The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1977, directed by David Greene and Gordon Davidson)

What if, instead of being shot by Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald had survived and been put on trial for the murder of President John F. Kennedy?

That’s the question asked by this television film.  John Pleshette plays Lee Harvey Oswald while Lorne Greene plays his attorney, Matt Weldon and Ben Gazzara plays the prosecutor, Kip Roberts.  The film imagines that the trial would have been moved to a small Texas town because Oswald presumably wouldn’t have been able to get a fair trial in Dallas.  While Roberts is forced to deal with his own doubts as to whether or not Oswald actually killed the President, Weldon is frustrated by Oswald’s paranoid and self-destructive behavior.  Oswald insists that he’s a patsy and that he was framed by “them” but he refuses to tell Weldon who they are.

With a running time of four hours, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is a courtroom drama that tries to be fair to both sides and which ends with a frustrating cop-out.  While Weldon presents all of the evidence that real-life conspiracy theorists frequently cite in their attempts to prove Oswald’s innocence, Roberts makes the case that was presented in the Warren Commission.  Unfortunately, the film ends up trying too hard to avoid coming down on one side or the other and just proves that it’s impossible to be even-handed when it comes to conspiracy theories around the Kennedy assassination.  It’s either buy into the idea that it was all a huge conspiracy involving mobsters and intelligence agents or accept that it was just Oswald doing the shooting as a lone assassin.  Trying to come down in the middle, as this film does, just doesn’t work.

John Pleshette does a good job as Oswald and bears a passing resemblance to him.  Because the movie refuses to take a firm stand on whether or not Oswald’s guilty, the character is written as being a cipher who claims to be innocent but who, at the same time, also refuses to take part in his defense.  Pleshette plays up Oswald’s creepy arrogance, suggesting that Oswald was capable of trying to kill someone even if he didn’t actually assassinate JFK.  Both Greene and Gazzara are convincing as the two opposing attorneys, even if neither one of them really does much more than offer up a surface characterization.

The majority of the movie takes place in the courtroom, with a few flashbacks to Oswald’s past included to keep things from getting too stagnant.  When the film was made, people were still learning about the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald might have had something new to tell them.  Seen today, the majority of the film’s evidence seems like old news.  The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald never escapes the shadow of later films, like Oliver Stone’s JFK.

It’s hard not to regret that The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t willing to come definitively down on one side or the other.  Instead, it ends by telling us that we’re the jury and that the only verdict that matters is that one that we come up with.  They could have just told us that at the start of the movie and saved us all four hours.

Parallel Lives (1994, directed by Linda Yellen)

A large group of people gather together one weekend for a fraternity/sorority reunion.  Since college, some of them have become rich and powerful.  Some of them are now famous.  Some of them are now seedy and disreputable.  They all have college memories, though there’s such a wide variety of age groups represented that it’s hard to believe that any of them actually went to college together.  After the men spend the day playing practical jokes and touch football and the women spend the night talking about their hopes and dreams, they wake up the next morning to discover the someone has murdered Treat Williams.  A pony-tailed sheriff (Robert Wagner) shows up to question everyone.

Parallel Lives was made for Showtime with the help of the Sundance Institute.  Today, it’s a forgotten film but, for some reason, it was very popular with American Airlines during the summer of 1997.  That summer, when I flew to the UK, Parallel Lives was one of the movies that we were shown.  (It was the second feature.  The first feature was Down Periscope, a submarine comedy starring Kelsey Grammar.  Fourteen year-old me enjoyed Down Periscope but, in retrospect, it wasn’t much of a flight.)  A month and a half later, when I flew back to the U.S., Parallel Lives was again one of the films shown on the flight!  For that reason, I may be the only person on the planet who has not forgotten that a film called Parallel Lives exists.

