Horror on the Lens: Dementia 13 (dir by Francis Ford Coppola)

(I originally shared this film back in 2011 and 2019 — can you believe we’ve been doing this for that long? — but the YouTube vid was taken down both times!  So, I’m resharing it today!)

For today’s excursion into the world of public domain horror, I offer up the film debut of Francis Ford Coppola.  Before Coppola directed the Godfather and Apocalypse Now, he directed a low-budget, black-and-white thriller that was called Dementia 13.  (Though, in a sign of things to come, producer Roger Corman and Coppola ended up disagreeing on the film’s final cut and Corman reportedly brought in director Jack Hill to film and, in some cases, re-film additional scenes.)

Regardless of whether the credit should go to Coppola, Corman, or Hill, Dementia 13 is a brutally effective little film that is full of moody photography and which clearly served as an influence on the slasher films that would follow it in the future.  Speaking of influence,Dementia 13 itself is obviously influenced by the Italian giallo films that, in 1963, were just now starting to make their way into the drive-ins and grindhouses of America.

In the cast, keep an eye out for Patrick Magee, who later appeared as Mr. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange as well as giving a memorable performance in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat.  Luana Anders, who plays the duplicitous wife in this film, showed up in just about every other exploitation film made in the 60s and yes, the scene where she’s swimming freaks me out to no end.

Horror on the Lens: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Dennis Jakob, and Jack Nicholson)

Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “I’d love to see a movie where a youngish Jack Nicholson played a French soldier who, while searching for a mysterious woman, comes across a castle that’s inhabited by both Dick Miller and Boris Karloff?”

Of course you have!  Who hasn’t?

Well, fortunately, it’s YouTube to the rescue.  In Roger Corman’s 1963 film The Terror, Jack Nicholson is the least believable 19th century French soldier ever.  However, it’s still interesting to watch him before he became a cinematic icon.  (Judging from his performance here and in Cry Baby Killer, Jack was not a natural-born actor.)  Boris Karloff is, as usual, great and familiar Corman actor Dick Miller gets a much larger role than usual.  Pay attention to the actress playing the mysterious woman.  That’s Sandra Knight who, at the time of filming, was married to Jack Nicholson.

Reportedly, The Terror was one of those films that Corman made because he still had the sets from his much more acclaimed film version of The Raven.  The script was never finished, the story was made up as filming moved alone, and no less than five directors shot different parts of this 81 minute movie.  Among the directors: Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, and even Jack Nicholson himself!  Perhaps not surprisingly, the final film is a total mess but it does have some historical value.

(In typical Corman fashion, scenes from The Terror were later used in the 1968 film, Targets.)

Check out The Terror below!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: 1990 — 1993

Troll 2 (1990, dir by Claudio Fragasso, DP: Giancarlo Ferrando)

It (1990, dir by Tommy Lee Wallace, DP: Richard Lieterman)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Armando Nannuzzi)

The People Under The Stairs (1991, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Sandi Sissel)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, dir by David Lynch, DP: Ron Garcia)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Michael Ballhaus)

Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993, dir by Kevin S. Tenney, DP: David Lewis)

Cronos (1993, dir by Guillermo Del Toro, DP: Guillermo Navarro)

8 Shots From 8 Films: Special Robert Evans Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

92 years ago today, Robert Evans was born in New York City.  He started out working in his brother’s clothing business but a chance meeting with actress Norma Shearer led to him becoming an actor.  And while Evans, by his own account, was not a particularly good actor, he did prove himself to be very skilled at playing the games of Hollywood.  Evans eventually moved from acting to production, first as an executive at Paramount and then as an independent producer.

He lived a life as glamorous and tumultuous as the stars of his pictures and his memoir, The Kid Stays In The Picture, is considered to be one of the classic show biz autobiographies.  He hung out with cinematic rebels like Jack Nicholson and Robert Towne and counted Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a friend.  He suggested that Francis Ford Coppola should direct The Godfather and, when Paramount put pressure on Coppola to cut the film down to two hours, it was Evans who famously announced that a two-hour Godfather was nothing more than a trailer.  He lost Ali MacGraw to Steve McQueen and, again by own account, he lost a lot of potentially productive years to cocaine.  (The Cotton Club scandal is one of the wildest in the history of Hollywood, though it should be noted that Evans himself was never charged with any wrongdoing.)  But, for all that he lost, Evans continues to gain admirers as being the epitome of the producer who was willing to take chances.  For all of his flamboyance, Evans had an eye for good material and the willingness to protect his directors.  In many ways, he was as important to the cinematic revolution of the 70s as the directors that he hired.  When Evans passed away in 2019, it was truly the end of an era.

