Tag Archives: Harrison Ford

Top 15 Monster Movies

 

The new blockbuster movie season is almost upon us, so I’m going to take this opportunity to name and talk about my favorite top 15 monster movies over the past 100 years at the movies. Now, in the cases of series, or numerous remakes of the same monster, I’ve taken the liberty of just listing it once on the list with my favorite movie in that series and that film in essence, represents the monster. Also, if I felt that it was more of a horror film instead of a monster movie, because most can be both, I didn’t mention it on this list, although it could be one of my all time favorite movies.  The Thing comes to mind, I love that movie, but I consider it to be a horror film way more than it is a monster movie, so I didn’t include it on the list. A good way of thinking of this is if they could fall under the Universal Studios monsters group of movies.  They concentrate on adventure over horror. The best monster movies aren’t that scary at all, but truly fun and thrilling, although most will have some scary moments or moments that make you jump out of your skin.

15  I, Frankenstein (2014)

This was a very under-rated movie and one that seemed to get no marketing when it was released but actually was a rather good movie. My favorite so far of all the different Frankenstein movies that are out there. A big reason is Aaron Eckert, who plays the Frankenstein monster in this one. He’s great. It’s interesting to note, that in the original screenplay, “I, Frankenstein” and its hypothetical sequels were to take place in the same universe as the “Underworld” series (placed #14 on my list) which is from the same producers and shares actors Bill Nighy and Kevin Grevioux. Kate Beckinsale was rumored to be making a cameo as Selene. Ultimately none of these ideas were used. Since the movie didn’t make much money, it’s unlikely that any sequels will be made, making the matter moot, but boy this could have been cool.

14  Underworld (2003)

Would have to go with the first one in the series as the best one. I don’t think that’s always the case. Kate Beckinsale is the reason this series is worth watching. It’s also fun to see Vampires and Werewolves going full on war. The movie was initially pitched as “Romeo and Juliet for vampires and werewolves”. It’s interesting to see the prequel and sequels of the series, also to see how things began and finish. They have gone back and changed the original, however, as for the 2017 4K High Definition remaster of Underworld, the scene where Michael sees flashbacks into Lucian’s past/Sonya’s death was actually replaced with the 2009 scenes in Rise of the Lycans instead of the 2003 flashbacks.

13  Dracula Untold (2014)

Another version that didn’t seem to do well, or wasn’t marketed properly, but that I found to be much superior than any of it’s previous movies based on Dracula. Luke Evans plays Dracula in this version, and he’s very intense.  Dracula Untold was in production before Universal decided to build a cinematic universe. The producers caught wind of it just in time to independently add a present-day epilogue that Universal could use if they wanted to, but it was ultimately decided that Dracula Untold would not be the first entry in the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe. That first film of the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe is the new The Mummy film coming out in 2017, which features Tom Cruise in the starring role and also Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll to set up his stand alone film for the new Jekyll and Hyde remake.

12 Godzilla (2014)

It’s pretty obvious by now that 2014 was a pretty good year for monster movies, you just may not have known it. It’s mainly because now technology has made it a lot easier to do special effects than ever before. The technology has finally caught up with the creative in this area. This is the latest Godzilla movie to come around and I like it because after the film gets rolling, Godzilla becomes somewhat of a hero in the film rather than the creature out to destroy everything that he was presented as at times. It’s also the first in a new set of films set in the same “universe”, the 2nd being Kong: Skull Island that just came out, the 3rd being Godzilla: King of Monsters set to be released in 2019 and the last being King Kong vs. Godzilla in 2020. On this film, according to Bryan Cranston, Gareth Edwards was inspired by the shark film Jaws (1975). “The film does not immediately show the beast, but rather build up to its appearance while still delivering an eerie and terrifying off-screen presence.” In homage to Jaws, the main protagonists have the name of Brody, after that film’s protagonist.

11  Deep Blue Sea (1999)

The sharks in this film do have a tendency to grow and shrink in size depending on where they are in the film, but if you can turn your brain off of that fact, this is a pretty cool movie.  Renny Harlin directed it and he has said that it was the hardest film he’s ever made. Samuel L. Jackson happily signed on for the film, as he had enjoyed his experience working with Renny Harlin on The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).  Renny Harlin admitted that the idea of abruptly killing off Samuel L. Jackson’s character at two-thirds of the movie was borrowed from the similar fate of Tom Skerritt in Alien (1979). Both men were the natural leaders of their respective groups, leaving the remaining survivors in utter despair, and both were the best-known actor in the cast at the time, thereby making their premature demise extra shocking and unexpected. The impact of Jackson’s sudden death scene was intensified by making his preceding speech somewhat long and corny. After watching the scene with an audience for the first time, and hearing them scream in horror and fear, Harlin said that this scene paid off for the entire movie. Just a side-note, the three sharks in this movie are killed in the same ways as the three sharks in Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), and Jaws 3-D (1983): blown up, electrocuted, and incinerated respectively.

10  Deep Rising (1998)

DEEP RISING, Treat Williams

Now this film is the best in a series of films that are about creatures from the ocean like Leviathan, Virus, Deep Star Six and The Rift. This is actually a really great film, but no-one seems to know about it. Probably because of the lower budget. Originally, Harrison Ford turned down the role of Finnegan. The production’s budget was then downsized. Stephen Sommers, the writer-director, would become known for his monster movies, and this is one of his best. He would go on to direct The Mummy, Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns. Stephen began writing this script, then called “Tentacle”, when he worked at Hollywood Pictures in the mid-90s. Go out a rent this movie, it’s a blast.

