All of the talk this week has been of the arrest of director Roman Polanski, who fled the US before being sentenced to unlawful sexual intercourse. The facts of the case are such:
In 1977, with her mother's permission, 13 year old Samantha Geiner accompanined Polanski to Jack Nicholson's house (Nicholson was not home) for a photo shoot. The girl willingly posed topless and in a jacuzzi. Polanski gave the girl wine and a Qualude and soon the inevitiable happened. When the mother found out what happened she called the police. Though Polanski maintained the sex was consensual the fact that alcohol and drugs were consumed brought doubt, even though Samantha told investigators that she had been drunk, and had sex, in the past. Judge Laurence Rittenband, who'd presided over Elvis and Priscilla Presley's divorce as well as a paternity suit against Cary Grant, badly wanted to try the case. He loved publicity and had vocally expressed that he wanted the Polanski case. In part to save Geiner the embarrasment of testifying at a trial, her attorney agreed to a plea bargain where Polanski would plead guilty, which he did, to unlawful sexual intercourse and would receive probabtion (he had already spent more then 40 days behind bars undergoing a judge ordered psychological evaluation). But Judge Rittenband had other ideas. Prior to the sentencing date, during interviews, he would ask the reporter what sentence he ought to give. The day before sentencing he was overheard by several members of his country club saying he was going to put Polanski in jail "for the rest of his life." Within 24 hours, Polanski's Mercerdes was found at LAX airport where the director had flown to Paris. And that is where he has lived for more then three decades.
You might ask yourself, in a world where R. Kelly can video tape himself having sex (and urinating) on a young girl and still hit the top of the charts, why all the fuss about Roman Polanski. Polanski has a house in Switzerland and the authorities have never bothered him. Suddenly he's public enemy number one? Of course, considering how the Swiss conducted themselves during World War II, is it any wonder it's taken them 30 years to act?
This is not a piece to condone or make apologies for what Roman Polanski did. He broke the law and has to answer for his crime. And, according to everyone associated with the case, he was ready to do so. Even the prosecutor, now looking at all the facts, has stated, ""I'm not surprised he left under those circumstances." But one thing that American's seem to love more then anything is sensationalism. How else to explain why a piece of garbage like Perez Hilton is even remotely a "celebrity?" How many more people will watch David Letterman this Monday night, intrigued by his blindsiding an extortion attempt by admitting sleeping with staff members. Tune in.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 79/78...
Time After Time / Paradise Alley|
Starring: Malcolm McDowell / Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer / Sylvester Stallone
TIME AFTER TIME
FIRST SEEN: Cable Television, 1981
FAVORITE SCENE: The police interrogate H.G. Wells
FAVORITE LINE: "This is delicious, far superior to that Scottish place I breakfasted...MacDougalls?"
I should point out here that when I list awards I list the ones that are well known (Oscars, Emmys, etc). A lot of films that I seem to enjoy are genre' friendly and as we know, many of them are overlooked by the mainstream award committees. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, "Time After Time" was well recognized by various groups, including The Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films and the Hugo Awards.
It is truly one of those little films that slipped by mainstream movie goers only to find fame on cable television. Dumped into theatres at the end of summer with little fan fare, "Time After Time" quickly came and went. And what a shame, because it truly deserved some recognition.
The directorial debut of writer Nicholas Meyer, whose "Seven Percent Solution" dealt with Sherlock Holmes, the film deals with the problems that occur when Jack the Ripper (David Warner) steals his friend H.G. Wells' (McDowell) time machine and ends up in modern America. When Wells follows he is shocked to find that many of the things he had written about (or will later write about) are now very factual. He also meets and falls for the beautiful Amy Robbins (played by the very beautiful Mary Steenburgen). In a case of fact and fiction melding, McDowell and Steenburgen married after the film was released.
I think what I enjoy most about the film, and I'll say the same thing about other Nick Meyer films, is that the stories humanize the characters...you actually care about what happens to them. For bookish Wells to be transported in his own invention and then find out, 100 years later, that he will be honored with a gala covering his work. The humanization of Jack the Ripper (really, just a kinky guy out looking for a good time) is a great example of Meyer's work. Of course, credit also needs to go to David Warner for making the Ripper as sympathetic a character as a mass murderer could be. Both actors give great performances but it is Steenburgen that lights up the screen. Discovered by Jack Nicholson for his film "Going South," Steenburgen has an on screen personality that goes hand in hand with an almost porcelain doll beauty. And her talent is abundant, validated the next year when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Melvin and Howard."
