A CAPITOL TRIP
As I alluded to last issue, I spent the past week in our nation's capital as the newly appointed registrar of the local union I belong too. The story in a nutshell: Several months ago I was asked by some fellow workers to run for the executive board of our union (not president as Nolan alluded to). I was elected and the president and business agent of our union, knowing my interest in politics, asked me to be the registrar for our local. This requires me to keep my eyes and ears on our elected officials and hopefully inspire them to vote for the issues that concern us. I spent Wednesday afternoon at both the US Senate and the House of Representatives, meeting with several of Missouri's finest. The magnitude of the position did not hit me until I found myself sitting across the desk from Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver and trading thoughts and ideas on the various bills currently under consideration, with the Health Care Bill and the Employee Free Choice Act central to our union. In leaving the building I joked to one of my fellow registrars, "Just think, Thomas Jefferson once rode down this escalator." OK, probably not. But I'm pretty sure that I've peed in the same urinal as Jack Kennedy!
While in Washington I was fortunate to attend the press screening of "This Is It." The screening was held at the historic Uptown Theatre, a classic single screen palace complete with balcony that has hosted some of the biggest premieres since opening in 1936. The world premiere of "200l: A Space Odysey" was held here, the only showing of the film at it's original 2 hour and 40 minute run time. After the premiere, director Stanley Kubrick trimmed 20 minutes from the film. It opened the next week and ran at the Uptown for 51 straight weeks. Other films, from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" to "Dances With Wolves" have had their premieres here. I was very fortunate to have assisted in the "Dances With Wolves" premiere and remember the nights events fondly...much better then Kevin Costner. Let's just say that two projector malfunctions in the first 35 minutes did not help sooth a young director's nerves! I saw many a 70 mm presentation at the Uptown and was pleased to see the old girl still looking good. In a world where there seems to be a google-plex on every street corner, the Uptown is a shining star in the movie theatre universe.
GET WELL SOON
In all my years of collecting autographs I've only chased one man into the men's room to obtain a signature. That person was Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who I spotted dashing to the loo during a performance of "Starlight Express" on Broadway. Luckily I caught him before he had his hands full and I still cherish the signature as one of the best I've ever obtained, especially since his web site states he only autographs items for charities with which he has a personal connection. That being said, Sir Andrew announced this week that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, though he expects to return to work before the end of the year. His next musical, "Love Never Dies," is set to open early next year in London. The show, a sequel to his hit "The Phantom of the Opera," is set at Coney Island in the 1920s.
Just to let you know I'm not totally rude, I once peed next to Val Kilmer in a Las Vegas rest room and only nodded politely.
Sir Anthony Hopkins has joined the cast of "Thor." Hopkins is set to play Odin, the big cheese of the Norse Gods. Also joining the film: Stellan Skarsgard, Colm Feore, Natalie Portman and Jamie Alexander. Portman is slated to play Jane Foster, the human girlfriend of Donald Blake, Thor's earthly form. However, rumor has it that Donald Blake is not in the film, so maybe she will just be Thor's earthly babe. Alexander will play warrior-goddess Sif. And though the film company is only saying that Feore will play "a villian," word is he will play Mephisto.
More sequels have been announced for 2010, including "Little Fokkers," "Mad Max 4: Fury Road" (which is rumored to feature "Avatar" star Sam Worthington and not Mel Gibson) and 2011 films "Mamma Mia! 2" and the next James Bond film, which Daniel Craig told autograph seekers in New York City will start filming at the end of 2010.
HALLOWEEN MOVIE NOTES
'Tis the season, as the saying goes. And here are some different poll results concerning scary (and not scary) movies:
The Kansas City Star recently polled readers as to which movie scene startled them most. The results:
1. "Alien" - when the alien bursts out of John Hurt's chest.
2. "Psycho" - The shower scene.
3. "Jaws" - when the shark first pops out at Roy Scheider.
4. "Halloween" - the end when Michael Meyers sits up.
5. "Carrie" - the end when Carrie's hand comes out of the grave.
Not a bad list. I would say that for me it would have to be when Ben Gardner's lifeless head pops through the hole in the bottom of his boat in "Jaws." That scene is a seminal moment in my life, and is the "scare" that I judge all other movie thrills by.
A few years ago, the American Film Institute named their top 100 thrillers. Though not totally restricted to horror films, the top 10 consisted of:
3. THE EXORCIST
4. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
5. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
7. THE BIRDS
8. THE FRENCH CONNECTION
9. ROSEMARY'S BABY
10. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
OK, nothing really scary in "The French Connection," unless you count the car/subway chase.