Parallel Lives, I later learned, was an entirely improvised film.  The huge cast were all given their characters and a brief outline of the film’s story and they were then allowed to come up with their own dialogue.  Unfortunately, no one did a very good job of it and the men were reduced to bro-ing it up while the women spent most of the movie having extended group therapy.  The story doesn’t add up too much and, even when I rewatched it from an adult’s perspective, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get out of everyone talking about how different the real world was from college.  Technically, the film’s a murder mystery but you can’t improvise a successful murder mystery.  This film proves that point.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there are 26 characters, all trying to get a word in at the same time.  Some of the roles don’t make much sense.  Dudley Moore shows up, playing an imaginary friend.  (How do you improvise being a figment of someone’s imagination?)  James Brolin introduces himself to everyone as being, “Professor Doctor Spencer Jones” and that appears to be as far as he got with his improv.  Ben Gazzara is a gambler and Mira Sorvino is the prostitute that he brings to the reunion while Mira’s father, Paul Sorvino, moons the camera several times.  Jack Klugman is a senator with Alzheimer’s and Patricia Wettig is his daughter.  The majority of the movie centers around Jim Belushi, playing a reporter and falling in love with JoBeth Williams.  Liza Minnelli, Helen Slater, Levar Burton, Lindsay Crouse, Matthew Perry, Ally Sheedy, and Gena Rowlands all have small roles.  How did so many talented people come together to make such a forgettable movie and why did American Airlines decide it was the movie to show people on their way to another country?  That’s the true mystery of Parallel Lives.

Insomnia File #40: The Spanish Prisoner (dir by David Mamet)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, at 3 in the morning on Wednesday, you were struggling to get to sleep, you could have flipped over to Flix and watched the 1998 film, The Spanish Prisoner.

Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) is an engineer.  He’s a quiet, polite, and always considerate man.  At one point, he’s told that he’s “too nice” and, watching him, you can’t help but agree.  Joe works in an otherwise bland office where the walls are covered with menacing posters that, in an accusatory manner, announce, “SOMEONE TALKED!”  Paranoia is in the air but Joe, for whatever reason, seems to be incapable of sensing it.

Joe has just invented something called The Process.  It’s deliberately left obscure just what exactly The Process is but we do know that it stands to make Joe’s boss, Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara), a lot of money.  When Mr. Klein invites Joe and the company lawyer, George (Ricky Jay), to an island retreat, Joe assumes that it’s so Mr. Klein can offer him a lucrative cash bonus as a reward for creating the process.  Instead, it turns out that Mr. Klein has no interest in giving George any extra reward.  Instead, Klein feels that Joe should just be happy to be a part of the company.

On the island, Joe takes a picture of a mysterious man named Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin).  Jimmy offers to give Joe a thousand dollars for the camera.  Joe, instead, hands over the camera for free.  Later, Jimmy tracks down Joe and apologizes for his behavior.  He and Joe strike up an unlikely friendship on the island.  Upon learning that Joe will soon by flying back to New York, Jimmy gives Joe a package to deliver to his sister.  Joe agrees.

It’s not until Joe is on the plane and in the air that he starts to wonder about what’s inside the package.  It doesn’t help that his secretary, Susan (Rebecca Pidgeon), won’t stop talking about you never really know anyone and how easy it is to trick an innocent person into becoming a drug mule.  Finally, Joe steps into the plane’s lavatory, unwraps the package, and….

And that’s all I can tell you without spoiling the film.  The Spanish Prisoner is a film about a dizzying confidence game, one that is full of nonstop twists and turns.  No one in the film turns out to be who you thought they were when you first saw them.  At times, it can be a bit hard to keep up with the plot but that’s actually a part of the fun.  The Spanish Prisoner keeps you guessing and, fortunately, Campbell Scott gives a likable enough performance that you’re willing to explore the maze at the heart of this film with him.  Steve Martin is also wonderfully sinister as Jimmy, using his own “nice guy” image to keep us off-balance.

As you might expect from a film written and directed by David Mamet, the dialogue is heavily stylized.  The characters all move and speak at their own odd rhythm.  Lines that should be innocuous take on a dangerous edge and it becomes impossible not try to read between the lines of even the simplest of exchanges.  It creates a rather dream-like atmosphere, one in which you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s just another part of the game.

The Spanish Prisoner is an intriguing mystery and one that seems like it will definitely reward repeat viewings.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure

Film Review: Capone (1975, directed by Steve Carver)

capone-poster-1Over the course of his legendary career, filmmaker Roger Corman produced two films about the life of Al Capone.  The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which starred Jason Robards as the famous Chicago mobster and featured Jack Nicholson in a two-line role, is the one that everyone remembers.  The other one was simply titled Capone and starred Ben Gazzara.