9  Lake Placid (1999)

Another film that nobody knows about.  Seemed to go straight to video, but it’s a great movie. This one has a very strange pedigree as it was written by David E. Kelly famous for Law Firm TV Shows like Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, LA Law, Picket Fences and The Practice! Then it was directed by Steve Miner, famous for giving us the real Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th part 3, as the first movie’s killer was his mother, Mrs Voorhees! This movie is funny but has plenty of scares to go around. It’s about a giant crocodile living in Lake Placid. The size of the crocodile in the movie is actually much larger than anything ever recorded in real life. The current largest crocodile in captivity (Guinness book of records, 2015) is 5.48 metres (about 18 ft), and although there are (unverified) reports of sightings over 20 feet in length, nothing is as large as the 30ft quoted in the movie.

8  The Fly (1986)

Now, for some reason a running theme in monster movies is the use of science to explain how a monster has been created or come about. This one has the best use of science (except for movie #2) to help build the tension for any of the monster movies. In a 1987 interview on Sinister Image (1987) Vincent Price revealed that when this remake was released, star Jeff Goldblum wrote him a letter saying, “I hope you like it as much as I liked yours.” Price was touched by the letter, he composed a reply and went to see the film, which he described as “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.” David Cronenberg met with some opposition when he announced that he wanted to cast Jeff Goldblum in the lead role. The executive at Fox who was supervising the project felt that Goldblum was not a bankable star, and Chris Walas (Make-up) felt that his face would be difficult to work with for the make-up effects. Both, however, deferred to Cronenberg’s judgment. Cronenberg himself later had reservations when Goldblum suggested Geena Davis, his girlfriend at the time, for the other lead role, as he did not want to have to work with a real-life couple. Cronenberg was convinced after Davis’s first reading that she was right for the role. Producer Stuart Cornfeld suggested that they audition more actresses saying that it’s the “script that is brilliant”. Cornfeld relented after “nobody else even came close”. The famous tagline, “Be afraid, be very afraid!”, originated in this film as dialogue spoken by Geena Davis.

7  Tremors (1990)

If you’ve ever watched Dune and thought the best thing about it was the sand worms then this movie is for you. Writer S.S. Wilson said that he got the idea for the film while he was working for the US Navy in the California desert. While resting on a rock, he imagined what it might be like if something underground kept him from getting off the rock. Tremors was the first film directed by Ron Underwood, who would go on to direct City Slickers, Speechless, Mighty Joe Young, Heart and Souls, and tons of TV Shows.

6  Gremlins (1984)

Written by the amazing Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, this was my favorite film from 1984, at the time, although since then Terminator, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dreamscape, The Last Starfighter, Romancing the Stone, The Philadelphia Experiment, Top Secret!, All of Me, Runaway, Ghostbusters, and Beverly Hills Cop have since topped that movie in that year, for me. But at 14 years old, Gremlins was my favorite. But now that I look back, that may have been one of the most incredible years for films…I mean, wow, what a list of films all released in the same year. The set for Kingston Falls, the location this movie is set in, is the same one used for Back to the Future (1985). Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot, and you could see the set for many years afterward if you went on the Universal Studios Tram Tour. Steven Spielberg had a great working relationship with Chris Columbus on this film, and he produced the next two films Columbus scripted–The Goonies (1985), based on an idea Spielberg had, and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which was Columbus’ idea. Altogether, three years was spent working on those three films.

5  King Kong (1933)

Now the new film, Kong: Skull Island is pretty fun stuff, but the original is just too iconic not be on the list. It is effectively the model for almost all of the monster movies that have followed since. The other King Kong movies are pretty great too, but the original is just one of those films, especially at the time, that people’s jaws just dropped and everyone went…wow. It’s amazing, back then and today. The project went through numerous title changes during production, including “The Beast” (original title of draft by Edgar Wallace in RKO files), “The Eighth Wonder”, “The Ape”, “King Ape” and “Kong”. Art drawn for the press book for the original release of the film was contributed by Keye Luke, who was a highly regarded illustrator before he became an actor and whose works have appeared in films themselves, such as The Shanghai Gesture (1941), and who acted in such classic films as the number 1 son of Charlie Chan in a slew of films and as the old Chinese shop owner in our #5 film, Gremlins.

4  The Mummy (1999)

Great remake, much better than the original, even though I love Boris Karloff. The remake is a great mix of monster movie and adventure movie…just brilliant. It was originally planned to open the film with the old black and white Universal logo that had been used at the beginning of The Mummy (1932) which would dissolve into the blazing desert sun. Would have given a really cool connection to the old style Universal monster movies. Brendan Fraser was cast due to the success of George of the Jungle (1997). Stephen Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned perfectly. The actor understood that his character “doesn’t take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can’t go on that journey with him”. Before Brendan Fraser, the role of Rick’ O’Connel was offered to Sylvester Stallone. That would have been a very different film. I’m glad that Stephen Sommers stuck to his vision of the film. Stephen Sommers described his vision of the film as “as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time”.

3  Aliens (1986)

This one almost didn’t make my list as it literally scared me half to death when I first saw it. It’s hard not to think of it as a horror film, but what James Cameron brought to this franchise is so good and so ground-breaking that it literally transcends many genres. Sigourney Weaver had initially been very hesitant to reprise her role as Ripley, especially because Cameron had cut the scene where Burke had brought Ripley the news of just missing the death of her character’s daughter (which Weaver felt would have completed the circle of the mother-daughter bond with Newt) she had rejected numerous offers from Fox Studios to do any sequels, fearing that her character would be poorly written, and a sub-par sequel could hurt the legacy of Alien (1979). However, she was so impressed by the high quality of James Cameron’s script – specifically, the strong focus on Ripley, the mother-daughter bond between her character and Newt, and the incredible precision with which Cameron wrote her character, that she finally agreed to do the film.

