card while his mask was meant to strike fear into the hearts of his foes. But the Ranger was modest, too, riding off as soon as the job was done, just as those he had helped would invariably ask, "Who was that masked man?" Who indeed? A true American folk hero.

Sidebar

Years on air: 1949-57 (premiered on radio in January 1933).
Top Nielsen Rating: No. 7 (1950-51). Emmys Won: 0

Ranger for Life: For most of its run, the Ranger was perfectly personified by Clayton Moore, a B-movie actor who found his calling as the masked man. He starred in over 100 episodes, two feature films, and then made a career of appearing at charity events as the character. He was involved in a lawsuit in 1981 when the producers of a new Lone Ranger film tried to get him to stop wearing the mask. He recently published an autobiography, I Was That Masked Man.

Series Firsts: The series was the first to have a Native American play a Native American (Jay Silverheels as Tonto). In an era of live television, the show was one of the first to be filmed.

Ranger Secrets: Tonto's pet phrase for the Ranger, "Kemo-Sabe," was supposedly Indian dialect for "faithful friend." It was actually the name of a summer camp.

Where to Find Him: The Lone Ranger's adventures are now rerun on TVLand.

Classic Touch: The show's theme, the "William Tell Overture," was chosen because the producers of the radio show felt that it was suggestive of a horse galloping.

All in the Family: The Green Hornet radio series was a spinoff of The Lone Ranger. Set in the 1930s, the series featured a masked character and also used a classical tune as its theme ("Flight of the Bumblebee"). The Hornet was a great-nephew of the Ranger.

The Saint


THE SAINT

By TOM SOTER
from DIVERSION, 1996

The Saint is a sinner. But The Saint is also a winner.Roger Moore as The Saint, with friends.Roger Moore as The Saint, with friends.

“Need I explain that you have come to the end of your interesting and adventurous life?” sneers the villain to Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint.

Simon twitches an eyebrow, and slides his mouth mockingly sideways. “What – not again?” he sighs.

The villain looks puzzled. “I don’t understand.”

“You haven’t seen so many of these situations through as I have, old horse. I’ve lost count of the number of times that this sort of thing has happened to me. I know the tradition demands it but I think they might give us a rest sometimes. What’s the program this time – do you sew me up in the bath and light the geyser, or am I run through the mangle and buried under the billiard table? Or can you think of something really original?”

The scene is from the book The Saint vs Scotland Yard (1931) and the hero in peril is Simon Templar, the man with the crooked halo who forever transformed the way audiences look at heroes and villains. Self-mocking, suave, with his own moral code, Templar, like his spiritual descendant James Bond, is among the first of the flamboyant fictional anti-heroes who could nonchalantly walk into a scene, comment on its absurdity, and then steal it outright. Indeed, before The Saint, fiction’s stalwarts were upright, law-abiding, and eminently predictable, more interested in good works than wine, women, and wealth. But since his first appearance in Meet the Tiger in 1928, The Saint has changed all that.

Templar begat James Bond and a whole line of the cinema’s smart-aleck, vigilante protagonists. When Bruce Willis’s cinematic tough guys mock no-nothing, pompous authority figures, he is echoing what The Saint first did in print over 60 years ago. And The Saint is still a phenomenon in his own right. Since 1928, the 64 Saint books have sold over 40 million copies, while the character has appeared in some 14 films (the first in 1938), two TV series (the most famous starring Roger Moore), six TV-movies, a number of radio series, comic strips, bubblegum cards, his own magazine, and now, in what could be the grandest incarnation ever, a $60 million Paramount picture slated for winter, starring Val Kilmer and Oscar nominee Elizabeth Shue. The new movie, says an insider, will present a “Simon Templar for the ‘90s. He is still a playboy but The Saint has been brought right up to date.”

No one would have predicted such a long, prosperous life for the British buccaneer. When he first appeared, the character was simply one of many created in the roaring ‘20s by a 20-year-old Cambridge student named Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin in Singapore). The young author was fascinated by the flamboyant. He had taken his pen (and later legal) name from Colonel Francis Charter, a notorious gambler and founder of the Hellfire Club. As a youth, he loved pirate stories and began writing thrillers because he felt he could create better fare than what he was reading. Charteris had his own set of adventures to draw from, as well: he had prospected for gold in the jungle, fished for pearls, labored in a tin mine, and worked as a bartender in a country inn – all in the name of adventure.