Capone opens in 1918, with Al Capone as a cunning young criminal who cons his way into the trust of Chicago racketeers Johnny Torio (Harry Guardino) and Frankie Yale (John Cassavetes, appearing in two scenes and probably using his salary to produce The Killing of a Chinese Bookie).  The tough and streetwise Capone works his way up, becoming Torio’s right-hand man before eventually betraying his boss and taking over the Chicago rackets himself.  Al rules Chicago with an iron fist and has an affair with a flapper named Iris (Susan Blakely).  After killing nearly all of his enemies, Al is taken down on a tax evasion charge and, after contracting syphilis, he ends up a pathetic and lonely man, sitting by his pool and ranting about his enemies.

Despite being one of the few movies to depict Al’s final days, Capone makes little effort to be historically accurate.  Instead, it’s a gangster film in the tradition of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and both versions of Scarface, complete with nudity, tough talk, and plenty of tommy gun action.  (Since this is a Roger Corman film, Capone also features Dick Miller and footage that was lifted directly from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.)  There is nothing surprising about Capone but it’s still entertaining.

Al Capone has been played by everyone from Rod Steiger to Robert De Niro to F. Murray Abraham.  Ben Gazzara may not have been the most subtle Capone but he was one of the most watchable.  Gazzara played Al Capone like a snarling animal, always ready to bite anyone who gets too close.  My favorite Gazzara moments come at the end of the film, when a syphilitic Capone bugs his eyes and starts to rave about Bolsheviks.

Today, Capone is best remembered for featuring Sylvester Stallone in the role of Frank Nitti, Al’s right-hand man and eventual successor.  One year later, Rocky would turn Stallone into a superstar and his days of working for Roger Corman would be over.




Insomnia File No. 2: Stag (dir by Gavin Wilding)


What’s an Insomnia File?  You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable?  This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were suffering from insomnia around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned over to Flix and watched Stag, a dreary film from 1997!

And I know what you’re saying.  “Really, Lisa?  I could have watched a dreary film!  WHY DIDN’T SOMEBODY TELL ME!?”  Well, sorry.  Your loss.  Maybe next time you won’t be so quick to resist the call of insomnia…

Anyway, Stag eventually turns out to be pretty bad but it actually has a pretty good opening.  A bunch of rich guys get together in a big house and throw a bachelor party.  Whenever one of them first appears on screen, they get a freeze frame that tells us their name and gives us a few biographical facts.

For instance, one coke-snorting character is introduced as “Jon DiCapri: Soap opera star, spokesman for “Stars Against Drugs.”  A drunk guy begging for money is identified as “Timan Bernard: Accountant, Author of ‘Ethics in Business.'”  The pensive fellow standing by the window and a smoking a cigarette is “Daniel Kane: Gulf war veteran, post traumatic stress disorder,” while the guy running around in a wig and lingerie is “Ed Labenski: Contractor, church treasurer.”  My personal favorite of the introductions belonged to the guy with the neck tattoo and the terrible teeth.  We’re told that he’s “Pete Weber: Drug dealer, extortionist. Self employed.”

Of course, Pete Weber is also Andrew McCarthy, playing a character who is far removed from the world of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire.  And Daniel Kane is actually Kevin Dillon, taking part in the type of misogynistic hi-jinks that would later be celebrated in Entourage.  Jon DiCapri is actually William McNamara, who will always be remembered for his memorable death scene in Dario Argento’s Opera.  As for Timan Bernard, he’s played by John Henson, who was the host of that terrible Wipeout show that was on the air forever despite the fact that nobody in the world would admit to watching it.

And they’re not the only ones at this bachelor party!  The bachelor himself is played by John Stockwell, the director of movies like CheatersCrazy/Beautiful and In The Blood.  His best friend is played by Mario Van Peebles.  Even distinguished character actor Ben Gazzarra is at this bachelor party!

As I said, the film starts out well enough, with the men all acting like idiots and pretty much confirming everything that I’ve always suspected about bachelor parties.  But then the strippers show up and there’s a highly improbable accident and soon there are two dead bodies bleeding out on the linoleum floor of John Stockwell’s house.  The rest of the movie is pretty much the men yelling at each other and arguing about what they should do.  Some fear going to jail.  Some want to frame someone else.  Some want to cover up the accident.  A few suggest calling the police but then Andrew McCarthy rips the landline phone out of the wall and, since this movie was made in the 90s, that is literally all he has to do to keep everyone from contacting the outside world.

