An Actor’s Actor: RIP Martin Landau


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If he had only played Bela Lugosi in the marvelous Tim Burton film ED WOOD and nothing else, Martin Landau would hold a special place in the hearts of film lovers everywhere. But Landau, who passed away July 15 at age 89, was so much more than a one-note actor, leaving behind a body of work that saw him putting his personal stamp on every role he took. He worked with some of the giants of cinema, and slummed it with dreck like THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS ON GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. Mostly, he worked at what he loved best, the craft of acting.

                                         In Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959)

Landau’s breakout role was in the Hitchcock classic NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959), as the sinister sidekick of foreign spy James Mason, menacing stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Hollywood directors certainly took notice of his talents and cast Landau in some great films…

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The Zombie King: RIP George A. Romero


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Way back in 1970, my cousins and I went to a horror double feature at the old Olympia Theater in New Bedford. The main attraction was called EQUINOX , which came highly recommended by Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.  Quite frankly, it sucked, but the bottom half of that double bill was an obscure black & white films that scared the shit out of us! That movie was George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

NOTLD (1968)

From the creepy opening in a cemetery (“They’re coming to get you, Barbara”) to the gross-out shots of zombies feasting on human entrails, from the little girl eating her father’s corpse to the tragic final scene when the hero (a black man, no less!) is shot by the cops, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was an edge-of-your-seat nightmare of horror. There were no stars in it, unless you count Bill Cardille, a local…

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Rest in Peace, George Romero


George Romero has died, at the age of 77.

I wrote this in 2015:

When I say “George Romero,” you probably immediately think of zombies.  And why not?  Night of the Living Dead is perhaps the best known zombie film ever made and Dawn of the Dead is perhaps the second best known.  Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead both have their fervent admirers.  Without the work of George Romero, there would be no Walking Dead.  Without the zombie films of George Romero, countless children would have never grown up to become horror filmmakers.  Without George Romero, there would have been no Italian zombie films, which means that I would never have fallen in love with Italian horror and I wouldn’t have been tweeting about it that day in 2010 when Arleigh asked me if I wanted to be a contributor to this website.

Though he had directed commercials and a few industrial films, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead was George Romero’s first feature film.  His first!  I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to totally change the face and history of cinema with your very first feature film.  All modern horror films owe a debt not only to Night of the Living Dead but to all of Romero’s subsequent films as well.

Romero, himself, didn’t necessarily set out to be a horror film director.  As he himself often said, the main reason that he and his associates made Night of the Living Dead was because they knew there was a market for cheap horror films.  He followed up Night of the Living Dead with Touch of Vanilla, a hippie love story that few people saw.  And while Romero eventually did accept that he would be forever known as a horror filmmaker, his films were always concerned with more than just scaring people.  Whether intentional or not, Night of the Living Dead is a powerful allegory about prejudice and mankind’s inability to work together.  (For all the zombies, the film’s scariest scene comes at the end when the African-American Ben is shot by a redneck deputy and casually tossed onto a pile of bodies.)  The Dario Argento-produced Dawn of the Dead was a satire of consumerism while The Crazies suggested that people were already so crazy that it was hardly necessary for a chemical spill to bring out the worst in us.  In Martin, Romero cast a weary eye on organized religion while Land of the Dead was perhaps Romero’s angriest film, taking on the state of post-911 America.  With films like Creepshow and The Dark Half, Romero showed that he was one of the few directors who could successfully adapt the sometimes unwieldy prose of Stephen King to the screen.  It’s a shame that his long-rumored adaptations of The Stand and The Dark Tower turned out to be just that, rumors.

Yes, George Romero was a great horror filmmaker but more than that, he was a great director period.  He never sacrificed his independence, choosing to make some of his best-regarded movies in Philadelphia.  He never compromised his message, offering up visions of the world that continued to grow bleaker and bleaker.  Though he never received the awards that he deserved or, to be honest, the critical acclaim that he was owed, George Romero will be remembered as one of the most important American filmmakers of all time.

George Romero died, of lung cancer, surrounded by his loved ones.  Reportedly, he died listening to The Quiet Man soundtrack.

Rest in peace, George.

Confessions of a TV Addict #2: A Fan’s Appreciation of Adam West


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Adam West, who died June 9th at age 88, will never be ranked among the world’s greatest thespians. He was no Brando or Olivier, no DeNiro or Pacino. His early career wasn’t very distinguished: one of Robert Taylor’s young charges in the final season of THE DETECTIVES, Paul Mantee’s doomed fellow astronaut in 1964’s ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, the bumbling romantic lead in The Three Stooges’ THE OUTLAWS IS COMING (1965). Were it not for one role, no one would be mourning his loss today. But that one role, as millionaire Bruce Wayne aka BATMAN, captured the imagination of an entire nation, and remains the hero of an entire generation.

It’s hard to describe to anyone who wasn’t a kid in 1966 just what BATMAN meant to us. The series was a comic book come to life, before comics became “dark and brooding” little psychodramas for fanboys. Comic Books were OUR medium…

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Remembering Roger Moore: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (United Artists 1974)


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I didn’t realize Sir Roger Moore was 89 years old when I first heard he’d passed away on May 23. But as Mick Jagger once sang, time waits for no one, and Moore’s passing is another sad reminder of our own mortality. It seemed like Roger had been around forever though, from his TV stardom as Simon Templar in THE SAINT (1962-69) though his seven appearances as James Bond, Agent 007.

There’s always been a rift  between fans of original film Bond Sean Connery and fans of Moore’s interpretation. The Connery camp maintains Moore’s Bond movies rely too much on comedy, turning the superspy into a parody of himself. Many point to his second, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, as an example, but I disagree. I think the film strikes a good balance between humor and suspense, with Roger on-target as 007, and the great Christopher Lee (who’d guest starred in Moore’s syndicated…

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50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (Capitol Records 1967)


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June 2, 1967. The beginning of the so-called “Summer of Love”. The underground hippie culture was grooving toward the mainstream. And those four loveable mop tops, The Beatles , released their eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, on America’s shores, ushering in the concept of “concept albums” that still reverberates in music today. The Fab Four were Fab no more, but genuine artists, with a little help from their friend, producer George Martin.

The Beatles had stopped touring  the previous year, tired of the grind and the hysterical screaming that drowned their music out. They had done some experimenting in the studio with “Revolver”, their previous LP, but “Sgt. Pepper” was something different. Martin and the band members, influenced by both The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out!” discs, utilized then cutting edge studio techniques (tape loops, sound effects, varying speeds) and instrumentations (sitar, harmonium, Mellotron, tubular bells, even…

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