Song of the Day: Deborah’s Theme by Ennio Morricone


Today, I arrived home to the sad news that Ennio Morricone, the world’s greatest composer, had passed away at the age of 91.  Morricone was responsible for so many classic film scores that it’s hard to know where to begin.  I imagine I’ll be sharing a lot of his music over the next couple of days.  Some of it will be familiar and hopefully, some of it will inspire our readers to seek out some of his lesser known scores.

For now, I’d like to share one of my favorite Morricone compositions.  This is Deborah’s Theme from Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangster epic, Once Upon A Time In America.

Lisa’s Week In Review: 6/29/20 — 7/5/20


I’ve been up at Lake Texoma and on a mini-vacation this entire week.  I haven’t turned on a television or checked the news since last Sunday and it’s been wonderful.  I’ve spent this week meditating, writing, sunbathing out on the deck, and listening to Lee Horsley read Larry McMurtry’s epic novel, Lonesome Dove.  And while I’m definitely frustrated by the fact that I can’t tan worth a damn, I’m otherwise feeling very relaxed and very much at peace.  I’m ready to face the second half of this year.

It’s funny.  When I came up here, I brought my portable DVD player.  I brought several DVDs.  I think I was assuming that I would spend the whole time watching movies and writing about them.  But once I got up here, I realized that I really, really needed to get some rest.  Like some real, actual rest.  I needed to stop worrying about things and stop pushing myself and just enjoy nature and basically, take care of myself.  So, that’s what I did.  As a result, I didn’t watch a lot of movies this week.  But I now feel so centered that I know I’m going to be able to make up for it next week.  I think that sometimes, we forget how important it is to just rest and get centered with the universe.  I feel like I can breathe again and that’s a wonderful feeling.

ANYWAY — here’s what little I did watch, read, and listen to.

Films I Watched:

  1. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
  2. Athlete A (2020)
  3. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
  4. Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. The Office
  2. Unsolved Mysteries
  3. Warrior Nun

Books I Read:

  1. Lonesome Dove (1985) by Larry McMurtry  (Technically, I didn’t read it as much as I listened to it on Audible.  It’s a great book, though.)

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Adi Ulmansky
  2. Big Data
  3. Bob Dylan
  4. Britney Spears
  5. Calvin Harris
  6. Haim
  7. Jessica Simpson
  8. Kid Rock
  9. Moby
  10. Muse
  11. Phatogram
  12. Rocky and the Bullwinkles
  13. Saint Motel
  14. Taylor Swift

Links From The Site:

  1. Erin shared Film Fun, The Stranger, Hanging On, The First Quarry, Thrilling Love, 4th of July, and Affair With Lucy!  She reviewed Major League, Major League II, The Stratton Story, and Hardball!  She also profiled artist William Jacobson and shared, for the 4th: Vintage Patriotic Posters, The Patriotic Magazine Covers of July 1942, Independence Days Of The Past, and My AmericanaShe also wished America a happy birthday!
  2. Jeff shared music videos from AC/DC, Queen, Sparks, ELO, Tom Petty, and Huey Lewis and the News!  He reviewed Faster, Blue Thunder, The Baltimore Bullet, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Some Kind of Hero, From Noon Till Three, and Three FugitivesHe also paid tribute to Carl Reiner!
  3. I shared a music video by Classified, wished all of you a happy 4th of July, and paid tribute to Peter Walker and Michele Soavi!  I also reviewed Bugsy Malone, Love Me or Leave Me, and Murder, Inc.  And, of course, I shared my June Oscar predictions.
  4. Ryan reviewed King of Nowhere, Billionaire Island, Gideon Falls, and Dead Eyes!

More From Us:

  1. At Days Without Incident, Leonard shared Hamilton’s Wait For It.
  2. Ryan has a Patreon!  Consider subscribing!
  3. At her photography site, Erin shared Ducks, Be Prepared To Stop, House and Flag, In the High Grass, July 3rd, Flag Flying High, and Flower!
  4. At Pop Politics, Jeff shared Election Predictions, The 2000 Year Old Man, and Kanye West For President!
  5. On my music site, I shared music from Adi Ulmansky, Calvin Harris, Lindsey Stirling, Haim, The Big Moon, Lady Gaga, and Cage The Elephant!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #17: Murder, Inc. (dir by Stuart Rosenberg and Burt Balaban)


We all know the famous line from The Godfather.  “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”  Of course, everyone also knows that “It’s not personal.  It’s strictly business.”  There’s another line that’s almost as famous: “One lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”  That line comes from Mario Puzo’s novel.  It’s never actually used in the film though it’s certainly present as a theme.