Despite some decent performances, the film turned out to be pretty tedious.  That said, as I watched it, I found myself wondering how my girlfriends and I would have handled a similar situation.  What if we were throwing a bachelorette party and suddenly Magic Mike ended up lying in the middle of the floor with a broken neck?  To be honest, I get the feeling we’d probably handle it in roughly the same way as the characters in Stag.  We would just be a lot more passive aggressive about it.

“Oh my God, is that guy dead!?”

“I don’t know but that’s what I think Heather said.  But it’s all Amy’s fault and … Bitch, everyone says it’s your fault so unless everyone in the entire world is wrong … whatever, Amy.”

“Oh my God, what are we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know but Vanessa said that maybe we should say that he like never showed up at the party and then she said that Jen said that … oh my God, are those new earrings!?”

“Yeah, do you like them!?”

“They’re so pretty!  Anyway, Jen said that maybe you should like go bury him somewhere…”

“Oh my God, Jen said I should go bury him!?”

“Well, I didn’t hear for sure but Tina said that she heard Vanessa say that Jen said that you should go bury him…”

“That bitch!  I am so going to kick her ass!  Oh my God!”

But anyway, the body would eventually get buried.  Just not by me.

ANYWAY!  What was I talking about?

Right … Stag.

It’s not a very good movie.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind

Shattered Politics #66: The List (dir by Sylvain Guy)

The List

“No one pays $15,000 for a back rub.” — Words of wisdom from The List (2000)

 Oh my God.

Listen, I have seen some truly terrible films before but very few were as bad as the 2000 thriller The List.  The List is not just bad.  Instead, it’s bad on a level that very few films manage to reach.  It’s almost as bad as April Rain and that’s pretty bad.

(It’s also currently available on Netflix, just in case anyone wants to take the risk.)

The film opens with a lingerie-clad woman (Madchen Amick) reading the U.S. Constitution to a fat, naked, middle-aged man.  We discover that he’s a judge when she calls him, “your honor.”

“I am no longer your honor,” the naked fat guy says, “I am your dishonor.  And, as for the founding fathers, fuck them.”


Anyway, then the police come rushing into the room and arrest both the woman and the judge.  It turns out that the woman is Gabrielle Mitchell (Madchen Amick), a prostitute who is exclusively used by the rich and powerful.  She has a list of her clients, one of whom happens to be the governor of New York state.

Despite the best efforts of her over-the-top pimp Dom Roselli (Roc LaFortune), Gabrielle is convicted and sentenced to prison.  Hoping to get a few years taken off of her sentence, Gabrielle testifies at the judge’s trial.  She hands the list over to yet another judge, Andrew Miller (Ryan O’Neal).

Andrew, who is conservative and very religious, has recently been nominated to the state supreme court.  However, now that he has the list, he find himself being threatened by shadowy figures, one of whom tries to stuff a cow’s tongue down his throat.  Or something like that. I’m not really sure what was going on in that scene and dammit, I’m not going to waste any more of my life trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s associates are also being murdered.  Written in blood near every body: Snitching Pigs Die!

So, if a bunch of community theater actors got together with a film school drop out and attempted to make a film out of a script written by a 16 year-old with authority issues, the end result would look a lot like The List.  When Andrew  holds a press conference, there are about 6 reporters present and only two of them get to ask questions.  When the bad guys all meet to discuss what should be done about Gabrielle, they appear to be sitting in a community college study room.  When a character is found dead, it’s obvious that some crew members got a little bit enthusiastic about splashing red paint all over the set.  The actors may trip over their lines and they may seem frequently confused by what their saying but, obviously, this was one of those films were second takes were considered to be too expensive.

Did I mention that Ben Gazzara is in this thing?  Because he so is!  I can’t being to imagine what path could have led Gazzara from co-starring in Anatomy of a Murder to appearing in something like The List but, let it be said that he actually gives a pretty good performance.  Or, at the very least, he does the best with what he’s been given.

Ryan O’Neal on the other hand…

O’Neal wanders through the film, watching the action through bloodshot eyes and defiantly refusing to show the slightest hint of emotion or interest.  It’s an interesting idea actually, casting an actor who appears to be perpetually hung over in the role of a straight-laced, moralistic judge.

Usually, I make excuses for films that were obviously filmed with next to no budget but seriously, The List could have been made for Avatar money and it would still suck.  I’m sad to say that it doesn’t even manage to raise to the level of being so bad that it’s good.

Instead, it’s just bad.

But, in case you’re into that, it is on Netflix.