Here, in honor of the birth and legacy of Robert Evans, are 8 Shots from 8 Films that Evans produced, either as studio chief at Paramount or as an independent producer.

8 Shots From 8 Robert Evans Films

Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir by Romnn Polanski, DP: William A. Fraker)

Love Story (1970, dir by Arthur Hiller, DP: Richard Kratina)

The Godfather (1972, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

Chinatown (1974, dir by Roman Polanski, DP: John A. Alonzo)

Marathon Man (1976, dir by John Schlesinger, DP: Conrad Hall)

The Cotton Club (1984, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Stephen Goldblatt)

The Two Jakes (1990, dir by Jack Nicholson, DP: Vilmos Zsigmond)

Sliver (1993, dir by Phillip Noyce, DP: Vilmos Zsigmond)

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Gordon Willis Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

Today the Shattered Lens celebrates what would have been the 91st birthday of the great cinematographer, Gordon Willis.  Willis was the master of using shadow and underexposed film to create some of the most haunting movie images of the 70s and 80s.  He was also one of the first cinematographers to take advantage of the so-called “magic hour,” that moment when the sun is setting and everything is bathed in a golden glow.  Today, everyone does that but Willis was the first.

Willis has often been cited as one of the most influential cinematographers of all time but, amazingly, Willis would receive only two Academy Award nominations (for Zelig and The Godfather Part III) and he would never win a competitive Oscar.  Remember that, the next time someone argues that the Oscars are the final arbitrator as far as cinematic quality is concerned.

(Actually, does anyone argue that anymore?)

In memory of Gordon Willis, here are….

6 Shots From 6 Gordon Willis Films

End of the Road (1970, dir by Aram Avakian, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

The Godfather (1972, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

The Parallax View (1974, dir by Alan J. Pakula, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

The Godfather Part II (dir by Francis Ford Coppola, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

All The President’s Men (1976, dir by Alan J. Pakula, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

Manhattan (1979, dir by Woody Allen, Cinematography by Gordon Willis)

Scenes That I Love: “I Love The Smell of Napalm in the Morning” from Apocalypse Now (Happy birthday, John Milius!)

Today, the Shattered Lens celebrates the 78th birthday of the iconic screenwriter and director, John Milius!

While director Francis Ford Coppola definitely put his own stamp on 1979’s Apocalypse Now, the film started life as a script written by John Milius and the film itself is full of dialogue that could only have been written by Milius.  The most famous example is Robert Duvall’s monologue about the smell of napalm in the morning.  Actually, the entire helicopter attack feels like pure Milius.  Reportedly, Duvall’s character was originally named Colonel Kharnage but, by the time the movie was made, his name had become Kilgore.  It’s still not exactly a subtle name but it’s not quite as obvious as Kharnage.

(When James Caan read the script, he loved the role so much that he was offended to not be offered it and, as a result, he turned down offers to play not only Willard but also Kurtz.)

Happy birthday, John Milius!

6 Shots From 6 Films: Special Robert Duvall Edition

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

Today, we celebrate the 91st birthday of one of the finest American actors out there, Mr. Robert Duvall.  Ever since he made his film debut in 1962’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Duvall has been a regular presence in American cinema.  He’s an actor who has appeared in some of the best American films ever made (The Godfather, Network, Apocalypse Now, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tender Mercies, and others) and he’s played a wide variety of characters.  He’s been everything from a lawyer to a cowboy to a network executive to a professional criminal to a cop and he’s never been less that convincing.  He’s got a filmography about which anyone would be jealous.  And, at an age when most actors have retired, Duvall is still working and taking the occasional part.

On a personal note, I have to say that, for someone who was born in California, raised in Maryland, and who started his career in New York, Robert Duvall is one of the few actors to have perfected both the Southern and the Southwestern accent.  Whenever I see him playing a Texan, I always have to remind myself that he’s not actually from around here.

In honor of Robert Duvall’s birthday, here are….

6 Shots From 6 Robert Duvall Films

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962, dir by Robert Mulligan, DP: Russell Harlan)

MASH (1970, dir by Robert Altman, DP: Harold E. Stine)

Apocalypse Now (1979, dir by Francis Ford Coppola, DP: Vittorio Storaro)

True Confessions (1981, dir by Ulu Grosbard, DP: Owen Roizman)

The Apostle (1997, dir by Robert Duvall, DP: Barry Markowitz)

The Judge (2014, dir by David Dobkin, DP: Janusz Kamiński)

What Could Have Been: The Godfather, Part II

Years ago, I wrote a post called What Could Have Been: The Godfather, in which I discussed all of the actors and the directors who were considered for The Godfather. 