The idea of organized crime essentially being a huge corporation is hardly a new one.  In fact, it’s become a bit of a cliche.  Nearly every gangster film ever made has featured at least one scene where someone specifically compares their illegal activities to the day-to-day business of politicians and CEOs.  However, just because it’s a familiar analogy, that doesn’t make it any less important.  It’s hard not to think of organized crime as being big business when you consider that, in the 30s and the 40s, the mafia’s assassination squad was actually known as Murder, Inc.

Murder, Inc. was formed in Brooklyn, in the 30s.  It was founded and initially led by a man named Lepke Buchalter.  Lepke was a gangster but, because he was Jewish, he couldn’t actually become a made man.  However, he used that to his advantage when he created Murder, Inc.  The organization was largely made up of non-Italians who couldn’t actually become official members of the Mob.  The major mafia families would hire Murder, Inc. to carry out hits because they knew that, since none of the members were made men, they wouldn’t be able to implicate any of the families if they were caught by the police.

It was a good idea and Lepke and his band of killers made a lot of money.  Of course, eventually, the police did catch on.  A member of the organization by the name Abe Reles was eventually arrested and agreed to be a rat.  Lepke went to the electric chair.  Reles ended up falling out of a window.  Did he jump or was he thrown?  It depends on who you ask.

19 years after Reles plunged from that window and 16 years after Lepke was executed, their story was told in the 1960 film, Murder, Inc.  Lepke was played by David J. Stewart while Reles was played by Peter Falk.  The film is told in a documentary style, complete with a narrator who delivers his lines in a rat-a-tat-tat style.  We follow Reles as he goes to work with Lepke and as he harasses a singer (Stuart Whitman) and his wife (May Britt), forcing them help him carry out a murder and then allowing them to live in a luxury apartment on the condition that they also let Lepke hide out there.  (It’s probably not a surprise that a professional killer wouldn’t turn out to be the best houseguest.)  Eventually, a crusading DA (Henry Morgan) and an honest cop (Simon Oakland) take it upon themselves to take down Murder, Inc.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot that’s surprising about this film but it’s still an entertaining B-movie.  The black-and-white cinematography and the on-location filming give the film an authentically gritty feel.  The action moves quickly and there’s enough tough talk and violent deaths to keep most gangster aficionados happy.  The best thing about the film is, without a doubt, Peter Falk’s portrayal of Abe Reles.  Falk is magnetically evil in the role, playing Reles as a man without a soul.  Even when Reles finally cooperates with the police, the film leaves no doubt that he’s only doing it to try to save himself.  Falk plays Reles like a tough guy who secretly knows that his days are numbered but who has convinced himself that, as long as he keeps sneering and threatening people, the rest of the world will never figure out that he’s been doomed all the time.  The more people he kills, the higher Reles moves up in the corporation and the more he tries to take on the look of a respectable member of society.  But, no mater how hard he tries, Reles always remains just another violent thug.  Falk was deservedly Oscar-nominated for his performance in this film, though he ultimately lost the award to Spartacus‘s Peter Ustinov.

Murder, Inc. may be a low-budget, B-movie but it’s also a classic of gangster cinema.  It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Pete Walker Edition


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!

Today, along with celebrating Independence Day, we are also celebrating the birthday of the great British director, Pete Walker!  Walker is 81 years old today and, if he’s not exactly a household name …. well, he definitely should be.  In fact, if there’s any director from the 70s and the early 80s who is deserves to rediscovered and reappraised, it’s Pete Walker!  He made exploitation films with wit and genuine suspense.  Frightmare is one of the scariest movies that I’ve ever seen.

In honor of Pete Walker’s birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Die Screaming, Marianne (1971, dir by Pete Walker)

The Flesh and Blood Show (1972, dir by Pete Walker)

Frightmare (1974, dir by Pete Walker)

House of Whipcord (1975, dir by Pete Walker)

Happy 4th of July From The Shattered Lens!


Happy Independence Day!

Obviously, this 4th of July is going to be different for a lot of people.  I’m not even sure how many counties are still going to be doing an official fireworks show and I know a lot of people aren’t going to want to spend all day outside, wearing a mask in 100 degree heat.  This is probably the angriest Independence Day in my lifetime and I know there’s some people who are even saying that it’ll be our last because America’s on the verge of collapsing.

Personally, I don’t think it’ll be our last and I think that, though it may not seem like it today, things will get better.  America’s been through tough times before.  If most of the people out there knew as much about history as they thought they did, they’d know that.

Now, myself, I have to admit that I love the whole ritual of fireworks.  I’m a Texan and I’m probably more of a country girl than even I’m willing to admit.  I mean, as sophisticated as I may try to be here on the Shattered Lens, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t own an American flag bikini and if I didn’t kind of get a thrill from the sight of fireworks exploding in the night sky.  In fact, since I’m up at Lake Texoma, I’m planning on spending tonight out on the deck, wearing an American flag bikini while watching fireworks explode over the water.  Of course, I’ll also be writing about classic movies while I do so because I love cinema even more than I love fireworks.