6 Super Trailers For A Super Weekend

Well, its Super Bleh weekend, the time of year when everything is just football, football, football!  And Lisa says, “A bleh on both your houses!”  Still, because I love theme posts, here’s the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers — 6 Super Trailers For a Super Weekend!  Yay! 8)

1) J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

He came back from the dead to possess a man’s soul, make love to his woman, and get the vengeance he craved!

2) Texas Adios (1967)

Starring the best, the one and only Franco Nero!

3) H.O.T.S. (1979)

Trailers like this prove that it was apparently a lot easier to be considered attractive back in the 70s.

4) Inglorious Bastards (1977)

I think this film features a former football player so it goes with the whole Super Bowl theme.  Plus, the title was borrowed for Quentin Tarantino’s super Inglorious Basterds.

5) Wild Orchid (1990)

This film was directed by the super Zalman King who passed away on Friday.  R.I.P.

6) Roadhouse (1989)

The film co-stars the even more super Ben Gazzara, who also passed away on Friday. R.I.P.


What could have been: The Godfather

I don’t know about you but I love to play the game of “What if.”  You know how it works.  What if so-and-so had directed such-and-such movie?  Would we still love that movie as much?  Would so-and-so be a star today?  Or would the movie have failed because the director was right to reject so-and-so during preproduction?

I guess that’s why I love the picture below.  Taken from one of Francis Ford Coppola’s notebooks, it’s a page where he jotted down a few possibilities to play the roles of Don Vito, Michael, Sonny, and Tom Hagen in The Godfather.  It’s a fascinating collection of names, some of which are very familiar and some of which most definitely are not.  As I look at this list, it’s hard not wonder what if someone like Scott Marlowe had played Michael Corleone?  Would he had then become known as one of the great actors of his generation and would Al Pacino then be fated to just be an unknown name sitting on a famous list?

(This page, just in case you happen to be in the neighborhood , is displayed at the Coppola Winery in California.)

The production of the Godfather — from the casting to the final edit — is something of an obsession of mine.  It’s amazing the amount of names — obscure, famous, and infamous — that were mentioned in connection with this film.  Below is a list of everyone that I’ve seen mentioned as either a potential director or a potential cast member of The Godfather.  Consider this my contribution to the game of What If….?

Director: Aram Avankian, Peter Bogdonavich, Richard Brooks, Costa-Gravas, Sidney J. Furie, Norman Jewison, Elia Kazan, Steve Kestin, Sergio Leone, Arthur Penn, Otto Preminger, Franklin J. Schaffner, Peter Yates, Fred Zinnemann

Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando): Melvin Belli, Ernest Borgnine, Joseph Callelia, Lee. J. Cobb, Richard Conte, Frank De Kova, Burt Lancaster, John Marley, Laurence Olivier, Carlo Ponti, Anthony Quinn, Edward G. Robinson, George C. Scott, Frank Sinatra, Rod Steiger, Danny Thomas, Raf Vallone,  Orson Welles

Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino): John Aprea, Warren Beatty, Robert Blake, Charles Bronson*, James Caan, David Carradine, Robert De Niro, Alain Delon, Peter Fonda, Art Genovese, Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, Tony Lo Bianco, Michael Margotta, Scott Marlowe, Sal Mineo, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Parks, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Richard Romanus, Gianni Russo, Martin Sheen, Rod Steiger**, Dean Stockwell

Sonny Corleone (played by James Caan): Lou Antonio, Paul Banteo, Robert Blake, John Brascia, Carmine Caridi, Robert De Niro, Peter Falk, Harry Guardino, Ben Gazzara, Don Gordon, Al Letteiri, Tony LoBianco, Scott Marlowe, Tony Musante, Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds***, Adam Roarke, Gianni Russo, John Saxon, Johnny Sette, Rudy Solari, Robert Viharo, Anthony Zerbe

Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duvall): James Caan, John Cassavettes, Bruce Dern, Peter Donat, Keir Dullea, Peter Falk, Steve McQueen, Richard Mulligan, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Ben Piazza, Barry Primus, Martin Sheen, Dean Stockwell, Roy Thinnes, Rudy Vallee****, Robert Vaughn, Jerry Van Dyke, Anthony Zerbe