It remains one of the most widely viewed posts that we’ve ever had on this site.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise.  People love The Godfather and they love playing What If?  Would The Godfather still have been a classic if it had been directed by Otto Preminger with George C. Scott, Michael Parks, Burt Reynolds, and Robert Vaughn in the lead roles?  Hmmm …. probably not.  But, in theory, it could have happened.  All of them were considered at one point or another.

However, in the end, it was Francis Ford Coppola who directed The Godfather and it was Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Cann, and Robert Duvall who brought the Corleone family to life.  The Godfather, as everyone knows, was a huge hit and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.  As the film ended with the future of the Corleone family still up in the air, there was obviously room for a sequel.

When Paramount Pictures first approached Coppola about writing and directing a sequel, he turned them down.  He said he was done with The Godfather and didn’t see any way that he could improve on the story.  It’s debatable whether or not Coppola truly felt like this or if he was just holding out for more money.  It is known that Coppola did suggest to Paramount a possible director for Part II and that director’s name was Martin Scorsese.

What would Martin Scorsese’s The Godfather Part II have looked like?  It’s an intriguing thought.  At the time, Scorsese was best-known for Mean Streets and it’s probable that Scorsese’s film would have been a bit messier and grittier than Coppola’s version.  If Coppola made films about the upper echelons of the Mafia, Scorsese’s interest would probably have been with the soldiers carrying out Michael’s orders.  While Scorsese has certainly proven that he can handle a huge productions today, he was considerably younger and much more inexperienced in the early 70s.  To be honest, it’s easy to imagine Scorsese’s Godfather Part II being critically and commercially rejected because it would have been so different from Coppola’s.  A failure of that magnitude would have set back Scorsese’s career and perhaps even led to him returning to Roger Corman’s production company.  As such, it’s for probably for the best that Coppola did eventually agree to shoot the sequel, on the condition that Coppola be given creative control and Paramount exec Robert Evans not be allowed on the set.  While Coppola was busy with Godfather Part II, Scorsese was proving his versatility with Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore.

After Coppola was signed to direct, the next best question was whether or not Marlon Brando would return to play the role of Vito Corleone.  The film’s flashback structure would ensure that Vito would remain an important character, despite his death in the first film.  Coppola reportedly considered offering Brando the chance to play the younger version of Vito but he changed his mind after he saw Robert De Niro in Scorsese’s Mean Streets.  Still, it was felt that Brando might be willing to show up in a cameo during the film’s final flashback, in which Michael tells his family that he’s enlisted in the army.  Frustrated by Brando’s refusal to commit to doing the cameo, Coppola told him to show up on the day of shooting if he wanted to do the film.  When Brando didn’t show, the Don’s lines were instead rewritten and given to Tom Hagen.  It’s hard not to feel that this worked to the film’s advantage.  A last-minute appearance by Brando would have thrown off the film’s delicate balance and probably would have devalued De Niro’s own performance as the younger version of the character.

Brando wasn’t the only member of the original cast who was hesitant about returning.  Al Pacino held out for more money, which makes sense since he was literally the only cast member who could not, in some way, be replaced.  Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza in the first film, however learned that he that hard way that he was not quite as indispensable as Al Pacino.  In Part II, Clemenza was originally meant to have a large role in both the flashbacks and the present-day scenes.  However, when Castellano demanded more money and the right to rewrite his own lines, the older Clemenza was written out the film and replaced by the character of Frankie Petangeli (played by Michael V. Gazzo).

It’s impossible to find fault with Gazzo’s performance but it’s still hard not to regret that Castellano didn’t return.  Imagine how even more poignant the film’s final moments would have been if it had been the previously loyal Clemenza who nearly betrayed Michael as opposed to Frankie?  Indeed, even after the part was rewritten, many of Frankie’s lines deliberately harken back to things that Clemenza said and did during the first film.  Because Clemenza is a very prominent character during the film’s flashbacks, his absence in the “modern” scenes is all the more obvious.

When the role of Young Clemenza was cast, it was still believed that Richard Castellano would be appearing in that film.  One of the main reasons that Bruno Kirby was selected for the role of Young Clemenza was because Kirby had previously played Castellano’s son in a television show.  Also considered for the role was Joe Pesci, who was working as a singer and a comedian at the time.  (His partner in his comedy act was Frank Vincnet.)  If Pesci had been cast, he would not only have made his film debut in The Godfather Part II but the film also would have been his first pairing with Robert De Niro.  (Interestingly enough, Frank Sivero — who played Pesci and De Niro’s henchman, Frankie Carbone, in Goodfellas, also had a small role in Godfather Part II, playing Vito’s friend, Genco.)

