Film Review: The Island (dir by Michael Ritchie)


Last night, after I watched Cutthroat Island, I continued to prepare for Talk Like A Pirate Day by watching The Island, a pirate movie from 1980.

Michael Caine has appeared in some truly bizarre films over the course of his long career but The Island may be the strangest.  (According to the imdb, it’s also one of the few films that he refuses to discuss in interviews, which is kind of amazing when you consider some of the films that Caine will discuss.)  In The Island, Caine is plays Blair Maynard, a cynical New York journalist who happens to have a cockney accent.  Looking to do a story about the Bermuda Triangle, Maynard heads down to Florida.  He takes along his 12 year-old son, Justin (Jeffrey Frank), because what father wouldn’t unnecessarily put his only child’s life in danger?  Of course, Justin isn’t happy when he finds out that his father lied about visiting Disney World but all is forgiven after Maynard buys him a gun.  Justin does love to shoot guns, which will become a plot point soon enough.

Anyway, Maynard and Justin soon discover that the reason people are disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle is because they’re being kidnapped by … wait for it … PIRATES!

David Warner and the Pirates

That’s right, real-life pirates!  Apparently, centuries ago, a group of French pirates set up a colony on an uncharted island in the Caribbean.  Now, under the leadership of the savage Nau (played by the very British and not very savage David Warner), these pirates spend their time attacking boats, murdering people, and speaking in an odd combination of English, French, and Portuguese.  However, centuries of in-breeding have weakened the bloodline.  So, while Nau brainwashes Justin and turns him into a little buccaneer, Maynard is given to Beth (Angela Punch McGregor) and told to “thrust thrust.”

Yes, that’s right.  This is a film in which a middle-aged Michael Caine — complete with his trademark glasses and his “what the bloody Hell?” attitude — is turned into a sex slave.  (Again, this is one of the few films that Caine apparently refuses to discuss.)  The scene in which Beth strips the chained Maynard naked and then starts to rub Vaseline on him would be strange regardless of who played the main role but when it’s Michael Caine, it goes beyond the merely strange to becoming almost a work of outsider art.

Anyway, the movie only gets stranger from there as Justin grows to love the pirate life style and, eventually, both he and his father even get to take part in a raid on a schooner.  It’s during this raid that, from out of nowhere, a guy in extremely tight shorts pops up and starts doing all sorts of elaborate kung fu moves.  (He also makes all of the expected kung fu sounds while David Warner has a good laugh.)  It’s also during this raid that the pirates come across several packets of white powder.

“It’s a drug called cocaine,” Maynard says.

“What does it cure?” Beth asks.

“Insecurity,” Maynard answers.

It all leads to not only an impromptu wedding ceremony but also to the sight of Michael Caine screaming his head off while firing a machine gun.  I think we’re supposed to feel that the ordeal has driven Maynard somewhat mad but it’s hard to tell.  Caine has always been open about the fact that, for many years, he basically just accepted any role that was offered to him and The Island would appear to be a perfect example.  Maynard may have been trying to rescue his son but Caine’s main concern was obviously getting his paycheck and moving on to the next role.

Michael Caine in The Island

The Island is one of those movies that’s so odd that it really doesn’t matter whether it’s any good or not.  Between the strange plot and Michael Caine’s almost comically detached performance, this one of those films that, once you start watching, you really can’t look away from it.  In the end, The Island is so weird and misjudged that it becomes brilliant despite itself.

Slashed To Thrill: Brian De Palma’s DRESSED TO KILL (Filmways 1980)


cracked rear viewer

Brian De Palma was a big deal back in the 70’s and 80’s, and his films like CARRIE, SCARFACE, and THE UNTOUCHABLES are still discussed. Yet works such as SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, OBSESSION, BLOW OUT, and BODY DOUBLE seem unjustly neglected today, and some critics deride him for his over the top sex and violence. DRESSED TO KILL finds De Palma in full Hitchcock mode, an homage to PSYCHO that The Master of Suspense himself cited as more like a “fromage”, but one I find still entertaining.

The film begins with a sizzling hot shower scene with Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller, remarried mother of  science nerd Peter  (Keith Gordon, CHRISTINE ). Kate has problems in her marriage and with her own mom,  not to mention being a nymphomaniac! She’s seeing psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine ), but seemingly getting nowhere. We follow her to  New York’s…

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Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

A Movie A Day #299: Blame It On Rio (1984, directed by Stanley Donen)


When I was growing up in Baltimore, I used to go down to this independent video story every weekend and check out movies.  Every time that I stepped into the store, the first thing I saw was the poster for Blame It On Rio hanging over the front register.  The store did not actually have any copies of Blame It On Rio in stock and I don’t think anyone working there had ever seen it but it only takes one look at the poster to guess what they were thinking when they hung it at the front of the store.

Blame It On Rio is one of the films that Michael Caine made during that period when he was willing to accept any paycheck.  (The Jaws 4 years.)  Caine plays Matthew, who goes on a vacation to Rio with his 17 year-old daughter, Nikki (Demi Moore), his best friend Victor (Joseph Bologna), and Victor’s daughter, Jennifer (Michelle Johnson).  Both Matthew and Victor’s marriages are falling apart and Victor encourages Matthew to hit on every topless woman they see.  Instead, Matthew ends up fooling around with Jennifer.  When Victor discovers that his daughter to having an affair with an older, married man, he recruits Matthew to help him discover the man’s identity.  In between the scenes of all the action in Brazil, Matthew and Jennifer appear in interview segments that do no add up to much.