The good people at Moviefone have come up with the 30 best horror films of all time. Their list:
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
2. THE EXORCIST
3. PSYCHO (1960)
4. THE SHINING
5. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
6. THE SIXTH SENSE
7. THE THING (1982)
8. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
9. THE HAUNTING (1963)
10. 28 DAYS LATER
12. ROSEMARY'S BABY
13. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
14. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
15. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
16. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
17. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
18. CARRIE (1976)
19. EVIL DEAD 2
20. DRACULA (1931)
21. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)
23. THE EYE
24. CARNIVAL OF SOULS
25. THE WICKER MAN (1973)
26. THE FLY (1986)
27. THE OMEN (1976)
28. THE DESCENT
29. NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE (1922)
Even without the inclusion of "Jaws" a good list. I like the fact that most of the films came from a time where the thrills came from suspense, not gallons of blood. Of course, where there is a "best" list there must follow a "worst" one. Moviefone names these 15 as the worse of the worse. Ironically, many of them are remakes of some of the best. See where that "blood instead of suspense" thing works? AN EARLY VERSION OF THE RANT LEFT OFF FILMS #16-25. THEY ARE HERE NOW
1. HALLOWEEN (2007)
2. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE
3. BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2
4. 2000 MANIACS
5. PSYCHO (1998)
6. DR. GIGGLES
6. EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC
9. THE WICKER MAN (2006)
10. JASON X
11. HOUSE OF WAX (2006)
12. KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
13. BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)
14. THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2
15. SAW V
16. HOUSE OF THE DEAD
17. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (2006)
18. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS
19. THE DEVIL'S RAIN
20. SNOOP DOGG'S HOOD OF HORROR
21. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
22. FEAR DOT COM
24. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS
I will say for the record that "I Spit On Your Grave" was pretty damn scary to me. Believe me, I ALWAYS do a tub search before I take a bath!
Very sad to hear of the passing of veteran character actor Lou Jacobi, who died this week at the age of 95. He made his Broadway debut in "The Diary of Anne Frank" and reprised the role in the 1959 film version. He was a popular television guest star on such shows as "Playhouse 90," "That Girl," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Love, American Style." His other film credits include "Arthur," "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex," "Avalon" and the film which offered this sections title, "My Favorite Year."
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1975...
The Rocky Horror Picture Show|
Starring: Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon
Directed by: Jim Sharman
FIRST SEEN: University Cinema 6, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: The grand finale'
FAVORITE LINE: "I didn't make him FOR YOU!"
Though if truth be told my favorite lines are the ones the audience yells at the screen during the film.
In 1972 a struggling actor named Richard O'Brien began what was to be a disastrous one night run as King Herrod in a London production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Dismissed by the shows' director, he took the firing in stride and even managed to give the director a script for a musical he had written entitled "They Came From Denton High." The director, Jim Sharman, was so enamored of what he read that he immediately began to workshop it. Soon, "The Rocky Horror Show," as it was re-named, was playing to packed houses and critical acclaim, finding itself named the Best Musical of 1973. Hollywood caught wind of the show and soon the rights were secured by 20th Century Fox for a big budget film version. However, in spite of the interest of such rock stars as Mick Jagger, who was keen to play Dr. Frank N. Furter, Sharman wanted to use his original cast. After much bargaining, the studio agreed with two conditions: American actors in the roles of Brad and Janet and a much smaller budget. With those stipulations in place, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" went before the cameras. In an odd case of advertising, the film's producers mounted a Broadway production six months before the film opened. However, the show was not as well received in NYC and the production only ran for 45 performances, earning only (1) Tony Award nomination, for lighting. The Best Musical award that year went to "The Wiz."
Sadly for the film's producers the movie did not fare any better. Opening in September 1975, the film was gone from most theatres by October. Except in Los Angeles, where the college crowds kept the film going well past Christmas. Sensing something, a Fox executive decided to try the film as a midnight movie in New York City. Back then (a great time for movie fans) Times Square was full of huge single screen movie theatres that would play all kinds of films at midnight. I can remember visiting the city in 1981 and attending a screening of a Sonny Chiba film (the name escapes me thought I think it might have been "Shogun's Ninja") with Sonny Chiba at the theatre. A sad part of the clean up and renovation of Times Square was that these theatres were demolished and turned into giant Toys R Us and M & M stores. But I digress. Six months after its initial release, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" hit the midnight-movie circuit (the film had a slightly edited ending, with the musical numbers "Super Heroes" and "Science Fiction Reprise" removed) by opening at the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village. Within months, the film was playing other venues, including the aforementioned General Cinema University Six in Tampa, where I estimate I saw it at least 25 times over a two year period. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Ye Olde Editor and his band, BLADE, would often play at the theatre before screenings in the late 1980s. In fact, he and Matt even wrote a song for the evening, a hot little rocker that still sounds good decades later. Want to give it a listen? Then click here:
So what happened to the stars of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show?" Let's find out: (* denotes part of the original London stage production)
*Tim Curry - Dr. Frank N Furter- embarked on a successful solo music career and an even more successful one as an actor. He has appeared in such films as "The Hunt For Red October," "Congo," "Home Alone 2" and on Broadway in the Monty Pyton musical "Spamalot." He currently makes his living doing voice over work for animated features and home video.