Kay Adams (played by Diane Keaton): Anne Archer, Karen Black, Susan Blakeley, Genevieve Bujold, Jill Clayburgh, Blythe Danner, Mia Farrow, Veronica Hamel, Ali MacGraw, Jennifer O’Neill, Michelle Phillips, Jennifer Salt, Cybill Shepherd, Trish Van Devere

Fredo Corleone (played by John Cazale): Robert Blake, Richard Dreyfuss, Sal Mineo, Austin Pendleton

Connie Corleone (played by Talia Shire): Julie Gregg, Penny Marshall, Maria Tucci, Brenda Vaccaro, Kathleen Widdoes

Johnny Fontane (played by Al Martino): Frankie Avalon, Vic Damone*****, Eddie Fisher, Buddy Greco, Bobby Vinton, Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Carlo Rizzi (played by Gianni Russo): Robert De Niro, Alex Karras, John Ryan******, Sylvester Stallone

Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo (played by Al Letteiri): Franco Nero

Lucas Brasi (played by Lenny Montana): Timothy Carey, Richard Castellano

Moe Greene (played by Alex Rocco): William Devane

Mama Corleone (played by Morgana King): Anne Bancroft, Alida Valli

Appollonia (played by Simonetta Steffanelli): Olivia Hussey

Paulie Gatto (played by John Martino): Robert De Niro*******, Sylvester Stallone


* Charles Bronson, who was in his mid-40s, was suggested for the role of Michael by the then-chairman of Paramount Pictures, Charlie Bluhdorn.

** By all accounts, Rod Steiger – who was then close to 50 – lobbied very hard to be given the role of Michael Corleone.

*** Some sources claim that Burt Reynolds was cast as Sonny but Brando refused to work with him.  However, for a lot of reasons, I think this is just an cinematic urban legend.

**** Despite being in his 60s at the time, singer Rudy Vallee lobbied for the role of the 35 year-old Tom Hagen.  Supposedly, another singer — Elvis Presley — lobbied for the role as well but that just seems so out there that I couldn’t bring myself to include it with the “official” list.

***** Vic Damone was originally cast as Johnny Fontane but dropped out once shooting began and announced that the project was bad for Italian Americans.  He was replaced by Al Martino.

****** John P. Ryan was originally cast as Carlo Rizzi but was fired and replaced with Gianni Russo.  Ryan went on to play the distraught father in Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive.  Russo went on to co-star in Laserblast.

******* Robert De Niro was originally cast in this role but dropped out to replace Al Pacino in The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  Pacino, incidentally, had to drop out of that film because he was given the role of Michael in The Godfather.

12 Trailers For Easter

Hi there, Happy Easter!  Because it’s the holidays and I happen to love Easter (bunny rabbits! — yay!), I’m going to do a special double-sized edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) Teen-age Gang Debs (1966)

Let’s start things off with a little old school grindhouse.  I like this trailer because I used to be a teen-age gang deb.

2) The Cheerleaders (1973)

In the 60s, there were gang debs and in the 70s, there were cheerleaders.  And there were an awful lot of movies about cheerleaders that apparently were a lot more sordid than Bring It On

3) The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

They’re not just cheerleaders — they’re swinging cheerleaders!  Believe it or not, this was directed by the same Jack Hill who directed Switchblade Sisters and countless Pam Grier films.

4) The Pom Pom Girls (1976)

Eventually, filmmakers ran out different adjectives to place before the word “Cheerleaders.”  And that is how this movie ended up being called The Pom Pom Girls.

5) Cheerleaders Wild Weekend (1978)

When aren’t cheerleaders having a wild weekend?

6) Debbie Does Dallas (1978)

Needless to say, this is the edited version of this particular’s film’s trailer.  If I ever get a chance to watch Debbie Does Dallas, I’ll have to because I live in Dallas.  And if Debbie thinks she’s going to do Dallas better than I do Dallas, she might want to jump off that dream train.  Just saying…

(By the way, I know that there’s a small group of you out there who probably think I’m just using this post an excuse to kid my sister Erin about her high school cheerleading days.  Perish the thought!  In fact, to prove my good intentions, the next 6 trailers will be, in absolutely no way, related to cheerleading.)

7) Two-Moon Junction (1988)

I’m including this trailer specifically for one of our regular and loyal readers.  He knows who he is and here’s hoping he’s having himself a good weekend.

8 ) The Naked Bunyip (1970)

I’ve never seen this film, I just came across it while I was specifically looking up trashy cheerleader-centric trailers on YouTube.  It appears to be an Australian mondo film.