As for the film’s other new major character, there were several interesting names mentioned for the role of gangster Hyman Roth.  Director Sam Fuller read for the role and Coppola also considered Elia Kazan.  Perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned as a possible Roth was that of James Cagney.  (Cagney, however, made it clear that he was content to remain retired.)  In the end, the role was offered to Al Pacino’s former acting teacher, Lee Strasberg.  Like Gazzo, Strasberg made his film debut in The Godfather Part II and, like Gazzo, he received his only Oscar nomination as a result.

The legendary character actor Timothy Carey (who was courted to play Luca Brasi in the first film) met with Coppola to discuss playing Don Fanucci, the gangster who is assassinated by Vito.  A favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s, Carey reportedly lost the role when he pulled out a gun in the middle of the meeting.

Originally, the film was supposed to end in the mid-60s, with a now teenage Anthony Corleone telling Michael that he wanted nothing to do with him because he knew that Michael had Fredo murdered.  (That famous scene of Michael bowing his head was originally supposed to be in response to Anthony walking out on him as opposed to the sound of Fredo being shot.)  Cast in the role of teenage Anthony was actor Robby Benson so perhaps it’s for the best that the scene was ultimately not included in the film.

Some of the smaller roles in Part II were played by actors who were considered for larger roles in the first film.  The young Tessio was played by John Aprea, who was also considered for the role of Michael.  Peter Donat, who played the lead Senate counsel in Part II, was considered for the role of Tom Hagen.  The rather tall Carmine Caridi, who played Camine Rosato in Part II, was originally cast as Sonny until it was discovered that he towered over everyone else in the cast.  And, of course, Robert De Niro famously read for the role of Sonny and was cast in the small role of Paule Gatto before he left The Godfather to replace Al Pacino in The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  (Of course, the whole reason that Pacino left The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight was so he could play the role of Michael in The Godfather.  In the end, it all worked out for the best.)

Finally, former teen idol Troy Donahue played Connie Corleone’s second husband, Merle Johnson.  Merle Johnson was Troy Donahue’s real name.

Personally, I think The Godfather Part II is one of the few films that can be described as perfect. Still, it’s always fun to play what if.

Scene That I Love: A New Year In Cuba From The Godfather, Part II

Happy New Year!

Well, the clock has now struck midnight on the West Coast and that officially means that it is 2022 in the United States!  It’s a new year, which means that we have another chance to get things right or, at the very least, not repeat the mistakes of the previous year.

I’m looking forward to 2022 for a number of reasons.  We’ve got a lot planned here at Through the Shattered Lens.  So, what better way to start things off than by sharing a scene that I love from one of the greatest and most important films of all time, 1974’s The Godfather Part II?

The scene below takes place on New Year’s Eve.  The scene starts in 1958 and it ends in 1959.  Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his brother Fredo (John Cazale) are in Havana at the invitation of Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg).  Roth know that Cuba could be a gold mine for the American mob but Michael, from the start, realizes that the country’s corrupt government is on the verge of collapse.  Tragically, it’s also in Havana that Michael realizes that Fredo betrayed him to his enemies.

On December 31st, 1958, as the corrupt and wealthy celebrate a new year in Havana, the communist rebels ride into the city.  While the President of Cuba prepares to announce that he will be fleeing the country, Michael confronts his brother and tells him that he knows the truth.  Later, as they both attempt to flee the country, Michael and Fredo see each other on the streets.  Fredo runs from Michael, refusing his offer to help.  Though Fredo would eventually return to the family, the film’s ending revealed Fredo’s first instinct was the correct one.

Much of the scene below is based on fact.  The Cuban government did fall on New Year’s Eve and Fidel Castro and his rebels did triumphantly ride into Havana on January 1st.  Before Castro came to power, the Mafia did have a major stake in Cuba and reportedly quite a few mobsters were in Havana when Castro took over.  Meyer Lansky (on whom the film’s Hyman Roth was based) was one of the many mob officials who were rumored to have caught the last flight off of the island.  Seeking to be the only mob boss in his country, Castro did force the Mafia out of Cuba, which led to an alliance between organized crime and the CIA to try to overthrow Castro.  At the time that The Godfather Part II was released, the details of the CIA and the Mafia’s attempts to assassinate Castro were just starting to be revealed to the public.  As powerful as the scene below is today, it probably resonated even more with audiences in 1974.  In 1974, this was all still recent history and it undoubtedly brought to mind the still-fresh national trauma of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.