Anyway, here’s my point.  There’s going to be fireworks tonight, whether they’re “legal” or not.  A lot of them will probably be set off by drunk idiots in their backyard.  People have been locked up for a long time.  There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of people are going to be expressing that frustration by making as much noise as possible.  (I don’t blame the people, by the way.  I blame government officials who, instead of understanding people’s frustrations and trying to help them deal with them, have instead used this entire crisis to act like a bunch of petty authoritarians.  A little empathy goes a long way to convincing people to do the right thing.)

So, please, as a favor to me — GET YOUR PETS INSIDE!  KEEP THEM INSIDE!  Seriously, they’re going to be scared to death.  Every 4th of July, our cat hides underneath a bed and refuses to come out until after the fireworks have stopped.  Erin and I usually toss one of his kitty toys under there and he’ll usually end up playing with it until he eventually decides to come out.  It’s funny.  As much as we would worry whenever we saw Doc scramble under the bed, that’s where he feels safe on the 4th of July.  I don’t know if it’s the same for dogs but cats are all about finding a safe place.  Once they do, they can handle just about anything.

Also, please remember that fireworks may be fun to you and me but they’re not fun for people who have served in war and/or who are suffering from PTSD and who might find them triggering.  So, check on your neighbors.  Keep them in mind before you go crazy trying to recreate a combat zone in their neighborhood.

“But Lisa, you just said you love fireworks….”

Yes, I do.  But I love animals and treating people with consideration even more.

Anyway, stay safe out there!  Happy Independence Day from the Shattered Lens!

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Michele Soavi Edition


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!

Today, we wish a joyous 63rd birthday to Italian filmmaker Michele Soavi!

Soavi, of course, started his career as an actor.  You can find him in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Lamberto Bava’s A Blade In The Dark and Demons.  Reportedly, he came close to playing the role that was eventually played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice in The House On The Edge of the Park.  Soavi, however, eventually moved behind the camera.  He was an assistant director on both Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Brothers Grimm.

He also, of course, directed four of the greatest Italian horror films of all time, Stage Fright, The Church, The Sect, and Dellamorte Dellamore.  Though a family tragedy temporarily put his career as a director on hold, Soavi has since returned to directing.

In honor of Michele Soavi and his birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Sect (1991, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #16: Love Me or Leave Me (dir by Charles Vidor)


The 1955 film, Love Me or Leave Me, is a biopic about singer Ruth Etting.

Don’t know who Ruth Etting is?  Well, don’t feel too bad.  I didn’t know who she was either, at least not until I watched this movie.  Judging from the trailer that I’ve embedded at the top of this review, she was apparently well-known enough in the 50s for a biopic about her to be a big deal.  Having now watched Love Me or Leave Me and having done some independent research, I know that Ruth Etting was a popular singer in the 20 and 30s and that she was, for a while, married to a gangster named Marty Snyder (played, in the film, by James Cagney).  I also know that, after her marriage to Snyder ended, she married a composer named Johnny Alderman (played by Cameron Mitchell).

I still couldn’t tell you just how closely Love Me or Leave Me actually sticks to the facts of Etting’s life.  I imagine that there was a quite a bit of liberty taken with the truth, if just because the film was made in 1955 and it’s one of those big, glossy productions where all of the sets are ornate and all of the clothes are to die for and all of the dialogue has an edge that’s somehow both tough and sentimental.  It feels less like real life and more like the way that you would imagine life to be.

The film begins in the roaring 20s, with Marty Snyder intervening when Ruth nearly gets fired for kicking an obnoxious admirer.  For Marty, it’s obsession at first sight and, even after Ruth refuses to spend a weekend in Miami with him, Marty continues to help her out in her career.  Marty uses his considerable clout (and the fact that everyone is scared to death of him and his temper) to get Ruth on the radio and then eventually a job with the Ziegfeld Follies.  Despite the fact that Ruth is in love with Johnny and Johnny is in love with her, she ends up marrying Marty because she feels that she owes her entire career to him.  Even after they get married, Marty continues to be obsessively jealous.  It all eventually leads to a shooting, an arrest, and a final song from Doris Day.

It’s very much a film of the 50s.  I imagine that audiences in 1955 thought it made perfect sense that Ruth would feel that she owed it to Marty to marry him despite the fact that she never really asked him to do anything for her.  Seen today, though, Marty comes across as being a stalker and you really want someone to sit Ruth down and have a conversation with her about it and maybe explain concepts like gaslighting and restraining orders to her.

