Terry Jones, RIP


I just heard the incredibly sad news that Terry Jones has died.  Jones, who was one of the founders of Monty Python and a respected medieval scholar, was 77 years old.  It was announced three years ago that Jones was suffering from a rare form of dementia so his death was not unexpected but it still hurts.

When I was a kid and I was watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus for the first time, I initially did not fully appreciated Terry Jones.  I liked him because I liked every member of Monty Python and every British comedy fan grows up wishing that they could have been a member of the group.  (My favorite was Eric Idle.)  But it was sometimes easy to overlook  Terry Jones’s performance on the show because his characters were rarely as flamboyant as some of the other ones.  He was never as grumpy as John Cleese nor was he as sarcastic as Eric Idle.  Michael Palin (who was Jones’s writing partner long before the two of them become members of Monty Python) cornered the market on both unctuous hosts and passive aggressive countermen.  Meanwhile, Graham Chapman played most of the upright authority figures and Terry Gilliam provided animation.  Terry Jones, meanwhile, often played screeching women and bobbies who said, “What’s all this then?”

It was only as I got older and I came to better appreciate the hard work that goes into being funny that I came to appreciate Terry Jones and his ability to always nail the perfect reaction to whatever lunacy was occurring around him.  It was also as I got older that I started to learn about the origins of Monty Python and what went on behind the scenes.  I learned that Terry Jones was a key player.  Along with writing some of Monty Python‘s most memorable material, he also directed or co-directed their films.  On the sets of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life, Jones provided the structure that kept those films from just devolving into a collection of skits.

Unlike the other members of Monty Python, Terry Jones never really went out of his way to establish an acting career outside of the group.  Instead, he wrote screenplays and serious books on both medieval history and Geoffrey Chaucer.  Appropriately, for a member of the troupe that changed the face of comedy, Jones often challenged the conventional views of history.  Terry Jones was the only man in Britain brave enough to defend the Barbarians.

On the last day of the ninth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Davis, rewarded us for our hard work by showing us what he said was the funniest scene in film history.  The scene that he showed us came from the Terry Jones-directed Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and it featured Jones giving a literally explosive performance as Mr. Creosote.

With thanks to both Mr. Davis and Terry Jones:

Terry Jones, Rest in Peace.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday, Donald Cammell!


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

86 years ago, Donald Cammell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The son of a friend and biographer of the infamous Aleister Crowley, Cammell grew up surrounded by bohemians, artists, and magicians.  After getting his start as a painter and establishing himself as a mainstay of “swinging London,” Cammell pursued a career as a screenwriter and director.

Cammell only completed a total of four films, all of which walked the very thin line between brilliance and pretension.  All four of them have since developed strong cult following but were considered to be financial and critical disappointments when first released.  As a result, Cammell had a difficult time getting anyone to back the majority of his projects.  Cammell also had the misfortune to get involved with Marlon Brando during the latter’s mercurial period.  Brando commissioned Cammell to write and direct at least two films for him before losing interest just before shooting was set to begin.  Frustrated with both his life and his career, Cammell shot himself in 1996.  He reportedly survived for 45-minutes after shooting himself and he spent that time recording his thoughts on life and dying.  Though Cammell died in relative obscurity, his films have since been rediscovered and reevaluated.  His legacy lives on.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Performance (1970, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg)

Demon Seed (1977, directed by Donald Cammell)

White of the Eye (1987, directed by Donald Cammell)

Wild Side (1995, directed by Donald Cammell)

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Rest In Peace, Julie Strain


I just saw that it’s been announced that Julie Strain died yesterday.  She was only 57 years old but had been in poor health for a while.

Julie Strain was known as the Queen of the B-Movies and anyone who grew up watching late night Cinemax in the 90s knows that she deserved the title.  She was 6’1 and her natural athleticism made her a natural for playing strong women who knew how to throw a punch, swing a sword, or shoot a gun.  She always seemed to be having as much fun appearing in the movies as we were having watching them.  It was said that Ginger Rogers could do everything that Fred Astaire did while wearing heels.  Julie Strain could do everything Steven Seagal did while wearing a bikini and she could actually act as well!

Rest in peace, Julie Strain.  Thank you for being good even when the movies were sometimes bad.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Enemy Gold (1993, directed by Andy Sidaris)

The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993, directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette)

Bikini Hotel (1997, directed by Jeff Frey)

Guns of El Chupacabra (1997, directed by Donald G. Jackson)

 

 

Buck Henry, R.I.P.


I just heard that Buck Henry died tonight of a heart attack.  He was 89 years old.

It’s hard to know where to start with Buck Henry.  He did a little bit of everything.  He started out as a comedian in the 50s, appearing on talk shows and claiming to be G. Clifford Prout, the president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA).  SINA was an organization dedicated to clothing animals in order to prevent their “indecency.”  Buck Henry’s delivery was so deadpan that many people thought he actually was G. Clifford Prout and a some even tried to send him donations to help out his cause.  (The donations were always returned.)