The Saint, created in a period when fictional “Gentlemen Outlaws” had colorful nicknames like The Toff, The Baron, Nighthawk, and Blackshirt, followed in the Robin Hood tradition: a well-bred, well-dressed hero helping the underdog against a muddled establishment. The Saint, often dubbed “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime,” was an iconoclastic adventurer, whose credo, as expressed in the short story, “The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal,” was straightforward: “To go rocketing around the world, doing everything that’s utterly and gloriously mad – swaggering, swashbuckling, singing – showing all those dreary old dogs what can be done with life – not giving a damn for anyone – robbing the rich, helping the poor – plaguing the pompous, killing dragons, pulling policemen’s legs...”The first Saint. 

The Saint stories are fast-paced, intricately plotted, and highly unpredictable, dealing with stolen jewels, unexplained murders, and hair’s breadth escapes. And they are all done in a tongue-in-cheek style that readers of the ‘30s found uniquely brash (a typical Saintly rejoinder: “I hate to disappoint you – as the actress said to the bishop – but I really can’t oblige you now”).

The plots swung from action-packed boy’s adventures to murder mysteries to psychological studies, all written with a distinctive, nonchalant air. In Getaway, for instance, Templar intervenes in a sidewalk beating and is soon swept away in a rollicking saga involving multiple murders, torture, and jewel theft, as our hero dangles from speeding cars, moving trains, and castle windows. “The Story of a Dead Man,” an early short story, finds Templar masquerading as a member of a notorious gang in a multi-layered mystery that keeps the reader guessing right up until the climax, when the Saint is trapped in a gas-filled dungeon. “The Unfortunate Financier,” another short story, shows The Saint playing mind games with a con man who is too clever for his own good.

“When I start to plan a story,” explained Charteris in the 1960s, “the tests which they must meet to satisfy me, are (1) Is the story line conventional? If so, then how can it be twisted to outrage convention? (2) Is this character someone I can see and feel as flesh and blood, or is it a cardboard cut-out that I saw on some screen? If so, what does it need to make it different? I have always wanted to be an originator: let the others imitate me.”

Readers loved Simon Templar’s brand of insouciant adventure, and seven Saint books appeared within two years. “...the public of the grey, depression-cowed early thirties needed The Saint so badly that nothing would have induced them not to believe in him,” observed William Vivian Butler in The Durable Desperadoes. “Or to surrender that all-important illusion that maybe with the help of the right tailor, maybe by continually polishing up their drawling repartee, they might, if only for a moment or two, bring themselves to resemble him.”

“The Saint is a compromise,” Charteris once explained. “He can have all the fun and sympathy of the fugitive from justice, while at the same time his motives are most impeccably commendable. He can be rude to policemen and at the same time do their work for them.”

George Sanders as the Saint.George Sanders as the Saint.Not surprisingly, Hollywood soon came calling. Louis Hayward was the first cinematic Saint in The Saint in New York (1938), based on a Charteris novel that depicts Templar as a paid avenger, assassinating a series of criminals the law cannot touch.The character’s dark side was considerably softened in subsequent motion pictures (the most well-known of which starred George Sanders) and radio series (one of which featured Vincent Price, who played The Saint as a gourmet whose greatest peeve was being interrupted while dining).

By 1962, when The Saint reached television in the person of Roger Moore, he had become more of an amateur detective/playboy than vigilante, traveling the world in search of adventure, tossing off ironical asides as he assisted those in need. In “The Loaded Tourist,” he becomes involved in an Italian jewel swindle/murder plot when he helps a 16-year-old Italian boy search for the murderer of his father. “The Talented Husband” finds him in England trying to outsmart a serial wife-killer. “The Careful Terrorist” brings him to America, as he continues a murdered friend’s campaign against a corrupt union boss. This Templar is recognizably Charteris’, however, with a taste for fine food and good clothes, and a regular nemesis in Chief Inspector Claude Teal of Scotland Yard.