My advise, though, would be to not think too much about it because seriously, the film’s sets are beautiful, the musical numbers are entertainingly excessive, and Doris Day gives a really good performance.  For those who only know her from the romantic comedies that she did with Rock Hudson, Love Me or Leave Me is a revelation.  She’s likable and she’s tough and she sings as if the world depended upon it and watching her in Love Me Or Leave Me, you not only understand why Ruth Etting became a star but also why Doris Day did as well.  James Cagney also gives a good performance as Marty Snyder, bringing all of his swaggering charisma to the role.  As a fan of exploitation films, the most interesting thing about Love Me or Leave Me to me was getting to see Cameron Mitchell play a nice guy for a change.  Mitchell does an okay job with the role, though Johnny is never as interesting a character as Marty.  In the end, it’s an entertaining film, an ornate visual feast that works as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Love Me or Leave Me is an offer that you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Olivia De Havilland Edition


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!

Today, I’m thrilled to wish a happy birthday to two of my favorite people!

First off, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Patrick Smith!  Along with being a contributor here on the Shattered Lens, Patrick is also a Snarkalec in good standing and one of the founders of the Late Night Movie Gang!  I’ve been happy to call Patrick a friend for several years now and I’m thankful to have him as part of a team here on the Shattered Lens!  Happy birthday, Pat!

Also born on this day was the one and only Olivia de Havilland.  Olivia is 104 years old today, one of the last remaining stars of Hollywood’s golden age.  Olivia de Havilland, whose career spanned 53 years and who co-starred with everyone from Errol Flynn to James Stewart to Michael Caine, currently lives in Paris and I can’t wait to celebrate her 105th birthday next year.

In honor of a legendary career and life, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, dir by Michael Curtiz)

Gone With The Wind (1939, dir by Victor Fleming)

The Snake Pit (1948, dir by Anatole Litvak)

The Swarm (1978, dir by Irwin Allen)

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #15: Bugsy Malone (dir by Alan Parker)


Remember how, a few weeks ago, I said I was going to spend the month of June reviewing 30 gangster movies?  Well, I was doing pretty well but then I got distracted with some things and I ended up falling behind and now, it’s the last day of June and I’ve only reviewed 14 of the 30 films that I was planning on taking a look at.  It’s frustrating but, as any movie blogger can tell you, it happens.  Still, I’m not one to give up so easily!  I promised to review 30 gangster movies and I’m going to keep my word.  Or, at the very least, I’m going to try to…. like, definitely maybe try to….

Anyway, let’s get back to it with 1976’s Bugsy Malone!

Bugsy Malone is an homage to the old gangster movies of the 1920s and 30s.  It’s also a musical, featuring a lot of songs about wanting to make a lot of money, fall in love, and go away to Hollywood.  On top of all that, it’s also a children’s film.  Though they may be playing gangsters and going to war over who will control the rackets, the cast is entirely made up of children.  Though the film does feature a lot of guns, none of the guns fire bullets.  Instead, they shoot custard pies.  Once you get cornered by a rival gangster and you get “splurged,” your career in the rackets is over.  You’re humiliated.  You’re nothing.  You’re just another two-bit hood who couldn’t make it in the big leagues.  You’re just….

Well, you get the idea.

Basically, the plot of the film is that Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) and Fat Sam (John Cassissi) are two rival gangsters who want to take over the Lower East Side.  Fat Sam owns a speakeasy, which means that there’s always a lot of dancing and singing going on in the background.  Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio) is a tough boxer who wants Fat Sam to give a job to Blousey Brown (Florrie Dugger), who dreams of going to Hollywood and becoming a big star.  Tallulah (Jodie Foster) is Fat Sam’s gun moll but she used to go out with Bugsy and she still wants him back.  Bugsy get caught up in the middle of the war between Dandy Dan and Fat Sam and it all eventually leads to a big pie fight and a lot of children covered in custard.  “You give a little love,” the children sing as they realize that their lives don’t have to be defined by gang wars, “and it all comes back to you….”

So, I have to admit that I was absolutely dreading watching Bugsy Malone.  I mean, singing children and custard pie guns?  It all sound just unbearably cutesy.  But, to my surprise, Bugsy Malone actually turned out to be a fun and clever little movie, one that was full of smart dialogue, catchy songs, excellent dancing, and wonderfully non-cutesy performances from its cast.  Even though the film may be about a bunch of children dressing up as gangsters, all of the child actors take their characters seriously and director Alan Parker directs the film as if it were an actual gangster film as opposed to just a children’s musical.  The end result is a film that’s cute but never cutesy.  Believe me, there is a huge difference between the two.

To my shock, Bugsy Malone turned out to be an offer that you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband