Horror on the Lens: What Waits Below (dir by Don Sharp)


What waits below?

Find out in today’s horror on the lens!

First released in 1984, What Waits Below is a film about a bunch of soldiers and explorers that make the mistake of exploring a cave system in Central America.  Needless to say, they’re not alone in that cave!

This film, to be honest, starts a bit slow but things do pick up once they get underground.  Included in the cast is Richard Johnson, who all good horror fans remember for his role as Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Enjoy!

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!

Halloween Havoc!: ZOMBIE (Variety Film 1979)


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I’ll admit, I’m a latecomer to the Lucio Fulci bandwagon. I viewed my first film by The Maestro, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY , earlier this year, and absolutely loved it! I’ve been looking for more Fulci films to discover ever since, and recently recorded his most famous, ZOMBIE, off the El Rey Network (which I highly recommend to Grindhouse fans out there). ZOMBIE goes by many names, but this is the title I watched it under, so we’ll stick with that.

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From that opening shot of a gun pointed at the camera, then blasting the head of a rising corpse, I knew I was in for a good time! After the credits roll, we see a derelict ship floating in New York harbor. The harbor patrol boards it, and find it deserted, with rotting food and supplies strewn everywhere. One of the cops investigates further, and is killed by a zombie…

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Halloween Havoc!: THE HAUNTING (MGM 1963)


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“No one will come in the night… in the dark!”

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There’s nothing like a good haunted house movie, and 1963’s THE HAUNTING is one of the best ever. Producer/director Robert Wise cut his filmic teeth on Val Lewton shockers like THE BODY SNATCHER  and noirs such as BORN TO KILL  before graduating to mainstream movies like I WANT TO LIVE! and WEST SIDE STORY. In THE HAUNTING he returns to his dark roots to create a nightmarish vision of Shirley Jackson’s eerie novel The Haunting of Hill House.

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“Scandal, murder, insanity, suicide” have plagued Hill House for close to 100 years. The cursed Crain family were its original inhabitants, designed by eccentric Hugh Crain. The house is a darkly foreboding Gothic structure with oddly tilted angles both inside and out. Dr. John Markham, a paranormal investigator, visits proper Bostonian matron Mrs. Sanderson, the house’s current owner, asking to take a lease…

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The Daily Horror Grindhouse: Zombi 2 (dir by Lucio Fulci)


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(After reading my review, please be sure to check out Arleigh’s thoughts on Zombi 2!)

Two questions:

1) Do you love Zombie movies?

2) Have you seen Lucio Fulci’s 1979 film Zombi 2?

If your answer to the first question was yes, then you should definitely have had the same answer for the second.  Along with launching the long and extremely influential genre of the Italian zombie film and being one of the best zombie films ever made, Zombi 2 is also one of the best horror films ever made.

First off, a few words about that title.  Zombi was the Italian title for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Zombi was a huge hit on Italy and, in that shameless way that is beloved by all Italian horror fans, producers Fabrizio De Angelis and Ugo Tucci decided to take advantage of Zombi‘s success by naming their upcoming zombie film Zombi 2.  And, while I have always liked to think of Zombi 2 as being a prequel to Romero’s Dead trilogy, Zombi 2 is actually in no way related to Dawn of the Dead.

It has often been assumed that Zombi 2 was directly inspired by Dawn of the Dead.  While Romero’s film certainly provided more of an influence than just providing a title, Zombi 2 was actually in production before Dawn of the Dead opened in Italy.  And, ultimately, Zombi 2 is a far different film from Romero’s film.  Eschewing the social commentary and satire that ran through Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 2 is instead a work of pure horror.  They’re both excellent films but Dawn of the Dead ultimately inspires debate while Zombi 2 inspires nightmares.

Zombie_2_1978

Opening with a previously dead body being shot in the head as it slowly sits up on a stretcher and ending with a haunting vision of apocalypse, Zombi 2 is coated in a palpable atmosphere of doom.  A boat floats into a New York harbor and the two cops who investigate are greeted by a lumbering and hungry corpse.  Tisa Farrow plays the daughter of the boat’s owner.  When she and a reporter (Ian McCulloch, giving a likable and bemused performance that often finds him playing straight man to a bunch of decaying corpses and which provides a nice run up for his openly subversive performance in Zombie Holocaust) team up to find her father, their investigation leads them to an isolated island where the haunted and alcoholic Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson, bringing so much gravity and self-loathing to his role that he literally elevates the entire film) is struggling to deal with an outbreak of zombies.  Along with a boat captain (Al Cliver) and his girlfriend (Auretta Gay), McCulloch and Farrow try to escape the island before they end up joining the ranks of the undead…

As a director, Lucio Fulci was known for bringing his own unique visual flair to the horror genre.  Fulci, perhaps more than any of the other great Italian horror directors working during the Italian horror boom of the 80s and 90s, literally brought nightmares to cinematic life.  As a result, Zombi 2 is probably one of the most visually memorable zombie films ever made.  From the minute that McCulloch, Farrow, Cliver, and Gay arrive on the island, you can literally feel the oppressively hot wind and dusty wind that blows through every scene.  When the dead walk across the desolate landscape, Fulci emphasizes the decayed state of these zombies, forcing the audience to consider just how fragile the human body truly is.  The fact that the undead manage to be so pathetic and so dangerous at the same time only serves to make them all the more frightening.  When a group of conquistadors come back to life, Fulci films it from their point of view and, for a few minutes, we literally are one of the undead, clawing our way out of a grave.  Needless to say, Fulci doesn’t shy away from the gore of a zombie apocalypse either.  His zombies are ravenous and destructive.  The Walking Dead may be bloody but it’s got nothing on Zombi 2.

Along with the conquistador scene, Zombi 2 is especially remembered for two scenes, both of which showcase the best of both Fulci and Italian horror.

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One is the scene where Dr. Menard’s wife (Olga Karlatos) is menaced by zombies after taking a shower.  Even after she slams the bathroom door, a zombies hand breaks through the door and grabs her by the hair and starts to pull her through the jagged hole in the door.  As she is slowly pulled to her doom, her eyeball is pierced by a splinter of wood.  It’s definitely an over-the-top moment, the type of thing that we expect from an Italian horror film.  But, as over-the-top as it may be, it’s also incredibly effective and terrifying.  It’s a scene that lets us know that there is no escape from our fate.  It’s a scene that reminds us that the zombies will always win because there is no way to lock out death.

(In fact, it’s such an iconic scene that almost all of Fulci’s subsequent films would feature a character losing an eye.  Adding a certain poignancy to his trademark scenes of ocular destruction was the fact that Fulci, himself, was diabetic and reportedly often feared that he would lose his eyesight.)

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The other is a scene that always seems to bring a smile to the face of anyone who see it.  That’s the scene where a zombie gets into a fight with a shark while Auretta Gay swims nearby.  Again, it’s a bit ludicrous but it’s also incredibly effective.  If nothing else, it invites us to wonder how — if a shark can’t beat a zombie — can there be any hope for humanity?

The answer, of course, is that there isn’t.  Ultimately, in the world of Fulci’s film, whether by causes natural or unnatural, we’re all destined to become one of the zombies.

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(This review is cross-posted over at Fourth-Day Universe where all of October has been Zombie Month!)

 

6 Trailers To Go On The Road With


This weekend, I’m busy getting ready to go on a road trip with Jeff.  I’ll be away from home for two whole weeks!  However, fear not!  With the help of WordPress and my wonderful, beautiful older sister Erin, I will still be updating and posting even while we’re on the road.  I might even be able to convince my fellow Shattered Lens writer to spend the next two weeks watching the Lifetime Movie Channel and posting “What Lisa Would Have Watched Last Night.”  How about it, guys? *wink wink*

Anyway, while I deal with shopping and packing, why not enjoy the latest entry of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse And Exploitation Trailers.

(And by the way, just because I’m going to be out of town next weekend won’t stop me from posting six more trailers next Saturday.  Why?  Because I love you, silly!)

1) The Klansman (1974)

In this infamous little film from the 1970s, Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, and O.J. Simpson fight the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.  Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen this movie though the copy I saw was one of those public domain DVDs that I think was actually a copy of the edited-for-TV version of this movie.  (I say that because every time someone cursed, there was an awkward silence on the soundtrack.)  Even more odd is the fact that I’ve actually read the old novel that this movie is based on.  Anyway, this movie is pretty bad but the book is okay.  The film was directed by the same guy who directed the first James Bond films.

2) Beyond the Door (1975)

Okay, so this is pretty obviously an Exorcist rip-off but wow, this trailer freaks me out.  Needless to say this is an Italian film.  My favorite part of the trailer, to be honest, is the use of the Ryder truck.  It’s a moment that epitomizes Italian exploitation in that you can tell that the filmmakers really thought that displaying the one word — “Ryder” — would convince viewers that they were watching an American-made film.

3) 2020 Texas Gladiators (1985)

Speaking of Italian exploitation cinema, here we have another example.  I pretty much had to include this trailer because I live in Dallas and 2020 is just 9 years away.  That said, I’m not sure what part of Texas this film is supposed to be taking place in.  I’m guessing by all the shots of boots marching through grass that this is supposed to be up in North Texas but if you can find mountains like that around here then you’ve got far better eyesight than I do.  Add to that, the sudden indian attack seems more like an Oklahoma thing.  Not surprisingly, according to Amazon, this film was not only directed by Joe D’Amato but features both George Eastman and Al Cliver.

4) 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

Apparently, it didn’t start in Texas.  This is also an Italian film.  It was directed by Enzo Castellari and, not surprisingly, George Eastman is in this one as well.

5) Empire of the Ants (1977)

The is the trailer that  dares to ask — who are you going to listen to?  Common sense or H.G. Wells?  I’ll tell you, nothing freaks me out more than when I see  one of those ant lines carrying a dead cricket back to the anthill.  Ants are one thing that I will not allow in the house.  However, I kinda admire them.  They’re so neat and organized.  Plus, males in ant society know their place.

6) Mr. Billion (1977)

“20th Century Fox presents Mr. Billion …. starring Terence Hill, the 5th biggest star in the  world…”  I haven’t seen very many Terence Hill films but I always enjoy seeing him in trailers.  I can’t really say whether he’s a good actor or not because every time I’ve seen him, he’s been dubbed.  But he definitely had a very likable presence.  You wanted him to be a good actor whether he was or wasn’t.  That said, even if I had been alive at the height of Mr. Hill’s fame, it never would have worked out for us as I’m Southern Italian and Hill is quite clearly from the north.  That’s just the way it is.  Anyway, back to Mr. Billion — I’m including two trailers for this one.  The first is the “Prestige” trailer.  The second one is much shorter and features one of those odd little songs that gets stuck in your head.