“The stories always have a very good twist,” Moore said in 1966. “The Saint stories have never had the sex of Mickey Spillane or the brutality of James Bond.”

The new Saint movie has been in the planning stages since 1991, and follows a 1978 TV series starring Ian Olgivy, and six 1989 TV-movies with Simon Dutton. It reportedly attempts to make Templar a hero for the ‘90s by returning him partly to his more shadowy 1930s roots. According to a report in Screen International, “Director Phillip Noyce has looked for inspiration to Leslie Charteris' original stories rather than the 1960s TV series...making the character of Simon Templar...much darker than in his small-screen incarnations. ‘I want to portray how a sinner becomes a saint and how someone is redeemed,’ Noyce explains.”

“The character of The Saint is very much the same as he always was,” one of the movie’s producers,William MacDonald, told Burl Barer in The Saint: A Complete History, “although we must say that probably in the interest of establishing exactly why a Saint in the ‘90s becomes a Saint, we are going to create a little more of a back story than was originally related in the books...[but] the classic Saint characterization found in the books should be fully incorporated into the screenplay.”

The Saint features Val Kilmer as Templar, about whom Roger Moore noted recently, “I think he will draw a big audience and make it very successful. As my company is involved in it, I'm very, very happy about it.” Kilmer, whose salary for the movie is in the $6 million range, has played unconventional heroes before: rock singer Jim Morrison in The Doors, an unconventional psychologist in the film noir tale Dead Girl, and the caped crusader in Batman Forever. Leaving Las Vegas Oscar nominee Elizabeth Shue co-stars as Dr. Emma Russell, a young electrochemist who falls in love with The Saint. Lensed in Moscow’s Red Square and the Kremlin, as well as in Toronto and locations throughout England, the movie has undergone a number of rewrites (there have reportedly been five different screenwriters) before satisfying the producers and Charteris, who died in 1993 at age 85. (An early script featured Moore as The Saint’s father, but subsequent plans for a cameo didn't work out; the actor’s son Christian is a video assistant on the shoot, however.)

“A third script has now been started by a new writer who has actually read some Saint books,” wrote Charteris in 1992. “This is, of course, an unprecedented innovation by Hollywood standards.” The finished Saint movie, however, looks to be inspired as much by 007’s cinematic exploits as by Charteris, dealing with cold water fusion and featuring Russian troops and tanks, explosions, and fleeing gypsies on the Moscow subways. Nonetheless, one writer on the film noted to Barer, “I am...connecting as much as possible with the Saint myth and using Charteris’ original dialogue whenever I can.”

Whether the filmmakers succeed in capturing the true Saint or not, one thing is certain: Simon Templar himself will survive, as he always has, with his halo – if not his virtue – intact. “I don’t see why he shouldn’t go on another 30 years,” said Charteris shortly before his death. “He is the last of the fictional swashbucklers in the tradition of Dumas...the last guy who could fight with a laugh and a flourish and a sense of poetry thrown in.”

SAINT SIDEBAR

Roger Moore as The Saint.Roger Moore as The Saint.

The Saint is coming to the big screen and that has created activity on other fronts. Among the current Saint-related items:

Columbia House Video will release the first volume of The Saint: The Collector’s Edition on October 28, 1996. The collection is available through mail order only. The initial tape, featuring “The Talented Husband,” the premiere black and white TV episode from 1962, and “The Death Game,” a much-later color installment, is priced at $4.95 (plus shipping and handling); subsequent volumes (nine more are scheduled) will cost $19.95 each, plus shipping and handling. Each edition will be sent every four to six weeks.

RKO is remaking the classic Saint films of the 1940s for the USA cable TV network. The first will be The Saint in New York,. The search for a leading man is underway.

Pocket Books has contracted with Edgar Award-winning author Burl Barer to write The Saint, a novel based on the Wesley Strick screenplay of the new Val Kilmer adventure.