Barry Bostwick - Brad Majors - was signed to the film after leaving the Broadway production of "Grease," where he originated the role of Danny Zuko. As mentioned above, when the film was reissued the number "Superheroes" was cut. Another song, a Bostwick solo entitled "Once In A While," was recorded but not included in the movie. You can find both scenes on the 25th Anniversary DVD of "Rocky Horror." From the recent prints I've seen in theatres, it appears that Fox put "Superheroes" back in to the newer prints. He was a regular on the television show "Spin City" and won a Golden Globe award for his supporting work in the mini series "War and Rememberance." His most recent role was in "The Hannah Montana Movie."
Susan Sarandon - Janet Weiss - is the most successful star to come out of "Rocky Horror." Roles in "Pretty Baby" and "King of the Gypsys" followed and then, on co-star Burt Lancaster's insistence, she was given the role of Sally Matthews in "Atlantic City," which resulted in her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She was nominated four more times in this category, winning the award in 1996 for her work in "Dead Man Walking." Contrary to popular belief, she is NOT Tim Robbins' mother. She will next be seen in Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones."
*Richard O'Brien - Riff Raff - the creator of "Rocky Horror" followed up the film with a sequel, the underwhelming "Shock Treatment." He continues to act on British television. Though born in England his family emigrated to New Zealand, where he spent his formative years at the Embassy Cinema watching countless "science fiction double features." On November 25, 2004, a life-size bronze statue of Richard O'Brien in his Riff Raff space suit was unveiled in Hamilton, New Zealand. Commissioned jointly by a local theatre group and the Hamilton City Council, the statue stands on the site of the old Embassy Cinema.
*Patricia Quinn - Magenta - life long friend of Richard O'Brien (they met in 1972), Quinn retired from acting in 1995 following the death of her husband, Sir Robert Stephens. She is now formally referred to as Patricia, Lady Stephens. It is her lips that open the film with "Science Fiction Double Feature," though the singing voice belongs to Richard O'Brien.
*Nell Campbell (Little Nell) - Columbia - worked sporadically after "Rocky Horror," appearing in such films as "Shock Treatment," "Pink Floyd The Wall" and "The Killing Fields."
*Jonathan Adams - Dr. Everett Scott - worked steadily in British television until his death following a stroke in June 2005. In the London production, Adams played the Narrator. If I remember correctly, the actor who played Dr. Scott also played Eddie, saving on actors.
Peter Hinwood - Rocky - was a professional model with very little acting experience prior to being hired for the film. In what I've read I think he was embarrassed by the overtones of the film as he has shied away from almost all things "Rocky" over the years. He is a successful antique dealer in London. Hinwood's singing voice was provided by Australian singer Trevor White. In a rare tip to his "Rocky" heritage, both Hinwood and White were interviewed by Scott Michaels for his 2002 book Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult. Incidentally, if you saw the movie "Laserblast" in the mid 1970s, the star of the film, Kim Milford, played Rocky in the Los Angeles production. He had the voice but obviously not the body for the film.
Meatloaf - Eddie - played Eddie in the popular Los Angeles production of "The Rocky Horror" show, which ran for 18 months. Of course, he went on to record such hit records as "Bat Out Of Hell" (one of my top 10 all time favorite albums) and star in such films as "Fight Club" and "Black Dog." FYI: "Bat Out Of Hell" is the third biggest selling album in history, with over 30,000,000 sold! Also, according to one of my Billboard Album books, Meatloaf sang the vocals on Ted Nugent's "Free For All" album, though I think Sweaty Teddy did the vocals on the title track.
Charles Gray - Narrator - is probably best known for his rare feat of playing both a good guy AND a bad guy in the James Bond world. Gray was Henderson (good guy), 007's Japan contact in "You Only Live Twice" then played Ernst Stavros Blofeld (bad guy) in "Diamonds Are Forever." Worked steadily in British television and films until his death from cancer in 2000.
Sadly, to me anyway, the original "Rocky Horror" experience is gone. Though I was proud to learn that the 2007 showing at the Tampa Theatre was recognized as the largest audience to watch the film at one time in history, I'm afraid that the local screenings have gone to hell. There used to be a set number of cat-calls the audience delivered during the film that made the experience memorable. The past few times I've gone to see it, I find that the audience will yell stuff just for the sake of yelling, most of it having nothing to do with the film. Years ago they released an "Audience Response Album" with a recording of the film and the audience so you could learn the cues. This should be required listening for all of the "virgins" who have yet to take that journey to Transylvania.
Next week I'll take a look at another musical, the animated "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut!"
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. Don't forget to set those clocks back. 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.