It may be hard to believe but this forgettable movie was co-written by Larry Gelbart and directed by the same director responsible for Singin’ In The Rain, Charade, and Two For The Road, Stanley Donen.  For a film about a 43 year-old man having a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old, Blame It On Rio is a hopelessly square movie.  Caine and Bologna walking along a topless beach and accidentally leering at their own daughters is about as funny as things get.  Michael Caine’s a trooper and does the best that he can but Michelle Johnson is bland as Jennifer.  She and Demi Moore should have switched roles.

 

A Movie A Day #254: Mr. Destiny (1990, directed by James Orr)


When did your life first start to go downhill?

Larry Burrows (James Beluhsi) is convinced that, if he had not struck out while playing in the state high school baseball championship when he was 15, his life would have turned out so much differently.  He would be a success, instead of a mid-level executive with money problems, a dissatisfied wife, Ellen (Linda Hamilton), and a weird best friend (Jon Lovitz, of course).  On Larry’s 35th birthday, Michael Caine shows up as Larry’s guardian angel and, before you can say “George Bailey,” Larry is transported to an alternate timeline where he won that baseball game and got everything that he wanted.  Now, Larry has a big home, a sexy wife (Rene Russo), and a sexy mistress (Courtney Cox).  But he doesn’t have Ellen and Larry realizes that this all he ever wanted in the first place.

1990 was a busy year for Jim Belushi, starring in both this and Taking Care of Business.  Of the two films, Mr. Destiny is marginally better.   The story itself is predictable and the film makes a big mistake by trying to get dramatic during the final act.  (Everyone knows that Larry’s rival at the compamy is sleazy because he is played by Hart Bochner and everyone remembers Die Hard.  There was no need to turn him into a murderer, even if it was in a parallel universe.)   However, Michael Caine has the ability to make even the worst dialogue sound good.  Belushi is relatively restrained and any film that features Rene Russo, Courtney Cox, and Linda Hamilton can’t be all bad.   Mr. Destiny is forgettable but inoffensively entertaining.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Alfie (dir by Lewis Gilbert)


alfie_original

One night, in the UK, in 1965…

In a London flat, a phone rings.  Up-and-coming actor Terrence Stamp answers.  On the other end, the producers of an up-coming film called Alfie ask Stamp if he would be interested in playing the lead role.  In many ways, Stamp seems like the obvious choice.  After all, he already starred in the stage version of Alfie.  He knows the character and everyone knows that he’s going to be a big star…

And that’s why Stamp turns down the role.  The character of Alfie is an irresponsible and self-centered womanizer who, over the course of the play, has numerous affairs, arranges for one illegal abortion, treats almost everyone terribly, and, at the end of the movie, ends up alone.  Not only will the film’s risqué subject matter provide a challenge, even if it is being made in “swinging London,” but Alfie just isn’t a heroic figure.  He has some good lines.  He makes a few good jokes and, after arranging an abortion for one of his girlfriends, he realizes just how empty his life really is.  But, as written, Alfie is hardly sympathetic.

Stamp says he’s not interested in playing Alfie on screen and then he hangs up.

Two minutes later, the phone rings again.  Stamp answers.  It’s the producers of Alfie.  They ask to speak to his roommate, a cockney actor who was born Maurice Micklewhite but who, at the start of his acting career, changed his name to Michael Caine.

And that’s how Michael Caine came to star in the 1966 film, Alfie.

Alfie not only made Michael Caine a star, it also landed him his first Oscar nomination.  It was especially a popular film in the States, where it tapped into a youth culture that was obsessed with all things British and a desire, on the part of many filmgoers, to see films that deal with “adult” topics that American films, at that time, wouldn’t dare touch.  Though Alfie may seem rather tame by today’s standards (for a film about a man obsessed with sex, there’s actually not much of it to be found in Alfie), one can still see why it would have taken American audiences by surprise in 1966.  At a time when American films still starred Doris Day and Bob Hope, here was a British film about a working class cockney who screws almost every woman he meets, both figuratively and literally.

And really, it’s fortunate that Michael Caine accepted that role.  Along with Stamp, Alfie‘s producers also tried to interest Richard Harris and Laurence Harvey in the role.  All three of them would have brought a harder edge to the character.  However, Michael Caine has just enough charm to make Alfie likable, even when his actions are not.  Since a good deal of the film is made up of Alfie breaking the fourth wall and talking straight to the audience (and, often times, not exactly saying that most charitable of words), that charm is essential to the film’s success.  Michael Caine’s Alfie is self-centered but, at the same time, you never doubt that there’s a better man lurking underneath the surface.  You forgive Alfie a lot because, thanks to Caine’s performance, you can see the man that he’s capable of being.

Alfie is pretty much Michael Caine’s show but he’s ably supported by the rest of the cast, especially Jane Asher as a poignantly insecure hitchhiker and Shelley Winters as a cheerfully promiscous American.  And then there’s Denholm Elliott, who plays an abortionist with a seedy intensity that catch you off-guard and drives home the dark reality lurking underneath Alfie‘s charm.

For a film that is often described as being very much a product of its time, Alfie holds up surprisingly well.  It was nominated for best picture but it lost to something far more sedate, A Man For All Seasons.