2  Jurassic Park (1993)

Harrison Ford was offered and turned down the role of Dr. Alan Grant, as he felt that the part just wasn’t right for him. After seeing the film, he says that he had made the right decision. James Cameron has stated that he wanted to make the film, but the rights were bought “a few hours” before he could interview with Crichton. Upon seeing Jurassic Park, Cameron realized that Spielberg was the better choice to direct it as his version would’ve been much more violent (“Aliens (1986) with dinosaurs”) which “wouldn’t have been fair” to children, who relate to dinosaurs. The special effects were directly influenced by Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Originally, Michael Crichton’s agents circulated the book to six studios and directors. Warner Brothers wanted it for Tim Burton to direct, while Columbia Pictures was planning it for Richard Donner. 20th Century Fox was also interested, and was intending the project for Joe Dante, while Universal Pictures wanted Steven Spielberg to direct. Crichton was reluctant to submit to a bidding war. He instructed his agents to put a set price on the film rights and he could decide who was more likely to actually get the film made. After interviewing all the prospective directors, he agreed to sell the rights to Universal and Steven Spielberg, who was already his first choice.

1  Jaws (1975)

Kind of fitting to me to have a Universal Studios film as my number 1 monster movie of all time, but probably not the one people would instantly think of as a Universal monster movie…Jaws. It  is, although one of the few that was a highlight on the Universal Studios Tram Tour, but not the reason why it’s number one on my list. It’s just a fantastic movie. Is it iconic that Steven Spielberg directed both of the top two films? It’s also interesting that each of these films were based on books, bought before the books were released into stores. Peter Benchley’s novel was first discovered in galley form at early 1973 by then Cosmopolitan Magazine editor and producer David Brown’s wife Helen Gurley Brown who was to be excerpting part of the novel to be published in an upcoming issue. Brown saw it by accident, having read it then a few days brought it to the attention of his partner Richard D. Zanuck, subsequently obtaining the rights to the book at the end of the year. Director Steven Spielberg said that when he first read the novel, he found himself rooting for the shark because the human characters were so unlikeable. There was a lot of sub plots in the book that was cut from the screenplay and even Peter Benchley eventually liked how cutting the subplots from the novel allowed for the characters to be fleshed out properly. Steven wanted the movie to be different. Because the film the director envisioned was so dissimilar to Peter Benchley’s novel, Steven Spielberg asked Richard Dreyfuss not to read it. Steven Spielberg always considered Jurassic Park a sequel to Jaws, but on land. People saw differences though, where the latter focused on character development as much as on its creature, while the former only used the dinosaurs to sell the film, and not the characters. As far as monsters go, the shark in Jaws is pretty scary, as it has kept whole generations from going into the ocean for decades. The shark was ranked the eighteenth greatest villain on the AFI’s list of 100 Heroes and Villains.

Pat Roach, Actor and Stuntman

 

Pat Roach was a great character actor and stunt man, primarily recognizable in a slew of films from the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Pat started out in England as a wrestler and because of his huge stature at 6’5″ and over 250lbs he became sought after as an actor for big beefy roles. His first few roles were for Stanley Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, where he played a bouncer and a brawler, respectively.

Pat’s career would blossom and his roles would get larger and because he was very physical, would do his own stunts over the years. Also, who could they find of his size to body double for him? His most recognizable roles were in the Indiana Jones movies, where he played the airplane mechanic that Indiana gets into a fight with as Marion and Indy try to chase after the Ark of the Covenant, then a giant Thuggee Guard in Temple of Doom and then as Gestapo in the Last Crusade. He unfortunately died of throat cancer in 2004 before he could appear in the last one.

Other memorable roles would come from Clash of the Titans, Never Say Never Again, Conan the Destroyer, Willow, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and then later as the very popular Bomber Busbridge in Great Britain’s ITV-BBC production of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.  Pat would often continue to wrestle under the “Bomber” name. Eventually, Pat Roach developed throat cancer before the filming of series three began. Although he would appear in series’ three and four, he would undergoing chemotherapy at the same time. In the third series, it’s painfully obvious that Pat was ill, and some scenes of his had to be changed to accommodate his medical condition. Although he felt fit enough to appear in series four, his family were angry at him because of the physical toll it was taking out on his well-being. Pat was too ill to appear in what would be the last Auf Wiedersehen Pet series (“The Specials”) in 2004. He sadly died during filming of that two-hour special. In a touching scene, Dennis reads a letter from Bomber to the rest of the group while they are all dining in a restaurant, where he explains his reasons for not having joined them. The group lift their glasses and drink a toast; “To Bomber!”