9) Black Samson (1974)

A part of me is really curious to see this film just to see if it’s actually based on the bible story.

10) The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

Film looks terrible but I love that tagline: “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”  I have a feeling that’s what Ray Milland spent all of 1973 telling himself.

11) Capone (1975)

This was on the Fox Movie Channel earlier this week and I actually set the DVR for it.  Ben Gazzara chews the scenery of Al Capone and then a really young Sylvester Stallone pops up as Frank Nitti.  This is one of those 70s mafia films that tries to be The Godfather, just with less running time and a smaller budget.  It’s kinda boring, to be honest.

12) Cannibal Girls (1973)

And finally…

Happy Easter!

Review: The Thomas Crown Affair (dir. by John McTiernan)

In 1968 there was a little caper film titled The Thomas Crown Affair starring the ever-cool Steve McQueen and a radiant Faye Dunaway. The film was considered hip, cool and sexy in its way during the late 60’s. It took 31 years, but a remake was finally made of this film but this time around starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in the roles originally played by McQueen and Dunaway. With some great direction from thriller and action filmmmaker John McTiernan, 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair ends up being the exception to the rule of remakes of older films turning out lesser than the original. This modern and updated version of The Thomas Crown Affair actually surpasses the original McQueen production. McTiernan’s film ably combines humor, thrilling action set pieces, sexy chemistry between the leads and just a beautifully shot film.

Set in New York that never looked as good as shot by McTiernan and his crew, Pierce Brosnan stars and shines as the title character Thomas Crown. Thomas Crown is a suave, roguish and successful businessman who has everything a man could ask for: money, power and any woman he desires.

What does a man like Crown would ever want in life?

The film looks at this and shows that no amount of money in the world could replace the adrenaline rush and thrill of getting acquiring it. Crown does this by staging a complex and elaborate plan to steal a Monet (San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk) from the NY Metropolitan Arts Museum and do so in the middle of the day. His plan goes off without a hitch and with none the wiser. This heist sequence was actually very fun to watch as McTiernan never lost command of the many threads being weaved to pull off Crown’s plan. McTiernan would one-up this with the climactic finish in the same museum but with a sequence I could only call as the anti-heist.

With the heist completed, the film soon introduces Crown’s foil in the form of Rene Russo as insurance investigator Catherine Banning. Ms. Russo never looked more beautiful, sensual and sexy as she did in this film. Her performance as the determined and crafty Banning more than holds up to Brosnan’s roguish and playful performance as Thomas Crown. From the moment she appears onscreen as the camera slowly pans up her silky-stocking leg and garters, Russo dominated the scene and pretty much commanded attention from everyone. This was especially true whenever she shared the screen with Denis Leary as police detective in charge of investigating the Monet heist. Leary’s always a strong performer in any film he’s in but was pretty much lost in the wake of Russo’s performance when both were on the screen.

The rest of the film was pretty much Crown and Banning trying to get into each others’ heads to find the one advantage that would give them an upper-hand in the “game” they’ve both decided to play. It’s hard to see who is chasing who in the film. Is Banning chasing Crown as her one and only suspect for the theft or is Crown playing her as part of a much more complicated scheme to spice his life. These questions swirl within the frame of the heist investigation and the growing relationship between the two strong-willed characters.

To say that Brosnan and Russo’s on-screen chemistry was strong would be a big understatement. The two pretty much sizzle when together. Whether it’s a playful, flirtation during a nice dinner out on the town to the two steamy dance numbers in the middle of the film. When Crown asks Banning if she wanted to dance or does she want to dance the temperature just went up by degrees. Their love scenes together shows that it could still be done with class and also have a sense of playfulness and fun. It also showed that young couples doing love scenes onscreen have nothing on the mature couple.

There’s not much else to say about McTiernan’s remake of the Thomas Crown Affair than to say that he took a good film, that showcased Steve McQueen’s coolness for everyone to see, and made a much more superior production in every sense. The direction was excellent and the cinematography was beautiful in every second shot. The cast performance was very strong with the two leads in Brosnan and Russo acting their hearts out on the screen. This film shows that remakes really are not bad ideas when put into capable hands. It would be nice to see how the sequel — tentatively titled The Topkapi Affair —  to this film turns out with pretty much the same cast and crew returning. I, for one, will be there to see it when it comes out.