Beyond the historical significance of the scene below, it also features brilliant work from two actors who will forever be linked together, Al Pacino and the late John Cazale.  Cazale and Pacino first met while they were both working off-Broadway, years before Mario Puzo even started writing the novel that would become The Godfather.  They were close friends and, along with co-starring in The Godfather films, they also played bank-robbing partners in Dog Day Afternoon.  Tragically, John Cazale died of cancer at the age of 42.  He only appeared in five films, every one of which was nominated for Best Picture and one could argue that the Academy’s failure to nominate Cazale for either Dog Day Afternoon or Godfather Part II is one of the most unforgivable oversights in Oscar history.

That said, it’s a new year.  Save the arguing for later.  Here’s a scene that I love:

Horror Film Review: The Terror (dir by Roger Corman, Monte Hellman, Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Jack Hill, and Jack Nicholson)

Can you follow the plot of the 1963 horror film, The Terror?

If so, congratulations!  You’ve accomplished something that even the people who made the film have admitted to being unable to do.

The film opens in 19th century Europe.  Andre Duvalier is an earnest French soldier who has somehow gotten lost in Germany.  Andre is played by a youngish, pre-stardom Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson, that most contemporary, sarcastic, and American of actors, is thoroughly unconvincing as an idealistic Frenchman from 1806.  Obviously unsure of what do with the character, Nicholson delivers his lines stiffly and does what he can to downplay the naturally sardonic sound of his voice.  This is probably the only film where Jack Nicholson is a “nice young man.”

Andre meets a mysterious woman named Helene (played by Sandra Knight, who was Nicholson’s wife at the time).  Helene appears to live in a castle with the Baron (Boris Karloff) and his servant, Stefan (Dick Miller, who makes no effort to come across as being, in anyway, European).  However, Helene bears a distinct resemblance to the Baron’s long-dead wife, Ilse, who the Baron killed after discovering her with another man.  However, a witch in the village claims that Ilse’s lover was her son so she put a curse on the Baron and the presence of Helene is a part of that curse.  However, Stefan claims that the Baron isn’t actually the Baron and and that Ilse’s husband isn’t actually dead.  However….

Yes, there’s a ton of plot twists in this movie, which is probably the result of the fact that the film was shot without a completed script.  In fact, the only reason the movie was made was because Roger Corman had access to Boris Karloff and a castle set that he used for The Raven.  When he discovered that he could use the set for two extra days, he shot some random footage with Boris Karloff and then he tried to build a movie around it.  As a result, the cast and the directors largely made up the story as the filmed.

Yes, I said directors.  While Corman shot the Karloff scenes, he no longer had enough money to use a union crew to shoot the rest of the film.  Because Corman was a member of the DGA, he couldn’t direct a nonunion film. So, he assigned the rest of the film to one his assistants, an aspiring filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola.  Coppola shot the beach scenes and, in a sign of things to come, he went overbudget and got behind schedule.  Coppola was meant to shoot for three days but instead went for eleven.

Though Coppola shot the majority of the film, he got a better job offer before he could do any reshoots.  Coppola suggested that a friend of his from film school, Dennis Jakob, take over.  Jakob shot for three days and reportedly used most of the time to shoot footage for his thesis movie.

Still feeling that the movie needed a few extra scenes to try to make sense of the plot, Corman then gave the film to Monte Hellman and, after Hellman got hired for another job, Jack Hill.  Hellman would later go on to direct films like The Shooting and Two-Lane Blacktop.  Jack Hill would later direct Spider Baby and several other exploitation films in the 70s.  Reportedly, on the final day of shooting, even Jack Nicholson took some time behind the camera.  It was Nicholson’s first directing job.  (Nicholson, for his part, has often said that his original ambition in Hollywood was to become a director and not an actor.)

So, yes, the film’s a bit disjointed.  The plot doesn’t make any sense.  Nicholson shows little of his trademark charisma.  But Dick Miller has a lot of fun as the duplicitous Stefan and Boris Karloff brings his weary dignity to the role of the Baron.  Oddly, even though the Baron’s scene were shot before the script had even been written, they’re the ones that make the most sense.  It’s a messy film but it plays out with a certain hallucinatory style.  It’s a piece of Hollywood history and a testament to Roger Corman’s refusal to waste even two days of shooting.  If you’ve got a star and a set for two days, you’ve got enough for a movie!