Top 15 Gene Wilder Movies

 

Many of us were shocked to hear of Gene Wilder’s death this week due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, and so it’s given us a chance to pause and think about this great actor and comedian. It was interesting to me listen to a recent interview of his and he said that he really didn’t consider himself to be a comedian as he didn’t find himself to be very funny. That may be true, but to us, he was hilarious. Here is my list of his top 15 movies, let’s see if your list would be similar to mine:

15.  Thursday’s Game (1974)Thursday's Game

This would be a banner year for Gene Wilder as 3 of the movies on this list were released in 1974. 2 of them would be considered to be “classics” to most people. Classify this one as a forgotten little gem. Thursday’s Game was released as a TV movie and starred Gene with a great cast of comedians with Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Nancy Walker, Valerie Harper, Norman Fell, Rob Reiner and Martha Scott. The movie is about two guys who’ve been going to a Thursday night poker game for years, when suddenly a disagreement breaks up the game. The two guys then decide to keep getting together every Thursday night doing different things, under the pretense that the game is still going on. When the wives find out they are upset and wondering what they’ve been doing all that time. The budget for this film was so tight that the wardrobe department was practically non-existent. According to Gene Wilder, he and co-star Bob Newhart had to make do with their actual clothes.

14.  The Producers (1967)Producers

We mention the Producers in another blog, CLICK HERE TO READ THAT BLOG POST.  Mel Brooks is almost synonymous with Gene Wilder as they made 3 movies together. These 3 are almost always mentioned as their top 3 movies respectively.  That wasn’t always the case, as the Producers flopped initially but found new life when Mel made it into a smash hit on Broadway. Now, of course, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were great in this but, Kenneth Mars is also really fantastic in this as well. I talk about him in a blog CLICK HERE.

13.  Haunted Honeymoon (1986)haunted-honeymoon

I find Dom Deluise to be hilarious, but put him in drag and he’s drop dead funny. Gene and Dom appeared in 4 movies together. Now, if you don’t know already, Gene Wilder was a wonderful writer and director in his own right and this is one of the films he wrote and directed. It also stars his then wife and comedian Gilda Radner. This is a notable entry also because it was Gilda’s last movie before she died of cancer. It did not do well at the box office, but I like it because of the 3 actors and I especially like the scenes from the radio show.

12.  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-smarter-brother

Gene reunites with Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman in this gem that he also wrote and directed after they did Young Frankenstein. Favorites of mine, Dom Deluise, Leo McKern and Roy Kinnear round out the cast! Originally, Gene tried to get Mel Brooks to direct this film as well, after they did Young Frankenstein, but he declined and convinced Gene that he could direct it himself. Gen would go on to direct 4 movies and 1 segment of a 5th one. This one is my favorite of all the films he directed.

11.  Death of a Salesman (1966)deathofasalesman

Up until Gene did the made-for-tv version of Death of a Salesman in 1966, he only had acted in a handful of TV shows. It was this film that ultimately put him on the path of stardom. This movie was relatively forgotten over time but had some very strong performances and included some very fine actors with Lee J. Cobb leading the cast. In his autobiography “Timebends”, Arthur Miller says that Lee J. Cobb was his favorite Willy Loman. The original Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller opened at the Morosco Theater on February 10, 1949, ran for 742 performances and won the 1949 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Lee J. Cobb recreated his stage role 17 years later in this television production.

10.  Murder in a Small Town (1999)murder in a small town

Gene Wilder would write 8 movies over his career and a segment of a 9th one. This is the 2nd to the last one he would write and was 1 of 2 mysteries featuring his Cash Carter character for A&E. I enjoy a good mystery and for some reason I really like it when my mysteries are a little understated as these two mysteries are. This one is about a widowed theatre director who moves to a small Connecticut town where he gets involved in solving the murder of a millionaire, who was the most despised man in town. Gene is very good in this.

9.  Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)start the revolution without me

When 1 Gene Wilder is not enough, we get two! This one has Gene and Donald Sutherland playing two mismatched sets of identical twins – one aristocrat, one peasant – who mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution. Gene Wilder originally wanted Charles Grodin to play the part of Charles/Pierre, but Grodin declined, having committed to directing the original Broadway production of Lovers and Other Strangers, which would have been really fun to see, but Donald does a great job. Gene liked this film especially because he got to fence. Gene was already adept with a sword from his days on his college fencing team.

8.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)bonnie-clyde-gene-laughing

In less than a year after his appearance in Death of a Salesman, Gene would be cast in 2 films Bonnie and Clyde and The Producers. He would never look back. In Bonnie and Clyde, he got to work with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle and Michael J. Pollard. This was technically his theatrical feature film debut. Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder would later appear together in Young Frankenstein (1974). Hackman had a small, uncredited cameo as the blind hermit while Wilder portrayed the title character.

7.  Stir Crazy (1980)

We talk about the greatest comedy teams of all time in a previous blog post, CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT BLOG…but definitely one of the best comedy teams of all time would have to be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. They hit the list with 3 of their collaborations…almost 4, more on that in a sec…Stir-Crazy

Sidney Poitier directed this movie, and enjoyed working with Gene and Richard, even though Richard was sometimes difficult to work with on this production due to his frequent drug use. When they clicked, they were quite funny.  Sidney would let them improvise during scenes for the movie. This is one of the four movies Pryor and Wilder teamed together, and was the most successful of the four at the box-office. There was no doubting their second match-up was an all-around success. “Our instincts seem to coalesce. The difference, this time, is that ‘Stir Crazy’ is an out-and-out comedy while Silver Streak (1976) was a mixture of mystery, adventure and romance”. Pryor interjected: “You might say that our Pryor picture was a ball but this one is Wilder”. Wilder responded: “You might,” needles Wilder, “But you’ll say anything”.