Upstairs Downstairs

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS AT 25

By TOM SOTER from DIVERSION, OCTOBER 1999 The setting is a grand dining room table, sometime in 1912. A dapper thirty-something, mustachioed young man has been talking animatedly to a primly dressed young woman who sits at the other end of a long dining room table. The butler stands silently behind him.

“Oh, by the way,” says the man to the butler, “we’ll have a bottle of the Cantenac ’93 with lunch.” He turns back to the woman. “My father has this marvelous claret –”

The butler clears his throat. “Begging your pardon, sir, but I am afraid I cannot serve the Chateau Brane Cantenac ’93, sir.”

“Oh? Why not?”

The butler hesitates. “There are – certain difficulties. If I might see you in private, sir.”

The difficulties, once explained, are relatively simple: the young man, James Bellamy, wants to serve his father’s best claret to his father’s secretary. (“He would not wish it to be served at luncheon,” explains Hudson, the butler, “especially in his absence and in the circumstances.”)

The next day, after he has ultimately been forced to serve the claret, Hudson tenders his resignation. James’s father, Richard, is furious, siding with Hudson: “He’s a man of high principles and, as you well know, he cares deeply for the welfare and honor of our family. And he expects things to be done correctly.”

It is a highly dramatic moment – yet isn’t it just a tempest in a teapot? To us, perhaps, but not to the Bellamy household. And certainly not to the one billion viewers in 40 countries who made Upstairs Downstairs, the series in which the sequence appears, one of the most beloved series of its kind. According to the New York Times, the Emmy Award-winning program was savored by a wildly eclectic audience: Britons and Americans of every stripe, as well as Japanese pearl divers, Nigerian dentists, and the Shah of Iran.

Now, 25 years after it made its American debut, Upstairs Downstairs is back in five boxed sets from A&E Home Video, which, for the first time feature all 68 episodes (including some not shown on the show’s initial American run). And, with it, come all the elegance, drama, and wit of a bygone era. But the show is more than just another classy, slightly staid British costume drama. The series, which spanned an epic period of change in the British empire from 1903 to 1930, looked at the world through the prism of the masters (“upstairs”) and the servants (“downstairs”) in a way never attempted before and never equaled since. “...Upstairs may have been upstairs and downstairs downstairs,” observed Benedict Nightingale in The New York Times, “but together they formed an acting ensemble whose strengths and subtleties television has rarely if ever managed to duplicate...”Upstairs...: Mr. and Mrs. Bellamy

Upstairs: Mr. and Mrs. Bellamy

The basic concept originated with actresses Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins. Both felt that domestics had never been given a proper spotlight – the popular period drama The Forsyte Saga had just aired, once again offering servants simply as part of the furniture – so the two cooked up a comedy (which they hoped to appear in) involving the masters as seen from the servants’ point of view.

“We were both sick of playing smooth, middle-class ladies,” Marsh recalled, “and, being Cockneys, felt that the working class got as rough a deal on television as they did in real life.”

Their concept (dubbed Below Stairs or The Servants’ Hall) followed the mostly comic adventures of two housemaids who worked in a Victorian country house. They brought their concept to TV producer John Hawkesworth who, with script editor Alfred Shaughnessy, reconceived the series as a drama about servants and masters.

“We wanted to see the servants as people, to look at downstairs as carefully as upstairs for the first time,” Hawkesworth recalled. “This was the pearl in the oyster, the brilliant thing. Up to then servants had really just been mobile props.” As eventually developed, the series would observe the masters and the servants as two separate classes but two similar “families.”

One story would act as a commentary on the other, and the drama often came from how the two groups, living under one roof, dealt with the encroaching outside world. And what a world! There was the death of Edward VII (who had, in one memorable episode, visited the Bellamys for dinner), the glory and then the agony of World War I, the post-war trauma of shell-shocked veterans