Henry went on to work extensively in both television and film.  He wrote the script for The Graduate and played the helpful hotel clerk.  He co-created Get Smart with Mel Brooks.  With Warren Beatty, he co-directed Heaven Can Wait and received an Oscar nomination.  In Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, he had a rare serious role as the gay patent lawyer who helps alien Thomas Jerome Newton set up his corporation and who ultimately gets tossed out of a window by government agents.

During the first few season of Saturday Night Live, Buck Henry hosted a total of ten times.  By many, he was considered to be an unofficial member of the cast.  He was a frequent foil to John Belushi’s samurai character.  Henry’s button-down persona provided the perfect contrast to Belushi’s frenetic performance.  During the October 30th, 1976 episode, Henry was accidentally struck by Belushi’s katana and he ended up with a deep cut on his forehead.  Henry not only continued the skit but he also hosted the rest of the show with a bandage on his forehead.  All of the other members of the cast put bandages on their foreheads as a show of solidarity.

Buck Henry kept working into the new century, appearing on shows like Will and Grace, The Daily Show, and 30 Rock.  He will be missed.

Buck Henry, R.I.P.

 

The Kid Stayed In The Picture: Robert Evans, R.I.P.


Robert Evans was a true Hollywood character and I think that, if he hadn’t existed, someone would have had to have created him.  He went from selling clothes to starring in B-movies to producing blockbusters.  He made and lost and remade a fortune while marrying one of the most beautiful women in the world, Ali MacGraw.  Among his friends were Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Henry Kissinger, and Robert Towne.  Among his enemies was occasionally Francis Ford Coppola, who never would have directed The Godfather if not for Evans’s insistence that he be given the job.  Dustin Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for playing Evans in Wag The Dog.  In Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind, Geoffrey Land played “Max David,” a studio executive who was obviously meant to be Evans.

Bob Evans’s lows were almost as intense as his highs.  Forced out of his position at Paramount, Evans went independent and produced Chinatown.  Evans married Ali MacGraw, just to lose her to Steve McQueen.  He was arrested for cocaine possession and then went on to produce one of the great pop cultural moments of the 80s, the anti-drug tv special, Get High On Yourself.  He lost a fortune on The Cotton Club but made a comeback in the 90s.

In 1994, He also wrote on the greatest Hollywood memoirs of all time, The Kid Stays In The Picture.  Written in Evans’s trademark mix of cynicism and sentiment, The Kid Stays In The Picture tells a warts-and-all story of fast times and big talent in Hollywood.  With both the book and a subsequent documentary of the same name, Robert Evans let the world know who he was and that he wasn’t going to apologize for a damn thing.

Robert Evans died on Saturday, in Beverly Hills.  He was 89 years old and with his passing, an amazing story of Hollywood comes to a close.

Rest in Peace, Bob Evans.

Scenes I Love: Robert Forster in El Camino


Today, I’m taking a break from sharing horror movie scenes that I can pay tribute to the great actor, Robert Forster.

Forster passed away on Friday, shortly after his final film — El Camino — dropped on Netflix.  Forster had a small but pivotal role in the film, reprising the Breaking Bad character of Ed.  Ed may look like a vacuum cleaner repairman but he’s actually the guy you want to see if you need to start a new life far away from New Mexico.

Admittedly, Forster doesn’t say a lot in the scene below.  Aaron Paul’s the one who does most of the talking but then again, Forster wasn’t an actor who needed a lot of lines to make an impression.  Forster excelled at playing down-to-Earth men who may not have said much but who still meant every word that they said.  Forster does so much with just his eyes and his taciturn expression here.  And when he does speak, the lines are killer.

Obviously, this scene is going to count as a spoiler if you haven’t seen El Camino yet.

Robert Forster, R.I.P.  He was one of the greats.

 

RIP Sid Haig: A Career Retrospective


cracked rear viewer

Quick, name an actor who’s played villains opposite everyone from Batman to  James Bond, and Captain Kirk to TJ Hooker. Not to mention sharing screen time with stars like Ann-Margret, Lucille Ball, Lon Chaney Jr, Pam Grier, Nancy Kwan, Lee Marvin, and Anthony Quinn, and working with directors as diverse as Robert Aldrich, Jack Hill, Richard Fleischer, George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, and Rob Zombie.  There’s only one, and his name was Sid Haig, one of the last links to Old Hollywood and an Exploitation Icon, who sadly passed away yesterday at age 80.

Young Sidney Moesian, born 7/17/39 in Fresno, was bitten by the show biz bug early, dancing onstage as a child and even scoring a regional rock hit with his teenage band The T-Birds:

Sid got his acting education paying his dues at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, alongside roommate Stuart Margolin (THE ROCKFORD FILES, DEATH WISH, etc). His…

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