6.  Blazing Saddles (1974)

Full shot of Cleavon Little as Bart offering whiskey bottle for Gene Wilder as Jim, both seated in sheriff's office. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Here’s the almost in that last paragraph…believe it or not, Richard Pryor was set to play the role that eventually went to Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles. Richard Pryor even wrote some of the script with Mel Brooks. Although, Gene Wilder was not the original choice for his role either. They had cast and went into production with Gig Young, but he was coming off of alcohol and couldn’t function properly and Mel had to call upon his friend Gene to fly out last second to fill in, as a personal favor to him. One of the best comedy pairings of all time almost happened, two years before they finally appeared together in Silver Streak.

5.  Young Frankenstein (1974)young frankenstein

First film written by Gene Wilder and the only film directed by Mel Brooks, that Mel didn’t write. He didn’t direct anything he didn’t also write, but Gene talked him into directing as a personal favor to him. According to Mel Brooks (in the commentary for Spaceballs (1987)) when Gene Wilder came on to Blazing Saddles at the last minute as a favor to Mel, he requested that Mel Brooks do “his” movie idea next; that movie turned out to be this film. It was a perfect match. Gene Wilder has stated that this is his favorite of all the films he’s made. The cast and especially Mel Brooks had so much fun and were so upset when principal photography was almost completed, that Mel added scenes to continue shooting.

4.  See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)See no evil hear no evil

I forgot Kevin Spacey was in this with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Joan Severance. Gene Wilder almost wasn’t in this movie. Per his autobiography, he turned the script down twice (due to its treatment of the deaf and the blind). He intended to do the same when offered it a third time, but his agent talked him into meeting with TriStar (the studio behind the film). The TriStar people asked Gene to re-write the script for himself and Richard Pryor, which he agreed to do…and the rest is history. Gene Wilder went to the NY League for the Hard of Hearing to study for his role. There he was assigned to speech pathologist Karen Webb, who would ultimately become his fourth wife. They were married 25 years, up until his death. With its dead body murder plot and villainous crime characters, the movie returned director Arthur Hiller and stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor to the suspense-adventure-comedy genre that had made their earlier picture Silver Streak a success around thirteen years earlier.

3.  Frisco Kid (1979)The_Frisco_Kid

Now this one is probably the biggest surprise on the list, but it’s just so under-appreciated! Not only is Gene Wilder pitch-perfect in this film as a Jewish Rabbi, Harrison Ford plays an old school cowboy like he was born to it. I just love this movie. In his autobiography, Gene Wilder says that John Wayne was offered the part that was eventually played by Harrison Ford. Wayne loved the role and was eager to work with Wilder. However, an agent tried to offer Wayne less than his usual fee and the legendary actor turned the film down. The sad thing about this movie is that it was a flop when released and has had a very small but devoted following on VHS and DVD…but it’s a wonderful film!

2.  Silver Streak (1976)Silver-Streak

One of five movies where actor Gene Wilder plays a man wrongly accused of committing a crime. The films include Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). Actor Gene Wilder loved his part because he could get to do scenes which were fitting of Errol Flynn doing action or Cary Grant being romantic. When meeting Gene Wilder after having seen Silver Streak, Cary Grant asked him if the script had been in anyway inspired by North by Northwest (1959). As Wilder admitted it was correct, Grant then added, “I knew it! Have you noticed that each time you take ordinary people, say, like you and me, then take them in a situation way above their heads, it makes a great thriller?” First of two consecutive comedy thrillers written by Colin Higgins. The second released two years later was Foul Play (1978). Higgins conceived “Silver Streak” in mid 1974 when he was traveling by train from LA to Chicago. We talk about Foul Play in another blog post, CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

On a sad note…Director Arthur Hiller and co-star Gene Wilder died within 12 days of each other.

1  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This is number 1 for me. It’s his most iconic role and to be honest, one of my favorite films of all time. willy wonka

According to director Mel Stuart’s “Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka”, when Gene Wilder walked in to audition, Stuart knew before he’d even uttered a single word that he had found his Willy Wonka. The audition convinced him even further, so when Wilder finished and left the room, Stuart chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him “You’re doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!” Producer David L. Wolper, however, was furious because he hadn’t yet had the chance to negotiate a fee. After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When the director asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?”, and Gene Wilder said “I’m afraid that’s the truth.” Even Julie Dawn Cole was fooled by the scene in which Willy limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners. She mentions in the DVD commentary that she thought that Gene Wilder had injured his leg for real (and that the filming would have to be temporarily halted because of it). This resulted in her being just as stunned by Willy’s somersault as the audience is.

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, got very close to Gene while filming. He later told ABC News, “As a young actor filming ‘Willy Wonka,’ I had the rare privilege of working with Gene who I greatly admired,” he continued. “He became my mentor and personal friend. For that I will always be grateful. So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Best Name Change For a Movie? My Top Four!

 

Several really great movies had their names changed right before release.  Here are a few of my all time favorites: The 13th Warrior, While You Were Sleeping, Field of Dreams and Blade Runner.