As stated above, the story and script are strong and the events, though somewhat incredulous, make sense. I mean, if Jack the Ripper was going to hide in America it might as well be in that city of anything goes, San Francisco!
Though the film was not a success, the tone and script were enough for Paramount to entrust Meyer with "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," voted by most fans to be the best "Trek" film ever made. He later went on to direct "Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country," which was actually his subtitle for "Star Trek II." Speaking of "Trek", McDowell later found a spot in "Trek" history when he went down in "Trek" lore as the man who could go on to kill Catpain Kirk. Steenburgen had large roles in films like "Ragtime," "Parenthood" and "Back to the Future III." She doesn't seem to work as long as I'd like her to but when she does,to quote Spencer Tracy, the work is cherce!
FIRST SEEN: AMC Varsity 6 Theatre, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: The final match
FAVORITE LINE: "Everybody needs something. And I think what YOU need is a whole lotta ME, wrapped around you on a cold winter night. "
Not a one!
When my list of films to highlight was released last year, ED Tucker remarked how many of them featured Sylvester Stallone. True indeed. Stallone was someone whose career I followed after he exploded on the scene in "Rocky." I had the extreme pleasure of meeting him during his press junket for "Rocky" (and again, many, many thanks to Steve Otto for letting me tag along) and he struck me as a guy who took his shot and made it pay off for him. "Paradise Alley" was released three months after "Rocky II," and it marked the second film in which Stallone served as writer and director. The earliest trace of this film, or it's characters, existing can be caught during the 1977 Academy Award broadcast. While Stallone is on stage to present an award, he is surprised by an appearance by Muhammad Ali, who chastises Sly by claiming "you stole my script...I'm the real Apollo Creed." The two spar for a few moments and Stallone tells the champ to watch out. "You know what my real name is, don't you? Kid Salami!" Of course, Kid Salami is the ring name used by Victor Carboni (Lee Canalito) the hulking, ice hauling member of the Carboni family.
"Paradise Alley" is really the story of the three Carboni brothers. Cosmo (Stallone) is the hustler. Lenny (the always brilliant Armand Assante) is the brains, though he has withdrawn into a shell of himself due to an injury. And Victor is the brawn. Paradise Alley is the local club where fighters get together to see who the toughest mutt on the street is. The fighting is like wrestling without the rules. Victor's dream is to live on a houseboat while Lenny wants to be the whole man he once was. Cosmo just wants to make a buck. But as Victor continues to win the brothers switch personalities. Cosmo is concerned at the beatings Victor is taking while Lenny enjoys living the high life. If you're looking for a dysfunctional family, you can't go wrong with the Carbonis!
While "Rocky II" is technically Stallone's directorial debut, it was mostly a shot for shot remake of "Rocky." In "Paradise Alley," Stallone had an entirely different story and period to work with and he shows considerable skill behind the camera. His script is solid and his cast is a revelation. It has long been reported that Stallone always remembered those who championed him and that is reflected here. Long time friend Joe Spinell, who used to let Stallone sleep on his couch when he was a strugling actor, appeared in the first two "Rocky" films as Gazzo the lone shark. Stallone cast him here as well. Stallone remembered Assante from a small role the actor had in "The Lords of Flatbush." Sly originally wanted Al Pacino to play Lenny but when he passed on the part he had no problem offering it to Assante. Lee Canalito was a professional boxer nicknamed, ironically, the Italian Stallion. Stallone saw him fight and cast him in the film. He later managed his career. Other Stallone pals included Frank McRae and Kevin Conway.
The most surprising part of the film is the theme song, which is sung by Stallone. I can remember standing in the back of the theatre with Matt as the credits ran and asking, "Is that Stallone singing?" Not sure if it was the material or the tune, but he actually sounds better here then he did in "Rhinestone," when he was supposed to be able to sing. At least he let his brother, Frank, sing the main song from "Staying Alive!"
Next week we'll all go back and to the left when I take a look at Oliver Stone's "JFK."
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya.
"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.