The primary setting was a grand, five-story house at 165 Eaton Place (the building used for the exterior shots is still standing at 65 Eaton Place; a “1” was painted in front of the number in an attempt to give its occupants anonymity). Upstairs were the Bellamys, who originally consisted of Richard, an ambitious but principled member of parliament; Lady Marjorie, his oh-so-proper wife; and their troublesome grown-up children, James and Elizabeth. Downstairs were Mrs. Bridges, the excitable cook; Rose and Daisy, the parlor maids; Edward, the footman; Ruby, the comical kitchen maid, and Hudson, the imperious Scottish butler who presided over them all like a major domo and father figure. In developing the characters, the casting was crucial, and the writers frequently altered the roles to fit the actors. When casting director Martin Case saw Gordon Jackson, for example, he felt that he had found his Hudson, even though the man did not match the original conception. “Gordon is Scottish,” Case recalled in Backstairs With Upstairs Downstairs, “so I changed the name to Angus, and then we made him well-educated, even a little erudite – because Scots then generally were – and they were also Calvinists, slightly Puritanical, slightly rigid, so we had him saying grace...”

The producers instituted other key production decisions. Going against the trends of the times, they opted to shoot on videotape instead of more costly film. They would mostly eschew location work and confine the action to a limited number of sets. The money saved in such choices was used to get the best acting and writing talent available – and also meant that the drama would have to be played out in the dialogue and the performances and not rely on the flashy visuals that other period dramas frequently fell back upon.

The series was carefully researched, as well. “There would be long discussions about from which side the salt would be delivered at the dinner table and whether people would drink coffee from a demitasse and stuff like that,” Simon Williams, who played James Bellamy, recalled in a TV documentary about the show. “What gave it extraordinary distinction,” Alistair Cooke observed in A Decade of Masterpieces., “was the sure observation of character, the confidence and finesse with which the social nuances and emotional upheavals between the two groups were explored, and the scrupulous accuracy of the period language, decor, mores, and prejudices.”

To achieve that, Hawkesworth would search the microfilm files of the London Times, studying letters, memoirs, House of Commons debates, store and fashion catalogs, weather reports, song books, and theater programs. The producer then assigned each episode to a writer, who was allowed to bring his or her separate view to bear on any or all of the characters. “Thus,” observed Cooke, “the character of Richard Bellamy or Lady Marjorie or Rose or Hudson was never a single conception; it reflected such unexpected facets of temperament, moments of growth, as one might learn from the pooled memories of a group of friends.”

Dwnstairs: Hudson and Mrs. Bridges.

Downstairs: Mr. Hudson and Mrs. Bridges.

Despite all the accuracy, however, the show could very easily have been a waxworks display, if not for the sharp writing, which could make even the most minor incident – to us, that is – assume major importance. And unlike later would-be-successors like CBS’s Beacon Hill or the current PBS Berkeley Square, Upstairs Downstairs was low-key in its drama but all the more devastating for that. For, as director Bill Bain noted in Backstairs With Upstairs Downstairs, the drama came out of nuances. When James says goodbye to his father as the son goes off to fight in World War I, for instance, the two never embrace – and are more moving because of that. “It was more poignant that they stood there, looked at each other, and didn’t touch,” Bain observed. “There was no release of emotion – which made you release yours. I’ve always thought, watching great actors, that it’s not their ability to cry that moves you; it’s their ability to make you cry.”

Indeed, above all else, the series was popular not because of its attention to detail or its finely crafted scripts. It was because its characters seemed both achingly real and hit a crucial chord during turbulent times. In an era of presidential scandal (Nixon’s not Clinton’s), economic crisis, and ongoing cultural clashes, Americans (and others) saw themselves reflected in the tumultuous period of pre- and post-World War I Britain. Like that country, America (and the world) was adrift, and the Bellamys and their servants held a mirror to popular concerns about order and family loyalty in changing times.

“From time to time I say to myself that Upstairs Downstairs was just a middle-of-the-road television series – what is all the fuss about?” Jean Marsh, who played Rose, once noted. “But I realize it’s just a reaction to having had a little too much praise. It’s very rare for a series to appeal to both the critics and public. We did aim high and, if you aim high and nearly succeed, I think television serials can be the modern-day equivalent of Dickens or Trollope.” But the appeal of Upstairs Downstairs can be seen in even simpler terms: with its warm upstairs and downstairs families surviving both good times and bad, the series is as familiar and comforting as an old friend. It is, as Hudson might say, “very good, indeed, my lord.”