The movie based on Michael Crichton’s novel, Eaters of the Dead was changed at the last minute to The 13th Warrior (1999).  It’s the best single name change for a movie that I can think of, but to the dismay of the studio, did not help the film at the box office, which is a real shame, because the finished film is fantastic.  It’s my favorite viking film ever.13th warrior

They had a lot of problems with the film in production. The film was directed by John McTiernan, but after they were finished, the film got previewed by an audience and didn’t do well.  Michael Crichton then took the film into hand and re-shot many scenes and re-edited the film, even going so far to recast the main villain to be a much younger and deadlier foe. Another thing that was changed completely was the score. The original score was composed by Graeme Revell and the new score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith.  The studio lost faith in the film and after a lengthy post production, finally dumped the film into theatres with virtually no marketing.  It was held off from release for two years.13th-warrior-poster

The next one that I can definitely appreciate was originally titled Coma Guy and was changed at the last minute to While You Were Sleeping (1995).  This one was Sandra Bullock’s breakout role and made her America’s sweetheart.  It was a bit of a sleeper hit when it was released and no one was ready for the success of the film. The movie was directed by Jon Turtleltaub.while-you-were-sleeping

I love this movie, but I’m not so sure if I would have watched it with the original title, so good move studio. I loved the cast and thought they did a perfect job filling the roles. Early on in the process of casting a lot of famous faces were considered for the main roles of Jack and Lucy. Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Geena Davis and Jamie Gertz were considered before Sandra Bullock got the role of Lucy.  Matthew McConaughey, Russell Crowe, James Spader, Dylan McDermott, Harrison Ford, Patrick Swayze, Dennis Quaid, and Pierce Brosnan were considered for the role of Jack before Bill Pullman was cast.While-You-were-Sleeping-bill-pullman-25401175-960-540

My 3rd favorite for title change was Shoeless Joe, which was finally changed to Field of Dreams (1989).  I don’t think Shoeless Joe was a bad title, but it failed to convey what the film was ultimately about. Field of Dreams was directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Now this one has an unusual story behind the name change. When the studio previewed the film, of course the audience hated the original name, thinking it sounded like a movie about a guy with no shoes. So the studio made the name change to Field of Dreams and called Phil Alden Robinson and let him know. He was upset and called the writer of the book, W.P. Kinsella and “broke” the bad news to him. W.P. Kinsella was thrilled because his original title of the manuscript he turned into the publishers was called, Dream Field! The publishers had changed the title for publication, thinking Dream Field was too vague.field_of_dreams

When it comes to underrated films, this would probably top my list, which is fitting because the magazine Premiere named this film as Top Twenty of Most Underrated Films of All Time, but was also included in the list, 1001 Movies You Must See before You Die, by Steven Schneider. Last film to have the legendary Burt Lancaster. What a great movie.

The last title change that I’ll mention is the original Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which was changed to non-other than Blade Runner (1982).  This one is 4th for me because I really do LOVE this title, but it doesn’t fit a movie poster very well.  I’ve come to love the title, Blade Runner, over the years. Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott, based on a short story of the original title by Phillip K. Dick.  I will say there’s a caveat, although because I was NOT a fan of the original film. The studio’s overlay of Harrison Ford’s voice ala’ Film Noir was not necessary. My brother and I prefer the Director’s Cut that came out a decade later.blade runnerSpeaking about the voice-over, for many years Harrison Ford refused to talk about the film, but he did contribute to the 2007 DVD documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (2007), claiming he has reconciled with Ridley Scott and made his peace with the film. In fact, Ford says the thing he remembers most is not the grueling shoot or the arguments with his director, but being forced to record the voiceover which executive producers Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin insisted be in the film. Ford doesn’t actually mention any names, but in discussing the voiceover which was used in the theatrical cut, he says it was written by “clowns”. In actual fact, Darryl Ponicsan was initially hired to write it, but his version was tossed out. Then Roland Kibbee was hired and his version is the one that was used.

It may not be a favorite film, because of these things, for Harrison Ford or the director, Ridley Scott, but it is, however the favorite film of Rutger Hauer. This was in part to one of the most brilliant improvised moments ever caught on film. Rutger Hauer’s speech as he “dies” was pieced together by the actor on the spot and is brilliant. Originally, Roy Batty was to have a lengthy monologue just prior to his death, as written by David Webb Peoples. Rutger Hauer felt this didn’t help in creating any dramatic impact in the scene, so he removed much, keeping the pieces he liked, and then added the last two lines, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1980-1989

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1980-1989 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1980 – The Blues Brothersblues-brothers (1)

For a musical comedy this movie has the longest car chase sequence in history.  The cars are just piling up at the end, hundreds of cars destroyed…it’s awesome!  $3.5 million was spent on this sequence alone and lasts over 20 minutes of the movie.

1981 – The Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders-Of-The-Lost-Ark-

Although there are plenty of fantastic stunts in this film to mention, Terry Leonard does another through the windshield-off the front hood-then undercarriage crawl underneath an Army transport truck, then up the back and into the driver’s side for another round of fighting.

1982 – Mad Max 2: The Road Warriormad-max-2-the-road-warrior-1981

A case where the sequel is so much better than the original. This film rocks from beginning to end and has an unbelievable chase that lasts the second half of the movie.  Great stunts throughout.

1983 – Project Aproject a clock stunt

Jackie Chan makes a name for himself and becomes a stunt legend in this movie.  From this movie on he is untouchable worldwide as a stuntman that does his own acting or as an actor that does his own stunts, whichever way you want to say it. He created his legendary Jackie Chan Stunt Team for this movie and for years to come sets a new standard for stunt teams worldwide.

1984 – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doomindiana-jones-and-the-temple-of-doom-screenshot

This decade is unique as the decade ruled by Indiana Jones in stunts and action sequences.  The first 3 Indiana Jones films make the list. Also, the second rope bridge sequence to hit since last decade’s The Man Who Would Be King. Vic Armstrong is a stand out here as Harrison Ford‘s stand-in.

1985 – Police StoryPolice-Story-1985-Chinese-Movie

Jackie Chan‘s chance to shine in a modern setting this time, and to really showcase what the Jackie Chan Stunt Team can do.  To be quite frank about this movie, it’s all stunts from start to finish and I’m surprised that all the stuntmen survived the making of this film. It’s amazing.

1986 – A Better TomorrowA Better Tomorrow Pic

The combination of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat is just too good to be true.  This film is viewed by many as the finest action film ever to come out of Chinese cinema, and put both Woo and Yun Fat in Hollywood’s viewport.  John Woo really gets Chow Yun Fat to do some fun stuff in this movie.  Very bloody stuff though.

1987 – Lethal WeaponLethalWeapon_Quad_SMALL_zpsf1d5e6c0

The next two films became great series and both just happened to be set during Christmas.  Lethal Weapon became the standard for buddy-buddy cop movies.  This film is dedicated to legendary stuntman Dar Robinson who died the year before, and features some great fight choreography by Cedric Adams, Dennis Newsome, and Rorion Gracie and a great backward high fall by actress Jackie Swanson. 

1988 – Die Harddie hard hans gruber

This movie became the template for many action films to come for years after it was made.  So much so, that pitching an action screenplay to studios became as easy as saying, “It’s Die Hard on a plane… or It’s Die Hard on a boat”.  The whole film rocks, but the highlight here is Ken Bates as he doubles for Alan Rickman in a fall from the Nakitomi building.

1989 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusadejones45

Five years later, Vic Armstrong does it again as the stand-in for Indiana Jones.  His jump from a horse to a german tank has been voted in the top ten of movie stunts of all time on many lists over the years.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Star Wars: The force to be reckoned with

Star Wars.  THE ultimate space opera.  THE ultimate franchise.  THE ultimate business builder.  Star Wars is THE ultimate success story of all time.  Unless you are living under a rock, you know by now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be opening to just about every theatre on the planet this week (official trailer is below).  This is the latest installment in the greatest franchise of all time.  Star Wars isn’t just about a few movies, it is in itself a galaxy of connected businesses.

According to Box Office Mojo, the six Star Wars movies have earned a total of $4.5 billion in ticket sales worldwide, including $2 billion in the U.S. The films have generated an additional $20 billion in merchandise sales, making George Lucas, the franchise’s creator, a multi-billionaire with a net worth of $3.25 billion.

Now, Disney enters the picture, after buying the rights to Star Wars (and Lucasfilm) from Lucas for a hefty $4.05 billion.  They are poised to ring in the new year with this year’s blockbuster, and next year, they are counting on the Star Wars brand to invigorate their theme parks.  Going to Disneyworld soon?  You can meet Chewbacca, among other things.

Meet Chewbacca
Meet Chewbacca

With the expectations high, this is one franchise that will deliver as promised.  Marketers everywhere are in on the action, and betting big this holiday season.  The old standbys such as the toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel are joined by car companies like Fiat to promote their brands.

Star Wars Fiat Ad
Holiday Fiat Star Wars-themed ad campaign

They’re far from alone.  In Japan, Nippon Airways has taken a bolder action, and have branded their planes.

R2-D2 Nippon Air
Fly with R2 to Japan

As we all are anxiously awaiting the final trilogy in this epic masterpiece, there will be plenty of Star Wars to go around for many, many years to come.  Many, many more billions will be generated by this machine, or is it more fitting to be branded an Empire?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer (Official) on Disney Video


Stunt Team For Raiders of the Lost Ark

 

I’ll be honest, at first I was going to give the nod for 1981 to Dar Robinson for Sharkey’s Machine as his 220 ft fall from the Hyatt Regency was the world’s record for the highest fall from a building for a commercially released film, but only the start of the fall made it into the final film as the rest of the fall is obviously a dummy.  Besides, I had a really hard time not acknowledging a film that has had such a big effect on stunt performers all around the world as Radiers of the Lost Ark has.  It really is viewed as a stunt man’s movie.raiders-of-the-lost-ark

From start to finish, there are layers upon layers of fantastic stunts.  No other series has as many stunts, besides the James Bond series.  Believe it or not you can thank George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s love of the old stunt layered cliffhanger serials of the 30’s and 40’s for creating this movie as well as for their love of Carl Barks.  Carl Barks, you say?  Yes, indeed, it’s their love of the old Uncle Scrooge McDuck adventures that Indiana Jones was born.

The opening scene in the lost South American temple is partly based on a classic Disney Ducks adventure written by the legendary artist Carl Barks, many of whose comic books have inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Exploring a lost temple, Donald Duck, his nephews, and Scrooge McDuck must evade a succession of booby traps, like flying darts, a decapitating blade, a huge boulder, a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water, etc., in the story “The Prize of Pizarro” (“Uncle $crooge” no. 26, June-August 1959), which hit the newsstands when Lucas and Spielberg, both avowed fans of that comic book, were respectively 15 and 12 years old. Another Barks story, “The Seven Cities of Cibola” (“Uncle $crooge” no. 7, September 1954), has a native American lost city and a valuable idol that triggers a giant round rock to smash everything in its way.

But how can you have a movie like this with so many stunts and not pay tribute to some of the old time legendary stunt men? You can’t! When Indy is dragged under and then out behind a moving truck, it’s a tribute toYakima Canutt’s similar famous stunt in John Ford’s Stagecoach. In fact, it was a stunt that stuntman Terry Leonard had tried to pull off the year before, and failed to do so, on The Legend of the Lone Ranger. He was thrilled at the chance of having another shot at it, but only agreed to do it if his friend & colleague Glenn Randall Jr. was driving. The truck was specially constructed to be higher above the ground than normal so as to allow clearance for Indiana Jones to pass underneath safely. The center of the road was also dug out to allow more clearance. In Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark we see, on the camera slate, that the camera was set at 20 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 fps; in other words, the shots were done in “fast motion,” so the truck was not really moving as fast as depicted on screen.raiders truck drag

Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck for some of the shots, badly bruising his ribs. When asked if he was worried, Ford quipped: “No. If it really was dangerous, they would have filmed more of the movie first.” During the chase, Harrison Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of which are playing German soldiers. Terry Leonard plays the driver of the truck, who gets punched out of the cab by Harrison. Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers hanging onto the side of the truck before being knocked off. The truck chase took approximately eight weeks to film.  It’s interesting to note that it was also these three stunt men to double Harrison Ford throughout the film: Vic Armstrong when riding the horse; Martin Grace at the falling statue and Terry Leonard when pulled behind the truck.

A few interesting notes, renowned British wrestler Pat Roach gets killed twice in this film – once as a giant Sherpa left in the burning Nepalese bar and once as the German mechanic chewed up by the plane’s propeller.  Also, Director Steven Spielberg admitted in the “Making of” DVD that watching the stage hands preparing the Well of Souls set by laying out the thousands of snakes for the scene really made him nauseous–even to the point where he nearly wanted to puke a few times. raiders-of-the-lost-ark-imaxRaiders of the Lost Ark is directed by Steven Spielberg for LucasFilm.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

  • Raiders of the lost Ark
  • Steven Spielberg
  • LucasFilm
  • Harrison Ford
  • Vic Armstrong
  • Terry Leonard
  • Martin Grace

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia:  Lucasfilm Ltd., LLC is an American film and television production company that is best known and responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971. Originally founded in San Rafael, CA a number of operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005 where Lucasfilm has continued as a leader in developing new film technology inspecial effects, sound, and computer animation, and because of their expertise its subsidiaries often help produce non-Lucasfilm pictures. Lucasfilm was acquired in 2012 by The Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PMhttp://brothers-ink.com/books/100-years-of-the-best-movie-stunts/

Vic Armstrong and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

 

The stunt where he jumps from a horse onto a German tank was voted one of the Top Ten film stunts of all time by a panel of experts and Sky Movies viewers in the UK in 2002.  In 2001, the Academy presented Vic Armstrong with a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for development of the Fan Descender and use of it throughout the years.jones45

Vic Armstrong wrote a very good account of this stunt in his autobiography, The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman: My Life as Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman and Other Movie Heroes.  According to The Guinness Book of World Records, he is the world’s most prolific stuntman.

Another interesting point is, Sean Connery was always Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play Indiana Jones’s father, as an inside joke to say that James Bond is the father of Indiana Jones. If that had failed, Gregory Peck and Jon Pertwee were back-up choices for the role. Spielberg had always wanted to do a Bond film but did Indiana Jones as a James Bond type character. In keeping with the James Bond theme, the movie has many Bond movie co-stars: John Rhys-Davies, Alison Doody, Julian Glover, Stefan Kalipha, Pat Roach, Eugene Lipinski and Vernon Dobtcheff.jones23

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was directed by Steven Spielberg for LucasFilm.

Things to look up (go to IMDB page):

  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Vic Armstrong
  • Harrison Ford

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by Wikipedia: Fan Descender – Modern technology and new materials have contributed enormously to the stunt business. In the early days, stuntmen would perform high falls onto hay, but this was replaced by the miracle of empty cardboard boxes, which, when stacked correctly, would collapse and break the fall. Jackie Chan and his popular stunt team, still use this technique. As they say: ‘it isn’t the fall that hurts but the stopping’! Cardboard boxes have since been superseded by the airbag, with multiple chambers to stop it collapsing if it develops a tear. The multi-chamber airbag has enabled stuntmen to fall more safely from much greater heights.jones54

A device called a ‘fan descender’, which was invented in the early 1980s by Vic Armstrong for a movie called Green Ice, enables a stunt person to fall from great heights at a controlled speed. It has been used all over the world, on such movies as the Indiana Jones trilogy, through to Titanic, and recently earned an award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

Harrison Ford: promising carpenter’s career cut short

Harrison Ford was at a crossroads.  He could continue to be a craftsman, and build decks for the rich and famous, or he could throw that all away and aspire to be an actor.

He chose the latter.  Or rather, it chose him.

As has been widely accounted, the story of Harrison Ford’s meteoric rise to stardom came from a serendipitous event.  He was doing a masterful job fitting a door for Francis Ford Coppola at his American Zoetrope studio, when Coppola saw that his co-founder, George Lucas, needed someone to read lines to the actors auditioning for a campy space opera called Star Wars.  Lucas remembered Ford from their time on the set of Lucas’ previous film American Graffiti.  He also remembered the brash Ford asking for $15 more per week above the $485 Lucas offered him for his role in said film.  Ford told him that it made up for the money he would lose by not doing carpentry work.

Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.
Harrison Ford, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.

That story has been told already.

Little do many know, however, what a craftsman Ford really was.  Ford took to carpentry to salvage a fixer-upper he bought in the Hollywood Hills.  Just like acting, he had no previous training.  That said, he was no slouch with a hammer and nails.  His first carpentry job was to build a recording studio for Sergio Mendes.  He admittedly had problems.  He once said that he was standing on Mendes’ roof with a textbook in his hand.  Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself.  He also made a sun deck for Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H, Back To School), and cabinets and furniture for Richard Dreyfus, John Gregory Dunne and Valerie Harper.

It wasn’t until the release of Star Wars that Ford finally hung up the tool belt.  That was a banner day for woodworkers everywhere.